America Letters to Valdres
by Carlton C. Qualey (Volume 22: Page 144)
America letters are the lifeblood of the emigration story,
but despite the efforts of many searchers for over a generation,
we still have too few of them. To the invaluable collection
published by Theodore C. Blegen in Land of Their Choice: The
Immigrants Write Home and the many letters that have been
included in the Norwegian-American Studies and Records series
can now be added seven more written by emigrants from the
Valdres district of Norway, spanning the years 1851—93.
The first letter writer is content with his decision to emigrate;
he encourages others of his family to take the same step,
and gives useful detailed instructions as to what to bring
along. A recipient of such advice might well take courage
to make the journey. The second letter, written a year later,
reveals intriguing sentiments about economic inequalities
in Norway and a roseate conception of the American system,
as the writer calls it. The third author gives a good account
of his trip inland from Quebec and could have been used by
the  state of Illinois or the Chicago Chamber of Commerce
for promotional purposes; the writer was deeply impressed
with the money-making possibilities as well as the beauties
of this new country.
Homesickness is clearly evident in the fourth and fifth letters
of this series. One indicates a young woman’s concern lest
her parents attempt the trip across the ocean; emigration
was a young people’s game. These two letters and the sixth
were written by sisters who came to America to seek their
fortune. All found good husbands and raised families. The
second of these documents reveals a waning of the longing
for home, while the third demonstrates a mature adjustment
to New World life. These three letters from the Samson sisters,
written 1869—81, graphically trace the transition from the
wrenching separation, the journey overseas, and the trip inland,
to jobs as hired girls in farm homes and on to marriage and
settled family life as Americans of Norwegian ancestry.
The seventh letter was written in old age by a proud and
somewhat garrulous man seeking to re-establish contact with
his brother in Norway after a long separation and a lapse
of correspondence. In the portions here selected, this man’s
satisfaction with having emigrated and with conditions in
Wisconsin in the Rusk-Chippewa County area is clearly evident.
He also reveals a decline in emigration, and mentions the
movement of the frontier to distant areas such as Dakota and
Montana. The letter was written in the midst of the Panic
of 1893, the effects of which are obvious; but the writer
clearly had faith in the future of his region and of the United
1. A FINE PLACE FOR NORWEGIANS
Anders Anderssen Qvale, from Muskegon, Michigan, January
18, 1851, to parents and other relatives in Norway.
I wish you happiness and peace both here and in the life
to come. Your esteemed letter, written April 16, was received
August 1, and it was a joy for me to hear that you are well
and that everything is fine with you. So, affectionately,
I must  write you a few lines. I expect that you are
eager to hear how things have been with me. I went from Port
Washington [Wisconsin] to Milwaukee early in May and then
by ship to Michigan. There I worked for two months at $14
per month and was in good health. I returned to Milwaukee
and from there went out to Karkeland [Koshkonong?] to see
the land there. I thought it would be a fine place for Norwegians.
One can earn $1.00 per day cradling wheat while the job lasts,
but in winter there is more work to be had in Michigan. Now
I am back in Muskegon again and get $14 per month. There is
no contractual time limit on a job here and therefore one
can ask for one’s wages and leave at will. The master can
discharge a man when he does not want him any longer. Here
one is served good food, with wheat bread, pork, and butter
at each meal. In the morning there is as much coffee as one
wants, and in the evening there is tea. We get three meals
Dear brother Torger, you wish to know if it would pay you
to come and how to prepare for the trip. If you have the chance,
I believe it is more promising for you here than in Valdres.
About provisions, I had plenty of them when I came, and I
would advise you to take just as much, for things are very
expensive if bought along the way. Many bought their flour
in Bergen, but it was not good, because the grain was not
dry [when it was milled]. The meat was good, but butter melts
in weather as hot as that we had going through the [Erie]
canal. It is good to have primost [whey cheese]. It is well
to carry all kinds of clothing. If you bring homespun, it
is wise to have it in the piece, for there are many Norwegian
tailors here. American boots and shoes are dear. You must
take nightshirts; here they are of red cloth. Shirts are more
expensive here. You should have flat-collared jackets or vests.
You could bring bedding with you. Many emigrants have carried
feather beds with them. Feathers cost 25 cents per pound here.
