THE EVENSON FAMILY
In a small rural cemetery a few miles north, and slightly west of the town of Pukwana, South Dakota are the graves of Ole Evenson and his wife Alis Simensdatter. The graves are marked by a tombstone for Ole but there is nothing for Alis. However, we know she is buried there from a news item in the Hyde County Press of the 23rd of December, 1899.
Ole and Alis are our first ancestors in America. Ole arrived in 1871 and Alis, with their five eldest
children, came in the following year, 1872.
Ole was born in the Ostre Toten parish of Oppland Fylke on the 13th of October, 1835. Oppland fylke is located in southern Norway, and is one of two fylke in Norway that does not border on the sea (the other being Hedmark). This inland fylke contains large mountain regions. In fact, 80% of the county lies 1,968 feet or more above sea level. There are more than 200 mountains in Oppland that are more than 6,562 feet high, including two of Northern Europe's tallest mountains Galdhøpiggen (8,100 feet) and Glitretind (8,041 feet). Ole's father, Even Olsen, had come to Toten in 1832 for Hurdahl. His mother was Ingeborg Thoresdatter who came from Sor Aurdal to the same parish in the same year. They were married in the Ostre Toten church on the 16th of July, 1832.
Alis was born in the Stange parish of Hedmark Fylke (county) on the 31st of December, 1834. Her parents, Simen Svendsen and Helena Hansdatter, were both from the Stange parish and had been married there on the 16th of August, 1834. These parishes are both on the shores of Lake Mjosa, the largest inland lake in Norway, Ostre Toten being on the west side and Stange being on the east side. The areas are approximately 100 miles north of Oslo and are very good farming areas of Norway.
We do not know when Ole went across the lake and met Alis. We know they were married in the Stange church on the 11th of November, 1859. Here at the Prestejeld (the church farm) Even was born. From here they moved to Elverum to the northeast and their second child, Severin, was born in 1862.
By 1864 when John, their third child was born, they had moved to Kjolen near the city of Flisa in the eastern region of Hedmark. This, like Elverum, in on the Glomma River, and a prominent lumbering area. It had extensive logging and saw-mill operations. In an 1865 cednsus, Ole is shown at “keiserudbraaten” and the owner of his home. He is listed as a “tommerman”, which apparently meant that he had done well for himself and was perhaps a foreman at a mill, and thus could afford to build his own home. The census also showed that they owned two cows and four sheep.
The family belonged to the Aasnes parish of Solor and here also their two daughters, Helen and Amelia, were born.
In the late 1860’s, times became difficult in Norway and many were leaving for America. Ole perhaps arranged to sell his home. He left for the United States on May 19th, 1871, aboard the ship “Oder”, bound for Austin, Minnesota. With him was a Peter Olson from the same area, also bound for Austin.
A year later on the 6th of June, 1872, Alis and their five children left Christiania (now Oslo) on the ship “Ganger Rolf”. With her from the Aasnes parish were Pernille Olsdatter and her three small children. Both families were bound for Albert Lea, MN. In records of passenger ship arrivals at New York, they landed in American on the 1st of July from the steamship “St. Olaf”. This would indicate that they changed ships after leaving Christiania, possibly at Bergen on the west coast of Norway.
After Alis and the children arrived, we know they settled on land in Norway Township, Winnebago
County, Iowa near the town of Lake Mills. For a period of 12 years, they resided in Iowa, and here the last four of the children were born. We know the parents and older children were active in the community. Even, the eldest son, was married here and their first grandchild, Amanda, was born here.
In 1883, Ole, together with four other Norwegians went to Buffalo County, Dakota Territory, to seek homestead land. This Dokat area was just being platted and many people were moving into that section of the country. The township of Arlington, particularly along Elm Creek, became a place where many Norwegian pioneers settled. Ole took a 160 acre homestead claim and a 160 acre timber culture claim. These lands were adjacent so this made a fine farm unit. The family came to this homestead on April 1, 1884.