28 May 2013

Ole Goes to War: Men from Norway who fought in the America's Civil War

On this Memorial Day, I remember all of the Norwegians who fought in the American Civil War.   

YES--Norwegians, who had not yet been naturalized as American citizens.

"One of every six Civil War soldiers born in Norway were named Ole" 
In 1996 Darell Henning, curator of Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, asked Jerry Rosholt to compile a database of Norwegian immigrants who fought in the American Civil War. Jerry accepted the challenge and spent nearly the rest of his life dedicated to this project.

"At least 6,500 Civil War Union soldiers were born in Norway...and an estimated 300 Norwegians served in Confederate units." 

Jerry was a tenacious and thorough researcher, and used multiple resources in documenting his findings. He brought his reporter's sense of accuracy and his talent for storytelling to bear on one of the pivotal moments in American -- and Norwegian-American -- history.  The book he penned tells the story of not only the famous, such as Colonel Hans Christian Heg, but also the many, many other Norwegians who stepped forward to serve their new country.
Colonel Hans Christian Heg
Many have heard of Colonel Hans Christian Heg, the commander of the all-Norwegian Wisconsin 15th regiment. He was respected by his men for his fairness, his courage, and his confidence during the most dangerous battles. Hans Heg was born at Lier, near Drammen, Norway on December 21, 1829, the eldest son of Even and Sigrid. When Hans was 11 years old, his family came to America, settling in Norway Township, Racine County, Wisconsin.

Although I'm not a direct relative, I'm well familiar with the Heg family because my mother's Hegg ancestors were also from Lier, emigrated at about the same time as the Hegs, and also settled in Wisconsin. They were neighbors and peers of the Heg family. 
Colonel Heg also has a connection to the Pacific Northwest. His youngest child, a son named Elmer Ellsworth Heg, was born in February 1861 and was just two years old when his father was killed in the battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863. Elmer went on to achieve a college education, and re-located to Seattle in 1888, becoming a well known physician who specialized in pulmonary diseases. In the early 1900s, he owned a home on Seattle's prestigious First Hill. That property is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The book provides in-depth coverage of the soldiers who served in the Wisconsin 15th regiment, the lives they led in the ranks of the Union Army, and their fates during the war. It also tells of the 111 Union soldiers, born in Norway, who became prisoners of war in the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia. It provides a list of these men and where they enlisted.

To Each One His Story
Rosholt takes it a step further, and shares individual soldiers' lives with the reader.
"Perhaps more telling than vivid descriptions of battles, or long lists of those who fought and died, are the personal stories of men and women who immigrated to a New World only to be caught up in a civil war unparalleled in history."
Here are the love story of Ole Anderson and Mary Katterud; the life of Ludvig Bjorn, a pastor ordained in Norway; the tale of Knud Hanson, who was drafted in 1863 and died in Andersonville a year later; the story of Jens S. Jensen, who was from Bosque County, Texas and served in the Confederate Army; and many more. The book is also enriched with extracts from diaries, letters, and journals. 

Database Entries
Finally, there is a database of over 10,000 Norwegians who fought in the Civil War. There are fourteen pages of brief synopses that focus on individual soldiers: snapshots of who they were, where they came from, how they served, and where they ended up following the war. From ANDERSON to WROLSTAD, the book shares the story of men who fought hard and long in a war that changed history.

The book 'Ole Goes to War' can be purchased for a very reasonable SALE price of just $5 from Vesterheim. I recommend you add it to your library, if for no other reason than to acknowledge these soldiers who served this country.

What makes this even more desirable is that Vesterheim has maintained on online database where you can search for possible Norwegian and/or Norwegian-American ancestors who served in the Civil War. Norwegians in the Civil War is simple to use. You can even 'just browse,' if you aren't sure what name to look under.

Let me leave you with this. We owe a great deal to the men and women who have made the U.S.A. a place of freedom and possibilities. Our ancestors fought hard and long to make the life we are privileged to live: one that would make them smile.

@ @ @ 

About the Author: Jerry Rosholt
Jerry (Jerome Karlton) Rosholt was born to Carl and Edith (Solem) in January 1923 in Glasgow, Montana. He attended public school in Alexandria, Minnesota, and graduated college in 1948, with a degree in speech and business administration from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. His college years were interrupted by World War II, in which he served with the 95th Infantry Division. After graduation, he worked as a news reporter in Philadelphia (WRCV-TV), in New York City (WNBC), and for the Huntley-Brinkley Report, retiring from this role in 1988.

