Many years ago when on a visit with brother Anve, I persuaded Iver Johnson Ofstedahl a neighbor
to tell bout his hazardous voyage to America. Having sold his farm in Norway, Iver, with wife
and 4 children, sailed from Bergen on May 5, 1864. They anchored in Quebec August 26, 1864 and
they reached his brother's farm in Olmstead County, Minnesota on September 15.
They sailed in a 3 masted sailship called "Maria" of which Christianson was Captain and
Gunderson was first mate - the latter being well liked by all the passengers and crew.
Trouble At Sea.
On the third day out, near the Shetland Islands, a black cloud was seen to gather. There were
sailors among the passengers who warned the first mate that the sails ought to be taken in. He
said the ship was new, with new ropes, and that it would ride the storm, but when the squall
struck, the 3 masts snapped like so many sticks. After drifting for two weeks, they were found
by an English vessel and taken to South Shells (New Castle) England where they stayed two weeks
while the ship was being repaired. After three or
four days sailing, the ship struck a drift timber that made a hole in the prow of the ship. By
keeping all the pumps going they could deep the water from filling the ship. This meant that the
crew and the passengers had to work in shifts, night and day.
Captain Gets Stepped On.
Iver was seasick a few days. One day as he was standing by the railing and looking at the sea;
the captain came up behind him and gave him a kick and said "Don't step on the ropes". this brought the sick man to life, Iver wheeled around and grabbed the captain, turned him upside
down and stepped on him. The passengers crowded about. The mate, who was up in the rigging, let
himself down by the rope. Iver had to let go of the captain, who was then wild with rage. The
enraged captain said, "we will put you in the hold and tie you to the mast". the mate, hearing this spoke up and said, we will tie you alongside of him". The passengers too showed hostility toward the captain. Nothing more came of the affair.
Sickness Breaks Out.
Sickness, especially measles, broke out and quite a number died. The water supply ran low and
was given out in rations but not always impartially, as some got water to wash themselves while
others not enough to drink, food also ran low, so that they shared with one another. When they
neared the American shore they met an American ship that sold them supplies. Iver bought two
barrels of flour and two quarters of beef, for which he paid in gold. On arrival at the St.
Lawrence, they were put under quarantine. A
rumor that they would not be permitted to land caused a great commotion. The passengers tided
before the inspector came aboard.
Iver was on deck when an interpreter came aboard, and near him was standing the captain. The
interpreter asked Inver what kind of voyage they had . Iver said it had been deplorable. Upon
being asked how the captain had been toward the passengers, Iver replied, "the captain has been a devil". "So we have heard", said the interpreter. Iver later heard that the captain was put under arrest on his return to Bergen.
They landed at Quebec and were then sent by train to Prairie du Chin, Wisconsin, and from there
by boat to La Cross. From the river bank to the boat there was a chute down which the immigrants
chests were slid. The first chest sent down the chute belonged to some people that were from
Nordland. It came down with such force that the chest went to pieces. In anger the Nordlandings
quickly grabbed the boatmen and pitched them into the river. Ropes were then brought and the
rest of the chests were lowered as carefully as though they had been made of glass. When they
landed at La Cross the company consisted only of the Ofstedal family and two Flatekvaal
brothers, Magne and Andrew. From La Cross they came on a work train to St. Charles, the end of
the rail. Now they were in America! Their baggage was thrown off on the prairie. Between these
big chests they slept, under the starry heavens.
There were plenty of men working on the railroad but none understood Norwegian. Iver had a
letter from his brother. He showed this to everybody but none could read it. He saw a man who
did not look like the common herd. Iver thought I'll try the "big bug". He walked up to the man,
tipped his hat, and handed him the letter. In looking at the letter the man saw "Rock Dell P.O. Olmstead, County, Minnesota." Taking Iver by the arm, the man led him toward a new house and in this house lived a girl who was sick in bed. She was Danish and could talk with Iver, and in turn could explain to the man where Iver
wanted to go. The man wrote a request asking people to give directions about the road.
Off To Rochester.
The next morning Iver and the Flatikvall boys started for Rochester. They found it a long road.
The food supply being scant, they took no lunch along. They were soon hot, tired and hungry.
Along the roadside they saw a corn field, but they did not know corn. Some nice large pumpkins
were discovered in the field, and to these weary travelers the pumpkins looked like some kind
of fruit. They were tempted to steal one to satisfy their
hunger; but at a second thought it seemed a sin to waste so much food, as they realized
they could not eat a whole pumpkin. They did sample the corn, and Iver thought it tasted sweet
and good. He ate an ear of corn, but the others did not relish it.
Iver Hunts Brother.
At Rochester they met Norwegians, and here they learned that the brother lived 12 miles to the
south, so they trudged away. It was getting dark when they heard a dog bark at a distance, Iver
said, "I'll bet that is where my brother lives". They were afraid they might lose the road, so
one of the men was to stand near the road, the next at shouting distance from Iver, who went a
little farther in the direction of the dog's bark. At this time the fire flies were lighting
their lamps. These new comers knew no more about
fireflies than about corn or pumpkins. Iver shouted to the others, "Now we are all right, I see
a light, there are many lights, we must be coming to a big town." As he saw more and more
lights he called, "It looks as though Erick is loose," but he added bravely "I am not afraid of
him." They went back to the road and after awhile they came to a farm house. By this time they
knew one word in English, namely, "Norwegian." This they used, and the people understood and
pointed further along the road. Finally they came to a house where the people of the house had
already retired. After arousing them from their rest these people gave the weary wayfarers food
and a bed of a floor. The dog
they had heard in the evening was Iver's brother's dog. In the morning the men had to retrace
their steps about four or five miles. At Iver's brothers house they were met with tears of joy,
as they had read an account in the papers about the ship having sunk and the passengers,
including Iver, were believed drowned. Needless to say no time was left lost in sending for the
wife and children who were left alone at St. Charles.