There are 100 cents in each dollar. Coarse canvas for sacks
may be brought. You could take along your  hide sacks
if you cannot sell them. Try to buy your clothes there. Here
they are not as good. Colors used for clothes are black, brown,
gray, and blue. Perhaps you can buy a kettle in Christiania.
You must bring cloth caps with you. Neckerchiefs are worn
here. Blades for a [wood] plane should be brought, iron wedges
and saw blades too, both narrow and wide. Axes are unnecessary,
but you could bring a double-bladed axe, and smithy equipment
of all kinds. If you cannot find any, you can use mine. One
or two hoes and spade blades should also be brought.
[Barrel] hoops may be brought if they are good ones. They
are more expensive here, but better for use with hardwood.
A wagon costs $45 or more. I would advise you to bring one
with you, for many here use small wagons. I measured some
of them. The width is about 45 inches, the hub is 11 inches;
the height of the first wheel is 42 inches and of the other,
52 inches. You could bring your cart and axle. They ship at
the cost of small wagons. But big chests are difficult to
move. You might take both a travel chest and one for provisions
and clothes. You must have tight locks for them. At Bergen
you should get herring, fish, and potatoes, which are good
food for the sea, and you must buy tea and coffee. You should
get ale at Leirdal Island, for it is expensive in Bergen.
Milk will keep for awhile. Buy a copper kettle that holds
eight cups. If you do not want such a big one, you can trade
it off here. A small kettle might also be bought. A copper
kettle costs $1.25 here. Bring my bell with you. Brass combs
are expensive here. Buy me some tailor’s shears.
Dear sister Gjertrud, in case you come, I want to tell you
about the trip and what you should have with you. It will
not be helpful to carry along jackets and coats, but do bring
dresses. Where Norwegians have settled [in groups] they use
their own costumes. Kerchiefs are worn, but not white ones.
If you have some you have woven yourself, bring them with
you, as many as you have. American women wear clothes like
those worn by the upper classes in Norway. You might bring
a  spinning wheel, a carder, and weaving shears. The
Norwegians here raise flax. I think you could bring a loom
and some sheep shears and some tailor’s shears. Sheep shears
are not available here, only scissors. Bring an iron for ironing.
I want to greet Torger, my father, and Ole Olsen Qvale for
Ole Hermandsen Alme of Lyster and say that he is well off.
I visited him for about two months last summer. He is well
settled. If you come, Torger, you can stay with him, for he
has a house with two rooms. From Milwaukee to his place is
about 40 English miles. I was to ask you to bring him some
wheat from Hadeland to try out and one iron link [chain] of
about 4 yards, something he has many uses for when he drives
I think you know what books you will want. Guldberg’s psalmbook
is used, but in New York one can buy a Bible for one dollar.
. . . We have a Swedish minister here who travels about among
the Norwegians. You want my advice about land. For the land
I know best you should go from Milwaukee to Karkeland. You
should not go to Manitowoc, which has a lot of woods. This
area where I am is said to be the best. I will arrange to
meet you in Milwaukee. I know nothing about land near Chicago.
I must close my letter with a cordial greeting from me, Anders
Anderssen Qvale, to my friends, and say that I am satisfied
My parents, I noted in your letter that I was going to get
either clothing or money, but so far they are unnecessary.
I hesitate to take them, for I have too many clothes. If Even
needs money, he can borrow it at fair interest. When you arrive
in New York, you must write me about your trip.
As to Aagoth, I doubt that she has considered this trip yet,
and there is no hurry about her. You must not lend out your
money. I have heard of many who have been swindled by those
to whom they have made loans.
To Torger: See to it that you exchange your money for silver
and gold only. When I traveled this was well received here
in this country. 
2. ONE MUST LEARN ANEW
A fragment of a letter from Paul Anderson, Racine, Wisconsin,
November 25, 1851, to his "Dear parents and unforgettable
friends in Norway."
My friend Anders Hamre! I notice that in your letter of March
6, 1848, you question my letter in which I remarked about
prices of lumber, daily wages, etc. I must point out that
costs of goods, etc., give no indication as to how one can
pay daily wages but only as to the practice in America. The
system in Norway makes it necessary to pay low wages for labor;
here, conversely, wages are high. If a man is poor and cannot
hire labor, he must do his work himself. If he needs help
but does not have the money, let him first go and work for
another for daily wages. Thereafter he can carry out his own
plans (build a house, etc.). In Norway some shall work and
some shall be lords; some have wealth and pay out, and some
must beg and take. This country’s constitution, on the contrary,
has for its motto, "Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood,"
which are this country’s principles. There the system must
prevail, and consequently work must be spread out.
