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Memories from a voyage on the Christiane in 1851

Memories from a voyage on the Cristiane in 1851 is excerpted from an account written in about 1905 by Ole Ellingsen Strand, who was 11 years old in 1851. (He and his family are # 19-20 & 55-57 in the passenger list. His memory of details differs somewhat from the debarkation manifest.) Translated from the Norwegian by Stanley Uggen, Erick Andersen Uggen was the brother of Stanley Uggen's great-grandfather. Used by permission of Janice Uggen Johnson. Eleven of the passengers were neighbors from Soknadalen in Ringerike, and the families they represented have stayed in contact in some way up to the present. They were the Strands, Ole Olsen Juvrud (# 2), the Erick Andersen Uggens (# 1, 40-42), and Ole Korsdalen (# 100). Thanks to Clair O. Haugen (great grandfather Ole Ollsen, # 2 on the passenger list) for preparing the manuscript for presentation.

A few of our neighbors had emigrated here to America, and they wrote long and glorious letters home to their friends describing the privileges and with what ease a poor man could provide for himself and family here in America compared to what he could in the old country. So the question of emigrating to America was a subject that was agitated and talked of a great deal all over the country, and early in the spring of 1851, quite a crowd had decided to go and my father was one of them. Notice of an auction was stuck up and at the appointed day we sold everything we had, and the 12th of May was the day filed when we should leave our old home. The day set for our departure finally came, and we - that is, five of us in all - Father, Mother, my two sisters and myself - had to bid our friends and relations a long farewell and we started for Drammen, a city on the seacoast where we arrived the next day.

The time of which I speak, 1851, was before steamboats were built large enough to cross the Atlantic, so consequently sailing vessels were the only conveyance used in those days for so long a voyage; as the wind was so very uncertain a power to propel a ship, its speed and the time it would take to make a trip from Norway to America could not with any certainty be estimated; and for that reason we stayed in Drammen about a week and laid in a supply of provisions enough to last about three months so that we should not be in want in case of contrary wind and weather. The vessel in which we were to sail was a three masted brig [she was probably rigged as a ship in 1851, as she is described as a ship in an announcement in 1858] large enough to accommodate 251 passengers. This number had now registered from here and there all over the country and were getting their baggage and stuff aboard the vessel and stored away, making everything ready for the journey, so that May 18th, A.D, l851 the anchor was hauled in, the sails were spread, and we glided down the Fjord of Drammen into the North Sea, and left old Norway behind until at last it looked like a dim cloud in the distance.

The tall mountains of Norway were scarcely out of sight before men, women and children began to hunt their berths; the pain of parting with relations and friends and their dear old home on top of a very severe attack of seasickness was more than the most of them could stand. The intention of our captain was to sail through the English Channel, but then about half way across the North Sea, the wind turned square against us, so we turned to the right and went through by the Shetland Islands and sailed half way around England and Ireland. Nothing happened on the voyage that is worth mentioning except I will try to give a brief description of the kitchen aboard where the passengers had to do their cooking and how they managed to do it.

The kitchen where the cooking was done for about 259 passengers was a board shanty about 12 by 16 feet in size and was built on deck near the middle of the it; along the back side of this shanty a box or rather a bin was built about 4 feet wide and about 1 1/2 feet high, and this bin was filled full of sand, and on top of this sand the fires were built and the cooking done. The kettles were set on top of a little triangular frame of iron with three short legs under it, and this people would set anywhere on this bed of sand where they could possibly find or squeeze out room and then start their fire underneath. There was no chimney where the smoke could escape, only an opening in the roof the width of a board over the fire where smoke could go if it wanted to, but most of the time it did not want to because the wind kept it down.

The first week out their appetites did not require much of any cooking, and the lunch baskets that people brought with them from home lasted several days. But they finally had to get on with it. Then every morning at a certain hour one from each family had to go down into the bottom room or hold of the vessel where the food and water was dealt out to each family for the day. The wood had to be split very fine before they could use it to any advantage, and the water had to be put into jugs or something similar to prevent it from spilling.

And now for the kitchen. Early in the morning you could see the women coming up from below with a little bundle of fine split wood in one hand and a little kettle of some kind or a coffee pot in the other, heading for the kitchen, eager to find a vacant place somewhere on this bed of sand large enough to set their kettle on and build a fire under it. But it would not be very late in the day, if the weather was favorable, till every place in the kitchen was occupied, and there would be a large crowd outside waiting for vacant places, which were generally engaged already. And if you sat outside watching the kitchen door you could in 18 minutes time see perhaps half dozen women come out with their aprons over their faces, wiping tears, coughing and almost strangled with smoke. They would stay outside long enough to get their lungs filled with fresh air and the tears wiped out of their eyes, then they would crowd themselves back in again. Perhaps to find the fire and wood removed from their kettle under somebody else's. Then, of course, broad hints and sharp words would be exchanged, and the loser would have to watch the opportunity when her next neighbor would have to go outside for fresh air to get her wood and fire back again. And these were not the only adversities and troubles in the kitchen because it was hardly ever so stormy but that somebody tried to cook something, and if it was too stormy for the women to be on deck the men would generally volunteer to steep tea, cook coffee, or even make a kettle of soup. They would start their fire, put their kettles on, and in a little while the cook shanty would be chock full of men. Some would be on their knees, some sitting flat on the floor while others would be standing outside peering in. Then imagine an oncoming big wave striking the vessel and almost setting it on end, and in a wink of an eye every kettle, coffee pot, and teapot is upset and spilled in the fire and hot ashes. This of course made them scramble for the door and you could see that coming out like swirling bees from a beehive. Some would swear, some could laugh, while others would say they might have known better than to try to cook anything this stormy day, but in less than an hour the shanty would be full again and perhaps going through the whole performance. This was how we came to America in an early day. And thus we worried and suffered for nearly 8 weeks until we finally arrived in the City of New York about the 11th of July and everybody soon forgot the troubles and trials they had on the voyage by seeing the beautiful green fields being thawed out by the warm rays of the sun after they had been a constant target for the cold and raw winds of the Atlantic.

In New York City we stopped two or three days, and then we were put on board quite a large and nice steamboat that took us up the Hudson River to Albany, and from there we were transported by the Erie to Buffalo, and from there we were carried by a steamer over the Lakes to Milwaukee, where we arrived about the 25th of July and there hired a man and a team to take us west into Rock County near Beloit, which was then only a small village; and there we arrived July 28th, 1851 at the home of a friend named Solberg who had come to this country about three years before us, and there is where our life in the United States began.

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• Bark Christiane

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A selection of articles dedicated to help you in your genealogy search for your Norwegian ancestors. Transcripts and pictures of historic documents in connection with the ships and emigration. Also including articles about Pioneers & Norwegian Settlements Around the World
Articles about selected ships ships and special events in their history. Descriptions of some of the great maritime disasters involving emigrant ships, like the wrecking of the steamer Atlantic of the White Star Line, sinking of the ocean liner Empress of Ireland and the Thingvalla line steamer Norge disaster. Check this section if you have an interest in shipwrecks.
This section contains articles describing the transatlantic voyage, the condition of the steerage accommodations and the experience of an ocean travel on an emigrant ship. You will find in-depth studies concerning the emigration process, statistics and facts, and information about the immigration processing centers line Castle Garden and Ellis Island.
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