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The story of a journey from Norway to Quebec in 1861, on the ship Maple Leaf

1861/ 2000 - by Thor Sigurdson - presented by Pam Risvold

This story was written by Thor Sigurdson who traveled on the Maple Leaf from Skien to Quebec in 1861 is presented with kind permission from Pam Risvold in Austin Texas. The story was written by Pam's great grandfather's brother-in-law, Thor Sigurdson. Thor traveled on the Maple Leaf from Skien to Quebec in 1861. It is a wonderful story, and it provides quite a vivid picture of the trek of many emigrants from Norway. Pam has presented this story to us exactly as she found it, and has not added, changed, or corrected Thor's story in any way.

As remembrance for you our dear children, I am writing down mine and your Mother's background and something of our life. I am born in Hjaertdal, Telemarken, January 7th 1833 of parents, Sigurd Thorson and Marte (Martha) Hermansdatter. My father was born in Hjaertdal in 1789 and died there in 1867. My mother was born in Hafslo in the inner part of Sogn, November 1st, 1797 and died November 12th 1879.

I was baptized and joined the church of Hjaertdal - baptized by the minister Søren Hassing Linkenhagen. Until that time of my life, I had not met or known anything of sorrows or difficulties in life. Though I was brought up under poor conditions.

From now on, I had to go out into the world and work for unknown people to make a living. It was not so easy and I often had a hard time and had to move around in Norway. When I was 23 years old, I went into the Army. About this I can say nothing good, low earnings and rather low morality.

When I was 28 years old (1858) I met your mother, Ingrid Olsdatter. She was born November 20th, 1834 of parents Ole Johannesen Risvold, who was born the 31 of August, 1806 and died March 9, 1863. Her mother, Anne Olsdatter, born Haatvedt, was born in 1809 and died in 1892. We are both baptized and joined the church in Hjaertdal in upper Telemarken province. Our minister was Søren Hassing Linkenhagen. December 6th, 1860, we were married in the same church by the county minister, L. Leno.

April 8th, 1861, we left our home to leave for America. It was indeed a terrible day, to leave our poor parents and the rest of the family and our childhood home which we loved so much. In our thoughts, we knew that we would never see them again, but the decision was made. With hearts filled with sorrow and an almost empty pocketbook [wallet], we started to walk to Skien, a town about 75 miles away. At that time of the year, in several places, we had to walk in snow and water up to the knees or as deep as two or three feet. After three days, we arrived in Skien and boarded the ship Mapily [Maple Leaf]. The Captain's name was Lunemark [Funnemark]. He was conscientious and a good man and did his best to help all of us. On April 18, the ship left at 7 o'clock in the morning with 600 people on board. Then we saw the last of Telemarken as we passed the town of Langesund and sailed away by a northeast wind. All sails were set and soon we were in the open ocean and at sunset we also lost the small islands along the coast which I doubt I will see again. The weather changed from storm to windstill, but after 7 weeks and 4 days, we arrived in Quebec and we could again walk on dry land. The trip by boat had been very hard. We had a lot of sick people on board and 21 died - mostly small children. It was terrible to see the bodies being sunk into the ocean, but also the ocean belongs to God. The Bible says that the ocean will bring the dead people to heaven.

We stayed in Quebec 3 days to rest and to get everything cleaned up. Many people lost their lives in the broad and wild St. Lawrence river. It had no compassion for them and took everything. We continued our travel by railway in coaches that were used for transporting cattle (didn't get a human travel car but a freight car). It was not very nice, as manure from the cattle reached to the ankles, though we procured benches to sit upon. After 2 1/2 days, we reached Chicago, and here we were sent like cattle into a storehouse where for several days, we were examined by the railway people from different companies. This ended with each of them picking up a couple of people and so the group was divided. Since then I have only met a few of the group.

My destination was Freeport, Winneshiek Co., Iowa where I knew some people so I had bought tickets for that place. For one or another reason we did not arrive there but in Freeport, Illinois and we were completely helpless, where we sat all day at the depot without food and money and no one who understood our language. In the evening, a Swedish lady came and when she understood our difficulty, she told us where the nearest Norwegians were living. We had just enough money to go there by train and we decided to do that. Here the railway agent gave us a guide that led us to a Norwegian farmer. They received us as guests and not as foreigners and this made a friendship which still exists. It was already June 24th, 1861 when we arrived. We stayed here for about a year and started to work very hard, with desire and strength. So our first summer, we saved about $80 which in my opinion was a large wage for one summers work.

Then we continued to Walvent (maybe Walnut) Co., Wisc., where we lived for 2 years, returned then to Illinois where I bought 40 acres of land. After 3 years I sold it and bought another 60 acres. On this farm I destroyed by health by hard work and I got sick. (He contracted Typhoid and nearly died, and was never strong after that.)

In 1876 I sold our little farm and April 18, 1877 we moved to Buena Vista Co., (Iowa) where I bought this our home, 3 1/2 miles south of Linn Grove. Luck has been with, God be praised and we have been happy. Thank God for that.

Thor Sigurdson died November 4, 1905.
Ingrid Sigurdson died November 8, 1914.

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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
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