Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Some Pioneers and Pilgrims on the Prairies of Dakota - Or, From the ox team to the aeroplane
Author: Reese, John B., Reese, H. B.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Some Pioneers and Pilgrims on the Prairies of Dakota - Or, From the ox team to the aeroplane" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



       *       *       *       *       *

    +-----------------------------------------------------------+
    | Transcriber's Note:                                       |
    |                                                           |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has     |
    | been preserved.                                           |
    |                                                           |
    | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For     |
    | a complete list, please see the end of this document.     |
    |                                                           |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------+

       *       *       *       *       *



  SOME PIONEERS _and_ PILGRIMS
  ON THE PRAIRIES OF
  DAKOTA

  OR

  _From the Ox Team to the Aeroplane_

  Edited and Published by

  REV. JOHN B. REESE, A.M., B.D.

  Assisted by

  H.B. REESE

  MITCHELL, SOUTH DAKOTA
  AUGUST, 1920



TABLE OF CONTENTS


      I. Occasion, Scope and Purpose of Record.

     II. Prying Open the Door to the Dakotas--Treaty of '58.

    III. The Second Coming of the Norsemen to America. The First
         Settlement on the Missouri Bottom, 1860.

     IV. First Settlement and Settlers of the "South Prairie,"
         67-71. A Memorable Trip in Search of Work.

      V. The Settlements on Turkey Creek and Clay Creek, 70-71.

     VI. The Great Immigration of 1880--Causes.

    VII. Landing at Yankton, Getting on the Land, and a Hard
         Struggle to Live.

   VIII. The Pioneer Mothers and Their Share in the Privations.

     IX. Indians as Visitors and Guests.

      X. The Great Snow Winter of 1880 and the Flood of '81.

     XI. Beginning the Grapple with the Earth.

    XII. Bird's Eye View of the Settlements in 1880-3.

   XIII. The Prairie Fires--The Annual Terror of the Settlers.

    XIV. The Great Blizzard of '88.

     XV. When the Fathers and Mothers of Today were Boys and
         Girls.

    XVI. Religious Movements and Workers Among These People.

   XVII. A Daughter Settlement.

  XVIII. Looking Down the Trail to the Years Ahead.



GREETING


There has been an often expressed desire on the part of the sons and
daughters of the immigrant pioneers that those brave men and women of
a generation ago who left home, friends, and the graves of a hundred
generations of ancestors, to go to a land which they knew not, there
to toil and sacrifice that we, their children might have a better
chance, should not be forgotten. For their lives went into the deep
and often overlooked foundations, material and spiritual, without
which our larger opportunities and comforts of today would be
impossible. Like the pioneer Abraham they had a large faith and went
out in search of a Promised Land, not knowing what would be in store
for them, for they saw it afar off. Like Moses, most of them died
without themselves enjoying the fruits of the land or seeing the
promise fulfilled.

How little the young people of this generation can appreciate the hard
toil, and even less, the heartaches and the tragedies which were the
price paid by our fathers and mothers, for our better future! It has
been the fashion of some small and provincially minded "Americans" who
constituted themselves, as it were, into the original and only
Americans, to sneer at the immigrant, to affect certain superior
"airs" in relation to him. This self-appointed superiority, however,
did not seem to bar them from taking undue advantage of him because of
his lack of knowledge of the new country and its ways and methods. How
little this class of self-appointed Americans were capable of
understanding, not to speak of appreciating, the physical and mental
contribution, not to speak of the moral and spiritual--the soul--which
these immigrants brought to the land of their adoption. They
established schools for their children, meeting in private houses
before there were any public schools. They built churches for the
worship of God while they themselves still lived in shacks and
dugouts.

So it is in response to this widespread desire, among those of the
second and third generation from the pioneers, that this rich heritage
of deeds and ideals, handed down to us by our brave and forward
looking fathers and mothers, should not be forgotten but handed down
in memory as an increasing inspiration and just pride in the lives of
their children and children's children, that we are moved to write
this record. For already I hear the tramp of countless numbers and
many generations of the children of these pioneers. For them I compile
these incidents of the settlers' first experiences with the new land
and write this narrative. For if there is any reward which our fathers
and mothers would ask of us, in return for giving up almost everything
on our behalf, it would be just this: Remembrance and a little
appreciation--understanding.

As to the origin, scope and plan of this narrative, this explanation
should be made:

The real mover in getting this narrative started is my brother, H.B.
Reese. He has also collected a part of the materials used and written
out some of it. In editing and incorporating this material and other
contributions into the book, I have made a free translation of it and
also made changes and additions here and there as seemed desirable.

As to the scope and plan, especially as to the particular persons
included or left out, the question will no doubt arise in the minds of
some readers: "Why are just these individuals named and not others who
were equally worthy and whose experiences were no less interesting?"
The answer is simply this: This particular group and their experiences
are best known to us, while that of others is not so well known. Then,
too, the necessary limitations of space because of the costs involved,
compel us to leave out much of which we have, or could get sufficient
knowledge to use. Lastly, we present this work on the theory that the
people, incidents and circumstances here included, represent the
ordinary immigrant's experiences and thus serve to give a fairly
correct view of pioneer days as a whole. So if some reader should have
a feeling that such and such names or incidents should have been
included, remember this omission is not because other names may not
have been equally worthy, but rather that because of limitations of
space and knowledge we had to choose a few as types and
representatives of all the rest. The individual names of these
pioneers will all too soon be forgotten in any case. But these
pioneers as a class and their deeds, I trust, shall never be
forgotten. So kindly remember that tho your father and mother, dear
reader, may have been among the first settlers of the region here
described and otherwise also closely connected with the group here
mentioned, and still their names are not included, yet their lives are
included. For the life we attempt to reproduce in picture here with
its hardships and adventures, was the life and sacrifice of them all.
You may in many cases substitute almost any pioneer name, and the
picture of the period would be essentially correct. So, then, this is
written in honor and memory of them all, the un-named as well as the
named.

Thus, then, to all the sons and daughters of the Viking pioneers of
the prairie who between the years of 1859-1889 took up the hard
struggle with untamed nature on the far-stretching prairies of Dakota
and Minnesota, I humbly dedicate this memorial. To all the brave men
and women who bore the heat and the brunt of those days of toil and
hardship, we, their children, together offer this little tribute of
our love and remembrance.

                                                   JOHN B. REESE,
  April 21, 1918. _Mitchell S.D._



CHAPTER I

PRYING OPEN THE DOOR INTO THE RICH LANDS OF THE DAKOTAS


Previous to April, 1858, Dakota Territory for a century or more had
been the hunting ground and undisputed possession of the Yankton
Sioux. However, for some years before this date many adventurous,
enterprising members of the white race in the adjoining states of
Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, had cast covetous eyes across the
borders. Not a few even followed their eyes and entered in spite of
the prohibition of the government and the hostilities of the Indian.
Many more, encamped along the borders were watching the negotiations
between the government and the Yanktons, eager and alert to step over
the line the very instant the door should be opened.

According to the available data on the Indian history of this region,
previous to 1750 it was occupied by the Omahas, who held the Big Sioux
and James river valleys. These were driven out about 1750 by the Teton
Sioux, who came previously from the woods of Minnesota. The Teton
Sioux also engaged the Rees, then having strongholds on the Missouri,
especially in and around Pierre, and after a forty years' struggle
drove them north to Grand River and then to where their remnants are
still found in the vicinity of Fort Berthold, North Dakota.

At this time of the Treaty, this region was held by the Yankton and
Yanktonais Sioux, who had been driven from western Iowa by the Ottos
about 1780 and had settled the lower James River Valley.

The first attempt at a settlement at Yankton was made in the spring of
1858 by one W.P. Holman, his son C.J. Holman, both of Sergeants
Bluff, Iowa, and Ben Stafford, together with four or five others from
Sioux City. In anticipation of an early treaty these men came up on
the Nebraska side of the river and, crossing over at Yankton, built a
camp. But about a month later the Indians, jealous of their hunting
grounds and suspicious of the designs of the intruders, drove them
back across the river.

The next May, however, on the strength of a false rumor that the
treaty had been ratified, these men floated logs across from their
Nebraska camp, working all night, and next day laid twelve
foundations. The following day construction of the first log cabin was
begun. But before this could be finished some seventy-five Indians
appeared and began to hurl the newly founded city of Yankton into the
river. It was fortunate, as Mr. Holman, who was one of the party,
suggests, that the new settlers had left their guns on the other side.
For had they had their arms they would hardly have been able to submit
to the destruction of their town without a fight, and if it had come
to a fight the Indians were as yet too many. As it was, the intruders
resorted to diplomacy, and by much "fine talk" succeeded in saving
most of their belongings as well as of the construction and in holding
their ground. The next day a feast was promptly made to Chief Dog's
Claw and his warriors, and as is always the case with men, red or
white, this feast had the desired effect, at least for the time being.
The log house was built altho subsequently burned in October, 1858.

The first permanent buildings, as far as we can ascertain, were those
of the Frost, Todd Co. Trading Post. There were, of course, Indian
tepees scattered over the present city and vicinity of Yankton, but
these appeared and disappeared again with the movements of their
inhabitants. There was also about this time a cabin built on the east
side of the present James River bridge by J.M. Stone, who operated a
ferry boat.

It is stated by the late Mayor J.R. Hanson of Yankton, who came to
Yankton with a party of pioneers from Winona, Minnesota, in 1858, that
more than one hundred locations of 160 acres had already been staked
out in the vicinity of Yankton on his arrival. These, of course, later
had to be filed on in the regular way when the land became legally
opened to settlers.

As already indicated, the treaty for the opening of this land for
settlement was at last arranged in 1858, but it was not until July 10,
1859, that the land was legally opened for settlers by ratification of
the treaty. On that very date the streams of expectant immigrants,
waiting on the borders of Nebraska and Iowa, poured in like a flood
and the towns of Vermilion, Meckling, Yankton and Bon Homme were all
founded in a day. On the 22nd of July Elk Point was first settled.

[Illustration: THE OLD SOD SHANTY ON THE CLAIM, NEAR ARMOUR, S. DAK.]

An interesting story is told of the long extended Indian pow-wows and
the fiery harangues on the part of the chiefs before they finally
relinquished their ancient camping ground and the graves of their
fathers on the present site of Yankton. The government had made
tempting offers in the way of regular rations of food, blankets and
many other commodities, not to speak of money and large reservations
of land to be guaranteed for the exclusive possession of the tribe.
These immediate benefits and creature comforts made a powerful appeal
to the common crowd among the Indians. This faction was led by Chief
Struck by the Ree, who was friendly to the Whites. The other chiefs,
however, many of whom were shrewd and able men and thought with their
heads rather than, as the crowd did, with their stomachs, keenly
realized what the little act of signing this treaty involved. They saw
that it meant that when they should fold their tepees and journey
westward this time they could never return. They knew that it meant
the final abandonment of their immemorial hunting grounds and the
beautiful camping site of Yankton with the graves of their fathers,
to the pale faces who would come in like a flood and once in they
could no more be turned back than the tides of the sea. In many and
prolonged councils these chiefs, such as Smutty Bear and Mad Bull, had
pressed upon their people these and other considerations against the
signing of the White man's treacherous papers. With burning words of
appeal, now to this motive now to that, with stinging rebuke of those
who would so lightly sell out their birthright and ancestral heritage,
as well as that of their children and the unborn generations to come,
they spoke with an eloquence which seemed for the time to stir and
elevate even the craven spirits of those who had favored the treaty.
But just at this point, when it looked as tho the treaty would be
rejected and the Indians would stay where they were, a government boat
carrying large supplies of food and other desirable commodities
whistled down the river. The word was soon passed that these treasures
would be taken up the river some thirty miles to their new home near
the present site of Springfield, and be distributed to the Indians in
case they would now vacate and carry out the treaty. The temptation
was too great. All the oratory was forgotten in the prospect of food,
clothing and glittering spangles. There was no more argument. The
tepees with strange and significant rapidity and universality began to
come down and get loaded. The travaux, loaded with the whole household
belongings and also in some cases with children, began to move
silently but surely toward the West, heading for the rendezvous
appointed by the steam boat people. Deserted by their people, the
chiefs, realizing that they were face to face with an irresistible
tide and were fighting a hopeless fight, followed their people with
sad and bitter spirits as they all trekked toward the setting sun,
never more to return to the rich valley and far-flung prairies of the
lower Missouri. Before the vanquished and vanishing Indian had gotten
out of sight over the hills the eager White man was moving in.



CHAPTER II

THE SECOND COMING OF THE NORSEMEN TO AMERICA


It is now quite generally conceded that Leif Erikson and his party, as
also other adventurous spirits of Iceland and Norway, visited these
shores half a thousand years before Columbus. The second coming of the
Norsemen, or the immigration to America from Norway in any
considerable numbers, began about 1840. Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa,
Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, about in the order named, came
to receive this large influx of the hardy Norsemen. Wherever they went
they took their full share, and more, of helping to build the
railroads, fell the forests, subdue the prairies and build a Christian
civilization.

The first settlement of considerable size in South Dakota was, as far
as we can learn, made in 1860, between the James river and Gayville.
Other settlers followed in the succeeding years, spreading out over
the bottom and later up on the prairie to the north. Among those who
came to the vicinity of Yankton in the decade of 1860-70 we would
mention the following: Ole Odland, '62; Ole C. Pederson, '66; Lars
Hanson, '66; O.L. Hanson, '67; Ole Pederson, '67; Nec. Hanson, '68;
Lars Bergsvenson, '68; Andrew Simonson, '68; J.M. Johnson (Irene),'68;
Ole Bjerke, '69; Ole Lien (Volin), formerly of Brule, Union County,
'68, with his sons Charles and Edward Lien; Jorgen Bruget; Christian
Marendahl, '67; Nels Brekke, '67; Peder Engen; Gunder Olson, '68;
Haldo Saether, '69; Sivert Nysether also came about this time.

Iver Bjerke and Mark Johnson appear to be the first native born
children of the Scandinavian immigrants in this part of the country,
both being born in '69. However, Ole Jelley of Clay County holds the
honor of being, not only the first child born of Norse parents in the
state, but of being, as far as is known, the first male white child
born in South Dakota. He was born March 2, 1860.

Others who came in this period were Ole Skaane, '69; C. Freng, '69;
J.T. Nedved, '68; G. Gulbranson, '69; P.J. Freng, '69; Halvor Aune,
'69.

In the next decade, 1870-80, we find these well known names: I.S.
Fagerhaug (Irene), '70; O. Kjelseth and two sons, George and C.J.
Kjelseth, '70; Ole Lee (Aune), '70; O.P. Olsen, '70; A.O. Saugstad,
'70; O.J. Anderson (Irene), '70; H. Hoxeng with his sons Thore and
Jens, '70; P.J. Nyberg, '72; J.J. Nissen, '72; John Aaseth, '72; Peter
Carlson, '72; the Bagstad brothers, Iver, Mathias and Emil; and Hans
Helgerson, '74; John Gjevik and Lars Aaen, '75.

The settlement in Clay Creek was begun a little earlier than Turkey
Creek, or about '69. Among those who first broke the virgin sod there
were O. Skaane, O. Gustad, H. Hagen, and his son Albert, the latter
also sharing the honor with B.B. Haugan of breaking the first furrow
of the sod in Mayfield Township. Then there were Benjamin Anderson,
Peter Olaus, R. Olsen, A.O. Saugstad and Fredrik Aune.

It was at the beginning of this decade, 1870-80, that the settlement
of the Turkey Creek Valley was begun by I. Fagerhaug, S. Hinseth,
Halvor Hinseth (1870); and Ole Solem; Jens Eggen to the south, and
John Rye to the north end of the valley.

We are aware that this list of early settlers is far from complete. No
complete list could be made at this time, as many of them are long
since gone and forgotten. We hope, however, that this is fairly
comprehensive, and should we meet with enough favor to warrant another
edition of this memorial, then, by the help of some of our readers, we
may be able to gather up some of the missing names which ought to be
included. In such an edition there should also be a record of the
children, boys and girls, of these first settlers. This would be of
more interest and value in the years to come, as a matter of
reference, than we can now realize. To be able to prove by the records
that we came from one of the "old families" of first settlers may be
an object a hundred years from now.

