Nehemias Tjernagel Norway Journey Letters 23 June 1892 to 3 June 1893


Illustrations added from various sources as noted in the captions.



Buffalo, N.Y. June 23, 1892

Dear Folks:


I am staying at the Mansion House, Buffalo. Seventeen of us missed our train and, as a consequence, will not reach New York City till Friday morning.   GROVER GOT THERE!  This is his home town and great enthusiasm prevails. The news reached here this morning. I talked to a man in a restaurant who has been well acquainted with Cleveland for 16 years. He told me all about him. Wish I might have had time to repeat it to you by letter.


Mansion House, Buffalo, NY – courtesy Niagara University Library (Internet)


We passed by Niagara Falls this morning. We crossed Suspension Bridge, the same that father passed over when he came from Norway 36 years ago. Thoughts of the poor immigrant boy as he speeded west­ward to establish a home and, eventually, to bring us into the world, filled my mind. The water looked like foam below the bridge. As we neared the Falls I got a pretty fair view of it, though not equal to what we might have seen had we stopped to explore. Pete's phrase "It baffles description" fits in well here.


Tonight we will take the 500 mile run across New York State to New York City. It will be the sleeper for me.

Yours Resp'y,



P.S. Forgot about eastern time and came near losing my train by not setting my watch properly. The beautiful cemetery in Buffalo will linger long in my memory.


Victorian cemetery monuments at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY – courtesy (Internet).



New York, N.Y. June 25, 1892

Dear Folks;


Today I start out upon my voyage across the sea. I hope to get across safely. I cannot wait for Koren.


Good bye, and may God be with us all!


Yours, N.T.


Atlantic Ocean, July 2,1892, Forenoon   


Ole A.Larson, Story City, Iowa.


Dear Folks:


We are nearing the end of our Ocean journey, and as I have nothing to do I will write of my experiences so far. We are all well on shipboard - scarcely any exceptions. I started in as a third class passenger, but after a day or so had a chance to be transferred to 2nd class, and took it. That first day or so out was memorable on account of my five berth mates who cut the most ridiculous capers imaginable. One Scotchman, a methodist minister, two lanky Englishman and an Irishman, provided the fun. We occupied the very snout of the ship. The slightest wave would set us moving up and down. Imagine the horror of it in rough weather.


The steerage passengers had a rather rough time of it on the Alaska.  These early days of ocean travel on steamers. Not much better than the sailships used to be.  No American used to the ordinary comforts of life will take to this sort of travel except under threat of money shortage.


Although the weather has been fine all along I managed to be a little seasick the first two days. This is the seventh day on the trip, and we are told that we may reach Queenstown tomorrow. Have lost only two meals so far. I have a voracious appetite, and sleep as soundly as Lewis. The ocean air is wonderfully invigorating. I feel better now than when I set out, and have even gained in flesh. A trip like this would do mother good. If I keep as well as I am now I suspect that I will grow fat when I get to Norway. Not that the meals are any too good, but, you know, hunger is the best cook.


We have seen whales and large fish.  We have passed icebergs.



Royal Mail Steamer ÒAlaskaÓ.


Guion Line

Royal Mail Steamer



On the Atlantic July 2, 1892 (Evening)


Story City,Ia.


Dear Folks:


They say we will see land tomorrow (Ireland), but I have to get my letter ready for the mailbag tonight. We are told that if we get up at Twelve, midnight, we can see the first lighthouse of Ireland (Fassenet), but I think I shall prefer to remain in my bunk.


Right now a promiscuous crowd of passengers are loafing about the dining room tables eating crackers and cheese . There is ale and por­ter on tap. A good many indulge on these English boats. No drunks that I have seen. People from all parts of the world on this boat. Get acquainted quickly. There is play and good cheer ,especially in evenings . As I sit writing this letter at about 10 P.M. a Catholic girl from New York has her chair beside me and talks in friendly fashion as one of a big sea-going family.


I have a young Mormon from Utah in my company frequently and we cut capers together. Anthony Lund. He is going to Berlin to study music. He is well educated, but says nothing about his faith. Two young Mormon missionaries are in his company and they, of course, speak of their religion. He sings and I play the Clarinet and during nice evenings on deck we seem to draw the crowds.


Hope you are all well. Mother must not fret for me. Kind regards to everybody.

N. T.

P. S.


I started out 3d class , but paid the purser a few dollars to favor me when he could. Not supposed to he bribery. However, a fellow passenger found a vacant place in 2d class that I might have for a song, and I took it. Purser said:"I will give it (money) to you back".


Liverpool docks c1900 – courtesy


Liverpool, England, July 4, 1892


Dear Folks:


I am in Liverpool today. I am celebrating the glorious Fourth all by my lonesome. I hope the weather is nice in Story City. It is now 6 in the evening here which means, I suppose, that you are right in the midst of Independence day festivities at home. The leading hotels and a few public buildings are decorated with the stars and stripes.


Liverpool is a great city. It is very interesting to wan­der along the docks and see the ocean liners, and the shipping activi­ties in general.  I was seized with a spell of vomiting the night before we entered Liverpool.  I know of no reason for it. It must have been the food as the sea was calm all the time.  The weather was simply grand across the Atlantic.


I am in company with Rev. Andreasson, a methodist minister. We, of course, painted the town red today, so wasn't quite alone after all.


The Liverpool museum is one of the finest in the world. In the art gallery the painting that I remember best is that life-like one representing a young boy and girl running away from a storm.


We are going by train to Hull early tomorrow morning. I will mail this letter in Hull.


Hull, July 5, 1892.


We are in Hull. Nice city.  Lots and lots of fish.  In cros­sing England we saw some stretches of attractive scenery. It is quite cold here, I think, but the residents say it is warm. I use heavy winter clothing in spite of their heat.






Stavanger, Norway, July 7, 1892


Ole A.Larson, Story City,Iowa.


Dear Folks:


I have at last set foot on Norwegian soil. We obtained our first glimpse of land last evening at Nine o'clock. We arrived in Stavanger at midnight. I took lodging at Haaland's lodging house where, before retiring I heard a Tom-cat raise his voice below, and, my host saying "Naa bšina kattadne og ".


I expect to stay here a few days and rest up, and after that embark for Tjernagel. There is to be a great mission festival here ( Femti aars jubilŠum) commencing the ninth of this month.


Next morning I accompanied my "v¾rt" (host) to "torjo" (market­place) where we bought some fish for dinner. There was a good deal of bargaining before any price could be agreed upon. They, the fish, look very tempting and I can hardly wait for dinner. Wouldn't you wish you were me?


Here is our bill of fare for breakfast: Coffee-Bread-Cheese.  Dinner: Fish-Potatoes-Bread. Supper: Coffee-Cheese-Bread. No great variety this, still I enjoy these meals better with my renewed appe­tite than any Palmer House meal.  I needn't tell you that I am stop­ping at a cheap hotel. The Grand Hotel nearby is filled with English tourists and the food is quite varied.


Our trip across the North Sea was fine, although we had rough­er weather one forenoon than at any time during our Atlantic voyage. Our steamer, the Eldorado, was crowded with English tourists.


Stavanger is a clean, cheerful looking place. The streets for the most part are narrow and crooked. However, some of the more mod­ern streets are laid out wide and straight. Many of the buildings look attractive. In fact, they are finer than I expected. The Dom Kirke, also St.Petri church, are impressive looking structures. The Dom was built hundreds of years ago by the catholics.


The people here talk like Martha Eide, later Mrs. A. Lodden.


I went over to see the Akersund R.R. Station today, What a wee little bit of an affair this railway is: The locomotives are not more than one third the size of our ordinary locomotives, coaches, with their wooden seats, to correspond.  Of course the elect who ride in first-class coaches sit on upholstery. All the railway accoutrements look neat, certainly neater than in England.  Here I am remind­ed of conversations aboard trains where I was continually kept won­dering at the English mode and manner of talking. The best way I can illustrate it to you is to have someone speak English with the Nor­wegian AArdal dialect and you will have something akin to it. They shift the letter h around unmercifully, and often drop it, yes, 'arf the time.


You had better direct my mail to Tjernagel P.O. as I suppose I shall visit there for some time. I shall revert to Stavanger in la­ter writings some time. I have seen very little of Norway as yet, hence have very little to write about. There are no mountains around

Stavanger, but Jaderen, an open stretch of country spreads out southwards and to the west where, after a few miles, lashes the North Sea.


Lars Oftedal, the revivalist, is still here, but does not show himself. He is said to be very fat, and broad as he is long.


I am very thankful that I arrived here safely and hope you are all well. Greet Sarah, Lewis, and the children, also friends and acquaintances. N.T.


P.S. Immediately upon arriving in Norway I took a bath in salt water, I had been nibbling at some tiny boils on my wrist as I crossed the brine, but upon my now bathing in same I contracted blood-poison. I had a horrible nightmare the night after my bath and when I got up in the morning I saw a red streak on my arm wandering along to my shoulder. Didn't yet know what ailed me, but felt punk. Went to Dr. and he told me I came just in time for him to check the poison from reaching the heart.


Stavanger, Norway, July 9, 1892

Envelope Address: M.O.Tjernagel

Letter Address: Ole A.Larson.


Dear Folks:


Today I met Jokum Christenson from Milwaukee, and aunt Bar­bru Anderson. I was looking at the coast-steamer Folgefonden as she disembarked her passengers and saw to my great surprise Jokum among them. The lady he escorted turned out to be Barbru. Jokum knew me from mutual visits and seemed tickled to meet me here as well as to in­troduce me to Barbru. We attended the great Mission meeting in prog­ress at Bjergsted park. The great majority of the ministers in Norway attend. And there are visiting lay-people by the thousand. Many delegates from other countries are present. (Stub and Rasmussen here.)


Jokum Christenson c1890 – courtesy Eileen Wojewodzki


We heard the Rev. Frants Bruun talk this evening against "Unbe­lief." Also on the subject of the Life of Jesus. It was most uplif­ting; and it was of particular help to me having brushed up against so many agnostics and such coming over. What a grand thing it is when one is 6000 miles away from home to know that there is one we may always turn to whatever be our need. Should anything unfor­seen happen to me here I am confident that Aunt Barbra will look after me as best she can when necessary.


Martin , you will kindly send me clipping from "North", "Fetching Home the Cattle", also clipping from "Amerika" about trip, or wont you?

N. T.

Stavanger, Norway, July 10, 1892


Stavanger is chuck full of visitors from many parts of Norway. There are four large churches here. These did not begin to hold all the people who wanted to get in last Sunday. Domkirken, they say, is about 600 years old. Many antiquities are preserved in it. The churchcontains a fine pipe organ, and tonight I am going to hear a canta­ta by the organist, Olaf Paulus, performed there. It was composed for the Missions Jubilaum. (Fifty Year Jubilee.) Price of admission 25 Ore. (About six cents.)


Jokum and Aunt Barbru went to Egersund today, They will return tomorrow. It is the first time Auntie ever rode on a train. I have moved over to their hotel where we all sleep in the same room. Bar­bru took this quite for granted since it was a large room with separate sleeping places. The food is substantial, and ample enough to satisfy us. Barbru resembles her sister Larsine (Mrs.Nels Peterson) most, I think, still her likeness to her sister Helga (Mrs. Anders Tjernagel) is striking at times, especially when she (kremta) clears her throat. Rev.Rasmussen and the old Rev.Stub are here. The noted Bishop Heuch, the many Bruuns (ministers and professors- Grandma Fjeldberg was "amme" to Chr.Bruun) and lots and lots of other noted clergymen showed up. Remember when seeing Tormodsateren, the "bonde gut" who became a minister, me thot him the most distinguished-looking of them all.


The revivalist, Lars Oftedal, preaches so early in the morning that his devotees and the curious may go to his chapel and hear him before the main doings get under way. I do not admire his particular crusade, so did not go. He is not considered quite sound in his various activities, nevertheless many went, especially women. It might have been interesting to have had a look at the well-fed exhorter. His appearance suggests beer.  By the way, Jokum likes the Norwegian beer better than the Milwaukee brew, though he indulges very sparingly. As to my mode of speech, the people here look upon me as a sort of phenomenon since I can handle the Norwegian so readily, me being a born yankee. Believe as you will, but there are no nights here that meet the eye at least. Can read the newspapers at midnight on the park bench. One does not go to bed in the dark here in June or July. But wait till Christmas when it is dark most of the day: If I was to say anything about clothes I would say that they are substantial and cheap. One can get a good tailor made suit for 45 kroner.(Six or seven dollars.) The women look healthier than their American cousins, but the men are rather ordinary looking, though not as slim as the yanks.


I am yours,


Hope to hear from you soon.


Tjernagel illustration from Walking Trips in Norway


Tjernagel, Norway, July 16, 1892


Dear Folks at Home:


I am staying with Aunt Barbru at "Stora" Tjernagel homestead, fathers old home."Litla" Tjernagel homestead,where Per, Jokum,Malene,Anders,Endre,Christian , and two other sisters came from, lies half a mile or so to the southwest. These were father's cousins. I shall now try to describe to you the surroundings so that you may become somewhat familiar with the scene before me. I am sit­ting in the living room of the house in which father, Store Per, his brother, and his sisters Gondla, Helga, and Larsine spent their childhood and early youth. The same floor and walls are here, and the same old never-to-be-forgotten stove. One end reaches into the little kitchen where it serves as cooking stove (peat is used), and the other end is run through into the living room. Its legs held it off the floor sufficiently for Bendick to crawl under for a nap. Its age is at least 200 years, and it bids fair to outlast its present poss­essors. The table where father ate his last meal before going to America (He was served "Flšitekaadla", the best they had) is yet in use and has not been altered since he left. As I look through the window toward the North I see a majestic mountain away in the dis­tance beyond the intervening Bšmmel fjord. It is seen through a blue haze when not obscured by fog or low-hanging clouds.This is Siggen where mother as a girl of 10, or so, performed the difficult feat of climbing to its very top. Hope I may be able to duplicate that stunt - and soon: I can see across the fjord to Andal (Siggen and this place are on Bšmmel Island) which is surrounded by hills both bare and bleak. To the eye,at first glance, this opposite shore of the fjord seems scarcely more than a mile distant, while in reality it is 7 miles away. The water is as smooth as glass at this moment,and the setting sun, saying goodbye between the hills, reflects a golden high­way across the fjord. In clear weather the famous Folgefond shows its distant sky-line toward the east. In the direction of Stord Island there were,even as late as July,snow caps on the highest mountains. A beautiful view as seen diagonally across the fjord towards the N.E! I must not forget to mention the tiny islands called Napholmadne.  During certain atmospheric conditions they seem to lift themselves above water, mere specks, but on rowing out to them they appear quite large and formidable and firmly set on the fjord bottom.


File written by Adobe Photoshop¨ 4.0

Steamship along Norway Coast 1903 – Enwall Collection



Just now the steamer Eldorado from Bergen glided by.  It is the largest passenger steamer now in use between England and Norway. I felt a certain kinship, having chosen it to convey me across the North Sea from Hull to Stavanger. It is interesting to watch all kinds of craf t, large and small, as one after the other they so unobtrusively move along. At night the large, ocean-going steamers provide a pretty picture in the dark as their lights illumine their immediate surroundings and themselves. The great war-ships from other parts look like schools of crocodiles as they slink into this or that haven. Just now some sailing vessels are passing by,and they move in opposite directions: What do you think of that Martin? Some of them "krydsa", zigzaging along the way they want to go. Ask father about this.


