A Journey to America in the Fifties
By Clara Jacobson (Volume XII: Page 60)
This sketch is written mainly from information obtained from a woman who was a child of
nine years when her family emigrated from Drammen, Norway, to America, in the spring of
1853. We already have a whole literature about the early Norwegian emigrants to America;
perhaps few care to hear her story, so I beg your indulgence.
In our day and age every nine-year-old school child in Norway knows a lot about
America, but in the 1850's it was a terra incognita, a fairyland for the little ones and
for many of the older ones too. In the rural districts, geographical knowledge was very
limited. Thus our friend had heard something about foreign countries, but her ideas were
very hazy. About people in foreign countries she knew little, except about Swedes, for
there were many of them working around in her neighborhood. She remembered one Swede who
worked for her parents. He told incredible stories and yarns that the children implicitly
believed. Englishmen had not yet begun to visit Norway in large numbers, and few other
foreigners had found their way thither at that time.
A certain kind of people, however, she had heard a lot about, and her mind was filled
with fear whenever she thought about them. They were the Turks who had snouts like pigs,
and, like the trolls in the fairy story, feasted on Christian flesh and blood. The Free
Masons were their helpers, who, when they could get hold of plump farm girls, would send
them to the dreadful Turks. That was the last you heard of the girls. Of course there was
not much danger for little girls who were light as a feather, for the Turks wanted fat,
healthy peasant girls from the mountain regions. Still one could not feel perfectly safe.
The child's world expanded when she heard about letters from the fairyland, America.
Relatives of the family had some years previously emigrated to the colony in Muskego,
Wisconsin, so well known to the pioneers, that was formed by people from Drammen and
vicinity. The home folks had heard from the emigrants, from time to time, that they got on
well, though they had had trying times. Thus the pioneers had gone through the terrible
cholera epidemic which raged in the colony in l849, and they had suffered from fever and
ague. These accounts were not very encouraging, but, strangely enough, the younger members
of the family, because of these letters, were gripped by a strong desire to emigrate. The
parents did not wish to oppose their children's wishes and hopes of getting independent
jobs and positions in America. On the other hand they felt they could not bear to let them
go away. So parents, too, tore themselves away from the mother country with bleeding
hearts, and together with the young formed new homes far away on the other side of the
After they had made up their minds, there was fortunately not much time to ponder over
their decision, for they had to get ready as soon as possible. After the farm was sold,
they had to dispose of nearly all their household goods, for freight rates were very high.
They could take along only their clothes, some books, and a few other things. An auction
was held and everything was sold except a chest of drawers belonging to one of the girls
who had just been confirmed. She was so anxious to keep it and begged so long, that she
was allowed to take it with her. At present it is standing in the youngest sister's home,
a little worn with age, as can be expected, for it is nearly seventy years old.
There were two small girls who were eleven and nine years old. They were not troubled
with many belongings. Their most beloved were their dolls. They thought them pretty and
charming, and so they gave them pretty names -- Gabrielle and Augusta -- but their older
brother laughed at the fine names and, to their disgust, gave them some horrid ones. They
did not want to take the dolls along to America, however, for in America there were plenty
of dolls still more beautiful. They gave them to two of their dearest friends. All their
thoughts dwelt on the approaching journey. The children saw all in rosy hues and felt no
anxiety. They thought only about how grand everything was in America, as we read in the
Sweetmeats, raisins, and almonds grow there,
In very large clusters they're basking,
Hanging on trees you see pair after pair
They're yours, if you like, for the asking.
Sugar plums, puffed up like biscuits, grow,
And chocolates like bread made from rye.
Sugar comes down in the hail and the snow,
And lemonade drips from the sky.
At last came the hour of departure, a sad one for the grownups, but the children were
so full of expectations that they scarcely realized it. Even the youngest, who was only
five years old, looked around in surprise, and, when they had driven the Norwegian mile to
Drammen, called out, "Mother, are we in America now?"
