Sunday, September 25, 2011

Patriarch: Mikal Alfsen Roland-Hornnes-Espetveit, 1805, part 2

Aerial view of Hornnes
[photo courtesy of Alf Georg Kjetså]

When Alf sent this picture he wrote on the back “I am sending you a picture of Hornnes taken from an airplane. Here you see two peninsulas as two “horns” putting out into the lake; therefore the name Horn nes. Nes means a headland. We see Fennefossen, the river Otra passing by Hornnes kyrkje [church] and coming out into the lake Breiflå. Between the two horns you see an isle called Kjeøya. And to the left a smaller isle called Helgeholmen.”

This then is where Mikal Alfsen and his family lived in the 1800s. When his first wife, Ragnhild, died in 1859 he still had eight children living at home ranging in age from 6 to 22 years of age. At age 56 he remarried in 1862 to 19 year old Anne Gundersdatter Uleberg. I imagine it would have been difficult for Anne to come into the home as the new mistress with four of the eight children older than she was and also quite daunting at 19 to become stepmother to the younger children with the youngest then 9 years old.

The oldest son from the first marriage, Notto Mikalsen, was 25 years old when his father remarried. Because the farm was to be divided if and when Mikal remarried as oldest living son Notto would take ½ as his inheritance from his mother. Notto did not take this half of the farm until 1868 when he was 31 and Mikal sold him the other half as well. Notto did not marry until 1872 at age 35.

Mikal started his second family while still living at Lunnen and three more children were born here before he bought and moved to a smaller farm, Rønningen also in Hornnes. In 1878 he bought Espetveit but had to sell it again in 1880.* His youngest children were born while they lived here.

Espetveit farm, ca 1960s
[photo courtesy of Alf Georg Kjetså]

He did not leave Espetveit but rented the farm until 1888. He died there in 1890. The man who bought Espetveit was Torjus Ånonson Abusland. Lill Anna persuaded two of Torjus's daughters, Anna** and Line, into coming to America. Later Torjus sold in 1908 and left for America too.

Anna and Line Torjusdatter Espetveit, ca 1907

Stories passed down through the family say that Mikal’s family was so large that they filled half the church [a slight exaggeration, I think] and were dressed so fine that heads would turn to look at them.

Another story passed down from Lill Anna was that her father being a younger son had sympathy for younger children and did give them some money or parcel out pieces of the large farm to give at least some of his children a good start before he died so that they would have something and that not everything would go to the oldest son. I think he must have been a careful and caring father who wanted his children settled and secure. I have no way to prove this story and O.O. Uleberg’s Hornnes I does not mention it so it may not be true. We do know, however, that his daughter Marie and her children continued to live at Espetveit and that his widow also lived there for many years after he passed away.

Else Marie Roland would often send me clippings and sometimes entire newspapers from Hornnes. On the 100th anniversary of Mikal’s death his obituary was reprinted in the local newspaper:

“det stod i Fædrelandsvennen

2. april 1890
En af Hornnes’ ældste mænd, Mikal Alfsen Hornnes er død, 85 aar gammel. Han var født paa garden roland i Bjelland og blev for 60 aar siden gift med en pige som eiede et brug I Hornnes. I dette ægteskab fik han 12 børn, og da hans kone døde for ca. 30 aar siden, giftede han sig igjen, og I det sidste ægteskab fik han 11 børn. Han er saalesdes fader til 23 børn, vistnok et sjeldent tilfælde.

“18 af hans born overlever ham, og samtlige paa en nær var tilstede ved hans begravelse.”


“How it was “Fædrelandsvennen”

2 April 1890 One of Hornnes’ oldest men, Mikal Alfsen Hornnes is dead, 85 years old. He was born on the farm Roland in Bjelland and was married 60 years ago to a girl who owned a farm in Hornnes. In that marriage he had 12 children. Then his wife died about 30 years ago. He married a second time and in this marriage he had 11 children. He was the father of 23 children in all, a truly remarkable thing.

“18 of his children survive him, and one and all were present at his funeral.”]***

The children from the second marriage:

[cameo photos courtesy of Alf George Kjetså]

The pictures of the children of Mikal and Anne Gundersdatter originally appeared in the "family gathering" newsletter and were photocopied so they are not very good quality; however, I did think it was fun to put faces with the names and birth years. (To enlarge, click on the pictures.)

Setesdal bunad


* In 1880 Mikal would have been 75 years old. That he was still farming and having children is amazing. Most would be retired by that age. According to Lill Anna he was working around the farm up until the time he died ten years later.

** The Anna Torjusdatter mentioned here is Anna Grødvig known as Aunt Anna Grødvig. She married a friend of Axel Schroder's, Ed Grødvig. Anna lived with Axel and Anna for a little while after she came to the States. I can remember her visiting our house when I was a little girl.

*** That all his surviving children attended his burial is further testament that he was much loved and respected by his family. It is a lovely tribute to the man and to the family.

Lunnen farm remains in the family and is now owned by the descendant of Mikal's second daughter, Åslaug.

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