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John O. Tansem's account of the voyage on the ship Olaf from Christiania to Quebec in 1867

- Wallace Tansem

This is an account of the crossing on the ship Olaf from Christiania to Quebec in 1867. It was written in John O. Tansem's diary. The story has been submitted by Wallace Tansem, the grandson of John O. Tansem.

John O. Tansem was born November 16, 1842, son of Ole and Berget Tansombmoen in Eidsvold, Norway here he attended school and was a member of Langset Church. As a young lad he operated a ferry on Lake Mjøsa. He married Pauline (born December 5, 1845) daughter of Johan and Marie Dalen Gulbransdalen in the year 1865. With the tide of immigration from Norway to U.S.A., they together with Ole Lynnes and Necolai Julsrud left their old home on the 8th day of April, 1867 and arrived in Christiania (Oslo) at 11:00 a.m. the same day. There they took lodging with a merchant by the name of Ole Skapet and stayed until 3:00 p.m. April 10. Then they went aboard the said ship "Olaf" which lay ready to depart with a load of emigrants for America. The following is their story:


"At seven o'clock in the afternoon we hoisted anchor but lay still till the morning of the 12th when we sailed with full sails out of port. However this did not last longer than we could well look back on the town. Then we ran into a headwind and this lasted until Monday morning the 15th of April. Then we had a good wind and sailed with good speed past Drøbak and Kavholman and before 9:00 p.m. we left Ferder and came out in the North Sea. The 20th of April we were by Scotland and there we fished so we had fresh fish for Easter Eve. On April 21st which was Easter Sunday we left the North Sea and headed out into the Atlantic Ocean. After that we did not see land until the 20th of May.

During this time on the 28th of April occurred the death of a 6 month old child. The corpse according to custom was left 4 days on board ship. On the fourth day a coffin was made in which many holes were bored. In the bottom of the bed, stones were put and covered with shavings. The corpse was dressed just as lovely as on land and laid in the coffin. For the funeral service the Captain sang a hymn and then the coffin was put over board.

On May 6th we had a birth on board. A woman gave birth to a boy child and right afterwards the Captain and the Doctor asked that he be named "Olaf" in honor of the ship. Then we on the night before the 20th of May had a glimpse of the island St. Paul. The wind turned against us and we had to lay for three days and nights without getting any place but then the wind turned in our favor again. On May 25th the wind was against us and we had slow going and then we had our first glimpse of Canada. We also met the emigrant ship the "Atlantic". We sailed so close that we greeted each other and asked how things were going and what kind of weather we'd had, etc. We also met another Norwegian emigrant ship named "Amalia" from "Porsgrund" and greeted her with "Hurrah". The 26th of May we had good wind and a little rain so we could not be on deck and at 11:00 a.m. the pilot came on board. At 8:00 p.m. occurred the death of a little child, one year and nine months old. This little child was buried like the first one. On May 28th a steamship came by and asked us if we wanted help to get to Quebec. The Captain asked how much it would cost and he answered 40 pounds which amounts to about 160 dollars. At that rate there was no use offering him anything so he went away. It wasn't long before we had favorable wind and at 7:00 a.m. on May 29th we came to Quarantine Place and before we were through with our sails, the doctor came aboard and we had orders to come up on deck. We were then led to the front part of the ship and a rope was stretched across the deck. By this the Doctor stood and allowed only one person at a time to come over to their side. This visitation went on very rapidly and orderly and none were kept back. At 2:30 in the afternoon we arrived in Quebec and immediately someone came aboard and we were counted.

After that the Captain went ashore and while in town he ordered a steamboat to come and bring us ashore. We were permitted to do so and were brought back to ship in the afternoon On May 31st at 7:00 p.m. we left the "Olaf" and went by steamboat to the railroad station where we stayed on the dock until 2:00 in the morning of June 1st when we got lodging in a warehouse. At one o'clock in the morning of June 2nd we left Quebec. While we were boarding the train, a drunken Judge from Trondhjem by the name of Norgaard ran into a sales clerk from Tromsø by the name of Johnson. Johnson laid Norgaard on the platform and told him to be quiet but Norgaard would not, so Johnson got up, took Norgaard by the hair and gave him a slap on the ear so he quickly fell to the platform again and broke one leg so he had to be carried to a hospital. Both men were in our group.

At 7:00 p.m. on June 3rd we were by Montreal. On June 4th, 1:00 p.m. we were in Toronto and left there at 7:00 p.m. the same day. The 5th of June at 11:00 a.m. we arrived at Sarnia and there we were brought over to the United States by steamboat crossing the river that separates Canada from the United States. We were lodged in a hotel. The coach with our luggage was brought over on a ferry and took the coach right up to the warehouse we were in and our luggage was brought in. Here every trunk was opened and the clothing examined to see if we had to pay duty on it . Each family had to pay $..95 in duty but single person went free. On June 6th at 10:00 p.m. we left and came to Milwaukee by steamboat. We reached there by 7:00 a.m. June 9th. There we walked around and looked at the town and thought it was the most beautiful town. The whole town was criss-crossed by canals and bridges over them for the streets. These were fixed so that four men could swing them when anyone should pass through the canal. The streets were wide and on nearly every street by the sidewalk there had been planted a pretty row of beautiful leaf trees. They also came driving with a load of bread so that those who did not have anything to buy food for could have some. There was also a lovely speech for us bidding us welcome to America on Pentecost Sunday. At 7:00 p.m. we left there by train and arrived at La Crosse, Wisconsin on June 10th at 4: p.m. At 1:00 a.m. the morning of June 11th we left there by steamboat for Veinona (Winona) Minnesota where we arrived at 8:00 p.m. the same day. After that we had neither steamboat nor train. We came to Rushford, Fillmore County, Minnesota and worked there for a year."

Johnson, Julsrud and Lynnes settled in Norwegian Grove Township in Ottertail County. In 1870 Tansem settled on the homestead in Clay County and the Township was named after him. They built a log house close to a lake known as Tansem Lake and Gure Lake. The balance of the diary tells of his life in Minnesota and birth's of family members

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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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