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The Scandinavinas

Reprinted from Our County Our Story by Malcolm Rosholt, 1959, pages 90-112.

The Scandinavians in Portage County include, in the order of their numbers, the Norwegians, Danes and Swedes, although it is difficult at this point in time to determine whether the Danes by 1900 outnumbered the Swedish immigrants or whether the opposite was true. Both were a minority group as compared to the more numerous Norwegians and the honor of being first in the county among the Norwegians probably falls to one Elisha Larson, born in the "Province of Norway & Kingdom of Sweden."1 His naturalization papers reveal that he left Stavanger on the west coast of Norway, entered the United States at New York in September 1838 and applied at Plover on April 16, 1846. He remained in the county at least until Oct. 22, 1847 when he mortgaged 80 acres of land south of Plover village to one Elias Larson2, and apparently moved away.

The second Scandinavian was probably Olaf E. Dreutzer3, a Swedish immigrant who spent his youth at sea before entering the United States. In 1836 he volunteered for service against the Seminole Indians of Florida, and trained as a lawyer before coming to Plover at the age of about 30. The exact date of his arrival is uncertain, but on Oct. 5, 1846 the county commissioners approved his bonds "to keep a Grocery ... for the space of nine months from the 21 day of August 1846."4 The following year he applied for a license to operate a tavern-house but the petition was denied. He may have been selling liquor without a license because in 1848 the county commissioners ordered John Delaney, attorney for the county, to "commence immediate suit ... against Olaf E. Dreutzer for ... selling spirituous liquors without a license."5 This suit was dropped when he agreed to buy a license which, according to an entry in the county treasurer's book, cost $75. But liquor in his locker or not, Dreutzer was the first man in Plover to operate a "grocery." He remained only a few years and moved to Waupaca County where he played a leading role in the establishment of the county seat at Waupaca and in the organization of several towns and villages. He was named county judge in 1859 and in 1861 was commissioned a brigadier general of the militia by Governor Alex W. Randall. In 1862, in recognition of past political favors, Lincoln appointed him United States consul to Bergen, Norway, a post he filled with distinction until 1867. He died in Kentucky in 1900.

There is reason to suspect that Dreutzer was instrumental in bringing Andrew Week, a Norwegian, to the Pinery in the late 1840s, and the two men formed a partnership to build a saw mill on the Big Eau Pleine in what later came to be Sec. 13 in the town of Green Valley, Marathon County. The first indenture on this mill appears on March 2, 1850 when Dreutzer sold his half interest in "the Upper Saw Mill on the big Oplain River ... commonly known as the Dreutzer & Wicks Mill"6 to John W. Batchelor and Amaziah Hayden, both of Plover township, for $2,456. In the Helgeson account of the Week mill, it is stated that in 1849, Andrew Week, for reasons of ill health, turned his interests in the mill over to a brother, John, and left to prospect in the California gold fields.7 His brother later acquired the other half interest held by Batchelor and Hayden.

The brothers Andrew and John Week, according to Hjalmar R. Holand, were from Eidfjord in Hardanger, Norway. They came to the Wisconsin Territory in 1840 to work in the lead mines. In 1844 John Week went to Dodgeville where he, together with a John Lee, also a Norwegian, opened the first shoe maker shop in the territory outside of Milwaukee. A few years later both the Week brothers were attracted to the Pinery.8

Early indentures refer to the name Week as "Wicks" which was probably a Yankee way of transliterating the Norwegian name Vik (pronounced Veek). The name "J. R. Week"9 appears as a witness to a sale of lots made in Plover village in 1849 by Churchell Ellison and wife to John W. Batchelor. Ellison, a Swede, applied for naturalization at Plover on April 6, 1847 and is also listed in the 1847 census of Plover Portage Precinct. In 1848 he served as an election clerk and judge, but later indentures suggest that after 1849 he was no longer a resident of the county.

The Week mill on the Big Eau Pleine burned in 1880 and the company moved its operations to Stevens Point where the sons of John Week, namely, Nelson A., Edmund R., and Andrew R., under the firm name of the John Week Company, operated a saw mill and planing mill on the left bank of the Wisconsin River a short distance above the slough. The firm continued in business for the next 40 years or more.

From local legends still repeated among the Norwegians of the county as well as in anecdotes recorded by Helgeson, there can be little doubt that John Week was one of the most extraordinary personalities in the Wisconsin Pinery. When the big sawmill on the Eau Pleine burned in 1880, Helgeson writes, the mill hands fought like tigers to smother the flames and when this failed, stared in unbelief at the holocaust. At this moment Week produced a jug of whiskey and placed it on the log truck — a low-wheeled vehicle used for hauling logs to the mill — and said to the men: "Idag gaar det godt for Viken! Kom naa Karer aa drikk!" (Today things are going fine for Mr. Week! Come now men and drink!)10

John Week learned the great American pastime of poker playing and by his shrewd intelligence became somewhat of an expert, particularly when matched against the Scandinavian newcomer boys who worked for him. Every Saturday night, according to legend, he paid off the men and then in the poker game that followed, often lasting all night and Sunday, recouped nearly all he had paid out in wages.

