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Pioneering on the Pacific Coast

By John Storseth
With a Foreword by Einar Haugen

(Sakset fra "St. Olaf College, Norwegian-American Historical Association)


John Storseth was born in Hemne, Norway, in 1863. He emigrated to America in 1887 and settled near Poulsbo, Washington, in 1889. Although farming and lumbering have been his occupations, his chief interest has been the study of literature and religion. In his home today there is an impressive library of Norwegian literature, as well as many books on religious mysticism. He is one of those whose thoughts revolve not so much around the events of the day and the moment as around the implications of the past and the prospects of the future. He is one of those rare but precious souls, a philosopher of the folk, thoroughly Norwegian in heart and soul, but withal a part of the civilization of the new America.
Without advanced schooling, he has yet developed the capacity of writing down his thoughts and memories both in Norwegian and English. One book of his appeared in Norwegian some years ago, under the title ofDjlskap.In manuscript he has a complete autobiography, written in Norwegian and translated into English by the author himself, entitled "Old Homes and New- Sketches." The following article is an extract from this autobiography, presented here with only a few editorial changes from the manuscript of the author.
Throughout the autobiography Mr. Storseth maintains the fiction of the third person, dividing himself into three characters called respectively Johannes, Joe Pedersen, and Johan Lovseth. The first is the Norwegian in him, the second is the young immigrant, and the third is the American citizen. His story opens with these words: "What is written in this book is told to me by Johannes--a man I have always known--and what he has told me I am sure is true. The book is not a connected tale. It is rather to be considered as a collection of sketches from a time that lies only fifty or sixty years back." The autobiography closes with a deeply touching scene full of symbolic overtones, in which his three characters meet at the funeral of an old pioneer.
I felt sad about Johannes. All through my life he had stood near me. We had played together and we had always got along well, because we thought alike, wanted to do the same things, and had the same interests. But of late Johannes had retreated more and more into the background. It was Joe Pedersen, a youth who went out into the world to look around, who came to the fore.
In later years I made the acquaintance of Johan Lovseth, a man who has tried a little of everything, although for a long time the lumber business interested him the most. Now it is Johannes who again is closest to me. At a time long ago we were two happy boys back home in Norway. Now the many years have marked us as old men. We are getting nearer and nearer to the end of our journey. Two travelers like ourselves have much to talk about and much to remember. We see long stretches of bright sunshine, and there are black shadows and things that we like to forget. Plainly we see the many crossroads we have passed and the many bad mistakes we have made. Sitting together like that, talking about our past, that is our way of "taking stock" of our real possessions, what we will be able to bring with us to the other side of the divide when the time comes to move.
Clearly we can now see that even our mistakes may be counted as gain, that everything that "happens" to a man is to his best. It is a wonder to see how the thousands of small things in a man's life fit into a whole, that which Johannes calls his "destiny." Only as indistinct glimpses can he see how this destiny is made up, but he is sure that nothing just "happens," he says. Everything is worked out from sources of which we know little. The following selections from the autobiography tell of pioneer years on the west coast; they suggest that a great field of Norwegian immigrant history is here practically untouched, and they offer one man's reactions to the problems of American development. I
In the year 1887 a man named Nels Berg went back to Norway from Canada. He had been out on the Pacific coast looking at some land in British Columbia which he thought would be suitable for a colony of Norwegian emigrants. From the Canadian government he received a promise of a big tract of land if he could bring with him, upon his return, a certain number of emigrants who would be willing to build on the land and live there. When Nels Berg got back to Norway, he began describing the opportunities awaiting anyone who would go with him to this paradise on earth. Thc soil was first class, the sea was full of fish, and in the forest there was an abundance of all kinds of game. Many desired to return with him, and among them was one Joe Pedersen; but it so happened that he was performing his military duties at a soldiers' training camp and could not leave the country until his service had expired. It was agreed that he should come later. He was instructed to go to Quebec, and from there by the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Victoria, a town out on Vancouver Island, where Nels Berg would be waiting for him on the wharf. All he needed to do was to send a telegram from Winnipeg.
When his military training was at an end, Joe Pedersen made ready for his long journey to the Pacific coast. He was in a great hurry. There was no time to lose; winter would soon be at hand, and it would take at least a month to reach his destination. He would need some time, also, to get ready all the different things he would have to take along to the New World, out there in the wilderness, so far from any civilization.
He began to make a big box, five feet long, three feet broad, and four feet high. Even with such dimensions, it would contain only the most necessary articles, such as a herring net and a good supply of homespun linen thread--enough for another net--several hundred feet of rope to be used for fishing lines, and hooks by the hundreds. For bedclothes he packed a fine fur rug and some fancy woolen blankets, clothes and shoes enough for many years, and with these, books of different kinds. It must also be mentioned that a pretty big piece of birchwood was to make the journey to the New World. It was extra fine birch and intended for picture frames. There were to be many pictures on the wall in the new home Joe Pedersen would build out there on the Pacific coast. On top of all this were placed carpenter tools, as many as could be pressed into the box.

* * * * *
Early Settlement in Puget Sound
One who emigrated to America in those days needed much patience. It took three days to reach Liverpool. There Joe had to wait eight days for the steamer in which he was to be sent to America. The crossing of the Atlantic took twelve days, and the railroad journey from Quebec to New Westminster took seven days. The entire journey took thirty days. The great expanse of the Atlantic seemed endless. After that came the prairies of Canada, seemingly as endless as the Atlantic.
Yes, it was really a new world he had come to.
What a difference from the closed-in and narrow fjord where he had had his old home! Strange and rather unfriendly they looked, those endless prairies of Canada. And the people? He did not meet one who understood a word of what he said, and he got the impression that they looked upon him as a curiosity. The seven days on the railroad seemed very long and tedious. Nearly all the cash he had when he left home was spent, and his daily bill of fare was next to nothing, just some hardtack he had with him from Norway. At last! It was in the evening of the last day on the railroad. Joe Pedersen looked out of the window and saw for the first time the blue water of the Pacific Ocean. The train rolled into the railway station at Westminster, British Columbia. Now they could go no farther; the immensity of the world's greatest ocean lay there outside, right before them, almost as endless as infinity itself. But Joe Pedersen stood there all alone, not knowing where to go. He could not ask anyone, either, because no one understood what he said. But all of a sudden he discovered something that made his heart beat with fever heat. In all his life he had never felt so happy. He could hardly resist an impulse to shout for sheer joy. He saw an old friend from Norway and was not alone any more. Three or four men were working desperately to move a big box from a railroad ear over to a truck. They talked and gesticulated, and Joe had then and there his first lesson in English. The words they used had something to do with hell and the old devil; that he understood very well.