The first night they stopped at Gjellebek. The next day they continued the journey
through Aker to Christiania, where they were to embark. Here they met a family of
relatives who were to accompany them. Thus they formed one big family of grownups, young
people, and children. A member of the party lately related that many of their neighbors
came to say good-by and pitied them because they were going to that "heathen"
land, America. Both families stopped in Piperviken, where emigrants usually lodged in
those days. The ship on which they had engaged passage was named "Tegner" and
was commanded by Captain Falk. It was a sailship and this was the last voyage on which it
carried passengers. It had to undergo a number of repairs, so that our friends had to wait
two whole weeks before they finally sailed. Such delays are quite unbelievable in our day,
but all they could do was to wait patiently.
For the young folks the stay in Christiania was very pleasant. They made acquaintances,
took long walks, and amused themselves as only carefree youth can do. The boys,
especially, had a lot of fun in the market place. They enjoyed the gay life and all the
noise and racket there very much. They even dared to play tricks on the old women selling
wares. Thus one of the boys went up to one of them and said, "Mother, will you have a
drink?" She, poor thing, followed the naughty boys to a public house. They pushed her
through the door and then took to their heels as fast as they could.
Emigrants in those days had to provide themselves with food for the journey, enough to
last even if the passage proved longer than expected. They had to rack their brains to get
supplies together in the best way. One of the fathers deplored, after they had come
aboard, that they had bought so little gammelost (a strong Norwegian cheese).
"Since you have been so stingy about it, I'll not even let you taste it," he
said. Alas, the very first time he treated himself to this delicious cheese be became very
seasick, and, seized by an irresistible impulse, he had to offer it to Neptune. It was the
first and the last time that he tasted the cheese while on shipboard. This happened the
first time there was stormy weather on the North Sea.
A large basket filled with rusks and a jar filled with syrup were brought for extra
treats, but, when they would taste of these delicacies, they had disappeared. It was
presumed that some of the sailors had taken them. The little ones had hoped to lick the
syrup jar, but were disappointed.
Our friends fortunately got their berths amidships. Some young women (jomfruer)
from Christiania had their berths near by. Their place was called "Maidens' Bower"
(jomfrubur). On April 19,1855, the ship weighed anchor and sailed out from
Christiania-Fjord. There were between two and three hundred passengers on board. Most of
them were from Valdres, Hadeland, and Toten, a few families were from the vicinity of
Drammen, and nearly all the rest were from Christiania.
It was with mingled feelings that the adults left their native land, which most of them
scarcely dared hope to see again. I do not know whether or not they gave vent to their
feelings by singing patriotic songs. At any rate they did not sing "Ja, vi
elsker dette landet" for the good reason that it was not yet in existence. The little
ones looked with curious eyes at all that was strange and unknown. In Drøbak the ship
took in water. A few passengers came aboard at Moss. At Færder they called, "Færder
ud," and the voyage began in earnest.
Accommodations on board were primitive. It was especially hard to get food cooked as
there were only a couple of galleys for the use of emigrants. Everyone had to wait his
turn, but here in this little world it was as it is in the world at large. Those who were
most enterprising and aggressive were served first, and the others had to wait. The ship's
cook was very kind, and he permitted some of the emigrants to cook in his galley. This was
against the rules, and he got a flogging from the mate when it was discovered. The little
girls were frightened and thought the mate a real monster. The children were very fond of
tea, probably because they put sugar into it. When they were out on the North Sea, tea was
served, and the children used a lot of sugar. They became seasick, and, although this soon
passed away, one of them has been unable to drink sweet tea since that time.
