From New York to Wisconsin in 1844
By Johan Gasmann
Translated and edited by Carlton C. Qualey (Volume V: Page 30)
The document herewith translated tells of a journey made from New York to Wisconsin in the summer of 1844 by Johan Gasmann, captain of the "Salvator," a vessel engaged in the emigrant carrying trade between Norway and America. It was published contemporaneously in several Norwegian newspapers and was doubtless read by numerous prospective emigrants in its day. From the files of one of these papers as preserved in the library of the University of Oslo was secured the transcript on which the present translation is based.
In a period when conditions on board the packets that brought European immigrants to the United States were often unspeakably bad, Captain Gasmann appears to have held humane and enlightened views about emigrant transportation. Emigration problems occasioned a governmental investigation in Norway as early as 1843, and J. Gasmann, a vice consul and broker at Porsgrund and a brother of the captain, was appointed a member of the investigating commission.
To him Captain Gasmann wrote a letter on December 18, 1843, describing conditions on the "Salvator" and making suggestions as to emigration.
He advocated for the emigrant traffic the use of large and well-equipped vessels only, made suggestions about the size of sleeping quarters for passengers on
board ships, and gave advice concerning adequate food and water supplies to be provided for the ocean voyage by the emigrants. Among the practices maintained in the interest of emigrant welfare on board the "Salvator" were insistence upon proper attention by the passengers to their personal hygiene, frequent scrubbing of sleeping quarters, and adequate ventilation. The passengers were also required to exercise frequently on deck. Captain Gasmann urged that prospective emigrants should be warned of the machinations of unscrupulous agents in New York, and he concluded his letter by recommending Wisconsin as a place in which to settle.
Another brother of Captain Gasmann played a prominent role in the early history of Norwegian emigration. This was Hans Gasmann, a former member of the Norwegian Storthing and the owner of a large estate in Gjerpen. His decision to sell his estate and emigrate, announced in the fall of 1842, caused considerable comment in Norway, for it was unusual for men of his prominence and position to join the throngs setting out for the West. Many people who had been torn by doubt as to emigration, particularly about the reliability of the "America letters," felt that the word of such a responsible man as Hans Gasmann would be decisive, once he had had an opportunity to examine conditions in the United States. Consequently such persons awaited his reports with eager interest. The popular interest in Gasmann's emigration is evidenced by the publication in a contemporary newspaper of a poem entitled "To Hans Gasmann," written by the eminent poet, Pavels Hielm.
On May 12, 1843, with his family of thirteen children, Hans Gasmann set sail from Porsgrund for
New York on the vessel of which his brother Johan was captain. After his arrival in America, he went west and joined the Pine Lake settlement in Wisconsin, which had been founded two years earlier by the Swedish pioneer immigrant, Gustaf Unonius. As time went on, Hans Gasmann wrote a number of letters to friends in Norway commenting on American life and on the question of emigration. He was welt satisfied with his new home, and his optimistic reports, coupled with his known integrity, doubtless influenced many Norwegians to come to the United States. His choice of Wisconsin for settlement helps one to understand the interest of his brother the captain in that region. It was, in fact, in order to visit the Wisconsin pioneer that the captain made the journey recorded in the following document.
Early in 1844 Captain Gasmann, who apparently had been reported publicly as entertaining a different view of emigration from that of his brother Hans, expressed the opinion that the latter had not yet lived in America long enough to be in a position to express a convincing judgment. As for himself, he professed to be quite skeptical about the advantages of emigration.
In the summer of the same year, however, he found opportunity to study the situation at first hand. After having docked his ship, with its load of immigrants, he discovered that he would have some time at his disposal. He therefore determined to make a trip to Wisconsin to visit his brother. This journey to the American interior seems to have changed Captain Gasmann's opinions about emigration and the opportunities for emigrants in America, for in a letter written from New York after his return from the West, he spoke enthusiastically about the beauties of the Wisconsin country and the advantages that it offered.
Later he wrote the fuller account of his journey that is herewith translated.
Captain Gasmann's narrative possesses distinct historical value. It gives a picture of certain aspects of the American scene in the middle forties that is of general value for students of American history. It describes in detail the route followed not only by thousands of immigrants but also by vast numbers of native Americans who joined the westward trek in that period. It has a special flavor arising from the fact that it records the observations of a sea captain. At Buffalo, for example, Gasmann took occasion to speak to the owners of a fleet of Great Lakes sailing vessels, especially requesting their careful attention to the Norwegian immigrants. It must not be forgotten, finally, that the report, through its contemporary newspaper publication in Norway, was among the writings that introduced America into the consciousness of the Norwegians in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Captain Gasmann was a keen observer and recorded his observations carefully. Because of his travels and his wide experience, he was able to make telling comparisons and generalizations. On the whole, he displayed great admiration for American institutions and customs. Indeed, he was perhaps at times carried away by his enthusiasm. Generally, however, his comments were impartial and penetrating and thus contrast favorably with many of the "America letters" of the time.
