Restrictive Laws Bring Norway Immigrants to Land of Opportunity

As eldest son inherited farms, younger sons sought occupations in land of opportunity.


| Good Old Days



Times were hard in Norway. Down through the generations the farms had been divided and subdivided. A son of the family may have gone higher up on the mountain, cut down some trees, built a house, cleared a little plot of land and eked out a living. But that could not go on forever. The oldest son inherited the farm. His siblings had to go out to work for others. By the 1830s, there was little work to be had and wages were very low. Because of restrictive laws they could not change their occupations. The children had very little education. They read well enough to read the Bible and be confirmed. Some boys were taught writing and arithmetic. The girls did not learn those things because women had no need for them. In Norway, when people moved from farm to farm they changed their name to the name of the farm. Some people had several names in their lifetime. In 1838, a pamphlet, "True Account of America," was published in Christiania (Oslo). It was written in America by Ole Rynning and described the country in such glowing terms that many got "America fever." They sold their possessions and scraped together enough money to go to the wonderful Land of Opportunity.

The usual route was by sailboat to New York, by steamer up the Hudson River to Albany, by canal boat to Buffalo and by steamer on the Great Lakes to Milwaukee or Chicago. From New York to Buffalo, it cost from $3 to $4, and from Buffalo to Chicago, $9 to $12. Children from 2 to 12 went for half price, and infants were free. Freight wagons to their destination usually cost about $1 per 100 pounds. Another immigrant route, by way of New Orleans, went up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and by canal boat to Chicago. Later, some came by way of Quebec.

Ole Aslesen was born in 1813 on the Myran farm in Sigdal, Norway. This farm was on fairly level land at the upper end of Lake Soneran, along the banks of the river that fed the lake. When Ole was 3 years old his father, Asle, drowned. His mother, Kari, remarried. Her new husband, Nils, moved to her farm and, as was the custom, took the Myran name. Kari had three more children. When Ole was 16 years old, his stepfather died. After his military obligation was taken care of, Ole bought the farm. He was 23 years old.

Ole got America fever and sold the farm. On May 17, 1840, at the age of 27, he left Drammen on the Emily, a creaky old sailing ship. The captain had said that the bottom of the ship was 150 years old. During a bad storm the timbers that supported the upper berths gave way, dropping the upper berths down on the lower ones. The passage from Drammen to New York cost 33 Norwegian speciedalers for adults and 25 speciedalers for children. Meals cost 12 speciedalers.

Ole settled in southern Wisconsin. He wrote a letter home advising his family to come to America. The next year, 50-year-old Kari Myran and her youngest son, 15-year-old Helge Nilsen Myran, set sail for America.

Ole's other half-brother, Asle Nilsen Myran, came to Wisconsin in 1843. He worked in the lead mines for a while. He returned to Norway and was married there.





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