The weather was favorable most of the time, but there was stormy weather on several
occasions, and then it was very disagreeable, for the ship rolled horribly and more than
one tragicomical accident happened. One family was sitting down to a meal when someone was
passing by with a pail of dirty water. Before they were aware of it, the contents of the
pail splashed over them and the food. As could be expected, they were angry, but what is
done cannot be undone, and, when the sinner made humble excuses, they had to let the
Time passed slowly for the emigrants, but the little ones played and enjoyed themselves
all day long. The grown-up young people also enjoyed themselves. When there was no breeze
the captain told them to dance, for then a wind would spring up, and they gladly followed
his suggestion. Those from the city waltzed and schottisched. The others danced springdans
and halling. The people from the mountain districts wore their national
costumes, but the others did not appreciate them, at least one little girl did not, for
she said to her cousin of the same age, "I wonder if they can like each other
when they wear such horrid clothes." A merry lad from Valdres amused himself by
imitating the dance of the city folks. He wore a red cap with a big tassel that swung back
and forth when he turned around in his solo dance. One day there was a heavy wind, and
suddenly his cap was lifted from his head and carried overboard, where it continued the
dance on top of the billows until it disappeared in the deep.
Most of the people were in good health on the voyage, but a few were sick nearly the
whole time. These stayed in bed a good share of the time and did not get up until the ship
landed. There was no doctor aboard, but the captain had a dispensary, and he gave medicine
according to his best judgment to those who were sick. Two children died and one was born
on the ship. The baby was christened by the captain and was named Anne Tegneria.
There were not many red-letter days, but Sundays were different from the rest, for then
all who were well gathered on the deck. The captain read a sermon, and hymns were sung. On
Pentecost Sunday our friends were especially festive. They had fiøtegrøt, made
from cream that had been boiled down and taken along from home.
Though these emigrants were common people, there were class differences among them.
There were a few madamer and jomfruer on board. This was before the titles frue
and frøken were used, except in the upper classes of society. Those who lived
near town were called mor so-and-so. Those from the mountain regions called each
other by their baptismal names in patriarchal manner. The spirit among the emigrants,
taken all in all, was genial and friendly. Sometimes they had difficulty in understanding
one another, since different dialects were spoken. Several of the older women from the
uplands smoked their pipes like men, and young, pretty girls also had learned to smoke,
but, as long as they were not married, they did it on the sly. They ran around and were so
obliging, saying, "Let me light your pipe, mother." When they had done
this, they would take some good whiffs, just to be sure that it would draw, of course.
A family from Christiania must have been of a romantic nature, for they had named their
two oldest children Axel and Valborg after the leading characters in the old ballad
"Axel Tordsen og skjøn Valborg." The youngest child they had not named after
any mythical person, but after Gjest BŚrdsen himself. The reason for this was that the
father had been a guard in the prison where BŚrdsen was confined, and had become so
attached to the convict that he named his child after him. These children were playmates
of our young friends, and they had a lot of fun together.
At times they met ships that they hailed. Then the thoughts of many of the emigrants
turned to the homes they had left, and their hearts were filled with sadness. How they
would have liked to send a greeting home! After a long while they saw lofty mountains in
the distance. How happy the youngsters were at the thought of nearing land! To their
disappointment they learned that what they saw were icebergs, and that it was dangerous to
draw near them. They had to remain on the banks of Newfoundland for three days on account
of a calm. They spent the time in fishing, and the fresh fish which they caught provided a
pleasant change in diet. When at last the wind filled the sails of the ship, they set
their course toward Quebec, and after a while the pilot came on board. He was a
dark-complexioned man, and his hair was streaked with gray. He gave his commands in
English, of course. The little ones, who did not understand a word of what he said,
thought he was angry and they were afraid of him. Even after they had been in America for
a long while, when they heard people talk English, they thought the people were angry,
because words and voices sounded so sharp.
At last land was sighted: the promised land, the object of their longings! The ship
moved rapidly on. They came into the St. Lawrence River, which, like a broad silver
ribbon, wound its way between green shores. Those who had been sick during the voyage had
got up and viewed with indescribable joy the beautiful landscape on both sides of the
river. One of the jomfrus gave voice to her joy in these words, "God be
praised that we have reached America. Oh, how lovely it is!" At the quarantine
station doctors came on board, but, as no one was sick, the ship passed on without delay
until it anchored at Quebec. Here the emigrants remained a few days. One of the little
girls rubbed her eyes and did not know what to believe, for one morning when she awoke she
thought the town had moved around. It took some time before she understood that the ship
had moved and that the city was lying as before.
