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Scandinavia, Wisconsin {1}
By Alfred O. Erickson  (Volume XV: Page 185)

Ingebret and Ingeborg Eriksen, my parents, were among the first of the covered-wagon pioneers at what became Scandinavia, Waupaca County, Wisconsin. Ingebret was born at Slemdahl, Telemarken, on November 23, 1819; Ingeborg Olsdatter Solverud was also born there, on March 12, 1830. On November 16, 1850, they were married by the Reverend H. A. Stub at Norway Prestegaard, Racine County, Wisconsin, the nearest church to Muskego. Ingebret had arrived at Muskego in 1846 at the age of twenty-seven. At eight dollars a month he acquired eighty acres of land near Pine Lake, close to Muskego, and let no one think he did not encounter privation and hunger in the process. In 1850 his betrothed, Ingeborg, arrived with her parents, Ole and Kari Solverud, and her brothers.

Ingebret was not particularly contented in the vicinity of Muskego. The productivity of the soil did not measure up to his expectations; he wanted more and better land. So, impelled by the Norwegian propensity to roam, to rove, to explore, to see what is beyond, he and Isak Toldness from Porsgrund, who was to be his brother-in-law, traveled on foot for more than a hundred miles, mostly on the winter's snow crust, to what became Scandinavia. Here they found farm land more promising. Returning, Ingebret sold his eighty acres, and in 1852 he and Ingeborg fitted up an improvised covered wagon and with little Erick, their first-born, set out on the northwesterly journey, trekking with oxen and letting their two cows and a yoke of steers browse along after the caravan. With undaunted courage and unconquerable wills they made the venture. More timid Muskegoans had warned them against Indians, against the lack of roads and the multitude of lakes and streams; asked how they would get food or medical aid if needed. Such were the sentiments at Muskego, but go the Eriksens must. Neighbors gathered around their caravan to wish them luck and Godspeed. "If you make it, let us know, and we will come too," they said.

Almost from the time Ingebret emerged from the cradle in Telemarken, he had done a man's work. Cutting timber was his daily vocation. He had a stepmother; he was more or less "pushed around"; and he yearned to go to America to better his condition. His father, Erik Ingebretsen, quite readily gave permission. Thus, trusting to his lusty muscle, rugged physique, and indomitable determination, Ingebret prepared to leave.

In so doing he incurred a disagreeable tirade of abuse from his pastor, the Reverend Mr. Steinbuk. The parson stormed at him. "So Erik Ingebretsen, my old and cherished friend, will take this risk!" he exclaimed.

Between breaths, Ingebret got a word in. "May I correct you, Reverend -- it is not my father I am petitioning for; indeed it is I."

"Oh! That I can believe," retorted the pastor. "It is you, stubborn, unruly, and disobedient son; it is you! Well, go -- and good riddance!"

Many, many times during the Muskego-Scandinavia trek Ingebret had to cut a way through the forest. It took the family over a month to make the expedition, weaving their way among the innumerable lakes and streams. Their meals consisted of salt pork, coffee, and porridge; at least they had flour and milk aplenty. The two cows, Ingeros and Blomeros, grazed as they straggled along behind the caravan, and supplied the principal nourishment. Mother said, "We were not much afraid of wild animals on the way, but we shuddered with fear at the shrill shrieks of the semi-nude redskins, lashing their spotted ponies and galloping through the trails." To break the monotony in food it might have been wise to take along a shotgun and a hook and line, but they had not done so. There were many harrowing incidents en route, but I must go on with the main features of this narrative, told so many times to me, so vivid in my mind.

Obviously my parents did not know that the region to which they were going was still Indian land; at any rate, that part of Wisconsin was subject to various Indian incursions, and these intrepid vikings actually settled there before the treaty between the government and the Indian tribes had been concluded. The Indians were combative, belligerent, and obstreperous -- they did not take kindly to invasion by the whites.

At long last, however, the Eriksen caravan reached the coveted spot. There they were, the wagon halted at an open tract on the west bank of the south branch of the Little Wolf River, a beautiful gurgling stream shrouded with gorgeous foliage and edged with wild fruit trees; to the left they could discern a huge, dense forest of birch, pine, and spruce; to the right they beheld Dreutzer Lake (later called Silver Lake) in an indescribable scenic setting. Ingeborg, with Erick the first-born in her arms, emerged from the kubberulle; the oxen were unyoked to graze with the rest of the stock. Father often told of this moment: how Mother Ingeborg, tall and slim, her flaxen curls fluttering in the breeze, both wept and laughed in ecstasy as she beheld a spot so much like Telemarken -- for, though the land they had chosen was only slightly rolling, they saw in the offing huge wooded knolls and ridges. Mother said, "I will go no farther -- I will stay here." Then on bended knees they offered a fervent supplication to God, as they had been taught in childhood.

