I am to say something of my boyhood days. I was born October 3, 1821 in Sonderby, a village near Assens on Fyen, Denmark, Europe. I never saw any other town like it. It was built around a big lake which was several hundred feet below the level of surrounding country. When we came from the surrounding country, we could not see any buildings or trees until we came on the hillside which led down to it. About thirty farmers lived around this lake. To the northwest and south the farmers built close to the lake, but on the eastern side they built farther off where the land was more level. The working mens houses were among them.
My father’s house was built on the north close to the lake. We had a big garden extending into the lake, which had been artificially made by filling in with dirt. About sixteen rods north was a big swamp of land, about as big as the lake, where they cut peat (tourf) for fuel, but first the water from this swamp had to be pumped into the lake by windmill.
We had to go to school every other day from the age of seven to fourteen. My father had ten acres of land two American miles west towards Assens, a cow, and some sheep in the spring in lambing time. A part of the time I had to take them home in the evening and out in the morning and sometimes milk the cow. As we tied them with ropes, I had to go out at noon to move them. In the warm summertime, I could run barefooted all the way out and home in less than an hour. In the winter I spent all my spare time on the ice skating and sleighing. My father’s land was high, so we could see far over the country. On our land there was a high knoll called “Tween Hoy” (Twin High--two knolls called twins). There must have been another one with a pile of earth on where chiefs had been buried, but ours had been plowed and planted for many years. I heard one family speak of it. They said if we could find this place and dig down to the skeletons and not say a word we could find some gold, but if we said a word they would all (aal) sink. One day I pointed out the center on the knoll and dug down four or five feet and did not say a word and believed I would find some gold. I struck down on the foreleg and teal bones. I didn’t find any small bones and there was a big pile of black earth laid, so I rooted it all over as nearly as I could but found no gold. I only found some brass pins. They were green and so weak they could not stick through any cloth and that green is poison. I had thrown the bones up, so I throwed them down again and covered it up. My father had found eight skeletons before when plowing the ground, so there must have been a graveyard for the wild before civilization--[how early] of days, or how many years ago, nobody can tell and there may have been many more skeletons our plowing was so shallow. The old chief may have been buried in a lake because there was so much black stuff with the bones. Another word about playing on the ice on the lake at home. When we school boys were playing on the ice, a big flock of them had skates. This day another boy and I were sliding after them on our wooden shoes and come to an opening in the ice that geese and duck skept open, but the other boy didn’t see it and slid right in and went out several feet and sank so the water bubbled in his mouth. I could not reach him.
I looked at the nearest farm house, but it was too far to get help so I looked after the boys and saw that they had a little ice guide, which is a stick six or eight feet long with a sharp iron point to stick in the ice between their legs to run the sleigh with. I managed to get this back in time to pull him out with it as far as the ice where he hung with his arms until the boys came back and helped to pull him out. He had been under water twice and in a few moments he would have been gone.
When I was fourteen years of age, I was through school so then I had to work for the farmers, which I did for five years. The first year my father hired me out for seven Rigsdollars (a little over $3.50 in this money). He was one of the hardest men to work for. Farmers’ hired men had to flail off the small grain in the winter. They always had one full grown man and a boy and they started flailing when fall plowing was done and this lasted until spring. It was harder work than in the summer when we had to cradle grain and cut the grass with a scythe for hay. These men wanted me to work every Sunday forenoon. They always had two hired girls, one full grown and a smaller one. The little girl and I had to tie up after one cradle. They all had two hours at noon when they slept in the barn on straw but every noon when they were asleep the farmer came and called me to cut some grass or weeds for the horses. On Sundays I had to work in the manure pile--throw up some rotten straw. When I was going on my sixteenth year I got twelve rig dollars for a year and it was just as hard a working place as the other but he didn’t ask me to work on Sundays. In my seventeenth and eighteenth years I got eight and ten Rig dollars a year. Another man and I had to do a gown man’s work for the men were nearly all called to the war with Germany. In 1848 and 1850 he wanted me to work on Sunday, too. After this I hired out to another man at ten Rig dollars a year but we had a thrashing machine. It was a big Hureyaard (uppercrust fellow). We call it Frederiksgave, a big landgod (landlord). The King had given this land to his son, Prince Frederick VII, who became King of Denmark after his father died. It was rented out for many years. In the spring of 1851 I started to learn the mason work in a village named Draslatte. We worked for farmers and other big landlords--one named Gogesmose who lived south-east near the ocean, one named Kjarsgaard who lived north, and another named Snoghoi who lived in Jydland (Jutland), across the ocean north of Fyen. In 1852 I worked for a master in Assens and we worked all summer putting up barn buildings for a landlord in Sleivig, about___American miles south of Kolding. In the first part of the summer of 1853 I got my diploma for mason work. We then went to Tjalland (Sjaelland?) Mrs. Rasmuss’ home, about twenty miles across the ocean east from Fyen, and worked that summer in the city of Slagelse.