This forenoon Bendick,(about 14), and I set out for Leo, the original home of Philpus and Kjersti, parents of Canute, Per and Helga Phillops, saw a young couple with 14 children, and later climbed to the top of Sletta mountain.  On one of its slopes is a natural stone hut, cave rather, called Anders huse, where father and many others had rested when herding sheep in ye olden days. I carved my name there. Heather grew quite luxuriously hereabouts. I could se Aasbu, Lier, Hovda, and other places whose names had a familiar ring as remembered from father's description of this section.


I never knew that peat is practically all the fuel they have in these parts. There were peat beds all over in the depressions. Must have been plenty vegetation in days gone by. Saw many tree-stumps which signified that there had been much timber here in earlier days. They have started to replant in many places. It looked funny to see Thomas Nase with his diminutive horse hitched to wooden sleigh hau­ling home peat busy as you please. However, the wilful little nag was boss, and not Thomas, for when it pleased him to stop for a rest he did so and the irate driver had to stop too. "There is no hurry" seems to be written all over this blessed country. They seem satis­fied; which is a pretty good feeling to have. The country women wear very short dresses, no doubt because it is cheaper, and also more suitable for outside work. This outdoor life agrees with them, for their cheeks are red and their arms strong. They carry great sacks filled with peat with apparent ease besides lugging along their cum­bersome wooden shoes. Nevertheless they seem to able to handle their legs and feet quite dexterously.


My appetite has mastered me. I eat six times a day, but it isn't often enough. Barbru is much occupied in feeding me, but she says I do not eat anything: We often get fresh fish from a red-haired old relic who lives at Litla Tjernagel,and is up at 4 in the morning to cast his lines. I like that man and I devour his catch with immense relish.


Last Thursday night at Stavanger I enjoyed seeing a typical Norwegian host.  Jokum, Barbru, and I were invited to the home of an old tar, Captain Cornelius Olson, and a jolly host was he. During supper he kept continually urging us to eat, and eat we did: There was fish, frants bršd, všrter bršd, kringla, suppe, risengrynsgršd, sylte, and more, such as sukkerkage and the like. I did not see any of my beloved havrekage and fladbršd that I am so fond of here at Barbru's. This is largely country fare it seems. After the meal the guests were offered toddy. There were three old sea captains in the party , besides Jokum and myself,and two old women. The old ("sjšulks') tars told yarns as they sipped their punch and punctuated their re­marks with clever jokes. They kept the rest of us busy laughing. Barbru laughs like Larsine and "Kremta" like Helga. I came near forget­ting the old "Jack of all trades" who was present, and must not be overlooked. He was Jokum's companion from Milwaukee. He had been 48 years in America and spoke no less than three languages. He gabbled on like everything, but he was so deaf that we had to yell through a long rubber tube that he had flung around his neck (it looked like a snake) to make connection with his flabby ear-drums. The spirit of Nationalism ran high and there were "skaaltaler" without number.


(Letter continued July 18.)

Last Sunday evening I joined the young folks immediately here­about for a stroll along the roadside. By and by someone got hold of an accordion and soon there was dancing on "postveien" (mail route) near Lockna gaard. From what I learned they were in the habit of keeping the fun going way into the wee, sma' hours. I think the young folks here, generally, are decidedly worldly. I had some very serious thoughts as I sat Iooking at the boisterous, rollicking figures be­fore me. The bare gray mountains made a solemn contrast as compared to the hilarious dancers careening this way and that in their shad­ows, When "tusmšrket" (dusk) began gathering around us I involuntari­ly thought of hobgoblins and "Trold". . Some of the older folk still cling to superstitions about "nissen" and other fairy folk.


I was asked to greet you from Haldor Tjernagel, an aged rela­tive of father. He is inclined to hobnob with vakkelses folket.(Re­vivalists.) He said much that was worth while. He has brains. One thing he told me stuck. Said he: Poverty saves no one; Wealth damns no one. I was invited there last Sunday for dinner. His wife went to the preacher when you did father, and she told me of your particular pranks as a pupil. Will try remember. You knew your lessons, she said.


Barbru's son Johan lives near his mother and is married to a daugh­ter of Thomas N¾se, a large, well-built man, but slouchy. He is a good talker and tells sea-stories by the yard. Mrs. Johan, unlike her fa­ther,is neat. Her appearance is imposing, but her tongue might be called a little sharp. Two of her sisters live near by and resemble her somewhat in build and looks. Johan was newly converted, but could not quite smother his natural bent for fun. His humor is just too rich. He looks like his cousin Christen Tjernagel, Helga's son.


I am invited to a wedding at Bomlo next Saturday. The ones to be married had heard I would like to attend so sent me an invitation. Am going over to Mosterhavn, Haavig, and Lodden by and by, also Fšrde to look up our history in the church records. I wonder if you ever intend to write.


Kind regards to you all.



P.S: Eg ligge oppaa smalahoien om dadno i solskinnet aa studera tysk. E.S: Johan's 11 year old girl Anna was the child he had with his first wife, the unusually beautiful daughter of Haldor Tjernagel - he with his first wife. Anna looks like a budding madonna.


Supplement: Barbru's third son the 19 and a half year old Peder expects to go to America soon. If it is hard for him to get work at first, I trust you will boost him along for awhile till he gets a steady job. It is likely that Barbru and her youngest, Bendick, will leave for America next summer. She sends greetings!  She carries peat on her back from the peat beds, nearby, almost every day, and is otherwise busy the livelong day. She likes to be up and doing and reminds me very much of father. I carried torv (peat) on my back, too, yes­terday, which made Barbru laugh till it hurt. Evidently I cut a most ludicrous figure.


Below is a facsimile of father's figure cut into the wall to show how high the sun went in the summer. Done about the year 1846.



(Letter to Bertha or mailed in her name.)


Lodden, July 24th, 1892


Dear Folks:


I am writing this letter in the parental home of Andrias Lodden, Lodden, Bommeloen. The folks here have received me most kindly. Rasmus, the father, is a big, fine-looking man, but his wife Kari, is not what we call a looker either as to form or facial lineaments.  But she has a head on her and carries her heart on her sleeve. It isn't quite sure but that she is a bit cranky at times. As you know she is only a half sister of Grandfather, be­ing the daughter of Anders Sme's second wife. Anders was motherÕs grandfather.


Since writing you last I have visited at Moster, Kalevig, Haavig, …ijoro, Finnaas, Tollevig and Bommelhavn.  There are some well to do people from Bergen living at Mosterhavn that took me around and showed me places including the oldest church in Nor­way, Mosterkirken. The structure is nearly one thousand years old.  I give a description elsewhere, besides which father can tell you all about it seeing he was confirmed there.


Moster Gamle Kirke – courtesy DIS Hordaland (Internet)



I went from Mosterhavn crossing Mosteršen over to Kalevig, close to Mt. Siggen, where grandfather had established a home after he was married and where mother was brought up. People around here remembered "Veite Nils", as they called grandfather, very well. I stopped over nigh with some kind people who had bought the house grandfather built in the long ago, and where mother had spent the years of her childhood I saw the hills where she had herded sheep and climbed Mt.Siggen that she had so often told about.  I made the climb a­lone and found it a rather long and difficult task to reach the top, and, yet longer to find the way down again. Fog gathered as I reached the summit only giving me a rather short glimpse of the interesting surroundings on all sides before enveloping me entirely.  Everything was so quiet and sepulchral-like that it almost gave me the creeps.  I was enabled to take a peep above the clouds and when their vapors flitted away at times I could see Folgefonda and other snow-capped mountains in the distance. It was cold on the mountain-top so I picked up my legs and with the fog at my heels stumbled downwards. On the way I bumped into some sheep which were very much startled by my unexpected advent (I didn't walk, I slid) and scrambled away in all directions. I heard the plaintive bleating of a lamb that had separated from its mother and the home-like sound made me home-sick. Let us hope that its mamma heard it, though I may have scared the wits out of the whole flock seeing they seldom see people from early summer till late in autumn. Finding my­self whole and unharmed arrived at the base of the Mt.  I called on Jacob Haavig, a schoolmate of mother, and other friends of her childhood. Voices out of the past. The next day I found a man who kindly showed me the way around the Mt. to Finnaas and the parsonage there, where resided The Reverend Tormesater.  Impressive-looking individual.  He received me kindly enough, but not too humbly since he wanted to impress upon me the importance of his being a Provst besides being Prast.  I wanted him to hunt out our ancestry in the church-records, but it appeared to be a lengthy task and too much of an undertaking for the present so it was postponed till later. Glancing into the books he substantiated father's statement that in the family there had been an Ole Andreas born a year or so before father who had died in infancy. When father came he was named after him. Also, I didn't have the necessary information regarding our for­bears to make an intelligent search in these church-books, or the ones in the archives at Bergen, to determine our general ancestry.


From Finnaas Tormesater took me by boat to Mosteroen where he had a funeral, and I some relatives at Totland gaard.  I was invited to stay with them overnight.  The woman was mother's cousin, and h she had a husband and five children.  Her mother's name was Siri, grandfather's half-sister, full sister of Kari Lodden. Siri be­came mentally deranged - too much trouble and sorrow, it was said and had been sent away to "Daara kisto" (Insane Asylum). The Tot­lands talk of coming to America.  Nice woman. Nice family.  From Moster I went back to Tjernagel, but didn't stay put for more than a few hours when off we went, Barbru and I, to Tollevig, Andal, Bommelšen. I am almost sorry I went for it served to spoil my appetite for a week afterwards.  You see we attended a wedding where we ate and drank all the time for three days. Nels Peterson's cousin Tšres was "Kjšgemester", and a good one at that. He was well dressed, handsome, and eloquent as becomes a genteel toastmaster.  Everyone had to have a look at "Amerikaneren", kan du veta. Nor did their remarks about the outlandish fellow always consist of whispers. 


The young people seemed rather untamed, and there was such a disregard for anything resembling prudery among them that their actions sometimes partook of license. However, all seemed friendly and warm-hearted. But their demeanor by the roadside even as the bridal procession wended by reminded one of certain Biblical descriptions of selective choosing among soldiers, or males of other sort.  


I enjoyed the honor of sitting beside the bride during one of the meals, but failed miserably as an agreea­ble table-companion, for what did I do but spill a bowl of greasy gravy over my lady's dress. The guests smiled, but not the bride­groom - he frowned!   I for my part felt like climbing into a leafy tree. But things were smoothed over by the sweet-faced bride, and I left the wedding with colors flying, with mishaps heartily for­given.


Kari illustration from Walking Trips in Norway



I have now stayed at Loddens nearly a week. They won't let me leave. Kari is very religious. She is well read. She has given me good advice. Rasmus isn't as pious, seemingly, as his wife, nor does he seem to ponder things as deeply as she. Eg kan slaa me stut orv naa. Rasmus i Luten sa eg va vare ei krona dajen.      (.25)  I, myself, doubt it. Rasmus is a grand looking figure as he strides from place to place in the meadow. He wields the scythe with grace and precision. Tomorrow Rasmus and Kari will row me acrosa the seven-mile Bommel fjord to Barbru's; we expect to stay overnight there. --- Yes, we rowed over the fjord in most beautiful weather, and never will I forget with what ease and grace our big oarsman propelled us over the glossy sea that memorable day. Barbru and the Loddens were old friends and the visit was enjoyed by all. 


I have met lots of people who remember Ola Andrias. I am asked all sorts of questions, to the point of exhaustion, almost. Eg ha vorte torre i halsen, ja kjaften me, af snak. According to his old acquaintances father was a lively sort of fellow, apt at school, and much admired by the local maidens. Evidently he took none of their hearts with him when at 20 he left for America since they all eventually married. Bar­bru says I look like father in the neck. Others see a more decided,­ resemblance, and covering other territory besides the neck.


Knut Bakar (Bine Knut), full name Knut Syverson, who lived about a mile S.E. of Knut Phillops lives now at the outer edge of Tjernagel, close to Sletto (Arm of North Sea).


Eg ha fonne maangt eit meisterverk itte Besten (Veite Nils), sjšhus, murar o.s,v.i de uendelige. (Besten va kaldte Nils Murar og.) (Valdere Nils, stundom.) Der a maange saa kjame han ihog paa Bommelšen, Mosteršen, paa Avaldsnes sš ifraa Haugesund, og i Sveio.


I can't think of any more to write just now. Please save these scratchings, if you like, since it is about the only record I have of the trip.   I am afraid they are sorely lacking in detail, es­pecially such things as would interest father and mother most.  I may try to write something now and then for the papers. More Anon!  Write!       Nehemias Tjernagel.


P.S. Greet Lewis, Sarah, and the children!


Vossevangen, Norway, Aug. 2,1892 (or Sept. 2)


Dear Folks:


As you see I am now at Vossevangen. Do not hesitate to write. I am prepared to read them as fast as they come, letters, I mean.  I am taking cold baths daily, and some exercises in gymnastics here. I have made a stab at German lately with Rev. Heyerdahl as guide. He is kapellan of the sogneprest in Voss and is a very agreeable young man. His wife and infant daughter are dandies. They are very kind to me.


It seemed an interposition of Providence that I did not strike out for Germany some three weeks ago. The providential cause seemed to be a pair of trousers that I bought, also a few other little things, not much, but sufficient to put a crimp in my funds and making me hesitate as to my course. I finally decided to go in spite of my depleted purse, but when my boat came I just couldn't get up  and go, and here I am and no reason. My premonition, or whatever it was, served me well as, shortly, we heard that Hamburg and Berlin were in the grip of cholera. I suppose you would prefer that I was away from Europe till the scourge is over, but with God's care I   that I may be safe here as well as anywhere else. Hope it wonÕt be too long before I may embark for Germany. My purse is quite lean. It takes a month before you can replenish me any. Can you do so soon?


There has been a great "Felt Manšver" (Military review) at Voss these days beginning Aug. 31, and lasting four days. (Dates are mixed in some of these letters making a rather poor sequence at times.) There were great parades and sham battles. There were some 9,000 soldiers from different parts of the country. The privates suffered greatly during the chilly nights, being obliged to sleep in their uniforms right on the bare ground. Every hotel and private lodging house was filled to capacity by visitors from surrounding cities who had come to enjoy the fun. The music of the military bands was of high order. (ÒFrom Iowa to NorwayÓ; Iowa 5tate Register, Jan.22, 1893, contains description of this event and other experiences on trip.)  


Pending your advice I shall stay in Norway till the cholera scare is over. I heard Peder Tjernagel was to leave for America Aug. 20.


I shall write often.



Bergen, Aug. 10, 1892

Dear Folks:


I have just come back to Bergen from a visit to "Det underdeilige" Hardanger. Just let your imagination play and think of mountains in every conceivable shape and form, and you may probably hit upon something which will approach the wonders of Hardanger. I left Bergen at Four 0'Clock last and traveled on the famous Voss railway to Vossevangen. This road, though only 80 miles in length, has 23 tunnels. The scenery is so wonderful and varied along the route that I had better not try to describe it. At least not hurriedly as would be the case should I attempt a description now. Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, and representatives of other nationali­ties come in flocks during the tourist season. The hotels are crammed with them all summer. 


A young swedish student and myself engaged a driver with a "stolkjarre ( a one-horse vehicle) at Vossevangen and set out for Graven, in Hardanger.  T'was a glorious drive. The weather was ideal for sightseeing. The self-willed nag trotted along to suit himself, while we sat with open mouths gulping in the scenery. We passed two waterfalls, one of which sent its spray flying in our faces. In some places the mountains frowned down upon us from above, in other places we climbed them along winding roads and from there saw lovely slopes and valleys spread out before us. From Graven we walked over the high mountain separating this place from Ulvik, Hardanger. The views from this point are some of the finest in Hardanger. Wergeland, the poet, has composed some fine poetry about this section. This is where father and mother should spend the summer nezt year. We saw a small fjord surrounded by high mountains that mirror themselves in the water below. The highest peak is called "Vas­fjoren" " and it looks like a vast amphitheatre with its huge arena midst the declivities below.        


