Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sadie Stean, Early Years

This photograph of the Stean farmhouse Otrøybakken near Evje og Hornnes, Aust Agder, Norway is one of several pictures Agnes Allpress had in her possession and let me copy. It was taken during the early 1900s. Sitting are Ragnhild and Ola Johnsen Stean (Birkeland), standing by the morning glories is one of their daughters, possibly Ingeborg the little boy next to her probably Mikal.

On 28 December 1883 Ragnhild Mikalsdatter Hornnes married Ola Johnsen Stean (Birkeland) who was 15 years her senior. He was born at Birkeland farm 1848. Ola was the 5th of seven sons born to John Eivenson Birkeland and Gunild Hode. Birkeland farm had been in his family since 1610 but due to a time of economic depression the family had to leave in 1857. When Ragnhild and Ola married they rented a small farm. They continued to live on a rented farm for approximately eight to ten years. Then in 1893 they bought a piece of the original Birkeland farm called Otrøybakken situated by the Otra River (named for the animal, otter).

In her diary Sadie gives us a glimpse of what life was like when she was a little girl growing up.

"Yes, it was happy days. Mother was so pleased to think she really would have a home of her own after being married 8 years and lived in old rented farm houses. I remember her telling about it when I was old enough to understand. How unhappy we must have been before. Mother loved her home and it must be clean, how we used to be down on our knees scouring those floors with nice white sand gathered from the river. She planted morning glory vines that climbed up the stone foundation and on the logs. Little by little she cleared up the ground and planted a garden, nice juicy carrots for us to nibble on and kohlrabi to put in soup and such delicious soup she made out of greens and salted reindeer meat that we bought at the grocery store across the river.

"We had to carry water from the river to water the garden when it got too dry. All I remember of mother in those days and first was she was always moving around doing this and that, scrubbing, washing, keeping us children clean, working outside in the summer time, in the winter there was chores each day, getting wood, milking our cows and there was spinning yarn knitting warm stockings, sweaters and undergarments for us children and father. Sometimes a neighbor's child would be sick and mother would go and sit up nights so the mother could get some rest, then we would go out and work and clean and make some extra money for a new dress for one or us or something to brighten up our home."

Odd Svanstrøm wrote that the cozy little house is no longer there and that another house built by Mikal, Sadie's younger brother, has been sold to an unknown.

Sadie Stean, Reluctant Traveler

Three of the girls Anna Hornnes sponsored were her nieces, Anna and Sigrid Stean and Gunie Osmund. They were all about the same age as Anna Hornnes was the youngest in the family and these girls were children of older sisters. Gunie was the step-daughter of Store Anna. This photo is of Sadie Stean, Anna Hornnes, Gunie Osmund, and Anna Stean sister of Sadie. It was taken circa 1911. Of the seven children in the Stean family four emigrated. Marie was ill and returned to Norway where she died two years later. John disappeared in America. I have since discovered that he went to Canada rather than the United States. Sigrid or Sadie as she was called in America wrote her story down so we have her own words to tell us how she felt about leaving family and home.

“My Aunt Anna came home on a visit from Boston [1907/1908] and my sister wanted to go to America. When she heard of all the nice things about it from Aunt Anna, mother talked me into going with my sister Anna. She didn’t like to have her go alone although she was more than 2 years older than I.* So one stormy December night we sailed for England. It is all like a dream, Mother getting my clothes ready. Father getting the necessary papers fixed up and my kid brother cryng all over the place because his very own favorite sister was leaving him. I can see him now, his little fat rosy cheeks streaked with tears. Loking across the river from the train window, Mother, Father and little brother and sister Ingeborg were waving to me with their handkerchiefs. I was all froze up inside, it didn’t seem real somehow to see all the familiar scenes roll by and not knowing when I would see them again, in an hour’s time or so the train would pass Goosseflaer**, and the train would whistle and someone would run out and wave. How many happy days I had spent on my Aunt Anna’s*** farm; would I ever come there to visit again? I was to meet my sister in the city [Kristiansand] but she had decided to visit some friends in the country so I had to go to a hotel alone, but the next day my aunt and uncle Osmund came to see us, it was all so unreal somehow, perhaps because I didn’t like to go in the first place, more to please mother. It was like a bad dream to board the boat on a stormy night with the storm and foghorns blowing and my first trip on the ocean. I don’t remember much, we got to England, we were both seasick and we had to stay in our cabin, it was too stormy to be on deck. . . .

