Norwegian Pioneers in Mid-West

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Norwegian Pioneers in Mid-West - TO $ OF KLENG PEERSON HE WAS PATHFINDER FOR...
TO $ OF KLENG PEERSON HE WAS PATHFINDER FOR NOR- WECHANS IN AMERICA. Grateful Countrymen Erect a Monument Monument to the Man Who Brought the First Emigrants to This Country and Served Them and Their Followers in Many Ways. By Martin W. Odland. Special to The Journal. Hudson, Wis., July 7.A movement has been started by influential Norwegians Norwegians of the northwest to erect a monument monument to the memory of Kleng Peerson, Peerson, who, nearly a century ago, led the first band of Norwegian immigrants to America and for a generation thereafter thereafter was the pathfinder among his people people in the new world. A committee is about, to be appointed to solicit the funds necessary for its erection and to select a site for it. Judging by the opinions so far expressed, Ottawa, HI., in one' of the Norwegian settlements founded by Kleng Peerson, will be chosen as the most appropriate place for tho memorial. This movement brings into public notice notice a man perhaps entirely unknown to all Americans not of Scandinavian extraction, and but little known to the Scandinavians themselves. The public will, therefore, be interested in the story of Kleng Peerson, a man who did more for his peoole in America, it may be said,, than any other person of his timemore, perhaps, than any other person that ever lived. He was a very remarkable man, seemingly seemingly endowed by nature for just such work- as he undertook to do. Altho de- nied the-advantages of a higher education education in his boyhood, he learned to speak and fead the English, French and German German languages,'in "addition to his own, and was exceedingly quick to grasp new ideas ancl -Situations. He also had the faculty of setting forth his own ideas in interesting "form, thereby winning attentive .listeners wherever he went and etilistifig^ recruits for his colonizing schemes. Kleng Peerson-was born on a farm called Hesthammer, i..1782. ty,' Norway,1 Stavanger coun- May IT As a youth iv^e4eaT*ed"*ftte ca%ej&er 'Ajfcrade, TfMen he~ followed at times all thru his long life, and which was of great value to him in founding new settlements in America. We learn from his few biographers, including Professor Rasmus B. Anderson, Anderson, that he contracted early in life an unhappy marriage with a woman named Catherine, who had considerable property. He was anxious to get control control of her means, it is hinted, and failing failing in this, left her prior to 1821 and never lived with her again. His relatives relatives and those who knew him best 1 did not put the blame for this desertion or separation upon Peerson, saying that he was a man of unusual kindness of heart and amiability. Came First in 1821. In 1821 Kleng Peerson came to America, America, in company with Knute Olson Eide, for the purpose of investigating conditions conditions here and to ascertain whether the new world was a good land for his countrymen to live in. It is believed that .he undertook this trip at the request request of a group of Quakers in Stavanger Stavanger county, who were being persecuted by the intolerant state church of Norway Norway and were therefore anxious to emigrate emigrate to some other country. The people people of Norway were then in almost total total ignorance of real conditions in America, but the persecuted Quakers of Stavanger county had heard that in the new republic to the west there was religious freedom hence they thought of emigrating thither. Kleng Peerson spent three years in America, familiarizing himself with the social, religious and industrial conditions. conditions. He supported himself by working working and is supposed to have made several several trips into different parts of New York and. other states. He found in New York city quite a strong and wealthy colony of Quakers, who encouraged encouraged him to bring his Norwegian Quaker friends to America, promising him their aid in getting them settled. When Peerson returnee! to Stavanger county in 1824, and told his Quaker friends about what he had seen and learned in'America, he aroused theJiveliest theJiveliest interest and enthusiasm. The result result was that the heads of six Quaker families sold their .property and with the money thus obtained purchased a small sloop in. which to sail for America. America. The.leader in this enterprise, and the princip'aT owner of the sloop, was Lars Larson, very intelligent man, who for eight years had been a war prisoner and resident in London, where he had le,ara.ed to speak English and been ..con,vrte(|--to the Quaker faith. It was he'-who introduced this religion into Norway,', on his return thitheri 1815 _6r 1816,'. .thereby bringing a portion- portion- of the population into conflict with the state chureh\ and making ,tbem *ob- jects o .'religious persecution. The 'sloop,. called, Bestauratibn (the Restoration), set Bail from Stavanger Stavanger July 4, 1825, and. after atryinp atryinp ycf'age of fourteen weeks arrived safely in New York. There were fiftytwo fiftytwo persons on board when- the vessel sailed and fifty-three when it landed in New York, a girl baby having been born during the voyage to Mr. and Mrs. Larson. The child thus born still lives and is now Mrs. Margaret A. Atwater of Western Springs, Cook county, 111., a refined and well-to-do widow. Kleng Peerson did not return to America in the sloop Restoration, but went by way of Gothenburg, and was waiting for his friends in New York when they landed there. He had purchased purchased for them, with the help of New York Quakers, a tract of land in Kendall Kendall township, Orleans county, New York, and thither he led them in the fall of 1825. There he founded the first Norwegian settlement in America, and there he lived off and on for a few years. He did not take any land, however. however. His disposition was that of a wanderer, and it seemed impossible for him to stay very long at any one place. Came West and Had a. Dream. He was doubtless the first Norwegian to visit the country west of the Great Lakes, which he did not later than 1833. He passed thru Chicago, or what became became Chicago, and tramped over the level prairies to the west and southwest. southwest. There something strange happened happened to him, "if we are to believe a story he told his friends, a story which has been handed down to the "present time by their descendants: While walking all alone over the level expanse which later became La Salle county, Illinois, he was seized by intense intense fatigue, and sinking down upon the rich grass, fell into a -deep, refreshing refreshing sleep. While in slumberland, he had a vision that seemed providential. providential. He saw the fertile land around him suddenly transformed from a wilderness wilderness into a thickly settled country, peopled by his own countrymen. The villages, cities and farms all gave evidence evidence of remarkable prosperity and contentment. When Kleng awoke, he felt that God had revealed to him the future home of his people. He thought of Moses and the promised land, and knew that, like him, he had been divinely commissioned commissioned to lead his people from bondage to a land of freedom and plenty. Greatly Greatly refreshed and strengthened, he walked back to the cast and immediately immediately began to interest the Norwegians of the Kendall settlement in the promised promised land of the Vfest. The next spring, 1834, he led a small party of Norwegians Norwegians to Illinois, and founded the famous famous Fox .river-settlement in La Salle county, whieh grew. rapidly, spreading into adjoining counties and becoming one of the largest and most prosperous*Norwegian prosperous*Norwegian colonies in America. .J, Aided Many Norwegians. Kleng bought considerable land here for himself .and his, relatives and friends. .His own land he later gave away to others who.needed, it more than he did. That was his practicerr^o, jP^.-.of^Eis ,owu to others /in grea^

Clipped from The Minneapolis Journal08 Jul 1906, SunPage 10

The Minneapolis Journal (Minneapolis, Minnesota)08 Jul 1906, SunPage 10
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  • Norwegian Pioneers in Mid-West

    nelsmj – 07 Dec 2014

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