On the adventures, hardships, struggles and triumphs of these first
Norse settlers on the Missouri bottom we cannot dwell, nor do we have
much available material, as there are not many left now to tell the
story. There were Indians as in the Massacre of '62, when Judge Amiden
and his son were killed near Sioux Falls. There were fires, droughts
and blizzards. Then grasshoppers in '63, '64, '74, '76. And all the
time the lack of even what are now the common necessities, not to
speak of the comforts and conveniences of life. The table had to be
provided largely from what the settlers themselves could produce from
the untamed soil and the clothes from the coarse cheap cloth available
at the few towns, such as blue denim for men and calico for women.

The settlers in this region had one advantage in their start on a bare
soil. Wood for fuel and timber was available. While this timber was
largely cottonwood and willow, yet out of the cottonwood, and
occasionally oak, they were able to construct log houses. This was
quite an advantage here, as dugouts on this level and low lying land
would not have been even as satisfactory as on the prairie.

These men and women who led in subduing the raw, untamed soil may be
likened to soldiers in the first line trenches as also to shock
troops. In order that others might reap the fruits of victory some had
to be sacrificed. Many of these front liners perished early in the
struggle. Others have come down even to the present. But within and
outside they bear the marks, D.S.C's, may I say, of the great days of
battle.



CHAPTER III

THE FIRST SETTLEMENT OF THE PRAIRIE FROM THE MISSOURI BOTTOM NORTH AS
FAR AS THE TURKEY CREEK VALLEY


Among the first to homestead and build on this tract, in early days
called the South Prairie, were, as far as we can learn, Christian
Marendahl; Nils Brekke, '67; John Sleeper, '68; Gunder Olsen, '68;
Peder Engen, Sivert Nysether, Esten Nyhus, Ole Liabo, Iver Furuness,
and Miss Marie Hoxeng came during '68-'69. Ole Bjerke and H. Sether
came in '69. About this time came also Lars Aaen. The Hoxengs came the
next year, or 1870, and Hans Dahl and Lars Eide a little later.

It may be of interest as illustrating how these people got on their
chosen locations, to describe in brief the experiences of some of
them.

Ole Bjerke came to Sioux City in the spring of '69. This little
village was then the "farthest west" as far as the railroad was
concerned. Thru an acquaintance of his, Joe Sleeper, I believe, he had
become interested in the far away prairie north of Yankton, which was
open for settlement. Accordingly he bought, thru Mr. Halseth of Sioux
City, a yoke of oxen and a wagon, the standard equipment of the
pioneer settler of those days. These oxen, like most of their tribe,
were wild and unruly; ran away, broke the wagon to pieces and were
lost for some weeks. Finally the trip was made over the winding
prairie trail westward thru Brule and Vermilion, thence along the
bluffs to their destination. It was a long, weary trip thru the tall
grass, and the accommodations in the way of food and sleep at the few
human habitations along the way were not of the kind to cheer the
weary pilgrims. For in most cases a rude shelter was all they could
obtain, having to provide food and bedding for themselves, the owners
often being bachelors, sometimes "at home" and often not at home for
months.

On arriving at their destination, Mr. and Mrs. Bjerke were able to
share shelter with a kind neighbor already on the ground until they
could construct one of their own. Here, soon after their arrival, Iver
Bjerke was born and was the first child to receive baptism in this
settlement. In this hospitable home of Mr. and Mrs. Bjerke were also
held the first religious services in this vicinity, in 1869. These
services were conducted by Rev. Nesse from Brule, who became the first
pastor of these people. There was at this time, '69, no neighbor to
the north nearer than Swan Lake, eighteen miles away.



CHAPTER IV

FIRST SETTLEMENT AND SETTLERS OF THE "SOUTH PRAIRIE," 1861-71,
MEMORABLE TRIP IN SEARCH OF WORK


However, in '69 and '70 there came to be a considerable settlement on
the South Prairie of the people already named and others who came in
the latter '60's and early 70's.

When we say that people "settled" here at this time it must not be
interpreted to mean that they began to put up good buildings, break
the sod and raise grain and cattle. These activities were for many as
yet years away. As a general thing a rude dwelling of logs, sod, or a
dugout was made to shelter the family and to fulfil the law in regard
to getting deed to the land. Also a few acres were broken, perhaps
five or ten, to comply with these homestead requirements. Then about
the next thing was for the men folks to strike out for the forts on
the upper Missouri in order to earn a little money, by cutting wood or
working on other government jobs, to support themselves and their
families. This work and the wretched food and "accommodations" given
them would have broken these men in body and spirit had they not been
young and vigorous in body as well as unconquerable in spirit.

Perhaps we can reproduce the experiences of many of the above named
homesteaders of the '60's and early '70's by giving the actual story
of one group who went up the river to find work, as related to us by
one of the parties, Ole Lee, now living near Volin.

Mr. Lee came to America in 1870, May 18th, and landed, like most of
the above named, in Sioux City, where his brother Halvor Aune had
already preceded him. With only 35 cents with which to start in the
new country, Mr. Lee counted himself fortunate in finding a job at
$1.75 per day, even tho board had to be paid out of this. But even
this fortune did not last long, for Sioux City was a small place and
had little development at that time. Yet, however short Ole was in
cash, he did have some capital which could be invested in the new
country and would in time compel success. He had a good, sound body,
great courage, a cheerful disposition and a good talking apparatus,
altho as yet operating mostly in the Norwegian language. So having
learned that there was work and better pay than he had been getting,
in connection with the steamboat traffic and the government forts on
the upper Missouri, he in company with a number of others started west
to seek fortune as also adventure. As most of these men were young and
unmarried, the Viking spirit of adventure and daring was not absent.

It was in the spring of 1871 that these young men, gathered at
Yankton, decided to trek over the country to Fort Sully, 300 miles
away, in search of work.

They had among them scarcely any money and some even owed their
winter's board. So at first they thought of starting out afoot. But
thru an acquaintance of one of the party they were able to buy an ox
team on time, agreeing to pay $180.00 for the same, including an old
wagon. They were able to buy a few provisions, such as flour and salt
pork, for their own use on the way, and some sacks of oats for the
oxen as hay or grass could not be depended on, the vast prairie often
being burned off.

There were eighteen of these young explorers in all and while one
drove the oxen by turns the other seventeen walked behind the wagon.
Besides the two brothers already mentioned, there were in this company
Emret and Sivert Mjoen; also Sivert and Christopher Haakker,
Ingibricht Satrum, Iver Furuness, Ole Solem, Ole Yelle, Albert Meslo,
Anders Krengness and Thomas Berg. I have not the names of the others
of the party.

These young men, altho afoot and with meager provisions, on their way
toward a far-off destination and unknown conditions, yet trudged along
day after day with jokes and laughter. At noon or night, wherever they
happened to be on the broad plains, the same cooking routine was
performed, each taking his turn. Get out the long handled frying pan,
the fire having been built, fry pancakes or flap-jacks, and perhaps a
little pork, and boil some coffee. Then if it was the evening meal
they would sit around the fire a while to stretch their weary legs,
smoke a pipe, talk over and speculate on the prospects ahead and then
roll up in their blankets for the night.

One day, as they were nearing Fort Thompson, having followed the
course of the river so far, they met a man driving a mule team.
Surmising from their appearance that these men were in a situation to
accept work of most any kind or on any condition, he stopped to parley
with them. He had a government contract to cut 900 cords of wood on an
island below Ft. Thompson. So he offered these men $2 per cord to cut
this wood. They were only too eager to grasp this first opportunity,
especially as he was to furnish them board. But what should they do
with their joint property--oxen and wagon? The man, realizing he had
made a "find" in these eager strong handed men, didn't let this stand
in the way but bought the outfit for $185.00. They thus made $5.00 on
the deal, and in regular democratic style it was voted in assembly to
send back the $180.00 due the former owner of the oxen; sell the
remainder of the oats and with the total proceeds have a little
"refreshment" before they began their summer's work. This they did in
reaching the fort, and the only refreshments to be had in those places
being in liquid form, there was just enough money in the treasury to
buy them "one each."

Now, let it be remembered by this and all coming generations that this
was the first commercial co-operative enterprise, as far as we know,
in this part of the country, and that it yielded a profit--it
"liquidated."

They now immediately began cutting wood on this island below Fort
Thompson, and it was well that they had had some "refreshment," for
what they now received in the way of board was fearfully and
wonderfully made. It consisted of spoiled pork and wormy flour,
rejected by the soldier commissary at the fort and bought for little
or nothing by this shameless contractor to feed these unsuspecting
men. Out of this material, a not over clean negro cook made two
standard dishes--soda biscuits and fried pork. Often the remnants of
the worms, embalmed and baked into the biscuits could be plainly seen.

The men bore as patiently as they could with this sickening food, for
there was little else to do now under their circumstances. But their
stomachs rebelled, however, and the men became so weakened thru
continued diarrhea that they could scarcely lift the ax at times. Yet
with characteristic Viking spirit they "stuck it out" until the 900
cords were hewn. The men now separated, some going back to Yankton or
vicinity. Ole Lee and his brother Halvor, however, pushed on up to
Fort Sully, or Cheyenne Agency, where the former remained for five
years without seeing civilization again in the meantime. By this time
Mr. Lee, as well as others of the above named company, had been able
to save up a little money and homesteaded in Yankton county, where
some of them and many of their descendants live to this day, not a few
of them being worth $100,000 each. You recall we began our narrative
of one of them with a capital of 35 cents. The explanation of this, of
35 cents to $100,000; of the borrowed ox team and rickety wagon to the
finest automobiles in the market; of the sod shanty or dugout to the
big modern houses with all the latest conveniences which some of
these men have today, lies in two or three words--America and the
Norse immigrants' great characteristics, industrially speaking--industry
and thrift.

We have suggested the striking change which fifty years have wrought
in the outward circumstances of these men. Would that the intervening
years could have been equally kind to the men themselves as to their
earthly tabernacles! But such could not be the case, altho several of
them are still living and a number spending their declining years as
neighbors in the vicinity of Volin. The heat and toil of many summers
have wrinkled their brows; the snows of many winters and some sorrows
and cares have whitened the hair and given a stoop to the shoulders.
The step is a little less firm now than when they together marched
over the prairie to the west; their laughter has lost some of its
ring, and yet it is there. With their children and grandchildren they
are enjoying a little deserved rest before the final journey to the
last sunset of life's trail.

There is Ole Lee, Ole Solem, Halvor Hinseth and the Hoxengs, still
active and living in good, comfortable homes and in the same
neighborhood. There is Ole Bjerke, once tall and straight as a young
pine of the forest, now a little bent over and gray. There, too, is
his wife, remarkably well preserved in both body and mental faculties.
How many generations of "newcomers" have received a hearty welcome and
hospitality in these homes and have been by them helped to get a start
in the new land! Long will they live enshrined in the hearts and
memories of the many who have enjoyed the hospitality of their
firesides.

Yes, most of these pioneers of forty to sixty years ago have already
struck the long trail and gone to that "West" which is the farthest
and the final. Of the few who remain, the earthly tabernacles are
leaning more and more toward the earth from which they came, and in a
very short time not one will be left standing. Yet because man's
immortal hope burns strongly in many of them, the building of flesh,
tho feebler than of yore, is glorious with that light which the years
and the eternities cannot dim nor extinguish, for it is eternal in the
Heavens.



CHAPTER V

THE SETTLEMENTS ON TURKEY CREEK, AND CLAY CREEK, '70-71


The settlement in Turkey Creek was made in 1870. A man by the name of
John Hovde, who had homesteaded in Union county some years previously,
made a trip back to Norway and on his return the following people came
over with him: Anfin Utheim and wife; Olaf Stolen; Haakon Hoxeng with
his two sons, already referred to, and one daughter; Stingrim Hinseth
with wife and one baby daughter, Mary; Halvor Hinseth; Ingebright
Fagerhaug; and Marit Nysether, who later became his wife, and a number
of other men and women who went to other parts of the country.

These people reached Sioux City May 18, 1870. There some of the men of
the company found work on the railroad. The others, including S. and
H. Hinseth and Miss Nysether, journeyed on by ox team toward their
friends already described as settled on the South Prairie, i.e., north
of the present Volin. Their baggage went by steam boat to Yankton. Mr.
and Mrs. S. Hinseth, who had a little six-year-old baby daughter, went
by stage as far as Vermilion and there transferred to the ox team, the
stage going on to Yankton.

We will here quote from a brief narrative which Mr. S. Hinseth, at our
request, prepared for this record just before his death (1918). As Mr.
Hinseth was one of the outstanding leaders in this immigration
movement and in the building up of the new country, both materially
and spiritually, we are very fortunate in getting these memoranda
directly from him. We regret that he was cut off before he could
finish them.

"We reached our destination in Yankton county on a Sunday. That day
there was church service at the home of Mr. and Mrs. O. Bjerke,
conducted by pastor Nesse of Brule, Union county.

"There was no possibility of getting work in the neighborhood, so a
number of us went up to Fort Randall, where we obtained work cutting
cord wood for steamboat use. We remained there until fall, when Halvor
Hinseth and myself homesteaded in Turkey Valley township and were the
first to settle there.

"We lived in Iver Furuness' house that winter, and in the spring of
1871 we moved to the place belonging to Christian Marendahl, whose
field we rented that season. That fall we moved onto our own
homesteads on Turkey Creek.

"Life was often dreary for us in those first years, for neighbors were
few and far apart. However, we had occasional visits from Rev. Elling
Eielsen, whom we knew from the time he visited our part of the country
in Norway, and we were very glad of those visits. We also had pastoral
visits from Gunder Graven, whom we later called, and who served us for
many years during our pioneer days. Throndhjem's congregation became
organized, I believe, in 1871. We belonged accordingly to the
Evangelical Lutheran Synod, or, as it was also called, Eielsen's
Synod, and still later became known as Hauge's Synod. This in turn
became merged, in 1917, in the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America.

"In 1877, I believe, Throndhjem's congregation became divided into
what are now Zion's and Throndhjem's. This latter, in distinction from
the northern congregation, which kept the name Throndhjem, at first
took the name Throndhjem's Free Congregation and later Zion's.

"This division arose from a disagreement as to the site for the
proposed church building. The site at first chosen was on Peder
Engen's farm, or practically where the Zion's church building now
stands. This seemed too far south for those living in the northern
part of the original parish, so they formed the present organization
of Throndhjem's and built on the present site in the early '80's.

"In 1901 a terrible storm swept over the whole state, and in this
storm, in common with many others, these congregations lost their
church buildings. Also the buildings of Meldahl's and Salem's, which
congregations were organized considerably later than the above, were
destroyed. This was a great loss. However, under the energetic
leadership of Rev. C. Olberg, then pastor of all four congregations
above named as also of Salem's, the people rallied with splendid
loyalty and sacrifice so that soon the buildings were not only rebuilt
but in a more modern and substantial form than the structures
destroyed."

Mr. Henseth also tells of the makeshifts for stables and granaries in
those first years. As lumber could not be afforded they would make a
grain storage by laying a square of rails after the fashion of a rail
fence, then they would line this with hay or straw to fill in the
large spaces between the rails and put the grain inside.

Stables were made from a little frame work of rails, for roof at
least, and this was covered with hay or straw. The walls were usually
the same materials and were eaten up during the winter as a general
occurrence and had to be restored in the fall.

We have heard Halvor Hinseth and other pioneers in these settlements
tell of their experiences in going to mill in the first ten years or
more. As the grasshoppers destroyed most of the small grain in '74 and
'76 the settlers had barely enough for flour and a little seed. The
nearest mill was three miles south of St. Helena, Nebraska. As this
was south of the present Gayville they would either have to go by
Yankton to cross the river or else cross on the ice in the winter. Mr.
H. Hinseth relates one trip, vivid in his memory, when they with their
loads got into deep snow out on the bottom; got lost in the brush
south of Gayville; were refused shelter when they at last found a
light from a cabin in the brush; how their horses gave out and the
sleds broke down and the men themselves were about used up. Sometimes
they would be overtaken by a snowstorm on their trip and be snowed in
for several days, so these mill trips would often take a week's time
and more toil and hardship than we can describe. But they managed to
get back sometime and with flour for the family.