“We spent our Xmas on the stormy Atlantic Ocean and we were glad when we reached New York and the next day it was Boston. . . . I’ll never forget how lonely I was the first weeks, but time changes everything and I soon learned to talk enough so I could go shopping alone and make myself understood and letters from home helped a lot.”



* Anna Stean was 19 years old and Sadie was 17 when they left Norway.

** I have seen this farm name spelled several different ways Gåseflå, Gaaseflå, Gaaseflaa and as Sadie spelled it here Gooseflaer. It is located across the parish and county line in Hægeland, Vest Agder. From the name it would seem likely that it was a place where the geese landed during migrations.

*** The Anna referred to here is Store Anna the older sister of Lil Anna. Store Anna was married to Osmund Bårdson Gåseflå.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Crossing the Fjords

Norway is a truly beautiful country with lots of mountains, water, trees, farmland, and quaint looking villages and cities. Today there are tunnels that bore through the mountains so one can drive pretty much all over the country and only occasionally have to take a ferry across a fjord. Fjords are long narrow waterways where the mountains drop straight down into the water. There are places in Alaska where the same thing occurs.

One of the more convenient methods of transportation, especially in times past, was a small to medium sized rowboat. This Eliasson postcard depicts a group of people probably on the way to church or possibly a wedding as they are all dressed up. There are quite a few recorded incidents of drowning as a result of this type of travel. Not every day would have been as calm and peaceful looking as this scene but I doubt a squall would have deterred people from their appointed destinations. Note the “skaut” worn by two of the women in the picture. The skaut was a wired headdress that married women wore and is found in the Hardanger area near Bergen.

The postcard is one issued by the Axel Eliasson Art Publishing Company of Stockholm, Sweden that began producing cards around 1870. Eliasson was a photographer then later a publisher of postcards and Christmas greetings. Many of the cards show scenes from Norway. They were originally black and white pictures that were colored in by hand then printed. This one dates from circa 1890.

Maggie Landaas Lorig’s grandmother, Kristi mor is shown below in the traditional country attire including the skaut. A plain white kerchief was stretched over the wire and then tied in the back. I believe it was worn every day. I’m not sure what I think about the attractiveness of this fashion statement. What do you think?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Anna Hornnes the Adventuress

Continuing with the immigrant stories we next meet Anna Hornnes also known as Lil Anna and Anna Mikalsdatter. Anna was born 20 January 1884 in Hornnes, Aust Agder, Norway. This area is known as Setesdal and is made up of mountain valleys with farms and small towns. The beautiful Otra River winds through the mountain valleys and there are evergreen trees everywhere making it very similar to the Pacific Northwest here in the USA.

There used to be a narrow gauge railroad with a steam engine train that ran from the city of Kristiansand in the south up north of Evje og Hornnes to Byglandsfjord but now the small train only runs part way as a tourist attraction and only in the summer months.
Kåre Hodne and Alf George Kjestå made a film commemorating the 100th anniversary of the train called "Setesdalbanen 100 År" with Olav Arne Kleveland as narrator. Anna traveled from Evje og Hornnes to Kristiansand on this train. She kept a journal and wrote a personal history of her early life and parts of her later life so we have the rare opportunity to read in her own words her experiences. This post will feature the first part of her immigrant story but future posts will also show what it was like to grow up and live in Norway in the late 19th century.