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Ulvik view from road from Vossevangen c1890 – Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress Collection.


Last night I stepped off at Nordheimsund and saw the picturesque "foss" there. One can enter behind the falls under the overhanging cliffs and see daylight through the falling sheet of water in front. It was more than great. How I wish I had someone with me to help take it all in!


More anon.

P.S. Excuse rather poor letter. Too much of a hurry. Hope Lew and Pete will soon be spared further litigation.


N. T.

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Bergen Harbor c1890 – Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress Collection


Bergen, Aug. 12, 1892.



Mr. H. M. Tjernagel, Story City, Iowa.


To the fourth link:


As time isn't money with me just at present I will drop you a line for old friendship's sake.  From my window I can see a couple of Fiska Strilar who are towing a big boat into the dock. They have a peculiar, jerky way of rowing by which they may be distinguished. From my window I have a view of the dock where may be seen steamboats and other craft coming and going in endless procession.  The Norwegian navy is the third largest in the world, all sea-craft included. Bergen is an agreeable place to be in - when it doesn't rain.  Last Sunday I was out to the City Park to hear Brigade Musik­ken. T'was very good.  It rained a little during the concert and the number of umbrellas that shot up was a caution.  A man is much better off without a hat here than to be minus an umbrella. By the way, there is just one millionaire in Bergen, and his name is Sundt. The ladies are rather self-sufficient in this burg. More or less loud, maybe, but as good as they go, no doubt.  My observations apply from a distance.


I ran across the composer Gabriel Tischendorf the other day while I was out walking in one of the parks It was towards evening and when he and his friend Prof. Bruun spied me they seemed to know that I was an American and, asked me to accompany them for a stroll that they might learn something about the U.S.  Gabriel is a very genial fellow, organist in Johannes Kirken, and an intimate friend ­of Edvard Grieg.  We had a delightful time together that evening, also later.  They asked no end of ques­tions, and thought it passing strange that an "indfodt" amerikaner could talk Norwegian so fluently. I had a similar experience in Nordheimsund.  I had just stepped ashore from the steamer "Folgefonden" to view the wonderful …vesthus waterfall when it occurred to me to ask a great, big pie-faced fellow standing nearby where I might see the Falls to the best advantage. He made haste to answer so that he might immediately give vent to his curiosity through the proverbial query "Kor ae denna maen ifraa?"  Where are you from?  I told him, but he wouldn't believe me.  He said he was sure an "indf¿dt" American couldn't talk "perfect" Norwegian like I did.  I felt flattered but still insisted that I was American born and bred.  He thought I was trying to make fun of him and actually got hot before I could convince him.  As mentioned in a letter home recently one can go under the cliff behind the falls and view the falling water. In the spring the thawing snow swells the torrent to mighty proportions, and when standing underneath, the force of the falling water makes one feel the very cliff tremble.


The trip from Vossevangen to Ulvik was extremely interesting. I stayed over night at the above place, (Vossevangen Hotel,) and in the evening some English tourist-guests nearly tore down the house with their jolly antics. They sang, joked and quarreled till 12 P.M.  One can't tell wheth­er they are princes or gentlemen, or happy vagabonds, for they all look alike on the outside. They wear the proverbial tourist costume consisting of a little cap, knapsack sack-coat, kneebreeches, heavy shoes and stockings. Their costume is picturesque, and when they come dangling along the road -often in crowds- it looks like they're having fun. It isn't always easy to place a man as to position just by looking at him.  I saw a long, lanky fellow who seemed to belong to the barn-yard aristocracy, or else dug ditches somewhere, but he proved to be equally eminent in another job - he was one of England's greatest musicians: He reminded me of Jake Weltha who also  made music of a kind.  It is unsafe to speak familiarly to any English tourist for in spite of length or breadth, shape or action, he or she may turn out to be a Prince or Princess, or some such titled per­sonage.


Skjervet Falls and road between Vossevangen, Eide and Ulvik 1892 –courtesy (Internet)


I intended to walk to Eide in Hardanger, but got into a "kjŠrre" with a swedish theological student and rode, which was better. We were looking for scenery, and it certainly had us gripped here.  Now we would see a beautiful valley surrounded by walls of gray cliffs backed by high, solemn-looking mountains, and again, peaks topped with perpetual snow would appear mirroring themselves in the placid waters of fresh water lakes.  Ever and anon dashing little waterfalls would present themselves one of which, Sjervefossen, sent its spray spitefully into our very fa­ces as we passed. The rush and roar of the greater waterfalls echoed and and re-echoed from crag to crag, and cliff to cliff.


P.S. I hope you are succeeding in your work.


Vossevangen, Sept. 8, 1892

Ole A. Larson, Story City,Iowa


Dear Folks:


I am well and hope you are the same. I propose to stay at Voss yet for awhile. The family where I am staying ; including me, intended to have taken a trip to Stalheim yesterday, but our "skydskarl" (driver ) got himself kicked twice in the leg by a vicious horse and was laid up.  May go later sometime. The scenery at Stalheim is said to be the most wildly rugged, yet the grandest, in Norway. The many tourists who seek its attractions proves the popularity of this section at least. The fi­nest tourist hotel in Norway is situated here. The German Kaiser has engaged rooms there for next year for himself and family.


The people I am staying with here in Vossevangen are very accommoda­ting and kind.  The husband is a sort of man-of-all-work around the ÒpensionatÓ. (Boarding house.)  These people came here from Bergen some years ago.  The old lady is somewhat like Stora Fastero in dimensions, and also re­sembles her in other ways. She is distantly related to the great poet Holberg. They have an adopted daughter, clinging-vine type, and together they sing while I play the Clarinet. I remember to eat lots of rye bread 'cause it seems to agree well with me now that I am unable to obtain Barbru's wonderful "havre kage." The old lady wants to mother me, which is all very well if it isn't pushed too hard. But I must be very thankful that people are so kind, and shall always remember this kind intentioned Holberg offshoot. Rev. Heyerdahl was responsible for my presence in her home being, in his own way, just as kind as she. Gamle Oppedal,who was in America some years ago and built Anders Tjernagel's house, also some other houses, lives here with his daughter. He is very friendly to me and delights to talk about his stay in America, and about Anders in particular. There is artistry in his touch, and he makes an ideal Jack of all trades. His carpenter work work was flawless. His daughter and her husband are fine people, the husband being a dyer. The daughter complained just a little bit about old-age slovenliness in her father. I am afraid  he had been sort of a bounder in his younger days. So much for Oppedal -  almost. He and a black-eyed uncle of Knut Johnson (Story City violinist and watch-maker,) and Mossefin the noted fiddler got together for a spread some­times and were bound to have me with them. Their interesting experien­ces through long lives of unusual activity here and there were graphic­ally rehashed, and largely for my benefit. Mossefin played for us and told all kinds of anecdotes about his American concert tour. lie said that Henry helped him a lot at Decorah to make his concert there a suc­cess. I am reminded right here of (Fredrik) Fleischer of the great Hotel Fleischer here at Vossevangen. Meeting Jokum one day as a guest he said: "Don't you remember me?"No", said Jokum. Said Fleischer: "Don't you remember when I worked for you, when years ago you owned Milwaukee, more or less?" So the two met after many years of varying fortunes, one a well to do tourist, andthe other owner of one of the finest hostelries in Norway.


FleischerÕs Hotel c1890 – Fredrik Fleischer, center – courtesy (Internet)


As I sat admiring the beautiful Bulken lake and the majestic moun­tains surrounding Vossevangen one day, I was nearly pushed off the rock on which I was sitting, and might well have gone headlong down a steep slope. On looking around to discover what had bumped me so hard in the back I saw a pleasant-faced goat about to charge me again. I quickly left to dream somewhere else. There are many goats in Norway. I sought "Breidablik", a tourist resort on the shore of the lake, to cultivate the muses at a later date. Here I bumped into two nieces of the merchant Ringheim of Nevada, Iowa, who were now back home after a four years' stay in the U.S.  One was very dark and distinguished-looking like her uncle in Nevada, and the other blond and fancy looking and no mistake. They sang Annie Rooney, I accompanied on the piano, and forthwith the atmosphere was of the good old U.S.A. These girls are the daughters of storekeepers here.  Such chance encounters with people from the home vicinity 6000 miles removed holds a peculiar interest while it lasts.


Upon my settling down here at Vossevangen I slumped down at the Lids­heim hotel with out knowing exactly where I had landed. They were reasonable in their charges for the little I got. It was a happy-go-lucky establish­ment, and during the military encampment order was nowhere. Didn't know when I might expect to eat. I had to address myself mostly to prune soup. (Svidskesuppe.) And I am not fond of the brew anyway. This didn't faze me intolerably, however, but then I asked for some time to liquidate my debts for all these accommodations the proprietor blew up and demanded immediate payment. Formerly he had been most obsequious in everything but service, but now that he suspected that I was not a rich American sowing dollars around he had no mercy. How could he know that I wasn't going to leave my bill unpaid, he said, and forthwith claimed my trunk and all the modest contents therein. I went to Heyerdahl and he helped me move away from there, and over to Nagels, the Holberg lady. I forced him to take my watch for the money advanced, but he did so reluctantly indeed. It was a rare pleasure when a check from home finally filtered in and I was ena­bled to repay my benefactor. The attitude of that Lidsheim Shylock gave me cause for some bitter reflections. I felt it the more keenly since this was my first experience of being harshly treated by unfeeling people, thus far, on my trip.


Expenses since I left home up to now: Chicago to N.Y. $17. Stay at N.Y. $8. Steerage ticket to Norway $26. Mattress and quilts $5. Extra cost as 2d class passenger $10. Hull and Liverpool $2.50. Stavanger stay $8. Trip to Tjernagel and expenses $2. Trip to Moster, Finnaas, Tollevik (wedding gift here 6 kroner) Bommelen $4. Trip to Bergen and stay $5. Voss $2.25. Ulvik $2.50. Nordheimsund, Lervik, and back to Bergen. $3.50. To Hodnefjeld saeter and stay $6. So far at Vossevangen $6.50. Consider he distances traveled here, (not to speak of the main journey) expenses, and the two months time it has taken, the total sum is not staggering. Many well to do people would have spent an equal amount just on one jaunt into the mountains, maybe. Not possible for any self-respecting per­son to get through any cheaper, and, I have really covered all of the ter­ritory that most tourists seek here in Vestlandet.


The cholera scourge is on the decline in Russia, but is yet raging in Hamburg. Nearly all traffic from there has been shut off by the Norwegian coast cities. Vossevangen ( about 1000 inhab.) is about 80 miles east of Bergen. Great care has been taken to prevent the spread of cholera in Nor­way. Do not fret for me! Hope the work at home is progressing nicely.

N. T.


Vossevangen, Norway, Sept. 24, 1892


To Bertha and the rest of the family:


It is kind of nice to have a little sister with which to correspond. Your letter has been received, also one day before yesterday. Henry, too, has just written. Am glad to hear that you are all well. Just now I received notice that there is a money-order for me at Tjernagel P.O. It comes at a time that I can wel­come it most sincerely. I hope that it did not cause father too much trouble to send it on such short notice. 


A few evenings ago I did a lot of star-gazing. The sky was bright and clear and I recognized some of the stars we see at home. I guess all the stars were in their place same as at home, but I am not overly familiar with the firmament at night so only visited with few old acquaintances. When we husked corn and shoveled it into the crib later in the evening than usual I remember the heavens declared their glory just about as it does here now in late September. I ima­gined I could hear the rattle of the corn and the ring in the shovel as the ears left it when flung into the crib. I also thought of "den traanga bokso hans Peter" as I thought of corn ­picking. As I continued to gaze heavenward a wonderful illumi­nation spread over the sky and lit up the scene about me with ad­ded splendor. Arms of white flame (Aurora Borealis) shot up from the horizon on the north and stretched toward us till they reach­ed after us both above and beyond. I was almost afraid I might be snatched up and lifted into illimitable space. God's handiwork, indeed!      


Yesterday I was privileged to enjoyed one of the nicest trips I have ever taken. Rev. Klaveness from Bergen and I engaged the services of a "skydskarl" and rode in a "stolkjarre" to visit Stalheim, the famous mountain resort. Rev. Klaveness preaches in Domkirken and, though quite young has already distin­guished himself as a most able sermonizer. He is about 30, hand­some, gifted, but unmarried. Seems to me I've heard that he is engaged. I considered it quite an honor to be asked to accompany him. Well,  we started out at nine in the morning well provided with bread and cheese for "Nista". It was rather foggy for awhile which blurred the view of the landscape, but as if by magic it rose and sailed away in the form of a white cloud between the mountains, making a most beautiful sight to behold. Our driver was very talkative and made remarks about everything that met his eye on the way. His mind did not seem to penetrate beyond the outer surface of anything. He swore at everything, because others had done it before him; he would never have thought of inventing a swear word himself which, after all, was to his advantage. The minister winced each time he swore and asked him to lay off for awhile, even permanently, which he also essayed to do but forgot himself in about two minutes. His conscience was evidently asleep and he seemed happy to serve the devil, though not acutely aware it. We passed Ringheim (merchant Ringheim, Nevada), Hustvedt (Editor Hustvedt, Decorah). Saw Reque (Rev. Reque, U.S.A.) and were in the same vicinity in Voss where Sheriff Matson, Chicago, Victor Lawsons father, Chicago, John Anderson, Chicago, and Senator Knute Nelson came from.        


We drove near Vosseelven for several miles and at last arrived at Tvendefossen. This waterfall makes little jumps, or rather it hops down a sort of stairway some four or five hundred feet. The water leaped and sparkled in the sunlight and we saw lovely rainbows in the flying spray. We found the water clear in the streams here and fishes could be seen darting about as the roadway edged near the water and gave us a close-up view. During June and July there are two Englishmen, for every poor fish, angling around with loads of fishing-tackle on the banks of this much-frequented stream, Vosseelven.  


In the midst of our raptures over the scenery my companion suddenly relieved his emotions through an outburst of song. His fine voice fitted admirably to Wennerberg's lofty "Davids Salmer". As we ambled on we ran into a place where there had been a "Stenskred". (Rock avalanche). It had wrought terrible havoc in its path 'mongst the trees and the vegetation in general. Luckily no houses had been caught in its onslaught. The rumble and crash from the rain of rocks and earth and dislodged trees down the mountainside can be heard for miles and miles.


By and by we came to Vinje from where lawyer Vinje, who orates before the bar at Nevada, hails. Entering the fine tourist hotel here we obtained some milk " te sjšlja ne naake af de graava brš me." We located a piano in the parlor and forthwith made its keys resound to music. Klaveness is a fine player. A person who possesses many accomplishments can often share them with others. We appreciate and enjoy many things even outside of our own personal ability to "prŠstere".


We passed by Opheimsvandet whence issue two rivers flowing in opposite directions one into Hardanger with its fjords, the other into Voss and Lake Bulken. The scenery around Opheim lake is lovely; the surrounding mountains take their beauty-bath in the mirror formed by the placid waters below. 


