Land of Opportunity: Grandmother Boarded Several Trains to Reach Destination

Long journey ends early one cold morning, and no welcome party acknowledges grandmother’s arrival.

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My grandmother was only 16 when she and two young men left Norway in 1893 and sailed to America, the land of opportunity. Their boat landed in New York, where they boarded a train to Ames, Iowa. The uncomfortable benches made the trip seem endless as they rode for several days to reach Iowa. Three cold, hungry and lonesome young people stepped off the train at 9 p.m. into the chilly April night. It was a long wait until 3 a.m., when they boarded another train to travel 15 miles north to Randall, Iowa. Since they were scheduled to arrive the night before, there was no welcome party to meet them at 5 a.m. Too excited to wait, they left their luggage and started walking. It was cold and rainy, and there were traces of snow in the ditches. As Grandma trudged through the sticky black mud and her low shoes grew colder and heavier, she wondered just where her brother's farm was located. Her first impression of America was anything but the land of riches and wealth that had been described to her.

After walking five miles, they arrived at her brother's home. They stopped at the straw stack and wiped off their muddy shoes before going to the house, where they received a warm welcome. They feasted on warm pancakes while they reported on the folks back home and gave an account of their long journey.

That summer Grandma lived with her sister and family, and on November 2, she married a brother of her sister's husband, who had paid her fare to America. A seamstress came to the house and stayed for several days to sew the long, white wedding dress. Bakers also came to the home to bake and cook plenty of food for the many people who came to the wedding and stayed all day. It was a joyous occasion. The food was delicious, except for the gooseberry pie, which was so sour most of it went in the swill bucket.

At the age of 16, Grandma was a farm wife in Iowa. Babies came along every two years until there were 14. One baby died, and the older children had left home when the youngest were born, but there were always children to care for and work to do. They reared their large family on 80 acres of land. They were never wealthy, but they had a happy Christian home where everyone learned to work and become good citizens. They left us a great heritage.

Jeanette Larson
Story City, Iowa


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.