Unlike some of our other ancestors, Anna left her homeland not so much because of need or circumstance but because she wanted to experience the grand adventure. She did return to Norway for a visit five years after she left and later sponsored several other friends and relatives by paying their tickets and providing them with a place to stay until they got jobs and could find a place of their own. As soon as one paid her back she sent the money forward to bring someone else over.

Here is part of her story--

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bornholm's Round Churches

Among other things Bornholm is famous for its four round churches. The one shown on this modern day postcard is Østerlars. Note the separate bell tower building on the left. The bell was hung in the top portion, a rope hung down through the floor, a person, usually the clerk, pulled the rope to ring the bell thus alerting the people to come to church for services or to flee to the church for safety. The other three churches are Nylars, Olsker, and Nyker.

We took the next picture of Nyker and went in both it as well as Østerlars.
One of the interesting things about these churches besides the shape is that they were used as combination church and fortress. Church services were held on the lower level with an opening in the ceiling for a ladder to be dropped down. In times of invasion the townsfolk would climb up into the upper level, pull the ladder up and hide out until the unwelcome marauders left. They could stock food and other necessities, there were small window openings through which the people inside could hurl things down or shoot things out but they were fairly safe behind walls that are a meter thick. The stark contrast between the white exterior tower walls and the conical black roofs is arresting.

These churches were constructed in the 12th and 13th century with the interiors remaining much as they were with the exception of new pews and electricity. The pews ring the outer edge facing inward toward the altar located in the center of the circle. The ceiling of the lower level is domed; doorway openings into the altar and baptistery area are arched. At Østerlars the organ is squeezed in between a row of box pews. The center interior pillar has primitive looking frescos of biblical scenes that were originally painted in the middle ages. We found that the small fee the churches charged for entry inside was well worth it. It is interesting to contemplate the dual nature of these structures, one of spiritual safety in the gospel the other the temporal safety the building offered those living nearby, different but similar purposes.

Axel Schrøder, The Danish Sailor

Now we come to Axel Schrøder who was born in Nexø, Bornholm, Denmark in 1877. His parents, Hans Christian Schrøder and Hansine Margrethe Kjøller were living in Nexø at the time of his birth but removed shortly thereafter to Vestermarie where Hansine’s family owned land and lived. Axel’s father was a baker and confectioner and needed to work in a larger town than the small rural community of Vestermarie.

It was not unusual for families to foster or apprentice out young children but even so it is shocking that at age 2 or 3 Axel was left with his aunt and uncle at the family farm in Vestermarie while his parents moved far away north of København to Helsingør in Jutland. While living there Hansine delivered a baby girl in 1880 that died the same day she was born. By 1885 Hansine had returned to Vestermarie as a pregnant recently divorced woman giving birth to a son, Camillo, who lived only 1 month. Axel continued to stay with his aunt and uncle while his mother moved with her parents to the larger city of Rønne, Bornholm.

His grandfather, Jens Peder Kjøller, now a retired country gentleman, started a newspaper and worked for several more years. Hansine lived with her parents in an apartment complex near the center of the city where she joined a dairy co-operative and managed to support herself as well as take care of her parents. When Axel was a teenager he moved from the farm and lived with his mother and grandparents. He was confirmed at the church in Rønne. 

There are several oral history stories involving the life of Axel. It was said that he ice skated from the small island of Bornholm to Sweden and I wondered how that could be since it is a 2 hour and 30 minute ferry ride across the Baltic Sea from Ystad, Sweden to Rønne, Bornholm. The sea between the island and the mainland does ice over but only infrequently. Then I discovered that in 1883 when Axel was six years old Krakatoa erupted spewing out a huge ash cloud drifting from Java and Sumatra to cover the entire globe and caused unusually severe winters for at least two years. It is likely that he did skate on the frozen sea but perhaps not all the way to Sweden which would have been a very long journey for a six to eight year old boy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

If this is Thursday it must be postcards

The title to this post is a kind of word play on the “If this is Tuesday it must be Belgium” quote often used in travelogs. Several years ago I started collecting vintage postcards dating from around 1900. Most of them are from the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition that was held in Seattle in 1909 and feature scenes from the expo. Other postcards are like this one of places in Norway and some are of people or family pictures that were made into postcards. From time to time I plan to share some of the cards and include a bit of the history surrounding them and/or the subject matter.

This postcard is of the Fantoft Stavekirke located just outside of the city of Bergen. Stave churches are national treasures in Norway. Most of these all-wood churches were constructed in the 12th century and the original of this church was built around the year 1150. They are spectacular to look at. When we visited Norway we went to Fantoft and were able to go inside the church.

Although it looks fairly large from the outside it is actually quite tiny inside. The wooden exterior was coated with creosote as a preservative but this treatment while protecting the wood from the elements and insects also made the structure very flammable. When we visited we noticed that the interior was extremely dimly lit and had smoky walls that smelled heavily of the candles and incense that had been burned during services for hundreds of years. The pews were all wooden, tiny, uncomfortable looking and few in number. The altar area looked like it stepped out of the middle ages, and I guess it did.

Fantoft is a rebuild of the Fortun church originally located in Sogn og Fjordane north of Bergen. In the 19th century it was scheduled for demolition when it was bought by Fredrik George Gade and moved in pieces then rebuilt at Fantoft in 1883. The Fortun church looked slightly different than Fantoft and did not have the Viking dragon-like embellishments on the roof-line. Since the original lumber was used in the reconstruct it retained the feel and look of ancient days. I don’t know if the Landaas family ever attended church in this building but it would have been a familiar sight to them and certainly a destination for a day trip out of the city. Today it is relatively easy to get to as the city bus stops within walking distance of the church.

In 1992 Fantoft Stave church burned and it was thought that the fire started from lightning or electrical failure but it was later determined to be the target of arson. Reconstruction of an exact copy was promptly started and completed by 1997. I think it rather sad that while the church has been rebuilt those who visit it today will not get that same feeling of age, beauty and history that we felt when we visited before it burned in 1992.

I.C. Lee Traveled as a Child, 1880

I.C. Lee and Petra Landaas, 1904

Our extended family has a variety of immigrant stories. We have Henry Lorig and Catharina Schloeder who left Germany and came to America so they could get married and start a new life as a couple. We have Maggie Landaas leaving Norway as a servant girl and hoping to send money home so the rest of her family could also leave and improve their life. The next person I wanted to feature is I.C. Lee who was born in 1876 in Ulefoss, Holla, Telemark, Norway and traveled as a 4 year old child in the year 1880 with his grandmother, an aunt, and his grandmother’s second husband.

I.C.’s mother died when he was an infant and his father, Kristen Rollefsen Lillejordet, was unable to care for all the children by himself so the two youngest sons were fostered out. I.C. was sent to live with his maternal grandmother, and Hans, who was about 2 years old, went to live with his father’s sister, Guro Østerholt and her husband. Hans took the Østerholt name and went on to become a journalist, poet and political satirist most famous for his sharp witted magazines or newspapers called Hvespen (The Wasp) and Blinken (The Flash). Hans lived for a time in Skien and later in Oslo. Another brother, A.C. also came to America although we do not yet have an exact date for his arrival. The sisters, Ingeborg and Christine married and remained in Norway, the oldest brother, Rollef or Rolf took Kristensen as his last name and also stayed in Norway. Both I.C. (Ingvald Christensen) and A.C. (Anund Christensen) took the Lia farm name but spelled it Lee.