At Opheim we left our nag and loquacious driver, the one to munch hay and the other to rest his jaws, and walked the remaining distance to Stalheim. The scenery is awe-inspiring, if not awful. The wild crags and cliffs rise, seemingly, to immeasurable heights with their bases almost lost to sight in the dim depths below. (Written, so far, rather hastily by lamplight. Must quit now, because of strain on eyes and nerves, Finish in the morning. Bertha must read "To fyrstedštre i "Skolen og Fjemmet", Sept. 1. J.Braaten, Biri, per Kristiania, has sub­scribed for "Skolen og Hjemmet", and either Lew or Gustav Amlund should see to it that it is sent to him at once. )

Voss Train Station 1892 – courtesy (Internet)



Sunday morning the 25th (Sept.) got up at six thirty to go with Rev. Klaveness to the depot here at Voss. He is to preach at Bergen this afternoon. From the depot I went over to Fleischers hotel and took an ice-cold shower-bath. It woke me up if nothing else. But back to my postponed description of the Stalheim trip: The tourist hotel at Stalheim, the largest in Scandinavia, is situated right close to the brink of a steep precipice of 1,500 ft. From the roof of the hotel the eyes may roam over a vast extent of mountain scenery, and in clear weather glimpses of Sogn and Gudvangen may be had. We threw sizable rocks over the precipice, but the drop proved so endless that the eyes could not follow them way down below to the final bumping-place. We saw Kaiser Wilhelm der zweites handwriting but though it was an emperor's writing it did not start to perform or anything like that, but remained a mere scrawl indistinguishable from the pen-scratches of a hobo, or a nobody from Iowa, as far as penmanship was concerned. We stuck our heads through the door where His Majesty sleeps while here, but there was no peculiar smell as of an exalted presence having occupied the room, just a little stuffiness same as if you and your cat hadn't been using it for a few days. It costs 20 kroner to sleep in this room, other rooms, equally comfortable may be had for 2 kroner. Only people with the mentality of idiots and the egoism of roosters will fall for this sort of thing.

Stalheim Hotel 1892 – courtesy (Internet)


Klaveness pounced upon a piano in one of the reception rooms and forthwith Bach and Chopin spoke through their music to me and others who happened to have appreciative ears to hear with.  What a lucky thing to be born with ears attuned to the language of the soul expressed through music and song. (Edvard Grieg lives not far from Bergen on the way to Voss.) 


We left Stalheim at 4 P.M. on foot, bound for Opheim, and sang and whistled on the way. The rather distant-mannered Klaveness as seen at Bergen let loose and forgot his pastoral mien as we bounced along the roadway happy just to be alive. After a short call at the bachelor minister's house at Opheim ( An innocent-looking glass of home­-made beer tendered each had strength enough to produce a tipsy-fying effect) we routed out our driver and his spirited steed and set forth on the way back to Vossevangen. Before we left the old derelict at the parsonage we found out his age, which was 70. Two old maid sisters kept him company, cooked for themselves and him, ate and slept in peace with no brats around. It might have been better to have had a child or two around to exercise affection.  Yes, Norway, too, has old maids, and to spare. Very useful per­sons for married people to have around in a pinch. And maybe they are just as satisfied as anybody, if you should ask them. These particular old maids seemed not only kind, but contented. Having exhausted this subject let us turn to our "skydskarl" who was im­patient about getting home and held his pony at top speed up hill and down hill with breakneck urgency. He had no regard for the niceties of language and spoke to the horse coarsely, even blasphemously about moving on, the faster the better. In his present anxious frame of mind he took no thought for his passengers as to any conversational entertainment he might otherwise had up his sleeve. We did not mind the lack of it so much seeing that we had just about all we could do to hang on to the crazy outfit. It had grown quite dark as we neared the end of our journey. The darkness seemed to increase the size of the mountains, and they hedged us in more threateningly than before. Only Venus, the evening star, which glinted between clefts in the mountains, seemed concerned in lighting us, ever so faintly, on the way.  Of course the other stars were there, but they didn't seem to perform for us. No won­der people are superstitious here considering the number of hob­goblins that appeared to lurk by the roadside. Some of them ac­tually seemed to move!  Klaveness gave a little lecture on astron­omy as we rode along, and finally wound up with a most fitting sermonette as we reached our journey's end. It contained much uplifting, beautiful thought. Such brief sermons by the wayside have a way of reaching deep into our consciousness. We arrived at our destination at 10 P.M.


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Road between Voss and Stalheim c1890 – Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress Collection.


I suppose you feel rather lonesome after Lewis and Sarah and the children left Story City. Cholera is said to be on the wane at Hamburg. I hope it will stay away from Norway. May God be with us all!




PhilÕs Note:  Following letter written between 24 September and 5 October 1892



Decorah, Iowa.


Lieber Freund:


Letter received. You must write often.  I suppose Lewis and fam­ily are settled in Decorah by this time.  How I wish I could get to squeeze those kids: I am jealous of you when I hear you are staying there.  Seems to me I have a little more right to those babies than you because I stayed in their home at Story City when Clarence was a baby and when Mabel and Alvina were born.  I send you a picture of my cheerful friend Rev.Heyer­dahl and his little girl.  Fine-looking pair.  Return it sometime.


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Rev. Heyerdahl with infant – Nehemias Tjernagel Scrapbook page 12.


Had a dandy trip to Stalheim in the company of Rev. Klaveness who preaches in Domkirken, the largest church in Bergen.  I wrote home about that trip and tried to make the description as interesting as possible.  (The letter must have been lost. There is also a description of the trip in "From Iowa to Norway.") Trust you will have opportunity to read my letter about Stalheim when you come home. "Baffles description" comes con­stantly to mind when I try to tell of my journeys in this scenic territory.       

Bergen Domkirken – courtesy DIS Hordaland (Internet)


I hope to see the day when you will be an active minis­ter like Rev. Klaveness. He is 30, unmarried, but has hopes. He is very fine­ looking, while his flame is plain.  Good arrangement.  He was very much concerned for the spiritual welfare of our "skydskarl" who took us to Stal­heim. He was a redheaded lout who swore because he liked the sound of it.  Everything he saw had to be remarked upon and fittingly sworn at, minister or no minister. In one place little trees grew on the sod roof of a small roadside dwelling. He thought this too funny and elaborated upon it with the choicest blasphemy I have ever heard. It made us wince, and Klaveness spoke what was on his mind. The warning didn't faze our Jehu in the least, and habit made him repeat his pungent observations at the very first prov­ocation.


Well, I can't go to Leipzig this term on account of the cholera. Too bad!  Don't smoke you "nar". Tell Sarah to exercise some motherly care when she sees you with "a jenta i kjaften aa ein cigar onde armen."  Will visit Barbru again soon.   NT


Vossevangen, Norway, Oct. 5, 1892


Dear Folks:


I am in the act of eating a Norwegian pear. The authorities have confiscated a lot of fruit brought here by a fellow from Hardanger where considerable fruit is raised. The sheriff took it into Mr. Nagel's (my host) cellar where it is to be sorted. The unlucky ones among the pears are sunk to the bottom of Vangsvandet a lake about the size of Storm Lake. The sound ones are of a splendid variety, and I sneak down and select the most delectable ones for myself. The worst is nobody cares. No fun in swiping anything then, is there?  Eg snakka ufjelt. Aren't I the funny one though, Gus?  Besides pears they raise a lot of apples in Hardanger, also in Sogn and other places. This year the quality of much of the fruit is rather poor owing to too much rain. Various kinds of berries are grown here extensive­ly. The Norwegian cherry is of the finest.


Today the weather is exceptionally beautiful and Mr. Hellesnes and I are going out for a long walk. Lars H. and I have much in common since he is interested in literature and music ( He is actually a poet), speaks English and is a good fellow withal. He is the son of the sheriff here. He has spent 11 years in Chicago and vicinity. He is a "tilskjŠrer", cloth­cutter at large tailoring establishments. He has introduced me to lots of people here. Think it was he who had me meet the Ringheim nieces at Breid­blik. He became nervous from overwork and came back home to recuperate. We get such voracious appetites after long walks here that I am almost afraid to meet my landlady.


Heyerdahl, too, invites me for trips. Yesterday we went to Tvende. Visited a number of sick people on our way back. To be able to cheer up the ailing ones with a kind word, and above all with the Bread of Life, is a privilege we should seek. It helps us as well as those who are sick. We called at a home where the man and wife remained constantly in their bed because of old age. They lay there like two little helpless children. They are not far from the 100 year mark. They loved to hear the Word spo­ken, but in order to reach the tympanum of the old man the pastor had to yell like everything into his ear. When he was thus enabled to make contact with old fellow's soul the latter's face lighted up like magic. We called at the home of a young man of whom someone said well-meaningly (?) that he played sick according to the occasion. When we saw him he sat propped up in bed looking into a Bible someone kindly (?) suggested he had grabbed as he had jumped into bed preparatory to our coming. He looked very downcast and Heyerdahl spoke to him Words to lift up his soul, words convincing to a scamp, or any other sinner, me included. St. Paul would have approved of them being, as he said, the biggest sinner of all, though not willingly so.


Speaking of old people I am reminded of the unusual number of which I saw everywhere I came in Norway. Evidently they live long and well, but are perhaps sometimes lonely since many of the younger generation are on the sea, or have left the old homesteads altogether. Nearly all families are blessed with fine crops of children, this in contrast to the lonely lives led by an array of unmarried dames seen in any district on these shores.


The farmers are digging potatoes in battalions hereabouts. They swarm through the potato patches on the principle of workers in an Ant-hill. No one seems to be busy, though all do move. Time isn't money; not here! When we pass these devoted plodders by they up and look you straightly all over unabashed, yet kindly. One may look back unaffectedly as they; there is nothing they wish to conceal, so why not gaze one's fill in mutual give and take?  I cannot deny that I am stared at for being an American.


Oct. 6.

    Thanks for the letter received today and for the advice about the "golden: gate. This morning as I was walking in a beautiful grove here at Voss I saw through the pines a bright stream of sunshine appearing through a cleft in the dark clouds. It made me think of the Light Celestial, of the appearance of Christ in the heavens come to declare the Last Judgment. He sends us reminders by day; and at night he speaks to us through the stars, the firmament. The play of the Northern lights here at night forms a most spectacular diversion for tourists not used to such exhibition.

    Greet Annas, Michas, Ole K., Jake, and others.

P.S. Have had my old hat pressed and dyed, also my overcoat They turn pants, too, here to get the maximum of wear out of the cloth. I tried it with my pair of gray pants and look like a new man. Mrs. Nagel didn't like for me to wear my dyed overcoat when we visited Boghandler Stephannson in Bergen. There was a very young and pretty daughter there and she thought I ought to try to shine up a bit. I didn't happen to be a candidate.


Bergen, Norway, Oct. 12, 1892


This evening as came back from Voss I felt lonely and home­sick, and in order to forget I went with Boghandler Stephanson to hear Gina Oselio sing. She is considered the best singer in Norway. Cheered me up.  What a healthy looking audience: Climbed to the top of  Flšien the next day. This is about the same height as Lyderhorn that father climbed when he visited Bergen as a boy. What a grand view of the city, and fjord!


Flšien must be at least 2,000 feet in height, and a well-kept road leads to the top that can be traveled both by man and beast. I am writing from this very place now. Brigade Musikkens performances right below can be seen as well as heard to good advantage up here. When I mingle with the people in the park listening to the music I am surprised at their healthy looks, pretty faces (girls, especially), and the atmosphere of content. I am rooming with a young man from Voss by the name of Hauge.  He has a pedal organ and is taking pipe organ lessons from organist Erickson.  He is preparing to take over the organist post at church in Vossevangen. Think I could get to room and eat with him for 35 kroner a month.


Last Friday at Voss I went to communion and revealed to the world I was a miserable sinner needing forgiveness. Thus one receives spiritual solace, and testifies to others at the same time. The services were conducted by Kapellan Hesselberg, who is a very handsome man. Provst Hansteen is sogneprest in the Voss district, and he with his two kapellans have far more than they can do to serve their vast number of parishioners properly.  Such conditions prevail in the State Church practieally all over Norway.  A minister I met from Christiania told me there were so many people in his particular church district that it was impossible even to get personally acquainted with them all, not to speak of the necessary pastoral calls incumbent on a faithful pastor. Thus rules the State Church in Norway.


Bergen, Oct 23,1892

H. M. Tjernagel


Dear Folks:


I send a picture of Stalheim. Hard to get an idea of distances and relative positions of rocks and roads and peaks in a mere photograph  ItÕs the best I can do. See it for yourself in all its majesty on the spot and you will be profoundly moved at God's marvelous creation. Turning from esthetic raptures inspired by scenery let me tell you that I was a bit moved the other day by the fact that Brigade Musikken played my pieces "Story City Overture" and "Daily News Waltz" in the park. Immense audience out for recreation, and listeners at program. Had you seen all those elegant dames incline their ears to my music you would have gone daffy. The men who deigned to listen were not all chumps either. The music seemed to ap­peal to these crowds, since both pieces are being played again and again. Personally, I wouldn't go very far to hear them. I met Gabriel Tischendorf on the street one day and during the conversation stammered out something about my own music being played at the park. He took this information very coolly, and soon made himself scarce. Hereafter I shall try and let people discover my little "stunts" for themselves.


Am trying to take care of my health as well as I am given the sense to do so. I am going to fight nervousness and indigestion with exercise, and a coarse, but substantial diet. The typhoid fever I had in Chicago in the spring of '92 certainly has left me weakened, especially as to diges­tion. This helps upset the nerves and causes sleeplessness. This sickness has been a great reminder. Hope I may be given strength to resign myself to the Will of the Most High whatever of sickness or health. T'is a blessed practice to read the Bible every day.  Lewis, and the rest, copy.        


By the way, Anton Pederson's friend, Adolph Hanson, leads Brigade Musikken. He is very handsome and musical (artistic) looking. I enjoyed very much to visit with him. - I am trying to make $60. reach from the middle of August to January, for board and instruction. You know how it feels to pinch, don't you? Father says it is rather hard to raise money for me, hence I am as saving as possible. Wish I could get a heavier overcoat, but hope to slide through the winter with what I got. 1000 tak for brevet!  Glad Sarah likes her new house. Greet Clarence, Mabel and Alvina. Greet Shervens. N.T.


Bergen, Oct. 27, 1892.

Ole A.Larson, Story City, Iowa.


Dear Folks:


It is my intention to go to Germany (Leipzig) about Christmas time. The cholera is over for the present, nor has there been any danger from the scourge at Leipzig at any time. So they write from there anyway.  Bertha suggests that it might be well for me to study music at Boston.  Considering the gain in my health, my extensive journeyings, cheapness of living, and excellence of instruction, I prefer to continue in Europe for awhile.  Even if I should try to escape Cholera by coming back to America now, who knows but that I might get caught by something else plenty bad enough, even in Boston.  If God sees fit to keep us going here below He will preserve us if we honestly go about our business where we happen legiti­mately to be.  Do you not remember Mrs. Lund who went down cellar to es­cape the lightning, but was killed by a bolt just the same?  What of the man from Bergen who quickly left Bergen when the cholera started there and came back when it was over, only to serve as its very last victim.


During my stay here the leading organist in the city, O. E. Erickson, has arranged a waltz I have written since coming to Norway, or part of it at least. Erickson is very kind and friendly, also his fine wife. When I left he said: "Lev vel, og Gud vŠre med Dem paa Deres vandring igjennem livet. "He said this about the waltz: "Naar den bliver godt spillet klinger den meget godt og brilliant, og tror jeg den vil gjšre lykke da melodien er smuk og flydende."        By the way, people are surprised to hear that there is a "skarven" composer claiming Tjernagel as his ancestral home. The newspapers contain Brigade Musikkens program and thus the name that few can pronounce even here - meets the eye of the reader.  If mother and Sarah are not strong they must come to Norway to recuperate.  The women look healthy here. Mother must not fret for me!