Nevertheless, because he was an all-around man, Week was considered, by early labor standards, a good man to work for. A number of families living around the sawmill had their own shanties and Week referred to these people as his husmaend and husmands-kjaerringer (literally, "house men" and "house man's wives"), a term in Norway referring to tenant farmers who lived in a cottage on the estate of the landlord and were obligated to him. The fact that Week used these terms reflects a paternalistic attitude toward his workers.

Among the anecdotes about John Week in the Helgeson account appears this story:

"Week had his whiskey barrel in an outside cellar. Soren (not identified) was one of those who worked in the mill on the night shift and, as a comfort and encouragement to himself and others on the shift, went into the cellar with a tin pan and tapped Week's whiskey barrel. As he (Soren) did not have any light along, he merely inserted his index finger into the tin pan and let the whiskey run until it reached the middle joint on his finger when he calculated he had enough for the night crew. Now Week served good chow and as long as the night shift received an extra helping from Week's whiskey barrel, they lived like kings. But one night a big lock appeared on the cellar door, closing a glorious period in Week's camp."11

On one occasion, Marcus Thrane, a former leader in the labor movement in Norway, came to lecture in Stevens Point. The Helgeson account refers to him as a "free-thinker," meaning that he held beliefs independent of the established church whether in Protestant Norway or Catholic France, which was a heritage of the period when men were persecuted for religious heresy.

When Thrane came to Stevens Point in the early 1880s, Week was in the city and decided to attend the lecture although he did not approve of Thrane's views. Before leaving for the meeting he took several drinks to bolster his courage. A big crowd had already gathered in the lecture hall, and when Week arrived he walked straight up to Thrane and said, in mock irony, "I understand there is going to be a service (i.e. religious) here tonight. Maybe we need this, but knock me down if I haven't forgotten my hymn book, so I haven't anything more to do here," turned and stalked out.12

Interestingly, in recounting this incident, Helgeson fails to grasp the social significance of the Thrane movement in Norway, for Thrane was not only an advocate of union labor but also a strong backer of emigration to America.13 For holding these views he was denounced by the ruling class, actually an aristocracy of inherited privilege and wealth, held in jail and finally hounded out of the country by an anti-labor government.

Among the first Scandinavians employed at the Week mill, Helgeson lists Osten Ostenson Ingolfsland, better known as "Big Osten" but to native Americans as "Big Ole;" Johan Peter Peterson, better known as "Peter Svenske" (Peter-the-Swede); Nils Olson Hereid and wife Tone Kittilsdatter, who served as cooks in the Week boarding house; Ola Klemmetson, Steffen Nygaard, Soren Hermanson, Hans Heisholt, Knut Jorgenson, Knut Olson Lia, Lars Gjertson and wife Gundvor Lia, Andreas Greson and wife, and Isaac Aamodt.14

John Week influenced many of his countrymen to come and work for him on the Big Eau Pleine, and after 1887 his sons employed newcomers on the log drives down to Stevens Point when the famed circled W became a familiar stamp mark on the Week-owned logs. Relatives of the lumberjacks and river drivers no doubt influenced others to come and work in the Pinery, or to establish boarding houses, wagon shops, blacksmith shops and shoemaker shops in Stevens Point. Norwegians applying for naturalization in Circuit Court at Plover in the early 1850s appear to outnumber all other foreign nationalities.

One of the first Norwegians to settle in Stevens Point, according to Helgeson, was Maria Scott (1796-1885) who married a Scotsman, John Scott, and operated a boarding house for a time.15 Helgeson fails to give the maiden name of Mrs. Scott and it also appears that the name John should have been Joel, although both appear in early indentures of the county. The boarding house is believed to have been located immediately north of the Clark Street Bridge near the river bank.

A favorite stopping place for the Scandinavian lumberjacks in the late l850s was a boarding house operated by Christian Haagensen (or Haakonson).16 A daughter, Emma, according to legendary accounts, was taken by ox-cart all the way to New Hope's North Church for the baptismal service. She later married Ludwig P. Moen, also a Norwegian pioneer of the county, who later operated a store in partnership with his father-in-law and eventually a general store of his own which he sold in 1935. Moen had a distinguished record in city affairs, having served as city treasurer several terms, 24 years as city assessor, and 42 years as public administrator. He died in 1958 only a few weeks from his 100th birthday.