CHAPTER VI

THE GREAT IMMIGRATION OF 1880--CAUSE OF


If a man had stood by the king's highway leading from Opdal, Norway,
to the seaport town of Trondhjem, in the month of April, 1880, he
could have witnessed a strange and significant scene. Here comes a
procession of twenty or more sleds, each drawn by a single small
horse. The sleds were heavily loaded with large, blue-tinted chests,
as also trunks, satchels and numerous smaller articles of household
and family use. Riding on top of these loads are mothers with little
children as also a number of grandmothers, the latter upwards of
seventy years of age. A number of lighter sleds, or cutters, are also
in the procession. These belong to friends of this pilgrim procession,
who are accompanying them part way and are now about to say, or have
already said, their final farewell and Godspeed to these
pilgrims--their friends and relations. This may explain in part the
fact that the men walk by the side of their loads in silence, with
downcast eyes and a lump in their throats, while the women show clear
traces of recent tears. Nor can we blame them for succumbing for the
moment to their emotions when we come to understand the meaning of
this strange scene.

These people, about sixty in number, this day were leaving that spot
on God's earth most dear to them; leaving the birthplace and the
resting-place of a hundred generations of their ancestors, they were
looking for the last time on their former homes and on the dear
familiar spots so well known from their childhood. They had just
looked for the last time upon the faces of their friends and near
relatives and spoken the last words, and soon they were to see the
receding outlines of the mountain peaks of their beloved fatherland,
nevermore to see them again. For they were on the way to America, and
America was very far off in those days, and to most people going there
the way back was forever closed. So to these people these last
glimpses and handshakes and words were the final, as far as this world
went, and they were all too well aware of it.

But let us pause in the journey at this point, while still under the
influence of the nearby majestic mountains, robed in evergreen and
crowned with the snows of generations, so as to get acquainted with
the individuals of this company and also to learn the causes which
could lead these people to an undertaking so fraught with momentous
destiny for all of them and for their descendants to the end of time.
As we have already surmised, these people were not light-minded
adventurers or people who had nothing to risk or lose. On the
contrary, they were deeply rooted where they were and they did not
pluck up their life by the roots to be transplanted in a far-off,
unknown soil without careful consideration and a great motive.

First we meet Berhaug Rise (later written Reese) who seems to be a
leader in this particular group we have before us. He is a man of
about forty-five, of spare build and medium height. He has a family
consisting of wife and five children--four boys and one girl; also his
mother who is nearly seventy years of age. The children's names were
Ole, eleven years; Halvor, nine; John, coming seven; Sivert, five; and
Mary, three years, and named after the grandmother.

Next we get acquainted with Halvor Hevle, a man also of about
forty-five, but because of a terrible affliction of rheumatism, was
bent over so that his face is toward the ground. He is accompanied by
his wife, Marit, but they have no children.

Then there is Thore Fossem with his wife, his mother and one little
girl, Marie, named after the grandmother. It should be explained here
that while this last named family was not present in the above group
just at this point of the story but came a little later, yet because
Mr. Fossem belongs by every other circumstance to this group, and in
spiritual kinship and motive particularly with the above two, we
include him here. With Thore Fossem came Ingebricht Satrum with one of
his boys, I believe, but most of his family came over a year or two
later.

The above three men had all been owners of small or medium sized farms
and had advanced money for transportation to most of the others in the
party from the recent sale of their properties. The remainder of the
party, as we shall see, was largely composed of middle aged tradesmen,
young unattached men and girls, practically all of them without means
of their own to make the long journey. Most of these middle aged men
of trades had left large families behind and expected to earn enough
money in the new land to repay their own passage and also to send for
their families as soon as possible. But more of this later, for the
when and the how of the repayment of some of these transportations
would be out of place here, tho not without some very interesting
features.

One of these men who was master of a trade and who also belongs, in
the sense of an absolutely kindred spirit, to the above three, was
Iver Sneve. He left wife and five children, taking with him his two
older boys, Ingebricht and Ole.

In much the same economic relation was Anders Ellingson Loe, a
shoemaker by trade. Also Arne Loe, who was a mason and left wife and
three children behind until he could send for them.

To this class should also be added Ingebricht Brenden, having left his
wife and five children--Ingebricht, Knut, Elli, Sigrid and Kjerstine.

Among the younger married men were John Lien with wife and one boy,
Esten, as also his mother, who was another member of the considerable
group of grandmas in the party.

Here should be mentioned also Lars Hansen Almen with wife and two
boys--Hans and Olaus as also Mrs. Almen's mother, who makes the fourth
member of the remarkable grandmother class in this group of pilgrims
to a faraway country.

Then there were the following young and middle aged unmarried men and
women: Ildri Loe, now Mrs. Sneve of Inwood, Iowa; Kari Rathe; Marit
Myren; Haakon Mellemsether or Haagenson; Sivert Aalbu; John Riskaasen;
and Jens Rise.

In all there were fifty-two passages bought on the same boat for the
same place in America; viz., Yankton, South Dakota. One or two of the
group, I believe, went to Brookings, South Dakota, including Mr.
Haagenson.

We left these people, while making this digression, on the king's
highway severing forever the strong ties that bound them to the land
and the people of their birth. As we now resume our journey with them,
especially if we have not made the trip before, we are irresistibly
attracted by the wild and rugged manifestations of nature along our
route. Both the way and its surroundings were prophetic of the much
further stretching way to be traversed, often with weary feet, by
these people, could they have foreseen it.

The road, tho well built, winds endlessly and often in sharp turns
thru the narrow valley between the mountains which in places almost
form a gorge. In many places the road is cut out of the solid rock of
the mountain side so that on one side is the high and nearly
perpendicular cliff; on the other, and only a few feet away, the
almost perpendicular descent to the raging, roaring river hundreds of
feet below. The sun is only now (April) beginning to reduce the eight
months' snow on the mountains. This turns the river in the main
valleys, as well as the hundreds of smaller streams coming down the
mountain sides, into whitefoamed, tumultuous torrents rolling great
stones before them and resounding thru the adjacent valleys and
mountain sides with a deep and deafening roar--beware! beware!

Looking up the mountain sides we see pine and evergreen creeping up
well toward the top. But while the sides are thus robed in beautiful
green, the tops are crowned with the pure white of the "eternal"
snows. So here was both music and raiment fit for kings and the sons
of Vikings, and these sounds and sights those people never forgot nor
could forget.

After a two-day tramp thru the snow and slush we reach the railway
station, Storen, fifty miles from our starting point. Here the drivers
return and more sad partings and some tears. Fortunately the new
sights and experiences now begin to crowd upon the consciousness of
these people and help them forget for the time being, just what they
most need to forget, what lies behind, if they are to successfully
march forward. Most of these people had never before been out of the
parish in which they were born or seen a railway or locomotive, not to
speak of riding behind one. And being naturally intelligent and
forward looking men and women, they took a deep interest in the new
world which continually unfolded to them as they journeyed on toward
their faroff destination, covering nearly a month of time.

We must now turn to the causes or motives which led these people to
undertake this long journey, so full of perils and uncertainties, and
also of hardships which can better be imagined than described in
detail. Transatlantic travel, forty years ago, was about as different
from what it is now as the ox team was different from the automobile.

The causes of this emigration, as one might almost surmise, were both
economic and religious. The religious motive was especially apparent
as far as the leaders were concerned.

Some years before this migration, a traveling evangelist had come thru
Opdal and had held meetings from house to house in the neighborhood
where these people lived, the state church building not being open for
that sort of religious exercises. His name was Hans Remen, or as he
was often called, Hans Romsdalen. He was a giant in physical
proportions and also had a moral courage and religious ardor to match
his body. He denounced the dead forms of religion current in the
Lutheran State Church as of no avail, and worse than nothing, in that
they caused people to rest their salvation on a false foundation. He
testified by reference to the Bible, and to personal experience, that
the only basis of salvation for man was a personal, vital relation to
Jesus Christ, entered into by faith; and that in Him alone could man
find forgiveness of sin, peace with God, and a good conscience.

The ground was somewhat ready for this sort of seed in that there was
a considerable number of people who had come to feel about the State
Church, much as the evangelist expressed it. Among them were the
leaders of these emigrants, Berhaug Rise (or as the name came to be
spelled, Reese), Halvor Hevle, Iver Sneve and Thore Fossem. A revival
of religion resulted and there came to be a considerable group of
people who sought a more vital religion than what was manifested in
the State Church. Thru worship and preaching in private houses,
however, they could find an open door and they continued this
movement. This religious movement thus gained more and more adherents,
so that not only had most of the members of this exodus been touched
by it but also many more who were left behind at this time.

It was a foregone conclusion that these lay preachers, especially the
above mentioned leaders, would soon find themselves marked for
persecution by the representatives of the established church and also
by petty government officials who of course stood back of that church
organization. Then, too, while looking upon the State Church not only
as dead religiously but also as a positive menace to true religion, in
that it led people astray, and persecuted those who were trying to
lead the way back to the teachings of the lowly Nazarene, yet they
were compelled to give a tithe of their principal farm produce toward
the upkeep of this institution.

There was much discussion and many clashes between the adherents of
the old and the new. But as the chasm seemed to widen, and the hope of
vitalizing the State Church from within to lessen, being backed as it
was financially and otherwise by the whole machinery of the
government, this religious situation and persecution became a strong
motive for seeking a freer atmosphere.

Then strongly re-enforcing the religious motive were both the general
as also some special economic conditions at this time, which pressed
upon these people. As aforesaid, the leaders of this movement had been
owners of small and medium sized farms, but with debts on them. Yet
under ordinary conditions they could have managed to take care of
these obligations, as they were long-time loans and at low rates of
interest. But worse than these larger obligations was the fact that
some of them had somehow fallen into the hands of the professional
loan sharks and usurers of the place. The method of procedure of these
parasites was to make short time loans, generally becoming due in the
fall of the year, and taking security in the milch cows or grain crop
of the small farmers. On the very day of maturity they would demand
immediate payment or threaten foreclosure with its attendant expense
and annoyance to the borrower. Having bullied and scared their victims
into the suitable state of mind they would, with hypocritical pretense
of graciousness, offer to compromise by buying the mortgaged
property, usually milch cows and seed grain, themselves, thus saving
the expense and disgrace of going to law. This was generally accepted
and the sale made, but of course at the lender's price. Then in the
spring the farmers had to have cows and seed grain to do any business
and usually had to buy both back again from these sharks, thus getting
into their hands again, and thus the vicious circle continued until
the poor borrower was finally worn out and had to give up the
struggle.

However, the final blow, economically, which brought the leaders of
our party to the great decision of emigrating, was a certain
cooperative mercantile enterprise which they had helped to form
supposedly for the economic benefit of the community. This was in the
early dawn of the cooperative movement in Norway, and these people
were quick to see its economic possibilities, but had not yet learned
to know and to guard against the many pitfalls which such enterprises
have to face and avoid if they are to succeed. And dearly did they pay
for their first lesson.

The shares of the company were assessable with unlimited liabilities
on the part of the share holder. Thus, of course the business had
almost unlimited credit with wholesalers. For a time the organization
seemed to prosper. After a while, however, suspicion began to form in
the minds of some that things were not just right. An investigation
was eventually made. The manager immediately disappeared. The
government now stepped in and declared a bankruptcy. The manager,
having gotten away beyond recall, the wholesale houses presented bills
of all kinds and large amounts for goods which the directors felt
certain had never been received. But with the manager absconded the
company could not disprove these claims, and the court, belonging
socially and politically to the big business class, naturally held the
scales of justice, socalled, in favor of the wholesale creditors. The
result was that these poor pioneers in the field of economic
cooperation found themselves liable and their property attached for
as much as 6000% of the face value of their shares. It goes without
saying that the government officials saw to it that they themselves
got their utmost limit out of the general slaughter. Berhaug Rise and
a couple of other victims appealed to the courts against the high
handed work of the big business concerns, and the petty government
officials involved, but lost the case, and all that they had was
attached and ordered sold.

Finding revealed thru all this procedure the persecution both of the
civil and the ecclesiastical authorities, and seeing no chance at that
point of either religious or economic betterment for themselves and
their children, they came to the great decision to try their fortunes
in the far-away land of which they had heard many and strange tales.
For them, as for so many others of every race and tongue, this
far-away land was the land of their dreams; the land of the true where
they could live anew; where the song birds dwell; the land of promise,
and also of fulfillment, of hitherto crushed hopes and thwarted
aspirations.

Returning now to follow our party from Trondhjem, where we left them,
to Yankton, South Dakota, we find that the journey was mostly the
uneventful, uncomfortable one which was the lot of immigrants of forty
years ago, or early '80's. There was much sea sickness and much
loathing and disgust with the food and accommodations, both of such a
quality as they had never experienced before. Fortunately most of them
had food of their own.

The nearest to any mishap to any of the party fell to the lot of the
writer of this chronicle, who was a boy of six years. It happened in
the awful throng and confusion of Castle Garden, the old landing place
of immigrants at New York City. I was committed to the care of a
certain servant girl of the family, there being four other children to
be kept track of by father and mother. But in the noise and confusion
of embarking on certain transports taking us to the railway on the
main land, she seems to have lost her head as well as her charge, and
I recall that I found myself wandering alone among the vast spaces of
Castle Garden and the docks. I was crying because of the loss of
father, mother, and all my friends, and searching for them in vain. At
length some sort of official discovered me and after some questioning
he joined me in the search. We went out on some boats, I recall, where
people were embarking, and he inquired everywhere if anyone had lost a
boy. I recall very vividly how a woman at one place claimed me as her
very own and how I protested with more vehemence than politeness. The
official took my view of the case. We continued our search and at last
we met Father, who by this time had discovered my absence and started
out to search. Needless to say, there was more joy over my return than
over the four other children who had not strayed away.

Thus the transportation company at length was enabled to carry out its
contract of delivering the same number of heads at Yankton as it took
on at Trondhjem. And they did it much in the same matter-of-fact and
impersonal way as a railroad company undertakes to deliver so many
head of cattle at the stockyards of Chicago.--All the honor to them
that they deserved!



CHAPTER VII

LANDING AT YANKTON AND GETTING ON THE LAND


It may be of interest to take a look at the town of Yankton of forty
years ago, where we finally landed. Yankton was the terminal of this
division of the C.M. & St. P. Railway, or, as it was then called, the
Dakota Southern. It was also the capitol city of Dakota Territory
comprising the present states of North and South Dakota. Its buildings
were mostly small wooden houses, but, as may be surmised, it commanded
a large trade territory, for besides being the end of the railway it
was touched by a considerable steamboat traffic up and down the river
and had considerable Indian trade, besides that of the adjacent white
settlements. So it was then the most important city in the Dakotas and
had been decidedly so before that time.

Here the immigrants were given a cordial welcome and temporary shelter
at the home of Mrs. Carrie Severson, a widow whom they had known from
the old country. We do not know, of course, how our fathers and
mothers felt about the enterprise by this time, but to us youngsters,
who as yet were not loaded with the burdens of life, the green grass
and the freedom to scamper about seemed good after a whole month's
confinement in a crowded steerage and more crowded railway coaches.

Next day friends of the party, who had immigrated some ten years
before, came with teams and wagons to help these newer comers to get
on the land and make their start in the new and, to these people,
strange land. For this was indeed a very different country from the
one they had left and even from the picture many of them had had in
mind. There was much to learn and many disappointments at first as we
shall see.

Among the men who undertook to receive this large company in their
homes and to help them get established in homes of their own, and who
extended the glad hand of welcome that day, should be mentioned these:
Stingrim Hinseth, Ingebricht Fagerhaugh, Haldo Saether, John Rye, John
Aalbu and Halvor Hinseth. These men loaded into their lumber wagons
the big blue chests and smaller parcels; deposited the passengers as
best they could and started out over the prairie on what was called
"The Sioux Falls Trail". This trail angled all the way to their homes
in Turkey Creek, over twenty miles to the northeast. Darkness soon
overtook the travelers and the following circumstance created
considerable merriment for the hosts, at least. The newcomers
observed, as they journeyed on thru the darkness, very many gleams of
light as it were from innumerable human habitations. These points of
light were, of course, fire flies, so called, or certain
phosphorescent bugs which at that time were very numerous because of
the abundant grass prevailing everywhere. At length one of the
passengers remarked in evident astonishment! "This country must be
very thickly populated, judging by the many lights we see"! When
daylight came, however, the lights and most of the supposed
inhabitants had utterly disappeared.