In the winters I worked for my brothers at home in the carpenter shops for they were carpenters and made furniture in the winters. In the summer of 1854 I worked for a mason master who worked for a landlord on Sjaelland, five miles east of the city of Ford. The name of the place was Nerbgholm. There we built some brick houses and in the last of the summer I went to a city named Ring Stet and worked for a mason. His name was Bernsteen.. We and a Polak built a watch house on the railroad for him. The railroad through Tjalland was finished that summer. Rosenaski was the Polak’s name.
In 1853, the first of April, I left my home and went across the ocean from Fyen to Schleswig. I was there for two weeks amongst the masons. I could talk but little German. I didn’t tell them I was going to America. We were in their boarding house. Two of them followed me around to look for work for me. They had to read a long story (recommendation) for the Carbare master before they could ask for work. After some days I got a promise for work and he took my wanderbog (wonderbook) so he could call for me when he needed me. It was a little too early yet, Here it was customary to give two quarts of brandy wine for that. I had many expenses of them in the two weeks. If any went to bed and didn’t even take his shirt off it was also two quarts of brandy wine. The first morning after the two weeks were gone I bought a ticket for America by way of England. We needed no passport there. I left my Wanderbog there, a book given you to keep record of who you work for.
A few words about Germany. Sunday there is about like the Fourth of July in America. From 9:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. it looked as though everybody is out dressed up fine. The streets and parks are full of people with all kinds of Juglery Komeidie, in houses as well as outside. There was dancing in the houses and saloons (salvens). In St. Tanly, a big square--a suburb to Hamborg. are many dancing houses and it is in full swing every afternoon to 10:00 P.M. except Saturday. They are all on the first floor and never have curtains for the windows. They are big enough for two Donin pair to swing around and benches are all around to sit on. I went on the sidewalk once and I looked through the windows and there “outside dresses” were laying all around in a circle on the floor ready to go into the next afternoon. At home in Denmark when anybody told us something we didn’t believe we called it a Hamborg (humbug). Here is is called a humbug. I think it is a descent from Hamborg to England and to America.
I forgot what the ticket cost from Hamborg to New York. It took four days on the steamer on the ocean from Hamborg to Holland and how long from there to Liverpool I forget. England was a good looking farm country and I did see one place where there was some rolling coal from a mine on the level land.
I was in Liverpool about a week before we started for New York and it took twenty-eight days to get to New York. We had fair weather all the way and I saw lots of sharks following the vessel not far from the seat (ceit) looking for someone to fall overboard for them to eat up. I guess they were ten or fifteen feet long.
They were going in big flocks up and down all of the time--under water and up again so that it looked as though they were almost clear from the water. There were three Germans and all the rest were Irish, the poor class of people. One or two old women were sitting on the deck killing lice most of the time but all the girls were in the better dresses when we left the vessel in New York.
From there I bought a ticket to Chicago and there I went to a Norwegian boarding house where I stayed a week while I worked at masonry. However, I got so sick and weak in my stomach because of the water I wasn’t fit to work on the building and when we were paid Saturday night he let me go. I met a Dane and a Swede and we agreed to go together and cut grass for hay out on the prairie six or seven miles southwest of town.
South and west of town there was nothing but prairie as far as we could see. Here people were making hay and selling it and we went to do so, too. The grass was tall and good for hay. We got some poles stuck up and covered with grass for our house. We dug a hole four feet deep and it had two feet of water which we used for drinking. We never cooked anything. Our meals were smoked ham, bread, water and whisky. Our provisions (troveant) were a sack of bread, a smoked ham and a gallon of whisky and one gallon tincan. The whisky cost 38 ? We used no glass but took a little sip out of the can. It lasted a week or more and when it was gone one of us went to Chicago and got the sack and can filled up again. We slept in our clothes at night in hay in the shanty. Was up by daylight and worked until dark every day for three months. Farmers came and paid us $2.00 a ton and got $12.00 for it in Chicago. We cut a ton each day each. One night we had a big storm and rain and all the grass soaked in deep water. We were there from the middle of June to the middle of September. Some distance off on the road from Chicago to Elgin was a knoll with trees on it where we spent Sundays. A milkman bought some land for$30.00 an acre.