FRAGMENTS OF SHIP CAPTAIN JOHAN GASMANN'S
RECORD OF A JOURNEY FROM NEW YORK TO
WISCONSIN IN THE SUMMER OF 1844
[In Bratsberg-Amts Correspondent, February 3, 10, 27, March 3, 6, 10, 1845; also in Christianssandsposten, February 7, 14, 28, March 13, 17, 1845.]
On several of my long trips I have recorded much of that which especially attracted my attention, and so also I did on this journey, not for the purpose of publication but only for the perusal of my friends and acquaintances, and more particularly for my own future satisfaction. I had about fourteen days to spend, for after having completed arrangements for a cargo for the ship in New York, I found that I could not get it loaded in
less than two or three weeks. These I made use of in seeing a little of America.
I took passage on the steamboat "Knikkenbokken" [Knickerbocker?] from New York to Albany, a distance of about twenty-three Danish miles up the Hudson River. This is one of the largest vessels sailing on the Hudson and certainly is the finest to be seen. It is 290 feet long with cabins on three decks. To describe its entire arrangement is impossible, but it is a beautiful floating hotel or palace which can offer commodious quarters for nine hundred to a thousand passengers. We were nine hours en route and paid one and one-half dollars. The Hudson is one of the most picturesque rivers in the world. Its banks reveal alternating landscapes, beautiful estates, and pleasant rural villages, together with various larger towns such as Ponghkupon [Poughkeepsie], Kingston, Catskill, Hudson, and Newburg.
After passing for a considerable distance through a very hilly region, which greatly resembled a Norwegian sound, we came to West Point, where the river widened into a large fjord encircled by the most picturesque landscape, with stretches of level country, hills, and in the background, heights resembling mountains clothed with beautiful forests. Immediately to the left, on the western bank, is West Point, where one sees a number of fine buildings like palaces. This is the United States war school or military academy and is also the arsenal for the state of New York. The place has a most attractive location. To the right one sees two larger towns; one of them, Hudson, lying on a height, has a very charming appearance. To the left, farther ahead, one sees the Catskill Mountains, which are about four thousand feet in height and extend to a steep precipice beside the Hudson, from which they rise about three thousand feet. At a height of about twenty-five hundred feet, there is a hotel which looks like a patch of snow. People from New York go there in the summer time. At few places can a more beautiful view be found. The sides of the mountain are clad with light-green woods to over half its height and even above that it looks green. On the top, snow lies until far into the summer. The landscape is very beautiful. One can scarcely find anything so lovely in Europe, for in the southern
lands in Europe the hills are not wooded and appear brown and scorched. Here, on the contrary, everything is lively and green.
On the whole, that part of America which I have seen has a greener and fresher appearance than any country in Europe. Everything appears so vigorous. The Hudson River swarms with steamboats and sailing vessels. There is activity everywhere, both on land and water. The steamboats with their star-spangled flags and long smoke streamers whiz past each other, filled with thousands of well-dressed and attractive looking people. The sound of music of horns and other instruments comes from them over the water. Schooners, sloops, and numerous smaller vessels skim about like flies on the broad surface of water. All this is so grand, so beautiful, that anyone who enjoys living must be glad and cheerful -- and the more so when one recalls that about a hundred years ago there were only a few miserable wigwams or Indian huts here, and on the river only solitary birchbark canoes wherein bloody Indians sat with their tomahawks and scalping knives, ready to torture and to murder their enemies. What a transformation in such a short time! If a man does not become enthusiastic about all this, then the greatest human enterprises have no value. I confess that as a seaman, after a long sea voyage, I perhaps found everything more wonderful than it might appear to me if I remained here for a longer period of time. But is it not so everywhere? The most beautiful landscape loses its attractiveness in our eyes the longer we see it. I have, however, seen so much that I can make comparisons. I have seen nothing as beautiful as the Hudson unless it might be the Bosporus at Constantinople, but even that does not come up to this. And what a difference in the people who live there!
