On Mach 30, 1861, my "forefathers" set sail for America, bidding farewell to Old Norway.
An old Russian battleship by the name of Præciosa lay anchored in the harbor of Tvedestrand. It was a sail-ship, of course, and the sails gleamed white against the blue of the harbor. I can imagine the heavy funeral-like feeling that weighed on the hearts of the older people as they realized that in a very few moments they would leave the shores of their old home-land, with its old dear associations...but rivaling this was the spirit of adventure that surged through imagination...but it was sad...the last fond handclasps... the lowering of the gang plank, enabling them to board the ship. The old Præciosa with Captain Peder Andersen at the helm.
Here comes Grandpa, ushering his family up the plank, each one of them carrying a bundle of something they treasured, but the most precious bundle no doubt was the baby they carried, who was just a little over one year old. This baby was my father, Levi Thortvedt. Aunt Joraand was a little over six years of age, and according to her Memoirs, remembers the ocean voyage very well, sixty years later. She mentions the little carved wooden casket containing all her treasured little keepsakes, among them was a "Broget Linde" - a long sash woven of many colored threads in design which was an heirloom, having been in the family for over a hundred years, and could be used for either a sash oras a wrapping for the baby on special occasions, that is first wrapping the baby in a blanket, and then using this "LINDE" for the second wrapping thus holding the blanket very secure, and leaving baby looking like a cocoon or papoose. Other keepsakes treasured by aunt Joraand was a small handkerchief of sheer lawn given her by her aunt-in law Annie Howard. Also a box of sandal wood with perfume.
While in Stranna, a little village lying close to Tvedestrand, aunt Joraand was sitting on a doorstep and a preachers widow gave her a doll's head and some gay pieces of cloth. Aunt Joraand kept these for many years.
Aunt Joraand Thone was only four years of age, as she followed her mother up on the ships deck, and I am sure she held tightly on to her mother's hand. Other passengers were grandpa's mother Joraand Gjeitstaa and her second husband Jørund Hegli and his son Aanund, Tone, grandpa's sister, and Grandpa's brothers. Two of them had their families along.
Then there was Knut Aavelsen brother of John Tveiten; Knute Oujori; Gounstein and Olav Oland; Tarjei Askeliand; Jens Stignasjord, wife Else and family; Tone and Olav Paskeren, daughter Gunld and nephew Halvor Vraalson; Tarjei Skjeresme, wife Gonbjør, son Tarjei and daughter Gonvor; and then there were a particular group of passengers with peculiar names which afforded the Captain much amusement at the daily Roll-Call. And I might mention here reviewing the incidents of the voyage by imitating the Captains tom-foolery. Papa and aunt Jorand remembers this mimery on their fathers part very well. This is the way the Captain would call the Roll:
"Eivin i Kassane" (this passengers name was Eivin Kasine) [Eivin in the boxes]
"Knud i Gryda" (Knut Gryte) [Knud in the casserole]
"Asper i Kleivane" (Asper Gunnarsdatter Veum)
"Halvor Olsen Næsevis" (Halvor Nisi) [Halvor Olsen impertinent]
One of the passengers was Knud Psorsgrun and he was the guide and counselor for the Norwegians on the ship, as this was his second trip to America, and he was therefore well equipped with experience fitted for the role
The coastline of Norway had now melted away, causing various emotions in the hearts of the passengers. The Atlantic was rough! Huge waves splashed over the deck, the sails were whipped taut, and the rigging shrieked in the gale, water, water, nothing but water - greenish-gray flecked with foam. The mighty waves rose higher than the masts of the ship, as the old vessel struggled gallantly on her way with her precious cargo, WESTWARD HO!
In the ships hold stood big trunks, carved and gaily painted Norse chests full of warm clothing, dried meat, flatbread and I know there was an old Norwegian violin, a pair of wooden shoes and many trinkets saved from his childhood in Grandpa's big chest plus many other interesting things, like tools of course.
The name of the cook was "TOR" and he was a sour-visaged man. So bitteran aspect did he present to the world that the passengers were almost afraid to approach him, but then we should always make allowances for a cook. I know! The ship had to dock at Havre for provisions
Sickness as well as tragedy stalked the passengers of the old battleship, and one can be sure of the many homesick thoughts indulged in by the passengers, of home, friends, the cows, goats and "Blakken" [horse], the hillsides of spruce, the sparkling waterfalls, the tang of the wonderful air of old Norway, all going further away every hour, but "Amerika" is drawing nearer!.
Anne, wife of Bendik Gundersen was frantically nursing her yailing daughter Signe who was dreadfully ill, and they despaired for her life, they prayed that she might be spared them but it was not so fated! The little girl gave a few convulsive gasps and she lay still, tears of anguish, a burial at sea! So terrible to land-loving people, and how easily this could have been my father, as he was very sick and Grandpa and Grandmother feared the worst, but they bettled on never giving up hope for an instant and they did all that human hands can do for a loved one, their son!
And little Levi pulled through. Grandmother was sickly the entire trip too, and Grandpa had his hands full tending to his little brood, his two beloved daughters Joraand and Thone, and offer word of courage and sympathy to the other passengers who needed it.
The Præciosa had now been eight weeks battling the Atlantic and now as they were approaching the vicinity of the New Foundland Banks, huge icebergs floated about. Then came the day when a dark line appeared on the horizon and joy flooded the hears of the ship-wearry passengers..."LAND! - AMERIKA!"
Dark masses of land could be seen to the West as they sailed up the Gulf of St. Lawerence and the old Præiosa took them safely up the St. Lawerence River to Quebec.
I have as yet not got the details of the journey from now on, but papa says they went via the Canadian Railway, and when they arrived at Detroit, Michigan, they resumed their journey, for the first time on United States soil, to the great city of Chicago! Here in CHICAGO of 1861, Grandpa and his family had to go to an other depot in order to make rail connections to LaCrosse, Wisconsin. now this was no easy matter as a terrible sandstorm blew and raged in Chicago that day! No hacks were available, and Grandmother was sick too, not having felt well the entire trip, but Grandpa managed in this way. He took their son Levi in one arm, hoisted a big bag to his back with his other arm, told his wife to take a hold of his arm, and commanded his two small daughters Joraand and Thone, to grab each a coat tail and not to let go of them, and off they started to cross the streets filled with Chicago traffic and sand blowing up in to their faces, but Grandpa and Grandma and their charges found the other depot and it was with a sigh of relief I'm sure.
They arrived in La Crosse and were there met by their country-man Bjørnulf Gjermundsen Tveitane. He had Americanized his name to Berney Jimsen. He was a fine host and took my people to his home in "Tveitane Dalen" in Filmore County, in Minnesota