From Hellik Olsen Lehovd
Salem, Olmsted Co., Minnesota
December 27 1869
To Ole Helgesen and Jøran Pålsdatter Lehovd, Flesberg, Buskerud
Salem Olmsted County Minnesota December 27 1869
Dear Parents and Siblings,
It has now been one whole year since I last wrote to you so I must sit down today in order to write you a few lines so that you may hear how I and my family are living now for the time being, then I myself know that it is welcoming to you to be able to hear from your faraway son and brother, but first I must say to you thank you for your letter that is in my hands, that first came to me January 31st addressed to Ole my brother and then another one from Knud on June 22, and also from Knud I have seen a letter from you to Ole in October where I found out that you were all doing well, which is to me very gratifying to be able to hear from home, for which I must say to you thank you for all the information and news in your letter since it is very gratifying to me to read your letter and now, certainly, Knud has become such a distinguished writer. Please accept my apologies because I have delayed for so long before I have written to you again since no appreciable changes are happening here with us.
First, I must say to you that I and my family for the time being are tolerably well and healthy. At the end of last April, I and my children lay sick for eight days from measles or what we call “Krilla” but since then we have been healthy except my wife [Britha] has complained this summer of weakness in her chest, but not so bad that she can’t do her housework. And our family now stands at four children, which are two sons and two daughters and the youngest was born February 6 of last year and was named Bertea and she is growing and becoming strong and is beginning in these last few days to walk; and as far as the year has gone, we had an especially good year, particularly of wheat and oats and barley but the Indian corn didn’t harvest as well, and neither did the potatoes, for a large part of the crop is still in the ground, for we had a great deal of rain especially in the last part of the summer. This year, I raised 766 bushels of wheat or 19 ½ “tønne” and of oats, 248 bushels, in addition to Indian corn and a few potatoes, but the price of wheat has been poor for us this fall when an enormous amount of it is raised in almost all of the United States, so farmers don’t make very much progress as you might think, especially for those that must hire help at a time when the wages have been very high. Last summer, we had to pay 1¼ dollars per day for cutting hay, 3-3½ dollars a day during harvest or when the wheat is ready or 50 dollars for one month and 1 dollar for the day during threshing so I hired for over 100 dollars until I got my wheat gathered in shocks and then I paid 56 dollars up front for threshing with 8 men to help with the work that lasted three days. And the price of wheat has now been ½ dollar per bushel and a bushel of wheat has to weigh 60 pounds and oats 32 pounds and now oats cost 30 cents per bushel, 1 dollar is 100 cents. This summer I traded 2 pair of oxen for a pair of large black horses that cost me almost 300 dollars and I also have 4 cows and two heifers that also shall calve in the spring and I have 3 calves, 5 sheep, 1 pig. There are hard money times here because of the low wheat price and because of the high wages because all of the unemployed and idle people who don’t have land go farther west to take possession of land following the Homestead Act.
I don’t have any news of importance to write as I have not known any of your acquaintances to have married except widow Maret Gjerde is married again to Jul Hommelia and Beret Olsdatter Tæxle and Bol Bagli are dead. Many emigrated from Flesberg this year but the only one I have talked to is Gunder Fugleli who is staying with Hellik Waagtvet and recently Gullik Skartum has come here from Wisconsin and he is now staying with Ole Lia and Ole Olson Rønigsdalen is still at Ole Lia’s for the most part. At the end of last May, Paul, our brother, was home for two weeks and visited us. He was healthy and agile and he is just a little bit lame in one foot; and he has again gathered together a good deal of money that he loaned out here. I believe it was about 200 dollars. But then he went back to the so-called Wisconsin’s Pinery in the northern part of the state which is several hundred miles in area and is covered with pine forests and he hires himself out to work together with Chompagni where he works until next May for 26 dollars a month and I have received letters from him that he is doing well. And likewise Ole our brother and his family are doing well as far as I know, since I haven’t spoken with him for three weeks because we live about 1 Norwegian mile from each other; at the end of last November two young men went from here back to Norway to visit, one of them being Hede Andersen, son of school teacher Anderson, at Kongsberg, and the other, Tallof Bever [Tollef Bæver], directly above Kongsberg and he owns the farm in the area of Ole my brother and if you meet either of them you can be content to hear from our settlement or county and presumably many shall be traveling companions with them when they come back again in the spring.
I must tell you that we have two churches under construction in our congregation and the head church is here by the parsonage which is near me and daily I can see how it progresses. Church services can be held in both summer and winter. And the third church is not that far from me but it belongs to the Elling Eielsen’s denomination or Hauge or it is described as the Augusta Synod. Our Lutheran minister belongs to the so-called Wisconsin Synod [also the Norwegian Synod]. In July our minister [Lauritz] Sten [Steen] moved to a congregation [Harrison] 200 English miles west of here and in September we got a new minister whose name is H. I. [must be Jorgen Andreas] Thorsen. He was born in Christiansand diocese, studied many years in Norway, was teacher at a high school in Christiania and after 2 years studied at the university in St. Louis where he got his degree this summer and he is an exceedingly capable minister. I must now not forget to say thank you very much to Knud, my brother, for your photograph that you sent me. We have thought about taking a photograph this summer of all of our children to send to you and it would be desirable to have a photograph of my parents and sister that I would gladly pay 5 dollars because it would be a dear reminder of one or another of you before your death; and what the prices are on all kinds of merchant wares, for example, our clothes and especially cotton fabric, the price has fallen considerably, but still is not as cheap as it was before the war broke out. But coffee and tea and tobacco and liquor are very expensive since the tariff is so high on those things, and likewise all kinds of tillage equipment, for example, a plow costs 24 dollars, a harrow 15-20 dollars, 1 wagon 100 dollars, a mower 150-240 dollars, a winnowing machine 35 dollars and all kinds of other equipment needed.
So now I must end my simple and unsophisticated letter for this time, but I must also greet you from all at Washovd where they are all doing well since I recently received quite a letter from them. But I also must send to all acquaintances and friends in Norway a friendly greeting, but first and last to you dear father and mother, sister and brother, greetings from me and my family and wishing these lines may find you healthy and sound and that all is going well with regard to both body and soul, and so I must wish you all a happy new year from your eternally devoted son and brother.
Hellik Olsen Lehøvd
Up until now we have not had any strong winter weather and we only have 2-3 inches of snow but the hardest of the winter comes to this country in the months of January and February and sometimes in March with its cold wind and driving snow.
to Ole Helgesen Lehøvd
Write to me when you get the chance to do it.
A letter from Volume 3 of Fra Amerika til Norge: Norske utvandrerbrev 1869-1874, edited by Orm Øverland & Steinar Kjærheim, published by Solum Forlag, Oslo 1992.
English translation by Julie Dragvold copyright 2009.