A young carpenter from Drammen, together with his wife and child, who was in company
with our friends, stayed at Quebec, as he had friends there who thought he could get
plenty of work at that place. He stayed there for some time, but went west later on and
joined his old friends again. They left a lot of extra food with him that they could not
take along. They took only enough to last the remainder of the journey. An exception was a
lad who had a kvartel (one-fourth of a barrel) of salted herring with him. It was
for Pastor Brandt who had been in America for a couple of years; thus he is a Nestor among
Norwegian ministers in this country. The boy had a lot of trouble in getting it to
Milwaukee, but he got it there in good shape.
The young carpenter, who is now an old man, recently told me that the food left with
them came in very handy, as he had nothing but his trade to fall back on. He got work
soon, however. He made bureaus and got three dollars for each. As all the work had to be
done very carefully and exactly, he could not work very fast, so he made but little. Later
his employer gave him one dollar more for each piece, as he was anxious to keep him. They
were fortunate in renting rooms from a French family who were very kind. They did not
understand one another's language, but by the help of the universal sign language they
managed pretty well. When they left, their host hired a wagon and took them to the wharf.
In return the carpenter gave him his stovepipe hat, as he thought he would not have much
use for it as a pioneer.
After the emigrants left the ship that had been their home for about six weeks, they
continued the journey by steamboat to Montreal and from there by canalboat and railroad. A
man named Jørgensen from Christiania accompanied them as interpreter. He could, of
course, not be everywhere, so the following episode took place in Montreal. One of the
jomfrus asked a man, "Hvor langt er det til Buffalo?" (How far is it to
Buffalo?) The man did not understand her, so she spoke louder and more distinctly, but he
only laughed and shook his head. Then she repeated very slowly, "H-v-o-r l-a-n-g-t
e-r d-e-t t-i-l B-u-f-f-a-l-o?" When he still could not understand her, she exclaimed
in her native tongue, "How stupid people are in America! They can't understand me,
and I speak so distinctly."
When they got off the canalboat one of the young girls had a bad accident. As the
people and their belongings were being unloaded, one of the boatmen accidentally shoved
against her so that she fell into the water. One of the men jumped into the water and
pulled her out quite ungallantly, grasping her by the hair.
The immigrants passed so close to Niagara Falls that they could see them. They heard
the roar like distant thunder. They went by railroad from Buffalo to Chicago. The only
memorable thing about that ride was that they could not lay hands on their provisions,
and, since they could not buy anything either, they were without food from morning till
night. When they at last got at the food, the children were so hungry that even the dry
ship biscuits tasted fine. One of the fathers said, laughing, that they were glad to eat
what they previously had turned up their noses at. They stopped only one night in Chicago
and went from there to Milwaukee. Here they had to remain till they could get
transportation with Norwegian farmers to the Muskego settlement. While here the boys
roamed about. They bathed in the Milwaukee River far out of town where the water was fresh
and inviting. Here they splashed about to their hearts' content. But their pleasure ended
abruptly. Some mischievous boys had sneaked after them and began to throw stones at them.
They dressed hurriedly, but by that time their tormentors were far away.
At last they secured conveyance. Boxes and chests were piled on the wagons. On top of
one of the boxes one of the mothers with her two youngest children and her young niece
were placed. Here the little ones towered quite proudly when they started off. But, ah!
Their joy was short-lived. The box was not fastened securely enough, and before they knew
it the box and those on it went over the side of the wagon. A wheel passed over the arm of
the five-year-old fellow. The others were badly frightened but not hurt. If the accident
were to happen today, the child would be taken to a hospital for a thorough examination.
Not so then, for there was not a hospital in the whole town of Milwaukee, and besides
people were not so easily frightened. The father lifted him and found that his arm was not
broken, but only badly bruised. He took him over to a pump and pumped water on the arm,
then put a bandage around it, and the journey was continued.
They traveled slowly as the loads were heavy and the equipment poor. A plank road had
been made over the impassable swamps and marshes between Milwaukee and Muskego. There were
tollgates so that everybody had to pay for using the road. It was about twenty miles to
their destination, near the old Muskego church.
