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«HISTORY OF EMIGRATION FROM NORDMØRE - Stangvik and Surnadal parishes»
* For disclaimer, please see end of text.

 

OUR MARINERS ON LAKE MICHIGAN

Only a few will be mentioned here. More from here certainly lived in harbors other than Elberta/Frankfort, and more worked just a brief time on the lake boats in a transition to the next phase of their lives and are only to be found on crew lists not within the author's purview.

Photo reference 166/1: Car ferry seemingly trapped in the ice at Elberta | Belongs to: Betty Glarum.

***

The Ann Arbor railroad came to Elberta/Frankfort in 1892 and, as the transshipment railcar/boat/railcar was expensive, an extensive network of railroad ferries - later carferries developed, which transported freight cars across Lake Michigan.

The "Early History of the Ann Arbor Carferries" by Arthur and Lucy F. Fredrickson offers a vivid portrait of a life on the boats which was something other than a Sunday drive. Although it was only 5 hours from Frankfort to Kewaunee in good weather, winter, with ice and sudden, violent and unpredictable wind conditions of gale and hurricane force, with snowstorms and fog, was often pure hell. Loads tore loose, tipped overboard or caused listing. Sleet storms iced down the boats, entrances to the harbors were narrow and shallow. Running aground was nearly the rule. Moreover, Lake Michigan is famous for having treacherous undercurrents and is, all in all, considered very dangerous. Incredibly, many ships and seamen have vanished in Lake Michigan because all the conditions for seafaring are so capricious.

***

We shall accompany Nils Drøpping on a trip, the night of Valentine's Day 1923. The son of Captain C. Fredrickson - Arthur, writes in 1949:

"On the evening of departure, during loading in Frankfort, the air was very calm, with no wind and light, dry snow flurries.  When one stood on the forecastle watching the loading, one could hear bowling balls striking in the lanes on the other side of Betsie Bay.

“She (Ferry No. 4) left Frankfort February 13, at 8:15 p.m. There was a light wind from the east with snow. For the course to Kewaunee, this would be a 5-hour trip in ordinary weather. Sigurd Frey went offboard going on liberty, and Captain Charles Fredrickson came aboard. Boat 4 carried onboard 19 cars, 17 with coal, one with automobiles and one with salt.

“On watch on the bridge from 6 to 10 p.m., we noticed about 9:30 a sort of pressure on our eardrums, and our voices made a kind of echo inside our heads. When the two hands on the clock overlapped at 10 minutes to 10 p.m., the winds arrived. As is often the case, the winds did not immediately bring on the waves, but it didn't take long before they were upon us. The winds were west-northwest. It grew colder and colder. I went off watch at 10 p.m. and straight to bed - but not for long. No one needed to be shaken awake. No. 4 took care of that.

“The wind was blowing 120 km/h., lashing the sea furiously, and soon the waves were 30 feet high. The mercury dropped to -32ºF. The situation for the crew, ship and cargo became quite serious when railroad cars were thrown from the tracks on the middeck. Some of the cars began running back and forth along the deck when the hull was cast up and down in the waves. The automobile car rolled aftward and went straight through the old wooden gate, which had been a sort of guard, and right into the sea. Two heavy coal cars went halfway over the stern and remained hanging over the edge. To everyone's astonishment, they were still hanging there in the spring when they raised her. Liverpool Al and his gang dumped the contents of some of the coal cars out onto the afterdeck to keep more of the load from going overboard. Otherwise there would have been a large list and she would have capsized. One of the coal cars jumped the tracks on the portside above the engine room. It overturned against the bulkhead, one of the wheels resting against the exhaust vent for the low-pressure cylinders and scraping back and forth as the hull tossed about in the seas. If the vent were damaged, the port engine would stop and boat No. 4, with only one engine in operation, would not last long in these seas. The chief engineer and a part of the crew managed to pull the car aside with the help of cables and tackle.

“Everyone worked determinedly, and for a while it seemed like broken jacks, thickly iced towing cables and hooks flew about, together with cracked timbers and chunks of coal. Some cars amidships on the portside raged back and forth at wild speeds between the fore- and afterdecks. Orastus Kinney and I set ourselves to trap them with stopping blocks when they ran against the fenders on the forward deck. He broke his thumb and I came to half-buried in the coal that raged down from the car in the few seconds before the blocks were smashed. While Capt. Ole examined my broken hand, we saw the "old man" (Captain Fredrickson) striding from one car to the next with a 35-kilo shackle in each hand, on a path over to the starboard side. These were not easy to handle, he did it as a matter of course, and seemed to be everywhere.