I arrived at Albany where the steamboat navigation ended. Albany, a town of about thirty thousand inhabitants, is fine looking, with wide, clean streets. The main street is, in my opinion, finer than Broadway in New York. At the upper end of this street is a stately building with a cupola. This is the meeting place for the representatives of the state of New York and is the capitol of this state. The governor resides here and this palace is also called the capitol. It is a fine building of cut stone, with a pillared facade of white marble. From Albany I went by rail to
Buffalo, at the eastern end of Lake Erie, a distance of seventy-five Danish or three hundred English miles. If one has time enough, it is cheaper to go by the Erie Canal on a treck-schuyt
drawn by horses. The cars in which one travels on the railroad are very comfortably furnished. Each is about twenty-five feet in length, nine feet in width, and seven feet in height, and has windows the full length of the car as in a coach. One sits on cushioned seats placed crosswise in the car, one row on each side so that two passengers sit beside each other. In the middle there is an aisle. At both ends there is a door with a balcony or platform outside which has an iron railing around it. Here, if one has the conductor's permission, one may stand outside and look about. Every third hour we stopped to take on fuel and water, and now and then at a nearby elegant restaurant, or rather two, one for gentlemen and one for ladies, where all possible kinds of refreshments stood in readiness -- but the stop was only for fifteen minutes. At noon and breakfast-time a person had, on the contrary, a good hour. As a precaution, one or two baggage cars are always placed between the locomotive and the passenger cars in order to prevent accidents in case the steam engine jumps the track.
The route from Albany runs first through extensive stretches of level land, past many rural villages and farms. There is well-cultivated land everywhere, with fields and meadows as far as eye can see. There are wooded areas here too, largely made up of oak and other deciduous trees. Fir and other evergreens are less common. The rural villages and the solitary farms are for the most part built up of wood. The houses are roofed as are ours and the buildings are usually painted white and red. Many of the solitary farms resemble our Norwegian farmsteads [Bøndergaarde], painted red with white window frames. Everywhere one sees orchards and flowers about the houses. Everything has something new -- something distinctive about it. It is not England, not France's straw roofs, and not Norway, but something distinctly new. In appearance the country is like Denmark with its level land, but the orchards display the
luxuriance of France. The people resemble the English in dress and manners but are, like the French, more courteous and sociable. The Americans usually roof their houses with shingles which they coat with a composition of some kind so that they resemble slate, which I at first took them to be. The churches are also built of wood but are of various styles, some with steeples, some with cupolas, and some without steeples. All are painted white. The Americans roof the churches with heavy galvanized sheet iron, which shines and glitters in the sunlight and gives a beautiful effect amidst the green woods. At Schennlady [Schenectady] one enters upon a broad valley called the Mohawk Valley, which extends eighteen miles westward towards Rochester. This valley is everywhere well-cultivated. Through the middle of it flows, with a rapid current, a river, the Mohawk, which at one place has several considerable falls. Here the valley is compressed between high mountain ridges so that it is only a little wider than the river itself. Otherwise the width of the valley varies from one-half to one mile -- yes, occasionally more than that. Several tributary valleys lead into it and the view is changed greatly thereby. The valley rises higher and higher on both sides until very high mountain ridges limit the view. The whole constitutes a lovely and colorful landscape. But unfortunately, night came all too soon and darkness shut off the view, so that I was unable to see everything no matter how much I wished to do so. I am often tempted not to venture out upon the monotonous and boresome sea, which never offers any prospect more diverting than seeing one black swell followed invariably by another in consecutive endlessness -- not a very cheerful or soul-inspiring view. After one has traveled through this valley, one comes up on higher land, which again stretches out in prairie and hills.
I arrived at Rochester at night and left again at dawn so that I was able to see little or nothing of the town. But since I stayed there a whole Sunday on my return trip, I shall briefly note something about the town. Rochester is situated beside a river which within the town itself has a fall of over ninety feet and which is utilized to operate mills and other machines. In the town a stone bridge has been built over the river and there is a long wooden bridge above the town. Rochester is a very beautiful
city, with broad, fine streets and remarkably fine buildings, scarcely inferior to those of New York itself. The houses resemble those of France more than those of England, have tall windows, and are decorated with cornice work and other ornamentation. The town has about thirty thousand inhabitants. There are seven beautiful churches and many large and elegant hotels, the latter being necessary because both the Erie Canal and the railroad pass through Rochester. Not far from Rochester is Lake Ontario, the wide-spread surface of which, one sees just before entering the town.
