Friday, May 13, 2011


A short chapter from my book in progress "Dryland":

  Torger Sjurson Kannikeberg Rykken and Agata Kittelsdatter Rykken were quiet by nature and sedentary.  In their life they had no presumptions or expectations for what the future may bring but enjoyed the simple pleasures and lived with the omissions and tribulations without laying blame.  They were poor farmers in the Hardangerdalen region of Norway in 1866.  They were the children of farmers, who were the children of farmers for as many generations as anyone could remember.  They knew no other life than their stewardship of the land they were so close too. 

The last several years the family’s economic circumstance, because of several failures, had deteriorated so that the most meager subsistence was an expenditure of energy and resources that drained Torger and Agata nearly to submission; nearly to the point of yielding to the unrelenting pressure and abandoning the land that they loved 

The next several months brought no relief.  Now the discussion at the dinner table centered on the success of other family members in America.  Opportunities were great and numerous and the land was free.  Agata’s brother Oddmund was the first to emigrate; at age twenty, in 1858 he had landed in America and traveled for the next several months to Minnesota near Rushford where other acquaintances from Hardangerdalen now lived.

Finally the decision was made to migrate to America.  First Agata’s brother Oddmund offered to lend Torger and Agata the $150 for passage on a ship for America.  Then as chance would direct,  Torger, who had apprenticed as a carpenter in his youth, learned that the old stave church at Oystese would be replaced and that carpenters were in demand.  Torger accepted the offer of his brother-in-law and worked for the next year on the church until it’s completion, earning enough for his family’s passage to America
Torger and Agata’s family now totaled nine.  In addition to Torger and Agata, there was Martha, who was born the 10th of December 1854.  Kittil, who was born the 19th of December, 1856.  Sjur, who was born the 18th of September 1858.  Brita, who was born the 11th of June, 1859.  Lars, who was born the 16th of December, 1861.  Agathe, who was born the 11th of June, 1864.  Kristi, who was born the 20th of December, 1866. 

On the 15th of April, 1868 the Torger and Agata Kanikeberg Rykken family left their beloved home on the beautiful Hardanger Fjord, and traveled with a group of emigrants for a day and a half by boat past the majestic fjords of the country they were leaving to the port of Bergen where they would board their ship. 

With the youngest daughter Kristi in her arms and the other children following as they grasped her skirt Agata followed her husband to their accommodations for the night ready to board their ship in the morning.

As the sun rose on the 16th of April, Torger and Agata, children in tow, were boarding their ship bound for America.  The children all participated in loading the few personal items that they could afford to ship, especially Martha and Kittel, who were now thirteen and twelve years, and used to hard work and the tasks necessary for family survival in the 1860’s.  The American Civil War had ended more than two years ago and the U. S. and its citizenry was still reeling, but advancing slowly to recovery.  Torger and Agata’s family and friends who had already immigrated, however, were not directly affected by the war and withdrew from any civic participation in the preparation, execution and recovery from the war altogether.  As the ship made it’s way out to sea from the port, Torger and Agata, with smiles on their faces, waved to Bergen locals who had come to the port to watch family and friends leave.  Tears welled in Agata’s eyes but she held them back and did not cry.  Weeping would come later in the voyage, but now she smiled.  They watched from the deck until the people on shore became indistinguishable dots.  Agata’s breath shortened and the frequency increased, she was anxious.  Torger was sad and Agata could see it in his pained expression.  As the ship finally lost sight of land, Torger’s sadness subsided and Agata was no longer anxious.  She was overcome with a wave of simple fear.  Torger’s sadness transformed to sympathy for Agata.          


  1. One of my ancestors is Brigt Rykken who, with his wife Kristi, emigrated from Oystese to Hardangerdalen/Rush Creek Valley, Minnesota in 1866. My great-grandmother was born there,though the family soon moved to other parts of Minnesota and North Dakota.

    I just visited Rushford, MN, today (19 Aug 2011), for the first time, but was disappointed to find so little info about my family.

    I am eager to connect with you, but don't know how to send you a message. Please contact me at Kathryn

  2. I'm very interested since Agathe is my Great Grandmother. I know that Kristi was buried near Rushford since she died in-route to America. How did you happen on this story and do you have more information?

    1. If you scroll down to Followers located on the lower right of the blog page you will see a photo of a woman holding a baby. If you click on that photo and send her a message she will be able to answer your questions. Obviously you and she are related. Thanks for visiting my blog.