It may be of some interest to the new and coming generations to take a
look at the country around Turkey Creek as it greeted the curious gaze
of these new comers of forty years ago on that first morning of their
arrival. Most of the friends who brought them out from town and
distributed them for temporary shelter were settled on the Turkey
Creek bottom and located about where they or their dwellings are now.
Farthest north up the valley was John Rye, then Halvor Hinseth, next
Steingrim Hinseth, I. Fagerhaug, Ole Solem and Jens Eggen, in order as
named. But back of the creek bottom where these earliest homesteaders
had located was the far stretching open prairie--a sea of waving
grass--with a lonely dug-out only here and there and vast stretches of
"no man's land" between.

There were no regular highways, only some trails winding their way
over the endless grass, in some general direction, but with many
crooks and turns to avoid a hill, ravine or slough. These sloughs, or
small lakes, were very numerous and of considerable size and depth in
those days. There is today many a waving field of corn and grain where
we boys of the first generation of settlers once launched our home
made boats, hunted ducks, swam and occasionally came near drowning.

The best travelled of the trails in the part of the country we are
describing was the old territorial trail called the Sioux Falls Road.
This angled in a north-easterly direction all the way from Yankton to
Sioux Falls, and many a prairie schooner could be seen moving with
stately slowness over this road, not to speak of other vehicles which
were numerous. As a boy I have seen long caravans of Indians, perhaps
twenty or thirty teams in a string, trekking over this road. When the
ruts became too deep, by reason of much travel and the action of the
water, another trail would be made close alongside the old. Thus in
places six or eight pairs of ruts, made by many wagons and feet, could
be seen side by side.

There were no wire fences to mark boundaries between farms or to form
pastures in those days, and the cattle were herded far and wide. The
people in the Turkey Creek Valley herded as far as Clay Creek. The
writer of this, altho not of the earliest herd boys of the time, and
living near Turkey Creek, has taken his herd many a day to the
proximity of Clay Creek with practically open pasture all the way.

I am speaking for many boys and some girls, too, of those days, boys
and girls who are fathers and mothers now, when I say that our pasture
fence was Clay Creek on the west and Turkey Creek on the east. Not
that we were not free to go farther but that the day was not long
enough to get any farther and back again the same day.

There was at this time, when our pilgrims arrived, but very little of
the ground broken up. What little there was broken was mostly on the
creek bottom, but scarcely any on the upland. And when a little later
patches of prairie were broken up in order to comply with the
homestead law requirements for getting title to the land, these
patches were usually in a draw or low-lying strip between the hills.
Thus the fields of early days were not laid out with any reference to
north or south, but their direction was determined entirely by the
hills and valleys. The little breaking which was done was done with
oxen and sometimes the direction of the field to be was determined by
the oxen themselves more than by the driver. Some wheat, corn and oats
was raised, but the main dependence of the farmer was cattle and
milking.

The dwellings were of three main types. There was the dug-out, usually
in a side-hill, with a sod roof, a few studdings and boards being used
to support the roof. The walls and floor were usually the native
earth. The sod house was a more advanced and perhaps more stylish
dwelling. Closely related to the sod house was the mud house where the
walls, about two or three feet thick, were made of well tramped mud
and straw. These mud houses were at times whitewashed and were both
comfortable and sightly. As for comfort in the cold winter the dug-out
and sod house were not so bad when properly built. But do not imagine
that they were equal to your furnace-heated, modern house. They were,
after all, a temporary hole in the ground to preserve life until
houses could be had. A house made of lumber was a luxury which many an
early settler had to look forward to for many a hard, long year, and
often he had to die in the dug-out or sod shanty. Finally, there was
the story-and-a-half frame house of two or three rooms with a
possible lean-to. This type of house put one in the class of the most
well-to-do; and such a habitation was the hope and dream of years for
many a pilgrim mother of those days.

We have turned aside from our main narrative for a look at the country
as it appeared to our band of pilgrims as they looked about them on
that first morning of their arrival in the Turkey Creek Valley. And
the view was not all that they had hoped for. What could these
men--farmers and men of trades--do in this howling wilderness of
grass, grass and nothing but grass? Yes, there was something
else--mosquitoes--and oh, how they stung! Also flies, and how
incessantly and mercilessly they attacked the fair soft skin of these
pilgrims from the Norseland! Finally, there was the heat, which
literally took the fair skin off their faces in flakes and put on a
tan which made them almost unrecognizable.

Moreover, what could these shoemakers, masons, painters or even
farmers do here? Shoes were bought; houses were of sod or earth and
needed no paint; years would be required to make cultivated fields out
of this sea of grass, and meanwhile they and their families must
somehow live.

The kind hosts did all they could to encourage and make comfortable
the newcomers, sharing with them what accommodations they had. But we
must remember that these first comers had not been here long
themselves. The dwellings were small, without cooling porches, and in
summer necessarily hot, and they had no screens to protect the inmates
from the blood-thirsty fly and mosquito. So there was but little rest
or comfort by day or night, especially for those unused to these
conditions. This together with the unaccustomed food, which at first
completely upset them, made some of the newcomers very discouraged
with the new country.

One of these "blue" ones said to Father soon after their arrival: "Do
you suppose you will ever get your money back which you loaned us for
our passage?" "That," replied father, "I do not know. But this I do
know, that now I have no money either to take myself or any of you
back again." "Then," rejoined the first one, "if now I could stand on
the highway where we started, even with nothing but a shirt on my
back, I should be the happiest man alive." Another said: "There is not
even grass here such as one can cut with a scythe and, as for land I
shall have none of it." And in his case it became so. He never
homesteaded and later worked at his trade in Yankton and Sioux City,
where he died many years later.

Father tried to take a brighter view and to cheer those complaining
ones and said to Iver Sneve, who had just expressed the wish to be
back on the old sod: "In three years you will be butchering your own
pork, raised on your farm in this new land." Then Iver broke out into
his characteristically loud, uproarious laughter, full of incredulity
and almost scorn, and said: "Berhaug Rise, I have up till this time
considered you a man of sense and good judgment, but now I am
compelled to believe that your mind's eye is shimmering. I cannot even
_keep alive_ for _three years_ in this man-consuming wilderness.
Unless some one takes pity on me and helps me to return home, the
flies and mosquitoes alone will have finished me before that time. Oh,
that some of us older men could have had sense enough to return even
when we were as far as England," he added. This is a sample of many
conversations, and these expressions were by no means uttered as jokes
either. Nevertheless, this Iver Sneve lived some 35 years after this
conversation and was worth $25,000.00 when he died.

However, these people were here and, with all bridges burned behind
them, they realized that mere lamentations would not meet the
situation. Something must be done to live and to keep their families,
here or in the old country, as was the case with some, alive. So in a
few days a party of the younger men set out afoot toward the present
site of Parker to seek work on the railroad which was just being
extended from that point westward toward Mitchell. They found work
with shovel and pick. But ten hours a day, in the hot sun and with an
Irish boss over them to see that these implements kept constantly
moving, was no soft initiation for these fair skinned men just out of
a much colder climate. However, with true Norse and immigrant grit
they "stuck it out" and earned a little money before the first winter
of 1880-1 came on.

Berhaug Rise and Halvor Hevle, by the help of the good neighbors, got
some lumber hauled from Vermilion, the latter for a dug-out and the
former for a frame house 14 × 16 and 12 feet high. This house was
built by John Rye and is still standing in the old homestead after
nearly forty years. In this house made of one thickness of drop siding
and paper, we spent the terrible snow winter of 80-81. It was the
winter of the great blizzard which came in the middle of October. And
the deep snow never left until nearly the middle of April, when the
big flood of 1881 resulted. Luckily Father had filed without ever
seeing it, as also Grandma, on some land traversed by deep ravines.
There had been heavy hardwood timber in these ravines, but it was now
cut, with nothing left but young shoots--brush--and great stumps, some
4-6 feet in diameter. These stumps formed the winter's fuel, as also
most of the winter's work. With such a house it became necessary to
keep the stove about red hot in cold weather to have any comfort and,
of course, everything froze solid during the nights. But if it had not
been for the old oaken stumps and the warm woolen clothes we had
brought with us, it is hard to see how we could have survived that
first winter. Much better off, as far as the cold was concerned, were
those who had a good dugout. But by a sort of special dispensation of
providence there was no sickness requiring a doctor in our family or
in the neighborhood. And this was well, for doctors were far away and
expensive to get. We children waded and coasted in the deep snow,
getting hands and feet thoroly wet, but never had a better time in our
lives, as far as I can recall. There was yet no public school in that
neighborhood, so there was lots of time for play--mostly coasting down
the surrounding hillsides.

A word ought also to be said about the outbuildings, if we may call
them such, for they were typical of what many others had. The stable,
for three cows and two ponies, was an excavation in the side hill. The
hill formed the full wall on the upper side and part of the wall on
the other sides, the rest being filled in with straw, hay or sod. Over
these walls was thrown brush with a little frame work of supports
underneath, and then the whole was covered with hay or straw. For a
door, in our case, Father took a bush, covered with an entanglement of
grape vines, set it in the doorway and piled hay against it. This
last, however, was an emergency measure as the notorious blizzard of
1880 above referred to, broke upon us before the structure was quite
finished. But as there were many emergency appliances in those days,
of every kind, this one was nothing out of the ordinary.

The place where the two pigs were kept was built on the same plan,
only that it was divided into two stories--the chickens having roosts
over the pigs. But this combination did not prove a success, for
whenever the chickens fell down or ventured down to their room mates
below, they were eaten up by the pigs.

Perhaps a word should also be said about two of the inmates of the
stable, for they also were common types of those and even much later
times. These were two Texas ponies which Father and Halvor Hevle had
purchased out of a herd driven to Yankton. After picking their choices
out of the herd in a large corral, and paying $20.00 apiece for their
choices, the men in charge lassoed the animals and turned them over to
the new owners, at the end of a fairly long new rope. It was well
that the ropes were new and fairly long, for it took three days of
both brave and skilled maneuvering to get these wild animals of the
plains to the home of their new masters. And the masters were
certainly tired and not over-enthusiastic over their new horse power
when they at last arrived. Matters were not so serene as could be
wished while these little savages were being picketed outside. But
when winter came and the animals which had never known any roof lower
than the blue sky, nor walls more confining than the far-flung
horizon, were to be quartered in a hole in the ground, real excitement
began. Whenever any one ventured into the stable he would no sooner
open the door than he would see these creatures on their haunches
trying to jump thru the roof, which feat they almost succeeded in
accomplishing. At first it was a problem how to get near enough to
tend to them. The hay could be poked down the roof to where their
heads ought to be, but the water was not so easy. In spite of
precaution they "got the drop" on Father once I recall, and he was in
bed for some time, but lucky to escape with his life. It should be
said to their credit, however, that by the help of Lars Almen, above
referred to, they were in due time subdued and served many years, and
faithfully, according to their size and strength, with only an
occasional runaway. These wild horses filled a useful place in the
needs of these scattered beginners far from each other and from towns.
But it was after all the ox who really helped subdue the soil and lay
the foundations for farming and prosperity in general. But for the
people we are now describing real farming had not yet begun, so more
of that a little later.



CHAPTER VIII

THE PIONEER MOTHERS AND THEIR PART IN THE STRUGGLE


What we have said of the pioneers so far has reflected for the most
part what the pioneer fathers said, did or thought. If any one should
get the impression from this seemingly one-sided treatment that
pioneer mothers bore any lesser part of the burdens and sacrifices
incident to leaving the land of their birth, and beginning all over
again the long struggle of re-establishing themselves, and that, too,
on the bare prairie where there was absolutely nothing to begin with,
such a one has been greatly misled. While the work, not to speak of
the privations and feelings of our mothers, is more difficult to
record on paper, it is not one whit less real or deserving of any less
appreciation. We can only give a few outlines picturing their part of
the life. Yet if any one has a little imagination he can easily fill
in the picture with its various tints and shades. The shadows were
often both deep and tragic.

For a woman, even more than for a man, the social ties of life mean a
great deal. Our mothers left their home relations, kindred and
neighbors close around them, to be set down on a lonely prairie, cut
off from all the dear relationships of childhood and womanhood. Even
where there were neighbors, or soon came to be, they were at first
strangers and often spoke a strange tongue. So for them there were
many long days and weary years of isolation and heart hunger for those
whom they had known and loved long ago, but now could never again see.

Then, too, they had left homes, some of them very comfortable homes,
where they had always had the necessary equipment for ordinary
housekeeping. Here for years they had to do with little and in many
lines nothing. The average newcomer's larder from which our mothers
had to get the materials for three meals a day was generally confined
to these articles: Corn meal with more or less of wheat flour, often
less, and not seldom none at all; fat salt pork, at least part of the
time; milk in considerable quantity both for cooking, drinking in
place of tea or coffee and for making a number of dishes made almost
exclusively from milk. Butter they generally had, but as that was
about the only thing they had to sell it had to be conserved and lard
or a mixture of lard and molasses used instead. There were eggs, or
came to be, but while used more or less, they, too, had to go toward
getting such few groceries as could be afforded. These were coffee,
sugar, a little kerosene for one small lamp, and last, but, for many
of the men, not least--tobacco. Now let no pink tea scion or
descendant of these men who had to be the breaking plows of our new
state, hold up lilly fingered hands of horror at this last and often
not least item in the grocery list of that day. For if you are a man
child of this stock and you had been there and then, with all the
physical discomforts of the climate, lack of suitable clothes and
food, not to speak of the frequently loathsome drinking water, you
might have felt justified in the use of a nerve sedative too. It shall
be said to their credit, too, that while most of the men of that day
used the weed, few of them used it in such beastly excess as is often
seen today. But rightly or wrongly, they thought they had to have it.
Thus Lars Almen, when he arrived at Yankton, had 50 cents in money
left. He started to invest that last mite of the family resources in
tobacco. His wife remonstrated, saying it would be more fitting to get
a few provisions such as they could all partake of. The ever undaunted
Lars replied: "If I have tobacco I know I can do something or other to
make us a living, but if I have no tobacco I can do nothing". So he
bought tobacco, and he also made good on the "living." Forgetting,
then, the last named item in on the list of staple provisions, we find
that salt pork, usually fried, corn meal in some form, such as mush or
bread, more or less of wheat flour and milk or some dish made out of
milk in whole or part, were the resources out of which our pioneer
mothers had to provide three palatable meals a day, summer and winter.
This is not saying that these materials were always abundant, but
rather that it was these or nothing. There were, of course, special
occasions when a little pastry in the shape of home made cookies or
fried cakes was on the table, but cake and pie and such like luxuries
were not often seen the first years.

The fuel with which to prepare this food was, for most of them, hay,
or in summer cow chips, and later on, when they began to raise corn,
corn cobs. But hay was the principal fuel, and huge piles of it were
required to do much cooking or for heating. For, as can be readily
seen, one had to keep stuffing it into the stove almost continually to
get any hot fire. Picture to yourself then a room--sod house, dugout
or a frame house about 12 × 14 which was kitchen, sitting room,
bedroom, and everything else combined. The hay, as was the case in
winter time, would cover a large part of the floor and, of course,
raise continual dust. The stove would get full of ashes in a short
time, and if the hay was damp would, of course, smoke more or less. In
such a place, with such conveniences and out of such materials, our
pioneer mothers had to solve the problem of three meals a day and do
all their other work besides. In summer, of course, it was not quite
so bad, as they usually had a lean to or cook shanty of some sort, for
use in warm weather. Is it strange that many of these women who came
to find a new and, as they supposed, a better home, found instead an
early grave, and what was worse, some even lost their minds? The men
could get away, at least to be outdoors a part of the time, but the
women had to live and move and have their whole being in these
surroundings and conditions. So let us not fail to speak the word of
appreciation to those of them who are still living or to cherish the
memory of those who have made their final pilgrimage. So let there be
flowers and kind words for the living and flowers and tears for the
dead. For our pioneer mothers gave more for us than we can ever know.