Other Norwegians who operated boarding houses in Stevens Point, probably from the late 1850s into the 1870s, were Nils Jenson and wife Karen; Thor Aamundson and wife Helga; Kristian Olson Loberg and wife Johanne; Ola O. Wrolstad, Jr. and Ola Landsverk; and Hans Johnson Landsverk.17 In naming these people, Helgeson refers to their establishments as gjestgiveri, i.e. hotel, although it appears that they were more closely associated with the idea of a boarding house.

One of the first blacksmiths and wagon makers, if not the first in Stevens Point, was Lars Iverson from Hardanger, but when Iverson settled in the little village (ca. 1850) he went by the name of Louis Moe.

The first Norwegian religious service in Stevens Point, according to Helgeson, was conducted by the Rev. Nils Brandt in 1857 in a shanty of Knut Kvie which stood hard by the Wisconsin River. There were nine worshippers in attendance.18 On the other hand, the Rev. O. F. Duus, first pastor of the Scandinavia congregation in Waupaca County, in a letter written Oct. 23, 1855, mentions seven congregations he was serving and the seventh one was "the Norwegian Congregation in Stevens Point.''19 No organization, however, developed until 1873 when the Trinity Lutheran Church congregation was founded.

A man and woman to remember among the Norwegians of Stevens Point were Ole and Gunhild Reton (originally Reiten) who settled briefly in New Hope and around 1870 moved to the city. Their home, which Helgeson refers to as a gjestgiveri, became a receiving station for newcomers who were aided and guided in finding work and lodgings. Niels and John, their sons, founded a jewelry and optical store on Main Street in 1886 which continued in business for several decades.

While reference has already been made to Norwegians in the county before 1850, Martin Ulvestad, who spent a lifetime collecting information on the Norwegians of America, believes that the first to actually settle in the county was Matias Lia from lower Telemark, Norway. He came to Amherst township in 1849, he says, and was followed later by Andreas Natkjem from Laurdal, Anders Nederlo and Peter K. Hilbus from Lerdal, together with Aslak Moe and Peder P. Kjen from Gjerpen and Skien.20 (The Hilbus took the name Hiller and Kjen became Kjaer, today pronounced Care.)

In another account, Hjalmar Holand states that the Hillers, Moes and Kjaers came into Amherst and New Hope townships in 185321 but fails to mention Lia or Natkjem, who may have moved away or adopted a different name; nor are they listed in the first available tax roll (1863) of the town of Amherst.

In 1854, according to Holand, several more Norse families entered eastern Portage County as well as Scandinavia township in Waupaca County (but by no means the first). He makes no distinction between the two townships, but it is possible through the tax rolls to pick out some, if not most of the names which became identified with Amherst and New Hope, namely Lars L. Loberg, Lars Gordon, Simon and Johan Loberg, and Simon Aamodt together with sons Nils and Simon, Jr.  As Scandinavia township was made up mostly of families from around Skien and Ringbu in Norway, a close kinship existed for many years between the townships of Amherst and Scandinavia across the county line.

Despite the earlier settlers in New Hope from Gjerpen and Laurdal, the township became identified shortly as the biggest settlement in America of people from Gudbrandsdal, a long valley running through central Norway. Within the valley itself people are identified by lesser valleys and districts, one of which is Gausdal. Some of the first Gausdolers to reach New Hope in the years 1855-56, according to Holand, were Johan Hole, Amund Mortenson, Simon and Johan Iverson, Hans Kankrud, John and Hans Hagemoen, Johannes Aamodt, John Reiton, Simon Rustad, Ole Lien and Anders Nyflodt. These names do not all appear in the first tax roll of 1857, although this does not preclude their residence. The Holand account explains that Anders Nyflodt, one of the 1855-56 arrivals, returned to Gudbrandsdal in 1857 to a district around Ringbu, as distinct from Gausdal, where he aroused so much enthusiasm among his countrymen for "det deilige lndiland" ("this beautiful Indian land") that a big group of immigrants followed him back to New Hope.22

The traffic between Norway and New Hope township was so heavy in the latter decades of the 19th Century that the Thingvalla Steamship Line found it advantageous to maintain a booking office in Amherst (advertised in the Amherst Pioneer in 1886). The steamer Thingvalla (pronounced Ting-volla) operated by this line was so well known to the people of New Hope that when one of the first Buick cars made its appearance under local ownership, it came to be called "Thingvalla," which of course led to endless jokes and good humor.

From New Hope, the Norwegians began to spread north in the 1860s into the future town of Alban where, together with the village of Rosholt, the second most important settlement of Scandinavians developed. The collective "Scandinavians" is used here because the movement into Alban was led by a number of Danish families, mostly from the island of Lolland off the east coast of Denmark. While some of the Norwegians of Alban were relatives of people in New Hope, several families were the children of earlier pioneer families of the town of Scandinavia in Waupaca County such as the Brekkes, Lystuls and Bestuls.

