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Chaska Obscura: Venturing to Gotteborg: Pioneer travels to Carver (or what there was of it)
Oct 22, 2009 | 22122 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Author: The Rev. Ole Paulson

Translated by: Judge A.G. W. Anderson

What: Paulson recounts the early years (meaning the early, early years) of Carver, including his experiences homesteading farmland and serving in the Army during the Dakota Conflict.

Published: Excerpts from his 1907 book “Erindringer” were translated from Norwegian and reprinted in eight articles in the Herald in 1933, under the header “Early History of Nearby Vicinity.” This information is excerpted from column 1, “Farther West,” published on Feb. 16, 1933.

Who was he?



* Ole Paulson (sometimes called “Ola” and “Paulsen”) wrote his memoirs in his native tongue, Norwegian.



* Paulson was one of Carver’s early settlers. At the age of 26, Paulson served as one of Carver’s first councilors when its first meeting was held in 1858.



* He was also an original member of East Union Lutheran Church – an odd man out, considering he was one of the few Norwegians in a parish full of Swedes. At the church, he served as a deacon, according to “Memory book of Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran East Union Church,” originally published in 1908, translated by Carolyn Spargo and republished in 2008.



* Interestingly, Paulson had early roles with the forerunners of two prominent Minnesota colleges – Gustavus Adolphus College (as teacher at St. Ansgar Academy from 1868 to 1869) and Augsburg College (as an Augsburg Seminary trustee from 1872 to 1907)



* Paulson died on April 20, 1907, just six days short of his 75th birthday, in Fargo, N.D., where he lived with his wife, Inga Olofsdotter.

More to come: This is the first of three Chaska Obscura pieces featuring Paulson’s writing.


“A village without houses! That is something rare.”

Ole Paulson


By Ole Paulson



In the spring of 1854 I received a letter from a Doctor Foster of Hastings, Minnesota. One of my sisters was working for him, and she had given him my address. The doctor wanted to organize a Norwegian colony near Hastings.



He wrote about his plan and asked me if I would come and look over the situation and the land. The land that I had taken at Turkey River did not suit me, and, besides, I wished to come to a place where we could all get land close to one another. The doctor’s plan appealed to me to the extent that I induced a relative who was visiting us to go along.



The spring came unusually early in 1854. It was early in April when we took the steamboat from Lansing to Hastings and located Dr. Foster. He equipped us with horse and buggy, and we traveled for a couple of days.



Near Hastings is a prairie about 20 miles long and equally wide. It stretches from Hastings to Northfield in the South, and from Cannon Falls in the East to Lakeville in the West. The prairie is a little rolling; the quality of the soil is very good and is interposed with meadow land. There was no timber except on the edges, and on the north side along the Mississippi there was good timber, but the land along the timberline was taken.



We drove and were gone about two days. Where we had been I don’t know. We had a compass so we knew in what direction we were traveling. We had driven east and at evening we came to a river. We did not know at that time that it was Cannon River we had come to, it must have been a few miles from Cannon Falls, in Goodhue County. But the land we had seen did not appeal to us. If we had found several claims of such land close together as we wanted we would have located, and, no doubt, started a Norwegian colony. As I say, we did not find the kind of land we were seeking.



The land to satisfy us should have timber, prairie, meadow and a spring. And land that did not have all these features we proudly passed by. Here near Hastings would have been the best chance in the world for a large Norwegian colony, but we did not understand it. Outside of Hastings as far as our eyes could see there was not a human being to be seen; the whole land was empty and void.



On Saturday eve we came struggling back to the doctor’s home and stayed with him over night. On Sunday morning a steamboat came up the river on its way to St. Paul. As I had a sister and brother in St. Paul, I was determined to pay them a visit. My companion had been in St. Paul all winter, and his intentions were to return, so we took the steamer to St. Paul.



This city at that time was not very large, between three and four thousand inhabitants. As we stepped off the steamboat at the landing, a man came and spoke to us in Norwegian.