In September 2006, Jerry was awarded the St Olav's medal by King Harald V of Norway "in recognition of [his] great services to Norway, in particular [his] active involvement with the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum on its Civil War project." The medal was presented October 21st, 2006 in Decorah, Iowa, by Norwegian Consul General Rolf Hansen.

My friend Jerry passed away on Friday April 4, 2008 at the age of 85. He was survived by his three sons: Rhys, Dirck and Cort. However, his military service to our country, and his tenacious work on identifying Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans who served their new country, will forever be his legacy. 

Janet Blohm Pultz, 

Vesterheim Executive Director, said this about Jerry's work  

"Historians, genealogists, Civil War buffs, and most of all, Vesterheim, are forever in his debt."

26 May 2013

Admire, Respect & Emulate: my Top Ten

It was during the summer of 1999 that I really began my 'plunge into genealogy and family history'. I had just completed a nine-month leadership development program called Leadership Tomorrow. Prior to this I had been totally immersed in 'life as a member of, and ultimately president of, the Seattle Jaycees.' And prior to that my whole life was 'the American Red Cross.' I was told, by friends and peers, that if I fell and cut myself there would be 'little red crosses' flowing out of my veins.

I'm one of those people who totally and completely immerse themselves in what they are passionate about. When I'm committed to something I give it my all, and then some more.

About five years ago, I took an 'online challenge' called "describe ME in one word...just one single word."  You send that message to your peers and wait for a response. The 'one word' descriptions I received were: caring, seeker, enthusiastic, precise, firecracker, vivacious, breathless, tenacious.

Today I call myself a tenacious freelance historian and writer. 

How I came to this chapter in my life has been a journey--a journey that has brought me in contact with many wonderful individuals I have come to know as guides, tutors, educators, and mentors. Some I have developed a personal friendship with, and others I admire and respect but only know on a professional basis. 

When I reflect on my development as a historian and writer, several of them top my list of heroes. They have helped to develop my passion, my ethics, and my view of life as a human being. I choose this venue as a means to thank them for 'being who they are to me, and to so many others.' Below is a very brief summary for each one, with live links to websites and articles that tell more about their involvement in 21st century Seattle.

MY TOP TEN 'in alphabetical order'

Education Specialist for the National Archives, Seattle
Carol is the educator at the National Archives at Seattle. She develops online and in-person programs in archival research for teachers, college students, family historians and the general public. She holds a master’s degree in American Indian studies from UCLA and a B.A. in elementary education from Western State College of Colorado. [Carol also made my wedding dress.]

Seattle Public Library's genealogy librarian (retired)
Darlene has been the 'go to' person for genealogy at the Seattle Public Library since 1971, and retired in June 2011 after 40 years of amazing and dedicated service. Darlene has assisted over 250,000 people during her tenure, and did so with kindness, congeniality, patience and efficiency. 

Pastor, teacher, and historian
Dennis is Pastor at St. James Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon. [Prior to this Dennis was Pastor of
Bethany Lutheran Church in the Green Lake neighborhood and a resident of Queen Anne Hill, having lived in Seattle since 1973.] Following graduate studies in Germanic languages and literature at the University of Washington and the University of Vienna, Austria, he worked for seven years in charge of photographs and architectural drawings in the Special Collections Division of the University of Washington Libraries.  He graduated from Wartburg Theological Seminary in 1987 and has served as an ELCA pastor ever since. He co-authored with Jeffrey Ochsner Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H.H. Richardson (University of Washington Press, 2004). A frequent writer and lecturer on regional architectural and photographic history, he serves on the Board of Governors of the Book Club of Washington, is an adjunct faculty member of the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Partners for Sacred Places, a Philadelphia-based organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of historic religious structures and their ministries. 