There were just a few earlier settlers near where my parents located: Hans Jakob Eliasen, Johan Rosholt, Johan Peter Mikkelsen -- about a dozen in all, three families of whom were Swiss. On the second day Mother sowed some buckwheat, scratching the seed into the dirt with a dry branch. That was their first crop. Then came the willing neighbors with their axes and made a foray on the tall trees, chopping them down, peeling off the bark, and ripping some into boards for roofing; up went a fine log house and next a huge log barn. These neighbors always conformed to the rule of reciprocity, helpfulness, and hospitality; and that rule continues to this day.

It took brawn and energy to clear and develop the farm, but the work went fast and crops were bountiful. The principal problem was to overcome the hatred of the treacherous Indians. They were not so easily soothed, for they considered the land theirs. Occasionally while Ingebret toiled in the clearing the Indians would come canoeing down the stream, jump out and grab a lamb, a pig, or a calf, and make off with the loot, although the forest was literally teeming with wild game. Ingebret feared them and offered no combat.

But as the years rolled on, the Indians became more conciliatory, even friendly. I remember that even as late as my day they would come to our home, particularly in zero weather, bowing and smiling, pointing to the larder. Mother would set before them a few pans of rendered fat and a few loaves of bread; they would sit near the stove and eat; then offer thanks and take their leave. My older brothers understood much of their speech.

One Swiss family was that of Casper Zwicky, one of the finest families in that community, kind, helpful, and law-abiding. His first-born was once left alone in the log hut while the parents were out in the field. When they returned at evening the babe was missing, to their consternation and anxiety. Neighbors joined in the search to find the babe. Next morning came the Indians carrying the little tyke unhurt, and brought with them the hindquarter of a deer. They said, in broken English, "We had never seen anything so beautiful, and we could not resist taking the babe to show to our tribes. But here we bring him back unhurt, and as compensation we give you this venison. We shall always be of friendly aid to the whites."

Though in the beginning -- in 1850 and the years immediately following -- the settlers' houses were of logs, as farms were developed and cultivated extensively, great commodious frame buildings were erected, modern barns and granaries, and later silos. The farmers soon found that the region was particularly adapted for potatoes and dairying; butter and cheese factories were established all over the county. Guernsey cows were raised for butter and Holsteins for cheese. Morning saw a continuous procession of teams hauling milk and cream to the cheese and butter factories. In autumn potatoes were hauled to the station of the Green Bay and Western Rail Road, for shipment to Chicago.

By 1860 every piece of land worth cultivating had been taken up. Then there was a tremendous influx of newcomers. In summer they found employment as farm hands, and in winter they repaired to the "pineries," or lumber camps. These rugged men from Norway, skilled in the use of ax and saw, had no difficulty in getting work, and how they throve on it! When spring came, and there was no more snow for hauling the pine logs, they found work in the numerous sawmills; and some of them, who knew how to drive logs down the Wolf River to Oshkosh, Neenah, and Menasha, earned five dollars a day! The great majority of them, sober, industrious, and frugal, found tracts of land here or there, and soon became independent.

To this day Scandinavia is a religious, law-abiding community. Right from the start, in 1852, agitation for a church began, but funds could not be raised immediately. "Use Ingebret Eriksen's huge barn!" the settlers said. It was a marvelous barn -- made of tamarack logs, barked, notched at either end, and covered with split cedar shingles. The doors were of boards, with hickory pegs for nails. And in this barn Lutheran services were held. The Reverend Mr. Brandt was the first pastor; then followed Muus, Koren, Duus, Mikkelsen, Museus, Ellestad, and Ole Nilson. Others substituted at times. In the sixties the strikingly attractive Lutheran church was erected on land given by Ingebret Eriksen, and it stood until taken down in recent years.

One of the early ministers, O. F. Duus, {2} was a "knockout." After a short stay in Scandinavia, he and his family left to live in Trondheim, Norway. Years later he wrote to my father, under date of February 18, 1890. "I have received your good letter, enclosing the photograph of your beautiful house. What an improvement over the old log house, where I spent so many happy hours with you, your departed wife, and your large, fine family!" Then, like all of the ministers, he inquired about the people in his former congregation, recalling them by name.

Yes, I called Duus a knockout. He was not a very large man but was muscular and athletic -- a skilled boxer, as he demonstrated. When he came to Scandinavia, Father was the first to make his acquaintance, we lived so close to the parsonage. Now down in the village there lived two brothers, blacksmiths, Nels and Simon Aamodt. They were like the vikings of old in daring and combat; they never neglected to get into fistic encounters. Proud of their prowess and fighting ability, giants in strength, after imbibing sufficient alcohol they challenged all comers. This was their week-end entertainment, to the dismay and chagrin of the peace-loving people.

Olaus Duus, concentrating on his Sunday's sermon about the first or second Saturday of his occupancy of the parsonage, heard the outrageous noise, cursing, and disturbance emanating from the village, half a mile away. He hastened down to Ingebret and inquired about the unusual hilarity and unpardonable profanity, saying that he could not study his text.

Ingebret cautioned him: "No one can stop those two Aamodt brothers; when they get obstreperous it's best to let them alone. This is their regular week-end pastime, and nothing can be done about it -- they are the community champions."