Joe made up his mind never to lose sight of that box. When the men drove down to the wharf he tried his best to keep up, and managed to do so, although they were in a great hurry to get there. They brought the box aboard a steamer that was waiting, and Joe followed as close behind as he could. A man with a lot of stripes on his coat tried to stop him, but Joe tore loose from him and pointed to the box. Then the man laughed and let him pass. On the deck where the box stood, Joe walked back and forth, looked at the box from all sides, and felt glad and satisfied. He was not alone any more. That box put him in a peculiar contact with his old home.
Yes, everything was well and good now. Soon he would be in Victoria, and there he would find his friend Nels Berg standing on the wharf waiting for him, ready to take him to the Promised Land where now, no doubt, a good beginning had been made toward creating a new Norway on the shores of the Pacific. It was a dark night and very late when the boat landed in Victoria, and no Nels Berg was in sight, but there were many others on the wharf. They kept up an awful racket, and one of them grabbed Joe's knapsack, jerked it away from him, threw it into a wagon, shoved Joe after it, and drove uptown with him. So quickly did it all happen that Joe got no opportunity to look back for the box. He was brought to a hotel where they shoved a big book over to him and pointed to a line on which to write his name. Then they asked him to pay a dollar.
Later a young man made a motion for him to follow, and he was taken over to a small door. The young man went with him into something like a big box and closed the door, and all of a sudden the box started to move upwards with such a speed that Joe nearly dropped his knapsack because of the unexpected move. When the box stopped, almost as suddenly as it started, Joe was taken out and shown into a room where he could go to sleep. The young man gave him a key and departed.
In his room Joe stood all alone and began to do some thinking. So much had happened in a short time lately that he was somewhat confused. The first thing he did was to count his money. Two dollars and fifty cents was all he found. Things looked rather gloomy, but Joe had still a few hardtacks left in his knapsack, and he chewed on one of them before going to bed. The day following, he did some more thinking. But it was a hopeless task to come to a conclusion. Something had to be done, and he began to walk up and down the streets for a while. But no. There was no Nels Berg in sight. He noticed that some of the people who went by were staring at him. Trying to talk to any of them was useless, of course. There seemed to be no one in that city who could understand what he said.
* * * * *
Life is for many people something like an endless chain of small happenings, trifling things that are soon forgotten, because they are so insignificant. But when a man looks back on the years gone by, he will perhaps find that those small things have, when put together, been instrumental in forming his future, his destiny.
A man is planning to do so and so, but his plans are often changed by so-called"happenings,"perhaps very small things, a chance, as we sometimes say. But many an old man who looks back on his life discovers that behind all that happens, even the most trifling occurrences, there is a hidden power that rules. He believes it to be literally true that "not even a sparrow falls to the ground unless God wills it."
From the night of eternity a web of destiny was set up for every human being. Everything in a man's life, big or small, is woven into that web, and no one can get away from his fate. For Joe Pedersen a wonderful "happening" was ordained to take place on the street corner where he was standing that morning. Down the street came a beautiful carriage, drawn by two splendid horses. There were two liveried drivers, English fashion, guiding the carriage. The carriage came close up to the corner where the poor newcomer from Norway stood and stopped right in front of him. A distinguished old gentleman inside addressed himself to Joe Pedersen in the Norwegian language and asked, "Are you a Norwegian?" Joe got so excited that he could hardly talk. Yes, of course he was a Norwegian. "I thought so," said the old gentleman, and he started to ask a lot of questions. "How much money have you? .... Two dollars and fifty cents," said Joe. The man in the carriage laughed a little and said, "You cannot live very long on that," and he asked, "What kind of work would you like to get?" "Anything would be welcome, but carpenter work would suit me best," said Joe.
In a few minutes a lot of people had crowded close to the carriage. The old man spoke to one of the drivers, had him open the carriage door, and Joe was asked to come in. A few more questions were asked, and the aristocratic carriage drove away to other parts of the city in search of work for Joe Pedersen. Work was very scarce at that time of the year, but a place was found in a carpenter shop belonging to two Scotchmen.
They promised to help the boy all they could, but would not agree to pay more than two dollars per day to begin with. For Joe the two dollars seemed like a fortune, and the future was a dream filled with bright prospects. Next, the wonderful stranger secured a very good and cheap hotel for his protege. "Angeles"was the name of it. The hotel is now enlarged and more up-to-date, but the name is the same. A truck was sent for the big box.
The strange gentleman laughed when the box was brought in. He would have liked to see what was inside of it, he said--but he did not have the time to tarry. The unknown helper was not through yet. He now drove to an administration building. The stranger seemed to be known everywhere. He went to the immigrant office and had a lengthy conversation with the manager, Mr. Jessup, who promised to help the newcomer if it should become necessary. The next day Joe Pedersen had his first day at work in America. Very eager to please his employers, he literally worked "in the sweat of his brow" and did not notice that his unknown ally of yesterday had come in to see how the newcomer was getting along.
After some talk with the manager the stranger came over to Joe to say good-by. He would be on his way to England the next day. He had been living there a long time, but he was a Norwegian by birth, he said. In parting from Joe he gave hint much good advice."Doyour best to learn the language as soon as possible and take good care of yourself," he said. He promised to see a Norwegian contractor in Westminster, if the time would permit it. "I suppose you would like better to be some place where you could be understood. But it is really better for you here," he said. The great man departed; he left for England where he had his home.
Many days have passed. The boy is now an old man who has gained and lost, according to the fate meted out to him. One thing he values very much is a letter received from a God-sent friend in one of his darkest days of need, a letter mailed from Winnipeg, Canada, in the year 1887.
