Crowded Conditions, Poverty Convinced Many to Immigrate to Land of Opportunity

Many had to save and plan for arduous trip to land of opportunity.

| Good Old Days

Crowded conditions, poverty and rigid discipline induced many people in Norway to immigrate to the United States; they saw it as a land of opportunity. It meant that they had to save what they could in order to book passage to the New World and buy enough food to get them through the arduous trip. It was a sad occasion leaving family members behind, many of whom they probably would never see again. They took whatever clothing they could on the trip, hoping it would last until they could find work. They faced unknown dangers in the New World.

Once they landed, arrangements were made for them to travel westward. They rode trains, got boat rides on big rivers and the Great Lakes, and worked across country. They also encountered people who cheated them.

By the 1840s, the Norwegian immigrants were arriving in Wisconsin. Many came to Rock Prairie, where they had relatives, but they found that the government ground had already been taken, which left Iowa as a likely spot.

Those who came to Allamakee County did so accidentally. In October 1849, Ole Larson, Ole O. Storla, Svend Hesla and Nels Roe left their relatives in Rock County and began their long walk to find a spot. They originally intended to visit the area south of the Turkey River settlement in Clayton County. As they traveled across the Mississippi River, the operator of the ferry between Prairie du Chien and McGregor advised them to go to Allamakee County.

After landing where Paint Creek emptied into the Mississippi River, they were advised to go westward on an Indian trail along the creek. They followed the creek to a place the Indians called Big Springs. This was the site of Waukon, the county seat. They hesitated and went back to spots where markets were being built.

Fewer than nine miles from the Mississippi River, Hesla found a sparkling spring; this looked to him like a logical place to homestead. It happened to be the center of Paint Creek Township. One-half mile southeast, Hesla found another spring for Erick Kittelson, a friend who hadn't come with them.

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