"Is that so!" retorted Duus. "I am going down there and I shall quell the abominable noise; I know something about the manly art myself."

Ingebret stared at him in amazement.

"Here's how you do it," said the minister. "At the opportune moment plant a violent, well-directed punch just below the breastbone, and down the man will go. Come, and I'll show you the trick."

Father, a man of peace, refused, but Duus hurried down to the village and joined in the melee. He planted his "haymakers," and the champions went down for the count. Thenceforth the two brothers had a respectful fear of the fighting parson. Now, though this was long before my time and seems an incredible account of a man of the cloth, the truth can easily be verified. {3}

----End of Part 1----

From what the various ministers said, Scandinavia was a choice spot. How much grief and dismay when a change was made! Neither the pastors nor the congregation wanted to change, but off the clergymen would have to go. I never beheld such love and devotion between parishioners and pastor, such visiting, such cheerfulness; yes, and they bore him gifts of all kinds. It seemed to break the women's hearts when their beloved minister had to leave, yet they grew equally fond of his successor.

I am thinking especially of the departure of the Reverend Mr. Mikkelsen, the one most loved. He served the Scandinavia congregation in the sixties until, much against his will, he was transferred to Chicago. On May 16, 1870, he wrote my father his first Chicago letter. In it he deprecated the new environment -- the noise, the conglomerate populace, the many foreigners, the impoverished congregation, his own illness. "They have such poor and inexperienced doctors here," he writes. "I have to make a periodical journey thirty-seven miles from Chicago for medical help. They say I have brain fever. They think I should go to Europe, but that is out of the question. {4} Doctor Bock, from New York, is at present at Koshkonong, and I have thought of going to see him . . . . How we miss dear old Scandinavia and our dear friends! Yes, our son Michael sat down and wept; he said, 'I am going back to Scandinavia!' . . . . It was so sad to part with you at Oshkosh. I turned around and looked back at you as we parted on the big bridge, but you kept on going." Then he prayerfully hopes that the new pastor at Scandinavia will be liked.

After Mikkelsen came the Reverend Johan Karl August Museus, and what a messy finale he made! Church strife, quarrels, bickering, factionalism, even hatred, were rife. The congregation tried to be rid of him, but Museus was a smart parliamentarian, and he stood adamant. Those who opposed him counseled with Father as to how to bring about Museus' dismissal.

Ingebret wrote to divers former ministers, deploring the situation, but not one would meddle with the perplexing controversy. "Church rules preclude interference," was all they would offer. Finally in exasperation Father wrote to Professor W. E. Frich insisting that some line of action, some solution, be devised and promoted in order to save what was left of a congregation distraught and shattered by controversy.

Strange to say, after a few exchanges of letters, Professor Frich yielded; he would formulate a plan to be suddenly adopted at a regularly constituted congregational meeting and to be followed minutely. Pledging Father not to divulge his part in the crisis, Frich said that he would send the instructions by registered mail.

Father went daily to the post office, and on November 10, 1882, he got a real shock. The letter, registered, was at the post office, but it had been opened and put back in his box. He demanded an explanation of the postmaster, Lars Nilsen. "I know nothing about it," Nilsen maintained.

I was a mere child then, but my recollection of the following Sunday is still vivid. The Reverend Mr. Museus mounted the pulpit and with a smirk of bravado gazed down to where Dad and I sat in the front row. "I understand," he said, "that there are additional charges conjured up against your pastor. I think Ingebret Eriksen sitting down there has his pocket full."

The sermon he delivered I don't remember, but the Frich plan worked out admirably. The meeting was held according to directions; the foreman opened the meeting, stated its purpose, and then asked, "Do I hear a motion?" That was the signal for clamor. Everyone was on his feet to be heard! The motion was made, seconded, and carried. Then the meeting was adjourned -- some going home with bruises. "Come across with the keys to church and parsonage," demanded the foreman.

And Museus complied; he knew when he was beaten. With headgear askew and a smirk on his lips, he strutted home to his very charming wife. Precipitately they took their leave for Norway; there he operated a dairy farm. Both he and his wife lived to a good old age. I visited them in Oslo in 1924; they were then eighty-one and eighty years old respectively. And let it not be thought that his larder was impoverished nor his stock of choice liquors low. The two harbored no ill will toward Scandinavia, and "the Reverend" remembered and inquired about all his former parishioners.

Later in the eighties, after Museus left, along came one of the finest and most learned of them all, the Reverend Nels J. Ellestad. His charming young wife was from Portland, Maine. They drove up to Scandinavia from Norway, Illinois. Ellestad's congeniality, his rare qualities, his breezy poise and manly bearing, his sincerity and devotion served to still the discordant elements, to heal enmity. He restored friendly feeling and association; the Museus fracas was soon forgotten. After Ellestad came the Reverend Ole Nilsen, and none was more loved and respected. He died some years ago at Grand Forks.