Around 1870, several families, also related to settlers in Scandinavia and east Alban, began to settle in the town of Sharon west of the Tomorrow River. All who settled here were blood relatives or related through marriage. The land they chose was hilly, stony and sandy, but it was not too far from the river where they got their drinking water, and it was near marsh hay which could be cut without having to clear the land. The several families followed one another to the Tomorrow River settlement no doubt because they were related and could be of help and comfort to one another in the first years of uncertainty in a strange but wondrous land. The fact that they picked out poor land apparently was secondary in importance to the fact that they could be together.

Among the settlers in Sharon was Knut Halverson, writer of the only Norwegian pioneer diary available in Portage County. Halverson, along with the other Norsemen in this settlement who left Sharon in the 1880s, moved to the eastern part of Alban. Asked why her father moved away, Maren Paulson, nee Halverson, said: "Father thought it was too far to go to church. We had to go way to New Hope in them days and all our people were settling in the eastern part of the township, too."

Here, probably, the expression "our people" gives a clue to the main reason for the Scandinavian movement away from Sharon. No doubt the several families could have continued to live here and make a fair living, particularly with the Boyington sawmill nearby for extra employment. But, in the 1870s, Sharon began to fill up with Polish settlers and to the Norwegians, the former were foreign to their religious beliefs and alien to their language because English was not yet, in a restricted sense, the lingua franca of these specialized areas. Moreover, these earlier Norwegian families had become acquainted with new opportunities and more fertile lands and, finding themselves being surrounded by an element alien to their own, decided to move away, some going to western Wisconsin and Minnesota, some to New Hope and Alban. Although Halverson, like the others, got along with his neighbors, his sense of belonging was not being satisfied, and for him it probably meant more to belong to his "own people" than to belong to the country of his adoption which was still an impersonal factor in his life. In 1878, for example, his diary reveals that on the Fourth of July he was out in the field working, as if there was no Independence Day, nor does he make any comment, for that matter, on the Norwegian Independence Day on the 17th of May.

In the 1880s and 1890s, a number of Scandinavian families, probably more Swedes than Norwegians, began to settle in the town of Eau Pleine, some no doubt former mill hands in the Week mill. But no special Swedish settlement developed in Portage County, and most of the Danish families who settled in Alban and Belmont soon lost their specific identity through intermarriage with neighboring Norwegians or Yankees.

And what kind of people were these Scandinavian immigrants who helped to conquer the forests of northern Portage County, who cut down the white pines and Norway pines, the hemlocks and spruce? Many of them came from the land and most of them sought out land when they came, the sons and daughters of peasants and tradesmen. But after they got their own land and built their own cabins and shanties, it is obvious that many looked back upon the Old Country and wondered whether they had not made a mistake in coming to America. The diary of Halverson reveals he was extremely lonesome during the first years after he settled in Sharon, and on the inside back cover of the diary, a special notation appears, "Norway my Norway." Other sentiments creep in from time to time which suggest that he was desperately unsure of himself and, in his own words, "fed up with time," at the age of 29! This strong feeling for the home he left behind was widely shared by other immigrants in their first years, and more so by the women than by the men.

These early Scandinavians also brought with them a strong attachment to the Lutheran Church and as soon as there were enough of them to support a pastor, they commenced work on a church building. Before that, they met in each other's homes to read the word of God to each other, many still profoundly influenced by the great revivalist, Hans Nilsen Hauge, of the late 18th Century.

When they came they brought with them their Old Country clothes, habits, customs, dialects and even superstitions. As a child the author recalls that his grandfather, J. G. Rosholt, never allowed anyone to whistle in his house. This was considered an eccentricity on his part, but may have been a superstition that went back to the fjords and fjelds of Norway, and even unto the deserts of Mongolia where the Mongols to this day regard anyone who whistles with apprehension for fear that he will stir up the winds.

Many of the Scandinavians were slow to use the English language because it sounded strange to them. Moreover, anyone who attempted to forge ahead of the others in the use of it was considered a "smart-aleck," too good for his own people. When the pastor at Alban Lutheran Church attempted, in the late 1880s, to preach a sermon in English, the congregation was so deeply shocked by his irreverence that he was forced to discontinue until several years later. Polish and German pastors, whether Protestant or Catholic, ran into the same opposition in other churches of the country, even down to World War I, by which time English had been introduced on alternate Sundays in most churches.23

One Norwegian pioneer family who defied the taboo against learning English were the Gasmanns of Amherst. Said Miss Minnie Gasmann: "Mother didn't want to hear us speak a word of Norwegian. No sir-ee, we were Americans and we had to speak English right from the time we were kids, and when the neighbor ladies came to visit mother, they spoke Norwegian to her, but she answered them in English."