A man’s character is indicated by his learning to carry out
his work diligently. A country’s character lies in an industrious
population, from which derives the nation’s wealth. But let
me remind you now of Norway’s constitution! Its motto is freedom,
but equality is left out, and therefore true brotherhood cannot
exist. . . . Let us regard the Norwegian character. Is it
based on free labor? No! The most respected and coveted situation
in Norway is to have acquired historical knowledge at an academy
and thereafter not lower one’s status with manual labor. Instead,
the man now walks well clad and confidently, with cane in
hand, and for pastime goes to balls to show off his refined
and elevated station. Such a learned man is easily in a position
to command the laborer’s services.
This position is sometimes abused, but such power is also
exercised by those of lower social station. For when someone
 gains wealth by inheritance or otherwise, before long
he prefers not to work, especially when he learns that he
can get a job done at cheap wages. Why should he do it? The
result is that the poor man or worker is a slave so long as
he lives, and scarcely can sustain himself. Poor he is born
and poor must he die. Is this the purpose of human life? You
say that if everyone started to work, the poor would have
nothing. I say this is not so. It is natural that the more
a man does, the more he will finish, and the better wages
a man gets for his work, the greater incentive he has. When
has a country or part of it been too much cultivated? That
time has never existed and never will.
I have said that the way everything is done here in America
comes from its system, but I want to add a little more. I
note that you, my friend A. Hamre, believe that to erect a
house for family living will cost hundreds and perhaps thousands.
This is not far wrong in Norway, but permit me to make a brief
remark. Circumstances here and in Norway cannot be compared.
Here a house can be built in a week that would require six
weeks in Norway. What would be done in a week in Norway can
be accomplished here in one day, with the same number of laborers.
Furthermore, what in Norway would take a year can be done
here in two months. You ask how this can be. We worked both
hard and rapidly in Norway. Yes, but what is good and quick
enough in Norway is not good and quick enough here. . . .
Do not think that what I have written is to deprecate Norway
and its people, but it is that you may understand and believe
what America is like. . . . This . . . would be more obvious
to you were you to emigrate to our new state of Wisconsin
and see what has been accomplished in sixteen years. You would
see Milwaukee with its 24,000 inhabitants, a sure sign of
the industry and resources of the people there. You would
see many well-built churches and would think the people must
be religious. You would come upon one schoolhouse after another,
full of young people with their  industrious and skilled
teachers, who give free education supported by public funds.
You would look at all these things with wonder when you consider
that fifteen years ago this was a wilderness. You would see
even more if you took the steamboat that goes daily to and
from Racine, where I now live. You would find a small, well-built
town, settled fourteen years ago, with 600 or 700 inhabitants,
twelve churches, and several schools with able teachers. The
churches are filled every Sunday with attentive listeners
and the gospel is preached clearly and warmly. If one looks
around town, one will find more improvements than could be
listed. The town might be fifty years old, but on close examination
one finds that the stump of the first tree that was felled
is not yet rotten.
Now I want to call your attention to another circumstance,
that of the farmer. After harvest you will find him at the
market place daily, with his produce for sale. Ask him what
he expects to get per bushel and he will answer 60 to 70 cents
for wheat, 40 to 50 for rye, 30 to 40 for barley, 25 for potatoes,
25 to 30 for oats. (A bushel is a quarter barrel by Norwegian
measure.) Ask, too, how far he must transport it, and he will
answer perhaps 80 to 100 English miles. Ask him when he left
home; he will answer day before yesterday. Ask another man
how far he is from home, and he may answer 40 to 50 miles.
Ask him how long he was on the way, and he will answer one
day. Ask him how much a traveler must pay for overnight for
a man and two horses; he will answer $2.00.
Ask him how profitable it can be to raise wheat and other
products to be carried to market and sold for such low prices
after such an expensive trip, and he will answer thus: "This
year I had 20 acres of wheat. I hired two men for cradling,
and gave them $1.50 per acre, or $30 for labor on the 20 acres.