CHAPTER IX

INDIANS AS OCCASIONAL GUESTS AND VISITORS


While still speaking of life and conditions in the Turkey Creek Valley
and surrounding country as it was during the winter of eighty and
eighty one, and even later, I ought to mention our occasional Indian
visitors. They used to travel thru that country in considerable
numbers at that time over the Sioux Falls road already mentioned. As a
boy I have seen possibly twenty or thirty teams in a single
procession. They sometimes camped near the brush bordering the ravine
which was close by our house. The women would excavate the snow,
sometimes several feet deep, and pitch the tepees, while the children
scampered around them on the snow bank. The following incident may not
be out of place as showing the heartaches and difficulties for the
Indian incident to his transition from the free life of the plains to
that of civilization. One day an Indian family consisting of a man and
wife with some children, as also an old squaw which was evidently the
grandmother of the children, camped near our house. The man and the
younger squaw were trying to boil their kettle in the camp fire while
the old squaw went out into the adjoining gulches, presumably to dig
roots or hunt. The pot did not boil very fast and Father, by signs,
invited them to come into the house and boil their pot. They seemed
perfectly willing to do this, and coming inside they sat around our
fire with the pot on the stove. But in a little while the old squaw
returned, and not seeing her children by the fire where all good
Indians would be supposed to be, she suspected something wrong and
came into the house where she found her degenerate offspring located
as above described. We could not, of course, understand the words she
said, but we could easily make out that she was not complimenting them
any on their new-found quarters, for the language was very emphatic
and her face stern. She also got some immediate action. Having scolded
them soundly for forsaking the firesides and ways of their fathers to
enter the lodges of the palefaces, she snatched the kettle from the
stove and walked out followed by the now chastened son and daughter
with their children.

We had many visits from the Indians and they never did us any harm.
However, I suspect that they were more welcome to us youngsters than
to our mothers who never seemed quite at ease with them.

Most of those who came thru the country at that time had wagons. But
some used the travaux, consisting of two rails lashed to the saddle of
the pony, one on each side, and crosspieces behind the horse with
blankets or skins covering. The ends of the rails, of course, slid on
the ground. On this rude contrivance the Indian loaded his few
belongings, sometimes the squaw and children, and journeyed over the
country.



CHAPTER X

THE GREAT SNOW WINTER OF 1880-1 AND THE GREAT FLOOD OF
1881--BUILDING A BOAT


We have already referred to this winter of 80-81 as the terrible snow
winter. May we add a few words on that in order to understand what
followed in the spring.

The snow, a three days' snow storm or blizzard, came on October 15th,
and the snow never left, but kept piling up without thawing out to any
extent until April. Railroad connection with the outer world, as far
as the few towns in the state were concerned, was cut off, completely
in many instances, after the 1st of January. This, of course, made
coal as well as other provisions unobtainable in many cases. The
people in some towns, as for instance Watertown, had to take what they
could find to preserve life. So many empty buildings and other
property made of wood were taken for fuel.

In the outlying country places the settlers could not get to them,
even when some provisions were available. In not a few cases, too,
there was nothing to sell and no money for buying. So barred by one or
all of the circumstances, the settlers had to get along and try to
preserve life as best they could. As for the few groceries which they
might ordinarily have used, they dispensed even with them for the most
part. Many lived on corn meal, ground on the coffee mill. But there
was one privation which for many proved the "unkindest cut of
all"--tobacco. Many and sore were the lamentations because of the lack
of this one commodity and many the devices to get it. A man can live
without coffee, sugar and wheat-bread, not to speak of less necessary
things, but tobacco--well, you can't do anything more to him after
that.

As can easily be seen, when this vast quantity of snow began to go
out, especially going out so late in the spring, it created a flood.
Every creek became a raging river, the rivers became more like vast
moving lakes. So if communication with towns had been difficult before
it became well nigh impossible now. The whole Missouri bottom, for
instance, became one vast and roaring sea, coming up to the bluffs of
the present Mission Hill and Volin. But yet, can such a little thing
as fourteen miles of roaring water and floating debris stand between a
man and his tobacco, or a woman and her cup of coffee, especially when
the latter is the only thing approaching a luxury that she has? No! By
the shades of all our Viking ancestors, No! After looking over their
possible resources of men and materials for the undertaking of defying
the angry flood, they found that Ole Solem, who then lived on Turkey
Creek, had a few remnants of lumber. They also found that Anders Oien
had had a little experience in boat building, and Ole Johnson was an
ex-fisherman and thus could row a boat if they had one. So with the
help of those mentioned and others, such as Ingebricht Fagerhaug, who
was a carpenter, and Steingrim Hinseth, the boat was built. It was
crude, of course, and leaky, yet counted seaworthy because the
situation was getting desperate. It should be said in fairness that
mere personal and private needs were not the only motive with these
men. For instance, some of the leaders of this enterprise, like Solem
and Fagerhaug, had no need or use for tobacco, but needing other
things and realizing the general needs they joined with heart and
hand.

When the craft was finished Steingrim Hinseth hauled the boat and the
men, Ole Solem, Ingebricht Fagerhaug, Thore Fossem and, I believe, Ole
Johnson, to the foot of the bluffs, a couple of miles northwest of
Volin, where the boat was launched. The cargo was all that the little
craft could carry, consisting of very many different parcels of butter
and some eggs. These, belonging to many different parties and being
the only things they had to sell, were to be exchanged for a few
necessities such as mentioned above.

When the cargo was all in and the crew embarked there was about two
inches left of the boat above the water line and the boat a little
leaky besides. But with true Viking spirit they struck out over the
twelve or fourteen miles of angry flood towards Yankton. There they
were able to do the necessary shopping for the whole neighborhood, and
in three days from the time of starting they were back without mishap
and all errands carried out. It goes without saying that they were
welcomed by the many expectant ones in the whole neighborhood and that
there was great rejoicing on the part of both men and women, for the
women got their coffee and the men got--well--whatever was coming to
them.



CHAPTER XI

BEGINNING THEIR REAL STRUGGLE WITH THE EARTH


The long and memorable winter of '80-'81 had at last come to an end.
The resulting flood, too, as in the time of Noah, at length subsided,
and now our new comers must begin their first real struggle with the
earth in the new land. Without tools or draught animals, and even any
knowledge of farming conditions on this new soil, and without means to
buy tools, this struggle became for many both hard and prolonged. They
had had during the winter their baptism in self-denial and privation.
They were now to learn further that while the new land might possibly
flow with milk and honey, yet if it was to flow for them, they would
have to do the milking and gather the honey.

As an illustration of how the struggle in subduing the soil began for
these people, may I again refer to my Father as an illustration of
many others. I refer to him merely because I can recall these
circumstances better in his case than in that of others and, also
because the experiences of others were similar and in many cases much
worse.

He had hired a man to break five acres the first summer. This was an
ordinary amount of plow land, largely because the government required
this much to be broken in order to comply with the homestead
regulations. During the winter he had made a small harrow and in the
spring sowed most of this ground to wheat and tried the best he could
to harrow it with the ponies already mentioned. The year was not very
favorable, as I can recall it, and with such equipment the results
can be surmised. I do not recall just what they were, but I am quite
sure we did not eat much wheat flour the following winter. He had one
acre of corn, which he worked with the hoe. He bought, like most of
the others, or, rather went into debt for, a pair of steers that
spring. These he, with the help of Lars Almen, who worked together
with him, as also Halvor Hevle, tried to "break" for work purposes.
These animals proved themselves notoriously stubborn and fractious and
made their drivers earn most of what they got out of them in the way
of work. This, however, may have been due to the inexperience of the
drivers. For, as already said, the ox, next to the cow, was the
beginner's best friend, and without him it is hard to see how the
pioneers could have gotten along at all. To be sure, some of these
animals did not take kindly to the yoke and many were the scrapes they
got their owners into, running away and breaking up both wagons and
tools. Yet when you consider the lot of the ox you cannot be too hard
on him for his occasional bad humor. As a boy I have driven him many a
day, and often lost my patience with him, for which I now humbly
apologize. We worked him on the plow, both stubble and breaking plow,
drag, stoneboat and the heaviest work that was to be done. At noon or
night we unyoked him and let him go to get a little grass or hay for
himself. No oats for him, only the long kind you administer with a
whip; no thanks to him when the long, hot day of pulling a breaking
plow at last is done, but very likely a parting kick. We have not
given the ox his well-earned place among the foundation builders of
our land, and I propose that even at this late date we should repent
and build in South Dakota a monument to the ox, our early, faithful
and indispensable friend.

The first few years after arriving were required by our pioneers for
making temporary shelters for themselves and their few animals; also
in providing some way of obtaining the bare necessities of life while
they could lay the foundations for a larger prosperity and more
comforts. As already indicated, the first resource and dependence for
getting a little money was eggs, butter and hay. These commodities
were sold to get the few groceries and small necessities which they
could not well do without. Some of the men worked out to supplement
their meager income.

By 1885, roughly speaking, these hardy men really began to wrestle
with the soil in earnest and thus make possible something more than a
bare existence. From about '83 to '90 a picturesque and ever recurring
scene, when spring and early summer came, was the breaking rig moving
slowly but majestically over the long furrows. There were from four to
six oxen to each plow and most generally it took two men to hold the
plow and keep the oxen in the straight and narrow way. The country I
am describing was very stony and there was many a hard lift and aching
back before these stones could be pried out of the ground and hauled
away sufficiently to make breaking possible. Even after spending many
weeks at this clearing work there would still be many stones left
which the plow would strike with such violence as to almost fell the
man at the handles. With the plow out of the ground and the load
suddenly lightening the oxen would make the most of this relief by
starting on a trot so that often the plow could not be gotten back
into the sod for a rod or two. Two neighbors would often go in
together in breaking, each furnishing one yoke of oxen.

This sod would be put into corn or flax the first season and the next
into wheat. The returns were generally quite meager compared with what
that ground is producing now. But even a little meant much then.
Drought was the principal drawback. Then, too, these early beginners
did not have the modern machinery either for putting in, harvesting or
threshing grain, and this fact was also a large cause for small
yields. However, they kept on breaking up a little more each year,
and after a few years the ground was subdued enough to begin to raise
corn and consequently hogs. The beef cattle as a source of income had
been good earlier, but the price of cattle went so low during this
period that there was not much inducement. Then, too, as the country
came to be settled and broken there was less possibility of keeping
herds of cattle. I recall that during this depression in the latter
eighties good milch cows sold for $10.00-$15.00 and other cattle in
proportion. Of course, in the panic or notorious depression of 93-4,
even grain and hogs went down with everything else. Corn was sold for
eight cents per bushel and wheat as low as 35-40 cents. But generally
speaking, in the period we are describing, when these path-finders
were laying the foundations for permanent homes and farm equipment,
corn and hogs became their corner stone of prosperity, with milk and
butter a close second.

There arose an industry in the latter '90's which came to be of
considerable economic importance--the creamery. These men at first
located a considerable distance away and the cream had to be
transported in hired wagons. Some of these creameries "failed" and
left the farmers to whistle for their long expected and much needed
cream checks. Later a co-operative creamery was organized and
successfully operated by Sven Vognild on the S. Hinseth place. This
was the first real co-operative enterprise in the vicinity.

Returning to early farm conditions, we find that for several years
many of the new settlers did not have enough grain to have a
threshmachine on the place, but hauled what little they might have to
some nearby machine.

As can be seen, there was not much grain to be sold for some time for
these farmers. Butter and eggs, and, a little later, cattle, were the
chief products which could bring a little ready money. To this should
be added hay, which many hauled to Yankton with oxen, getting
$2.50-$3.00 per ton. Even at this price, and with such slow
transportation, this hay traffic was for many the chief source of any
money, and some spent most of the fall and winter months at this work
when travel was possible.



CHAPTER XII

A BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF THE COUNTRY AS IT APPEARED IN 1800-3


We ought, at this point, to make a visit around the neighborhood as it
appeared from '81-'83 and even much later. Beginning in the Turkey
Creek Valley, we have already indicated the half dozen families which
had located there in the early seventies. As we have spoken in another
chapter of this earlier wave of pioneer immigrants, I shall pass them
by now as also those of that same group who had settled to the south,
toward what is now Volin.

Berhaug Rise moved his living house from where it was first placed,
viz., one quarter mile west of Ole Solem's, to about one mile west,
that is, from the creek bottom at the junction of the ravines which
traversed the place from east to west, to the higher land at the head
of these ravines.

To the southwest of our place, about a mile distant, was John Johnson,
who had settled there in '74 and lived in a log house. To the west one
mile was Ole Johnson, who had filed in '79 and was living in a dugout
with his family. Another mile or so still farther southwest was Peter
Moen, also living in a dugout and having a considerable family. Then
going back to Ole Johnson and going north were Peter Johnson, Jonas
Vaabeno, Ole Liabo, and John Moene. To the east of Peter Johnson there
was in 1880 a man by the name of Roser who, however, left about that
time. All of these, as far as I remember, lived in dugouts, with the
exception of the first named, who lived in a loghouse.

Going from five to six miles to the northwest of this Turkey Creek
settlement, we find another group of pioneers, some of whom had come
before 1880 and others a little later. We can mention a few. There was
Cornelius Nilsen, Albert Boe, Peter, Albert, and O.O. Gorseth; O.
Lokken; Steen Bakke, Mrs. Mary Boe, the Simonson Brothers--Halvor and
Ole. Also Asle Mikkelson. There may have been others, but these
comprise practically all who were there at that time. The sons and
daughters of many of these are either on the old places or in the
vicinity to this day. Of course, some have moved away to other parts.
Most of these pioneers are still living, but no longer in the
dug-outs.

Going west to what was called the West Prairie, about six miles, could
be found H. Hagen, the Gustads, Stoems, Skaaness and others. These had
come in the earlier wave of immigration which we have mentioned
already, i.e. in the early '70's or later '60's.

Going back to our starting point near Turkey Creek and going south,
after passing John Johnson already mentioned, we find next the
Lawrence place, now owned by Mr. Axlund; then Hans Dahl, followed in
order by Haldo Sether, Ole Bjerke, Lars Aaen and the Hoxeng Brothers,
both of them then living on the old home place now occupied by Thore
Hoxeng. There were, of course, others scattered on either side of this
line of settlers, but these were a sort of land marks in the early
eighties.

Finally, going some eight miles north from our starting point, we find
these: Thore Fossem and Iver Sneve of our original party and a few
others like Ole Brunswick, Ingebricht Saatrum and John Rye, whom we
have already mentioned, and J. Larsen. The next to the last named and
a few others had settled in that vicinity before 1880. Here should
also be mentioned the Durums, Baks, Snoens, Ressels, Grudts, and Lees.
The old homesteaders of this group too, have for the most part found a
last resting place in the neighborhood cemetery. Their children,
however, are in most cases to be found on the old place or near by.

I am conscious that this rough sketch of our neighbors and neighboring
settlements of 1880-'1 is far from complete. Yet it gives a fair idea
of the population over the prairie there at that time. There were
magnificent distances between neighbors and settlements. Yet there was
often more neighborliness and sociability than in later years. We
needed each other then, in fact could not well get along without
helping and being helped in various ways by one another. Now we can
help ourselves or rather think we can. But really we cannot, and if we
of the newer generations lose the old neighborliness we shall be
poorer and unhappier in our steam heated, electric lighted houses and
swift speeding automobiles than they were with their earth cellars and
ox teams and lumber wagons. So let us cherish and keep alive the old
neighborly kindness and great-hearted hospitality. Practically all
these early settlers at first lived in a one-room dwelling, seldom
over 12 × 14 or 16, and this dwelling was in most cases a dugout. Yet
in spite of this fact and of having large families of their own to
accommodate, the traveler or stranger was not turned out into the
night, and the visitor was always welcomed. There was always room, not
merely for one more but for half a dozen more if necessary. There
never was any lack of room then. In honor of this splendid trait of
our pioneer fathers and mothers, let us reserve a room in our big
house and, better still, in our hearts, for the occasional stranger or
friend, and in doing so we too shall find that while we may not always
have "entertained angels unawares", yet by doing so the angels have
somehow entertained us more than they otherwise could.