Address me at Tjernagel, P.O., per Stavanger, Norway.

N. T.



Tjernagel, Norway, Nov. 15, 1892


P.G.Tjernagel, Story City,Iowa.


Dear Folks:


Well, here I am in Tjernagel again. I left Bergen last Tuesday in the company of my roommate Hauge, who has never been on a steamship before. The sea was pretty rough that day, yet we managed to enjoy ourselves to the limit. We came to Barbru's home in the afternoon and stayed there two days, whereupon we struck out on foot to Haugesund. The distance is said to be fully 18 miles. The winding road was hard and smooth yet we were quite exhausted by the time we arrived at our destination. We put up (at) NŒsheim's Logi Hus and devoured most of their food supply. But the host had his revenge in the form of an army of fleas that had invaded our beds. All was forgiven, however, seeing that there were two attractive girls in the family that nearly ran their legs off to serve us well and promptly.  The people stared at us, and for no particular reason it seems to me. We were fully as homely-looking as the rest, especially Hauge, poor fellow, and as for me there is no beauty to gaze upon. Maybe it was our very plain­ness that caused such a sensation. Perhaps they took us for foreigners. At any rate we didn't get mixed up in anything disagreeable and saw the town from top to bottom. The sea traffic is great. Sailors are everywhere.


We left Haugesund per steamer Haukelid and soon found ourselves rocking mightily on the unruly waves of Sletto, an arm of the open sea that reaches the shore-line between Haugesund and Tjernagel. The shore is stud­ded with short, sharp, jagged cliffs, forbidding in the extreme to those who might seek a landing place. The aspect of the country inland is bleak and dreary, with scarcely a stretch of green to be seen from the sea ex­cept at Hovda just before reaching Tjernagel. On our walk to Haugesund we found the country largely unproductive, and short of scenic variety. The little farm places (gaards)  that had been wrested from the forbidding terrain looked delightfully inviting by comparison with their surroundings. Our steamer took us past Tjernagel, Valevaag, Moster, Lervik, and we finally found ourselves stepping off in the vicinity of the well known academy, Seminariet, on the island of Stord. I cannot say that I was much impressed by the outward appearence of the students, but their mental equipment may have been hidden modestly underneath to shine forth eventually in the ranks of the ministry and elsewhere. Compared to our own institutions of learning the place looked rather plain and unattractive. The conveniences were out­smarted by the inconveniences. I slept on a cot infested with fleas. Fleas are very worrisome in Norway, and unless the strictest cleanliness is the rule in a house fleas hop in and take possession. People are more or less used to them here and do not get excited about them, even leisurely scratch themselves in company when the flea bites. An American grows desperate when the pest hops up his leg and moves on with hop, skip, and jump to stick him all over before he can locate him. And then he doesn't know what to do with him, since he cannot be squeezed to death. It takes two solidly opposing bodies with him (flea) between, to kill him.


Hauge went back to Bergen, while I wended my way across the Island to Lervik, thence by steamer to Tjernagel. Stord is the stamping ground of the Dale's of Story City. Hans, the singer, and possibly Lars, attended the academy. I was to greet Hans from a companion of his youth, a Mr. L¿nning. Arrived at Tjernagel I undertook to do exactly nothing. As I couldn't do much reading on account of my weak eyes I wooed the sea-breezes midst beds of heather on the hill slopes, Here I could watch the ever shifting panorama on the fjord with its changing hues, the passing ships, the snooping sea-gulls, squalls, white-caps, and more. In the evening I would read "up high" in "Skolen og Hjemmet" for Barbru as she sat spinning.  Sometimes the spinning-wheel would come to a gradual stop, and, there sat Auntie fast asleep, while Bendick snored under the ancient stove.  Soon the wheel was whirring again and there was the spinning-lady, in action, wide-awake and refreshed after her nap. Auntie was a great reader and loved to have others read to her. Those were unforgettable hours in the long evenings of fall and winter in the land of my forefathers.


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Rowboat at Tjernagel 1903 – Enwall Collection


When the weather is nice we take a row-boat and propel ourselves by hand way out on B¿mmel fjord and shoot "Alka" and other birds. One day Bendick and I and the son of him "so inche konde krakka t¿rv", (grandson of Reiar Tjernagel) scudded out to the middle of the fjord and forthwith shot 14 "alker".  Bendick, who is only fourteen, bagged his first bird that day.  No one was more surprised at his success than he.  He was more than elated, and told the story of his great feat over and over again to his mother when we returned home. In order to do something to show my appreci­ation to my kind kinfolk I hit upon the idea of taking Bendick with me to Haugesund for a couple of days outing. It gave him the thrill of his life.  Such an adventure into the great wide world meant things to talk about long into the future. We slept in the same cot, but had a room to our­selves, thank you; and we ate at the guest table in the tiny hotel we had picked out for our stay. We explored the city, and Bendick saw and remem­bered: He typified genuine delight.


Norway family gathering c1889 – Harpers New Monthly Magazine V-78, No. 465, 1889.


Last Thursday my aunt and I were invited to the wedding of Marie Totland's eldest son. Marie is father's cousin and sends her greetings. She married Mr. Mjaanes and at the gaard Mjaanes they live. The old man, Per Eicheland, paternal grandfather of the groom - if I remember rightly, ­sends greetings to grandpa Follinglo.  He and the Mjaanes men were very fine-looking.  Old Per was chuck full of fun.  Name of bridegroom, too, is Peder Mjaanes. His expansive new wife may have a baby next week, maybe two. We sat around a very long table and munched food such as lefse, kringler, and sukker kager, the better part of the day. Of course we had meats and soups, too, not to forget fish, but as most of the food had to brought by the guests the lighter eatables were amplest. Barbru had to dig up a lot of bread and such, as her share, and it was carried with us as we went to eat our own food on this festive occasion. The guests' offerings were set be­fore us, together with the contribution of the host, and all partook mutually.   Russian bowls containing home-made beer went the rounds not once, but many the times, and the lips of those who quaffed the nectar made their imprint on each bowl as it was made to revolve around from person to person. No one grew tipsy from it, nor was there such a quantity of "aquavit" offered that any drunks obtained. Sometimes, though, in weddings here, liquor flows too freely. I remember that the supply was rather generous at the three-day wed­ding I attended at Tollevik, Bommeloen. Here I had to sit by the bride, was most appreciative for the honor accorded me, but spilled some gravy in her lap for my pains. Oh!  to have been able to have performed the disapearing act!   In this Tollevik wedding T¿res Lodden, a close relative of Nels Peterson, was Kj¿gemester" (Toastmaster) and looked after routine so that all might proceed without friction, spoke words of welcome and encour­ aged the guests to be sociable, and, above all ,to eat. T¿res was Toastmaster par excellence, could say the right word at the right time, was possessed of a fine presence, and graced the part in an elegant broadcloth suit of clothes. His brother Rasmus, who was married to Kari, grandfather's sis­ter, looked even more imposing than T¿res. He and Kari rowed me over to Tjernagel across the 7 mile fjord from Langevaag to Tjernagel, and without any noticeable exertion. It seemed only play for the massive figure at the oars to propel our craft to the opposite shore. They stayed over night at Antiev's place and left with tears on their faces the next day. They were considerably past their prime , and thought it unlikely that we would meet again. God bless them. I have all kinds of greetings from them to Nels, and grandfather, and all of you.


The last few days I have been occupied in digging a ditch for Barbru. It would have taken a hired man three days to do the job, and by helping her I saved her some expense. She appreciated what I did, but accepted the help under protest. She couldn't imagine that I, a student and traveler would condescend to such a menial task. She might have changed her mind had she seen me at home in the pig-pen, or in operation deep in the man­ure-pile. While working (and otherwise ) I live on Fladbr¿d, Havrekager, Grynsuppe, Fish, and now and then some mutton.  Potatoes, too.  Also, Rug­kavring.  Healthiest menu in the world, and better than all the preventive medicines in the Universe.  And it didn't take Barbru too much time to pre­pare this simple fare, enabling her to be outside in God's fresh air and sunshine to do the necessary work, and incidentally keep the roses in her cheeks, muscles strong, and lungs sound. American women, please copy!


We gave food and lodging to a mendicant (fattig man) here last night. He was so religious that it showed in his walk. A good many of these "sv¾armere" put on some outer mien to exhibit the state of holiness supposed to exist within. Often they are hollow, not holy. He said that Ofte­dal was persecuted now, but after awhile he will shine forth as a saint chock full of faith and spiritual power. Meantime Oftedal waxes fat, gets the dough, and flirts with the women. He is said to be a gifted preacher, but it does not seem that he lives according to his own precepts. A great many women, especially, flock to hear him.  Just now half a dozen fishing-smacks sailed by, and we are expect­ing the mail-steamer Haukelid every minute.  I sometimes see these mail­ steamers afar off, as they leave Lervik, and watch them as they loom bigger and bigger, nearer and nearer, coming proudly by to deliver a letter or two - to me, I mean, sometimes, even, leaving me lost without a line.  Bendick, who resembles you Henry, a little, is even now plying his legs to the utmost to be on hand to receive the mail for our household and to re­turn quickly that we may see what there is to see. The thrill of receiving a letter from the home-folks in a foreign land is exquisite. This eve I will "kara" and Auntie will spin. Bendick will sleep under the stove till bed-time.


Merry Christmas!


Haugesund winter scene 1900 – courtesy Haugesund Kommune (Internet).


Tjernagel, Norway, Dec. 24, 1892

Dear Prrrr:


I am well and hope you are all the same. I have been in Haugesund for nearly two weeks and, while there, had a good piano to practice on. I stayed with a family by the name of Jentoft. The husband has run away to America. Six years ago he was worth 100,000 kroner but he squandered it away in drinking bouts, and now the family have only a tiny shred left of the original fortune to live on. The woman has lost a lung, but seems well in spite of it. She has five wild kids at home to care for. The oldest son left her awhile ago and no one knows where he is. The last evening I was there two of the boys got into a fight, the one flinging a sharpened pair of scissors at the other. Had it hit a vulnerable part there might have been one Jentoft less. One evening I went to the great skating place fa­vored by most of the young folks in Haugesund and had for company the Jen­toft children. I had to strap the skates on the oldest, a big girl, tall and formidable-looking, black locks and darting black eyes; all this loom­ed above me as I got down on the ice to pull the straps tight about those sizable feet; oh my! what an ordeal. I was terribly awkward and the hefty individual towering above could easily have slipped, flopped, and flatten­ed me out. I had never attempted anything like it before, but since it seemed the custom here for the men to cower before the ladies in this fashion I couldn't very well refuse the service to members of the family where I was staying. Once rid of her servitor she scooted away with the speed of light, more or less, and I was left with the rest of the ama­teurs to stand or fall on my own merits, be it sitting down or sprawling all over. A more glorious party out for a lark than the hundreds of gay, rollicking skaters on that fjord nearly touching eastern Haugesund - well, me­-thinks I haven't seen anything quite so much fun. - Mrs. Jentoft's father, Olson by name, was at one time Prime Mover No. 1 in Haugesund. Both father and daughter are now among the has-beens. In spite of her trials Mrs. Jen­toft typified worldliness to the nth degree, and it seemed faithfully reflec­ted in her children.


While in Haugesund I witnessed a ship in distress in a terrific gale raging across "Sletto" from the Northwest. It was the steamer "Folge­fonden" attempting to make progress, in the teeth of the storm, on its way out of Haugesund harbor to points north and east. Thousands of people were gathered on a promontory north of town to see the ship bounce and squirm as it was buffeted by the angry waves and whipping wind. The waves went so high that we sometimes lost sight of the body of the ship. They fought valiantly to continue on their course since schedules must be filled, nor was it safe to turn around in the seething turmoil of the sea.  Finally they were obliged to make the attempt, succeeded by a slit hair, and came within an inch or so of drifting on the rocks as the vessel wobbled helplessly around when turning. I sat near some old sailors when this battle of  the sea was in progress, and the stories they told of dire tragedies of their craft as seasoned tars made me more anguished still, and up rose my hair an extra notch.       N. T.


Forde, Norway, January 7, 1893


Dear Folks:


This evening I am starting to write a letter that may not be completed either today or tomorrow. I am sitting in a minister's study and I write to the accompaniment of some beautiful piano music that filters in through the key-hole. This elevates my mood about 50 per cent. As you know I had intended to strike out for Germany about Christmas time, but as cholera has again broken out there, I thought of mother and decided I would save her and the rest anxiety, by remaining away from there for the time being. You can imagine I felt restless in being hindered in my plans this way; I didn't know just exactly what to do with my­self. I finally decided to go to Haugesund to learn if I might perhaps get a chance to stay with some decent family who owned a piano and where I might practice. The only place I could find was at Fru Jentoft's home. The husband, as already mentioned, had run away from home and was said to be in America. After staying there a week I found out that the woman was very worldly and admittedly in the power of the devil. She was pretty, well-educated and attractive, but there were suspicions regarding her character that did not encourage me to remain under her roof another day. She spoke of the difficulty of withstanding the temptation of ta­king in easy money with want staring her in the face. The child­ren were barbarians, pure and simple. The husband and father in­stituted a nice mess when he wandered away from his family. I re­turned to Tjernagel and while casting about for a way out of my predicament, difficulty rather, providence led me into acquain­tance with a tailor at Tjernagel (Oien) who advised me to go o­ver to Forde and ask the musical Minister Aall family if I might stay there pending my journey to Germany. I ridiculed the idea at first having no desire to impose myself and my musical amateurish  ness on a pastor's family; I thought suitable city quarters would be preferable. But the old tailor was a persistent, though un­invited, go-between, and actually took it upon himself to ask the minister if "Amerikaneren", meaning me, might stay at the parson­age for an indefinite period of weeks, even months. He hastened to tell me that he had received an answer in the affirmative.  I deci­ded to run up there and see the friendly pastor and be rid of my persecutor, yet not having the faintest notion of staying on as proposed by my indefatigable adviser. Please do not lose hold of yourselves when I tell you truly that I haven't budged from here since. I haven't felt so settled as here, in any place, since coming to Norway. There is a home -like air hereabouts that attracts me.  The family, as a unit, breathes friendliness. I am getting quite attached to the old lady, since in her ways she reminds me so strongly of mother's thoughtfulness for others.  She is almost as large as "Stora fastero" (Helga), is jolly, yet religious. Yesterday morn­ing I was invited to a walk with Miss Esther, my teacher on the piano, and on our way overtook Mrs. Aall who was taking her reg­ular morning promenade. The sun rose in splendor to bathe the beautiful scene about us with its warming rays which glistened also in the snow-clad mountains on our right. The lovely spruce-bosom of the trees seemed to set in the bosom of the dazzling snow. A refreshing scene, in­deed! The old lady conducted us to a rustic seat by the roadside where she always pauses to rest and to read a chapter in the Bib­le. This accomplished we returned home for breakfast. This activi­ity in the early morning cost Mrs. Aall money  'cause it stimulated my appe­tite. My walking companion was young, beautiful and accomplished and  engaged. Any remarks? The old pastor is odd, but well lik­ed, though not a glib sermonizer.  As far as I could make out his sermons are orthodox, not modernistic . As to the size of the fam­ily, well, when I count them all I find that there are 9!  Next to the youngest is an idiot, but all the rest  are normal, and talent­ed at that. Anathon, next to the oldest, has taken a brilliant examination in winding up his course at the University, and is already pretty well known in educational circles. He has written two brochures on pertinent, present-day subjects, but in one of these Rev.Aall says that the modernistic trend is apparent, hence objectionable. Influential men in government positions have taken note of his work and consider him fit for a "Stipendium", a sum of money granted deserving students with which to continue their studies abroad. He expects to go to the University of Leipzig for such study. He won a gold medal lately in a competition with students, and other learned men, in and outside the University. Of course his parents are proud of him, but are fearful lest he be­come too liberal in his views, especially in religion. He is 25. Though my teacher, Miss Esther, is only 22 she has taught music at Kristiania for some time before returning to the home of her parents. Perhaps this is the lull before the impending matrimon­ial typhoon. At Kra. she moved in the so-called higher circles of society and knew more or less intimately Prof. Caspari, Prof. Jonson, and other noted men such as Lammers and Grieg. All the children have done fairly well, though having had to work con­siderably on their own hook to secure an education. The parents certainly pinched and scraped all they could to help them, but the meager salary of a country pastor failed to reach around. The cosy parsonage has always been a haven of refuge for the children when other doors have been closed and love, which is greater than riches, has met them in trouble and sickness as well as in the days of brightness and cheer. By the way, one of the booklets written by Anathon influenced a well known infidel to change his mind. His mother told me that this one thing was such a joy to her that it outweighed by far the worry and trouble she had had for him in helping keep him at school.