After a three-hour journey thence, I arrived in Buffalo. The route leads across areas which are partly overgrown with forests, miles in extent. The land appears virgin or only just coming under cultivation, for tree stumps still remain in many places. I suppose that the soil here is not of the best, for pine trees grow here in large numbers, especially firs, and the soil appears sandy. It was, at all events, the poorest country I saw on the whole trip. The city of Buffalo is situated beside a small bay of Lake Erie, and this forms a fairly good harbor. The lowest part of the town lies so low that it is subject to floods in times of heavy storms from the northwest, but the larger part lies on the slope of a hill. It has a large wide main street which extends about one English mile right through the town and is lined by large and beautiful buildings. Here, as in Rochester, there are many huge hotels for travelers. Therefore, as soon as one arrives on the train at the large shed or station, one is immediately surrounded by servants or footmen from the various taverns or hotels, and one must hold fast to one's luggage so that it is not snatched by these eager individuals, not that they wish to steal it but in order that they may convey it to their respective employers' houses. Light wagons and carioles stand ready to take the traveler anywhere he wishes. Each of these servants or footmen recommends his master's hotel as well as he can. German menservants especially are employed in this way. One cannot say that it is expensive to lodge here. The taverns or hotels are just as elegant as in the larger towns in France. The furnishings are more French than English, just as, on the whole, America is more French than English. There is a mixture of both, however, and
also something distinctive. The Americans certainly are not less advanced than either of the nationalities mentioned.
Buffalo has about eighteen thousand inhabitants, but it is not so attractive as Rochester. There is a great deal of activity and life here. All goods which come from the western states are landed here; travelers pass through by the thousands; the harbor is full of freighters, brigs, schooners, and sloops which sail the larger lakes. Along the shore are built large wooden warehouses painted white (resembling in that respect Bergen's harbor). Here there were large numbers of seamen, among whom I met many Scandinavians and Frenchmen. The prodigious number of flour barrels and provisions which are loaded here on the canal boats to be taken to New York makes one realize at once that fertile lands surround these lakes. Americans are perpetually active and always seem to be in a hurry; indeed, a more enterprising people cannot be found anywhere. One sees few people out walking merely for the sake of walking, for everyone has something to do. It is only in the evening, a little after sunset, that gentlemen and ladies fill the streets. Buffalo is not far from the Canadian boundary. Just outside the town there is a fort with a little garrison, the soldiers of which, like the English, have red uniforms. In three hours one may travel from Buffalo to the remarkable Niagara Falls, where a tremendous volume of water is precipitated from a height of 160 feet, but time did not permit me to see this.
As one looks out from Buffalo over Lake Erie, it is scarcely credible that this is only a lake, for no land is visible on the horizon, and ships cruise by each other here as on the ocean, -- and yet this lake lies more than six hundred feet above sea level, and consequently almost as high above the Hudson River and the Erie Canal. The railroad also mounts in the same degree over a distance of about seventy-five miles.
Upon my arrival at Buffalo, I looked up Hughes and Company, who are the leading owners of steamships on the Lakes or else the directors of them as well as a large number of sailing vessels and other ships. Hence, a large part of the immigrants pass, so to speak, through their hands. I asked these gentlemen to take care that our countrymen be transported in comfort and
not crowded together too much in the schooners. I explained to them that our farmers [bonder], in spite of their shabby appearance, are good and upright people, and this they admitted, adding that they had noticed that they are much more modest than the Germans and far more orderly people (but very ignorant). They complained that the emigrant agents in New York, with whom the whole journey to Wisconsin is arranged, often sent these same people to several of their commissioners in Buffalo, where, in order to save money, they crowded them onto ships without regard for their comfort.
I left Buffalo for Wisconsin on board the steamboat "Illinois," Captain Blake commanding. This trip took four days. The ship's commander was very kind to me, and being himself an old saltwater seaman, it pleased him to have me as a passenger, and consequently I obtained free passage both going and returning. On board this steamboat, I also made the acquaintance of an English lawyer, a Mr. T. Penyon, a Cornishman. Being acquainted in Cornwall, I found it very interesting to talk about his birthplace. Moreover, we talked of a great many other things, and I could not help but laugh at him whenever he sought to point out England's preeminence over America and the superiority of the Englishmen to the Americans. As we were on neutral ground, he was able to get from me my opinion that the English boasted too much of their country and that that opinion was the common opinion about them, even in Europe. He agreed to this in part and we were good friends.