I got 500 bushels of wheat, and I paid the threshers 8 cents
per bushel, or $40; thus, $70 altogether. I am sowing 30 bushels;
I need 100 bushels for the household, and I still have 370
bushels which I can sell. If I go when roads are dry and good,
I can haul the wheat in ten wagonloads. Even though I 
get only 60 cents per bushel, I can sell for $222. After I
have paid for cradling and threshing, I still have $152, which
can be regarded as the farmer’s earnings. If a man lives near
a market, he can drive to it and back in one day; he is fortunate.
If one must travel two or three days, the expenses are higher
and this makes a real difference in a man’s earnings."
Now I must remind you that this description is of an average
situation, neither high nor low, for an ambitious farmer can
often sow 40 to 80 or 100 acres of wheat, but his expenses
will be the same as described. A man with two horses can plow
3 or 4 acres a day, depending on whether the soil is heavy
or light, and two men can harvest 2 to 3 or even 4 acres a
day. A threshing machine with 4 to 6 horsepower can thresh
300 to 400 bushels, even 500 to 600 bushels per day, depending
on whether the grain has heavy straw and is dry. A man may
buy a threshing machine and go about from farm to farm and
thresh, and there are many of these. . . . It is not true
that Norwegians or other national groups retain their own
ways, believing they are the best. He who hangs on to old
ways when they do not pay will lose out. He must learn anew.
If he does not he will blame the Americans, and this is true
of both farmer and laborer.
I have one more little thing to write about. I see by your
letter that you think the wilderness here in America is settled
by uncivilized people. I have often thought to reply to this,
but I have been unable to understand what you meant by the
3. THE GRASS IS OVER A YARD HIGH
Jens Tønnesen. to his family, from Chicago, September
I have long intended to write you how we got here and how
we are. The ship "Hermand Rosen" sailed from Kragerø
May 17 and arrived at Flekkefjord the 19th of the same month.
We sailed from there on the 20th and by four o’clock the land
was out of sight. On the 4th [of June] we passed Scotland.
Thereafter we saw nothing, except for a few sails, but 
sky and water for six weeks and two days. One Sunday, with
a good wind, we sighted St. Paul [off Cape Breton Island]
and several islands, and two days later we landed in America.
Everyone was very happy. Up the St. Lawrence we had head winds
daily, but in fourteen days, on a Saturday evening, July 16,
we anchored at Quebec; all was well, and we were in good health
and well satisfied. It is a dreadfully long trip up from the
sea to Quebec, with a beautiful landscape, especially on one
side, and all the houses white. On the other or northern side
of the St. Lawrence River the land seems worthless, with vast
forests. It is uninhabited for several hundred miles. All
of us said as with one voice, "This is something different
from buying expensive land in Norway." This stretch of
shore line resembles Norway’s cliffs, although there seem
to be vast plains, too. On this river we met over a hundred
large ships in a day. It is remarkable to see such a huge
export of lumber.
Quebec is a big city with many very large steamships [in
the harbor]. On the 18th the captain contracted for transportation
for us all via the quickest and best route at $8.00 for each
adult, with children under three years free. Sixty poor people
were also provided for, regardless of their destination. This
our good captain did; he also gave money to the needy ones.
We are much indebted to him for his great concern for us all.
On the 19th we boarded a steamer, and reached the city of
Montreal the morning of the 20th. It was estimated that there
were two or three thousand people [at the locks]. After one
o’clock we boarded another large steamer and then sailed through
30 locks, each about 12 feet high. Then there was a canal
with earth sides, not much wider than the width of the ship,
but at some points it was wide enough for ships to pass. This
canal is 50 miles long.
On the 21st we changed steamers three times in a city called
Kingston. Our boat was big and fine, three decks high, with
space for two or three thousand passengers. They were very
friendly people, both in first and in second class. We 
traveled on this steamer to Rochester. We passed many cities,
too numerous to mention. The country from Quebec inland is
very attractive and remarkably fertile. We traveled 250 miles
on a broad lake [Ontario], out of sight of land. In a little
town, Hamilton, we left the ship and were met by wagons with
four horses, and a two-horse cart for the luggage. We drove
8 English miles and then went 42 miles by railroad to Buffalo.
The train made the distance in two hours. In Buffalo, which
is a big and mighty city, several people stayed on, but we
stopped only three hours. Then we went on board a steamer
at four in the morning. In two days we stopped at a city called
Detroit. There we transferred to the railroad to Chicago.