The other two men had been in New Orleans the winter before and they thought we could get work there. We had $17.00 due us for hay and my countryman wanted me to go in with him and cheat the Swede for his part. I told him I would not for we all worked hard for what we got. Then he got him to go in with him and kill me off. But that was not the worst of it. Before we started for New Orleans I put out a cloth in the shanty to put my money on for to count it. It was all in gold in $20.00 and $10.00 pieces and the Swede was a much bigger man than I and put his big hand on the money and grabbed it. He took all he could hold in one hand and stuck it in his trouser pocket and I never got it back. I was not stout enough to fight him. His name was Peter and the other Dane kept saying, “Keep it, Peter!”. On the road to New Orleans, while we were in St. Louis, I had a good chance to kill him but I didn’t like to do it (meaning he did not kill him). We started from LaSalle to go directly to New Orleans, but we were in St. Louis, Memphis and some other places. We hunted for two days for work and found none as it was all done by slaves at that time.
Then it was told us we could get work on a railroad eighty miles out in Louisiana and have a free ride out so we went over to the big town, Algier, on the other side of the Mississippi river from New Orleans, and got out there but they didn’t need us.
I didn’t like it there anyway for the land was flat and flooded with water and their shanty’s were on sticks in the water. The working men were neither black nor white but were more like a Tholt. They gave us a drink of whiskey and we started back.
There was a narrow wagon road and low land. For a day we didn’t see man or beast and in the night we laid in the sugar cane. We couldn’t sleep much for the mosquitoes (galnippers we called them) bit us all the time. I had a white shirt wrapped around my head and buckskin gloves on. In the morning the shirt was spotted with blood and looked like printed calico. Next day we went on and found one boss watching his slaves working. We asked him for work. “No”, he said. Next we found a crossing by the railroad where some slaves stood and loafed. One had a big iron chain tied to his ankle and carried the most of it in his hand. Then came the train and we went to New Orleans. We went to a boarding house and I had a chance to count my money again. I had only $170.00 so, as I had nearly $200.00 before we started making hay (from my savings in Denmark), the Swede must have taken $150.00 or more from me in the Chicago prairie. (Note: $2.00 per ton for hay cut.)
In a few days I came to talk to two German sailors I had become acquainted with on the way to New Orleans in the steamer. They were in a sailor’s boarding house where a Dane and three others were bosses. The Dane said he would help me get work. In a couple of days the two Germans hired to go as sailors to Havre, France, do what they could and get their pay when they got there. Next evening they were dressed in red shirts as sailors and at ten o’clock in the evening I followed them to the vessel to see them off. It is forty miles to the Gulf of Mexico.
The next day I met a Norwegian tailor on the street. He had seen me boarding in a sailor’s boarding house and told me if I stayed there they would get me out as a sailor and kill me on the vessel and throw me in the ocean. I went to the boarding house to pay them and go but they would not take the money. They said I should stay a whole week. I left my traveling sack there with my clothes in it and went to another boarding house. Next morning after breakfast I left my watch and a bestik (tools to lay out plans for building. I went to school two winters in Kopenhagen to learn to lay out plans for buildings). I went to look for work and I got in on a steamer going up the Mississippi river. I never got back to the boarding house.
I worked on the steamer “Nuan”. I went to my bunk and left a coat, homemade in Denmark which cost me thirteen Rig dollars, and an over-shirt. At noon they were gone. It was an awfully mean set of men working on the steamer--more like devils than anything else. When were eating dinner they shouted to me “I had better get out of here”. They were too mean to lift the boxes on to our shoulders, which we carried from the levy to the docks Nool (below?) in the steamer and they put all the heaviest boxes of tobacco on me. I felt as if my shoulder was nearly skinned.
About two o’clock the Dane from the sailor’s boarding house come looking for me and said if I would come and pay him, I could get my clothes and go back. I asked the captain if I could go for half an hour. He said “yes” so I went home with him. I had been there only four days and a half and he charged me $8.85. It was only 50 cents a day in other boarding houses. I took out a $20.00 gold piece to pay him. One stood up against the doors so that I could not get out and I was pushed upstairs and put in a little room six feet square that was made of common barn board. The little door had a hand lock. There was a big pile of men’s white shirts--enough for me to lay on as on a feather bed. I was there over night and the next day until ten o’clock in the evening. Then they took me down, stripped me and took all my money. It was all gold and scattered over the floor.
They put a red flannel shirt on me as was the custom for sailors, and I was taken to the vessel. Some more of my countrymen followed us close in case I should try to get away. They said something I didn’t understand and the man that took me along stuck his ten fingers in the air so I knew it meant about my money. I had my traveling sack with my clothes in and an over-shirt.
We went into the bunk I had to lay in. I went out to the railing of the vessel and the whole gang of them (the sailor robbers) were sitting outside the vessel from one end to the other of the vessel. They told me to go back and when I got in my clothes were all gone and I never saw them again.
There was another sailor in the house where I was. He was from Sweden and his name was Peter. He came from Stockholm. He was taken out before me. When I lay up there I heard him squeal and I asked him sometime after that why he squealed and he told me they wanted to rob him. He had no money so they stuck their hands in his pocket and found none. He felt of it and told them it was in another one a few times so they knocked him so he had to scream so much.