Our friends heard, upon arriving, that their relatives had moved to Iowa, but they
fortunately had old friends in the Heg and Skofstad families, so well known in the history
of Muskego. Hans C. Heg, who died as colonel of the Fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment in the
Civil War, lived on his parents' farm, as they were both dead. He received the travelers
most hospitably. The older folks slept in the house, but the children had to sleep out in
the big barn, where, through the years, hundreds of immigrants had found shelter. The
immigrants had a busy time getting their clothes washed and aired, both bedding and other
linen, so they had to stay in Muskego a couple of weeks. One of the families remained in
Muskego for a time, as did the grown-up children of the other.
It may be told here that the "great expectations" of the children were not
realized. They saw nothing fancy either in clothes or food. They saw no delicious berries
or fruits as they had imagined they would. At home in Norway they had a lot of beautiful
wild flowers -- blue and white anemones, violets, lilies of the valley, and many, many
others. Here they saw none of these dear, well-known friends. Among the feathered flock
they neither saw nor heard many acquaintances. Neither did the birds twitter and sing as
they did at home. Most of all they missed the cuckoo, the bird which figures in so many
stories and myths. When they heard the whippoorwill, they cherished it in place of the
cuckoo, for it is also shy and mysterious. It hides in the woods and sings only when it is
And what happened to all their other happy anticipations? Alas, they were not realized.
The little girls did not get any American dolls at all. They had to content themselves
with making dolls from sticks of wood with pieces of cloth wrapped around them. The glamor
was gone; after that they saw only the stern reality.
Our friends were used to seeing people with neat, clean clothes, at least when they
went away from home, but here people were very careless and most of them dressed in an
ugly, slovenly fashion. One of the boys, who is now an old man, recently said that once,
while he was in Muskego, he went to a meeting to hear a lay preacher. While the
congregation sat and waited, a man came in, attired in a dirty, grayish-white duster and
trousers which were thrust into his boots in Yankee fashion. He had waded through swamps
and marshes to reach his destination, so his boots were wet and muddy. When he went
forward to address the gathering the boy whispered to his neighbor in surprise, "Is
it possible that a preacher would look like that?"
As was mentioned before, one family got ready to go to Iowa, where the husband's
brother lived. The party consisted of the father and mother and the four youngest
children, also a brother and sister of Hans C. Heg. The others were coming later. They
hired transportation from Muskego to Galena, Illinois, which is located near the
Mississippi River. They went through the region where there were big lead mines in those
days, where many Norwegians had found work. From Galena they went by steamboat up the
river to Lansing, a small town in northeastern Iowa. This steamboat ride was anything but
pleasant, for the passengers were stowed together with cattle and other freight.
Fortunately it was not far.
Upon arriving at Lansing, they found that they were asked an unreasonable sum of money
for transportation to their destination, about thirty miles west. As their cash was nearly
gone, the head of the family declared they could not pay that much. He said, "It is
only slightly farther than from Drammen to Christiania, and I have walked between those
two towns many a time." No doubt that was not a great achievement for a grown man,
but for women and children it was a hard job. Fortunately it was in the month of June,
when the days were longest, and besides, if they could not make it by daylight, they could
make use of the night. So they started out, a whole procession, with young Heg, who had
been there before, as the leader. They had to leave their baggage till they could send for
it. They had only some lunch and a few small packages with them. Only the father had quite
a large and heavy package to carry, namely, his five-year-old son, whom he had to carry on
his back. With this burden he walked the whole way. The reader will remember how the
little one had been hurt in Milwaukee. His arm still pained him, and he was sick and sore,
so that he neither could nor would take a single step.