* * * * *
Joe Pedersen's stay in Victoria did not turn out to be of long duration, and the reason for it will now be told. Shortly after Joe's arrival an old man came to the Angeles Hotel. He seemed to be a man of leisure, took his meals regularly, smoked his pipe, and read the newspapers. Joe noticed that the old man always had his eyes on him and he wondered what the reason could be. The old man kept up his strange behavior for a few days, then all of a sudden he came over to Joe and tried to say something in the Norwegian language. Joe understood very little of what he said. It sounded almost as unintelligible as the other talk he heard around him. So the old man left the newcomer and was quite disappointed, as it seemed, but the next day he came back and had somewhat better success. A time soon came when he could talk his mother tongue fluently. Yes, he was a Norwegian, and, of course, they became good friends and were much together, these two.

The old man told Joe about his life since he left Norway. About fifty years earlier he had started out on a sailing vessel bound for Melbourne, Australia. After being around the world a few times he had prospected for gold in California and later in Alaska. In fifty years he had never written home to Norway, and so, of course, he had heard nothing from his relatives. When he mentioned the name of his home town, it proved to be one not far from Joe Pedersen's old home. Joe even knew the man's brother, who was a well-known businessman in that town. The old man got very busy asking questions; there was no end to them. And he talked and talked himself warm and eager, asking intimate questions about things that in fifty years he had never mentioned. Yes, there was a girl back of his departure from Norway, and all these years had elapsed without his having sent home a word. His life story in all those years would fill a big book with interesting reading matter. But what are written words compared with words from mouth to ear? The old man lived over again once more his young years with a girl that he never had been able to forget. Telling about her, he was again a youth with bright eyes and a flushed face that betrayed the emotion that still burned in his heart. Joe Pedersen told him about his brother, who still was a prosperous businessman in the home town. But the years had marked him, and he seemed to feel lonely and unhappy, Joe said. All of a sudden the old man got ready to leave."lam going to write home, now --- it is late enough," he said. A few days later he came to tell Joe about something he had seen in the newspapers.
Some newcomers from Norway had arrived- had been at the immigration station three or four days and were in bad condition. "The immigration station in Victoria is a place in the outskirts of town where poor immigrants can, for a time, get free shelter, but they are not given anything to eat," he said. It was a Sunday morning, and Joe started out to find these people, thinking that he might be able to give them some help. They really were in bad shape. There were two men who had left their families in Norway for the time being, who now had come here to join Nels Berg's colony of new settlers, and would send for their families after the homes were built. They were sorely disappointed not to see Nels Berg, as they had been promised. The few dollars they had when leaving home were all used up, and the two last days in Victoria they had actually starved. With them was a young mother with two children. She had come from the northern part of Norway to meet her husband, who had sent her a ticket to Victoria. His intention had been to meet her in Winnipeg, where he was working, and together they were to go on to the coast. When she came to Winnipeg, her husband failed to meet her, and a policeman who could talk a few words of the Norwegian language advised her to continue her journey to Victoria, where she very likely would find her husband waiting for her. One of the children was very sick when Joe arrived, and the poor mother cried bitterly and did not know what to do.
Joe consoled these people the best he could, told them not to despair. There surely would be some way out of it. To begin with, he bought some of the most necessary things to eat. Before he left them he had made up his mind to quit his job in Victoria and take the two men with him to Seattle, Washington, where he had been told there were a lot of Scandinavians and there would be a good chance to get work. In Victoria it was almost impossible to get anything to do at that time of the year. Joe made ready to leave the next day. Before he left Victoria he brought the poor mother and her children enough food to last for a week or two.
* * * * *
Liberty Bay
Seattle of today is quite different from the small town of Seattle where Joe Pedersen first landed in this country. Seattle is today a big and important city, known all over the earth. Many pioneers from fifty years back are still living, some in the city and others in the vicinity. They all remember and like to talk about the old days when Seattle was a village only, and the country around it a wilderness. They are especially proud of Seattle, for there is a certain relationship between themselves and the great city. The spirit that made Seattle grow and prosper was the same as the urge that the settlers felt in the early days when they went into the virgin forests to build homes, schools, and churches. They were young then. Seattle was young. The state? There was no state yet, but they made a state, one of the best in the Union. It could be done because all those young men had the pioneer spirit in them. II It is now more than a hundred years since the first Norwegian emigrants began moving westward over the seemingly endless prairies of America. Bat not until a half century later did they reach out to the Pacific Ocean. Many of the well known Norwegian settlements around Puget Sound were in their very earliest beginning even as late as 1889. Now it is easy enough to reach the Pacific Ocean, but it was different in the old days when Mr. Mecker drove out west with his team of oxen and marked out the so-called "Oregon Trail."
To Puget Sound in Washington came the Norwegian Iver Moe, driving a pair of horses. All the way from Montana he had been driving, cutting his way through the wild woods, building bridges over rivers, and forcing his way through all kinds of impassable regions. He was the real founder of the town of Poulsbo and the surrounding Norwegian settlement. Puget Sound, in the state of Washington, is a gigantic harbor -- the biggest in the world. It has the appearance of a lake, so well is it protected from the onslaught of the Pacific Ocean. The country around this inland sea is like a little world in itself, hidden in a big forest that stretches hundreds of miles in all directions. And back of the forest, on the west side, stand the Olympics--the majestic mountain ranges--their snow-clad tops seven or eight thousand feet above sea level. And facing them from the east towers the pride of the Pacific, Mount Rainier, fourteen thousand four hundred feet up in the clouds.
Late in the fall of the year 1889 two young men in a rowboat were on their way across Puget Sound, their destination a place called Poulsbo. A few early settlers had already filed on homesteads over there, amongst them Iver Moe and his three sons. Poulsbo lies in the bay back of Bainbridge Island--hidden behind a lot of other bays with points and inlets wherever you turn. Up from the water a seemingly endless green forest covers the hills and ridges. In thousands of years it has stood like that, always green, summer and winter. Like a big, smiling eye, hemmed in on all sides by a green forest, lies Puget Sound, looking up to the blue heaven above. Much has changed since the year 179I, when the English explorer, Sir George Vancouver, came sailing up along the coast of California and Oregon. Back of Cape Flattery on the coast of Washington he found the opening into Puget Sound. Following the shore line to the right, he discovered a beautiful fjord beneath the Olympic Mountains. So beautiful was this fjord that he decided to name it Hood's Canal in honor of the illustrious Lord Hood of England. Sir George Vancouver would feel very sad if he could see the fjord today; it isn't what it used to be.