It is forty miles in the Mississippi river before the Gulf of Mexico is reached. Peter got no pay for his trip. The vessel was going to Liverpool. It takes two months for sailing vessels and sailors are paid $8.25 a month (?); that is $50.00 which is paid in New Orleans where most of it is spent before sailing.
They go south over the blue sea by the West Indian Islands where they find the trade wind, the wind blows from one side most of the time. From there to Liverpool they say it is pleasant all the time-night or day. The water in the blue sea looks blue; also, in the North Pacific.
The next morning we reached the Gulf of Mexico. After we were inspected (ship examined for sea) the sailors were divided into two parts. There were twenty-two of us. They asked us if we could do sailors work. When they asked me I said yes. They laughed and called me Tom. (They called him Tom for a nick name.) There was an Irishman and an Englishman. They said the Englishman had a balt lea (bad knee, I judge) and could do nothing. He was laying in the bunks yet when we left the vessel in Liverpool.
Another sailor was sick and could not stand on his feet. He laid on deck nine days, died, and was thrown overboard. The Irishman was left out on deck. We others were nine in each party.
I was not afraid and could climb and do as much as any of them but they wanted to kill me. I was sent up several times to scrape the twenty one masts with a knife and grease them. I had a big grease bucket along and a rope to tie to the mast, also, some brease (brace) ropes to sit or stay on to do the work just because they wanted me to fall down so they could throw me in the ocean. The captain said he had paid $50.00 for each of the three of us. It was a lie because they were not sailors. He had paid a little to the sharks in New Orleans and put the rest in his pocket.
One day the Irishman and I were cleaning the deck scrapers. The cracks in the deck had been filled with rosin. We were not allowed to speak to each other. The Irishman told me to be still when I said something and the mate, who was about a rod away, yelled for me to keep my mouth shut. I didn’t do a thing but he threw a belas (bellas) pin at the top of my head. My hat fell off and the blood from the blow dropped on the deck. If I had raised my head, he would have broken my skull. There is still a dent in my head from it.
There was one sailor who was very bad to me. He was the one that stole my clothes in New Orleans. The first night when we were going up the rope ladders, he stepped back in my face and scraped the skin off my nose and face so the blood ran off it. When we went back to the bunks he hollered, “Go and wash the blood off your face!” I could not see how bad it was but I felt it. My shoes were torn up by going up the rope ladders. When the dead man was thrown overboard a good boy took the shoes and gave them to me. If he had not, I would have had to go barefooted at last.
Peter from Stockholm was a good sailor but the mates had used bell as pins to strike him on the top of one arm so that it was black and crippled.
We didn’t have many bad storms but one afternoon about two o’clock the whole horizon turned black. We had all the side sails up, so we were ordered to take them down and riff the others. The storm was slow coming so we got them all down before it struck us about sun down. It was the hardest storm we had. In the morning there was not a bit of wind to hold the vessel and the waves were not rolling over. Instead, the water formed like mountains and were so big that they could reach the top of the ship. Then they would hangover and slide in a valley like.
The two mates and the captain thought it would be a good time for them to see me dumped over in the ocean so they sent me up to scrape the top mast. It is above the sails and there are two braces--one from each end of a crossbeam to the middle of the top mast. They are twelve feet or more high.
They ordered me up with the grease bucket and a rope to tie from the mast to the brace rope. I had to climb up like a worm on the mast to reach it to stay on. When I got up on the cross beam I could not reach the brace rope so I had to climb up like a worm to tie my rope to the mast and then swing myself out to tie my rope to the brace rope at the same time that the vessel slid down into the valley. It raised up as quick as we could strike hvep (back) and my feet slipped and they were hung out like a flag. My hands and arms were strong as I have always been a climbing boy, so I had fun instead of being afraid. After the rope was tied, I could not sit on it and reach the top so i stood up and held my left hand on the mast knob. While scraping, I slipped again and could not hold myself on the knob. Only a little was left (to do) so I sat down quick and held my left arm around the mast, grabbing my shirt and the rope. I had to stand on my feet too, sometimes. I had it scraped to the cross beam so I went down where the three bosses were standing by another mast looking at me. i left the bucket and the rope in front of them and they didn’t say a word for some time after. Peter from Stockholm told me he heard them say that they wanted to see me thrown in the ocean.