Now, before I close my saga of the clergy, may I give vent to some unorthodox feelings about their behavior? Because of its proximity to church and parsonage, our house became the rendezvous for newcomers and ministers; and the many frequent synodical gatherings inflicted real hardship on our family. Our parents had twelve children, the first nine of whom were boys; Mother was timid and frail and had her hands more than full with her arduous daily tasks. And then, parading up from the railroad station would come three or four big, fat, overfed clergymen, bouncing in on us with agility and alacrity, throwing down their baggage, filling their pipes with strong tobacco. "Well, here we are again!" they would exclaim as they lit their pipes and settled down comfortably.

Came mealtime. They took what was available for the first meal, but after that they became more fastidious. Said the first, "I would like young roast pork, Ingebret," The second, "As for me, I prefer roast veal." The third, "Well, turkey would be most welcome to me."

And Ingebret meekly went to the barnyard and performed the slaughter to satisfy their voracious appetites, and for good measure, if he had no turkey, would raid the henhouse and bring the pullets to the guillotine.

The clergymen did not mind sleeping on straw or cornhusks so long as they had food in abundance, and they had no qualms at staying three or four days. How well I remember them, Homme, Bothne, Stromme, and the king of them all, with the pioneer, traditional, frontier name, the Reverend Hans Gerhard Stub!

In later years, when I spoke of these long visits, the late Nicolay Grevstad, editor of Skandinaven, poked me in the ribs and chuckled, "Well, why should they hurry away when they were being so royally entertained?"

Perhaps comparisons are odious, but I have two cherished relatives who are Lutheran ministers, and I have a clear and well-defined opinion of how they would approach a similar situation. If they came without notice to a household where a busy mother had no one to help her they would first be profuse in apology, and then they would peel off their coats, roll up their sleeves, and take a hand in setting the table, and whipping the meal into form; yes, and help with the dishes after the meal. And in taking their leave they would give the kind hostess a pat on the cheek and probably slip her a coin. What a difference!

One incident concerning a visiting clerical family is still vivid to me. True to the old Norwegian custom, when Christmas approached one year, Mother had cooked and baked enough delicacies to last us from the day before Christmas until January third. She had stowed away a large crate of kavringer and many other dainties, including a jar of sylte. But we had all gone away for the day, and when we came home, there sat a minister and his family. They had simply marched right in, had devoured the whole crate of kavringer and most of the other delicacies, and were just finishing the sylte. "What a lovely winter day it is!" they said blandly.

It may be that these strictures on the visiting clergy for what I consider lack of chivalry and consideration savor of unmerited criticism. I do not of course condemn the clergy in general. The ministers whom we have had at Scandinavia, from 1852 to this day, have been imbued with devout Christian spirit. They possessed the finer sensibilities of culture, and they strove unceasingly to inculcate the word of God and true religion, for the uplifting and betterment of mankind. Their labors had a most salutary and wholesome effect on the community. What would a community of Norwegians be like without a church and a pastor? Their pay was infinitesimal, yet, regardless of bad weather or weariness, they never shirked visiting the sick and afflicted. In the last throes it was the pastor who was summoned and who dried the tears of sorrow and anguish, giving many hours of his precious time to console and comfort the bereaved. The ministers added prestige and dignity to the community, and with them came the church buildings and parochial schools. {5} We owe them unstinted gratitude.

I mentioned our house as a rendezvous for newcomers too, and indeed they came in great numbers. Like the ducks and geese in fall, they knew where to find lodging and food. Some came singly, some in pairs, some with whole families. Were they hungry? They were so famished that they were nearly crazed. After their steerage passage they were tired and sleepy, but they were quite "lively." Father turned them loose in the larder -- no restraint, no restrictions -- to help themselves. They made forays in reckless abandon, and they remained with us until they found either relatives or employment.

I have a vivid recollection of one family group that came to our place. A Norwegian carpenter who had been in this country a few years, a well-mannered, cultured, and God-fearing man, did some work building a shed for us in anticipation of his family's coming from Norway to join him. Shortly thereafter his wife and seven children came. Mother had made some preparations, and as we saw them coming down the road we started to set the table. I have never seen such dire hunger. Four teen-age girls made a rush for the huge milk pitcher on the table. They hung on for dear life, and none would yield. It looked as if the whole table would be upset. The father, poor, sensitive fellow, looked at his children in abject horror. More milk was brought, and soon their parched throats were satisfied. They too were "lively," having come steerage.

But only six years later, at a village dance, two of the girls, garbed in silk, tinsel, and fringe, their clinging raiment accentuating every contour of their comely forms, were gliding about the waxed dancing floor, partnered by some Waupaca "city dudes." The girls had become milliners, dress designers, and salesladies, and had acquired considerable knowledge of the American language.

Mustering up my courage, I approached one of these girls, who had displayed such a thirst for milk six years before. With much grace and chivalry I asked her in perfect Norwegian, "May I have the pleasure of dancing with you?"

