Long journey home:
Decorah man explores his ancestral roots, and sails on a replica of the sloop that carried the first Norwegian immigrants to the United States in 1825.
Monday, July 28, 2014 7:47 AM
This is a story about journeys, and about going home.
The story involves a group of brave men and women who sought religious freedom and economic opportunity in a land foreign to them -- and who were determined to make a home there.
It also involves a group of those early immgrants’ descendants -- who, 190 years later, went home again.
Decorah’s Dale Goodman was reading an article about Norwegian immigration to the United States in a Sons of Norway magazine, when he spotted an advertisement for charter cruises in Norway aboard a replica of the Restauration -- the sloop that carried the first Norwegian immigrants to the United States in 1825.
Goodman was familiar with the story of the journey undertaken by that sloop -- often called the “Norwegian Mayflower.” His great-great-great-great grandfather, Tormod Jensen Madland, was one of the people who made that long-ago trip, marking the beginning of a wave of Norwegian immigration that peaked in the middle of the 19th century.
His interest piqued, Goodman contacted the organization that ran the charters off Finnøy Island, and began making arrangements to take a trip to Norway and sail on the replica of his ancestors’ sloop.
History of the first journey
Restauration set sail from Stavanger, Norway, July 5, 1825, with 52 people aboard, many of them Norwegian Quakers. Accompanying them were members of another local movement, the Haugeans, a Lutheran sect which derived its name from Hans Nielsen Hauge.
The group, led by Cleng Peerson -- who had made the trip earlier as a scout, and purchased property for the new immigrants to settle -- landed in New York City Oct. 9, 1825, after a three-month voyage.
In an article published in Vesterheim magazine in 2004, an excerpt from a New York newspaper describes the sloop’s arrival in the U.S.:
“A vessel has arrived at this port with emigrants from Norway. The vessel is very small, measuring as we understand only about ... 45 American tons, and brought 46 passengers, male and female, all bound to Ontario County, where an agent, who came over some time since, purchased a tract of land. The appearance of such a party of strangers, coming from so distant a country and in a vessel of a size apparently ill calculated for a voyage across the Atlantic, could not but excite an unusual degree of interest” (New York Daily Advertiser, Oct. 12, 1825).
In fact, the Vesterheim magazine article notes, “the entire party probably consisted of nine married couples, 15 children (ages a few months to 13 years), 12 single men (ages 14-33) and four single women (ages 14-46) ... berths had to be built on the lower deck, which, allowing for the flare of the ship, could not have been more than 480 square feet -- about 9 sqaure feet per person. When you factor in the space needed for trunks and baggage, perhaps half of this area was available for sleeping”(8).
As it happened, the sloop was carrying many more passengers on board than were allowed by U.S. law. This resulted in a severe fine, confiscation of the ship and the arrest of the captain, L. O. Helland.
President John Quincy Adams pardoned the captain in November, released him and the ship and rescinded the fine. The people who made this voyage, who are sometimes referred to as the “Sloopers,” moved onward to their first settlement in Kendall, Orleans County, N.Y. (source: Wikipedia.com)
About the replica
The Ryfylke Trebåtbyggjeri (Wooden Boat Builders) on Finnøy Island, Norway, constructed the wooden ship using authentic period materials and methods.
The replica was put into the sea April 15, 2010. The ship sails mostly in Rogaland with charter guests, who are told the story of the first emigration with the original ship during the trips.
Goodman told his father, William, about the replica and about his plans to travel to Norway and sail on it. Both Goodman and his father had spent time in Norway previously; but William was especially excited to hear about the Restauration replica.
Unfortunately, William died last November, six months before Goodman would visit Norway and sail on the Restauration.
After William died, his family buried most of his ashes next to his wife, Dorothy, in California; but Goodman wanted to leave a part of his dad at his ancestral home, as well.
“We felt compelled to put some of his ashes in the family farmstead (in Norway),” Goodman says.
The current owner of the farmstead was surprised by the request (“It’s not a common practice in Norway,” Goodman says), but said she would be happy to oblige them.
“Norway and his Norwegian heritage meant so very, very much to my Dad,” Goodman says. “It was pretty special to take him there and leave some part of him there.”
On the sloop
Accompanying Goodman, who rented the entire sloop, were his wife, Susan; their sons, Corey, of Iowa City, who filmed the trip, and Peder, who is currently studying in Norway; Goodman’s brother, Kirk, and sister, Sheryl Goodman-Fabrizio, both of California and neither of whom had been to Norway before; some friends; and 10 English language students from Norway.
The guide for the trip, a teacher named Kåre Vignes, was unable to find a substitute to work with his students on the day in June when they planned to sail; so Goodman told him to bring them along for the trip.
There were 23 people on board.
“It was crowded,” Goodman says. “And they had twice as many people on the original voyage, -- and they also carried food, water and luggage.”
“The sloop ride was pretty special,” Goodman says. “It was a great adventure; I’m glad we arranged to do it.”
He says they were treated like royalty when they were in Norway.
“Especially because we were descendants of the first immigrants” -- which he calls “an accident of birth.”
But if it weren’t for that accident, he says, “I never would have spent so much time learning this story -- and it’s a good story.”