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Subject: Norwegian Family Story
timon_phocas    6/23/2006 4:59:20 PM
Since this is the nearest thing to a Scandinavian forum, here is a tale from my Scandinavian forbearers. My mother’s family came to America from Norway in the 1800’s. Some had served in the British Royal Navy and retired to Canada after the Napoleonic Wars. They found it to be very cold and economically trying, so they moved south and settled on Ohio farmland. They mixed and mingled with other Norwegian immigrants in Ohio. After the transcontinental railroad was finished in 1869, the Central Pacific railroad started expanding its network throughout California. By 1972 it had merged with Southern pacific and extended it tracks to the northern tip of the Great Central Valley. They ended about 250 kilometers north of Sacramento (the state capital) in a place above the Sacramento River called “Poverty Flats” It was promptly renamed to honor the Southern Pacific station master, and became known as Redding. Southern Pacific began advertising in the American mid-west for settlers in its new California markets. They had special rates for families. A family could reserve an entire freight car that they are their possessions could use for the trip to California. It was equipped with a small pot-belly stove and a privy. The cost was 100 dollars. The Stevensons paid the 100 dollars and went as far as the rails would take them. In 1872 that was the erstwhile Poverty Flats. Winter in Redding is mostly rain, about 60 centimeters or so. The rain starts around October and ends sometime in March. And then, Spring’s first blush brings an incredible green; so green that you think that you can grow anything there. And that is when great-grandfather Stevenson arrived. They met another Norwegian farmer, looked over his property, and bought two sections of land from him. He promptly left town. You see, Redding (outside of the actual Sacramento River valley) was wretched farming country back then. That first blush of Spring is very deceptive. The soil on the land they bought is called “Tehama hardpan” by geologists. It is so hard that you cannot drive steel rebar through it with a sledgehammer. The only thing that really wants to grow is poison oak. And the weather… Well, let’s just say that from June until sometime in September you get really familiar with temperatures at or above 40 degrees centigrade. Buying those two sections of land was a devastating mistake, but they persevered. They planted fig trees and olive trees. They had to use dynamite to dig the holes. They rented a farm in a mountain valley for a winter wheat crop; and each Spring and Fall they made wagon train treks between the two farms (this lasted into the 1920’s). They never really prospered, and they never quite went bust. But they hung in there and survived. Every once in a while, whenever great-grandfather Stevenson would have one of the common disasters of farming, he would look around, shake his head and say, “Vy vould one Norvegian do dis to a nudder Norvegian?” He did that for the rest of his life. That’s what they told me. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
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Thomas    RE:Norwegian Family Story   6/23/2006 7:59:17 PM
I had family in Sacramento - the nephew of my grandmother - he died some years ago, and their kid are spread all over the country. my grandmothers brother lived in Seattle. Say 25 years ago I worked - as a student - in a norwegean hotel in Oslo. There was a very american guest - a very nice old lady. One morning I saw her reading the paper: I did a real double take; American lady reading a norwegean paper??? She could actually read; but not speak norwegean. What You got to understand by your forfathers is that surviving in Norway was hard in the middle of the 19th century: the soil is thin and not very fertile. The sun is weak. Lots of hard work, not much gain. The Danes were a bit more lucky, as they came from a comparatively better farm land; but to many mouths to feed on to few acres, that is why the emigrated. In Denmark we celebrate the 4. July BECAUSE it the independence of the USA. Big shinding in Rebild bakker with participation of the US ambassador, royalty and a guest speaker from the new world. The Rebild society sometimes has expresidents as chairmen - Taft being one of them.
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