The ground is very hilly on both sides of the Mississippi River, so they walked mostly
up hill till they reached the highest point. The first part of the journey was easy and
our little friend was very happy and gay. Every little while she saw some flower that she
had to pick, and so she took many needless steps that she later bitterly regretted. At
noon they came to an empty house, and near by was a spring, so they decided to stop and
eat dinner. They built a fire and put on a kettle -- to cook coffee, those reading this
will surely think. Ah, no, they had no coffee; only some tea, so they had to be satisfied
with that. It was better than hot water at any rate, they thought. Our old Norwegian
friends had not yet learned to drink hot water as the dyspeptic Americans did.
But they could not rest long if they were to reach their destination. Bravely they took
up their journey and walked mile after mile. The little girls were not so merry now, but
tired and gloomy. They grew more and more weary. The last few miles, the youngest child
was so tired that she could scarcely move her feet. Joy was gone, and her smile had
changed to tears. When they at last reached their relatives, it was late at night. The
children were so exhausted that they sank down on the floor and went to sleep. They were
sore and stiff for several days, but otherwise they did not suffer from their memorable
It is left to the imagination of the reader to picture the meeting of these relatives,
who had not seen each other for many, long years. The correspondence had been meager, and
so there was much to talk about. It took several days before they had received information
about all that had happened to them and their mutual friends in the years they had passed
on both sides of the ocean.
They had at last reached their destination, and the journey was ended. Most members of
the family remained where they first settled. Strangely enough, not any of them have
revisited the land of their birth, but the youngest have dreamed about going back, and
perhaps some fine day their dreams will be realized.
The parents and the older brothers and sisters have, one after the other, made the last
great journey from which no one returns. Here the journey ends, but, if the reader is not
too tired, we will ask him to follow the children a little further on the road.
Jacob Riis tells us in his book, The Making of an American, how he became an
American. Our young friends began to go through a similar process from the very beginning.
They became loyal Americans with heart and soul, but they have not forgotten their native
land. They guard their native inheritance most carefully. If it were in their power, the
Norwegian language, culture, and customs would hold their own for a long time to come.
Their grown-up cousins immediately began to teach the little girls English. They were
very anxious to learn, so they made quick progress. Quite soon they entered the English
school. When they started school, they had to have new names. Our friend, whose name began
with "N," was called Nellie. The Americans thought the Norwegian names
were difficult to pronounce and did not bother about them. They simply gave them names
that began with the same letter or sound as their Norwegian names. The innocent newcomers
thought it was fine to get such strange names, and so it became the common fashion. Knut
and Kittil became Charley; Halvor, Harvey; Helge, Henry; Ingeborg, Belle; Befit and
Birgit, Betsy; Tot, Trond, Torsten, and Tollev, Tom; Guro and Guri, Julia; Siri and
Sigrid, Sarah; and so on. Ole we have not seen changed except to Oley. The Americans had
heard about Ole Bull and had no trouble in pronouncing his name.
In her book, I de lange nætter (During the Long Nights), Camilla Collett tells
how as a child she was called Bina, a shortening of her first name, Jakobine. Then, when
she was still small, her father decided that she should be called by her other baptismal
name. She moralizes about names and says among other things that they place you under
obligations. Perhaps it was so with our Norwegian immigrants and their children; the new
names helped to Americanize them.
In school the children began with the primer, which is the same as the Norwegian A-B-C
book. They advanced in a little while to the first reader, and so they went on. In those
days not so many subjects were taught in the common school as at present. Besides
spelling, particular attention was paid to reading. It is a pleasure to hear some of the
old school children read. That cannot be said about all children in our day, in spite of
the long time they spend in school.
It was not long before the little newcomer girls caught up to those who had gone to
school much longer. The younger of the two eventually taught in the district school, but
that does not belong to this story.
The Norwegian pioneers also wanted their children to be instructed in the language and
faith of their fathers. They established a Norwegian school, but at first they had no
schoolhouses, and school was held in the various homes. Teacher and children gathered in
the same room in which the housewife was busy with her work. It must often have been
unpleasant for her. Our friend remembers that once some naughty boys amused themselves by
throwing wads of paper into pans of milk that stood on a shelf. Those who saw it began to
laugh. When the teacher saw it, he began asking questions, with the result that the guilty
ones, who sat as sober as parsons, escaped punishment, while the innocent got a severe
scolding. In many Norwegian stories incidents from such schools are told, mainly comical.