It is 250 [Norwegian] miles in all from Quebec to Chicago,
or in other words 1,800 [1,563 English] miles. In Chicago
we were offered $1.25 per day for railroad work, which we
and several other Norwegians accepted. We traveled about 100
miles southward in Illinois. All of us who went on this job
got free transportation. We worked for a month and received
$30 in gold. All of us Norwegians left together when we became
dissatisfied there. The houses were poor and the country almost
There are wide prairies here, 130 miles in length without
a single tree to be seen. These huge areas are as fertile
as the finest land in Norway. We have seen many remarkable
things here, but this is the most remarkable of all. The grass
is over a yard high and growing in it are the most beautiful
flowers. These stretches consist partly of rolling land with
a few hills, and one can see woodland on both sides, as when
one views land from the sea. All this blessed grass stands
there and rots, as undoubtedly it has since creation. One
could sow or find forage for many hundreds of cattle here,
and this is true even in parts of the city of Chicago. Each
man cuts the grass he needs for his livestock. Mostly corn
and wheat are grown here. Rye and barley are not common, for
no one eats rye bread. Both the poor and the rich eat delicious
wheat bread. It seems to me that a workingman’s table is as
well supplied as that of  a rich man, and that everyone
lives well. Since we have been here we have not seen any poor
people or beggars, and great orderliness prevails among the
One does not find noise and brandy drinking as in Norway,
even though there is plenty [of liquor] to be had in Chicago.
Many Norwegians here, yes, several hundred, all of my acquaintance,
are ambitious people and nearly all have beautiful white houses.
The city grows in size and well-being. Over fifty houses a
day are being built and they increase in price from year to
year. In the city itself, one [square] foot of land costs
$100, and in the suburbs from $12 to $14. Many of the Norwegians
bought land when they first came, and have since sold it for
house lots and have earned thousands of dollars. One of them
came here with $400, and now has $20,000. There are fine horses
everywhere, besides remarkable driving equipment that cannot
be compared to anything in Norway. Similarly, one finds large,
fine cattle. Around the city there are several thousand, and
they are all in as good condition as the fattest in Norway.
I think one could make 15 per cent in the cattle business
if he could speak the language well.
Living costs are high in the city. A barrel of wheat flour
costs $4.00, pork 9 cents per pound, beef 4 cents per pound,
butter 12 cents per pound, sugar 7 cents per pound, coffee
12 cents per pound, rice 6 cents per pound. All kinds of root
crops are cheap. There are also four big stores here, and
some large churches. Everything seems to be available and
quite cheap. There are all kinds of factories powered with
steam, life and movement in all things, together with good
wages. Wages are paid mostly on an hourly basis. A laborer
gets from 12 to 20 cents an hour. Otherwise, for steady work
it is $1.25 per day.
Now I must tell you, dear parents, that we have rented a
house here in town, in a very nice neighborhood. We live with
a family from Kongsberg with whom we traveled on the whole
journey. We can also report that we were well and sound during
the entire trip. 
4. OLDER PEOPLE ARE NOT HAPPY HERE
Berit Samsonsdatter Bakken wrote her parents from Decorah,
Iowa, August 1, 1869.
Now that there is an opportunity, I will write and send you
a few words about our trip after we left you and our dear
fatherland. The trip from Leirdal Island to Bergen was a good
one. We were in Bergen eight days. We sailed from there on
May 5 and arrived at an island near Quebec June 17; we remained
until June 20. We sailed late in the evening and arrived at
Quebec the morning of the 21st. We stayed there three days.
While at sea we were sick, Anne and I for the first three
weeks but Siborg for the entire voyage. But God be thanked
for all his blessings. We reached our distant destination
July 3 in good health, which is one of the greatest gifts
we can receive. It is our heartfelt desire to hear you say
We must tell you where we are living now. I am with Ole Ulen
and Anne Viig. Sister Anne has hired out for the summer to
Tollef Viig, and sister Siborg is with Tosten Olsen Haugenne.
We have little news to report except that Ole Nesja’s wife
gave birth to twins while we were at sea. One of these children
died after we had traveled across the country for awhile.
Sigri, Helge Høime’s daughter, gave birth to a child
Dear parents, as to the rumors I have heard about your making
the trip to America, I advise you not to forsake that secure
little home to seek the uncertain here. Tosten of Dokken is
not very happy about having come, for he did not find what
he expected, and older people who have come are not happy
about having taken the step. We have nothing else to write
about this time except that we are well. We will not say anything
about our circumstances now. To conclude these simple lines,
this pen is inadequate to convey the affection and love that
surround the memory of you.
