Land of Opportunity: Man First to Immigrate, Serves in the Civil War

Hanson journeyed to land of opportunity and worked with timber in Wisconsin.


| Good Old Days



“I was born on the farm of Østerud in Hurdal on February 22, 1831, baptized on March 13, 1831, and confirmed October 21, 1846. I journeyed to America on April 5, 1854.” Thus began the story of Gulbrand Hanson Østerud, later known as Gilbert Hanson, the second son of Hans Gulbrandson Østerud and Kari Gulliksdatter and the first of the Hanson clan to immigrate to America, the land of opportunity. During his first two years in America, 1854-56, Gulbrand lived in Racine County, Wisconsin. He and Ole Oleson Østerud worked together on a farm near Yorkville. It is likely that he went to Green Bay to work in the pineries, chopping timber in the winter months. He is not mentioned by name in the letter of November 20, 1854, which was written by Hans Christian Gullickson, but Ole and Gullickson were to leave for Green Bay on November 24 and would stay there until the first of April. Pay for working in the pineries was $25 per month plus room and board.

In the summer of 1854 there was a cholera epidemic. Many of the newcomers died. The people blamed the American food and the hot weather for the disease, but the swampy Muskego area and the poor sanitation were probably the real reasons for the epidemic. The miserable sickness led to 10 or 12 burials per day. With the coming of cold weather the epidemic slackened, but the summers of 1855 and 1856 were apparently just as bad.

In September 1856 Gulbrand and Ole set out for Minnesota. Ole wrote: "Muskego is the worst pest-hole I have ever been in ..." and they moved to "the healthy place."

They left Racine, Wisconsin, passing through Beloit, Wisconsin; Dunleith (now East Dubuque), Illinois; Lansing, Waukon, Freeport, Decorah and Ridgeway, Iowa, according to Ole's diary. The route suggests that they took the train from Racine to East Dubuque (a railroad follows this route on an 1854 map of Wisconsin) and a boat up the Mississippi River to Lansing. From Lansing they went inland in Iowa to Ridgeway where, the story goes, they met their friends, the Hallings, Hellicksons and Olsons, all of whom traveled together to Minnesota.

Nearing Spring Valley, they stopped at the John Bateman farm and inquired about land with woods and water. Mr. Bateman told them to go southwest about three miles, where they would find good land. They went, one mile east and one-half mile south from Ostrander. Gulbrand and Ole took for themselves adjoining l00-acre farms in Section 33. According to an act of Congress approved March 3, 1855, the land was military bounty, but the man to whom it was originally assigned didn't want it, so it was available for settlement. The two men arrived on their farms October 8, 1856. Gulbrand had his worldly goods shipped from Racine, at a cost of $11.25. On October 16 they went to Chatfield to register their land at the General Land Office. Gulbrand's land was patented on April 10, 1860, by President James Buchanan.

It is a fine piece of land, one of the best in the area: high and gently rolling. The south branch of the Root River flows a short distance north of this farm. The soil is glacial drift loam. Originally the farm had a great deal of timber, which was a source of firewood and building materials. The woodland ran from its present location, next to the house, to the cemetery.





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