The shore to the left, which we followed for some time, was almost level land, not low but at about a forty to fifty foot elevation, with yellowish corn-cockle toward the lake. No hills or bluffs are to be seen. The land is for the most part overgrown with woods and only here and there along the shore are plowed fields to be seen. Inland there are said to be well-settled areas. We stopped first at Cleveland, a town situated beside a river which forms its harbor. How large this town is I cannot say, for our stop was only for a couple of hours and the town lies spread out between hills. An old place it cannot be, for the tree stumps still remain standing close beside the houses. It seemed to be a pleasant town. Many ships lay in the harbor, and wheat
barrels, potash, and willow stakes [pilestaver] in large numbers lay on the wharves, which like ours had wooden bulwarks. The buildings were some of them of wood, some of stone, but all very fine and large. From this town a canal goes far inland, clear to the Ohio River, which as you know flows into the Mississippi. From Cleveland the voyage continued to Detroit Sound, where Lake Erie joins with the little Lake St. Clair. At the entrance to this sound, there are many beautiful little islands with fine farms and grassy meadows whereon we saw many cattle.
After having passed these islands and the sound, two miles long, we came to the city of Detroit. This, like Porsgrund,
consists of one street along the waterfront which must have been more than half a mile in length. Just as all such straggling towns appear more empty than the compactly built ones, so also in the case of Detroit, notwithstanding the fact that it is supposed to have a considerable commerce, for Michigan, in which it is located, produces a large amount of wheat, oats, corn, potash, and so forth. This town is supposed to be one of the oldest in the western states and was founded by the French when France possessed Canada, but it has not flourished. The reason for this is easily understood, for all the goods which come from the western regions float past here on their way to New York and land first at Buffalo in order to be carried through the Erie Canal down to the sea. Cities which are located on a sound between two lakes, like cities which are situated beside rivers and not at their mouths or at their upper loading or unloading place, usually do not have a great part in the commerce which is carried on on the rivers. Such is the case with Detroit.
Detroit Straits separate the territory of the United States from Canada and, near the town, are about two English miles in width. On the Canadian side there is a little town called Sandwick [Sandwich], which appeared -- and is said to be -- very inconsequential and poor. My American fellow-travelers exulted a good deal in calling to my attention that there lay Queen Victoria's land. "It is poor looking [they said]; it shows the difference of Gouvernement."
The country on both sides of this sound is so low and so absolutely level that I could not discover the smallest hill as far as I could see, but it is heavily wooded. It was reported to be not swampy, however, and to be good corn land except on the Canadian side, which, when there is a great deal of rain, is subject to flood. A railroad is being constructed which is to extend straight across country to Grand Haven on Lake Michigan. This railroad was already more than half built and it was believed that it would be entirely completed by the next year. It was expected that one could travel by this route to Chicago and Milwaukee in two days less time than by steamship. After we had passed through the straits, shallow Lake St. Clair, and St. Clair Straits, we came to the large Lake Huron. On this whole stretch, nothing worthy of remark was noticeable. The only thing which gave the shore along the last-named lake any interest was that on the Canadian side Indians were living, for whom an English mission had established a church and a school. Their small log houses could be seen through the trees, and several groups of Indians, who shouted and waved to the passengers on the steamship, were visible on the hills by the shore. But, as these Indians had discarded their national costume and were somewhat civilized, we did not lose much by not seeing them more closely.
The country on the United States side was more settled and cultivated, and one saw there fine looking farms, fields, and meadows. For the rest, I must confess that the whole stretch of land which I previously had seen, clear from Buffalo to Detroit, was somewhat monotonous in appearance, as seen from the deck of a steamboat. The forests which grace the land were so even that one was tempted to believe that all the trees grew to a definite height, above which they were unable to reach. Wherever I noticed cultivated land, flourishing fields and meadows were visible, and I expect that the whole state of Michigan, when once under cultivation, will constitute a single large area of fields and meadows, and that it will become a granary for millions. But it is a poor landscape for the painter's brush. In the northern part of Michigan there are reported to be swamps and thickly grown forests of oak, hickory, fir, tamarack, maple, and several other varieties of trees. There are supposed to be a prodigious number
of wild pigeons here. On the voyage up Lake Huron we got our first fresh lake trout, the meat of which was not so red as that of our trout but tasted just as good. The fish were very fat --- several weighing thirty-six pounds.
We now came to the Strait of Mackinac, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Here the country is composed of high hills overgrown with fir and deciduous trees, but it does not appear especially productive. One could see here that one had come farther toward the north. All the species of trees were the same as in Norway, and it was no longer warm, although this place does not lie higher than Rocheford.