“While James Dorey, cargo chief, gave first-aid in the galley, several of the boys gathered around, not doing anything, and father stuck his mug and pipe in and said: "Boys, I've taken you to the seas for many years, and always brought you safely home, and will do it this time also, if only you give us a badly needed hand here." With that, it was back to the middeck, frozen and hungry, with battered heads, broken bones and other injuries.

“Ed Gabrielson and Nils (Bo) Dropping were considered at the time to be the best to be found for work on the car deck, and this story would be incomplete if one didn't mention the great efforts they put forth this night.

“It is difficult for one who was on the deck that night to describe and honor the brave engineers, oilers, and stokers who heroically kept her moving on her engines at the time. That No. 4 survived is due to them standing by their post to the last man.

“At 1 o'clock the seas were so high and the winds so violent, that No. 4 could no longer manage against the weather. She rolled, her entire side going under, taking in water along her entire length when a mountain of water took away the entire gunnel and maindeck, but she came about just as everything came loose on board, including the funnel, which was somehow fastened back on with equipment from the car deck. She lay 20 minutes broadside to the waves before deciding to put the seas behind her and set course for home. She rolled worse than any boat has rolled, both before and since. Crippled, with little headway and half-full of water, it was a miracle she survived.

“Now everyone had only to hang on tight and say a prayer, seeing that everything inside had been reduced to kindling. The timbers amidships were torn loose causing the upperdeck to lift up and down with the waves, and it ripped off the steampipe to the whistle flush with the deck. The chief crawled up on top of the boiler to shut the valve to prevent the loss of steam. Steam meant life or death. The boiler was a very dangerous place to be.

“Eventually when she had come about, running from the weather, things seemed brighter, for she was not tossing as violently any longer, but it was creepy to see large waves at intervals break in over the open stern, and to know that the pumps were doing their job far too quietly even if safely. We all knew this was a question of time.

“At 5 in the morning McKesson sent an SOS and about 6:30 he reported Frankfort was nearby, for the radio signals were strong. We felt somewhat easier in our minds, but there was no answer as to how this would end, as we didn't know where we would make landfall.

“On the bridge they were discussing the same questions. The second mate, O. B. Olson believed the course stood towards Point Betsie. Several agreed. Some believed she was much farther south than that. The "old man" chewed on his pipe and said that this wasn't the place for the course to be changed. "Hold steady as she goes", he told Peter Strom, standing at the helm. The frosty mist was so dense that visibility was only a boat's length.

“On Valentine's Day, February 14, at 7:00 a.m., right after daybreak, we heard the welcome sound of the foghorn and saw the south pier directly on the bow. Father ordered hard aport in an attempt to get her into the harbor entrance and stay clear of the pier.  But full of water, and with all her load gathered at the rear, she sat far too low astern. She was drawing 18 feet, compared to the usual 13, so a half-length from the pier, between two waves, she hit bottom. The rudder stem broke and the propeller and shaft on the starboard side were ripped off. When she lifted on the next wave, she was set down facing the northwestern corner of the south pier with such force that it was all one could do to stay one's legs. Both ice and concrete were knocked off the pier. Merciless amounts of water filled her through the stern with ice and water as the crew clambered up from the hold. The Chief was last up the ladder, taciturn and dutiful as always, with the water knee-deep behind him down in the hold.

“She swung towards the north, and lay broadside above the pier. The winds and waves forced her slowly around the end of the pier so that she was lying with half her length in the channel facing the south pier. She tilted perilously and some of the crew set to hanging a line over the higher side, to have something to hang onto if she turned over. "She won't roll over", father said. She righted herself smartly and settled down on an even keel, except now and then when a large wave slammed her against the pier with a bang and then set her back on the bottom.

“The Coast Guard came down on the north pier with a line and breeches buoy, but father waved them off. Soon No. 4 lay more quietly, and she was near enough the pier that we could put over a ladder. Lifeboat halyards were brought down from the boatdeck and everyone held onto the ropes when we went down the ladder so, if anyone lost his footing, the others could hold onto the ropes and anyone who slipped had something to hang onto. This went well, but father would not leave the vessel and said: "She has been a faithful girl, and I will trust in her in order to see how she settles down." We refused to go without him. He sat on the corner of the pilothouse bench as if asleep. When he understood we were in earnest, he came down, but he was really mad. His eyebrows stood straight out, and that was always a sign he was truly angry.

