Hans Larsen Hvesser was born Oct 31, 1824 in Baadstad area of Trøgstad Parish, Østfold, Norway on the Hvesser farm. His mother’s family had lived on Hvesser farm since before 1745. On August 16, 1850 at age 25 he married Anne Gundersdatter Fløtten born December 28,1824 on Fløtten Farm in Trøgstad.
Their children born in Norway were:
Johanne 4/14/1851 (who married Christian J. Grimsrud)
Theodore 9/11/1853 (who was was mentally retarded)
Mattie 1855 (who married Hans Lund)
Gusta 5/17/1860 (who married Bernhard Nilsen)
Allete 4/8/1864 (who married Tonnes Kvindlog)
Caroline 5/26/1866 (who married Stener Kvindlog)
twin Anton 12/2/1868-7/8/1870
twin Ole H. Larson 12/2/1868 (a.k.a William Larson)
Their last child Lenora Andria born 2/5/1872 in America.
On the 1865 census of Norway the family owned the Hvesser farm and one horse, six cattle, three sheep, and one pig. They produced on the farm that year one measure of barley, eight measures of oats, six measures of potatoes, a quarter measure of peas, and three quarters measure of rye.
In the year of 1869, September 17th Hans Larsen age 45 left Norway for America on the ship the "Oder". He stated that his final destination was Chicago. But his goal was to establish a home for his family in Minnesota. He was able to send for his family the following Spring after securing 160 acres to homestead in Otter Tail County, Dane Prairie Township the SE corner of section 11 on the edge of Stang Lake. The land was rolling waving meadows and rich prairies with a lake, pond, or slough in every low area. There were scattered stands of timber. There wasn’t a road or bridge in the county. The first summer on the claim Hans was busy cutting and putting up wild prairie grass for his cattles winter feed, building a shanty and a shelter for the cows, and breaking the prairie for a grain field.
Seven months later Anne and all the children left Norway May 9, 1870. They arrived in in Fairbault, Minnesota July 8, 1870. Then Anne suffered a terrible blow, one of her toddler twins, Anton died there the next day. And they still had a difficult journey ahead to reach the remote homestead.
On the 1870 Agricultural Census Hans had already cultivated 3 acres. He still had 153 acres unimproved, He also had 5 acres in woodland, 3 milk cows, and an oxen team. Hans and Anne were homesteading virgin land that had never been cultivated before. Hans harnessed the oxen together with a wooden yoke and hitched the oxen to a plow to turn over the sod. This was hard heavy work. The field was then smoothed with a “drag” in preparation of planting the wheat. Because the nearest mill was in Alexandria the trip took nearly a week by wagon. It was a 25 mile trip by wagon to the nearest post office in Clitheral. The men of Dane Prairie and Aurdal took turns traveling to Clitheral to pick up the mail once a week. Money was hard to come by. It is likely Hans, like his neighbors, brought in extra money by working on railroad construction crews, logging camps, and trapping animals in the winter.
The Chippewa Indians were frequent but annoying visitors to the homesteaders in Dane Prairie because they expected to be given supplies. Farming in Otter tail was fraught with hardships such as hail, drought, and wild fires that ruined the wheat crop. Flocks of Blackbirds were also very destructive eating the ripening wheat, oats, and corn. The county paid a bounty on wolves and gophers. But the worst destruction was caused by the plague of locusts that ate everything in their path. In 1877 the locusts ate every green thing. Each stalk was eaten right down to the root so that nothing remained but a hole in the ground. They ate the paint off the houses and fences, clothes on the line, anything of leather. Two hundred and seventy farmers in the county were wiped out and applied to the government for aid.
On the 1880 Census Hans Larsen is listed as 55 years old, Anne as 55, Theodore
as 26, Gusta Maria as 20, Alette as 17, Caroline as 14, Ole as 11, Lenora as
7. Their last name is given as HVESSE. (Johanne and Mattie the two oldest daughters
were not listed in the household.)
When their eldest daughter Johanne died at age 30, Hans and his wife Anne were given her youngest daughter Jenny to raise. They were both 57 years old.
Perhaps the soil there along Stang Lake proved to be too sandy and too swampy. For what ever reason, Hans began buying land 7 miles north in Aurdal township, 40 acres at a time 1881-1882 until he had aquired120 acres. (He sold his land in Dane Prairie to another man, but it appears the mortgage was defaulted on and the land came back to the Hvesser family by 1902.) On the 1884 Platt map of Aurdal, Hans had 120 acres on in the north east corner of section 16 (southwest of Brekke Lake).
Hans Larsen Hvesser was a devout man. He had a reputation for being well versed in the Scriptures. He was often called upon by his neighbors to preach and perform funerals. November 12, 1884 In his home in Aurdal, Hans and three other Norwegian officially organized the Vang’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Aurdal. Hans served as a deacon.
Based on county records, there were 180 chattel mortgages filed in the town clerk’s office, exactly one mortgagge for every child born, it can be concluded that the harvests were poor during the 1880’s.
In 1894 at the age of 70 Hans Larson sold his Aurdal homestead to Halvor G. Brekke. Hans, Anne, their son Theodore, daughter Lenora, and granddaughter Jenny Grimsrud moved 20 miles east to a virgin homestead on 160 acres on southeast quarter of section 18, Brandrup township, Wilkin County, Minnesota. This land was vast expanses of flat prairie with no timber or lakes. Just flat prairie as far as the eye could see. (So different from Norway!) Once again Hans had to break the virgin sod, build a house and barn. Their daughter Alette and her husband Tonnes Kvindlog also started a homestead in Brandrup township at the same time, as did their son Ole Larson.
Just as important as establishing the homestead to Hans was establishing a new church. At the first church meeting October 26, 1884 in Brandrup township Hans was listed as the “leader”. He is also listed first among the men giving money for the building of a church which came to be know as the Sticklestad Lutheran Church.
The crops failed again in the fall of 1895 and Hans was forced to take out
a mortgage of $250 on the homestead to buy coal, food for the winter, as well
make payments on the chattle morgages he had taken out the year before. That
winter, January 30, 1896 at age 71 Hans Larson died on his farm two miles south
of the town of Doran and was buried on a Tuesday. He left his wife, six children,
and 27 grandchildren.
His wife Anne Gundersdatter Fløtten lived four more years on the homestead with her son Theodore, daughter Lenore and granddaughter Jenny until she died of cancer just two weeks shy of her 75th birthday on December 12, 1899.
The bank foreclosed on the homestead and it was sold at auction on the courthouse steps eight days after Anne’s death. But Ole (a.k.a. Uncle Will) was able to buy it from the bank nine days later on December 29, 1900.
Ole sold the homestead in 1901 for $3,000 minus a $1,350 mortgage. Granddaughter Jenny Grimsrud said that the only ones left on the homestead were Ole and herself. They left the farm and they headed out west. They eventually ended up in San Francisco---just in time for the big earthquake in 1906!
Biography written and researched by Linda Rawles © 2006 Linda Rawles
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