One of the sailors was from Austria, one from Portugal, and one from Italy. The Italian they killed three days before we got to Liverpool. It was one day when we were under the deck. The Italian was lagging one ring and the second mate came with a handle from the cabsel and struck him down. He jumped up and took the handle laying close by and wanted to fight so he go to his rope again. He did and after a short time the mate came back and struck him to the deck so he could not get up. It looked to me like he was dead. The mate pulled him in a cabin where we slept and I expected to see him there when we came in but I never saw him any more. They must have dropped him in the ocean. When we landed in Liverpool the sharks in Liverpool were there again from the boarding houses. I would not go . One mate hollered, “Tom is a good sailor.” My nick name was Tom.
The first night in Liverpool I calculated to go on the streets all night for I had no money. I was going on narrow, dark streets. About ten o’clock and old man asked me to stay over night and I said I had no money. He said, “Come in here.” I went in and laid upstairs on a mattress on the floor. During the night there were four others in bed.
The next day I went out to find some Danish vessel and beg the sailors for money. The first ship, the captain wanted me as a sailor and I agreed to go for six dol (dollars) a month. They were going to Riogenero (Rio de Janeiro), Brazil. After the first night the other sailors didn’t want me because I was so dirty. (I had been laying in my clothes). The Captain said he would have to let me go, but I could come and get my board till I got enough money to go on. I went back at nights to the place of the old man’s, his wife and a daughter.
It took two weeks to get enough money to pay for the nights and go on the railroad across England to Hull. I was there three days begging the sailors for money and didn’t get a penny. They wanted me as a sailor. I could not go because it had frozen ice and I had only a shirt and trousers on. I was on the streets at nights.
I saw a steamer going to Hamburg. I had no money and poor clothes so I hid away a little so they could not see me. When they pulled away to go I jumped on. I knew they would not have time to ask for my ticket. It took about an hour before they came. I told them I had not any money. I could help the sailors. The captain said they didn’t need me and I would have to be sent back or be thrown in the water. There were plenty of small boats around to have called for but, after some time, the captain told me I could help the sailors going over. They needed me bad enough for we could not do the work fast enough. We had the wind to our back and we went over in about half the usual time, which was four days.
When we came to Hamburg I went to Altona to a family I had been boarding with before. The man gave me a pair of overalls and an Island over-shirt that did me much good for the cool weather. Then I started for Kiel, fifty five or sixty miles away, going on foot, to the little ocean between there and Fyen where I was born. At Kiel I found a small vessel with only one hired hand. He could not work so I got his place. I worked two days loading up tobacco and sugar. It took two more days to come to the island about fifty miles from my home. I went on foot the rest of the way. I came to my brother Lars (Peter Larsens father). He lent me money to buy clothes. I paid him back the next summer. I worked for or, with him, that winter in the carpenter shop. The next March I went to Spelland (Sjaelland or Tjalland) again and got work from Petersch, the mason master for the great landlord, Rennenkamff, on Nasuyholm--one Dane mile east of Sord City (Soro).
We had several masons but he gave me the best work. We had three boys on contract to learn the trade (mason work) and I hired the two biggest boys of him and paid him full wages for them. He didn’t pay them anything except their board and neither did I.
I put up two good brick buildings with gables that summer. I made $250.00 and boarded myself. Board was about sixteen cents a day in American money. In the winter I went to school to learn to lay out plans for buildings. I worked for him again the next summer and earned good money again.
I put up new Gothic windows in three churches in place of the old, modern windows. The churches were all built of stone they found in the fields. My master had five churches in the country to keep in repair; also, other buildings for the landlord who was owner of all the villages around them, too. All of the farmers were only renters and did a lot of farm work for them and paid them taxes, too. When winter came, I went to Kopenhagen to school for technic work making plans for buildings. Board and school cost something in the winter.
The next summer I worked for the government on a (Tanetary) tenants building which wasall contract work. We made double wages for the summer. When winter came Mr. Rasmussen and I took a trip all over the country of Denmark.
We started from Kopenhagen and saw Sjalland and Fyen (home ground). We went to Snoghoi Colding (Kolding), Neile (Vejle), Randers, Skanderborg, Silkeborg, Wiborg (Viborg), Oldborg (Alborg), Frederikshavn, and Saeby. That is all upon the eastern side. Then over Jgorring (Hjorring) over to the west ocean. Lykken (Lokken) had no regle (regular) streets. Sand blew up like snowdrifts from there over Hilheden (eighteen Danishmiles). Then we went eighty or ninety American miles to a place called Hall (Hals on east coast ?). There were two German villages which they told us had been settled there ninety years ago by people from Frankport Maine. This was 1859 when we were there.
Alheden is like iron and sand rusted together and no wagon can work it up. It is that way several inces deep. All the north of Jutland is the worst country I have been. There are no trees and hardly andy grass.
Well, I started for Silkeborg and from there to Fredericks and Snoghoi. From there we crossed the ocean to Fyen, Lolland and Falster. Then by steamer to Kopenhagen. We started again with our mason work on the government building. In the last of June we quit work and wanted to go to America.