A number could be told from the early Norwegian schools here in America.
While they lived in their uncle's home, the little girls wanted to be helpful. Since
their help was not needed in the house, they got an original impulse to wash the cow
stable. Even their little brother helped. They carried water from the creek and scrubbed
as well as they knew how with some old brooms that they found. They thought it looked very
nice even if it could not be compared to Dutch stables. They expected to be praised, but
got the opposite instead, for, since it was the fall of the year, the floor dried slowly,
and their aunt was afraid that the cows would fall and break their legs. They had no sense
at all, she thought. Fortunately no accident occurred, but it was certainly both the first
and last time that they carried cleanliness so far.
Between the terms of school, there were not many holidays for little girls, for they
were in great demand as nurse-girls. The young mothers did not know what to do. They often
had two or three little ones to care for, and, besides working in the house, they had to
help outside during the busiest seasons. At first there were no fenced pastures, and they
had to watch the cattle so that they would not get lost. Consequently there was quite a
demand for the services of little girls who came to the settlement.
Our friend remembers her first job distinctly. It was during her first summer in
America. She was to take care of two children, the older not quite two years of age, and
the baby only a few months. The house was in a grove that seemed very large and dark to
her. As she could not take care of the older child if it got outside, the mother fastened
the door securely when she had finished her morning's work. She then went out and helped
her husband until it was time to prepare dinner. She was very kind to her little
nursemaid, but the little girl endured it only one week; then her older sister took her
Later she went to another family. Here the woman talked about getting epler (apples).
How delighted she was at the thought! She had not seen apples since she left Norway, and
she wondered where the orchard was, since she did not see any near by. But the woman did
not go after them either. Then one day the woman asked her to take the epler out of
the kettle and set them on the table. Delighted she hurried to take the cover off the
kettle and saw -- only boiled potatoes! Then she understood that it was potatoes the woman
called epler and, alas, there was no other kind of apple. In this place she saw for
the first time a beautiful, shining, red fruit that looked very inviting. My, it would
taste good, she thought; so she took a big bite, but could not swallow it. The taste was
very disagreeable. The reader guesses readily that this fruit was the tomato, generally
cultivated and enjoyed by Americans. Later she learned to like it any way that it was
The next summer she went to a new place, several miles away from home. She stayed there
ten or eleven weeks. She was homesick at first, but went home only once during her stay
there. There were no good roads at that time, only some faint impressions of wheels, which
often were lost in the tall prairie grass. No wonder she lost her way when she was going
home and had a lot of trouble in finding the right direction again! How happy she was to
see all the folks at home! Sunday went all too fast. Monday morning she had to be off
again, but it was with a heavy heart and slow footsteps that she went back. Mechanically
she moved her feet while her thoughts lingered with her dear home. Suddenly she was roused
from her dreams by a shower of rain. Before she knew it her stiffly starched dress was
sopping wet. She could not go on that way, so she turned back, happy to be able to stay a
little longer. Her mother had to get her dress dried and ironed and so she did not leave
until the next morning.
Later in the fall Norwegian school began, and her sister was sent to bring her home.
While in this place she had learned to talk as the people she lived with; and, while she
and her sister trudged homeward, she found that she had forgotten many of the words of
their own dialect; consequently, the sister, feeling quite superior, of course, had to
It was often tiresome to take care of babies. At first in her innocence she was
comforted by this thought: "Oh, how nice it will be when these children grow up. Then
I'll escape this work." Later she found that she had not figured correctly, for a lot
of new babies took the places of those who grew up.
Yes, thus time has gone. Her workday, begun so early, still continues. May she and all
of us rest well after our work has been well done!
<1> This paper first appeared in Symra, 10:120-157 (1913), under the title
"En Amerika-reise for seksti aar siden." The child who figures in this story was
the author's mother, Nicoline Hansen Hegg, who was born in 1844. She married the Reverend
Abraham Jacobson in 1865, and died in 1929.