Thanks be to God that we have this medium, so that by letters
and pen we can, so to speak, talk together. God keep 
you from all evil and grant you a happy and quiet old age.
And when evening comes, when the sun no longer will rise for
you, then let his holy angel carry you to Abraham’s arms.
My sisters’ and my affectionate greetings go to you, dear
parents and sisters and brothers. We hope that we are not
forgotten but will be remembered by letters from you soon
and often. Again — live well.
Postscript: Please greet Tollef Viig and his wife from us,
Knud Viig and his honored family, and all our relatives and
friends. Tollef Viig and his wife are sent kind greetings
from their brother-in-law, Ole Ulen, and his daughter Anne,
hoping that they and their children are in good health and
5. HOW I AM LIVING
Siborg Samson Bakken wrote her mother, brother, and sister
from Decorah, Iowa, June 1, 1876.
Now that time and opportunity are available, I will take
up my pen and send a few lines to tell you how I am living
and am situated. Thanks be to God, I am well and active, for
which I must not forget to thank God, and it would please
me to have the same news about you when you have the time,
for it is so long since I had a letter from you. It would
make me very happy if you would write, for it is such a pleasure
to hear from one’s dear fatherland. I have traveled down here
[Decorah, Iowa] to visit my sister Berit and to talk with
her, for I had not seen her for four years. Now I have been
here in Iowa for four weeks, and in fourteen days I will go
up into Minnesota again to my sister Anne. I can travel from
Decorah to Adams [Minnesota] in three hours, for it is only
60 miles. I talked with the sons of Hans Thommas of Haugenne
when they were at church in Decorah on Palm Sunday. They are
well and like it here, for it is a good place for free and
employable people to come. They said they were well. Greetings
from me, Berit, and Gulbrand to you, Samson, for sending what
came with Ole of Haugenne. When you write you must tell me
how much it cost and I will make it good to you. 
Dear brother, I am sorry to trouble you but could you somehow
get me and my sister two pairs of [wool] carders and send
them by someone who is leaving next spring? We shall do what
we can to send back the payment. I have little news to report
that could be of interest to anyone. Many are married. Tollef
Evenson Neste and Sigri Pidersdatter Hamre and many others
you do not know. No one you know has died recently. Therefore
I must conclude my brief letter with kind greetings from me,
your always faithful sister Siborg Samson, to you, my dear
brother and family; and to you, my dear mother also, heartfelt
greetings from your dear daughter Siborg. God be with you
It would be pleasant if we could see each other in this world,
but I guess that will not happen. For now, live comfortably,
and see that you write by the first post so that we can learn
how you are. Do not forget us, Samson. Please be so kind as
to greet our brother Knud and tell us how things go with him.
Finally, you might remember us all to all our friends. You
must greet Ole Tollefson Viig and his wife for me.
Postscript: My dear brother Samson and family and my dear
mother: Excuse my brief letter. Live well and give thanks
for each day. When you write me, address the letter to Adams
P.O., Mower County, Minnesota.
6. TIME PASSES QUICKLY
Ole O. and Anne (Samsonsdatter) Kirkevold wrote Anne’s mother
and sister from Adams, Minnesota, November 14, 1881.
Because it is such a long time since we exchanged letters,
I [Anne] will send you a few lines to let you know how we
live and to bring you greetings from this distant country.
Thanks be to God, we can tell you that we are well and thriving,
which good report we hope to receive from you as well. This
is the best news we could tell each other about physical things.
We can then report that we have four children living, three
girls and a boy, all of whom are big and  good according
to their ages, and they are thriving. Siri, our eldest daughter,
will be eight years old June 22, 1882. Anne Marie will be
seven June 18 next, and Olaus will be four next Christmas
Eve. Turi Sofie will be one year old November 20 this year.
I wanted to do Mother and Father the honor of naming Turi
for them. She is starting to walk now and she will undoubtedly
be walking well by the time you get this letter. The two largest
girls, Siri and Marie, have begun school and they are making
good progress for their age. They also impress our minister,
who visits us occasionally. I also can report that my mother-in-law,
Astri, lives with us. She is quick and active despite her
seventy-six years, and she is very kind and pleasant and helps
me much with the children. You may have heard that my father-in-law
died. He died about two and a half years ago, and I must say
it has been empty and very desolate since he left, for we
held him in high regard. This, in truth, he deserved, for
he was always helpful and kind.