Seattle Public Library's genealogy librarian (current)
John has been on the staff at the Seattle Public Library since 2004, working side-by-side with Darlene Hamilton. He moved to Seattle in 1993 (just one year after I did) and 'discovered the large genealogy collection at SPL and microfilm available at the National Archives.' John has a B.S. in Computer Science and a master's degree in Library and Information Science. He's 1/2 Norwegian on his mother's side, with immigrant ancestors from Vestre Toten, Sondreland & Snertingdal (Gjovik), Oppland Fylke; Hol, Buskerud Fylie; and Sogndal, Son of Fjordane Fylke. He was a guest lecturer at my 2009 Norwegian Genealogy Workshop, and serves with me as an Advisory Board member of the University of Washington Genealogy & Family History Certificate Program.

Journalist, writer and columnist for Crosscut.com
Knute is a Seattle native who writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine, and is the author of Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle, and he is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the Needle's official 50th anniversary history. Knute's paternal grandfather and namesake, Knute, emigrated from Norway in the early 20th century. I gravitate to anything written by Knute, who is, in my opinion, an expert in Seattle social history.

Program Director, Historic Seattle and so much more
One of my all-time-favorite people is my boss - Larry Kreisman. I consider him to be 'the best boss in all the world,' a friend, a mentor, and a role model. To know him is to love him. He has been the Program Director for Historic Seattle since 1997, and has authored over 10 books. Since 1988, he has written regularly on home design for Pacific Northwest, the magazine of the Seattle Times. Larry also served as architectural historian on the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board from 1995 through 2003. In 1997, he was honored with the Washington State Historic Preservation Officer's Award for Outstanding Career Achievement in Historic Preservation. In my book, there is no better authority on the built community in the Pacific Northwest.

Public Historian, MoHAI and author of many books
Lorriane is an amazing public historian who has devoted her professional life to researching and teaching Pacific Northwest history. I've had the privilege to study under Lorraine's tutelage at the University of Washington's Genealogy & Family History Certificate program (2000) and participate twice in her MoHAI Nearby History Seminar for Writers & Researchers (2006 and 2007). In 2011 she published a wonderful book New Land, North of the Columbia. I think Knute Berger said it best in a December 21, 2011 Crosscut.com article Washington history: Boring no more:  "She digs, she thinks, she studies, she writes, she publishes. She also speaks." He then went on to say, "McConaghy shares her love of research with the book's deceptively simple formula: find important documents in the state's history, reproduce them, and then explain what they mean, and why they are important." And, "If McConaghy's book is a reminder of the gold that's in those hills of documents stored in basements and back rooms, it's also a reminder that digging it out serves both the purpose of enlivening history and enlivening an interest in history."

Margaret Anderson 
Librarian, Leif Erikson Sons of Norway Lodge
Margaret was born in 1919 in Ballard, the first child of John and Karen Høines. Her father, Johan Edvart Høines, was a 1904 immigrant fisherman from Skudeneshaven on the south end of Karmøy Island in Rogaland, Norway, north of Bergen.  Margaret’s mother, Karen Nilsen, was raised on the Skeisvold farm at the north end of the same island, and immigrated in 1905. Margaret graduated from Ballard High School and attended Wilson Business College in downtown Seattle. While working at the Ballard branch of Seattle First National Bank in 1941, she met Carl Anderson, a machinist and commercial fisherman. It was then that she joined the Leif Erikson Sons of Norway Lodge, and in 1987 she became the lodge librarian. She has expanded the library to well over 3,000 books and 60 videotapes. In January 2005, I published an article titled Margaret's Library in the Western Viking newspaper. 
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Photographer, author, and reporter of 'all things Seattle' 
Paul has made it his business to share Seattle's history by telling its stories, using photographs as entry points. Paul may have a point of view, but is most interested in observing and reporting the phenomenon. In 2012 Paul received the Historic Seattle's Award: "Living Landmark". "Paul  has published thirteen books, produced films and video, curated exhibits and lectured widely on the subject of regional history. His work with historic photographs began in 1981 with the publication of 294 Glimpses of Historic Seattle. Since 1982 his “Seattle Now and Then” columns, juxtaposing and interpreting historic and contemporary photographs of Seattle, have appeared weekly in Pacific Northwest, the magazine of the Seattle Times."   Paul's website (www.pauldorpat.com) includes about 100 of his "Seattle Now and Then" columns, plus a digitized version of the 1912 Baist Real Estate Atlas.