One of the reasons the Gasmanns could take this position, no doubt, was the fact that when the elder Hans Gasmann immigrated from Norway in 1843 with his family of 13 children and settled near Pine Lake, west of Milwaukee, he joined the Methodist Church, as there was no Lutheran Church in the community. When his son, Captain Johan G. Gasmann and family moved to Amherst in the mid-1850s, the latter continued his membership in the Methodist Church which in a sense set the family apart from the other Norwegians who belonged to the Lutheran Church. Moreover, they were among the first Norwegians to settle in Amherst township which gave them the prestige which goes with anyone who comes first as compared to those who come second.

An old photograph of the Gasmann family estate in Norway reveals that Squire Hans Gasmann was a man of considerable wealth. Asked why her father (Johan) came to America, Miss Minnie Gasmann said: "Father always had said that, despite their big farm in Norway, America offered greater opportunities for everyone." Hans Gasmann had twice been elected a member of the Norwegian Parliament (Storthing). A photograph in the collection of granddaughter Minnie Gasmann reveals him, pork-chop whiskers, attired in a long, formal coat bedecked with civilian medals which were probably decorations from more than one government.

The racial exclusiveness exemplified in the reluctance to learn English by most Europeans who settled in the county is sharply reflected in the directives of the New Hope Norwegian Mutual Fire Insurance Company, which, when it was founded in 1887, wrote out policies only for Scandinavians. When it was proposed at the annual meeting in 1889 to include other nationalities, the stockholders left it up to the board of directors whether "to insure americans and germans or not."24 The board reached no decision on this matter and when it came up again at the annual meeting in 1890, the matter was tabled and the final breakthrough did not come until the 23rd annual meeting held January 1910 when the directors adopted a resolution to "take insurance of all nationallities (nationalities) within the respective territory ..."25 Little headway was made, however, before World War I which probably acted as the main catalytic agent to force European nationality groups in America to become full-fledged Americans, if not entirely in thought, at least in action. To be otherwise now was considered un-American. Meanwhile, the New Hope Mutual has dropped the "Norwegian" from its title. Organized at the instigation of the Rev. K. O. Eidahl, pastor of the North New Hope Lutheran Church, it has since developed into one of the strongest local fire insurance companies in Wisconsin.

The marriage of Olaus Hansen Rambeck to Rande Larshursen (?) on June 26, 1856 in New Hope township is the first among Norwegians in the county of which there is record. The ceremony was performed, according to county records,26 by O. F. Dints of Scandinavia, no doubt an error for Duus, who served the pioneer congregation in New Hope as visiting pastor. The second marriage was between Gunder Olson Wimme from Holt, Norway, and Berte Helene Rambeck, which took place on Dec. 13, 1856 with Duus officiating.27

The 1857 tax roll does not refer to Wimme, but to Gunder Olsen, and without the testimony of Helgeson, it would be difficult to identify Olsen as Wimme because some time between 1856 and 1866, the man who gave his name as Gunder Olsen became Gunder O. Wimme. He served as town chairman a number of years. Another change in names in New Hope was effected by Sondre G. Loberg, mentioned as one of the first town supervisors, who shortly after took the name Sundre Gunderson, less Loberg. This was rather typical among the Norwegians of the early period. Many were known by names used in Norway and brought over to America and retained; others took the names of the valley or hilltop which identified them in Norway; most took their fathers' Christian name and added a "son" or "sen." As Ole (or Olaf) is one of the most common given names in Norway — after St. Olaf — a great many Norwegians came to be known as "Ole's son," or Oleson, later contracted to Olson.

Most families in Norway before 1800 did not have a surname and, as tenants or hired hands on the land, they were identified by the farm on which they worked. Thus when the feudal system was breaking up in Europe, men who had been known according to the place they lived or the work they did, took surnames related to the land or to their work. In Norway, a man who had served as a tenant on the "north pasture" took the name Nordhagen with him to America. A name like Halvor H. Brua, which appears in the New Hope tax roll of 1900, suggests a man whose family lived near a bridge in Norway and was probably referred to as "Halvor-on-the-Bridge." The word endings of Norwegian names brought to New Hope also suggests associations which go back many centuries. For example, in the name Wogsland, the "land" ending signifies that this family in Norway was located on or associated with a piece of land which was under cultivation; the "rud" in Kankrud signifies a clearing; the "stad" in Rustad signifies a place or fixed residence, while the family of Helik Foss no doubt orignated near a foss, meaning waterfall or cataract.28

Women, until their marriage, were known by their father's given name. In the New Hope treasurer's book of 1862 may be found a receipt for $.72 on $30 of personal property owned by "Anne Thorsdatter," which is to say, "Anne, the daughter of Thor." Several female members of the Alban Lutheran congregation are entered in the records of the 1880s as the "daughter of their father," a practice which appears to have been discontinued after 1890.

