A Norwegian Family Comes to Burnett County

The story of how the Liva Arneson/Anderson family arrived in Grantsburg

Donated by Karen Kelsey

 (see also Norwegian Naming Patterns Explained below)

On May 15, 1862 a sailing ship, The Sleipner, left the port of Bergen, Norway, and sailed directly into the Port of Chicago.  This vessel was owned by a Norwegian merchant, Gottlieb Thomsen, who exported herring and mackerel to the United States.  The Sleipner was small, and it was rigged as a brigantine.  Captain Hans Waage was its master; he followed a northerly route, entering the St. Lawrence River and sailing south toward Lake Ontario.  As this vessel sailed past Quebec, the consul there reported the following: “The ship proceeded from here without landing passengers or cargo.”  The Sleipner was one of the first European ships to sail through the canals and into the Great Lakes, so its arrival in Chicago on August 2, 1862 caused quite a sensation.  It departed for Norway again on September 6th, fully loaded with different types of merchandise – corn, flour, pork, sugar, salted ham, butter, and refined crude oil.  It also brought the first petroleum lamps to Bergen, and the trip was deemed very profitable!  (on-line source: http://www.norwayheritage.com/p_ship.asp?sh=sleia)

The Sleipner sailed directly into Chicago by using the Welland Canal and locks to bypass Niagara Falls.  The canal had been built by a private company in the 1820s, during the great era of canal building, to connect Lake Ontario with Lake Erie.  In the 1840s the government of Canada bought the canal, and then invested in its improvement by widening it to 8.1 meters, increasing its depth to 3 meters, and reducing the number of locks to 27.  It paralleled the Niagara River, and was located on the Canadian side (west side) of the falls.  After passing through the Welland, the Sleipner sailed west toward Detroit, entering Lake Huron via the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River.  Then it traveled north through Lake Huron, and entered Lake Michigan via the Straits of Mackinac.  The trip took slightly over 11 weeks.

How does this story relate to Burnett County, Wisconsin?  The Sleipner also carried passengers, and one of those families settled in Grantsburg, Wisconsin.  Liva Arnesdotter and her husband, Arne Pederson Brudem, along with their seven children, boarded the Sleipner in Bergen, intending to make a new life in America.  Unfortunately, the voyage was a sad one because the children and their father came down with measles.  The children recovered, but Arne died and was buried at sea.  Liva and her children, ranging in age from 3 to 20 years old, disembarked at Chicago and proceeded on to St. Croix Falls.  According to a family history, Arne Pedersen Brudem, after he realized that his death was imminent, asked the captain to escort his family to their final destination.  The family history says that this promise was kept, so between August 2nd and September 6th (when the Sleipner sailed back to Norway), Captain Hans Waage brought Liva and her children to St. Croix Falls, where they lived for six years before they moved to Grantsburg.  There were other passengers aboard the Sleipner who settled in both Polk and Burnett Counties, and it is certain that they helped Liva with her children.

An Atlantic crossing in the age of sail was a long and arduous experience.  Liva must have suffered greatly due to the problems of caring for a sick family, her grief over losing her husband, and the worry about how they would fare in a new land.

Eventually, Liva and her family became well-known citizens of Grantsburg, Wisconsin, and her son, Ole Anderson, was one of the owners of the flour rolling mill that was located in Grantsburg.  The U.S. government’s FDA guidelines were established at that mill, and a monument was erected where that roller mill once stood.


Norwegian naming patterns explained

Norwegian naming patterns were both traditional and complex.  Most families used patronymics as a way of giving their children a surname.  This naming pattern added a “son” or “dotter” as a suffix to the given name of the father.  Hence, one Grantsburg, Wisconsin immigrant who was named Arne Pederson, had given his son the patronymic of Arneson, and his daughters the patronymic of Arnesdotter

To aid in identification - because so many people had the same patronymic - families often added the name of their farm or town to their last name.  Thus, Arne Pederson Brudem had been a farmer in Lom Gudbransdalen, Norway, and the farm that his family came from was named “Brudem.”  (By the end of the 19th century, however, most Scandinavians were adopting surnames that did not change from one generation to another, often using a patronymic as their surname.)  Using this patronymic naming pattern, Arne Pederson’s father would have had the first name of Peder - so that is why Arne’s last name became Pederson.  It was common practice to name the firstborn son after the grandfather, and Arne Pederson followed this tradition, naming his first son Peder Arneson.  Peder had been the grandfather’s given name, and Arneson became the baby’s patronymic because he was the son of Arne.

 Immigration often changed names

When the Arneson family arrived in the United States, they were given the last name of ANDERSON at their immigration interview.  Most likely, the U.S. immigration officer could not understand them, and he thought that they said “Anderson.”  Immigrants did not worry much about name changes that were forced upon them.  Why?  Their primary concern was their admission to the new country, and they wanted to get on with their lives.  They had to travel to a further destination, find a job, or purchase land for a farm.  A misinterpretation of their last name was not a big problem.   Also, Scandinavians were used to a lot of names, and one more name tacked on to the end was not a worry.  They were given two or more “first names” (a given name, a legal name, and names that memorialized grandparents or dead siblings), a surname that might be a patronymic, plus names of their farm, their town, or sometimes a “soldier name” that had been given to some ancestor who had been in the military, since soldiers were expected to take short, easily identifiable surnames.

Each of the Arneson/Anderson children became citizens, so at that time the Anderson name became their legal surname.  Liva’s daughters followed American customs, taking their husband’s last name at marriage.  However, the above-mentioned naming pattern was not unique to the Arneson family.  If other Scandinavian immigrants to Burnett County were studied, it is certain that many similar examples of naming patterns would appear, along with name changes that occurred at the time of immigration.


Last Update Friday, 12-Nov-2010 17:31:42 EST

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