 Teacher and author; retired Lead Pastor at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church
I first met Paul in 1996 and have grown to love, respect and admire him. For the past seventeen years he has been the lead pastor at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church on Greenwood Avenue. In 2012 he published a book titled Faith Forming Faith. He genuinely cares about the spiritual education of the members of his congregation, about the people in our community, and about the Christian community worldwide. Phinney Ridge Lutheran has been described as “a model of Christian charity,” using Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop’s phrase. A congregation member once stated, “This is the reason I go to this church. I’m a questioner. And Pastor Paul asks great questions. He doesn’t always answer them. That’s encouraged:  asking questions in faith.” I am also a questioner, and I find comfort in knowing that my pastor is a tenacious charismatic teacher. Paul retired this May (2013), and is now pursuing opportunities to deliver the message of Faith and Font: Following the Way of Christ - Training for Parish Teams, Leaders and Students. 

09 May 2013

Tongue-in-Cheek Travel: 19th-Century Norwegians

Carolyn Merritt, one of our Nearby Norwegians, was delighted to make a recent discovery at Seattle Public Library.  Among other treasures on the shelves, she found a very old travel book:  Norsk, Lapp, and Finn, or Travel -Tracings From the Far North of Europe.  The book was originally published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1881, and it is now in the public copyright domain.  The author, Frank Vincent, Jr. (1848-1916), was an accomplished travel writer.  Some of Vincent's other noteworthy publications are:  The Land of the White Elephant (Southeast Asia; includes the first American impressions of Cambodia), as well as Through and Through the Tropics:  Thirty Thousand Miles of Travel in Oceanica, Australasia, and India.  Well-traveled, indeed.

Cover from Google Books
Carolyn was thrilled to stumble upon a wonderful original source about what life in 19th-century Norway was like.  Even better, it included personal impressions of what the Norwegians themselves were like.  The impressions still may ring true for the reader... if one can stop laughing long enough to realize the chasm between the perspectives of American traveler versus those of indigenous Nordic peoples.  For one thing, carving out a living in the arctic environment of the far north--over centuries of trial and error--formed a particular Nowegian response to daily life.  It was quite different from those of increasingly refined lifestyles in Industrial Age America.  Norwegians became, well, Norwegians, for a reason!

During his journey in the "far north of Europe," our fearless travel writer, Mr. Vincent, did not mince any words describing things just as he saw them.  The following passages from Norsk, Lapp and Finn will either tickle your ancestral fancy or ruffle your cultural feathers... depending.  One thing is for "ja sure, you betcha"--a Norwegian male reading Vincent during his own era would probably have had a good chuckle and knee slap at his own expense.  After that, he would have dismissed Vincent with a politely uttered, "Gudnes, what a stuck-up fellow!"  We leave you to judge the value and intent of Vincent's writings for yourselves.

If it isn't broken, why fix it?

Pgs. 100-101)  If in any sense it were justifiable to compare Norway with the United States, I could but style it a very 'slow' country.  The people do not lack intelligence, but they certainly are wanting in ambition, energy, enterprise and business tact. In many places where the peasants seemed to be greatly suffering from poverty and their alleged inability to get a decent living from the soil, I suggested to them the feasibility of vastly increasing the facilities for reaching the wonderful landscapes of the interior, of building comfortable hotels, of making tracks through the forests to famous waterfalls, and of furnishing better classes of vehicles for traversing the rough mountain roads; for all of which travellers would be only too glad to pay, and which would serve at the same time to greatly increase the amount of foreign travel to the country.  It seemed quite a new thought to them.  They had fish and potatoes to eat, a log hut with one room for a family of a dozen to live in, and homespun clothes which were warm enough for winter and could be exactly graded to the variations of summer temperature by the simple process of removing piece after piece.  Why trouble themselves?  No, indeed, the foreigners who were funny enough, or crazy enough, to scramble over ten miles of rough rock to see a simple stream of water running over a precipice because it had to go somewhere; the tourist who was anxious to drive through a hundred miles of dirt and dust merely to be able to stand at last in the midst of a green valley or at the foot of a mountain glacier, might continue to do so, without any of the luxuries of travel for all they cared.

