Land of Opportunity: Engaged Woman Finds a Different Fate

Reaching destination in this land of opportunity, engaged woman finds a new love, and grandparents start family in North Dakota.

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This family’s journey in the land of opportunity took a few unexpected twists. The tale begins with Augusta Sofia Amelia Hermanson, who was born in Nye, Smaaland, Sweden, on April 13, 1869. She spent much of her childhood with her maternal grandparents, Adolph and Elizabeth Nelson, and attended a girls' school. At age 18 or 19, she became engaged to a man named Emil. They decided Emil should go to America and save his earnings to send for her. Emil had a married brother living in Davenport, North Dakota, at the time.

In May 1890, she bade farewell to her mother, Caroline; stepfather, Carl Peterson; younger sisters, Ida and Hilda; and her grandparents. After a stormy voyage, including a three-day stopover in England, they arrived in New York.

Augusta took the train to Davenport, where she arrived June 5, 23 days after leaving Sweden. To her dismay she discovered Emil's brother had died, and Emil was more interested in his brother's widow. Augusta was dressed in drab, dull clothing; Emil and the widow pointed their fingers at her old-world costume and laughed.

Augusta saw right away that Emil was involved with this other woman, and she was very upset. She did not have any more to do with Emil. She hired out to the Nels Braaten family, where she made many friends, especially within the Hendrick Clemenson family.

Augusta met Gilbert, who had emigrated from Norway with his parents, Hendrick and Berthe Clemenson, and family in 1870.

Augusta and Gilbert married June 6, 1891. Soon afterward they sent tickets to Augusta's sister, who later married Gilbert's brother.

Gilbert bought 160 acres from his employer, Addison Leach, and worked it until it was sold in 1894. Gilbert then rented his father's farm, purchasing it for 15,000 bushels of wheat in 1896, to be paid in yearly installments. Gilbert also served as a waterpumper for Northern Pacific Steam Engines.

Gilbert and Augusta had 12 children: Hartvig Bartinius, 1892-1903; Adolph, 1893-1974; Robert, 1895-1960; Mabel Carolina, 1897-; Agnes Geneva, 1899-1962; Ella Randine, 1900-1906; Lillian Hazel, 1902- ; Hedvig Clementina, 1904- ; Helmer Edwin, 1910-1910; Florence Elena, 1911- ; and two twins died in infancy. Augusta and Gilbert also raised Robert's two sons, Martin and Elmer, after their mother, Ella, died during the 1918 flu epidemic.

Gilbert and Augusta were always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Augusta was active in the community, a skilled seamstress for family and neighbors, a Red Cross organizer during World War I and an able farm worker despite her small stature. During the war in which her son, Adolph, served, the 1918 flu epidemic struck, and Augusta kept busy caring for family and neighbors.

Augusta and Gilbert moved from the farm to Fargo, North Dakota, in 1925. Gilbert died in May of 1928. Augusta moved to West Fargo, North Dakota, in 1948, remaining spry and active and caring for garden and house.

Augusta cared for the Clemenson family cemetery until she reached her 100th year.

She died at the Elim rest home on February 15, 1971, two months short of 102. Augusta smoked a little white tobacco pipe and made elderberry wine. My ancestral bloodline would have been different if my grandfather had been Emil, instead of Gilbert Clemenson. That's fate.

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.