It was 1859 when we went home and from there to Hamborg. We bought a ticket to Australia. There was a Swed and his wife on the steamer who had been in Australia for four years. We wanted to be farmers. He told us that Australia was no country for farming--that he wanted to go to America . So we gave up going there and got our tickets to Madison, Wisc. I had $25.00 left over. We lost a little on our tickets.
We crossed England and was about one week in Liverpool. We sailed on an American sailing vessel and it took twenty eight days to cross. On the road to Wisconsin we stayed over one night in Detroit, Mich. I had some money and during the night someone tried to rob me but they didn’t get all of it. The next day we came to Madison, Wisc.
After two days we went out north of town looking for work and got it four miles out with a man named Haal. He had 640 acres. On August 27, 1859 we hired out for one month at$8.00. We cut slew grass with the scythe for hay the whole month. He had 200 acres of it. He had a foreman and four more hired men. One was selling milk and hauling it to Madison. Haal had twenty four cows and Rasmussen and I had to do all the milking both morning and evening. The others took care of the horses. We were called out at four o’clock every morning and worked till nearly ten at night.
After one month we hired out again for six months at $6.00 a month and had to work about that way all winter. We ate breakfast and supper and did all chores by lamp light morning and evening. They cut their corn early and shocked and hauled it in the barn to have the fodder for the cattle in the winter. There were two very big barns so they could have everything under cover. After thrashing he let three of the men go and we others had to stay and husk corn. The chores were done every night by lamplight till about ten o’clock. They didn’t know how to husk corn. They had never seen a husking pir (hook?), so we stood there husking with our bare fingers. He wanted it so clean that it took us all winter to get it husked. In the daytime Rasmussen and I had to work in the wood pile. The man hauling the milk to Madison could do nothing else. Hal, himself, would stay with us every night and when the foreman looked at his watch about 9:30, he gave the sign to stay a little longer.
He wanted to hire us again for the summer but we said no. He hired two Americans on a weeks trial for the summer and they left. They laughed when they were called up at four o’clock. Then came two other men and he hired them the same way. If they stayed, we didn’t know, for we left, too. He was the hardest man I ever worked for--eighteen hours a day.
I went to Madison and worked for a man named Blick, as a servant in his home, for $10.00 a month. After that I worked for a banker, J. Richardson, for two years at $16.00 a month, as his servant. It was then the Civil War was going on.
I was drafted for service in the war but, at this time, I was married and we were expecting a child. We had no home and no relation for mother to go to. If I would be killed or crippled the pension was only $8.00 a month. It would be a terrible time for mother and the child. I had brought with me from Denmark $300.00. They had made a law in Wisconsin that a draftee could pay $300.00 and be exempt for three years to work for our living. This is what I did and that came hard on me for it was the second time I had to lose all the money I had bee working so hard for in the old country.
After that I worked as a carpenter on Camp Randal building barracks and hospitals for the government. I worked two years in a machine shop as hendy falle (handy fellow) cutting bolts, drilling Hilin, and painting for a man by the name of Skinner.
Then I bought an eighty acre farm, nearly all on credit , so that I had enough money left to buy a span of horses, a cow, and some tools. This was near Mineral Point, fifty miles south of Madison. I had good crops for three years. The price was up to $1.50 a bushel for wheat and barley. I sold the crops for about $1200.00 a year. I sold the farm again and came here to Iowa in 1869 where I bought the one hundred and sixty acres here by Lake City.
I paid $1200.00 for it and $300.00 for forty acres of wheat on it. When I came to harvest it, it was nearly half slew grass and the market went down from $1.20 to .35 cents a bushel, so it was nearly all lost that I had paid for it. I had to pay .50 cents a bushel for corn and oats for horse feed so I let them eat the wheat in the field and not do the handling.
The next years crop was all destroyed by hailstorm the third of July. I had no money and could not borrow any so we had a hard time of it another year. I had to trap muskrats in the winter to get money to pay the tax which was $30.00 a year. I got enough of them to pay for two years.
There was no house or fence on the land. Glidden was the market for buying and selling. It was about seventeen miles away and no roads. It was wild prairie all around. We could drive to Ft. Dodge and to Carroll if we could get over the streams of water and the slews. Sometimes we got stuck and how bad it was, you can guess.
It is now fifty two years we have been here and it is fourteen years since we moved to Lake City. My wife and five girls died on the farm during the time we were there. My self, the two boys and five girls are here. Our health is good and I can see to read and write without glasses. I use no cane when walking. I will be ninety years old October third this year, 1921. (Father finished this sketch of his life at noon, Tuesday, August second and on Wednesday was taken very ill for ten days.)