The early Norwegian women carried few Biblical given names. More were called after famous women in Norwegian history such as Ingeborg, Sigrid, Ragnhild, Karen, and Kjisten. Other common names were Anne, Maren, Maria, and Berte, with variations of Anne the most common of all, apparently after St. Anne who, according to tradition, was the mother of the Virgin Mary and patroness of women in childbirth.

The most common given names among the men were Ole, Nils (a corruption of St. Nicholas), Knut (or Knud), and Halvor, in addition to the Biblical Hans (a corruption for Johannes or John), Johan (John), Peder (Peter), Abraham, Thomas, and Matias (Matthew). Among these Ole or Olaf was probably the most common and it was not unusual to name more than one son in the family by this name, the first-born being called "Big Ole" and the second or later son "Little Ole" even as one family is still remembered in east Alban. But worse fate, a man could become better known by his wife's name than his own. One who fell under this spell was Ike Anderson who married a Fjeldbo girl of Alban. As the Fjeldbos were among the earliest settlers, their name was well established when Anderson arrived later from Norway and married. He came to Portage County with the given name of Aslak, which he changed to Ike, but his neighbors referred to him neither as Ike nor Anderson, but as "Aslak Fjeldbo."

Most of the Norwegian names in the first New Hope tax rolls end with "sen," which has the same meaning in Danish. Even though Norway had been separated from Denmark since the Napoleonic wars, Danish cultural influence was strong, particularly through the Lutheran Church of Norway which still considered Copenhagen the source of ecclesiastical authority. This respect for Danish culture is noted in the spelling used by the first New Hope town clerk, a Norwegian, who wrote "sen" throughout the tax roll. As the years advanced, and as American cultural subtleties encroached on the European, more and more Norwegians in New Hope began to spell their name with a "son" instead of "sen," in this manner asserting their independence of Danish culture and the willingness to be identified with a new culture while retaining something that was Norwegian of their own.

Early Scandinavian weddings in the eastern part of the county were not quite as boisterous as the Polish weddings of Sharon, but a feature of the Scandinavian wedding was the shivaree (although not of Norse origin) which followed in the evening when the young men gathered at the home of the bride or groom and banged on tin pans, rang cow bells and even shot off guns to attract the groom who was then supposed to treat from his own liquor jug. Later, it became more common for the groom to pay off the celebrants with a gift of one or two dollars to attend the nearest saloon for refreshments. Fred Dahlen of Rosholt village recalls the time, before World War I, when some 20 boys shivareed a newly-wed couple in east Alban. The groom donated the handsome sum of $4 and the youths jumped into their rigs and drove west of Rosholt to the first "hop house," actually a saloon converted from a former hop drying house, and purchased a "double-header" (eight gallons) of beer. Stops were made on the road back but with no cups to drink from, the cow bells in the shivaree were used for cups — Vikings drinking from ox horns!

When the double wedding of Dorthe Margrete Klincke to Hans P. Anderson together with Johanne Nilsdatter Fjeldbo and Jens Lorentson took place in the late l860s at the Hans Klincke home in east Alban — the first wedding in Alban says Helgeson —29 the young folks gathered at the "Klingen" home to shivaree but failed in their mission when the two bridal couples hid away until the storm blew over. The custom of shivaree continued well past the turn of the century but after the coming of the automobile was largely defeated by newly-weds going off in a car on a honeymoon.

In the traditional Scandinavian wedding dress of the period, Dorthe Margrete, at the wedding referred to earlier, wore a neck-high ankle length dress of changeable purple-grey, hand made of wool and silk thread brocade, supported by petticoats and hoops of resilient steel. The waist was gored and fitted, the sleeves set to a yoke with drop shoulder effect. Around the yoke and lower part of the sleeve were three rows of velvet ribbon. She also wore a shawl with a wide border which appears to have been of Oriental design, as well as a silk belt and buckle, the latter a family heirloom from Denmark. The dress and shawl are still in the family collection, while the sash and buckle are exhibited at the Pioneer Museum in Rosholt village.

Death in the pioneer period was a rather tragic affair both because the consequences could mean hardship and even poverty to the survivors if it happened to be the head of the family, and because the circumstances of providing for a funeral were primitive. Embalming fluids were not used and it often happened before the funeral that the corpse began to discolor and deteriorate. Lest the corpse be lying in a coma and come back to life in the grave, most early Scandinavian funerals were not held until the eighth day which was known as the period of skindod (apparent death).

