Borrowed Funds Send Son to Land of Opportunity

Family stayed in station waiting for ship, and many people were robbed as they slept.

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John Hoien was born and raised at Øste Vraa, Denmark. When he was 19, his parents borrowed money from a banker for his ticket to America, the land of opportunity. He traveled with his sister's family, sailing from Esberg to Hull, England. There they had to wait for a ship. They slept in the station, and one night John felt hands running over his hip pockets. He rolled over and went back to sleep because he knew enough to have his money in his coat breast pocket. In the morning, several people were yelling that they had been robbed.

The ship, Saxonia, finally came, and they embarked for Boston, arriving in May 1903. They had relatives in Iowa, so they went there first. Then John heard that there was work to be had in South Dakota. He went to Conde, where he got a job as a section hand on the railroad between Conde and Groton.

As he worked, he noticed a lot of gophers along the right-of-way. John secured some traps and set them as the crew went out in the morning. He collected the gophers as the crew came home at night. He was paid 2 cents a tail for the gophers. It was not long before he had enough money to buy a trunk in which to keep his clothes, all paid for by the gophers.

John did not have boots or work shoes and was struggling to make his thin-soled shoes hold together until he got his first pay. With this money he went to a dry-goods store in Conde run by Mr. Place, where John was fitted with a good pair of work shoes. There John had his first experience with a merchant offering to "put it on the cuff" if the customer had no money. But John had money and paid for the shoes. To show his pleasure, Mr. Place threw in a pair of work socks to boot.

John worked on the section and also for farmers. He spent almost no money on himself, so in two years he had sent enough money to his parents to payoff their loan.

Eunice Hoien Dahlgren
Sweet Home, Oregon

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.