Both sets of Chester Rorvig’s great-grandparents on his father’s side came to Minnesota from Norway. One set settled near Pelican Rapids in 1871 and the other settled near Rothsay in 1881.
So it was a great feeling for Chester to be able to visit their farms in Norway this year. Chester is a former resident of Rothsay and a member of the Rothsay High School 1966 graduation class. He now lives in St. Cloud, Minn.
“To be able to visit where my ancestors came from in Norway has closed another loop in my quest for connecting with them,” he writes Neighbors.
“This visit was sobering and satisfying, but also nostalgic.
“Hurum (where both families lived on farms) was my starting point. It is a municipality in Buskerud County in Norway. It is a town of under 10,000, located southwest of Oslo about 30 miles. It is located between the Oslo and Drammen fjords.
“Research on Norwegian immigration to Minnesota provides these insights,” Chester says.
“Norway’s population doubled between 1750 and 1850.
“There were concerns with the state church.
“Perhaps the biggest driver of all (for people to emigrate) was the opportunity of cheap land, and lots of it, in the United States, compared to Norway’s situation. Also, railroad companies in the U.S. had been granted swaths of land in exchange for building rail lines, and they sent word to Norway that cheap and accessible farmland was available.
“By the second half of the 19th century, steamships made travel to America less burdensome.
“Now I am left to wonder which of these circumstances in Norway influenced my ancestors to come to Minnesota,” Chester says. “As they were farmers, with small children, I lean toward thinking they came because of the opportunity to get farmland, get a place to raise their children, and to be part of a community where they could keep their Norwegian identity.
“I hope that coming to Minnesota was something they did not later come to regret. And I wish they could have known how grateful to them their descendents are.
“Those persevering immigrants are a tribute to the people from the Rothsay community who came after them. I am confident this will continue to be the case with future generations of that community.”
Chester wants you to know his email address, hoping he’ll hear from someone who has a connection or at least an interest in what he has written.
His address is: email@example.com.
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.