A wonderful story can be told about Puget Sound and Hood's Canal. In former ages a glacier drift filled the place, making it a dismal desolation that stretched all along the Olympic Mountains. Then, at a later time, the Pacific Ocean broke through the mountain barrier that stood outside, sent its mighty waves in over the land, dug a canal along the Olympics, and made peninsulas, islands, sounds, and bays by the hundreds. Untold thousands of years came and went, the glacier drifts disappeared under a cover of green forests, and Puget Sound lay there, a Garden of Eden, for a long, long time. But a few years ago a band of men came marching under the banner of the almighty dollar; "In God We Trust" was the motto. And the green forest withered and disappeared wherever they marched under that banner of thc almighty dollar. Now the hillsides around Hood's Canal look like a black and deserted battlefield. The two men in the boat rowed with all their might, for they had about twenty miles to row, and the days had begun to shorten. Soon it would be winter again. One of them had been to Poulsbo once before, six months ago, looking around for a piece of land. He had found one hundred and sixty acres that he liked very much, but the land was located a couple of miles back in the woods. Now the time had come to take the land in possession, or he would lose his right to it. When they arrived at Poulsbo Bay and landed, it was already so late that it was risky to take to the woods that day. They made a log fire on the beach, got their coffeepot boiling, ate their supper, and searched for a suitable place to sleep; they found it behind a tree close by. But there was no hurry about going to bed yet. It was such a pleasure to sit by the sparkling log fire on the beach. And as darkness gradually blotted out the contours of the world around them the night came nearer and nearer; she sat close by and offered her gifts to them--dreams about all that is dear to a man.
The two men sitting there on a lonely strand, surrounded by the stillness of the night, felt the spell of the Pacific more than ever. Their thoughts went back to Norway to a dear old mother and a home that could never be forgotten. A mild, soothing breeze was blowing through the night, whispering something about a wonderful future: building new homes in a virgin forest, making a new commonwealth with room enough also for Norwegian homes. Conscious of their new calling, they went to bed with a strange feeling of being on the threshold of a new age.
In the morning they awakened under a high, blue heaven. Right across from them, on the other side, stood a lone little log house. A white smoke went up from the chimney and filled the morning with a homelike feeling of contentment. Torger Jensen was out of bed early today--he had probably been helping someone who was looking for a place to build a home. Not far from Torger's log house stood a little shack built of rough boards. Jensen's log house and this shanty were the first start of a town in Poulsbo, and in the shack lived Adolph Host-mark, the first merchant. On the west side of the bay there were no houses yet. But last night the two families that lived in Poulsbo had been surprised to see a big log fire over there. They guessed that some new settlers had arrived and "the whole town," no doubt, talked about the great future in store for Poulsbo. The two newcomers had no time to spare, and they were eager to start as soon as possible.
The journey through the woods was a risky undertaking even though they had only about two miles to walk. There would be a lot of crawling over big windfalls and through thick underbrush in a forest where there were no marks to show that anyone had ever traveled through there before, and a compass had to be used all the time. Joe Pedersen, one of the two men, had left a Seattle hospital only a short time before and could not yet walk without crutches, but his comrade, Magnus Johnsen, was quite capable of taking Joe on his back and carrying him the two miles through the woods. Magnus was over six feet tall, and his limbs were those of a giant. The load on his back weighed a hundred pounds, but even with this burden he could lift Joe over windfalls, some of them from four to six feet thick. He made openings through the underbrush where Joe could crawl after him. If a stream had to be crossed, Magnus simply took Joe under his arm and carried him over. Slowly but surely they struggled on, nearer and nearer to their destination.
These men were boyhood friends from Norway. They had attended the same school, and they had served their military duties together. Here in America they met again and had been together nearly a year in Seattle. Like brothers they were, these two. They got to Joe's "country place" in the wilderness before dark, and their first job was to make a roof they could crawl under in case of rain. Next day Magnus made two trips to the beach to get the goods they had brought along, and so they started to build a house. They worked both early and late. A big cedar tree near by was cut down and split into boards which they used in turn for floor, roof, and walls. The trees in the forest were so thick that three of the stumps could serve as corner posts for the house, but for the fourth corner a post had to be set up.
After a week's work the house was ready for use, although there were no doors or windows as yet. But the openings were all there and the rest could be put in later. A big cedar slab had to do for the table, and two logs, cut into right lengths, were safe and comfortable to sit on. Then Magnus and Joe rowed back to Seattle. Joe Pedersen had his own house and home now. One hundred and sixty acres of land--a big forest, tall trees towering a hundred and fifty feet or more in the air, and between these trees a big bear here and there. Deer? Yes, there were plenty of them, and an abundance of grouse. But even though Joe now was the proud possessor of all that wealth, he felt lonesome. It is not good for a man to be alone, so he went back to Seattle to wed the girl he liked so well. She had come all the way from Norway and found him in the hospital. Next time there would be three in the rowboat from Seattle to Poulsbo. Magnus had promised to come along once more to carry food supplies, enough to last them through most of the winter, and Joe also needed some help to make a trail from his shanty down to the bay.
When Joe got back to Seattle, he stayed just long enough to get married; then his few belongings were carried down to the rowboat, and the three of them started off for the future home in Poulsbo. When the boatload had been carried up to the hut in the woods, the two friends parted. But Magnus did not go back to Seattle. He went on foot through the wild woods to his own homestead about thirty-four miles south from Joe Pedersen's place. For him, too, a girl was waiting to move in, when he had his little log house built. But,"Noone knows his day before the sun is down," they used to say in Norway. One day Magnus was on his way to a grocery store at the upper end of Hood's Canal, and then an accident occurred. His boat was small and the sail was too big. Out on the fjord a storm rose and his boat turned over. He lay in the water all night and held on to the edge of the overturned craft, drifted several miles, and was finally washed ashore on the opposite side of the fjord, more dead than alive. He crawled on hands and feet to an empty shack on the beach, and there he was found in the morning.