“I hear you are Norwegian,” he said, “and it certainly pleases me to meet you. My name is Axel Jorgenson, of Gotteborg, about 25 miles from here on the St. Peter or Minnesota River. Where do you people come from, if I may ask?”



“I am from Iowa. My companion here, recently from St. Paul, but otherwise a newcomer,” I answered him. “Today we came from Hastings where we have been to look at some land, but we did not find any that suited us.”



“Yes, then you have come to the right man. I have laid out a village, and I have named it Gotteborg. All the land out there is unsettled, not even surveyed by the government. It is the best land in the territory, and there is room for thousands of farms. You can never do any better than to come with me tomorrow. Fare and board will not cost you anything. My boat is here at the landing, ready to take you. Here are three or four men that are coming to me to Gotteborg,” he told us.



We had arrived just in the nick of time, it appeared to us, and decided to go along to Gotteborg. I might as well inform you now that later that Jorgenson changed the name of Gotteborg to Carver, apparently after the county was named Carver. With this introduction, I will proceed to tell how Carver became settled.



It was early in April 1854. How stunned we were the next morning, when about to board Mr. Jorgenson’s boat bound for his village with the proud name. The transportation medium was an old, dirty flat-boat. This heavy, dirty craft we had to propel with long poles, and it took us three long days of hard work to reach the city gates.



The food we received was hardly fit for human consumption. The principal thing for Jorgenson was to get his boat to the town. Undoubtedly it would have cost him $25 to have the boat towed by a steamer. We dragged by Shakopee, and Chaska; both places had several buildings, Chaska became the county seat of Carver county, Shakopee was an older Indian trading post.



We finally dragged up to the bank and made the boat fast. The captain said, “Now we are here.”



“Where?” I asked.



“In Gotteborg,” answered he.



“But where is the village?”



“Here,” he said, and motioned with his arms in the direction he had planned the village to be.



“But where are the houses?”



“There are no houses,” he answered.



“A village without houses! That is something rare.”



“That’s so, but there are going to be houses, give us time.”



“But are there no houses at all?” I said.



“Yes, there is one. My little house. When you get up on the bank you will see it.”



Sure enough, there was a little bit of a log shanty, that Mr. Jorgenson used as a blacksmith shop. He was a blacksmith by trade, also a watchmaker. This house was a blacksmith shop, watchmaker shop, hotel, and Jorgenson’s residence. We commenced to see that we had been led behind the light a mite.



“We were six landseekers in all, namely Johannes Hult, Anders Hult and Peter Hult, brothers, and Nills Anderson, all Swedes, my comrade, Ole Hendrickson and I, Norwegians. At Mr. Jorgenson’s we met a young Guldbrandsal native by the name of Peter Kleven, who was cutting wood for him. When Jorgenson went to St. Paul with a boat load of wood, Mr. Kleven was the lone inhabitant of Gotteborg. Kleven had selected a piece of good land, four miles from the village that was to be.



Besides, there had been a Swede by the name of Nels Alexanderson, who had picked himself a good piece of land and made it his future home. Those two preceded us a few weeks.



After reposing over night on the dirt floor in Jorgenson’s hotel, we got up next morning to get a view of that wonderful land, the best in the territory. We Norwegians got Mr. Kleven to go with us and took one route and our Swedish brethren took another. A few miles from the village was a small prairie. The Hult brothers got their eyes on the prairie and took their claims on the edge of it. Anderson a couple of miles nearer the village, but also on the edge of the prairie. Kleven took us to his land that was farther west. There we found an opening between the two big hills, very fertile soil and splendid maple timber on the side of the hills. Here we decided to locate. (Paulson’s selection was the farm that Henry Jacobs owned.) We had a compass with us and we measured out eight 160-acre lots for ourselves and our friends.



I don’t remember exactly, but I think it took us two days to do this work. The most surprising part of it all was that our survey was so well done that it almost tallied with the government survey afterwards made. Immediately there was a large influx of settlers, especially Swedes. Inside of two years we had a large settlement and two organized congregations, but we will get to that later. As I stated before, the land was not surveyed until two or three years after the settlement began.

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