Coffins were rude boxes of pine lumber made by a local carpenter who visited the family of the deceased and measured the corpse and built the box according to his own specifications. When the commercial type coffin came into use, it was shaped narrower at the feet than at the head, like an Egyptian mummy, although quite shallow. As a result the nose of the corpse came dangerously near the cover when it was closed. According to legend, one pioneer of Alban failed to get the cover down on his wife's nose and he slammed it shut with the words, "Den store nesa var alltid i vegan!" (That big nose was always in the way). The more fancy of these early coffins had a piece of glass across the upper end.

There was no hearse and the pine box was carried to the cemetery either in the farm wagon box or sleigh. The coffin was lowered into the grave with ropes or straps handled by the pallbearers. When the mechanical lift was first introduced by an Amherst undertaker at a funeral in north New Hope around World War I a visiting pastor refused to countenance it on the grounds that what was good enough for the past was good enough for the present.

One custom of the pioneer funeral, of which legends survive in New Hope, was to stop in front of each house en route to the cemetery and drink a toast to the departed. This may have been a tradition from pagan times in certain parts of Norway. But in the early days of New Hope there was such a shortage of places to stop, the pallbearers, it is said, were forced to improvise an old custom by calling a halt at each mile post. One of the last funerals in New Hope accompanied by drinking probably was held before 1880.

Early funerals among the Scandinavians in eastern Portage County were by invitation. This, no doubt, was a tradition from the Old Country where it was necessary, owing to the few people who subscribed to a newspaper, to send a youth out to all the neighbors and personally bid them to "be so kind" as to attend the funeral. Until churches were built in Portage County, the corpse was taken directly from the house to the cemetery although this too was a custom long followed in the Scandinavian countries where the coffin was conveyed not to the church but to the front gate of the church. The pastor then came out of the church and met the funeral party at the gate, and, after a song by the klokker (precentor), the funeral party marched to the graveyard where the committal took place.

The custom of conducting funeral services inside the church probably began in the New Hope congregations after the "split" (infra) when both groups appeared anxious to be first to follow American custom in this respect. The custom of eating at a funeral is common in many cultures. In some districts of Norway food was served at the home of the deceased both before and after the funeral. Today most funerals among Scandinavians in Wisconsin end at the church basement for a lunch which has been prepared by the Ladies' Aid Society. This is a custom likely to continue as it provides an opportunity for relatives — who seldom see each other any more except at funerals — to exchange family intelligence and count the living.

The congregation of the New Hope Lutheran Church was organized Oct. 15, 1857, the first Scandinavian group to incorporate in the county although it was not before 1864 that work on the church building was begun. The Rev. Nils Bryngelsen Berge delivered the sermon when the church was finally dedicated in 1874. He was also the first pastor to be buried in the New Hope cemetery.

In 1887 the New Hope congregation became divided over the great theological debate of the period concerning predestination, faith and grace (naadvalgs-striden), and, while most remained in the original congregation, others left and built a new church about a mile or so to the south on the same road. The two churches, still active, have been referred to since as the North New Hope and South New Hope congregations, although both patched up their theological differences in 1917 to become part of the same church body. The "split" (splittelse) that followed in the New Hope congregation in 1887 also broke up the Alban Lutheran congregation, and those who left built Concordia Lutheran Church about a mile or so north on modern H-49.

Politically, the Norwegians, although a minority group in the county and rather isolated in the early period from the county seat by bad roads and slow transportation, have held several offices on the county and state levels. The first to achieve elective office on the county level was Ole O. Wogsland who was appointed one of the three district supervisors of the county in 1865 under an appointment by the governor. In 1866 he became a duly elected supervisor of the Second District and served until 1868. In 1874 he was elected register of deeds.

In 1889 John A. Murat became the first of Norwegian descent to be elected county judge, although as the name Murat suggests, the family is descended in the male line from a Frenchman. John Murat served as judge for so many years that, in the words of Helgeson, he "became an indispensable personality and, so to speak, a necessary inventory ("uundvaerlig personlighed og saa at si et nodvendight inventarium") of the Portage Court House that anyone looking for him would always find him at his post.30

Three Norwegians have been elected assemblymen from the county although this office since pioneer times has been dominated by candidates from Stevens Point and Plover. The first Norseman to be elected was T. W. Anderson of Stockton in 1876, followed by P. N. Peterson, of Amherst in 1896-98, and Ben Halverson of New Hope in 1922-26. Halverson was widely known before he entered politics as a "pump man," that is, one who drills for water and installs pumps and windmills. According to local legend, Halverson drove down so many good points that his neighbors began to joke about his "good" points and out of this developed a political campaign which helped him to win.

George B. Nelson, son of J. J. Nelson of Amherst, rose to county and state level politics. He attended public school in the village and later finished at the University of Wisconsin. After practicing law for a number of years in Stevens Point, he became district attorney and in 1917 was named president of the board of regents of the Normal School. Nelson Hall is named after him. Later, by appointment of Governor Walter J. Kohler Sr., he was made associate justice of the Supreme Court.