Not far from the place where he drifted ashore there was a logging camp. They carried him to the camp and in a couple of days he was seemingly as strong and well as before. The foreman was very eager to hire the Norwegian giant to work in his logging camp and Magnus accepted the job he was offered. Shortly after Magnus started working in the camp, a big tree was cut down near where he was working; it struck him and he was killed on the spot. Such was the fate ordained for Magnus Johnsen. Joe Pedersen lived to be an old man, but his friend had to die so young and in his best years. The young girl who waited for him to come and take her to a little home in the forest was waiting in vain. It is said, "Whatever happens is best," but it is incomprehensible, altogether. There is so much that we humans cannot possibly understand.
* * * * *
Poulsbo got its name from a place in Norway where Iver Moe had his home. Iver was the first postmaster of Poulsbo, and the first school held in the district was conducted in his home. The schoolmaster was G. W. Clausen, who later became a county official and then state auditor for twenty-seven years. Poulsbo was settled almost exclusively by Norwegians and became the center for the Scandinavian population in the surrounding districts. Poulsbo got three churches and as many preachers. A church was also built in the Norwegian district called Vinland. North of Vinland lay Breidablik (a pagan Norse name for heaven), and to the east were the fertile valleys of Gudbrandsdalen, another district settled by Norwegians. And south from Poulsbo lay Pearson and Scandia--favorite homes for the Swedes. The Lincoln district east of Poulsbo had a special attraction for people from northern Norway, Vinland for people from the middle section, while Breidablik received its share from everywhere.
Iver Moe started as a woodchopper, but ended as the "King of Poulsbo." From his appearance no one would suspect that Iver was a "king." He was modest and the incarnation of simplicity; this may have been the reason that many a smart Yankee was unexpectedly outwitted.
Iver Moe quit his woodcutting business and started logging, on a small scale at first. Gradually his logging operations grew to be quite large, and he made a lot of money. Later he went into the steamship business. He went after the passenger and freight business between Poulsbo and Seattle; he bought and built boats to compete with others that were well established on the run. Iver managed to hold his own; time and again his competitors were bested. The simple-looking farmer from Poulsbo was too sly for them. Iver Moe was deeply interested in religious matters.
He built his own church, and later gave it to the community. He hired his own preacher and gave him his own daughter in marriage.
Together with his son-in-law, the preacher, he built a Norwegian children's home and also an old folks' home. {1} The big white-painted buildings are situated high and can be seen over the whole bay. Iver Moe is dead now, but the church and the homes he built are still there as a monument to his days of labor. The institutions are an inheritance from the Norwegian "King Iver Moe," a man who gave his countrymen not only a church and the two homes, but also helped them gain a standing in the community. Thanks to such men as Iver Moe, the name"Norwegian "soundsgood out here on the coast. Most of the pioneers in the Norwegian districts around Poulsbo were born in Norway, but many had farmed in the Middle West before they came. They were, all of them, in their best years, and had excellent health and plenty of courage, but very little money. The opportunities were about equal for all. Hard work and frugality had to be exercised by those who settled in the forests of Washington to build and live. It took the new settler many years of hard work to get an opening in the deep forest. Giant trees six to eight feet in diameter and a couple of hundred feet high did not fall at the first blow. Many a drop of sweat was left by the men who worked on the clearings and in the fields of Washington.
The young generation that is now growing up cannot possibly understand what a stupendous work the early settlers accomplished. The forest, as it was then, has disappeared. The young growth of trees that has taken the place of the old has no resemblance to that forest. There is a difference, too, between the old and the new generation of men and women. Pioneer days have passed and will never return. And the great forests of Washington are a thing of the past. Sickly and pale the new time appears, compared with the old. Pioneer times, a beautiful dream, ended for many a pioneer like a nightmare, a bad night with cheerless visions. Many a house that was meant to be a Norwegian home for Norwegian descendants now stands with empty windows and a forlorn grin, looking at the passing transient. Like old ghosts, such houses stand there by the roadside and tell their sad story about an old pioneer who finally died. None of the children would have the old home; they all left for the city. The deserted farm became at last a ruin and was sold to the county for unpaid taxes. Ferns, weeds, and brush now spread lustily over many a field that once was looked after with painstaking care by the pioneer who worked early and late to make these fields out of a wilderness.
But nobody cares. Why should they? Farming on such land does not pay, they say.
He was a fool to go to all that trouble. This they say because they have never felt the pioneer spirit and do not know the meaning of it. The tools the pioneer brought along when he went into the forest were few and simple: a saw, an ax, a spade, and a hoe were some of the most needed. As a gift from home in Norway the pioneer had a pair of hands that could hold, and an arm that could swing an ax or draw a seven- to nine-foot saw. He had a back, too, that could endure a whole day of digging out the tremendous big pine roots--a back on which for years load after load could be borne for miles through the woods. Good health and an unflinching will were the only capital the pioneers had when they started out, and most of them did well with this equipment. After a while there was a clearing around the cabin, and little by little, the clearing grew bigger and bigger. Trees fell one after the other, until it looked like a battlefield around them.
The trees that were felled had to be sawed into short lengths so the timber could be rolled together and burned. The timber that could be moved was rolled in towards the big trees that could not be moved, and the big piles were made that way. After a while the opening around the house was big enough to let in a gleam of the blue heaven above, and one day a bright sun smiled down on the busy new settler.
Every night he went out to look at his day's work, because it was such a great satisfaction to him. It inspired him to see thousands of bright eyes looking at him from above; it was plain that they winked and blinked at him. But the greatest pleasure of all was that first night the moon came on a short visit. The moon in all his splendor was sitting in a white sky and beginning to penetrate everything, throwing his light in between the nearest trees and away to the edge of the woods on the other side. The poor new settler had the most wonderful time of all his life, something he always remembered. All the trees around that little clearing seemed to step forward in all their grace, garbed in white moonbeams. So beautiful the moon had never appeared to these tall trees since they were very young, and it seemed as if they all stood there in holy communion with a heaven come down to earth. All at once the opening in the forest appeared like a big church in which all the trees came forth to pray their "Ave Maria." Johannes was only a common worker, but that night he felt himself one with all nature.
Johannes and his little world back there amongst the big trees were in a moment transformed to a center around which all worlds stood in quiet devotion and worshipped the great unknown God. The quiet moonlit night seemed to breathe. There is a universal life that animates all creation. And there is a heavenly symphony that sounds through all space--an everlasting hymn resounding through all eternity. None of the pioneers had time to feel any loneliness. People who live out in God's free nature have companionship enough.