A snug bed keeps you warm

Pg. 103) The Norwegian houses, mostly built of wood, save in the large towns, are often very attractive in their interiors.  They are furnished as a rule quite plainly, with but few chattels, and before the pretty lace curtains of many sitting-room windows one often sees, from the street, banks of beautiful flowers neatly arranged in porcelain pots.  The floors are either bare or covered with oil-cloth.  Looking-glasses [mirrors] are common, though small.  Beds are merely short and narrow boxes--just about large enough for the doubled-up body of a Peruvian mummy.  The ceilings, which are at the same time the floors of the room overhead, render all words spoken and all movements made above distinctly heard below.  The walls are often made of simple canvas, painted.  This people seem to have no knowledge of ventilation.  In fact, they have a morbid dread of fresh air.  Scarely any provision is made for its admittance into their churches, theatres, houses, or steamers.  And like the Germans and Russians, eight or more persons, all smoking, will sit, on a cold night, in the compartment of a railway carriage with the windows entirely closed...

I haven't a thing to wear!

Pg. 104)  Though the Norwegians surpass the Icelanders with whom there is some propriety in contrasting them, in the comfort of their dwellings, in dress they are rather behind them.  The clothes of both men and women suggest the style of a century ago.  None of them fit, and the contrast of colors is most amusing.  In many of the distantly-rural parts you sometimes, though rarely nowadays, see the picturesque costumes of the peasantry.  This class of the people, for the most part, make their own clothing and shoes.  Their wants are very few and they buy nothing that they can possibly manufacture in their houses or produce on their lands.

Spitting out evil spirits

Pg. 104) ...Like the Danes, the Norwegians are extravagantly polite to each other in the streets.  They are continually removing and replacing their hats.  In a small town where one meets one's acquaintances perhaps a dozen times a day, you may imagine what a nuisance this custom becomes.  Spitting, and without the provocation of either pipe, cigar, chewing tobacco, or even influenza, is a national bad habit.  Like that of the American repeating voters, early and often seems to be their motto...

Excuse me?  Vikings do not lift pinkies at tea time

Pg. 106)  Table manners are at a low ebb in Norway.  Consistency does not seem to be regarded as a jewel.  The same people who bow so very ceremoniously to each other and express sympathy and interest in the veriest trifles of life, and who dance and grimace fully five minutes at an open door before they can determine which shall enter first, are exceedingly ill-bred during meal time.  Their knives wander so far down their throats that one must at least admire their courage, though failing to appreciate its object.  In these feats they rival the professional knife-swallowers of Bombay.  They hold their forks like pens.  Even a four-tined fork is not considered too unwieldy to use as a tooth-pick.

 If you are interested in reading more from Norsk, Lapp, and Finn, it is available as a free e-book.

07 May 2013

Nearby Norwegians in Print - Luci Baker Johnson

The latest issue of Valdres Budstikken (v.43, no.1) contains the first of a two-part article on the life of Thomas O. Stine, written by Luci Baker Johnson.  The Valdres Samband, formed in 1899, is responsible for the publication and is the oldest bygdelag in the country.

Thomas O. Stine
Luci wrote about Thomas Stine in a previous Nearby Norwegians post:  "'Emblem of Freedom':  a Song About Patriotism."    Born as Tosten Østensen, Stine is the author of a major resource for information about Scandinavians living in the Pacific Northwest during the 19th century.  In 1900, he published Scandinavians on the Pacific (Denny-Coryell Company:  Seattle, Washington).  Stine immigrated from Oppland, Norway; not only was he an author, but a farmer, student and teacher, poet and songwriter, and he even took part in the Yukon Gold Rush, among other pursuits.

"Thomas O. Stine" begins with Luci wanting to take the reader on the life journey of Stine, a "bachelor who has gone unnoticed until recently, at least for the past 80 years."  When Scandinavians on the Pacific was first announced in the Seattle Daily Times on March 24, 1900, Stine's writing style was touted as "flexible and graceful, here and there with steeped with rich shades of poetic thought."  Intrigued, Luci quickly became driven to research Stine's history, aiming to give credit where credit was long overdue within the Pacific Northwest Norwegian community.

Luci Baker Johnson
 Luci Baker Johnson, a Nearby Norwegian, is a freelance writer and historian as well as a regional expert in Norwegian-American genealogical research.  She is a frequent contributor to this blog and has a proven passion for research, compiling information, and teaching--continuously serving as an indispensable resource for others.  Congratulations, Luci, on your recent publication!