Sister Syber [Siborg] has gone west to Dakota. She is now
married and the newlyweds plan to settle there. She got a
man from Valdres — from Svenesbygden — named Syver Gausaak.
Sister Berit and her family live in Decorah, Iowa. The last
I heard from them, they were well and thriving.
As to the harvest this year, I [Ole] can report a good one,
as to both wheat and other crops, so we have nothing to complain
about in that respect, especially now that the prices of farm
products are so favorable. We have not had such good times
for years. A bushel of wheat brings $1.05, but not long ago
it was up to $1.25 per bushel.
As to livestock, we have three horses (two work horses and
a foal), twelve cattle, and five swine. In winter all I have
to do is take care of the livestock and bring in wood, and
my wife helps with the milking. So you will understand that
I have it very comfortable at this time of year. Time passes
quickly, for in our free hours we have plenty of good books
and newspapers, which bring us benefit and satisfaction. We
 have woods near by on my land, and that is convenient.
I can report that Even Ulve worked for us during harvest and
that he thought we had it very nice, a good deal better than
if we had stayed at Øie. On the whole he thought well
of America, and he is thriving. Nils Lillestrand stopped by
on his visit here and he promised to greet you from us.
With this I [Anne] will stop these brief and simple lines
for this time. Hearty greetings to my brother Knud from us
all, and also to my sister Turi, to you, my mother, to brother
Samson and family. . . . Live well! Merry Christmas!
7. I TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME
Osten T. Holien wrote his brother December 22, 1893, from
an unspecified location. A penciled note on the first page
reads, "Received January 12, 1894."
It is in my heart to beg forgiveness of you, my dear brother,
for my tardiness in replying to your wish to have a few words
from your brother in America. . . . Even though it is nearly
forty-three years since I left Røine, it remains alive
in my memory today, so that if I returned I could go from
one landmark to another and distinguish places. . . .
Although it is several years since I received your esteemed
and interesting letter, I still have it here by my side, and
I see by it that you are an annuitant receiving several hundred
dollars. That is very good. God has blessed your careful efforts,
and you certainly deserve it. I have no annuity but I have
160 acres of good land which I put out on shares; I pay my
part of the threshing and retain half the harvest, and thus
live by God’s grace and take one day at a time.
This winter I have only fourteen cattle, for prices are low
and labor costs make it unprofitable to raise them. I employed
a Danish boy this winter to tend the cattle, and then Osten
is at home this winter and helps with this and that. Besides,
Osten has three horses and four cattle, which keep him busy.
He has rented his farm on the same conditions that I have.
He worked the farm himself one year but became weary of it.
. . . 
Last winter we had little snow, this summer little rain.
Nevertheless we had moderately good crops. Prices are very
low because of bank failures. Since fall we have had an unprecedented
money crisis. Factories are closed because of lack of money,
and thousands of workers are hungry and idle. Wheat sells
for 44 cents per bushel or $1.76 per barrel, oats $1.00 per
barrel, rye $1.25. Prices of groceries are high and all kinds
of fruit in the same proportion.
Finally, I see in your letter that America does not attract
many of you. I agree with you about Røine, to which
you probably refer. You do well to stay at home. As for me
and my children, we like it here and look forward to a good
future, barring unforeseen circumstances.
Someone or another will probably ask if there is any more
land left in America. Yes, there is, but it is far out on
the public domain, where one tract after another is purchased
from the Indians and is sold at good terms to those who would
like to try the pioneer life. It requires much ambition and
patience and God’s help.
Dear brother, had you been here fifteen or sixteen years
ago, you would have thought that this life was impossible,
and you would have left forthwith. If you came here now, you
would be astonished, even though there have been several dry
years and tree planting has been retarded. . . .
In conclusion, friendly greetings from myself and those with
me to my dear brother and my friends at Røine, and
to all those I know at Hedalen and Lykken.
<1> These letters were secured by Mrs.
Ingrid Semmingsen, formerly of the Norwegian Folk Museum staff,
Bygdøy, Norway, and now professor of American history in the University
of Oslo, from the curator of the Valdres Museum, Eiliv Odde
Hauge, Fagernes, Valdres. The Norwegian-American Historical
Association is grateful to Mrs. Semmingsen and Mr. Hauge for
this service. Dean Blegen’s book was published in Minneapolis,