Memoir Written by Mrs. Oliver A. Rustad, Dalton MN
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The following information was written by Mrs. Oliver A. (Tilda or Ottelia) Rustad, Dalton, Minnesota prior to her death, as a record and history of the family's life when they first settled in Otter Tail County in 1867 and later. A transcription from the original, written in the Norwegian language, was made by her son, Duffy O. Rustad, Fergus Falls, Minnesota April 20, 1955.
A few remembrances from pioneer days about the first settlers in Otter Tail County and particularly from Tumuli and St. Olof Townships and Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
I wish first to say a few words in honor of my parents and others of the elder persons hereabout, about their beliefs and trust, the future of their new homes in America and the new west to which they emigrated.
My parents were born and grew to man and womanhood in Gulbrandsdalen, Norway. My father, Ole C. Dahl, was born in Overdal, Faaberg. His parents were Christopher and Kari Overdal, and my mother, Oline G. Olstad was born in southern Ostre Gausdal, to Gunder Olstad and Randi Teigum Olstad. My mother was a sister of Amund Olstad, who was a well known merchant in Lillehammer for many years.
I mention this since we have many relatives that we have not heard from or about for many years, such as cousins and second cousins. My mother had a brother who came and settled in the neighborhood of Coon Valley, Wisconsin.
In 1850 my parents moved with their family from Gulbrandsdalen to Stenkjer, Tronderlagen and lived there until 1865 when my father left alone for America with the object in mind to earn sufficient money to bring the other members of the family over as soon as possible.
My brother, Gunder O. Dahl (later of Fergus Falls, Minnesota) who then was 20 years of age took over the responsibility of providing for the family left behind in Norway, while father was away, which he did very well. The following year father sent money, which he had earned, and together with money received from the sale of our home and household goods was sufficient to make the attempt for the whole family to move to America in 1866. We were a total of eight persons in our family.
We came over the ocean in a sailing ship and landed in Quebec, Canada after several weeks. The name of the ship was Harmoni and it was very old and badly worn. Everyone had to bring his own food and do their own cooking. Everyone, it seemed, was sick, so it was quite difficult when whole families were sick at the same time.
Two deaths occurred on shipboard and it was so hard to see them buried at sea. Although I was 7 years old, the impressions this left on my mind have never been forgotten.
When we arrived at Quebec we thought the worst was then over, but there were many hardships to go through after that. When we left Quebec it was on a Canal boat, which was drawn by horses, traveling along the shoreline on the edge of the canal. This was a very slow method of travel as it was almost at a snail's pace. This ride was for a distance up the St. Lawrence River.
Later we were transferred to box cars. I remember cattle had occupied the box car before us and they were a long ways from having been cleaned out. Some plank seats had been provided to sit on. This train ride in the box car was, I think by far the worst part of our whole trip. We were all completely tired out from our long trip and no place for anyone to lie down and get any rest.
My uncle, Børre Dahl, with his wife and Mrs. Olava Wick, his mother-in-law, were also in our party all the way from Norway to Hesper, Iowa. Father met us at Lansing, Iowa. Father had a house room rented in Hesper, Iowa, from John Kroshus. We were lucky to get in there, since the Kroshus folks were very kind and considerate of our needs and we lived with them for almost a whole year. They had four children. Oline, their eldest daughter, was later married to Berge Lee and they came and homesteaded on land near Underwood, but later sold their land and moved out to the west coast. Halvor, Maria, and Anne Kroshus were among my "Legekamerater." I often think of them and wonder if any of them or their children are still living.