With a scornful stare she answered me, "Aye don't know you; you must be introduced. Aye don't speak Norvejan, aye bane American."

For years I beheld the blazing trail of the K------ girls; their performance in grace, style, and ballroom decorum was worthy of emulation by any American girl. I saw the K------ girls frequently at Waupaca, arrayed in the height of fashion, dazzling visions that bewildered the imagination and challenged the understanding.

So far as I remember, the Norwegian immigrants, having gratified their cravings for America, had no thought of going back -- they came here to stay! My mother's parents and brothers, who came in 1850, brought with them carpenter's tools, blacksmithing equipment, and two huge blue-painted chests, ornamented with steel and made, according to the records, in the seventeenth century. Also they brought with them a beautiful stove bearing the name Fossum Jernverk. Oh, yes, and eiderdown feather beds!

In Waupaca County, which includes Scandinavia, Iola, Helvetia, Hitterdahl, Setersdahl, and other scattered communities, the Norwegians predominate. By arduous toil, frugality, and economy, the region has been developed into a wealthy and modern one, with all the latest farming equipment. Many of its sons have attended the agricultural college of the University of Wisconsin. The Scandinavia Academy, built in 1893 and later destroyed by fire, was rebuilt and re-christened as Wisconsin Central College. There is no illiteracy among the sons of the Norwegian pioneers. Most of the immigrants themselves were quick to learn; when Ingebret Eriksen had been in America for five years he had sufficient grasp of his adopted language to serve as a juror and as an interpreter for the court at the county seat, Waupaca.

But to develop wild land into a fruitful farm was no easy task. Before the Eriksen boys had emerged from childhood they did men's work, usually cutting timber in winter and wrestling with farming appliances in summer, observing union hours, as it were -- eight hours in the forenoon and eight in the afternoon. And may I say in the words of the poet:

No man can feel himself alone
The while he bravely stands
Between the best friends ever known,
His two good honest hands.

From dawn to dusk, in shoeless chubby feet, the boys trudged behind oxen and plow, turning the furrows; they planted and sowed, and they garnered bounteous yields. Without modern farming equipment, the boys wielded the scythe in marsh and field, aided in filling the commodious barn, and later, in autumn, the silo. In winter they wore homespun woolens and moccasins made from hide of the hock of calf and steer. The daily menu was unlike today's; we had literally no meat in summer, but a goodly supply of barley soup, corn bread, wheat bread, butter, milk, and potatoes. The menu did not lay on much fat, but it was a sure preventive of arthritis and high blood pressure. Tall and strong we grew; six feet four inches was our average height.

No mortgage sharks or creditors lurked about the place. We drew water from the silurian fount, carved fuel from the tall oaks, filled the cellar with a variety of farm products to tide us over the winter. The miller exacted an infinitesimal toll for grinding the wheat and corn; our clothes were made from homespun wool dyed with sumac, shoes from tanned hides, sorghum from the cane we grew, sugar and syrup from the maple trees, coffee from roasted corn or peas, candles from mutton tallow, soap from grease and ashes; and we raised our own hops for yeast and brew. The woods were prolific with berries, apples, plums, hazelnuts, and what not. We prodded the bear from his lair and slew him for meat, and we bagged the elusive partridge and the fleet-footed hare. We had really little occasion for buying anything. Our only valuable implement was our Wood's reaper, which served the whole of the homogeneous community.

But behold the momentous changes wrought in these last fifty years! Horses, buggies, wagons are almost completely supplanted by automobiles, trucks, tractors; there are electrically operated cream separators, electrically lighted houses and barns, yes, there are even telephones. But in many eases now, everything is mortgaged to the hilt and the bogey man lurks around, threatening foreclosure.

It did not take long for these intrepid pioneers, always helping each other, to whip log houses and barns into form, but after the forest was cleared and crops were sown, the problem arose, where to get fences. Hardwood is not adapted for making rails, and neither sawmills nor wire producers were at hand. The best tree for fence utility is the cedar -- light, easily split, and not susceptible to decay. It was soon found. Twelve miles northeast of Scandinavia there was a great area densely covered with cedar and considerable pine. Near it were some logging camps belonging to wealthy lumbermen of Oshkosh, Menasha, and Neenah, who saw a great future and enormous profit in the logging and lumber business. For an infinitesimal sum Ingebret, Søren Kjendalen, Hans Tveitan, Bernt Simonsen, Christian Nygaard, Knut and Arne Arkosa, and a few others purchased several "forties" of swampland thick with the cedar. They built a community log house and barn, and the great rail splitting and hauling got into full swing. One or two members of a family would stay in the woods cutting and splitting, and another would make the daily trip with sturdy horses and bobsleds.