One evening at dusk an eagle sailed over the clearing on his broad wings. High above the treetops he moved, using his wings with grace and great decorum, disappearing on the other side. but soon returning, making a circuit over the whole opening so as better to study everything out. Here, to be sure, was a human being who was working over among the trees. As far back as he could remember, this was the first time a human being had been seen so far into the woods hereabouts. But Johannes paid no attention to the lone sailor; he went inside to eat his evening meal and take a needed rest. But after a while he went out again, walked around in the clearing and felt happy, thinking of this place changing into a green field, protected with a newly-made fence and a gate in front of his house, the home of his dreams. Yes, he was getting along quite well. He had really made better headway than could have been expected. Soon he would have to build a barn and a stable. There would, after a while, be a horse and a cow to take care of. He could see it plainly before his eyes: green fields and meadows, a white dwelling house, a red barn, and a stable. He could also hear the sounds of cowbells from down the pasture, a great commotion in the chicken house because a hen had delivered an egg, and, just think of it--a baby's voice in his home.
Johannes was walking around the big piles of timber he had stacked together during the day. Why not start fires all over the clearing, right now--it always burned best at night, and it was such a joy to walk among the burning piles and look at all these fires. He went in for matches, and one pile after another was lit. The flames soared high up in the air everywhere, sparks flew up and then dropped like a rain of living things in great confusion. It crashed and crackled. There were falls and detonations. The quiet evening was suddenly filled with a hidden life from an invisible world, hidden powers were loosed to do their work, to lay in ashes that which it had taken ages to produce, to change green, living forest into a heap of destruction. Yes, he had help now, lots of help that night--an invisible army of elements worked for him. Where did they come from? Were they serving the good or the bad forces? Were they servants of life, or did they take their bidding from death? Who can tell? Life and death are serving the same God.
Johannes felt sure that a day was coming when green grass would be growing over the ash heap that was left after the fire's destruction. From the big blazes over the clearing the fire rose high in the air-- life and death were at play -- a shower of sparks flew out, scintillated in the darkness, and finally disappeared--changed into another form of existence. Such is also the riddle of the human soul that leaves the physical body. The burning of log piles at night is a memory that the old pioneers never forget.
Most of them found a particular joy and satisfaction in looking into the fire. They could stand thus in self-forgetfulness a long time with an unconscious feeling of a relationship with something inconceivable--their own selves. A man's soul is something that never can be seen: it is a breath from God. In a burning fire can be found an answer to the question of life and death and also of the bottomless mystery we call God. A flame of fire can nourish and destroy at the same time. Over a smoldering heap of ashes the flames flicker to and fro. So is a man's life, and hand in hand life and death unite over a man's grave. Unwillingly the settler tore himself loose from the enchantment of the fire. Looking at the fire gave him self-forgetfulness and a wonderful peace of mind, and rest for both soul and body. The enchantment that draws one-- the fathomless, mysterious world that surrounds the blazing fire in the pioneer's clearing--is something that is entirely foreign to most of the present generation.
* * * * *
For three solid years Johan Lovseth carried big loads on his back. It took that long before he had enough of a road over those two or three miles up from the bay to get through the forest with a horse. He carried everything, mainly food, but also other supplies that had to be transported in the same way. As the opening in the woods got bigger and the field began to turn green, plans were in the making for a new house. Every time Lovseth went over to Seattle to get a few days' work, to earn money for some flour, sugar, coffee, and other necessities, he was dreaming about the new house. Already it stood before his eyes, big and handsome, white and shining. Like a little castle it even had a small tower, a balcony, and all that goes with it. Every time he went to the city he brought some building materials home with him, all that the boat could carry.
His money was all spent, but he rowed to his landing place in good spirits. Happy and contented, he carried load after load up to his clearing in the forest. It got to be many a heavy load; he carried so much that his back was sore and every joint and limb in his body ached. But always the vision of a new house stood there before him, and steadily he trudged along with his load. He had his consolation; for every load that he got home, there was one less left on the beach, and it helped wonderfully to bear that in mind. The days passed and got to be years, but still Johan Lovseth was carrying his heavy loads up from the bay. He was still young, and he had time before him.
Youth's greatest blessing is hope--green as a promising spring--and such a hope Johan had in full measure. If it happens that a "smart" businessman reads this, he will, no doubt, say: "That poor Lovseth could not have been quite right in his upper story if he kept on for years carrying building materials for a house that was simply nothing but air. How could he expect that it would pay to build a mansion so far back in the woods where he never could expect to get any income from it?" But for Johan it looked entirely different; to him it was a profitable business that he had never been sorry for. He had never been so happy as in those years when he carried building materials to his house. At last, after three years, the road was such that a horse or a cow could get through on it. Johan felt very happy on the day he came home with his first cow.
It was a great event. A new chapter in his pioneer saga had been started. He had advanced to a new milepost on his way. He felt as if he were going to a feast when he came into the house with the first pail of milk in his hand. One day, not long after the cow was brought home, he rowed over to Seattle to bargain for a horse. He happened to find what he wanted, but he had to part with his last dollar to make a full payment for the horse. He hoped, however, that the captain on the little steamer between Seattle and Poulsbo would be charitable enough to take the horse over and wait a short time for his pay. But the captain was sorry, he could not do it--it wasn't his way of doing business, he said. The poor settler was sorry too, but it did not help him very much.
Early the next morning Johan Lovseth was on his way to Poulsbo with the horse. He had been working all night, making a raft out of drift logs on a beach near Seattle. It was lucky that he had enough change to buy spikes for fastening the planks and making a substantial railing around the horse. It was quite a risk to tackle the job of transporting a horse on a timber float across the sound, with only a little rowboat to do the towing. But Johan took the chance and started out in good shape about five o'clock in the morning. The tide was right and the weather was good. Everything went nicely until he was halfway across the sound. Then a storm rose up with a heavy swell that nearly set the float on end. The horse tumbled over several times, but luckily the railing held and saved it from being washed off. And Johan was rowing for dear life.
It seemed doubtful that he could reach ]and on the other side, for he was drifting more and more towards the ocean on the lee side. It was a great question how long the little boat could be held afloat.