It also occurred to me that, so far as the native vegetation or the plants were
concerned, this region could not be compared with any European country farther south than Jutland, even North Jutland.
On an island in the strait there is the little town of Mackinac, which resembles a Norwegian seaport town. Near the town is a fort or fortress with a small garrison. I was especially interested in this place because here for the first time I saw real Indians. Near here they have a trading post and there they set up their wigwams or tents along the shore, about thirty in number, and near by lay their birchbark canoes or boats. I also saw here a great number of Indians who I believe were called Scoux [ ?] Indians. As to their appearance, there was nothing especially remarkable. They were quite tall and well-grown people and were somewhat darker in complexion than what is called olive, but I could not call it red any more than one calls a mulatto red. Their clothing was composed partly of undressed yellow buckskin, partly of cloth, and over the whole costume they wore a wide English wool blanket as a cloak. On their feet they wore half-boots of yellow leather, which were called moccasins. The costume of the women resembled that of the men with the exception that they wore short skirts. Both men and women were bedecked with considerable finery such as buttons, buckles, and the like. Some of their clothes were decorated with pearls in designs somewhat inn the style of our Telemark country-folk [Tellebønder]. Some men, whom I took to be chieftains, wore
feathers on their heads and had painted red and white stripes across their faces. The men also carried in their hands small, highly polished axes. Their tents were composed of several poles put down in the ground in a circle about six feet apart, tied together at the tops and covered with tight robes. In the middle of the tent a fire was burning, the smoke finding its way out through the cluster of pole-tops. From the highest point in the middle of the tent hung a hook to hang a kettle on. At the sides were hides to sleep on, some deal boxes, and sticks, and that composed the whole establishment. One finds here remnants of the old French population which have become mixed with the Indians. They still speak a kind of French and have not forgotten how to gesticulate with arms and shoulders.
Mackinac Strait, to get back to my travels, is broad and filled with a number of islands. Lake Huron is very deep, about eighty fathoms, and is dark blue like the ocean. It is quite noticeable that the climate in America, or rather the temperature, is very different from that at the same degree of latitude in Europe. The whole northern part of Michigan lies between forty-six degrees and forty-nine minutes north latitude -- the same as the greater part of France, and yet the temperature here cannot be regarded as milder than in Denmark. In Wisconsin, below forty-three degrees north latitude, the temperature is not higher, according to several reports, than in northern France. When one knows what is grown there, I suspect that this is a mistake, for in Wisconsin corn is grown as far north as forty-four degrees and even farther, while on the contrary this variety of grain cannot ripen in northern France, -- no, not even at Bordeaux. One may to some extent assume that the elevation of the land above sea level has some influence, for most of Wisconsin lies seven hundred to eight hundred feet higher than the ocean, and that is more than twice as high as most European countries. Toward the north there is a large continent where there is almost perpetual winter and which is not separated from the southern areas by mountains. Where therefore, the north wind blows, one feels chilly even in summer time. After we had passed the Strait of Mackinac, Lake Michigan was spread before us with its dark blue surface. This is the longest as well as the deepest
of all the lakes. Its depth in the middle is supposed to be almost three hundred fathoms, but it is also supposed to abound in fish. The northern shore of Lake Michigan reveals on that side an ugly and poor landscape. High sandhills rise several hundred feet from the surface of the lake. As far as I could see, there was no sign of vegetation except a few scrubby pines in the valleys and some brown heather. It resembles the western coast of Jutland, but it is still more bare and desolate. Long sandbars extend several miles out from the shore so that no ship can land. I asked an American if anyone lived in this region and he answered, "O no Sir, not a raven or a crow would be able to pick up a living here."
Farther south, the land seemed to become greener again and the woods thicker. Here also, it was said, a few settlers had begun to establish themselves. The steamboat now made from the Michigan shore arid set its course for Milwaukee. The shore disappeared over the horizon behind us. A considerable swell came against us and also to port, so that the steamboat rolled somewhat, and the outboard gangplank often plunged down into the surface of the water and caused violent tremors in the whole ship. I do not regard these long, three-storied steamships as seaworthy vessels, and the captain on
the boat said to me that often in the autumn, when occurred, he had difficulty enough in navigating the "'Illinois."