JULY 1921 (to be added) My parents were very good and religious. My father was a hard working man as long as he was able to do anything. He told me he worked for a farmer there in the village sixteen years; for another twelve years and he served as soldier for the government fourteen years in Schlesvig and Holstein from 1800 to 1814.
There were eight children of us. A pair of twins that died when boys; three girls. All are dead but me. The last one died fourteen years ago. Father was 93 years old, sister Anna93, Maria 92, Bertha 40, Brother 65, Anders 44, Lars 82 and mother about 65. My belief is that when the last of us are gone from here we will be together again in the next world (heaven). Jesus has done all this for us and we must give our heavenly father and Jesus love and praise them forever more.
Written by Ida Madsen McMillan January 8, 1940:
Father, Hans Madsen, left his home in Denmark to come to America in the year 1855 on the first day of April. Mother was born near Christiana, Norway, March 4, 1839. When 22 years of age she came to America (1861) and two years later January 1, 1863, they were married at Madison, Wisc. Here they made their home for seven years. Father followed his trade as a mason. In 1870 they moved to Ames, Iowa, where they lived for a short time and from there to the farm four miles east of Lake City. Here they reared to manhood and womanhood ten of their twelve children. Melius and Anna were born in Madison, Wis., and Hans near Madison. Marie, Ida, Matilda, Louise, Emma, Olive, Isabelle, Rebecca, and Florence were born on the farm near Lake City.
- Emma July 23, 1876 Age 9 days
- Marie Nov. 6, 1878 9 years
- Matilda May 29, 1899 26 years
- Olive Aug. 5, 1900 23 years
- Isabelle July 4, 1904 24 years
- Mother Feb. 1, 1907 66 years
- Father April 15, 1924 92 years
- Melius Aug. 9, 1929 65 years
- Hans A. Dec. 25, 1932 65 years
- Louise Jan. 30, 1938 63 years
Location of Family at Present Time:
- Anna and Ida (Mrs. J. C. McMillen, Lake City, Iowa
- Rebecca (Mrs. H.E. Weech) Westbrook, Minn.
- Children: Olive of Chicago, Ill.
- Loren (married to Ruth Clark) of Chicago, Ill.
- Ronnie at home (age 3)Marian Alan, at home (age 16)
- Florence (Mrs. A. J. Harvey Garden Grove, Calif.
- Children: Vernon (married to Florence ?)
- Roger 11/21/32 Philip 9/21/34 Janette 1/12/38
- Lauren (married Dorothy ?) Wilmington, Calif.
- Linda Lee 4/22/39
- Louise (Mrs. C. A. McQueen) deceased.
- Children: Violet 12/2/12 Washington, D.C.
- Florinne 2/22/16 Washington, D.C.
- Melius (deceased) married Minnie ?Children: Floyd Chicago, Ill.
- Hans (deceased) married Effie McCrary
- Children: Lea (Davidson) Minneapolis, Minn.
- Warren aged 18
- Geanie 12
- Zola (Comaford) Minneapolis, Minn.
- Caroline aged 8 Carter 6 or 7
- Olive (Mrs. Rollie McCrary) deceased
- Hilder married Tulsa, Texas
- Eunice Mrs. Ruth Delaney) Florence, Ala.
- Rush Anna May Boy (name ?)
- Cecil (married Esther ?) Oklahoma City, Okla.
Written by Violet McQueen Stennett April 6, 1965:
When I was asked to copy Grandfather’s autobiography I wrote to Aunt Rebecca who now live in the family home in Lake City, Iowa, with Aunt Ida. They sent the following information:
Grandmother Madsen’s name was Oleah Braeger. She came to this country with a brother and sister. Her mother had died of lingering tuberculosis and her fiancé had been killed in the war. She wanted to come to America for a new start. She was eighteen at the time. She did housework for a living. Perhaps she and grandfather worked at the same place or perhaps they met at the skating parties they attended.
Aunt Rebecca wrote “Remember her (grandmother) telling of cooking coffee on the deck stove coming over. When a storm came waves got so high the coffee pots were washed off the deck. Several cooked at the same time. It took thirteen weeks to come across-much seasickness and hardship.
“After father got enough to start payment on a farm he got two white horses named Charley and Jack and a covered wagon. Hans was still a babe in arms. They lived in a tent until a house could be put up--first a room or two with additions made later on. Mother used mosquito netting to protect Hans.
He got what they called “bloody flux” and was a very sick baby. Didn’t expect him to recover--finally overcame it--a long siege of worry and hardship for mother and dad. Marie could help a little and Anna, too, as they grew a little older. Marie had an oversized heart and passed away at nine years of age. Marie was such a sweet child. Mother missed her terribly.”