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Esther Aall – Nehemias Tjernagel Scrapbook page 4.


I must now proceed to tell something about the fun we have on the ice. The girls and I (the 5 boys are all away from home) go out skating often, There is a beautiful lake within walking dis­tance and here we proceed skate either standing up or sitting down. Sometimes we do it on our backs and sometimes our skulls seem to crack when we unwillingly assume such and similar help­less positions. But this is the penalty of the skater especially if he is a novice in the art such as we, and me in particular. I raise a laugh because of clumsiness as readily, if not more so, than do my lady companions. I take my bumps like a man, but were I alone and no one looking I'd yell like an Indian at the hurt.  The girls, however, screech like sirens when they go down and make it appear worse than it really is. It's no use helping them for then they would fall oftener than ever and for no rea­son, seemingly. Well, we have lots of fun hurt or no hurt. Black and blue spots are our tokens of distinction. This crowd of joyous females make fun of me when I speak my Norwegian country dialect, mimic me, and make terribly wry faces when I slip back into my origi­nal lingo saadan in between; you see, I'm supposed to "snakke fint" here at the parsonage. Well, it is all right for me to learn how, and, not too difficult when I have such smarties for instructors.  Not that I'm cowed all the time, and blurt out my broadest "bonde di­alekt" in spite of them. They can't forgive " en fin amerikaner" for sticking to his "bondemaal". Eg bryr meg 17 og en halv over hele denne standaforskjel indbidekheden, jeg. However, we are good friends even in the midst of our linguistic warfare. In my letter to Scandinavan you will notice that I touch upon this subject of dialects, etc. Title of article "En tur til Norge." I sent it to the editor about Jan. 1.      


Today Mrs. Aall, Miss Esther, Miss Signe, and I, took a ride in a roomy, home-made sleigh drawn by the huffy parsonage nag. We made the unwilling beast swing into a trot and we covered both land and water, the water having a heavy coat of ice sufficient to hold us up as we traver­sed 5 little lakes nestling between the great hills surrounding them. The unusual scene suggested Fairyland. The girls were so impish and full of caprice that the old lady was disturbed, even angered. When Esther finally managed to fall out of the sled and got herself hurt there was quiet for awhile. The trips to those lakes were always interesting both summer and winter. Goodbye for denne gang. I hope mother is well; and let this wish apply to the rest of you also. I think of you all every day. Father must write often.

         N. Tjernagel.


F¿rde, Norway, January 17, 1893

Dear Prrrr.


I dreamt about you, and others, last night. With trials and tribu­lations accruing in fair share in our midst, what will eventually become of us? The Lord is nigh, and we need never despair. By the way, who was the fellow who stood up for me when I was small (I am small yet) and put in a good word for me when I wanted to go along with you older fellows in visits, fishing-trips, and the like? Well, now you will have to stand up for me when I finally undertake to leave for Germany. Because of advices from home I have given up going to Germany for the time being. We will have to see what next summer brings. Meantime I have taken up my abode at the Forde parsonage, Solheim, with the Reverend Aall family. A tailor at Tjernagel, …ien by name, called my attention to these people, mentioned their interest in music and the higher things in life generally, not to speak of religion. …ien wasn't exactly liked, but he had sense, and I went with him on some little trips to get better acquainted. He squirted tobacco juice all over Mrs. Hovda's best carpet, expectorating daintily, it is true nevertheless spitting. I believe the juicy drops hit his nose and every time he spat were thereupon wiped    off with his fingers.  However, he had a vast fund of tales from here and there and everywhere and people listened, and, blinked at his boorishness.  He was apt at his trade, too, but his helper in the shop, also his wife, seemed to serve him without enthusiasm. I came to the conclusion that our man had had a smattering of so-called higher breeding at some time in his life and, since then thought he could take all kinds of sweet liberties in the common herd below him, from which he, nevertheless, could never extricate himself.  As it proved the "common herd", generally, really were the better bred, and far more refined, than he. However, …ien had his points and, for one thing, his hospitality to me and old Haldor Tjernagel will be long remembered.  We were invited to his house for the Christmas Eve spread. He beamed upon his guests in kindliest fashion, lighted the Christmas tree, and served the proverbial rice pudding, not neglecting, however, to spit and wipe his nose the while.  He related anecdotes from his extensive itineraries as a journeyman tailor, and Haldor told tales of Sletto and Ršvr where he hun­ted seal and "kobbe", and also cast nets for herring. We were given a ÒJule a dramÓ, but only in a tiny goblet lest we lose our equilibrium. However, there was no danger of anyone in the gathering partaking to excess. As …ien's home was situated at the uttermost point looking sea-ward, from Tjernagel, Haldor and I rowed the short distance back into Tjernagel haven. The sea lay calm and the old moon flirted with himself in its depths while Haldor and I spoke parting words that I, at least, will always remember. He, the octogenarian, and I, the beginner, saw the future differently, yet were agreed upon the all-important fact that we are here on earth for a serious pur­pose, and that our every move should be a preparation for eternitzy. I can never forget the night, the setting, above all the little boat as it lay resting on the beach, this and Haldor's kindly look and handclasp as we said our farewells - a beautiful memory. Having spoken at length about the human medium that caused me to shift my quarters to Solheim , we will leave that subject and tell something about my advent at F¿rde.


File written by Adobe Photoshop¨ 4.0

Mathilde Sussanne Aall, wife of Nils Anton Aall – Nehemias Tjernagel Scrapbook page 4.


As I entered the parsonage I was greeted by the Rev. Nils Aall who pounced upon me with a few rather irrelevant, rapid-fire questions and forthwith shunted me off into the living room where sat Mrs. Aall deeply immersed in fancy-work. She welcomed me with a smile and a reassuring beam in her piercing black eyes. She carried her 200 pounds with a dainty poise unusual in one of her weight and height. She had a commanding presence, yet a friendly manner withal, but woe to any miserable creature that incur­red her just displeasure. Kathinka, the pastors sister, a mildly unbalanced female, got on her nerves sometimes. So did her Lotte, a remarkably pretty child, but of vacant mind. The 15 year old Signe was a fine-looking blond, intelligent, and unusually well dispositioned. She was the peacemaker of the family. Esther, who was engaged to a lieutenant in the army, was a tall dark beauty whose portrait hung among other outstanding lookers in the art gallery at Copenhagen. She played the piano about as well as my former teacher Miss Gaff, at the Ia. Ag. College. I was soon installed as her pu­pil. Together with one man-servant and two maid-servents, who lived in a separate building , the above-mentioned six formed the steady home-stayers in the Aall family. Five sons and a daughter had taken up occupations away from home.


Well, now I am domiciled in this home, am kindly treated, and hope to get along nicely in every way. From what Mrs. Aall has discovered about my scant wardrobe has moved her to say that I economize plenty. She thinks I should wear heavier clothing and get some better shoes. Tomorrow we are going to Haugesund and she threatens to use force in order to have me do business with a shoemaker. She could handle me with one hand if worst came to worst.   Yes, I believe I am quite economical seeing that I figure on getting through the first year for $300, of which at least $70 went in transportation in coming here.


It is cultivating to be together with these people, not to forget the girls.  I try to behave myself, even attempt to be considerate and mannerly. Esther is a devoted teacher and her picturesque personality sort'a blends with her music. She plays Beethoven sonatas and other music. She does "Fackeltanz" by Rubinstein with a vim. Rev. Aall seldom shows up in the family circle except at meals. His main concern then is that his plate be warm when he eats, which he does absent-mindedly without looking to the right or left.   The talk goes on at the table without any word from him, and as soon as the meal is over and grace said he pecks at Mrs. Aall's brow with his thin lips, at which she winces (I just imagine this) and out he goes to think long thoughts in his study.  He is an aristocrat of purest ray serene since he is a scion of the famous Aall family and near relative of Jacob Aall who wrote the Norwegian Constitution. He frequently speaks of genius as being but one step short of madness, and I verily think he realizes something of this sort about himself. He is handsome, but odd:  His speech is on the staccato order, pointed in a way, yet the thought may stray and not seem pertinent to the subject matter under consideration.  He walks with decisive tread and carries a cane, when out taking his constitutional, but is not seen with a companion. His wife on the other hand loves to dawdle by the wayside and drench her escort with all kinds of observations about this and that. She laid her philosophy of life squarely before me on our very first visit in her living room. May I be forgiven for saying that I thought her just a tiny bit sentimentally "sv¾rmerisk", if you know what that means. I wonder if I tumble to it, myself.


One day Mrs. Aall happened to hear me thrum the piano and thought she detected something a little bit original. "Hvad er det De spiller der, Tjernagel?" I had to admit that it was one of my own epoch-making comps in the making. She liked it and urged me to complete it and then we  knew it had a chance to pass muster. My new waltz, and new melody to "Rock of Ages" are especially liked by the Aalls. The waltz, by the way, was sent to a publisher in Germany who never acknowledged receipt of it. This would have displeased Organist Erickson who arranged it.


"Ka ¾ de hu mor putla me om dadno? Aa han far daa?" I received fa­ther's letter for which I say 1000 thanks! I read it to Barbru and it made her very glad. I am to greet you all from her several times over. She has knitted three pairs of stockings and a pair of mittens for me, but she doesn't want anything for it. I am paying her anyway.  When you write give me all the details pertaining to the work and mi­nor incidents and happenings. This is a pretty tall order: I overlooked my pictures when going away, so now you must send them as I have a hankering to get to look at you all once in a while. Good bye. Be good all the time: No one knows when the final summons will come. The family here sends greetings.     N.T.


P.S. Greet Friends! Here are some of them: Annas, Michas, Jacob, Lewis Pe­terson, Lewis Ingebrigtson, Christen and Agathe, Peder and Lars Tjernagel, Ole Knutson, Anfin Anfenson, John Swan, Helge Halleland, Gustav Amlund, and last but not least, Andrew Williamson.



Forde, per Stavanger, Norway, Jan. 18, '93

Dear Henry:



This morning Rev. Aall came into my room (I sleep in the study to­gether with Caro a great big dog ) and told me that Fru Aall and Miss Es­ther were going to Haugesund and that I might go along if I wished. I be­thought myself of my feet and that I was in dire need of new shoes, so bor­rowed a pair from Mrs.Aall for roughing it, also a great-coat from the pastor, and off we went. We drove in a cutter and our Norwegian nag had great ado to pull us over bare places whence the snow had taken leave.  Had to get out in places and push, meaning me. The borrowed footwear came in handy since my own low shoes leaked and had already provided me with a cold. After we came to Sveens church there was little snow left, and, as it started to rain besides, we were obliged hire a "kariole" for the rest of the way. It rained right in our faces and the water even found its way down our necks. "Jeg sitter aa drikker vand hele tiden jeg mamma" said Esther. I had to throw my coat over her, too, to keep her from dissolving entirely. By the time we reached Haugesund we were wet, and also stiff, from the long 18 mile drive.


---- January 21,'93. We are still at Hauge­sund. While I am waiting for the tailor to repair a frazzled sleeve I will have time to drop you a few extra lines. I am staying at Jonassens' hotel a decent enough place operated by Mrs. Jonassen herself, Mrs. Aall and daughter are staying as visitor at the home of their friends, Dr.Norregaard and family. Last night I was invited over there and participated in a grand musical treat. The doctor's wif e plays the piano beautifully. The Dr. himself is a cellist and his wife has to accompany him. Esther sur­passed herself on the piano, but had to descend to the low level of ac­companying me as I squeaked out some tones on the Clarinet. What a let down for one who has sung and played for Grieg!        Dere kan tro jeg tal­er fint ostlandsk naar jeg er sammen med saadanne fornemme folk. A man's a man for a' that. I had to play checkers with Mrs. Aall to pass the time after the music and the singing died down. Imagine ME playing checkers!  By the way, Mrs. Aall is concerned lest my eyes give out entirely, and has punched holes in my ears in which to hang ear-rings. I had to submit to it since she is confident that it is going to help strengthen my eyes. Crazy? Dr. and Mrs. Norregaard have visited Vienna and Venice recently and were just loaded with little travel episodes to be dispensed here and everywhere till some of their listeners actually longed for a respite. Mrs. Norregaard had her gondolas and moonlit canals down pat. 'Twas interesting. Let's go on what the Norwegians, students, aspire to: a "studiereise", i.e., when you are through at Luther College. How about Rome, Athens, Venice?


Haugesund scene c1900 – courtesy Haugesund Kommune (Internet).


The people of Haugesund are a curious lot. They are curious about me, about the Aalls, in short, most any visitor. When it happened that the Adelina Patti from Solheim and I went to the P.O. one wasn't sure whether it was Barnum coming, or not, judged by the staring. "Uf, disse blikke". Said she upon whom they gazed.  Walking along I ran across a fellow I had vis­ited with at Voss last summer. He spoke English, which gave me a chance to exercise myself in that tongue, my vocabulary in that language having lain dormant inside my skull for so many months that I stumbled in choosing certain words. Also, I met an American, a department head in Wanamaker's store, Philadelphia, who, when he heard my name, said it was familiar, he having learned to spell and pronounce it while listening to the programs of Brigade Musikken in Bergen.  Mrs. Aall scolded me for not having mentioned anything about my band compositions to her. I had learned my lesson from Tischendorf too well to make the same break again, and just let them find out about it for themselves. Mrs. Aall thought I was entirely too secretive!  Prof.  Dr. Anathon Aall, 2d son in Aall family has writ­ten a book called "Ud¿delighedsideen", which the old man says is tainted slightly with Modernistic virus.  He receives a Stipendium from the Norw. Government and is going to Leipzig to do super-extra post-graduate work. Terribly clever head on him, but the old man is afraid he will be unduly influenced by German savants of learning, religiously speaking.  I sup­pose the L.C. Band is famous by now.  Don't let it go to your head. "Selve ¾rens vei leder kun til graven." Be good! Study!  Luther says, "Flittig be­det er halv studeret."


F¿rde, Norway, Jan. 24, 1893

Ole A.Larson, Story City, Iowa, Dear Folks:


Thank you for your interesting letter: I hear you are well, well, so am I. Winter here has been rather rough; milder now. Hope the cattle at home didn't suffer during the recent cold snap. Trust you had enough hay.

