Sandbar Delays Arrival in Land of Opportunity

Emigrate register lists entire Norwegian family as they arrive in land of opportunity.

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An extensive family history begins with a trip to the land of opportunity. The family left for America on July 14, 1870, as mentioned in the Emigrate Register No.4, folio 347. Included were: Hendrick Klemetson Greaker, 45; Berthe Arvesdtr, 38; Kristen, 16; Marta, 14; Andreas, 12; Hedvind, 7; Bernhard, 5; and Gulbrand, 2. They paid 340 daler, 60 ort in old Norwegian money – about 700 kroner today – before leaving from Tune, Norway. En route to America, the ship struck a sandbar off Ireland, where it remained for two weeks while cargo was removed to release the vessel. After five weeks at sea, they landed in the United States on August 10, 1870. They first went to Fairbault, Minnesota, on the steamboat Hero, for which they paid 100 daler.

The following excerpt is from a Fargo Forum article:

Living in Fairbault, Minnesota, Hendrick, who was a shoemaker, followed his trade there. One sunny April day in 1871 he took off his leather apron, laid down his shoe-last and awl, and with his two eldest sons, Kristen and Andreas, Hendrick started west on foot to find a home.

They carried necessities in packs on their backs: two army muskets, blankets, a frying pan, salt, coffee and other needful things. They slept wherever night found them, sometimes under trees beside a lake, sometimes in a settler's stable. They shot rabbits, hen-partridges and prairie chickens and cooked them over campfires. The way was long, but they couldn't get lost because they didn't know where they were going.

It was a rugged trip as they frequently had to hew their way through woods and brush. Late in May, they came to where the Red River divided Fargo and Moorhead. There was a shack on the Minnesota side of the river and a log house, owned by a half-breed Indian, on the Dakota side. A Hudson Bay ferry brought the travelers across.

On they trudged, through water that practically covered the prairie. Hendrick arrived at the Sheyenne River site one and one-half miles southwest of Horace, where he put down the pack on his back. "We'll stay here," he said, after digging in the ground with a spade. "This will be fine land in a little while."

Hendrick took up squatter's rights in Section 30, Stanley township. Woods were heavy on the Sheyenne River, where they decided to settle. First they stripped off tree bark to make a crude shelter, then they began to build a log cabin. Hendrick carried many of the timber logs on his shoulders to the cabin site.

A prairie fire destroyed both those efforts, but another house was ready by late fall. Ola Holman, who had also come to settle at Horace, North Dakota, drove to Benson, Minnesota, and brought his own family and the Clemensons back in a covered wagon. Berthe and the other children joined them later that same year. There was no snow until a few days before Christmas that year, which eased their hardships. Hendrick later filed for homestead rights, becoming the first permanent settler in this area. He became the area's first postmaster, too, appointed in 1874 and serving until 1876. He was on a committee of three that named the village "Horace," in honor of Horace Greeley, who was at that time a candidate for the United States presidency. Greeley lost to Garfield, but the name Horace lived on.

With the help of his sons, Hendrick developed the prairie into a well-cultivated farm. Their children grew to adulthood at Horace. Two sons, Andrew and Gilbert, and a daughter, Mathilda, settled in the local area for their lifetime.

The first pioneers came to the Horace area in 1871-72, settling along the Sheyenne River, where there were plenty of trees for log cabins and firewood. Breaking the virgin soil with oxen and walking plow was difficult; it took a day to plow one and one-half to two acres. Occasionally, friendly Indians came up the river in canoes to ask for food or tobacco.

My mother, Lillian Clemenson Werst, grew up living with her parents and Grandmother Berthe. She spent many happy hours talking to her grandmother. My mother gave me two bread plates from the old set of family dishes that my Great-Grandmother Berthe brought on the boat with her family from Norway. These small, 120-year-old bread plates are all that remain of the set of family dishes that Berthe saved.

The Clemenson Family History Reunion is currently held every three years. From the reunions, I have a complete family history book, with a computer listing of more than 3,000 relatives scattered over the 50 states and Canada. I have a cookbook, too: Clemenson Cooks 120 Years (1870-1990).

Hendrick died November 11, 1904, and Berthe at age 90 on May 8, 1921. Both are buried in the Clemenson Cemetery near the homestead in Horace, North Dakota.

Naomi J. Ochs
Independence, Missouri


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.