What did Stine Johanne Andreasdatter bring in her trunk?

Daughters of Norway host movie event on a girl traveling to America

The original trunk that she brought alongside her from Norway is still in the family.

It was August 1881 and Stine Johanne Andreasdatter was preparing to leave Amot, Norway for America. She was 17 years old. Her mother’s sister Maren, had previously sailed to America in 1867, and met her future husband, Amund Sonstegard, on the voyage. Amund and Maren homesteaded in Burbank Township, Kandiyohi County, Minn.

In the fall of 1881 she would soon to give birth to her seventh child. The sisters had shared many letters over the years of their families and life in America. It was decided they would arrange passage for Stine to come help out with the children as a “piege” or servant girl. It was a difficult decision for Stine’s parents, as her mother, Helene, was soon to give birth to her ninth child. There must have been doubt that entered her heart, as Stine was her first born. There was likelihood she may never see her family again, or her homeland. Yet, the opportunity for a better life was one she could not deny for her daughter.

Stine would sail from Norway to Hull, England on a small feeder ship, then transfer to a larger ship called the “Rollo” that would take several weeks at sea sailing to New York. From there she would travel by land to her final destination, which was written on her trunk: “Atvater, Sonstegard, Georgeville, Minnesota Amerika”.

For Stine and most immigrants, it was difficult to know what to bring with them to America. She would travel mostly with other rural families that were making their way to claim land and to start a new life in America. It was suggested to bring good shoes, as they didn’t think they made very sturdy shoes in America, along with warm wool and clothing, carding combs, knitting needles, and spinning wheels. She had to pack enough food to last the long voyage. Her mother gave her precious items to pack, the family photos for her sister and a Bible for Stine to read each night. She had to pack carefully, as there wasn’t much space to carry all her things in one trunk.

The excitement of planning the trip and going to America must have been overwhelming. It was very hard to leave home, and she knew she may never see her parents, siblings or homeland again. There were fears such as not speaking the language, running out of food and money, or not making it to her destination. It was a lot to overcome.

After a long journey, Stine did arrive safely to her Aunt’s farm in Minnesota, and began life in America. Letters were the only way she had to stay connected to her family back in Norway.

Her mother wrote a very special letter to her on Feb. 13, 1883, after she had been in America for a year and a half. It said that she and her father were very happy to hear she was doing well in America.

“We are often with you in spirit, as you can imagine. Your auntie writes that you have been hard working and kind. She tells us she thinks you may be getting married soon. Remember your beauty should be found in your meek and quiet spirit,” the letter said.

It continued, “Pray that the Lord will give us his grace and unite us in his love after this life when no more commotion is taking place. It really is amazing Stine, that the Lord’s plans are invisible. We might be able to come to America and see you, and speak with you before we die! When I receive your letters, it feels like speaking to you for a long time, and when I write, it feels like you are at home. I remember so well when you walked down the trail, leaving your home. I will never forget it, but I hope the Lord had planned that wandering for you.

“I remember something happened when you were two years old. One day while you were sitting on the floor playing, a Gypsy lady came in. She went to you and looked you in the face and told me that this girl would travel far and come to great fortunes in the world. I laughed and answered that this girl’s fortune would most likely be serfdom. The memory has come back to me since you left for America.”

Stine was married in May 1883, to Jacob Thompson and attended the Crow River Church in Georgeville, Minn. She had 13 children in Minnesota and she and her family moved to homestead in Williams County, Alamo, North Dakota in 1910. Here she lived out her days, and is buried in the Opdahl Cemetery near Alamo. All but one of her siblings came to America and settled mostly in the Midwest. Her dear mother, Helene, died shortly after giving birth in 1883. Her father remarried and had four more children.

There is one thing that Stine brought with her in her trunk that did not take up any room at all. She passed it on to her family with joy. It is still being used today. If you want to find out what it was, the Daughters of Norway invite anyone interested to attend their meeting on Sunday, Sept. 16, at 1:30 p.m. at the Minot Public Library.

They will view a short DVD about a young Norwegian girl packing her trunk to leave for America. Refreshments will be served.

RSVP by calling Sue at 838-5710 or by sending an email to norskjill@gmail.com.

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