Sveio (Sveen) Church c2007 – photo by Ellen Tveit, courtesy Sveio Kommune (Internet).


Last Sunday I accompanied Rev. Aall to Sveen's church. Aall has a de­livery all his own and it strengthens the impression that he is more than a crank. Kathinka, his sister, is more than odd, she is not a little daffy; and her brother, what is he?  He has the most flexible voice I have heard, so do not be surprised when I tell you he will startle you out of your boots by suddenly yelling like a Comanche, then again lowering it down to a whisper, all without any apparent reason as expressed by the context. At times he will lean over the pulpit and look sideways as if to locate some little devil under a seat somewhere, and presently lift his head as in ado­ration as if at last he had the imp cornered.  Sleeping old men would nearly fall out of their seats when after a long pause he schreeched at the top of his voice and told the congregation what was what. His oddities kept him company everywhere, and whatever move he made he was different, differ­ent from any other man or woman having yet trod this earth. Those who have taken pains to dissect his sermons say they are passing fair and contain the truths of the orthodox Lutheran faith, I was so intent on his monkey­ shines in the pulpit that I scarcely listened, as I should, to his offering.  His accomplishments as a scholar are far from small, only his application, to say the least, is peculiar. His queerness reaches its peak during the dog-days in August, they say. He is an omnivorous reader, and is at it from morning till night. He is collecting the lectures of the great theologian Jonson with a view to publication, and has even approached me as to the possibility of my being able to interest some publisher in the U.S.A. to put them out. This is practically the only subject he ever discusses with me. He is very absent-minded. Once on going to a church-meeting at Fjeldberg (or was it just a visit to another pastor, I forget) Mrs. Aall tells me she rigged him out with a new Prince Albert coat for the occasion. On going home he put on an old one dug out of a sleeping-room somewhere at his host's home, never imagining that it could be aught else than his old standby, forgetting completely the new one. Coming home he looked like a scarecrow, and only Mrs. Aall realized the ridiculous situation. An ex­change was finally made, but Aall would have been equally happy without it.  It not infrequently happened that he came back from visits here and there with a strange pair of boots, quite unknowingly filched by him. Sometimes he gave his foot-wear to some one in need, and drove home, happy as a lark, in his stocking feet. He always meant to be kind to his parishioners, but they frequently failed to understand him. And who could blame them! He tells me that our cousin Agathe Anderson was one of his star pupils in the year of her confirmation. Others tell me that on one occasion he took one of the pupils in the class and laid her across his knees and spanked her where spankings are best administered. She was taller than he and weighed more. She took the chastisement dutifully to heart having deserved it.

Last Wednesday I went with my host to Vikebygd, to church.  We had to cross a seven mile wide fjord to get there. The weather was fine, the oarsman experienced and oh! how I enjoyed it.  The scenery on either side of the water is pleasantly picturesque, nothing to go wild about, but - just as I said, and no repeat. I saw the minister go through his usual antics, learned a little more on my journey towards eternity, and met Mr. Thorson's wife from Haugesund.  Mr, T. is a prominent ship-owner who worked his way up from nothing. Think he hailed from these parts. Rev Aall has three preaching places; Sveen, Vikebygd, Valestrand.   He can go by boat, or land, to Valestrand.  Mrs. Aall seldom accompanies her hubby to church. Nor do the girls.  Perhaps his mannerisms are too much for them. Mrs. Aall syringes my eyes with tea; Can you beat that? The little gold rings in my ears haven't hel­ped my optics any so far. She is going to put some "Spanske Fluer" (Spanish Flies) a sort of sticky plaster, if I regard it rightly, just behind my ears to see if that might not help to strengthen my weak orbs. What will be next in the line of home remedies only Mrs. Aall, not I, can tell.  She loves to doctor sickly strays, like myself, also her son Alf, and possibly the pig and the lamb. Well, she has a big heart, especially when she can have her own way of exercising it. I doubt if she always follows the sug­gestions of her lord, I mean her man.

I visited Barbru the other day and found her and Bendick thumping along as usual, sometimes to the peat-beds for fuel, sometimes to the "aaker" for an extra hoeing of the potatoes, sometimes to the "fj¿s" to hand-feed  the cow, the pig, and their few hens, and all the time busy with something or other to make life more pleasant and livable. Barbru reminds me very much of father, both in being busy and in wanting to keep things spick and span.  There is very little to do with on these small "gaards".  However,  I have to admire the pertinacity with which they hang on and, succeed, in wresting sufficient sustenance for man and beast in this grudging soil. I stayed with them a month and a half, and was made welcome every minute, this before going to Aall. I wish I had been able to have given her more gifts for her kind willingness in my behalf. But I believe she understood the situation and realized that I, as a student, had but little to spend except for the barest necessities. She preferred that I kept my few kroner fro myself and tried to boost me along as well as she could, dear old soul that she was, Can we of the younger generation ever thank our people enough for what they did for us as beginners?  Barbru's joy is great when she receives little tokens of love from her dear ones in America.  Trust you will be able to send her a letter, or some gift, in the not too distant future.

As to the particular trials of Peter and Lewis I am concerned especially to the effect that it will lead them to take solace in the Words: "Alting tiener dem til gode som olske HerrenÓ.  Evil is on the advance in this world, and not only you Pete and Lew are being buffeted by it. Even in this quiet community one discerns tracks after the "cloven hoof". Mrs. Aall's repugnance to promiscuous deviltry here and there, and everywhere, makes her predict that the world will soon come to an end. "Et hastigt udtalt ord" says the Bible somewhere. She quotes this and says that when this Word is spoken catastrophic changes are likely to follow. She bases her assumptions on having seen so many prophecies fulfilled in the past. She concludes that the end may come any time.

Father's fine letter I accept with thanks: He advises well when he says "We are saved by God's mercy and have nothing to demand because of our good works." And "We are rescued as through fire by the Lord's mighty hand." It is not so easy for you, nor for me, in mat­ters of money, but we do well to give cheerfully the little we can for the Lord's work. A drink of water offered to His children, disciples, is not overlooked by Him. Funcke says we are all dandy christians as long as we do not have to surrender up that lurking coin in the hidden fold of our pocket-book.    

The ring mother bought for me when I left is admired by those who happen to look somewhat closely at my homely hands. And the lit­tle pin I received from Bertha is taken to be a diamond by superficial ob­servers, since it sparkles like a gem of the first water. This makes me vain, Bertha.


         1893 F…RDE, NORWAY, FEB.12. 1893


Mr. M. O. Tjernagel , Story City, Iowa.


Dear Folks:


Mrs.Aall seduced me into buying so many little things at Haugesund that my miserable portemonnie looks like a shrunken bladder. That woman said I had absolute need of the articles I bought under protest. Can you imagine why I mention this? Trust you will forgive and give me a few dol­lars now. How wonderful if I am to be privileged to have some success in the future so that I may pay you back part or all you have sent me!  The other evening the old lady fetched forth her guitar and accompanied the singing of her daughters as they squatted around by her knees on the floor. It reminded me so much of musical evenings at home that I was truly moved.  We have devotions twice a day. The hired help is always called in then, and share in the Food of Life with the family. The pastor takes the oppor­tunity when devotion is over to give directions regarding the work of the "gaard" to be performed during the day. Fru Aall gives similar instructions to the maids as to the work in the stabur, kitchen, and what you will, du­ring the hours of labor. I sit there like an interloper, roots in the soil with the man of all work, and a half-baked student who, through the kind sufferance of these God-fearing people, is admitted to the inner circle of the home. I am teased and pestered by the girls like a brother, which is good; Mrs.Aall laughs at our antics till her sides shake. I had a friend of mine from Vossevangen, Hellesn¾s, visit me for a week lately. He sees how I am maltreated by these "heathen" girls and joins the Frau in her mer­riment at seeing the show. I say "La meg v¾ra" when the fun gets on my nerves, whereupon all three say in unison "La mig v¾re" over and over again.  Lars (Hellesn¾s) enjoyed himself very much while here and was benefited in health. We explored the surroundings on foot, talked about anything and everything, thus exercising our English and bit 'o sense. Lars is quite a thinker and writes poetry by the yard. He is a real poet, and has had some of his stuff published. Distinguished-looking feller. Lotte the half­ idiot has classical features, a fine form, and her dark eyes sparkle at anything humorous. She loves to play with the rest. Beautiful music affects her greatly. She has learned to say by herself most of the Lord's prayer. Her eyes beam with love upon those who speak kindly to her. May the Lord make her span of life pleasant!  Another "heathen", Marina, is expected home Easter. She looks like an Indian, they tell me. She has had a way of get­ting too much attention from cavaliers in Christiania, but was finally snapped up by the son of the prominent educator Aars, and now has to centralize her attractiveness more. Mrs.Aall said she, Marna, was as wild as she looks, and had always been up to something rather extraordinary while a child at home. So now there will be four "vampires" to combat. Well, to tell the truth, this lackadaisical bunch makes me forget my nerves lots of times when I would otherwise be inclined to too much self analysis. The young dames call me "Skind", for short.   It means about the same as raw-hide. Mrs. calls me Tjernagel without prefix or suffix. The old man has nothing to say except when he waxes eloquent on the subject of Jonson's Forel¾sninger. He asks the same question more than twice, and digs up "new things" already told.


This has been a rather hard winter in Norway. I have felt the rigors of climate somewhat, but being used to much colder weather as well as more snow at home I have not been unduly exercised by it. Hope the weather will take into consideration that since the girls and I are going to give a concert in Haugesund in a couple of weeks it will be nice. It will be a bene­fit concert for some widows at …ksn¾s who have lost their husbands, presum­ably at sea.


Do not hesitate to write me much and often. No letter for a month.  This does not make me proud of you. My hostess is always interested in hearing about America, but doesn't have a high opinion of every last thing that goes on there. People here are often misled by the news they receive, since most of those who report are inclined to dwell on crime and American humbug. They do not realize that although there is much bluster and blow there is enormous power behind it. Just like escaping steam - got to blow off!   She manipulates pamphlets and such into my hands when she has found something profoundly worth while (according to her cook-book) and just now I am read­ing a "find" in which a "fritaenker" is reported saying that the Bible should be banished, and yet that same blusterer is found skulking near the safe territory rendered so because of the Biblical influence there existing. The booklet goes on to say that if the infidels are so misused by the ill effects come upon them through the Bible they should move to heathenland so as to be free from such a curse.


I am practicing accord­ing to my strength every day. Have to exercise outside three or four hours so that eyes and nerves may enjoy their daily vacation. No, I am not fat, nor am I thinner than usual, only I have to admit that Barbru says I look healthier than when she first saw me. My appetite jollies up with exercise.


Forde, Norway, March 6, 1893


Gustav A. Tjernagel, Story City, Iowa.


Dear Gustav:


Well, how goes it mit you. Are you well? I am. Do you like your teacher? Been whipped often? Your faraway brother greets your teacher herewith.  Who might it be?


Will you do me a favor? Why not? Well, I would like for you to gather up some material about funny happenings in and out of school, also to enlist the cooperation of Martin and Bertha in this undertaking. Pick up such things that will draw a smile preferably, though unique happenings of any kind may be submitted. Ask Peter to supplement it with matter that he might think I have overlooked in jotting down anecdotes about our own childhood. It would be interesting to preserve as much as we can of matter of this kind pertaining to our childhood. I shall try to whip it into a semblance of shape, though I fear your original will not be much improved thereby. Peter ought to be editor-in-chief since he has literary talent "to an alarming extent", according to Henry. Whatever my (lack of) ability I am trying to do a little writing, but the trouble is that I have to bite my teeth together and lay down my pen just as I am beginning to get interested. So much for lack of strength. That travelogue published in the Iowa State Register, Sunday, January 22, 1893, was written in snatches during when I was out walking, and during odd moments otherwise. I steal upon myself when eyes and nerves are off guard. What a remarkable thought: Or, would­n't you say that?  No?       


Do you still litph? The girls here say that their youngest brother lithps. He, too, is afraid of the hens, especially when he is sent to pick the eggs. He is 17 and his mother scrapes and saves almost too much to keep the scamp at school in Christiania. Guess her boys are not such bad hombres after all. They are all devoted to her.  Where does the old man come in? His children do not say much about him, nor is he so very voluble in his own behalf. How will it be when you are 17 and begin to grumble about money for possible schooling, or for spending-money for neck-ties, hair-cuts, pants-pressing and such? What is it you do the last thing before going to bed? I think I know? You commune with God. Is Gladstone (Martin) inclined to use rather strong expressions yet?  Is he tall enough to reach the moon pudy soon?


Forde, Norway, March 8, 1893


P.G.Tjernagel, Story City, Iowa.


Dear Bro.


Your letter about the Scandia affair is reassuring. Hope the trouble­makers will be brought to terms. I can excuse some rather tall expressions when I consider the detestable actions of certain ones you are describing.  Your account was so thrilling that it dampened my appetite for the time being. Seeing that it is impossible to avoid more or less of trouble in this world we will have to try to live so that we can withstand it as well as may be, when it comes. Even here where it looked to me at first that I had arrived at a retreat immune from it, so to speak, it develops that there is plenty. Kathinka feels rather misused; she does not realize that it is necessary to restrict her activities in certain ways, and resents interference.  She writes, but her literary efforts have been confined within the borders of her own rooms so far. She is willing to have the world benefit through her thought, but IT remains unreceptive. Once she showed her nephew Anathon a novel on Unrequited Love hoping that he would recommend it to some publisher. His verdict was: NEVER MORE! She wrote in the preface that if her readers would get as much pleasure from reading the book as she had had in writing it they would indeed be blessed. Anathon advised her to continue to enjoy her own effort, and give up waiting for any one else to share with her.  Mrs. Aall shouldn't have told me that her husband's oddities got on her nerves and made her unhappy. I wonder if her confidences did either of us any good. May God make her happy in spite of her fate. It seemed also rather uncalled for when she told me that Esther, who is a religious per­son, is weeping her heart out because her fiancee is rather worldly and not inclined to take life very seriously. She wondered if they ought not to "dissolve" the engagement: This from a Lutheran prestefrue! If she had let me alone I should have been happy to have been left in ignorance, but now I had to tell her that in our church circles at home we considered engagements binding and, before God, the same as marriage. But I fear from what I see and hear that my advise will go unheeded. Yes, there is trouble at Solheim, too. I am a great gossip, and herewith ask for a scolding.


Received dandy letters from Henry and Bertha today. H. sends me his picture in which he looks like Anton Pederson when he came from Norway. Send all kinds of pictures, and write oftener: I hope that you and some exceptionally fine lady can settle down on the old homestead and live in peace at no distant date. Who is Little Torkel married to? I am glad that both mother and Sarah are feeling stronger now. So our dear mother dreams about her absent ones, does she? I am not too eminently worthy of such an honor.  She is constantly in my mind. Nor is father, or the rest, shut out, but since mother often is ailing we naturally think of her first. "Beder for hverandre. En troendes bon udretter meget naar den er alvorlig."

N. T.


F¿rde, Norway, March 27, 1893


Dear Parents:


Thank you so much for the 111 kroner. May the Lord bless you for what you have done, and are continuing to do for us, your children. We do not always fully appreciate our blessings while we are in the midst of them. We have to try life elsewhere to learn that in our home, for in­stance, there exists an intimacy and understanding that is rather uncom­mon.  A true conception of, and adherence to, the Word, is back of it.  No wonder we all yearn to be back there when thrown upon our own resources away from there, and among people where the families, as a rule are less closely bound. Wherever I have been so far skeletons in the clo­set may be dragged forth if investigations should be in order. Even at been that I have been fortunate, and have been met with great kindness by most though the hearts may be depressed even while making me welcome. Tomorrow is my birthday. Twenty-five years seems a long time to have lived. Not much done so far: The Aall family is arranging to have a little party in my honor. They are too kind. I hope my stay here will rebound to the benefit of either, to them as well as myself. I am truly grateful to them for all their kindness.


