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.

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