One might never connect these four brothers Lee, Østerholt, and Kristensen because they have three different surnames. This did happen since the farm names are more like addresses and serve to differentiate between persons with the same name. For example, the Hans Olsen (living at or from) Lia is instantly recognized as someone different than the Hans Olsen (living at or from) Vonheim. Sometimes children in the same family shared the identical first names but were named after different relatives hence the addition of Elder and Younger or Big and Little that would get attached to their first name. Or, the use of a seemingly unrelated nickname such as a little girl in the family called Britta who is actually named Gunhild but she has an older sister also named Gunhild who is often referred to as Store Gunhild. The addition of Store tells us that she is older than the one nicknamed Britta. The abbreviation d.e. tacked on to Ole tells us that he is the older brother and Ole d.y. is younger.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Iver, Kristine and Martin 1893

In the post about Maggie Landaas coming to America the Lepsøy family was mentioned. Through a series of recent emails one of the previously unidentified photos in grandma's trunk has now been identified and posted here. The picture was taken in Seattle at the Roxwell Studio circa 1893 and shows Iver, Kristine (Christine) and Martin Lepsøy the children of Hans and Karine Lepsoøy that Maggie tended on the voyage from Norway to America and later when she worked for the Lepsøy family in Seattle.

New information suggests that they landed in New York on 19 May rather than 25 May so they may have come on a different ship than previously posted. Instead of the SS Nebraska they would have traveled on the Majestic a White Star Line steamship.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thanks for the Beware of the Rug both of them

Doesn’t the blog look great? There wouldn’t be one at all without the Gimlet Tech support and all I had to do was feed her and heap lots of thanks too. In addition to her own blogs (Gimlet blog and Sinister Craftiness) and web page (Solitary Elegance) she has recently designed a web page for Christopher Robin Learning Center. They are all wonderful! Thanks so much, I really could not have done it all by myself.

Finally, stealing a beware of the rug from Gimlet blog and my grandson--when we went to get take out he asked what kind of toy he would get with his meal. When his mother told him a Smurf figure there was a pause and then the little voice piped up in question

“Smurf finger?”

And that is why, Mrs. Gimlet said, the chicken pieces are blue.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Maggie Landaas Comes to America

Mikkeline Oliva Landaas was born near Bergen, Norway 22 January 1872. She was the first child born to Peder Johan Mikkelsen Landaas and Karen or Kari Olsdatter Kalvetræ. Mikka as she was called in Norway attended school through the sixth grade and then had to leave and go to work to help support the large family. Her next younger sister, Petra, also left school after the sixth grade and went to work in the same knitting factory. The family lived in a small apartment, three rooms and a kitchen on the fourth floor at Munkebæksmuget 9, above the factory and consisted of mother, father and nine children. Peder who had done quite well as a carpenter, woodcarver, furniture maker, found himself without much work due to an economic depression in the late 1880s and early 1890s. While they had not been rich they had been comfortable but now they were extremely poor. With such a large family it was necessity that forced the two older girls into work instead of allowing them to continue the next two years of school as would normally be expected.

Many people left Norway during this time and came to America to start a better life. In 1892 when the opportunity presented itself, Mikka, was excited to take a chance and leave home. Her ticket was paid for by Hans and Karine Lepsøy and arrangements were made for her to travel with Mrs. Lepsøy and her children, Iver age 4, Martin, age 2, Christine, age 1, and her stepson Christopher age 12. Very little is known about the actual sea voyage other than the tickets on the Allan Line ship S/S State of Nebraska were purchased 5 May 1892 probably about a week before sailing arriving in New York 25 May 1892.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Edd Lorig & Maggie Landaas, How They Met

Edd Lorig left Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and moved west eventually settling in Seattle shortly after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. He would have been about 24 years old. Mikkeline (Americanized to Maggie) Oliva Landaas arrived from Bergen, Norway in 1892 at age 20. They were married 28 July 1894 in Seattle, Washington.

During a taped interview when I asked how his parents met Walt, their youngest son, told me the following story.

“My mother knew some gal who worked in a bakery in Seattle. I don’t know if she (my mother) was buying for the people she worked for, or just for herself, or what. But the gal, working in the bakery she knew was going out with my dad. And she seen my dad coming and it was just about closing time and my dad was already there. So he didn’t want to meet my mother for some reason. And so they had kind of a closet thing there but the door was up so she could see the bottom of his feet. And she asked the gal who that was, so she said that it was the fellow she was going out with. Then she dragged him out and introduced him to my mother and he liked my mother better than he did the other gal. So that’s the way that ended then. The first thing she seen was his shoes.”