Considering that I am marooned here on account of the cholera in Germany perhaps it might not be so foolish to take a trip to Northern Norway and send correspondence to some paper willing to pay for contrib­utions descriptive of this part of the country.  I believe I could move about almost as cheap on land and sea as I am now spending for board at Solheim. I pay forty kroner per month. I am not averse to walking, and I can take up with discomforts aboard freighters, fishing-smacks and the like, if by thus economizing I reach the goal I set myself.  Mrs. Aall, who was raised in Vadso in the land of the Midnight Sun, says that a trip up North is remarkable for variety of scenery, at times unsurpassed in beauty and grandeur. She has given many graphic descriptions of the glorious summers and the long, long nights in the Arctic. Today she waxed enthusiastic about flowers and asks me to get some flower seeds from home.   The North is luxuriant with flowers during high summer.  She hopes to get them in time for spring planting, and that she may be able to grow and introduce some new varieties. These long winter evenings she often reads "up high" to us and has, so far, read Stanley (Africa) and - Hans Vanderbum!


I know full well that I am a beggar and in order to live up to the title I herewith ask you if you could arrange it so that I might have $100. by me all the time? This would be for emergencies, and would not imply that I would spend one dollar more than if the money came lag­ging in driblets. It is plenty risky to be without any means in a strange land, and if it were possible it would please me immeasurably if I could have a little deposit for personal security's sake. It is not likely that it will be easy for you to raise this sum now, and I would be a brute to press for it if this is the case. I know you will do what you can; only advise me promptly as to conditions.


Lewis, too, writes of father's pleasure spent reading article in Iowa. State Register. Tell him that to please father with my articles, pleases me more than anyone else I might possibly be able to please. - I quote: "Prov din tro paa kjaerligheden du baarer til dine medmennesker."  I send a tiny booklet to father on his geburtsdag, April 10.


Vikingeskibit (Viking ship) with Captain Magnus Anderson (center) 1893 – courtesy (Internet).


Fšrde i Sšnhordland, Norway, Apr. '93.

Dear Folks:


Eg fila mšche godt and hope you are (do) the same. I have just come back from Bergen.  I was lucky enough to see Vikingeskibet.  I was on board and looked all over it, so if you board it when it comes to America you will see tracks to remind you that I was there before you. It was so small that I do not see how it can cope with rough weather on the ocean. My errand to Bergen this time was to see a doctor for my eyes. I found a doctor who said he couldn't do anything for me. Just the same he took some good money for some "šienvand" and a few pills. He said it might "probably" do me some good.  My vision is good, but my eyes continue weak, which is the same old story with which you are so familiar; I shall not tire you with a further recital about my woes, just now. Harking back to last Saturday morning I herewith record that I couldn't sleep very well so rose from my couch at six. When I saw how nice the weather was I suddenly made up my mind to take a trip to Haugesund, per steamer. Accordingly I disposed of break­fast in a hurry and struck out for the landing station at Vale­vaag, seven miles distant, afoot. I met Steffen Johannesen Gršndahl on the way and he asked me to greet father who he knew well in the long ago. He was a fine-looking old man. Their acquain tance harked back to their sea-going days. When he spoke of father after these many yearn of separation it seemed as were it a voice out of the past, which, by the way, is not so far fetched at that. When I arrived at Valevaag I thought of my eyes, changed my mind about going to Haugesund, and took the north-bound steamer for Bergen instead. I thought I might perhaps find a mir­acle doctor there. You know, we are more or less inclined to look for the impossible, and, sometimes we do find a pretty good substitute. The weather was beautiful, and as we nosed our way through the fjords between cliffs and crags on every hand I drank in the scenery in great gulps. I found a place "agterud" where I might watch the stir and turmoil in the water caused by the propeller. The water was smooth and clear that morning and the mountains looked back at me from below, their reflections saving me from cran­ing my neck to view them from above. I passed some time pounding a piano in the salon; and I actually sipped some Norwegian beer, (for shame!) but though it was good, as beer goes, I didn't have to take too much. Just for the fun of it, I wish you could have a taste of this Norwegian brew.  It's almost as good as the home-made variety we used to have for Christmas. To my happy surprise Rasmus Lodden and daughter Inger had ta­ken passage on the same boat. Inger, who is married to David Havland, has a sore leg that she is doctoring in Bergen. They seemed genuinely glad to see me and we were much together on board ship and after we came to Bergen. We went to church to­gether, and listened to the band-music in the park, and saw, also, Vikingeskibet, together. It was interesting to watch Rasmus size up that boat!  He is a builder himself and knew all the ins and outs of its workmanship. It had him beat to think that this lit­tle craft could possibly carry its crew across the vast ocean.


Viking ship at Christiania (Oslo) 1893 – courtesy (Internet)


I should greet you so very much both from father and daughter. In­ger is Kari's daughter and mother's cousin as you know.  The weather was lovely during my stay in Bergen, and I escaped the drizzling rains which are so common there. I heard Martin Knutzen, pianist, perform one evening. He is a handsome feller, and one that is hard to beat by anybody in Norway, or anywhere else. I certainly did enjoy that concert! His elegant poise and figure added charm to his performance. My expenses were light on the trip, tour and retour cost me only $1.50, and the distance both ways is 160 miles. I wish father and mother could be in position to take such trips here and elsewhere. It would do them lots of good I am sure. I trust that mother is better again by now after her last ildebefindende. You have been fortunate in not having had much sickness in the family recently, indeed since I left home. Kanske det er godt at en saadan skrantende plageaand som undertegnede forlader hjemmet imellem. Sometimes I am obsessed by a desire to annihilate space and have a good long talk with mother and the others. The ocean seems to be quite a barrier between the peoples divided by it, doesn't it? It is a great consolation to know that though we are divided bodily, spiritually the contact may remain close as ever in a link that reach­es heaven. I hear that you are having some fearful storms over there. They are not accidental; they are God's way of showing his power, a reminder to His children of their dependence on Him, and a warning to the ungodly of the unlimited possibilities of punishment that may overtake them if they persist in their ways. I pray that I may be a christian, but I hope I may never be taken for a religious crank of pious outer mien whose actual practice often denies his holy appearance. Write often and tell me about everything. Hardly a day passes unless I feel a void in not partaking with you in the experiences of home. When I see you in imagination sitting around the table in hap­py converse or otherwise I am filled with an indescribable longing to be there to share with you. Ja, saadan er livet!

N. Tjernagel


P.S. Good luck to Peter and Gustav in view of their birthdays June 17 and 18. May I have some money June 1st?  I realize that I am a nuisance.


F¿rde, Norway, May 24,1893


Dear Peter:


Picture of yourself, Lew, Andrew, and Mr. Ammons has been re­ceived. L. and A. are altogether too fat. Do they live on whale oil, or something like that? Has the sun played havoc with your color? You look rather wizened, if anybody can tell me what that means. Well, now I will tell you how we celebrated your birthday, the 17th of May. Mrs. Aall, Miss Esther, Johan Dahl nephew of the old lady, and myself went per steamer to Haugesund the 16th so as to be promptly on hand to take part in the festivities. On the boat I visited with an Englishman and thought it strange to hear myself speak his language. Haven't used that lingo for many a day. The weather was beautiful and propitious for sightseeing , and when we passed Leo and Tjernagel I constituted myself as guide and pointed out to the Aalls where my forbears sprung from. Sveen is con­sidered one of the most bleak and unproductive sections of Norway. How­ever, the little soil that has been retrieved from the rough, unpromising terrain will yield bountifully if well fertilized. Many large families have found sustenance in this grudging territory. But it has taken much work to eke out a living.


The only place we could find rooms at Haugesund was at Jonassen's Hotel. They sell beer, which accoun­ted for the rather rowdyish atmosphere encountered. The bedlam beneath our rooms was disturbing, but since the 17th had to be celebrated with fit­ting racket it was useless to complain. In the midst of the noises Miss Esther was taken with a terrific headache which rendered her unconscious at times. She recovered the 17th, however. You see it would hardly do for a red-blooded Norwegian ( There is some English blood in the Aalls) to be indisposed on this glorious date.  Mrs. Aall, herself, consulted with a Dr. Valentinsen about her lungs. She raised blood when she coughed and, feared the worst. The Dr. told her not to worry since he hoped there was nothing serious the matter with her. Not too much consolation in getting sympathy of this kind.


The celebration went off with a bang, everybody being electrified with a loyal fervor to make a joyful noise to boost F¾drenelandet and all it stands for to the skies, and then some. There was konfetti fly­ing about everywhere and many of the younger generation gave themselves over to the most foolish antics imaginable. All was done innocently enough, but I admit that it didn't hold my interest for long. In the morning we saw boating races, walking matches, bicycle racing, and more. We took part in a procession to Haraldsst¿tten, in which all the societies and organizations in the city took part. 


Haugesund 1900.


We were invited to the N¿rregaards in the early evening, and while sit­ting in the arbor we were surprised by the appearance of a brown-eyed, likely-looking young fellow who approached and stood peering at us be­tween the climbers covering the "Lysthus". We squinted at him in return; which brought a crinkly smile upon his face, and forthwith Esther hung on his arms for it was no other than Alf, one of Fru Aall's numerous sons.  He was a telegraph operator at Kristiansund and had heard of his mother's illness, had arranged for a substitute, and scooted away to be with us the 17th. We were together in our rooms in the evening and had a nice time.  He is one of the most religious fellows I have ever met, yet he is so full of humor that we well-nigh croaked laughing; his witticisms seemed quite spontaneous, hence the more fetching. He jumps anybody to enquire into the state of their standing with God, and is no respecter of time, person, or place. If he gets a call to pray he drops down on his knees anywhere, and talks to God quite informally, irrespective of listeners. There were prayers before bedtime , and we went to bed in peace, not being afraid

of visible or invisible powers about us. At Jonassen's there was a reminder from the nether zone in the form of ribald talk and singing below, but Alf prayed for them and us all, and soon snored in heavenly content. The weather looked very threatening the day we were to steam away for home, and since lady Aall couldn't travel on stormy seas, there were prayers for nice weather and, sure enough, it cleared off. As soon as we got home it started to bluster again. Unbelievers would say that it was purely accidental. We say that God hears our prayers in a manner that is for our greatest good. There are no true prayers that are not heard one way or another, all according to His loving will. Glad I got in with a religious family, though their way of religion differs somewhat from ours in being, possibly, slightly sv¾rmerisk. Religious scruples about her engagement, flustered affections, musical aspirations frustrated, poetical and un­practical, Fr¿ken Esther had a habit of late of swooning, getting the cramps or paroxysms of some kind. Once in my presence she fainted in her chair, slid to the floor, grew rigid, and appeared to be dying. She was taken to her room where the ministrations of those about her revived her and caused her to recover in a day or so. Whatever the malady she was finally rid of it, and many of her worries besides. Signe was a sensible young creature and seemed capable of handling her affairs with better judg­ement than her elder sister. When the two and I walked to Valestrand, explored the hills, rowed on the fjord, or in winter skated on a trio of little lakes nearby, we had fun and gained health and vigor in the bargain.  The time that Lars Hellesn¾s and Alf spent with us was doubly enjoyable.  It almost knocked me flat when one evening Frau Aall suggested the she and the minister accompany us to the skating fields. She was taller than her man and the couple looked like our big dog and Chip as they tripped so beautifully situated gingerly along to our  Elysian little lakes so beautifully situated twixt wooded hills and heather.  The way Mrs.Aall laughed at our antics was enough to draw a smile from Rev. Aall himself, and furnished us with reminiscences for a day. This un­usual skating trip will linger long in my memory. But now it is summer and we will be hunting lilies of the valley, or other beautiful shrub or flowery growths of which there is a great abundance in this land of long summer nights. There are "kaffe e kalas" in retreat near the parsonage in and among the cliffs overlooking the beautiful F¿rde fjord. Here many a  word of wisdom has fallen from youthful lips, also some empty phrases, even silly ones. Mrs. Aall herself enjoyed the outlook and talks about lost og fast" on this idyllic shelf commanding the sea. Here handker­chiefs were waved to those departing from Solheim on outgoing steamers.  What a country for sentiment and esthetic uplift!


It is now 10 at night and I am writing without artificial light already now in May. How is mother? I am anxious to hear about everything.  I am angling for a chance to take a trip through Kattegat and Skagerak and on to the Baltic and Stockholm. It is good for fellows like me to take sea trips.  Be good.



F¿rde, Norway, June 3, 1893

Ole A. Larson, Story City, Iowa.


Dear Folks:


I would consider it a high privilege if I might make the intended journey to Germany and continue my studies there, but if you find it entirely too hard to find sufficient money to keep me going I ought, perhaps, to return and take up some kind of light work and support myself. I can­ not put in very much time at practicing and must hie me out of doors to keep the proper equilibrium between health and sickness. I don't seem to arrive at the extreme end of either. Have to be thankful for the strength vouchsafed me. How wise it is to continue studying under these circumstances is something of a question. I would really hate to come back to Amer­ica without first having tried my luck in Germany, having dreamt so long of going there and, having gotten so far on the way as this. If things come around so that I can go sometime this summer I should by all means have as much as $150. when I start from here. It is unwise to barge into a strange land with a depleted purse. This in case of sickness or other unforeseen trouble. I do not use more money than I actually need, and with emphasis thereon! If it is God's will that I shall go to Leipzig.  He will look out both for you and me, and will show us the way. This is where prayer comes in. I hope my trip thus far hasn't caused father and mother too much worry. I know how you have struggled to provide a good home for us and it would be entirely and altogether too bad if I or any of the other children should cause you concern, and pluck your substance away from you, after we leave there. Hope you are all well!   

Now after Esther's ups and downs Signe, too, has her turn and is laid up with rheu­matic fever. A vicious disease!  Lotte and Kathinka eat for 4 and make mer­ry unknowing as to the full significance of life. What is their mission on earth? God knows: The old man carries on his routine with punctuality and has no aches or pains that I know of.


It is now my intention to start very soon on the trip to the Baltic.  It will cost me about 35 kroner to be aboard the freight steamer Gustav carrying "sild" (herring) to Gefle a large town about 30 miles north of Stockholm. The price, all expenses included, will resolve itself into something like 30 cents a day. Lars Hellesn¾s comes along with me. The name of our captain is Apeland, and a fine, pious gentleman he is. He has two empty berths in his private salon and these my friend and I are to occupy on the trip. We also are to take our meals at his own private table.  Sorry Pete can't come along to call on Moberg at Stockholm. Hellesn¾s reminds me of Peter.  The Aalls seemed to think they would miss me. They certainly have treated me most kindly and considerately. Fru Aall wished us the best of everything, especially those things pertaining to the spi­rit. All were kind, and I remember Esther's last service for me was to get down on the floor and pack some mammoth tourist shoes I had along with which to shuffle through slush and snow. And so we left. Will we ever see them again?



End of Norway letters.

Digitized by Phil Rhodes, December 2007


Note:  Prepared from scanned photocopies of typed transcriptions of the original letters.  The typed transcriptions were provided courtesy of Dr. Peter Tjernagel Harstad.