The weather was not improving, and a long night was coming on. What could be done? Nothing, only to row. And Johan did row. Rowed until it blackened before his eyes. The day finally took an end, and night came. The horse was still on the float, but more under than above water, and the man in the boat rowed as before, trying to hold the boat into the wind as much as possible. After a while the horse on the float and the man in the boat were swallowed up in the storm and the black night. In the evening of the next day Johan Lovseth landed on the west side of the bay in Poulsbo. He got the horse ashore and walked home, leading the horse after him. He was dead tired, and he could just barely reach home. But now he had a cow and a horse on the place, and he had started on the foundation for a new house. About this time a new family had arrived from Norway: Syver and Maren Bjrknes. They had sold their farm and came here looking for a place where they could make a new home. So they called on Johannes and acquaintances from Norway to learn about land and conditions out here. Taking their friends' advice, they bought a piece of land in the Vinland district, a waterfront property on the east side of Hood's Canal. Syver liked the place very much. In many ways it looked like Norway, and he could go on fishing as he had done in the old country.
Indeed, it was a lovely place down there where Syver and Maren had their new home. Across the fjord towered the Olympic Mountains in all their splendor. Green forests clothed the mountain sides high up to the snow-clad tops. Mountains were bathed in glorious sunlight every morning and smilingly reflected it back across the water to the newcomers from Norway. But Maren could not see the beauty of it; she could not feel herself at home in the new surroundings. "But don't you think it is pretty here?" they asked her. "And these mountains, aren't they big and lovely?" they said. "Yes, everything is big here, mountains, forests, everything is big--too big," said March.
Poor Maren! She was unable to think about anything except Norway. One day Syver came home and found her crying. Why did she cry? "Oh! I will never be able to feel happy here. I see nothing here that makes me glad, nothing that I am related to. The forest stands all around me, tall and dark, and utters nothing that I can understand. The mountains over there on the other side are all so strange and haughty, and they do not seem to care about a poor thing like me. Every tree and every rock in Norway was dear to me, and it all seemed so near. The old fjord that sometimes smiled into my little home and at other times went by in a great fury always talked to me, and I understood him so well. My God! How will this end at last?" she sobbed.
Syver did not know what to do, but tried to comfort her the best he could: "Try to forget Norway, March. It will be better by and by. Everything will look different when you have been here a while. You will see!" But it did not get any better. In the winter, shortly before Christmas, Maren took sick and had to go to bed. She never got well again. The sickness turned out to be galloping consumption; it was only a few days before death came. Maren was gone, and Syver's home on Hood's Canal became an empty and desolate place without Maren. Syver was left alone with a flock of motherless children, the youngest only two years old. Their mother was dressed in pretty white linen, made in Norway, and she held an old Norwegian hymnbook in her hands.
Around the coffin stood a few serious-looking men. They had come from scattered homes in the woods. Syver sat with his little two-year-old boy on his knees; the others were bunched by the door, crying. When the lid was to be nailed down, one of the little girls was so overcome by sorrow and grief that she tried to get hold of the hammer. In a frenzy she called for her mother to come back. It took some time before the father could quiet the little one.
Before they carried out the dead they lighted a candle and placed it on the coffin. Then a verse from the hymnal was sung and one of the men folded his hands and said the Lord's Prayer. They carried the dead five miles to the cemetery at Poulsbo. There was no road through the woods yet. As a rule there is very little snow on the Pacific coast. But the winter that Maren died there was much, and it was a hard task to carry the body five miles in the snow and bad weather through trackless forest. Maren's funeral cast a black shadow over that early period of the pioneer time in Vinland. Those who still live and remember will not easily forget that funeral. A few men carrying a black coffin between them lifted the dead body with care over windfalls and barriers of all kinds. Very little was said. The few words spoken were uttered in a hushed voice. The seriousness of the occasion was keenly felt by all of them. One of their own, the first, one that had died a victim of homesickness -- a sickness that in some cases is incurable--was not with them any more.
On a high hill overlooking the bay of Poulsbo and the surrounding country stands the Norwegian Lutheran Church. Around it the old pioneers of Poulsbo and vicinity are laid to rest. There, too, is the dust that is left of March, although her grave cannot be found. But it does not matter so very much: a little girl, March, named after her great-grandmother--and there are other girls like her--is the link that binds the past and the future together. Such girls also bind together the old homes in Norway and the new homes in America and make one nation out of two. A great commonwealth is forming here in America. People of every tongue, religion, and race are getting more and more conscious of being one. All of them came here with their different ideals and aspirations. And they brought with them their tribal memories from a thousand years back. It is all these memories that the different nations brought with them which, put together, have made America what it is today. A man named Hans Jensen lived in a small log cabin not far from Johannes. Hans and Marie were poor, like all the other new settlers. But Jensen was a hustler and made regular trips to Seattle in his rowboat to get a few days' work when the food supply ran low. One night, shortly before Christmas, he was on his way home. He had worked in Seattle long enough to buy some food, also gifts and small trinkets of different kinds to be hung on the Christmas tree. His oldest boy was with him, and both of them were in high spirits, thinking and talking about Christmas and what a good time they would have. But all at once they were in the grip of a heavy gale that capsized their frail craft. Hans got the boy tied fast to the boat, and there they lay in the water all night, crying for help. In the morning they were discovered by the lighthouse tender, a mile or two away.
In a few days Jensen was able to work again, and a new supply was bought for Christmas. But there had been tears and black fear in Jensen's home because nothing had been heard from Seattle and the two were expected home a long time ago. Christmas Eve was at hand. Johannes did his best to console Marie, but without avail. Then, in the dusk of the evening, two well-known voices were heard in the far end of the clearing. Father and son, both heavily loaded, came home. They had had a close call, and it was not the only one. Both Hans and Marie Jensen are dead now. Hans died comparatively young. Marie lived long enough to be a victim of the new craze, the automobile; she was run over and died soon after. "Jim"--Jens Hansen -- came to Vinland a few years later and took up a homestead between Hans Jensen's and the bay. Jim was a sailor and unmarried.