I have heard from other sources that Maggie liked the look of Edd’s shoes and that was what tipped the scales in his favor with her.

The next post will tell a little about Maggie’s journey to America from Norway and what happened to her when she first arrived.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hardanger bunad, sølje and Setesdal mangletre

Each area in Norway has its own national costume called a bunad. We are fortunate to have two photographs of Petra Landaas Lee in the Hardanger costume one taken probably about 1893 shortly after she arrived in America and this one taken just before she was married in 1904. Petra was petite, only 4 foot 11 inches tall. In this picture it is possible to see the famous Hardanger cut lace pattern in the apron. The cutwork was all done by hand. No buttons or zippers were used in the wool and linen costume but the blouse and dress were pinned together with little brooches called sølje made especially for that purpose.

The long filigree sølje pin at her neck has become quite fragile and can no longer be worn but has been passed down and framed.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Henry Lorig, The Immigrant

A pencil drawing on a very thin sheet of wood not paper is thought to be of Henry Lorig and simply has the name Lorig written on the reverse. The neck beard and the clothing date the portrait to circa 1875 when Henry would have been 53 years old. His face looks fairly youngish but the beard is gray so it seems to fit.

Henry and his twin sister Anna Maria were born 25 November 1822 in Biewer, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, the tenth and eleventh of twelve children born to Francisci (Frans/Franz) Lorich and Maria Angela born Zimmer. Biewer is a small town located just outside of the larger city of Trier. In today’s terminology it would perhaps even be called a suburb.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New beware of the rug

  • Will we see the silly lights (city lights)?
  • Sign seen in a strip mall “Lewders” (Jewelers)

We are the Americans

America is a land of immigrants and we are the product of that immigration movement. My mother’s mother was one half German and one half Norwegian. Her father was Norwegian. Her grandmother’s sister adopted her following the death of her mother. Her adopted foster parents were both Norwegians. My dad’s mother was Norwegian his father was Danish. My maiden name is the Danish version of what is usually considered a German name. That makes me 5/8 Norwegian, 1/8 German, and ¼ (2/8) Danish--or 100% American. Without a doubt people on the street see me as having Scandinavian ancestry by my height, fair complexion, bone structure and eyes all pointing to my heritage.

The first part of a family history book is finished and I am working on the second part but the problems associated with publishing and still preserving and protecting privacy issues of living people mentioned in the book(s) have delayed the manuscript printing. Hence the blog will focus on deceased persons only as far as family history goes. When the book is finally available I will post an announcement in the blog. Part I deals with the Lorig family because they were the first of our immigrant ancestors.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Clara, Harry and Walt

A recent posting on Facebook of “Sonny” Lorig in his WWII uniform prompted this post. Edd and Maggie Lorig had three children, Clara who was born in 1896, Harry born in 1898 and Walter born 1899. Clara had two daughters, Harry had 10 children, and Walt did not have any children. Here is a photo of the three of them when Walt was a baby. Since Walt was born in May 1899 and looks to be only about 2 or 3 months old the estimated date would be July or August 1899. The long gown he is wearing could be a christening outfit. Note that Harry is wearing a skirt. It was common to dress both little boys and little girls (toddlers) in dresses and skirts. The picture is matted on heavy card stock, also a common practice around the turn of the century, and looks as if it was originally cropped to fit in a frame.


Beware of the rug comes from the time when a Beware of the Dog sign literally took on a new look. Now we see them everywhere and often forget to write them down and they are lost forever. They are mostly auditory but can be visual as well. Part spoonerism and part just serendipitous pairings they can be quite funny or just dumb. It is hoped that this blog will help preserve some of them as well as provide family history stories, vintage postcards, artwork, stories, music, Rob and miscellaneous topics.

A couple of recent examples:

  • Grill (as in BBQ) in the rain became Gorilla on the train.
  • A box of magnets became a pox of maggots