CHAPTER XIII

THE ANNUAL PRAIRIE FIRES--THE TERROR OF THE SETTLERS


During this decade of getting the ground ready and gradually getting
an equipment for real farming there was one great enemy which was a
continual menace and terror to the homesteaders--the semi-annual
burning of the prairie. From times immemorial, before the White
settler came, the prairie fire had stalked in majestic splendor over
the vast and boundless sea of grass, covering this and adjoining
states, licking up with his red and cruel tongue everything before him
and leaving a barren desolation behind him. Sometimes set by the
lightning, or Indians, or the campfire of the early explorer or
trader, this fire, driven by the wind, would meander back and forth
over the prairie for days and weeks until rain or a considerable
stream might at last stay his stride.

With the first influx of the settler the fire menace greatly
multiplied, for not understanding the nature of this menace, they
themselves unintentionally set many of these fires. Thus there came to
be a fairly certain expectation on the part of the homesteaders of a
visit from this monster twice a year--spring and fall--unless he made
a clean sweep in the fall, which was not generally the case.

As a boy I recall waking up at night and seeing a strange glare
against the window, and upon looking out, I saw a great wave of fire,
a moving wall of flame, pass by our house and going on to the south.

Let me give a brief sketch of one of these fires, well remembered by
the old settlers and reported to me by H.B. Reese, who was then old
enough to be out with the men on the fire fighting line. I give it
largely in his own words.

It was Good Friday, 1887. In the morning we noticed smoke in the
northwest. There was also a strong wind from that direction. There had
just previously been several days of wind as also sunshine, so
everything was dry as tinder. We knew at once what the black flag,
hoisted to the sky in the northwest meant. It meant a challenge from
the Fire King to come out and fight for our own and our neighbors'
homes--buildings, stock and everything we had that could burn. We
hurriedly got our weapons of sacks and water ready and started out to
meet the giant and offer him all the resistance we could. But our
antagonist was terribly swift as well as strong, and when we reached
Jonas Vaabeno's place, three miles to the northwest, he had already
done his terrible work, making a clean sweep of all out-buildings,
mostly made of hay or straw, as also of the dugout which served for a
dwelling. Where the stable had stood were the remnants of some
half-burnt cattle. We hurried on to Peter Johnson's, but the Fire
Demon was victorious and took everything except the dugout dwelling.
The same fate was dealt out to Ole Liabo farther north. We were now
driven back on our own home premises, and after desperate efforts we
saved our buildings, but, of course, had to surrender everything not
on the premises where the buildings were, such as trees, hay, etc.
When night came and we could return to the house we just threw
ourselves flat on the floor completely exhausted, not having tasted
food during the whole day.

Next day, looking out over the country to the northwest, we could see
very little except a vast desolation--how far no one seemed to
know--of blackened prairie, dotted with many ashpiles which in many
cases, as tho they were tombstones, marked the graves of all the
settlers' material possessions except the land and a few cattle. It is
a puzzle to know how they managed to keep these cattle with the
prairie burned off, but they did. Not only that, but tho sorely tried,
yet not broken in will or spirit, they borrowed money, even at
outrageous interest rates, rebuilt their temporary shelters and began
the struggle once more from the bottom up.

The last and most terrible of all the fires, as far as known, swept
over that country only two years later, 1889. As the writer of this
was old enough to be an active participant in connection with this, I
recall it vividly. The day was in early spring and began very hazy
with so much smoke in the atmosphere that one could not see much
beyond half a mile. There was a strong wind from the northwest, such
as was common in spring in those days, and the prairie grass was
thoroly dried out and very abundant. This condition, however, was not
unusual in the spring of the year. On coming out after dinner I
noticed that the haze or smoke seemed thicker toward the northwest
than in other directions. On looking more closely I soon saw whirls of
smoke rolling up toward the sky. I immediately gave the alarm, and
every one at the house, including mother, rushed out to meet the foe.
We did not have to go far before we met him, and so swiftly did he
come that in our hasty retreat toward the house Mother was very nearly
overcome by the smoke and heat. Fortunately there was a piece of
plowed ground near by where she was able to find safety and lie down
until sufficiently recovered to go on to the house. Then we all took
our stand, some hauling water, others fighting at the front. There was
a strip of plowed ground, or fire break, around the place, but the
terrific wind continually threatened to carry the fire across, now at
one point, now at another. Moreover, some barn manure had been spread
on this plow land, and this, taking fire and blowing everywhere in the
terrific wind, made our situation quite desperate for a while.
However, we at last won to the extent of saving the buildings. This
fire, together with the one which raged next day, when the wind was
still more terrific, did enormous damage, burning out, in part or
whole, even some of the older settlers, such as James Hoxeng and
others. The town of Volin was almost completely destroyed. Some who
had suffered loss in the previous fire were again burned out in part
or whole, and the grass, as was the case after such a fire, was
damaged for years to come. Many are the stories of narrow escapes in
saving their homes and even their lives told by the old timers in
connection with these fires. Sometimes there would be a whole company
of women and children out on the middle of a plowed field, having fled
there as the only refuge.

In every new country the Fire King, as tho endowed with a dramatic
instinct, seems to end his performances with a grand climax. So here
this was the last prairie fire of any consequence in that part of the
country. King Corn from now on began to reign and the Fire King had to
abdicate his immemorial sway and boundless dominions.



CHAPTER XIV

THE GREAT BLIZZARD OF 1888


Even at the risk of seeming to chronicle too many of the hardships and
afflictions of those times, I feel that I cannot leave this decade of
our pioneer life without referring to the great blizzard of Jan. 12th,
'88, for that, too, is a landmark and one which brings sad memories to
many a South Dakotan of those years. The writer was merely a young boy
then, yet the experience of that storm is very vivid in my mind.

The day opened bright and very mild, almost thawing, with no
premonition that it held in store untold suffering, terror and death
to man and beast, such as no other day has held for South Dakota.
There was considerable loose snow on the ground, but the day being
exceptionally pleasant up till noon and after, men were out on their
various errands of going to town, hauling hay or other out-door
occupations. The cattle, too, taking advantage of the mild day, were
in the corn stalks and generally had scattered out some distance from
the buildings. It being shortly after noon when the storm struck, many
cattle were being taken to water, which in those days was often a
considerable distance from the stables.

Suddenly and without the slightest warning, upon this peaceful
unsuspecting scene, the storm burst forth in all its deadly fury. The
wind having suddenly whipped around to the northwest, the temperature
fell in a very short time as much as 60 and 70 degrees. The wind
coming at the rate of about 60 miles an hour, picked up the loose snow
and whipped it into a fine powder, rushed over the prairie as it were
a rapidly moving wall of snow and fine particles of ice. Thus the air
was so thick with fine snow, driven along by the furious storm, that
it became very difficult to breathe and almost impossible to open
one's eyes even for a moment. This choking, blinding effect of the
storm soon exhausted either man or beast and, of course, all sense of
direction was lost. Thus it seems probable that many of the victims
were at first choked into exhaustion before they froze to death.

Many narrow escapes are told of that day. But there were also many who
narrowly missed finding a shelter and never lived to tell their
experiences. Some lost their way even between house and barn, and some
were found frozen only a few rods from the house they had tried to
find, but in vain. This was the case with two girls to the east of our
place, who in going out to look for a younger brother never came back
but were found frozen to death a short distance from the house. My
younger brother Sivert and I were at the barn when the storm struck.
We did the best we knew how for the cattle, Father being absent at a
neighbor's and then we started for the house. We were only a short
distance from the house and there was also a small building between,
but even then we had to pause before starting out and take definite
aim from where we were and then run, as we say, "for dear life". We
reached the house to the great relief of Mother, who had become very
anxious about us by that time.

The storm raged with merciless and demon-like destructiveness all that
afternoon and all thru that night, with the temperature getting colder
as the hours slowly rolled by. What terror and suffering the hours of
that afternoon and fearful night brought to many, no one will ever
know. There were those out in the storm, fighting desperately hour by
hour with death, and in most cases only to find themselves rapidly
nearing complete exhaustion. Then came the gradual numbness of all the
sensibilities, followed by nature's merciful growing unconsciousness
as drowsiness and sleep crept upon them and they at last stumbled over
in the snow not to rise again. But tho the many tragedies and
sufferings out in the open prairie that dreadful night were beyond
words or imagination, yet scarcely less was the suffering of fathers,
mothers and relatives of the lost ones who were utterly helpless in
most cases even to attempt a rescue. These latter, as they listened to
the merciless storm all thru that night, almost had a taste of the
agonies of the lost world--if such a thing can be in this world. For
in many cases their waiting thru the night was utterly without hope.
If they knew their loved ones were caught by the storm some distance
from the house, they also knew that there could be no hope. So they
could only follow them in thought and imagination out there in the
storm and the darkness as they were fighting their unequal and losing
fight with the cruel, relentless storm. But even those who were in
uncertainty as to the exact whereabouts of members of their families,
like parents who had children in school, scarcely suffered less, for
they had no assurance but that theirs, too, might be out there in the
storm, and in many cases their worst fears proved to be the fact.

However, as all things come to an end, so this night of nights. The
storm let up somewhat toward morning, and the new day at last came on,
gray and terribly cold. The snow everywhere as far as eye could see
lay piled up in great drifts. The prairie, especially near farm
houses, was in many places dotted with frozen cattle, and other cattle
still alive. There were over the country thousands and thousands of
these cattle either already dead, dying or badly frozen. But worst and
saddest of all, there were in this state and adjoining parts of Iowa,
Minnesota and Nebraska, over two hundred men, women and children
scattered around, singly or in groups, in the snow. Some were found
sitting; some lying as tho in their last step they had stumbled
forward on their face exhausted. Some even standing and, as it were,
about to take one more step when the end had come. Not strange that
January 12, 1888, is the most memorable and terrible date in all the
world's story to many a settler whose loved ones were out in the storm
that fearful night and who never came back.



CHAPTER XV

WHEN THE FATHERS AND MOTHERS OF TODAY WERE BOYS AND GIRLS


We have spoken of the men and the women who broke the ground and
prepared the way for the prosperity and comforts we enjoy today. It
would be unfair not to mention the part which the boys and girls also
bore in this struggle with raw nature, poverty and many
discouragements. In the early spring, as soon as seeding was well
under way, the boys--and often, when there was no available boy on the
place, the girls--had to keep vigilant watch of the cattle, and this
thruout the long summer until the corn was all out. There were no
"pastures" or wire fences in the early eighties. This meant for most
boys that, either at home or away from home, they had to be out on the
prairie with the cattle beginning with early spring and ending late in
the fall, from early morning until night, rain or shine, and not even
a Sunday off, or at least very seldom. The food we carried for our
dinners would, of course, get mussed, stale and unpalatable, being
carried around all day and exposed to the hot sun. The water, or
whatever we carried to drink, would become even less palatable and
often scarce. Often in our extreme thirst we would drink out of the
sloughs or stagnant lake beds. Then in the spring and fall we would
frequently have a cold, drizzling rain continuing all day and often
soaking us to the skin as there was no shelter, and raincoats were
almost unknown. Every step we would take thru the wet grass the water
would churn in our shoes and we had to keep going, for the cattle were
generally restless at such times and insisted on starting off in
directions where lay the plowed land or hayland which must be guarded.

Where there was no boy in the family, girls had to do this job, for
the cattle had to be herded. For them, as can readily be seen, this
job was even more difficult than for the boys, being impeded in their
chase after the cattle by their skirts dragging in the tall, wet
grass. Not strange that some of them sacrificed their health and
future in this task. Of course, when, as in the case of most girls,
they were at home, they would generally be relieved for at least part
of the day. But even half a day was long under those conditions.

But let it not be inferred that we boys, and the girls, too, had no
good times during those long summer days. The sun shone anyway most of
the time, and we made the most of our opportunities while the sun
shone. We boys hunted gophers, digging them out or drowning them out
if near a pond; we dug Indian turnips in the spring and picked grapes,
plums and berries in their season if we could get to them; built stone
houses or caves; waded or swam in the sloughs or creeks; fished;
fought snakes and skunks and sometimes one another. We traded jack
knives, which were our chief valuables and consequently a standard
medium of exchange; we braided long, long whips made from old boot
legs or even willow bark; we broke young steers to ride on, at least
attempted to, and sometimes they in turn nearly broke our necks by
bucking and throwing us off; we concocted special modes of terrible
punishment for exasperatingly troublesome members of our flocks. Much
of the time, however, we could not get together or, as we said, "herd
together". Then time passed more slowly and we had lots of time to
think and even to brood over our job, which we considered about the
worst there was in the world. However, with all its drudgery and
sometimes loneliness and hardship, our job was a good preparation for
the jobs that lay ahead of us.



CHAPTER XVI

RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS AND WORKERS AMONG THESE PEOPLE


We have mentioned Reverends Nesse, Graven and Eielsen as pioneers in
laying the foundations for the Church in these settlements. Among
those who gave many years of service in the formative period of church
development should also be mentioned Rev. Carlson, who followed
Graven, who wrought for many years and at last found his resting place
near one of the churches he had so long served. We cannot refrain from
offering, altho a far too inadequate tribute, to one who has given the
years of her life for the brightening and bettering of the lives of
others; one who, altho not a pastor, yet as one pastor's devoted
daughter and equally devoted as the wife of a succeeding pastor, gave
the years of her young womanhood as well as the maturer years of her
life to the service of these people--Mrs. C.T. Olberg, nee Carlson.
For many years as a teacher in the parochial schools and continuously
as a worker in the various activities of the church, especially among
the younger people, and later as the pastor's wife, going in and out
among the people, she has exerted an ennobling, Christianizing
influence which only the angels of God and the far-off shores of
eternity can estimate or measure.

There are many more, both men and women, lay-men and clergy, who have
labored for their Master in this region, whose names I shall not be
able to dwell upon, but whose names and records are in the Book of
Life in Heaven and also written deep in the book of human life touched
by them here on earth. Just to name two or three, there was Rev. Dahl
of Gayville, who has put in a lifetime there. Then among the many
visiting clergymen were Rev. G. Norbeck, Governor Norbeck's father,
and a goodly number of others, lay and clerical preachers.

There were in the earlier years extensive "revivals", generally
promoted by outsiders, often of other denominations, such as these of
the middle eighties and middle nineties. There were other movements by
laymen, both Lutheran and of other denominations. There were bitter
controversies at times between the leaders of these movements,
especially those promoted by men of other denominations than the
Lutheran and the more strict adherents of the local churches. There
were also bitter doctrinal controversies between members or adherents
of the various branches of the Lutheran faith. Of the words said and
the things sometimes done on these occasions none of the participants
would be proud now, and I shall not perpetuate them by repeating what
ought to be forgotten. The word "scorpion" is not just the right
substitute for "Christian brother", but I distinctly recall that it
was thus employed even between Lutherans.

Suffice it to say, there was often narrowness and intolerance on both
sides, both as between denominations and between branches of the
Lutheran Church itself. There was some good in most of these revival
efforts and there were also some features which could justly be
criticised.

There could be no doubt as to the sincerity of most of these
revivalists, but being for the most part men and women of very limited
education, they sometimes lacked balance and developed some vagaries.
There were those who specialized on "Tongues" and on written
revelations performed under spiritual ecstasy. Some had "revelations"
that they should go to Africa to convert the heathen and a few
actually went, soon returning sobered and saddened in their
disappointment that the tongue gift did not enable them to understand,
or to be understood by the natives.

Others advocated communism, baptism by immersion as indispensable to
salvation, etc. In general there was a strong prejudice against any
kind of church organization and to any regularly paid ministry. These
extreme tendencies were, of course, a natural reaction against the
evil in churches where a mechanical organization and the repetition of
dead forms were all that reminded of what should have been a living
spirit.

But to some people then and even now, a religious effort was either of
God or of the devil, and consequently either wholly black or wholly
white.

Then, too, when people believe, as many did and do still, that one's
immortal salvation depends more on his holding a correct intellectual
creed than on the spirit and fruits manifest in his life, it was
inevitable that discussions of mere points of doctrine or creed,
should become so intense at times as to lose wholly, for the time
being, the Christian spirit. However, we shall, in this connection,
give our pioneer fathers and first settlers credit for one great
quality: They had convictions; they knew what they believed and
believed it heart and soul. They did not, as some of this generation
seem to do, doubt their beliefs and half believe their doubts.