“No money for medicine scarcely. Mother gathered catnip for baby’s tea for colds; peppermint leaves (wild) for stomach trouble and several other kinds. Can’t recall now. Also saved skunk fat and rendered it. Very good for something; also goose grease. Now we pay many dollars for a bottle of pills for the same purpose.”
“I remember father using a single walking plow and two horses to work the land until better plows came into use and he could afford one. He never liked to go in debt and did without.
“To culminate a few scattered items you wanted--mother was a most remarkable woman of character, good Christian, read Bible, encouraged her children to study it. We were all brought up to know the difference between right and wrong. (More of the training today would be the answer to many delinquent teenagers.) Your mother, Louise, read many bible stories to me when young and left an influence for good all through my life.”
“Ida thought there were boating parties where young folks met and maybe some of the old fashioned dances, then in winter ice skating--where mother and father became acquainted. Both were Lutheran church goers. Here sister and brother settled in Minnesota.” “(to me)--I dislike years creeping up but something we can’t do anything about--like the weather. We will be looking forward to getting copies of father’s life.”
A few words of additional family history--1965. Besides Aunt Rebecca and Aunt Ida in Lake City there is Aunt Florence in Chico, Calif. Anna died in 1950. I was living on a farm near lake City at the time. Both my sister Florinne and I live in the state of Washington. Aunt Florence’s children live near her and we see them once in a while. Aunt Rebecca’s children all live in Chicago as does Floyd Madsen (Melius’ son). Zola Comaford (Hans) died over a year ago. Leah Davidson (Hans) still lives in Minneapolis, Minn. Cecil McCrary (Olive) and Esther live in Oklahoma City, Okla. Mr. Stennett visited them a year ago when there for the Presbyterian General Assembly. Eunice (Mrs. Rex Barnard now) (Olive) is at Mascot, Tenn., also her daughter Ann Burnett (Anna May). Hilder died____.
Obituary, Lake City Graphic, April 24, 1924
Hans Madsen was born October 3rd 1831 in Sonderby, Denmark and died at Lake City, Iowa, April 15th, 1924, aged 92 years, 6 months and 12 days. Mr. Madsen was the youngest of a family of 6 children all of whom has preceded him, the last about 15 years ago. Most of them attained the a ripe old age. His father was in military service for his country 14 years from 1800 to 1814. He died at his home in Sonderby, Denmark at the age of 93. Has came to the U.S.A. in 1855, Soon after, he became a citizen. On January 1st. 1863, Mr. Madsen was united in marriage to Miss Olea Braeger at Madison, Wisconsin. There they made their home until 1870 when they removed to Iowa and located 4 miles west of Lake City in what was then a sparsely settled frontier. To this union was born 12 children. They reared 10 of them to manhood and womanhood. There are left to mourn his loss 5 daughters and 2 sons as follows: Miss Anna of Lake City, Mrs. Ida McMillan, Esmond, N. Dak., Mrs. Louise McQueen and Mrs. Rebecca Weech of Lake City, Mrs. Florence Harvey of Lennox, Melius W. and Hans A. of Minneapolis. Also 3 great grandchildren and two nephews, Peter Jorgensen of Dodge Center, Minn. and Peter Larson of Chicago. Also one niece, Mrs. Melta Larson Rasmussen of Chicago.
Mrs. Madsen preceded her husband to the better land 17 years ago last February. Funeral services for her at the old homestead by the Rev. Mr. LaReau, pastor of the Lake City Baptist church at that time. Mr. Madsen was a pioneer builder. He was a man of fine principal and had high ideals. He had a keen sense of justice. He passed peacefully away at his home on Tuesday morning at 6:50 o’clock. He had faith in God, trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and believed in the Bible. Mr. Madsen united with the Danish Lutheran church when a lad and never transferred his membership to any other church. Funeral services were conducted at the home on Wednesday afternoon at 3’clock, the Rev. Jas. M. Wilson, minister of the First Baptist church officiating. Mrs. J.M. Wilson sang three hymns: “LeadKindly Light”, “Rock of Ages” and “Sometime we’ll understand” and Mrs. A.H. Johnson presided at the piano. Interment was made in Lake City cemetery. Pastor Wilson preached from the text found in Job 5:26 “Thou Shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in, in his season”.
The Rev. T.A. Searcy of Oskaloosa, a former pastor of the Baptist church here and a friend of the family lead in prayer and read the 23 Psalm. After Life’s fitful fever, Hans Madsen sleeps well.
We wish most heartily to thank all the friends and neighbors who so kindly assisted us in any way during our father’s sickness and death. Every kindness and courtesy extended at this time of bereavement is greatly appreciated. Indeed words fail to express our great gratitude and appreciation. May Go bless all who in any way helped to make the burden lighter. ~The Family
Transcribed by Violet Stennett, daughter of Louise Madsen.