to the polls when women won the right to vote for the first time. I was active in high school journalism, editor of the school paper (Dynamo) and yearbook (Viking) and wrote a weekly column for the Decorah Newspapers called “Around the Clock at D.H.S.” I graduated from Luther College in 1961, studied in Hamburg, Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship, at the University of British Columbia on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and at McGill University in Montreal on a Carnegie Grant. I taught German and French and now work in the Winneshiek Co. Auditor’s office.

My son, Erik Newell Esgate, was born in Fullerton, CA. Erik inherited his Grandmother Johnson’s fine singing voice. When he was in the 8th grade, he and other members of a boys double quartet literally brought the audience to its feet with their rendition of “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue", a selection that could not have pleased his grandparents more. Erik is a politics/history/sports enthusiast. The fact that he plays a mean game of Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly can probably be traced to the many hours of “Authors" played through the years at his great aunts' house, the countless hands of “Shanghai” dealt at Grandpa and Grandma Johnson's and the time spent over a game called “rummy-fun’’ that Erik and I learned on a river cruise we took in 1978 on the Mississippi Queen. Erik lives with his wife, Susan, and her daughter, Larissa, in Coralville, IA. We all include as family the people we are privileged to call friends.

Johnson, Peter and Ellen (Lyngaas) THE FAMILY ENVIRONMENT

(Maryarme Esgate)

Bio Photo

Playing on the porch of their home in Decorah, 1915.
From left: an unidentified friend, Estella Johnson and Philip Johnson.

I find unexpected pleasure in being given this reason to concentrate on my ancestors and put part of my family's history on paper. Quotations used are taken from a report on “The Family Environment” written by my Aunt Estella Johnson while she was a student at St. Olaf College in 1922. My wish is that she were still here to write this story. The inspiration, at least, and many of the words are hers.

My great-great-grandfather, Peder Hansen Eggebraaten, was born in Hadeland, Norway, in 1788. Peder was a farmer and carpenter, a sort of ‘Jack of all trades," who fought in Norway’s war with Sweden in 1814. His first marriage ended with his wife's death following the birth of twin sons. A year later Peder married Anne Kjos, bought the Ruen farm, and at that time assumed the surname of Ruen. In 1850 Peder and Anne and their 3 daughters became part of the largest group to leave Hadeland for America at one time. In Oslo they joined 300 other passengers and boarded a sailboat. During the sixth week of their voyage Anne Ruen died of cholera and was buried at sea. Elina Ruen, at 19, the oldest daughter of Anne and Peder, settled in Glenwood Twp., Winneshiek Co. with her father. An excellent cook, Elina soon went to work for a family in Lansing, learning English and meeting Carl Sivesind Johnson, who had been born at Toten, Norway. They were married in 1856, lived first on a farm in Glenwood Twp., and later purchased a farm in Allamakee Co., where they spent the rest of their lives. Elina’s father Peder died at their home in 1879 at age 91. “One noticeable fact about Elina was that she loved to walk and would walk great distances to market with her eggs and butter. She also liked very much to read. She was known for her consideration for others' comfort. She was an exceedingly hard and fast worker, a wonderful housekeeper and hostess. Perhaps if she had spared her strength somewhat when she was young she would have lived to be an older woman, as when she died it was of no disease or sickness but merely from weariness.” Because his farm was large Carl “was kept busy and at continual hard work. He had a strong and outstanding character. Father has told us many times of his tall stature and his wonderful teeth. His death was not brought on by old age but by blood-poisoning.” It was a great satisfaction to Elina and Carl to be able to give each of their 3 sons a fine farm in Allamakee Co.

My great-great-grandparents Ingebret and Marthe Lyngaas lived in Lier, Norway, and were parents of 10 children. Their son Eric married Trina Nilson, and in 1870 Eric and Trina came to America, settling on a farm near Frankville. “Grandfather Lyngaas was said to have a fine voice for singing. He was a great walker and reader, friendly in temperament, and always had a story to tell.” Trina’s parents, Nils Nilson and Ellen Haakenson, had lived in Drammen, Norway, and were not farmers. Nils drowned at age 30 and his wife supported their 5 daughters by nursing. Trina was “quick, graceful, and always proper. She liked to have nice things. She was of generous as well as cheerful disposition.”

Peder Johnson, son of Elina and Carl, and Ellen Lyngaas, daughter of Eric and Trina, were both born in America. Estella wrote of her parents with great love: “My father was born on a farm near Waukon, IA. Most of his youth was spent in the great outdoors. He had an older sister, Augusta, and 2 younger brothers, Joseph and Albert. Since he was the oldest boy he had to do much work about the farm. Nevertheless he had time to enjoy


Partial OCR transcription, some sensitive personal information such as birth dates of people that maybe living is not included. See the associated scan to compare with the published information.

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this page was last updated on Sunday, 28 March 2021