For thirty years, every day, beginning in December with the first snowfall and continuing up to the middle of March, this was our winter's work. Let no one think it was easy to get up at five o'clock in the morning, drive twelve miles, load up, have dinner, and drive back home the same day before dark, in deep snow and rigorous cold weather -- zero weather chiefly. We also cut and hauled home great numbers of cedar posts, and sold most of them at five cents each. They are fifty cents in Chicago at this writing. {6}

Yes, fences are essential. If you want your neighbor to come storming to your home with clenched fists and violent words, just let your cattle set foot on his land! Just try to get along without substantial fences, and you will begin a lifelong feud. Such trespass is seldom condoned. And it takes brawn and arduous toil to encircle 160 acres with a rail fence, to say nothing of putting in the many cross fences on a farm.

----End of Part 2----

When we hauled the rails we were often roughly used and cursed by the lumber-camp moguls. Through the dense pine forests they had made beautiful roads, sprayed with water to make an icy surface. Over these they could haul huge loads to the Wolf River, to be floated down to the sawmills in the spring. "Get the hell off our roads!" the drivers would yell -- and if we did not scramble out fast enough they invariably jumped off their loads and threatened combat. Sometimes when we had to get off the road we could not get back without unloading our sleds. Dad always pursued the avenue of least resistance; he never raised a hand for a neighbor's injury, and it was we boys who made the daily journeys with team and sleigh. Times innumerable we found the road almost impassable because of snowdrifts.

Every December saw the same program: to the cedar swamp. It interfered with our school work, but there was no letting up on the cedar-post, rail-splitting job. I spent most of the winters between my tenth and fifteenth years with Dad in the cedar swamp. In a way, though, the work was exciting -- about ten o'clock in the morning we could hear the commingling of sleigh bells as six or seven teams came in for loading, and then again the bells as they started to go back at one.

In addition to hard work, however, there was much merriment and amusement in our neighborhood -- dancing, house parties, church and school cantatas, coasting, skiing, and skating. At Christmas time the holiday celebrations started on Christmas Day and continued till January third. In later days a huge roller-skating rink was built in the village and it was well patronized, not only for skating but for dancing -- square dances, cotillions, Virginia reels, waltzes, and hop waltzes. Then too there were church festivals in summer, to which everyone brought lunch and refreshments, and these gatherings were usually attended with songs and religious and patriotic speeches. The community spirit was of the friendliest, and that spirit has continued to this day.

Until recent years there was no saloon or drinking-place in or near Scandinavia. Some of the farmers kept small amounts of alcohol on hand, but no one complained about drunkenness. They were devout churchgoers and supported religious activities. It was rare to find anyone working on Sunday. Still, when ominous clouds appeared and imminent rain threatened during haying and harvesting, there would sometimes be a scattered few at work in the fields.

One particular farmer was prone to do his haying on Sunday. This irritated the parson; he resented and deplored the performance. So one Sunday the minister went over in the field to rebuke the farmer. "Hi, Christian!" he said, "Don't you know that it is wrong and ungodly to work on Sunday, pitching and loading hay, while others attend church? What have you to say for yourself?"

"Vel," retorted Christian, "it can't be any vorse to stand in de load of hay tinking of God dan to sit in church tinking of my hay?

I can testify that the ministers among us very persistently protested against the violation of the Sabbath, likewise against dancing, card playing, and such activities. And how they detested that abominable habit of rounding up a flock of derelicts for a charivari at wedding celebrations! -- the most hideous and scandalous performance, with hoodlums blaring horns, hammering on plowshares, beating drums, and using many other contrivances to make noise. What an infringement upon peace and dignity! I remember one occasion when the boisterous shouting and noise seemed unbearable. When the crowd yelled for the bride and groom to come out, the officiating clergyman, the Reverend Mr. Ellestad, stepped out and lectured the mob and begged them to depart. His remonstrance served only to aggravate their persistence; the leader, a Danish rowdy, ordered his motley crew to make more and louder noise, and demanded that the groom give them a keg of beer or a jug of alcohol. Happily, that kind of celebration now seems to be a thing of the past.

Another mode of celebration, at Christmas time, was the rather innocent one of gathering up a crowd of boys and girls, donning masks and other clownish garb, and then visiting neighbors' homes in disguise. This was called Yule buk. As a rule the farmers fell in with the humor and treated the visitors to refreshments. That sort of amusement, too, has long since been banished.

In the early fifties, after the log houses had been built and land had been put under cultivation, the problem of a village was uppermost. Nels Anderson had built and established a large flour mill, Knut Pedersen had opened a shoemaking shop, and Nels Aamodt a smithy. A grocery store was needed, but how could a store be operated with no transportation -- no railroad? The nearest railroad was at Green Bay. The optimistic farmers kept discussing plans for a solution to this problem. Then came erstwhile Attorney Dreutzer, a Swede, and after he had selected a firm name, one Gasmann and one Sorensen resolved to start a store.

Ingebret Eriksen had just purchased a span of frisky horses, and, to help launch the store, he agreed to haul commodities from Gill's Landing on the Wolf River, about thirty miles southeast of Scandinavia. And what a task he undertook! The road to Gill's Landing was tough, with loose dry sand two-thirds of the distance, and no inhabitants along the way. Then, too, who was to till his fertile acres during his absence with the team? Erik and Anders, his two older boys, were hardly out of knee pants, Mother was not well adapted to such work, and there was little or no farming equipment. But Father was so eager to promote the community that he seemed to forget his own affairs. The two boys did the best they could with what little they had to work with. The meager compensation Ingebret earned for his hauling did not go very far.

