“Grandma Hanson” – Ovidia Kristina Olson Hanson – as told by her daughter Olga Hanson Schmidt, to her granddaughter, Gloria Johnson, on July 27, 1981.
[You can find the other part of this story here.]
My mother was born April 14, 1866 on the island of Vikna, Rjüm, near the village of Rørvik, Norway. She died August 19, 1956 at the age of 90. Her father was Zechariah Olson [Ole Zachariassen (1828-1913)]. He had come over the Dover Mountains to Norway [The Dovre mountains (“Dovrefjell”) in central Norway form a natural barrier between Eastern Norway and Trøndelag, the area around Trondheim. Zechariah was from Vuku, a town near Stiklestad on the southern coast of a large peninsula about 110 miles to the south of Rørvik]. Her mother was Kristina Olson [Christine Christiansdatter Slâterøy (1829-1914)]. My mother had a sister, Kristina Olson Trana, and two brothers, Albert and Serun. [There were actually six children in the family: Caroline Margrethe Olesdatter, Søren Christian Olesen (who died in infancy), Søren Kristian Oluff Olesen (who survived), Albert Marthin Olesen, Casper Odin Olsen (who also died in infancy), and Ovidia.]
Ovidia’s grandmother lived with the Kristina and Zechariah Olson family in Rørvik until she died. Ovidia had some memory of her grandmother. She remembered the planning of her burial with all sorts of goodies that were available in the cellars, such as cheeses and preserves. Ovidia often wondered as she grew up where her grandma had gotten the pretty cashmere shawls and jewelry – especially a special pair of gold earrings she had. Ovidia was given those earrings because she liked them so, and then later Ovidia gave the earrings to a special friend, Laura Smith, when Laura went to America. Ovidia and Laura were friends for many years. They pastured cows and sheep together on the side of the mountain near home and played together.
When Ovidia was six years old, her brother, Albert, served in the Army for one year. When he came home he brought her a large book. She read in it about America. She was very interested in America and the adventures there. She learned to read at a very young age. The schools she attended were held in area homes where the teacher would stay a few weeks at a time. The bible was their reading book. People lived so far apart that often the children also stayed at those homes where classes were held. The shoemaker came once a year and made shoes for the whole family. He would stay for days until all those shoes were completed.
Ovidia’s father, Zechariah, and two brothers, Albert and Serun, were fishermen. They sailed in open boats wearing all homespun wool socks, mittens and jackets lined with real wool. They fished cod near the Lofoten Islands near the Maelstrom; the Maelstrom was a terrible current that had to be avoided. In the Summer, the young people helped with the cod and had fun getting together. They had big racks on which the cod was dried. Later, after Lutefisk was prepared from the cod, it was shipped out.
In the Summer it was much work to get ready for the long Winter. They burned turf for heat – turf was thick marsh growth that was cut in squares and dried and piled up like wood. Turf was also used for roofing. Grain and all other food stuffs were gathered by hand. All dairy products were also made at home – including many kinds of cheeses. There was a dairy business also on the estate, and a maid was in charge of the dairy. Various products, such as the cheeses, were made on the farm, stored, and then shipped out to nearby fishing villages along the North Atlantic shores.
Most of the island was owned by old families for years. Ovidia’s father had a 90-year lease for his land and then his son could have the land for another 90 years. Albert took the land over and raised his family there. The landowners, the Gundbjørnes, lived on the estate at the time Ovidia was growing up and they were very well-liked. When Ovidia was 16 years old, she was asked if she would like to come and help care for the Gundbjørne grandmother. This grandmother was very special. She had her coffee in bed every morning and Ovidia had the responsibility of her complete care. She liked it very much. For a year’s salary, she was paid $10.00 and the wool from two sheep. In 1963 when Olga Schmidt visited Rørvik, she met a banker whose name was Gundbjørne. He and Olga were introduced, Olga as being Ovidia’s daughter. He remembered Ovidia! Ovidia now had learned to spin, crochet, knit and weave. When she was there a year, she bought a beautiful piece of cashmere brown material. Later she made her wedding dress from this cashmere.
John Hanson had two brothers nearby, Andrew and Hans, that had farms. Ovidia often helped in the estate dairy when not busy otherwise. One day she was out in the yard near the dairy and a young man came to borrow a tool for his brother. She saw him but did not meet him. A short time later, John brought the borrowed tool back and Ovidia was the only one there, so they talked. She inited him to come to a harvest party in the neighborhood and he accepted. Well, three weeks later they were married in Rørvik and on their way to America – fulfilling a dream she had since she had received the big book when she was six years old. She had made up her mind a long time before that she wanted to go to America. Dad had his job waiting for him in Wausau, Wisconsin. They did stop in Bergen to visit his mother on the way to America.
Kristina and Zechariah Olson visited their daughter, Ovidia, on the Hanson family farm when Olga was two years old . Kristina liked it here, but Zechariah did not, so they returned to Norway.
[You can find the other part of this story here.]