In closing this brief outline of the religious activities of these
people, allow me to give a boy's pleasant remembrance and loving
tribute to one of the many traveling lay preachers who came to our
house and also held services around in the neighborhood. John Aalbu
and his good wife had settled near Ash Creek, Union county, in the
sixties, and having retired from active farming in the eighties, they
would drive the distance of 30-40 miles to our settlement on Turkey
Creek several times a year. We children were always glad to see them.
They had a top buggy, which in itself was of interest to us, as there
was as yet no such luxury in our neighborhood. In this buggy, among
other things, was always to be found a good sized tin can of smoking
tobacco, for John and his wife both smoked. This was not considered
as anything peculiar then or as objectionable on the part of the
preacher and his wife, as it might be now. Now it seems that only
women in the highest society may smoke. So amid clouds of the burning
incense they would talk theology, religion, and also give practical
hints on household and farm matters to their hosts, who were
"newcomers." Mrs. Aalbu was a woman of very good mind and keen
intellect. She would often correct a quotation from the Bible when not
quite exact and serve as mentor to her husband when he, in the course
of the service or some ritual, would forget something. It was only in
later years, however, that he became ordained and in going thru the
rituals at the various sacraments and services she was the "better
half" in fact as well as name. This was owing to her splendid memory
as also to her generally keen mind.

We did not see many strangers in those days, and how much these visits
meant to us children as well as our parents! The discussions of fine
theological points were often complicated and lasted far into the
night, but we enjoyed them as well as we enjoyed our visitors. May God
bless them, their work and their memory!

As an illustration of the subtlety of these discussions we might give
a few of the topics: "Which Precedes in Christian Experience,
Repentance or Faith?" "Faith or Works, Order of Precedence and
Relative Worth." "Can a Man of His Own Accord and Strength Repent?"
"Can a Christian in This Life be Wholly Sanctified?" "Free Will or
Predestination?"



CHAPTER XVII

BIOGRAPHICAL AND AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES


It has seemed best to include as a supplement to this narrative a
number of sketches of individuals. Some of these individuals are
already mentioned in the general narrative, and in such instances
these separate narratives continue the record where we left off. Then
there are some not mentioned in the general record but who belong by
every right of circumstance to this Norse immigrant group and whose
separate chronicles are of special interest and importance in view of
our general purpose. This purpose, as already stated, is to hand down
to the sons and daughters of the Norse pioneer immigrants a picture of
the men and women who faced primitive nature in this part of the new
continent and tamed it, causing the wilderness to bloom into the
present prosperous, beautiful land.


A DAUGHTER SETTLEMENT

(Narrated in part by H.B. Reese)

It was a winter day of 1902 that Father said to me, "I have had a
letter from Halvor Hevle today. He wants to sell his land," he added.
"Yes, I suppose he will have no use for that now, seeing he has moved
away", I replied, and dismissed the matter from my mind. After a
pause, Father said, "I thought you might buy it." I smiled at what
seemed an absurd suggestion, for I had about a quarter of a dollar of
money about me just then and no immediate outlook for ready money. I
also knew that Father had none to lend me. So I replied: "He will have
to sell his farm without money and without pay if I am to buy it."

Father thought for some time and finally added: "Hevle asks $1,000.00
for his land (¼ Sec.) and half of it cash. You can get a loan of
$500.00 on it and he will be willing to take a second mortgage on the
land for the balance."

Thus having nothing to risk in the deal, and moreover the idea of
owning a farm of my very own kindling my ambition and appealing to my
imagination, I readily agreed and the deal was made.

There was a fairly good dug-out on the place built up of stone and
with a sod roof and board floor. The stable was of the usual kind,
straw, with a little framework of rails and posts to support the roof
and walls. But the layout seemed good to me because it was my own and
the first home founded by myself.

I bought a team and broke some ground that summer, living at the old
homestead one mile south. The next spring, however, I married a wife
who consented to share the humble dwelling with me, and it became my
home. Her maiden name was Hanna Bjorlo.

Soon, however, I was given to realize that in going into debt and in
founding a home of my own I had assumed new responsibilities and
burdens hitherto unknown. Thus after going into debt not only for the
land but for the necessary equipment to work it and a few household
necessities, we entered upon the year 1904 of notorious crop failures.
It was also the time of a great financial depression. So that fall,
instead of the original debt of $1,000.00, I found myself involved to
the extent of $1,700.00 with little to show for it besides putting in
two years of hard toil.

In this situation of seeming failure I began to think that farming of
all occupations rewarded its devotees most stingily. A fellow gives to
it the best of his years and strength and moreover allows himself to
be tied down to a place only to be rewarded with crop failures and
ever increasing accumulations of debt.

However, when one has the responsibilities of a family one cannot
well run away from a situation no matter how bad, even if one were
inclined to do so, the only possible procedure seemed to be to appease
ones creditors as far as possible, get an extension of time and try
again. I sold 40 acres of my farm, being the only thing I could sell,
for $450.00. This tided us over until the next year when we hoped for
better fortunes.

The next year came and brought us a better crop, but the prices were
most discouraging. In 1895-6 I sold wheat at 43-45c per bushel, flax
for 48c, corn 15-18c and oats 13c. Hogs were from $2.50 to $2.80 per
cwt; cattle were from $15.00 to $18.00 for a milch cow and $25.00 for
a three-year-old steer. These prices continued more or less for
several years. Hired help was, however, correspondingly low, being
from $15.00 to $18.00 per month during the summer months.

Nevertheless, after nine years of toil on this place with varying
fortunes, I was at last able to pay for the place and also to make
considerable improvements in buildings, both for the family and my
accumulation of stock. The place, in fact, was beginning to look quite
homelike, with trees and more sightly and comfortable buildings as
well.

One would now expect me to feel somewhat satisfied and gradually
settled down there for the rest of my days, raising our family and
enjoying what we had or came to have. We had a nice little farm three
miles from town with our old friends, neighbors and near relatives all
around us.

There is a trait in human nature which is designated by various names
according to the individual point of view. Some call it ambition, or
forward looking; others, greed, covetousness, etc. The underlying idea
seems to be a sort of discontent with one's present conditions and
attainments, no matter what they are, a sort of forever reaching out
for something greater ahead; to expand, explore new paths and to risk
in the hope of winning. Whether this trait is good or otherwise, I
shall not attempt to discuss, but I do know that it is strong in most
of us and often dominating.

Thus I happened to make a trip to Charles Mix county (Bloomington) in
1902. The land there was much more level and the country more open
than where we lived in Yankton county. So it looked to me to have more
advantages for farming on a large scale. Moreover, the land was
cheaper than where we were. So before returning home I had bought a
quarter section near Bloomington, and that next spring we moved unto a
rented place adjoining it.

But we had not been there a year before I realized my mistake. The
level land did not produce the crop which we had anticipated, and
there was not nearly the chance for cheap pasture either that we had
been led to believe. Any free range was a thing of the past. We had a
good start in cattle now, and I began to look around for some place in
the northwest where there would be more room and more chance for this
enterprise.

To understand my next move it is necessary to go back in our family
tree to another branch and its development.

My brother, J.B. Reese, who had gone away to college about the time I
began my independent farming, had now entered the work of the ministry
and had been called to Wessington Springs and to care for the church
work in the surrounding country as well. On a visit home he had told
us of the cheap land and the fine opportunities in that new country,
especially for cattle. A little later he bought a section of land up
there, getting his brother S.B. and sister, now Mrs. Nysether, and
also Martin Nysether to each take one quarter with him. The land was
bought for $5.00 per acre, and as far as the three last named owners
were concerned "sight unseen".

As an illustration of how seemingly small circumstances lead to great
issues in our lives, I recall the first trip I made to size up this
section of land which I contemplated buying for the parties above
mentioned and myself. It was the year after the last big fire, the
notorious one of 1899, I believe. The fire had seemingly burned the
very roots out of the ground, so that the little grass visible at the
time of our visit in the latter part of July, was in tufts here and
there with vacant spaces in between. As I stood on the hill, east of
the present buildings on the J.B. Reese place, the land looked so poor
and desolate that I almost lost "my nerve" as far as recommending it
to my partners for purchase, even with all the faith I had in the new
country generally. But as I stood there realizing that the whole
decision rested with me whether to buy or not, I noticed an angling
trail across the corner of the land to the northeast along which the
fire had been put out. But the thing which drew my interest
particularly was that on the other side of this trail, or where the
fire had not gone the grass was much better. This decided me. I
purchased the land mostly on credit. This led to my brother's coming
up and buying and finally moving up. His coming in turn led to the
coming of practically the whole present settlement.--Editor.

In August 1902 a friend by name of Ole Sletten and myself started out
to drive overland to see this country of which we had already heard
interesting reports thru my brother. We spent the first night of our
journey at Bridgewater, and the country around there seemed good to my
partner. But when we reached Mitchell and vicinity, where the soil was
sandy and dry, so that the prairie was quite seared over, it being in
the month of August, my partner thought we might as well turn back, as
there would be no use in exploring farther into a country like that.
The grass was too short and scant. Moreover, the buildings and other
improvements along the way gave no suggestion of prosperity among the
farmers. Up thru Hutchinson county we passed a great many of the long,
low mud houses belonging to the Russian German settlers there. These,
too, were responsible for our poor impression of the northwest country
at this point.

Nevertheless, we proceeded to Wessington Springs, where we met my
brother, J.B. Reese, who took us out the next day to see the land he
had bought and the country generally. We went out some 15-16 miles
southwest of Wessington Springs, and if the land had seemed poor to us
before, now it seemed only worse. We passed a considerable number of
empty houses which indicated that the inhabitants had been forced to
abandon the land on which these stood. It was in August and dry so
that the prairie was quite seared over. Then, too, the last big
prairie fire which ravaged this section had just gone thru a couple of
years before, destroying the greater number of the buildings on the
many abandoned homesteads and also burning the very roots out of the
ground. What grass was left, or rather roots, stood in tufts with a
big vacant space of ground between these tufts.

My partner did not express himself much as to the new country, but
what he thought about it can be guessed by the fact that he wanted
none of it for his own. However, I bought a quarter section of it
adjoining the tract which J.B. Reese had already bought, before
returning home, thinking it might do for pasture. I paid less than
$5.00 per acre for it, so I felt that I could not lose much anyway.

May we digress for a moment here and point out the history of the
original homesteaders of this section we are just describing, for it
is full of interest and has also not a few of the tragedies of the
prairie. This part of the state has seen more than the average of the
disappointments incident to pioneer life. It has been the grave-yard
of many bright hopes and furnished a burial place instead of a
building place for not a few pioneers of the prairie.

The valley between Templeton to the north and Crow Lake to the south,
with some of the adjacent land as well, was settled mostly by people
from New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania in the early eighties. These
people had some means, according to the standards of those times; were
above the average pioneer in education and in general started in to
build homes embodying not merely necessary shelter but even
refinement and comforts. They planted trees, both shade and fruit
trees; also flowers and shrubs.

The first years of their settlement were sufficiently wet and the
crops were correspondingly good, some getting upward of 30 bushels of
wheat per acre on the newly broken ground. This encouraged the
settlers even to going into considerable debt for equipment to carry
on larger farm operations. Land rose in value from free homesteads to
$300.00 to $500.00 per quarter. Then came the dry years of 1893-'4-'5
and others as well of small or no crops. Not only no crop, but all the
wells dried up so there was the greatest scarcity of water for man and
beast. Many of these people were heavily in debt and it was almost
impossible to borrow any more to tide over the emergency.

Then it was that the people began to stampede, as it were, going out
as many as 30-40 in one company. Some who had many obligations but few
scruples are said to have made their departure less conspicuously,
quietly creeping away between sunset and dawn and without bidding
anyone good-bye.

It was these conditions of the early years and the people who ran away
from here to report their experiences far and wide which gave South
Dakota a black eye and a bad name for years to come.

Yet after the great exodus, when the country was almost depopulated in
a few months, there were found a few left behind. These were generally
the ones who had had little or nothing to begin with and who now did
not have enough to go anywhere else even if they wanted to do so.
Those who were left by 1900 had gotten their second wind, as it were,
having learned to adapt themselves to the country and were getting a
start in cattle.

The big fire referred to above, sweeping over the section in '99 and
destroying many of the vacated buildings, as also the remnants of
orchards and groves, completed the wiping out of the visible monuments
of the first settlers, so the country was nearly back again to the
primitive conditions in the early years of 1900.

It was at this time (1904) that we decided to remove from Charles Mix
county to Jerauld and the vicinity just described. To move such a
distance overland with all one's belongings, including cattle, as also
a family in which were several small children, and in the treacherous
month of March, was no joy ride for any one concerned. After looking
about for a partner in this difficult enterprise, I finally made
arrangements with one, Knut Lien, to join me. He had about 40 head of
cattle and was a single man. I took with me about 60 head, so on a
morning in the early spring of 1904 my partner and I started with our
first loads for the land of wide and roomy pasture if not of still
waters. On the evening of the second day we stopped in front of the
old house on my brother's place, which was to be our future home. But
the situation which met us was not especially encouraging to tired,
cold and hungry men. The window lights were broken; the floor, too,
the house having been used for a granary, had given way. There was no
shelter for our horses and, worst of all, not a drop of water on the
place.

I was, indeed, discouraged at the outlook and said to Knut: "We will
not unload. We shall rest until morning and then return." He made no
reply, and after doing what we could for our horses we lay down on the
floor to get what rest we could.

However, the next day the sun shone, and with the sunshine came
renewed courage. We put some supports under the floor and unloaded our
goods into the house. Then we went on to the springs for lumber and
soon had a shed built to shelter the horses. But the lack of water was
the worst of our needs and could not quickly be met. An artesian well
had been put down the year before in anticipation of our moving, but
it did not furnish any water even with a pump and wind mill. The
shallow wells on the place, too, were dry. It became evident to us
why the people who had preceded us in these parts had left the
country.

However, having severed our connections where we had been living, and
with our cattle to dispose of somehow, there seemed nothing to do but
to go forward. So I returned to Bloomington, and hiring a man to help
us, we started, now with all our belongings, for the new home. On the
evening of the third day, or April 17th, 1904, we reached Crow Lake.
We, ourselves, as well as the cattle, were very tired, so we camped
there for the night, the family having gone on previously to the house
we were to move into.

That night a snow and sleet storm broke upon us, lasting all of the
next day. With no hay and worn out from the trip, the cattle began to
succumb. Two were left on the place, nine died during the five or six
miles which remained of the way, and still five more after arriving at
our destination. Those which survived were so exhausted that it took
them most of that summer to recover.

This, then, was our first taste of the new land, and it seemed at the
time just a little bitter. My cattle dead or nearly so; nothing to do
with; everything to be done.

However, during that spring we managed to get a new well sunk, 1260
feet deep, costing $650.00. I also put in 15 acres of wheat and 18 of
barley with 90 acres of corn. Fortunately we got a good crop that
year, which we also greatly needed.

At first it seemed rather isolated in those days. There were sometimes
a couple of weeks in which we did not see a human being outside of our
own family. The distance to Mr. Smith, our nearest neighbor to the
north, was three miles. To the south, four miles, were Will Hughes and
Will Horsten and also the Rendels. Then there was Mr. Gaffin and two
or three others southwest of his place. So there was room and to spare
between neighbors in those days and for some time following.

From this small beginning has now grown up a fine neighborhood with a
good community church and congregation; rural mail delivery; phones;
modern homes, and good roads. Among those who have helped build this
splendid community should be mentioned besides those above, the Moen
families, the Aalbus; the Fagerhaugs--Iver and Arnt; the Stolen
brothers--Emericht, Olalf, and Martin; Vognild brothers; Bjorlos;
Bjerkagers; Petersons, and others. It is a matter of just pride that
out of this little group above mentioned, no less than seven young men
served in the Great War. These were Reuben Peterson, Martin Peterson,
Hugo Peterson, Ole Sneve, Martin Stolen, William Linsted, and Roy
Goffin. Two of these--Reuben Peterson and Ole Sneve--were at the
"front" for months and went thru some of the bloodiest battles of the
War.--_Editor._



CHAPTER XVIII

LOOKING DOWN THE TRAIL TO THE YEARS AHEAD


We have followed the trail of the first immigrants for more than half
a century, from the time they left the old home until they have become
an integral part of the life of the new home of their adoption. So
marvelous has this experience been that to many it must seem almost
like a dream or fairy tale. They came out of a land of poverty and
hampering restrictions, social, political and religious. They found an
opportunity to attain a comfortable living and a chance to help at the
big job of working out a democracy. They came strangers to a strange
land, they have already come to share in every position of trust and
honor in the new land, with the exception of the presidency, including
a number of governors. They came out a comparatively small company;
they have become a multitude, there being already in this country more
people of Norse extraction than the whole population of the mother
country.