Ingebret Eriksen should not have taken up farming for a livelihood. Promoting enterprises was his avocation. One agent after another came to the farm and pounced on Father. "You are Ingebret Eriksen! I want you to go around the county with me while I sell fanning mills -- you can interpret.'' Then off came the denims; Father washed up and invited the agent to sit down for dinner; and then he was away for a few days. Later other agents came -- our place was spotted. They sold plows, cultivators, mowers, reapers; everyone had his own commodity to sell but would not move off the place without his interpreter. They certainly sold machinery, but the Eriksen farm did not progress as it should have done. Soon the farmers all had threshers, wood-sawing machinery, herds of horses, top buggies, yes, and sulky plows. Father competed at county fairs with his big well-groomed horses. I was not yet born during this period (I was my parents' tenth child), but my older brothers have often told me all this. Yes, and how Mother, pious, patient, and shy, deplored the situation -- that our home should be the rendezvous for all travelers! There is this crumb of comfort: Ingebret's activities built up the community. A village was whipped into form, machinery was put in circulation, everything went forward at top speed -- and someone had to be the bellwether.

Soon after the Civil Wax, in the seventies, the older boys in the community became restless. Out west they wanted to go, like their forebears -- onward, westward, to see what lay beyond. James, Julius, Torleif, and, later, Joachim Rosholt started off for the Dakotas. James took land in the Goose River Valley, near Mayville, North Dakota. Julius started a bank in Mayville, and became interested in other banks throughout the West. Torleif became a minister, Joachim a real estate operator. Then came the heartbreak for our dear mother, who had manifested her love all the years during our pioneer life. The years were fraught with struggle and turmoil, but she had found comfort and blessing in her children, particularly the older ones, Erik, Anders, Peter, and Johan -- the rest of us mattered less, as we were still of tender years. The Rosholt boys sent back photographs of the great wheat fields on the vast and seemingly endless prairies of North Dakota. So Erik and Anders packed off in 1876 and, traveling mostly afoot, eventually reached Mayville, where they took up a tract of land. They returned home, but only for a visit. Dakota was their destiny. Later Johan, Peter, Julius, and Sister Ida went to Dakota. The children married and had children of their own; it may not be amiss to say that there are Ericksons scattered all over the state. Melvin Alfred Erickson, son of Anders, is head of the North Dakota Peace Officers' Association.

In 1882 my next older brother, Adolph, had been confirmed, and at fifteen he was employed in a drugstore in Waupaca. He soon learned the trade. He dressed immaculately, and when he came home for weekends we were literally awe-stricken to see how dudish and "citified" he looked. Then Johan, aged twenty-two, went to work in a general store in Waupaca, and he too dressed elegantly and looked prosperous.

Then I was stricken with an insatiable craving for the city. Though a mere boy, I got a job in a small general store at Amherst Junction, working for a man named Hein. This did not last long; after a few months Hein mustered up enough courage to tell me that I was not fitted for his business. A bit later I tried it again in the general store of John Moses in Ogdensburg, eight miles east of Scandinavia. After two months he had no qualms in telling me, "Alfred, you are an expert jockey; I know you like to trudge around the barnyard among the horses, and you are good at breaking colts; but in my store you are not worth a dime. I can't use you." So back to the farm I went, where, though restless, I stayed until 1892, when I took a freight train for Chicago. During the summer of 1893 I worked at the World's Columbian Exposition there, as a Columbian Guard. With the panic of 1893 came an unprecedented depression, with no jobs -- and I went back home.

Here I must relate a harrowing incident of my homecoming. The Green Bay and Western Rail Road had staked out a small spur line running from Scandinavia north four miles to Iola and cutting our farm in two. Father was immeasurably disconsolate and depressed. The businessmen in Scandinavia were depressed, too, at the prospective decrease in their business; they had profited by the trade of the farmers near Iola, who had had to haul their farm produce to Scandinavia. Coming back from the city, I discovered Father sitting over on the tentative right-of-way, arguing with Messrs. Abrams and Seymour, railroad officials. They were outrageously harsh, insisting that Father should take $150 as full compensation for the right-of-way. Father fought with all his might, protesting that this sum would not pay for a single acre. I entered the fray.

"Who is that fresh kid?" asked Abrams.

"He is my youngest boy, just back from Chicago," answered Father.

"Well, let him keep his nose out of this," said Abrams. "Make up your mind; take it or leave it."

Then I blurted out: "Father, somewhere I have read in the United States Constitution that property shall not be taken or confiscated 'without due process of law.' Where is the 'due process' in the present ease?"

With great reluctance, however, Father accepted the trifling sum. He abhorred litigation. Soon ties and rails were laid, and an engine began to haul two or three boxcars and a caboose on daily runs to Iola. The line is there to this day.