After some hours' headway over the lake, Wisconsin rose over the horizon with its green woods and glinting yellow limestone, like the coast of Yorkshire in England. The land was not so level in appearance as the coasts of Michigan on the eastern side. Hills overgrown with oak woods and tail hickory trees were visible occasionally, although there were no high ones as yet. On the whole, the landscape had a colorful appearance, and I cannot deny that a mixture of emotions stirred in my breast such as those I so often feel when, after long voyaging, I approach old Norway's shores. For I soon expected to see my dear brother and his family again. Moreover, so many of our countrymen, some actually needy and some dissatisfied in other ways, seek refuge in this country, where they land with mingled hope and despair. The future must be uncertain for anyone who sets foot
on such a new and foreign land. Genuine courage is therefore necessary, or perhaps it is often replaced by heedlessness [Ubetænksomhed]! However, I do not consider it so difficult for the emigrating Norwegians hereafter as it was for the first ones who came here. Now they may find their countrymen to show them the way.
Milwaukee Bay appeared, and soon we hove to at a long wooden pier which has been built for the sole purpose of docking steamboats, since these cannot sail into the river, which is only seven feet deep. Milwaukee is situated beside a river in a flat valley. One could see at once that it was a new town, the houses being quite spread out. There were, however, a few built up streets with stone buildings of three or four stories and with elegant stores. Here supplies might be had in plenty and there were several hotels for travelers, of which the Milwaukee House and the Temperance House were the finest. The Milwaukee House, in size and elegance, is comparable to similar houses in the larger cities.
As I stepped ashore from the steamboat, I met a Dane by the name of Fribert and a Swede named Pettersen [Petersson].
The first I already knew by name, and for his later courtesy, I owe him thanks. When he informed me that he lived near my brother at Pine Lake, we arranged to leave the next morning, it being then too late in the day. I also met two of my brother's daughters, from whom I was exceedingly glad to learn that they all were getting on well in their new fatherland. I lodged that night in a tittle white-painted inn which bore the sign "Lafayette,'' the owner of which was a Frenchman. The man had not forgotten his French courtesy and when I exchanged a few French words with him, he became quite spirited. The lodging was very good and quite cheap. For bed and board, a bottle of Bavarian ale, tobacco, and a pipe, I paid in all eighteen cents.
As arranged, Mr. Fribert, Mr. Pettersen and his daughter, and my two nieces and I set out in the morning in a four-wheeled wagon with two horses, which we hired from an Irishman. From Milwaukee to Pine Lake the distance was twenty-six English miles. On this stretch of road the country was composed
of level areas, none of which were of any great extent, alternating with hills and valleys, so that the landscape was far from monotonous. Woods covered the greater part of the country but there were also many fine cultivated areas with beautiful fields and meadows and fine, white-painted farmhouses. We drove past two large gristmills which were operated by waterfalls made by damming up small streams. The forests were made up of oak, hickory, basswood, maple, elm, ash, and acacia trees, and a great many others. The white-painted farmhouses became more infrequent the farther we went. Log and frame houses, constructed as simply and hastily as possible, were visible here and there in clearings in the woods. Round about these small houses, there were fields of wheat, corn, oats, and potatoes, all in the most flourishing condition. At a few places there were fruit trees and flower beds. Tree stumps raised their black heads in the midst of the wheat fields, and in some cases the whole tree remained. But the tree was leafless, for the roots had been chopped and the tree allowed to stand thus and dry out until a more opportune time should come to remove it. The whole landscape appeared quiet and peaceful in character.
The country about Pine Lake, where I found my brother living in a log house, he and his family well-satisfied, is very beautiful. There are four or five small lakes here, and between these the land rises in hills, prairies, and valleys. A part of this land consists of the so-called oak openings, that is, hills whereon trees stand as though planted at long intervals, some in groves or groups, so that it all appears like a scientifically laid out English park. There are also thick woods of all kinds of trees, of which walnut trees, plum trees, apple trees, and grapevines are common. Wild grapevines twine themselves about the trees, clear to the tops. The grapes are small and sour, but can be cultivated. Raspberries, blackberries, and gooseberries are to be found in plenty. Strawberries are also plentiful and cranberries in great numbers are found in the autumn. Flowers of the greatest variety of colors grow everywhere, on the hills, on the prairies, and in the forests, many of them of the same varieties as we have hut many strange varieties too. The small lakes, lying enclosed by hills, are mirror-like in clearness. Many large and
beautiful tree-grown capes and headlands extend out into them. Even though this landscape does not have the elevated character in respect to vistas such as we find in parts of Norway and in the Alpine countries, it is nevertheless exceedingly beautiful, bright, and charming.