As we look around us among the particular groups here described, and
see that the fourth generation from the pioneers is already coming on,
the thought comes to us: "What of these people and their descendants a
hundred years from now?"

As I, in vision and imagination, put my ears to the ground of present
prophetic facts and tendencies, I hear the distant tramp of great
multitudes out of the oncoming generations. Who are these multitudes
which no man can number? They are the sons and daughters of the
immigrant, tho outwardly indistinguishable from the Mayflower product
which, too, are the descendants of immigrants. But while the Norse or
Scandinavian immigrant is more quickly amalgamated in the sense of
taking on all the outward colorings of his new environment than any
other nationality, what, if any, will be his distinctive impress upon,
or contribution to, the life he has come to share?

As there has been, and is, much foolish talk, malicious
misrepresentation and manufactured-to-order hysterics about the
"menace of the immigrant", on the part of pink-tea patriots and that
whole breed of parasites who feed and fatten on stirring up and
keeping alive class prejudice and hatred, I want to turn on the light
here and now, the light of truth and facts.

In the first place, then, I wish to call the attention of these self
constituted, Simon-pure and, in their own estimation, only Americans,
to the fact that there is not in itself any disparagement to a man to
be an immigrant or descendant of one. Did they ever read about the
Pilgrim Fathers, George Washington, Ben Franklin or Abraham Lincoln?
Well, these and multitudes of others they might read about were all
"immigrants" or descendants of immigrants; not only that, but our
self-appointed detractor of the immigrant is the descendant of
immigrants--unless he or she is an Indian--and even the Indians are
immigrants only of an earlier date.

In the second place, while the immigrant should ever be mindful, and
in most cases is, of what the new land has offered him in opportunity,
yet be it remembered also that, as far as the "natives" around him are
concerned, he has given them immeasurably more than they have given
him. He has done the great bulk of the rough, hard work of the mine,
forest, factory and of subduing the untamed soil, and without him
there would have been far fewer soft-handed jobs for his critics and
far fewer of the comforts of life and developments of the country for
all the people to enjoy. He has built the railroads, literally by the
sweat of his brow, while the superior "native" manipulated them,
watered their stocks and rode on them, finding that part of the
enterprise more comfortable and profitable. But unless the "foreigner"
had been willing to wield the shovel and lay the rails as well as roll
them out red hot in the mill, where would the "American" have had a
chance to shine in the deal?

Again, we are told that the immigrant comes here ignorant and without
ideals and standards of life which would make him a safe member of a
democracy. Of course, like most broad generalizations, this has a
grain of truth when applied to some of the present influx from
southern Europe. But when applied to immigrants generally, and
especially to the class we have here described, the above judgment is
just about the exact opposite of the truth. The illiteracy of the
Norse immigrant is far less than that of the land of his adoption, in
fact, practically negligible, and far less than that of any other
class of immigrants. As for ideals of life and standards of morality,
the immigrant was generally deeply shocked, on arriving here, at the
lawlessness, profanity, sordidness, crass materialism and godlessness
prevalent among the people around him who called themselves Americans.
And speaking of "ideals" he came here in most instances because of his
ideals of freedom--religious, political and economic; to have a chance
to live out and express these ideals. They built schools and churches
while many of them themselves lived in sod houses or dugouts. Their
sons and daughters are found in every college and university of the
Northwest and out of all proportion to their rank in the total
population. They more than take their share in the four learned
professions of teaching, medicine, the ministry and the law. In other
words, he came for the very same reason that the first immigrants, or
Pilgrim Fathers came--to find room for his growing ideals, as already
shown in this narrative. Then, of course, like them, he also came to
better himself economically thru realizing certain ideals of equality
of opportunity which he had come to cherish in his home land.

Some time ago, Sinclair Lewis, the noted author, speaking on this
subject, said:

"I chose 'Carl Erikson' as the hero, protagonist, whatever you call
him, of the 'Trail of the Hawk' because he is a typical young
American. Your second or third generation Scandinavian is the best
type of American. *** They are the New Yankees, these Scandinavians of
Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. They have mastered politics and
vote for honesty, rather than handshakes. **** They send their
children thru school. They accumulate land, one section, two sections,
or move into town and become Methodists and Congregationalists, and
are neighborly. *** And in a generation, thanks to our flag-decked
public schools, they are overwhelmingly American in tradition."

"Boston, Dec. 16. President Charles W. Elliot, who in an address
before the Economic Club of this city has declared in favor of an
unrestricted immigration and proclaimed the ability of this country to
'digest' the newcomers of every religion, education and nationality,
has been at the head of Harvard University since 1869, was a graduate
of that institution in the class of 1853, and holds the degree of
LL.D. from Williams, Princeton and Yale. He is considered one of the
highest living authorities in his specialty of chemistry and has
written many scientific works."

Permit me to offer a word of caution in this connection regarding
certain tendencies and attitudes toward the immigrant which are
working just the opposite result from what is intended.

There is that splendid movement inaugurated during the war--the
Americanization movement. Many, and I would like to believe most of
the workers in this movement, approach the recent immigrant with
understanding and respect and not with that disgusting provincial type
of mind and patronizing air which we see here and there. Now it should
be said very emphatically that any one who regards himself as a
superior being merely because born on this side of the Atlantic and
the immigrant as an inferior because born on the other side, should
keep his or her hands off Americanization if for no other reason, for
this one: They are not themselves in any true sense Americans, lacking
both the American spirit and ideals. It is such sociological tinkerers
that often de-Americanize more immigrants than the others can
Americanize. These recent comers are as keen to detect a patriotic
sham as any native, and their disgust and resentment of it is
profound. And the inevitable result is that they will judge the
country by its supposed representatives.

Even such organization as the American Legion and Home Guards should
refrain from every appearance of functioning as spies and censors of
the immigrant or even of organizations which may be considered radical
so long as they do not clearly advocate lawlessness or violence.
Yellow paint, personal violence and breaking up of peaceable
assemblies, in short, lawlessness, such as has already taken place
over the country, will not tend to teach regard for law or love for
country on the part of the victims. A mother cannot gain the love of a
child or even respect by the abuse of force, neither can a government
or organization inculcate patriotism by petty persecution and abuse.

There are over one hundred ex-service men in this state who are the
sons and grandsons even of the few pioneers described in this
memorial. I had the privilege of addressing a part of them at the home
coming last summer. Let me say to such of them as may read these
pages: Do not permit selfseeking men, small Americans, to borrow your
splendid organization and glorious prestige to carry out their petty
aims or personal spites. Be such big Americans that more recent
arrivals seeing you, cannot help but admire you and learn to love the
country which could produce you. This is real Americanization.

Have these people then a peculiar racial contribution to make to the
civilization of which they have become a part, and will they make it?
As to the latter, all I can say is that we should all make it our
sacred aim, privilege and duty to deliver this our gift. I am sure we
have it.

What then is it? In the main it may be summarized in a few words:
Industry, Thrift, a Sane Conservatism, Social Genuineness and
Religious Devotion.

I cannot believe that any one who knows the Norse immigrant would deny
that the above are outstanding expressions of his character and life.
The "newcomer" was not perhaps very "smart" in the Yankee sense, and
God forbid that he ever should become so, but he was a hard,
persistent worker, and he _saved_. The man who lived "by his wits" or
by hook and crook was not often found in his class, nor was he
encouraged in his efforts if found.

In this age of enormous over-production of non-producers; of
innumerable hordes of swivel chair folks, of middle men,
"manipulators", runabouts, who are mostly parasites on the social
organism, is there not need of emphasizing the production of something
to meet real human needs?

There is much talk and theorizing about the cause or causes of the
present high cost of living. There is, of course, no one single cause
responsible for this situation so full of hardship for many and so
great a menace to all. But one of the great causes, next to the
shameless profiteering by middlemen, is the alarming over-production
of non-producers. The great hordes of people who want somehow or other
to live by the sweat of the other fellow's brow rather than their own;
who by their clamor create innumerable jobs--paper jobs--in connection
with national, state, and municipal government as also in connection
with charitable and ecclesiastical organizations. It is a part of our
mission as the sons of producers to say to these parasites: "You've
got to get off the other fellow's back," at the same time calling him
by his right name--industrial slacker, social pauper, bum.

So may we take for our slogan the great words of Carlyle: "Produce!
In God's name, Produce!" Let us, like the Fathers, keep close to the
world of real values and refuse to be enticed into that "paper world"
which is one of the real menaces of our country, far more so than the
"immigrant" ever was. In being industrious producers in our line,
whatever it may be, we need not be "grinds". In being thrifty in an
age of extravagance and criminal wastefulness, we do not need to be
stingy or niggardly.

Yes, this our contribution is worth cherishing, for it is sorely
needed today.

If industry and thrift are gifts which our fathers brought to this
land and which we should hand on as our peculiar offering, no less is
that of sane conservatism. In this age of social, economic, political
and even religious wildcat schemes and propagandas, America needs a
balance wheel. We need a sane conservatism that is not, on the one
hand, the corpselike immobility of the typical stand-patters, or
reactionaries to all progress, and who themselves are the cause of
much insane radicalism. And, on the other hand, if true to our
traditions and temperament, we shall not dance to everybody's fiddle
without investigation of what sort of a tune is being played.

Ours, then, should be the open mind; the forward look, to examine,
search out, weigh men and issues. When we, amid the hordes of voices
who cry: "Lo here! Lo there!" occasionally find a prophet with a
message, let us follow him. Let us be a "holy terror" to all cheap
demagogs of every party and name, but let us also be the hope and
support of every true prophet, political, industrial or religious.
This is our part.


SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS

There is a beautiful sincerity, a certain heartiness about our Norse
friendships and social relationships which I have not found elsewhere.
Writers in recent years have been bemoaning "the lost kindness" of the
world. Among our immigrant people, at least, you will find the
lingering fragrance of this old time kindness which for many in this
age of pretense and social sham relations has become only a sad, sweet
memory of the long ago. I charge us all, as inheritors and trustees of
this precious treasure--social sincerity and genuine kindness--let us
cherish it, cultivate it and guard it as one of the very greatest
valuables of life. For what is life without this, even with all the
fine houses and lands, automobiles and aeroplanes? On the other hand,
what is life with this genuine spirit of brotherliness in it? With
this you can have the lights of Heaven and music of the spheres in a
sod shanty. For where real good will is, Heaven is near. So let this
beautiful sincerity, or heartiness, vitalize your handshake, flame in
your look and thrill in your word of greeting to the fellow traveler
over life's way.

If our Norse immigrant has a distinctive contribution to make to
America, industrially, politically and socially, no less certainly has
he an offering to make to the highest and most important department of
life, that of religion. The Scandinavian is almost instinctively
religious. You find among them comparatively few specimens of that
sleek, beefy, selfcomplacent, godless animal-type, so frequently
encountered today in other quarters. The immigrant had encountered too
many of the realities of life; had been too often face to face with
the ultimate facts of life and existence, to develop the shallow
conceits of a mere beef animal whose main experience of life has been
largely confined to a full stomach and the animal comforts. Not
strange that this creature should speak great swelling words against
the Church, the Christ and His followers, as well as against God
Himself. The fool has always said in his heart (and with his stomach):
"There is no God".

Because of this deep religious devotion characteristic of the Norse
immigrant, and evolved amid the majestic mountains, the thundering
rivers and water falls, as well as the loudly resounding sea of his
birthplace, he built altars to God and established his worship almost
as soon as his feet touched the new soil. Partly because of his
religious sincerity the expression of his religious life has sometimes
showed a certain narrowness of outlook and an intolerance of different
religious forms which has not been to his credit. It is because of
this latter trait that so many of the Norse immigrants and their
descendants have been driven from the church of their fathers and are
found in almost every religious sect in the country. We have heard
"infant damnation" in its rankest form preached within the last year,
and other doctrines as well, which are remnants of Mediaeval barbarism
and which most Lutherans today would repudiate. Yet we believe the God
of Jesus Christ is becoming more clearly seen, and that the wider
horizons of truth are appearing. However, this is my plea: May we
cherish the religious devotion, the real piety characteristic of our
forebears. This is a contribution greatly needed in an age of
religious indifference, if not open hostility. And keeping alive in us
and inculcating in our children this religious devotion, may we never
be numbered among that class who religiously are lukewarm, neither hot
nor cold, only fit to be spewed out of the mouth of God and man. Let
us be a salt in the religious life of our country, for without genuine
religion there can be no morality worth talking about among the mass
of mankind; and without morality we can never succeed in developing,
or even keeping from destruction, our experiment in democracy. So may
we put this, too, our supreme gift, on the altar of our country.

Now we close our humble effort with a word of tribute to those brave,
unselfish men and women who left home, friends and native land, that
we, their children and descendants, may have a better chance at life
and happiness. They have paid the price of those who have to take and
to hold the front lines in the great struggle with untamed nature in
a new, un-inhabited country. Many are the premature graves, the lonely
heartaches and tragedies, most of which only God knows. They have laid
the material foundations for us deep and strong. They have also left
us an inheritance of ideals and characteristics to hand on to the
coming generations. If "American" is a state of mind, a certain kind
and quality of ideals and aspirations, rather than a matter of
birthplace, then our immigrant fathers and mothers were often more
American than the native born. However, in any case these
characteristics and ideals above enumerated are the life of our nation
and ours to keep alive. And in holding aloft as our slogans, these
ideals of industry, thrift, sane conservatism, genuineness and
religious devotion, we shall both build the noblest possible monument
to the immigrant and also lay the sure foundations for the great
future before us and our children.

To the few men and women who still remain of the first generation of
immigrants, let us show our love and respect while they still linger
with us, for it will not be long that we can have the opportunity.
When some political demagog, under the thin guise of super-patriotism,
would by legislation or social odium deprive them of the consolations
of religion in the old tongue to which they are accustomed, and thus
send them with sorrow if not bitterness to their graves, let us have
the courage and the manhood to fight these contemptible grand-standers
openly and to a finish. The language question will solve itself in a
few years in any case and without this violence and insult to a few
lingering men and women who have served this country so well and who
are now asking only that they be allowed to pass undisturbed to their
grave. There they will rest from their labors, but their works will
follow after them.


THE END.

August 10, 1920.



I AM THE IMMIGRANT


  I am the immigrant.

  I looked towards the United States with eyes kindled by the fire
    of ambition and heart quickened with new-born hope.

  I approached its gates with great expectation.

  I have shouldered my burden as the American man-of-all-work.

  I contribute eighty-five per cent of all the labor in the
    slaughtering and meat-packing industries.

  I do seven-tenths of the bituminous coal mining.

  I do seventy-eight per cent of all the work in the woolen mills.

  I contribute nine-tenths of all the labor in the cotton mills.

  I make nineteen-twentieths of all the clothing.

  I manufacture more than half the shoes.

  I build four-fifths of all the furniture.

  I make half of the collars, cuffs and shirts.

  I turn out four-fifths of all the leather. I make half the gloves.

  I refine nearly nineteen-twentieths of the sugar.

  And yet, I am the great American problem.

  When I pour out my blood on your altar of labor, and lay down my
    life as a sacrifice to your god of toil, men make no more
    comment than at the fall of a sparrow.

  But my brawn is woven into the warp and woof of the fabric of your
    national being.

  My children shall be your children and your land shall be my land,
    because my sweat and my blood will cement the foundations of the
    America of to-morrow.

  If I can be fused into the body politic, the melting pot will have
    stood the supreme test.

                                              FREDERIC J. HASKIN.

       *       *       *       *       *

    +-----------------------------------------------------------+
    | Typographical errors corrected in text:                   |
    |                                                           |
    | Page 11: Skanne replaced with Skaane                      |
    | Page 29: journied replaced with journeyed                 |
    | Page 82: Knute replaced with Knut                         |
    |                                                           |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------+

       *       *       *       *       *





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Some Pioneers and Pilgrims on the Prairies of Dakota - Or, From the ox team to the aeroplane" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home