The year was 1856 and the rush was on to emigrate from Norway to a promising new land called America. Ole and Ambjørg Braaten gathered up their most precious belongings, stowed them into several wooden crates (or locking trunks) and then planned to set sail with their five children (ages 13, 10, 8, 4 & 2) relocating to America.
Records show they left home on May 14 or 15, 1856, leaving behind a sturdy log cabin that had been in Ole’s Mother’s family for several generations. Surely it was not an easy thing to do to leave Norway, a land they so dearly loved, but times had been tough throughout all of Scandinavia and starting a new life in America held great appeal.
They arrived in Drammen and had to wait about six weeks until the ship was ready as Drammen, Norway was the nearest port (just south of Oslo). Once aboard the ship and anxious to set sail, they were forced to wait over a week in the port until the heavy fog finally lifted allowing the ship to depart on its voyage. Again, at Hull, England, they waited the better portion of a week (likely due to rough seas) before finally setting sail across to North America from the European Continent. The long ten week journey crossing the Atlantic Ocean meant they would not see dry land again until August 17th when they arrived in Quebec. The name of the ship they emigrated on was called "Gefion" and was captained by Captain Oswald Backe.
On board the ship the days were long, the conditions were poor and the sickness was often deadly as the sacrifices to start a new life quickly toughening up these hearty emigrants. In their minds they likely kept the spirit alive with the knowledge that a prime area looking much like their homeland awaited their arrival. All they needed to do now was to safely make their way to this special parcel of land located in a territory called Minnesota (it would be another 20 months before Minnesota officially became recognized as a state).
Once arriving in North America, Ole and Ambjørg Braaten and family traveled half way across this new Continent mostly by train, but also at times by waterway. Eventually they boated the Mississippi River to a port city called Hastings (Minnesota) where the duration of the journey would then be accomplished on foot.
The second to the eldest son, Ole Olsen Braaten (who was 10 years old at the time) penned these jottings in his journal (memoir):
“The western part of Goodhue County…was for the most part settled the year before we came, so there was not much land to choose from. The lucky ones had a little to get started out with, but most of us were short of money. Father had only $50 left…. For this money he bought a cow for $40; a flour sack, an ax, and a shovel for the rest. With winter at the door, the outlook was bleak. Three weeks later Father found 120 acres of land, where he built our home. Little Cannon River flows through the land, and the fish we caught there were our main sustenance for that first winter...
We were in daily contact with the Indians, but they were a friendly tribe of Chippewa’s. Father traded them a rifle. Right after that they had killed three deer and decorated the rifle with three silk ribbons. We traded several things with them, and often were given venison. Usually they came by our house in the evening, carrying a deer. They had their winter camp a half-mile into the woods. It was very good hunting ground for them here…the landscape was magnificent: you could call it ‘Norwegian.’ There was an abundance of wild grapes, plumbs, choke cherries, gooseberries, and other fruit.”
As young Ole points out, times were not easy even after they arrived to the new land in late September/early October of 1856. The growing season was over so attention quickly turned to building the homestead where the family prepared for the onslaught of the harsh winter season. Thanks to cooperative neighbors and the friendly Indians living on the land who were willing to barter, the hopeful, hardworking pioneer family turned what seemed like an impossible situation into a promising new opportunity in life.
To read more about the immigration journey to America, please download Hallstein O. Braaten and Ole Olsen Braaten's memoirs recounting the experience from Norway to America found by linking here:
Hallstein O. Braaten Memoir (son of Ole & Ambjørg)
Ole Olsen Braaten Memoir (son of Ole & Ambjørg)
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Page Last Updated on 08/09/2017