My brother's house stands on a height beside a small lake and back of it rises a hill, the highest thereabouts. Many Swedes have settled about Pine Lake and are all very well established. Many Norwegians, of whom I knew several, are also living in this region, all, as far as I could find out, well satisfied with that which they have been able to accomplish. Their houses are still quite small, but are good enough to protect them from the weather. Then too, the climate here is mild and the winter short, so that these houses are much better to live in than many of our Norwegian farmhouses in the mountain districts. A few have already built themselves good and roomy houses and in a few years we may hope that there will be built up here a fine community of Norwegians. My brother has recently purchased quite a large tract of land, about three-fourths of a mile from Pine Lake. He has established a sawmill on the banks of a river which flows through this land. Work has now begun here to break the land and to build houses which he himself expects to live in. The place is called Espen. The timber was very good and the soil, according to my brother's report, very fertile.
It is common knowledge that the foreigners who settle on the new land in North America are subject to ague. That is also the case in Wisconsin, although the condition is not the same everywhere. Those who live in the so-called oak openings, where the country is often hilly and consequently dry, are less exposed to the fever. On the other hand, those who live on the prairies are more often severely attacked by it. The abundance of trees, with the leaves and grass which lie and rot in the forests, especially in damp places, is a source of the ague, for people have found that as soon as the land is properly brought under cultivation, the ague ceases. Pure and healthful water is necessary. It is, however, difficult to find wholesome water in the low areas, and the new settlers are not always so careful as they might be in this matter. Every newcomer should take the precaution, if he settles
on the prairie, to make inquiries as to whether or not there is good water near by and whether the soil has drainage so that it may be dry during the wet season, lie should also beware of lying on the ground in the evening and morning, of becoming wet with rain and then drying out again in the sun, and should be careful not to be out in the woods or in the high prairie grass immediately after a rain until after the sun has again dried the earth. He must be temperate in eating and drinking. The large amount of pork which the Americans use is not good for people unaccustomed to such a heavy diet, and it is hardly healthful for the natives. At least, I have heard several Americans maintain that biliousness [galdefeber] is often caused by the excessive eating of pork. It is not surprising that the American farmer gives his employees plenty of pork, for it costs him little and is a substantial food. Our farmers from the uplands [south of Dovre] think it is a fine food, but in a warm climate, used in excess, it is very injurious, especially when it is used together with many vegetables. After all, from what I have been able to find out from people who know the country in the West, Wisconsin and Iowa have the most healthful climate. One has nothing to fear from the fever if one does not settle near swamps and marshes, and above all, is careful from the beginning. The steamboat "Illinois" used firewood in place of coal, and that is the case with all the steamships which sail on the Lakes. Consequently we took on fuel at several places en route on the voyage from Buffalo to Milwaukee.
<1> The transcript is among the documents secured by Theodore C. Blegen during his residence in Norway in 1928-29 as a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation of New York.
<2> Blegen, "The Norwegian Government and the Early Norwegian Emigration,'' in Minnesota History, 6:118 (June, 1925).
<3> The letter is in the archives of the Social Department of the Norwegian government at Oslo, in Lovkontor: Utvandringen, Kong. Prop. 1845, folder 3; and a transcript is among the emigration materials in the archives of the Norwegian-American Historical Association at Northfield, Minnesota.
<4> An account of Hans Gasmann, accompanying the text, and an English translation of this poem will appear in a forthcoming volume of Norwegian emigrant songs to be translated and edited by Theodore C. Blegen and Martin Ruud. References to Gasmann occur in the letters of Ole Munch Ræder, edited by Gunnar J. Malmin as America in the Forties, 35, 105, 108 (Norwegian-American Historical Association, Travel and Description Series, vol. 3 -- Minneapolis, 1929).
<5> Bratsberg Amts-Correspondent, February 22, 1844; Drammens Tiden, February 25, 1844. Extracts from these newspaper items are among the materials referred to ante, n. 3.
<6> Johan Gasmann to Jacob Müller, August 1, 1844, in Bratsberg Amts-Correspondent, September
3, 1844. A transcript of this letter is in the collection referred to ante, n. 3.
<7> A treck-schuyt is a covered boat designed to be towed, especially a canal boat.
<8>Porsgrund is a seaport on the southeastern coast of Norway.
<9> Gasmann quotes this sentence in English.
<10> That is, Rochefort, France.
<11> Jutland is a province of Denmark.
<12> This sentence is written in English in the original
<13> On Fribert, see Malmin, ed., America in the Forties, 15.