The Hon. Alexander Wiley, senior United States senator from Wisconsin, first elected to office in 1938, is a grandson on the maternal side of Mr. & Mrs. John Ekern. New Hope tax receipts reveal that Ekern first paid taxes on two forties in See 28 in 1863 (the Karl Kolden place.) Senator Wiley's mother, Sophie Ekern, was born in Norway, but spent her youth in New Hope and later found work in Stevens Point where she met her future husband, Alex Hvila, also known as Alex Alexson, a lumberjack and raftsman on the Wisconsin River. After their marriage in the early 1870s, they moved to Chippewa Falls where Hvila, in partnership with another Norseman, operated "Norway House." He also changed his name to Wiley.31 Senator Wiley, accompanied by his first wife, visited the home of his maternal grandparents in New Hope in the 1930s before he was elected to office, and after becoming senator, has twice visited the scene of the old homestead to refresh childhood memories.

According to the census of 185032 greater Portage County had a total population of 1,250. Out of this number there were 13 persons of Norwegian stock which included one family and eight single individuals of whom 11 were born in Norway and two in Wisconsin. In 1860, four years after Portage County was constituted in its present limits, with a total population of 7,507, there were 621 persons of Norwegian stock which included 123 families and 50 single individuals of whom 407 were born in Norway and 214 in Wisconsin. In 1870, Portage County, with a total population of 10,634, had 1,415 persons of Norwegian stock which included 231 families and 141 single individuals of whom 741 were born in Norway and 672 in Wisconsin.

These population figures reveal that more than half of the Norwegians who settled in the county before 1860 came here from other parts of the state, while in 1870 the proportion was much higher, many of the Wisconsin born, no doubt, originating in the first Norwegian settlements around Muskego in Waukesha County and Koshkonong in Jefferson County.

1 Application for Citizenship, Microfilm Reel 177.
2 Mortgages, Book A, p. 148.
3 All indentures in Portage County on Dreutzer refer to him either as "O.E." or "Olaf" Dreutzer. Whether he changed his given name in later life, which seems unlikely, it appears as Otto Emanuel Dreutzer in au autobiographical sketch published in the Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly Vol. I, no. 3, p. 14.
4 Proceedings, County Commissioners Sessions, Vol. I, p. 84.
5 Ibid., p. 127.
6 Deeds, Vol. A, p. 380.
7 T. (Thor) Helgeson, Fra lndianernes Lande, (publisher not given; probable date of publication 1911-1915), p. 153.
8 Hjalmar Rued Holand, De Norske Settlementers Historie, (Ephraim, Wis., 1908), p. 177.
9 Deeds, Vol. A, p. 390.
10 Fra lndianernes Lande, p. 153.
11 Fra lndianernes Lande, p. 184.
12 Fra lndianernes Lande, p. 185.
13 Theodore C. Blegen, ed., Norwegian Emigrant Songs and Ballads, (University of Minnesota Press, 1936), p. 146.
14 Fra lndianernes Lande, pp. 153-154.
15 Fra lndianernes Lande, p. 144.
16 Martin Ulvestad, Normaendene i Amerika, deres Historie og Rekord (Minneapolis, Minn., 1907), p. 50.
17 Fra lndianernes Lande, pp. 144-146.
18 Fra 1ndianernes Lande, p. 147.
19 Olaus Fredrik Duus, Frontier Parsonage, The Letters of Olaus Fredrik Duus, Norwegian Pastor in Wisconsin, 1855-1858, translated by Verdani Study Club of Minneapolis and edited by Theodore C. Blegen, (Northfield, Minn., The Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1947), p. 5
20 Normaendene i Amerika, p. 49.
21 De Norske Settlementers Historie, p. 201.
22 De Norske Settlementers Historie, p. 202.
23 See Einar Haugen, "The Struggle Over Norwegian," Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 1952), Vol. XVII: 1-35.
24 Proceedings, New Hope Mutual Fire Insurance Company.
25 Ibid.
26 Marriages, Vol. I, p. 31, Register of Deeds, Portage County.
27 Ibid., p. 61.
28 See Einar Haugen, "Names in a New World", The Norwegian Language in America (Philadelphia, Pa., 1953), pp. 191-232; see also Theodore Jorgenson, The Cultural Development of the Norwegian People, (Minneapolis. Minn., 1930). pp. 11-12.
29 Fra lndianernes Lande, p. 132.
30 Fra lndianernes Lande, p. 146.
31 Correspondence, The Hon. Alexander Wiley, May 18, 1956.
32 Carlton C. Qualey, Norwegian Settlement in the United States, (Northfield Minn., Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1938), pp. 221-225.