Thursday, August 25, 2011

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.

After her first husband, Anund Hansen Teigen, died Karen Maria Halvorsdatter Hvala married a much, much young man, Per Andersson. The stories of plentiful land at reasonable prices drew many Scandinavians to the mid-western states despite the harsh climate and difficult life of the pioneer settlers. In Norway only about 5% of the land is arable and usually the farm went to the oldest son or was split into tiny little plots that were barely able to support a family. At that time in America hard work could result in a large productive farm while in Norway hard work might only net a small cot. Shortly after her second marriage Karen sold the Teigen farm and left Norway with her new husband, a daughter, and her four year old grandson, I.C. They settled in the Dakota Territory and began to farm.

The winters in the Dakotas were severe with temperatures well below zero and often deep snow. I.C. related a story about a rope that was hung between the house and the barn so that in the dead of winter the person assigned to tend to the animals could hang on and find the way through the freezing whistling wind and snow to and from the barn. It was their lifeline. The snow would get so deep some winters that a trench or even a tunnel had to be dug between the house and barn. Conditions were such that it could become a complete white out and without the rope a person could easily get lost and freeze to death.

When I.C. was 20 and A.C. was 28 they found their way westward working for a short time in the mines of Idaho and eventually ending up in Seattle, Washington. A.C. later moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where he raised his family. I.C. remained in Seattle and married Maggie Landaas’ sister Petra in 1904 and they adopted my mother in 1919 following the death of Edd and Maggie’s daughter Clara.

Even though I.C. left Norway as a four year old boy he continued to keep in touch by letters and postcards with his two brothers and two sisters in Norway. When his niece Magda and her husband Erling came to America they came to Seattle where they lived for some years before returning to Norway. Their daughter, Ingrid, also left Norway for the States, married an American and lived here until her death in 1974. In a complete circle one of her sons has now returned to Norway to live.

I.C. first worked for the Seattle Fire Department then switched over to the Police Department. He was promoted to Sergeant 17 January 1905. At that time there were eight Sergeants in the Seattle Police Department. He died in 1930. I.C. or Lee as he was often called is shown in the middle of this circa 1905 vintage photo with two other officers wearing what we think of today as "Keystone" cop uniforms.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a post from our family blog with more pictures of I.C. Lee: