Private Ole Grimstvedt, Company C.

Pioneer Life in Perry Wisconsin

Written in 1896 by Ole (Olaf) Grimstad, oldest son of Knudt Grimstvedt and Marie (Nes) Grimstvedt Ole was eight years old in 1850 when the family came to America.


        My father, Knud Grimstvedt was born in the Parish of Nissedal, Ovre {Upper} Thelemarken, Norway on March 16, 1815. He received a moderately good education for those times, learned to write a good hand, both in the Danish and Latin characters, and could figure the four grand rules and some fractions. Like most every able-bodied you man of those days, he served as a soldier ten years, so many days in camp every year. He stayed mostly around home, but also out around further, looking for work at one time near the seacoast.
        My mother, Mari (Marie Nes Grimstvedt) was born on the farm Nes in the same parish, July 23, 1821. They bought a small farm in part of one called Grovorm {Grovum}, where they lived for years. Here I was born on January 15, 1842. In 1843, the first lot started from Nissedal for this country. Halvor Grovom, with wife, six children and son-in-law being the first one to break loose. He tried hard to get others with him, father among the rest, but it seemed that their time had not yet come.
        About this time he {father} sold the little farm he had and bought one of the Grimstvedt farms for there were several contiguous farms named Grimstvedt. There was an encumbrance on this place of an old couple, Larjei and Signe, who were to have their living off of it during their life (life annuity). After a year or such a matter, Signe showed signs of insanity and soon became violent. Father fixed a room something like a cell where she was kept in safety. There does not seem that there was such a thing as a an asylum to take them to, but persons had to take care of them the best way they knew how. There my parents struggled for six years when the farm was taken from them.
        He {father} now turned his attention to this country, but could not get off till the next year, in 1850. In the meantime, he rented a farm. Here, during the summer he built a dwelling house, he being very handy with the axe and, in fact, could turn his hand to most anything. This helped us out a good deal after coming here. He could mend and make both boats and shoes, tan leather, do a good deal of carpenter work and also copper work, such as buckets, churns, milk cans, and the like.
        There was quite a crowd that went {emigrated} from Nissedal that year. There were seven families and one widow with four children, besides three single persons making forty-four in all. We started from Grandfather Nes on about the 21st of May. My mother’s sister with her husband Isak Syftestad, and their two children were in the same boat; there was four children of us. I was passed {past} eight on January 15 and the youngest {Bergit} was about a year old.
        Our port on the seacoast was Skien; the way there was mostly by water. We got there without mishap. While at Skien we took in {toured} Graaten and the soldier’s rendezvous on Graatenmoen. Here my father was well acquainted, having drilled on Graatenmoen for many a day. Next we went to Risor, where the vessel was that was to take us to New York. We went {to Risor} in an open boat. Not a few of us had a taste of sea sickness on that short trip. Arriving at Risor we found that the vessel, a brand new one named the Egir, was not ready and would not be for a month. Luckily, the men got work, so as to help their slender means. Father and some others had been here during the winter and engaged passage.
        It took us eight weeks and two days from Risor to New York. There was, however, one more when we struck American soil. Mrs. Jacob Nixby, also from Nissedal, having given birth to a son, who was christened John Egir. The last I heard, he was living in Minnesota. From New York up the Hudson to Albany we were on a very large steamer and my recollection is that it took us only from evening till morning. The canal boat brought us from here to Buffalo and from there through the {Great} lakes to Milwaukee on a steamboat. On this trip my aunt, Mrs. Isaak Syftestad, gave birth to a daughter, who in 1866 married Ole Steensland of Moscow, Iowa Co. {Wisconsin}. They have lived on the same farm ever since, raising a large family and are now well to do.
        From Milwaukee teams were hired to take us to Koshkonong {Wisconsin}. The baggage would fill the wagons, giving only the weaker ones a chance to ride on top of boxes and packages. Several families would arrive, hiring one team. This must have been in September, for I remember seeing the corn in shocks and the pumpkins laying in the field. We were wondering what that was.
        Arriving at Koshkonong, we stopped a week on Wheelers’ Prairie with Nils Grovum, also a son of the before mentioned Halvor. The conveyance was a ‘kubberulle’ {crude wooden wagon}, of course and it had evidently not been greased for some time, if ever, which caused it to give some very original music. Nils grew tired of this sound and he thought his guests did too, for he stopped in a mud puddle and proceeded to grease the wagon. The material was plenty and cheap and I think it silenced the ‘kubberulle’ for a while. With John Grovum we stayed a month, or such a matter, when they got a man with horses to take us to Blue Mounds, as it was called at the time. Ridgeway, Blue Mounds, Perry, Primrose, Springdale, and in fact all around here was called Blue Mounds. As an offset we called it ‘Kaskeland’ most everywhere below Oregon {ten miles south of Madison}.
        We came to view Fox Prairie, the Badger Hill and to one Krisstrud in Springdale where we stopped overnight. Arriving there next day at Hans Dahle's where we stayed all winter. Hans had been here a couple of years, was a good hunter and well posted on the land survey. He had his eye on our old homestead and father soon laid claim to it and commenced improvements. He would get Hans’ oxen to do the necessary hauling and a one-story log house was built and we moved the next spring.
        I could read Norwegian from Norway, but at Hans Dahle's we got hold of a ‘Folklaring’ and I commenced to learn it by heart. I had to commit half a page for every day and promptly every morning father would make me stand up before him with folded hands to recite my lesson. It was a tough job to get the half page when I got beyond “Den ??? Artikie.” Another thing I learned this winter was to read writing. I could read writing before I could write my name in not only the Latin characters, but Danish as well.
        Father had enough money left when we came here to keep us over winter, buy a yoke of steers, 3 for $40, and a cow for $14. We must have a pig and the only place to get one was from Gulbrand Frognon, where Gilbert Thompson now lives, two miles this side of Mt. Horeb. It was quite a pig, but he carried him on his back all the way {home}.
        The first time he attended religious services was at Thore Maanum's. Andrew Sanderson way there too. They were somewhat at a loss for there was no one able to lead in singing. Finally Anders turned to father and asked him to do so. Why, yes, he had no objections and as he had a fine, clear voice, he officiated several times and was finally installed as regular “klokkar” in which capacity he served six years.
        I should have mentioned that my little sister {Bergit} died while we were at John Grovom’s on Koskonong {prairie}.
        In trying to break the steers, whose names were Buck and Berry, father used the yoke belonging to Hans. Father made hay for his stock which was increased to two cows, besides the oxen, and then struck out to {find} work. I think the first he ever did was near Fayette in La Fayette Co. It was mowing with the scythe. In the fall and winter he was out toward Mineral Point working most of the time, only staying home to get wood and prepare some more rails. I cut the wood and helped mother do the chores. We had no stove, but he had built a fireplace in the corner, regular Norway fashion. In the line of furniture we had 2x4 log stools made of oak planks hewed out of split logs and 3 legged {stools} made out of poplar. I remember those very well for we used to take them down to a pond to get them washed. The 3-legged one broke once while Mother was sitting on it with the baby in her lap and I remember she got hurt quite badly. For a table we used a box they had brought from Norway with odds and ends in it.
        Snakes were in great plenty and one day a large water snake crawled into the house. He caused quite a rumpus until he was dispatched.
        The next year father and Ole Kastvedt ran a breaking team {first plowing in virgin prairie}. This could not have been to his taste for he only did it for one year. Buck and Berry drove the breaking afterwards. They would be hired out for six weeks for which we would get six acres broke. It was the general saying that ox never were well broke until they had been in the breaking team.
        Our first wagon was a ‘kubberulle’, made by father of course and without any iron.
        Up to this time we simply straightened the land. We did not buy the land as we did not have anything to buy it with. But in 1853 Mr. O. B. Dahle {a cousin} came back from California and he loaned father money to buy the forty {acres} the house was on. It was risky to live and make improvements on land they could not hold. I remember how anxious my parents were when strangers would come by, for fear they would go to Mineral Point and buy it away from us.
        Deer were common and so were hunters. Prairie fires broke out in the fall and winter when there was no snow and sometimes in the spring. Our winters were mostly occupied making things for ourselves or for others. I never knew father to lie around idle. He would always find something to do. If the day was too stormy to be out (and it had to be a stormy one for him) he would have work to do inside either mending or making footwear or different kinds of carpenter work.
        The first grain was raised in 1852 and was threshed by having the oxen tramp on it. We got a fanning mill to do the cleaning and did not resort to the winds of heaven as some did. The next year we did not thresh till long into the winter when Aslak Holferdahl came from Koshkonong with a separator. We always had threshing done by the separators. It must have been in ’54 that Volquar Jenson got father to go with him to Koshkonong to build a dwelling for John Lurass and they also built one for Knudt Daley near McFarland. Knut was a cousin of O. B. Daley and had been his partner from Norway and on the tour to California, but while O. B. turned his attentions to starting a store, Knudt settled down as a farmer.
        That trip down was a bad one for us, for father got the fever and ague and he had it quite severe too. It clung to him for a long time. Torger Ormson had that year come from Texas and bought a farm adjoining ours. He knew all about fever and ague (egerm) and knew how to treat it. His knowledge was very good at the time but this ague was different to what they were used to in Texas. There they provided quinine for a certain season of the year just as we would provide help for harvest. However, Father got rid of the ague and I don’t think ever had it since. {Malaria?}.
        We always had threshing done by the separators. There was in the neighborhood previous to this one machine run by power and four horses and one run by two horses and tended by a person that threshed and even pretended to separate but we never had {use for} either of them.
        Along in ‘56 people commenced to be tired of the oxen. As a rule one pair would break through the rail fence letting in the rest. The whole drove would follow them as they opened the fences for what they knew meant good living. I think poor fences caused more controversy among farmers than all else combined. To keep up fences was a job in those days when they were hog tight, clean from the ground, hogs and everything else running at large. To keep good fences to secure good neighbors is an axiom under all circumstances and not the least at that time.
        Our oxen, except that they were slow, were as good as they could be found. But they were not an exception for Buck would lay down on the fence as soon as he would get to it and Berry was right behind to profit by it. Various devices were tried but only one was successful and that was a small chain or rope around the horns and from there to the foot drawing the head down. We used a small chain for a rope would swell in the wet, but it had to be watched and kept wrapped with rugs or it would chafe.
        Finally in the fall of 1856, father made a trade with Iver Land of Blue Mounds for a span of mares coining four or five and heavy with foal. The mares with an old pair of harness was rated at $300, the oxen at $100. $60 was to be paid in one month. $200 the next spring and the rest, $40 in a year. I think this was the biggest debt father had contracted so far since coming to this country and it proved to be a hard one to cancel. We have come down -- and it was tough stretching. But we had horses and if anyone was satisfied it was me and my brother John, years younger.
        When he {father} went to Madison I was always {in charge} and tended the farm, fed and churned and harnessed the team and all without light for we could not afford a lantern. Nor had we a clock yet, but would gauge the time by the stars. Everybody must start at two or three o’clock {a. m.} at the very latest in those days, going to Madison by way of Black Earth. It was reasonable enough going to Black Earth from where we invariably returned the same day, but there was no necessity for such early rising going to Madison. It was the {accepted} way, however, and I noticed the fashion was the same to some extent when I came back from the {Civil} war. They generally managed to have company and would drive the whole distance without stopping to feed or rest, the roads most of the time in the fall being muddy (very frequently the wagon would get stuck necessitating unloading). The teams when we got to town did not feel like cutting up and didos (pranks). If the crowd of acquaintances was large which frequently happened (I am sorry to say there was more drinking than there ought to be though I never knew my father to overindulge) and coming home empty they would also indulge in running races.
        I said we had nothing but the stars to tell us the time but one time I remember we couldn’t see a star. No matter, as soon as father was rested he started. He got to Geo. P. Tompson’s near Pine Bluff by daylight and to Madison by noon. The tavern {overnight lodging} bill was quite an item and to avoid it, he drove back home again the same day.
        One time also that first fall we had horses, we butchered a large hog. It must have weighed 400 lbs. dressed! Instead of hanging it up to cool it off, it was laid in the wagon when we had the help. The weather turned very mild and it was spoiled when we got it to town. So we got only $6 for it instead of as he expected $15 or $16. It was bought for soap grease. Small as this may seem now {1896 is when Ole wrote this} it was a serious loss when that much money was depended on. To help him along father even got the landlord Nolden to trust him till he came in {to town} again.
        Father never liked to be on the road and as soon as I was large enough I did the teaming. I don’t think I went to Madison with the horses until we had them a year and then only in company with a neighbor. Once I must have been alone for I lost my bearing going out of town and had to go back to Summers drugstore and take a fresh start.
        The $100, due in the spring of 1857, was paid by sacrificing six steers, two of them were beauties but good-by oxen, now.
        Father had not worked out {away from home} for some years as he had enough to do attending the farm. I think that the forty {acres} between the field and homestead was bought for $420. The old house had been torn down and rebuilt in better shape where it now stands and quite extensive log stables besides the necessary finery so that we had quite a good farm. The first thing he got in the line of farm machinery was a fanning mill, then a grain drill, I think, in partnership with his brother-in-law Isaac Syftestad, whose land joined ours on the South and West of the forty {acre} field.
        A reaper we did not have until 1866 when I was back from the army and not for two or three years yet, the reason being J. H. Manny’s combine served both purposes. We have now got down to the war and past. (Left, Ole Grimstveld)
        The children kept leaving them, some married and some single until only Aslak remained. He got the old homestead in 1888. They {my parents} had thirteen children, five of whom have died in infancy and two, John and Birgit, after they grew up to man and womanhood’s estate. We all got a fair education, as much as could be expected from them {our parents} at that time. John attended Albion Academy, and one or two terms at the University, he taught school three or four years, was assisted in taking the census in 1870 and died April 18, 1871 a little more than twenty-four years of age. Four years later, Birgit came home from Chicago a corpse, not unto 20 years of age. These two they mourned very much for they were exceptionally good children. That they could not be at the deathbed of their daughter they took particularly hard.
        Of the remaining children, four, the writer here-of and Carl M{artin}, Aslak, and Kisten, are living in this vicinity. Torge is in Jackson Co., Minnesota and the youngest, Adeline M{arie}, is at Armour, S.D..
        The grandchildren number twenty-three, with the two great-grandchildren. They (Knudt and Mari) have seen this neighborhood grow up from a wild state with small huts few and far between {to} cultivated fields and commodious dwellings on every farm. They have done their full share towards procuring these blessings for their children as well as the community at large. These thoughts are pleasant to dwell upon.

This Manuscript found with the A. O. Barton papers at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin archives. Transcribed and typed from the original by Kristin Brue of the Perry Historical Center in 1987.

Computerized 12-30-2001 by David Stewart Battey with editorial insertions enclosed in {brackets}. Dave is descended from Knudt and Mari through their daughter Adeline Marie (Grimstad) Swenson, Adeline’s son Ralph Johan Swenson, and Ralph’s oldest daughter, Grace (Swenson ) Battey.

Cousin Harriet Rye Madson in her ‘Celebrating 150 Years In Amerika’ (1966) page 328, mentions that Ole (also known as Olaf) spent eighteen months in the hospital after receiving a bullet in the left hip while fighting at Legget’s hill in Atlanta during the Civil War. ‘The Historic Perry Norwegian Settlement’ published by the Perry Historical Center, (1994) page 72, makes it clear that Ole served in the Civil War under the name Ole Olson, not Grimstad. Grimstad was originally spelled Grimstvedt in America and some from this family took the last name of Olson here. Currently, in Norway, the farm name is Grimstveit. Photo of Ole from a large oval portrait given to my uncle Ralph Elliott Swenson by his father’s youngest sister, C. Marie Swenson. Photos of Knudt and Mari from cousin Roger H. B. Swenson - Dave Battey

Ole Grimstvedt Stay in the Hospitial