He built himself a small-sized schooner and started out halibut fishing all alone. In a storm he was driven so far out to sea that it took him over a week to reach the coast again. He was, of course, given up as lost, and great was the astonishment when one day he came sailing into the bay of Poulsbo. Clearing land on his homestead was something Jim did not enjoy very much, so before long he started out again. This time it was nothing less than a trip to South America he had planned. He took building materials with him from his homestead, all his boat could carry, said good-by to his neighbors, and started off. His little schooner was found capsized outside the coast of California. Jim had lost his life in quest of adventure.
* * * * *
More and more settlers arrived in the Norwegian settlements around Poulsbo, and the town began to grow. Right in the center of town a man by the name of Paul Vahl built a big shack in which to keep his oxen. He was one of the first to start logging in the vicinity of Poulsbo. Nothing but oxen were used at first for dragging out thc timber. They were big animals and very strong. Iver Moe, who had his logging camp north of Poulsbo, used oxen at first too, but he never drove them himself. John Nelson was the first to use horses; his camp was east of the town. West of the bay, along Hood's Canal, was Johan Lovseth's territory for logging. But he never used oxen. The horse he brought over from Seattle on the raft was not worth much in a logging camp and so he went to Seattle again. This time he bought three pair of big draft horses, and they were shipped to Poulsbo on a steamer instead of a raft.
There is one more of the old-time loggers who must be mentioned, Ole Thompsen, who had his camp in the Breidablik district. He used oxen longer than anybody else. Now they do not use oxen in the logging camps any more, nor horses either. They have constructed railroads on which to haul out the timber.
Long rows of railroad cars run in an everlasting stream, loaded with Washington's greatest pride, the Douglas pine. The great forest will soon be a thing of the past. Even the remembrance of it will gradually fade away. A great slaughter has always been committed in these forests. It started on a small scale when the first settlers began to make their clearings in the woods. They went in there to build homes. It couldn't be helped, a lot of pine trees had to be destroyed--burnt to ashes. Then, some time later, came Paul Vahl, Iver Moe, John Nelson, Ole Thompsen, and Johan Lovseth with their little logging outfits and offered to make use of at least a part of those fine trees. The "fallers" were sent into the forest to pick out the finest trees. By using "springboards"they could climb up ten feet or more to do their cutting and sawing. And when the tree was felled, the lower part (the so-called "long butt ") was sawed off to be left in the woods to rot. Then they measured off a log or two in the middle of the tree to be hauled out and sold. Why couldn't they take the whole tree as they do now? Because the mills would not buy anything except the very best.

But willful waste and destruction always brings its own heavy punishment. Like a furious avenging angel, an unextinguishable fire came raging through the woods, running up the tall trees, marking them to die in a year, or whenever he should choose to come back. He circled around to every one of the new settlers, threw sparks over the small log houses, snarling and glaring through the windows, and filling all hearts with a deadly fear.
When he was gone, the beautiful green forest stood there black and forlorn. The destruction in the early days was bad, but there was something to offset the loss. All the small logging camps, taken as a whole, gave work to a lot of men, and the biggest part of these men were home builders. Now the destruction of the forest is of a different kind. It is a wholesale destruction, a grab of enormous values which mostly go into the hands of a few. The monster machines that now are used do not help to build new homes in Washington. From an old pioneer's way of looking at it the new age has many serious aspects. Although Johannes is now an old man, he is nevertheless very much interested in the wonderful new era we are living in. He has managed to keep his mind young, and he is a born optimist who believes that the evolutionary forces will gradually bring us nearer and nearer to our goal. But he is also well aware of the destructive forces at work. His pioneer life in a green, virgin forest out on the Pacific coast will always be remembered as lucky days. In the quietness of such a forest a man can commune with nature's great God, find his inmost self, and save the soul from being lost in the flitting shadows of unreality. Johannes has some dear memories of a neighborhood of good and true friends, always helpful and kind to each other.
Life was rather hard at times. He remembers two of his nearest neighbors who were brought home dead from logging camps where they had been working. A tree had been felled over one of them, the other got under a rolling log. Lone widows with many children were left in both homes.
At times there was very little food left, but no one starved. People helped each other as best they could. More and more men came looking for land.
To get a home was uppermost in everybody's thoughts in those days. It was a busy life all through the settlement--no one was idle. There was plenty to do, and work had not yet become a curse. New homes were built all through the woods. Home fires were kindled and smoke from a new chimney gave a friendly greeting wherever you went. There were children's voices, shouting, and laughter. The outposts of a new generation had arrived, and there was need of a schoolhouse. The neighbors went, all as one, to build it. A little later they also went together and built a church.
Time came and went its way, but the Norwegian settlements around Poulsbo were there to stay. The new settlers lived their life as usual. Neighbors met and took their time to have a friendly chat with each other. Quite often they had small gatherings, feasts, and celebrations of different kinds. It also happened that a wandering divine came to preach the gospel here and there in the settlement. People's customs and behavior were about the same as in Norway--no better, no worse. There were some church people who pretended to be very good, and there was a great majority of half and half-- not so very bad and not infallibly good. They went to gospel meetings and occasionally to a dance.
Now and then they might even happen to take a glass too much, which made them feel a little too happy. But taken as a whole, they were a good lot of people.
* * * * *
In Poulsbo's pioneer history there is a day that stands out gloriously beyond all other days--the day of May the seventeenth. For men of Norwegian descent, no matter where they may be here on earth, the Seventeenth of May comes to them with memories that are dear. It is Norway's day--symbol of the old home and of all that is nearest to their hearts: father and mother, sisters and brothers--and of the place itself, small and inconsequential as it may be, but a home just the same.
The Seventeenth of May is also a memory of Norway in the springtime, a spring that nowhere can be compared with the one Norway has.

One year it was decided that Seattle and the Norwegian settlements around Puget Sound should celebrate the Seventeenth of May festival in Poulsbo, since the place was reputed to have the most numerous Norse population on Puget Sound. The Seventeenth of May that year turned out to be a grand day for Poulsbo, a day that those who were lucky enough to be there will never forget. It was as if all Norway had moved out to the Pacific coast. Poulsbo bay was filled with steamboats, sailboats, rowboats, and all kinds of other craft. People came overland through forests, over poor roads. They came also where there were no roads, they came in such a force that it was amazing to behold. It was like a revelation. Nobody had dreamed there were so many. What a loss it must have been for a small country like Norway to send away so many of her best men and women! There were over seven thousand of them in Poulsbo that day.