This episode, however, led Alfred Ole Ericksen to enter law school, and in the intervening years he has more than evened the old score with the Green Bay and Western Rail Road!

With the conviviality, good will, and sociability in Scandinavia, there was seldom a lawsuit, and little or no place for a lawyer. There may have been some disagreement and bickering in some of the families, but not enough to necessitate a lawsuit to solve their domestic infelicities. Herman J. Severson from Cambridge, Wisconsin, set up a law office in Iola in the nineties. A very capable, upright practitioner, he took a hand in politics and served in the state senate for twenty-two years. Some six years ago he was elected circuit judge in his judicial district, and he is serving the counties of the district with great credit to himself and his constituency.

And now, in closing these reminiscences, I wish I could portray the rare qualities, high traits of character, and lofty ideals of my angel mother, just as N. N. Rønning, Norwegian-American author and scholar, did in his eloquent tribute to his mother.

Both my father and my mother almost daily resorted to the Bible and the psalm book. They were always in accord; I cannot remember a harsh word between them. In the evening, after supper, Mother would tell us of incidents and anecdotes from her home in Telemarken, and she would sing the old lyrics from the fatherland -- Kjøre vatten aa kjøre ved, Paal paa haugen, and many others -- in her sweet and mellow voice. I have never seen a deeper manifestation of true mother love than hers. She never knowingly slighted anyone, and she bore her lot with fortitude and forbearance. She died at fifty-seven.

As for my father, I think he never turned down anyone asking for a favor. His latchstring was always out to all comers. He apparently took for his own the saying: "Never frown at a wayfarer, nor drive him from thy gate. Be kind to the poor; there is might in the doorbeam that shall swing for all men's coming." Thus hundreds of newcomers were fed and sheltered at the Eriksen home. In tribute to my father may I add what seemed to be a guiding principle of his life: "I shall pass through this world but once; therefore, any good that I can do or any favor I can extend my fellow men, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Greater heritage hath no man.

Lastly, if I am not too bold, I should like to quote a few excerpts from my address as guest speaker at the college campus in Scandinavia in 1941.

Standing today in the presence of the best and most exalted citizenship in our beloved America, I feel that I am treading on hallowed ground. I am within a stone's throw of the fertile acres and the cherished home from whence I came.

The story of the immigration from Norway reads more like romance than reality. What hopes and aspirations, anxiety and apprehensions, as they embarked upon the long hazardous expedition, fraught with untold hardship, privation, and mental and physical suffering! They were no tenderfeet; the crags, the cataracts, the snow-capped glaciers had been their playground; lumbering, sailing, and fishing had been their principal occupations. They had no fear of the tempestuous waves, tossing their frail ships like feathers in the wind. Said they: "The blast of the tempest aids our sails; the flash of heaven, the roar of thunder hurt us not; the hurricane is our servant and drives us whither we wish to go."

We speak of our fathers as the "nation builders," but let us not forget our dear mothers -- loyal, loving, and true, who showered us with love, sympathy, and tender care, teaching us obedience to the laws of God and country -- yes, we were taught all this at our mothers' knees. To them, motherhood was the highest honor that could come to woman. Faithful to troth and plighted word, they gave full measure of love and devotion as wives and mothers. Theirs was the sacrificial part of devoted women since the beginning of time: "Whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God."

And so, when the curtain fell for these adventurous vikings and they were laid lovingly to rest in yonder cemetery, the last act in their colorful drama was played. Some of us here shall soon join them. I seem to behold life's twilight in the offing, the shadow veering more and more to the east, the leaves beginning to fall. One by one the spokes are falling out of the wheel, and the caravan is slowing up. And so for these undaunted pioneers who have taken their leave from earthly care, may I say:

In after years when roses high
Shall overtop the stones where they shall lie,
Their kindly deeds of yesteryears
Will cause the flow of diffusive tears.

In honor of these intrepid vikings there should be chiseled upon the rock on the loftiest knoll a legend, and every letter should be of gold: They yielded their lives in sacrifice and toil, they endured without plaint. Out of the wilderness they created glorified estates -- love, reverence and thanksgiving be everlastingly theirs.

----End of Part 3----


<1> Material in this paper comes from the author's recollections and from typewritten transcripts of the papers of Ingebret Eriksen, in the library of St. Olaf College. Northfield. Minnesota.

<2> A group of letters written by Duus in the years just before he went to Scandinavia have recently been published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association, under the title of Frontier Parsonage (Northfield, 1947).

<3> Years later one of the Aamodt brothers, the father of Miss Clara Aamodt, discussed this episode with me at his home in Iola, where he moved after his retirement. He told me himself that Olaus Duus had put a quietus on his habit of fighting just for amusement or to show his prowess.

<4> Strange to say, Mikklesen lived to the age of ninety-five.

<5> The pastor at Scandinavia had also under his charge two other congregations, those of Hitterdahl and Setersdahl.

<6> January, 1945.

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