“That we could go down onto the wide, firm breakwater into the arms of waiting friends, as the newspaper wrote, was not true. The entire breakwater was just a single large iceberg. Insurmountable like large craters, with large waves striking with such force that the spray rose 25-30 feet in the air freezing on the way down, it was certain death should anyone fall down. It was God's will all came home safely, exhausted, half frozen to death and starved.

“Most had parts of their bodies frozen. The large Hindu had at least 3 sheets and 2 woolen blankets wrapped around him but his hands and ears froze nevertheless. Emil Johnson walked in these conditions 10 km over the wind-lashed shore down to Arcadia where he lived.

“John Weber went directly by train to a job shoveling snow in Thompsonville, where he quit the job and took the train home to Wallin. He arrived home two days after the shipwreck and caught a tongue-lashing from his wife who thought he came home for a vacation in filthy rags. He kept silent tolerating this while his legs were freezing. Later he lost his nails, for both legs had frozen. While his wife was reviling him, the newspapers were unpacked on the counter of the store she managed, and she halted her torrent of words when she saw the headlines and threw her arms around him and cried with joy.

“When father came home, he threw off his sheepskin jacket, and ripped off a couple of brisk "Norwegian Sea Tunes" on the accordion, which he used to play at dances in the old days in that part of Frankfort known as Norwegian Hollow. At the time they called him Charlie Long because he was so tall.

“The Hindu went around Frankfort the next day with arms full of maps, asking about land routes back to India."

***

On the west wall of the post office in Frankfort a large mural depicts Captain Fredrickson and his crew struggling with the storm on the forecastle of No. 4.

When No. 4 was raised in the spring, The Chief's timepiece was still hanging in the engine room. It had been encapsulated in ice the whole time, but Captain Fredrickson's son, who writes this, says the pocketwatch was running in 1949 when this was written!

Consultant on technical expressions: Ole K. Skuggevik.

Both Alexander Linus Larson from Halsa, his brother Ole and brother-in-law Ola Glærum (Myra) served on No. 4. When Alex and Ola went ashore to attend the wedding of Ola and Brit Skralthaug, the replacement for No. 4 sat aground. This wasn't the only time No.4 and the other ferries did not "strike" harbor.

No. 4 had a long life. In 1937 she was sailed up to the Straits of Mackinac by Captain Sigurd M. Frey where, painted white and owned by the state, she transported people and automobiles to and fro over the straits until the world's longest suspension bridge came into being there.

The ferry system grew to 14 ships serving 8 harbors in 1949. It was the world's largest ferry system. When the Nordmøre Chamber Choir was going over to Kewaunee, we were just one year too late. Passage from Elberta/Frankfort halted in 1982, so we had to go down to Ludington to get across. It is a question of time when the ferries will stop entirely.

***

Of the 46 living sources of the book, who are sources for this section, 5 are from inner Nordmøre: Alex Larson, Magnor Roen, Ole Glarum, Stanley Steinberg and John Telgard.

Nils (Bo) Dropping, who was onboard Valentine's Night 1923, is probably Nils, born 1889, from Øvre Kobbskjeret on Drøpping, emigrated 1910 - destination Michigan. Passage via Bergen. There is no more information about him.

Magnor Roen is certainly Magnar Røen. Both spellings are used in the book for his given name. Rindaling? Magnar was a captain.

Stanley Steinberg must be Steinar, born 1883 and emigrated 1905 to Michigan from Teigen, Steinberg. He traveled together with the returnees John (Johannes) Brøskehagen and Erling Bruset from Northport and others. He was on the ferries 50 years.

Sivert Mauseth was steward on Boats No. 1 and 2. He may be the same Sivert who earlier was a sawmaster in Suttons Bay. It could hardly be his son Sivert, as he died too young.

John Hagen (Brøskehagen) was a mate on boats 1-4. He is mentioned under Northport. He had polio and became a shoemaker with a shoe store in Northport.

Photo reference 168/1: Johannes Hagen, 1st mate on the ferries.

Many have had work on the boats as an intermediate step or a starting point to the next phase of their life. People also came from Norway and worked a spell, hoping to save some money before traveling home. We shall probably never know anything about them. Some have descendants to tell - about those who established homes:

 

Kristine Glærum (Myra), her brother Ola and cousin Brit Skralthaugbakken
"My children will not become like Tosten's children. My children shall go to America and live by the pen!" The father of Kristine and Ola, Fredrik Myra, said this. The Tosten mentioned is Tosten Trø'n - Glærumstrøa. It was great sport to compete in aphorisms in formal Riksmål out on the fields and in the hayricks in Oppigard at Glærum. They seem to have had great fun with this amusement, for several are still quoted. Tosten was an expert in such pithy expressions, but Frek, his neighbor, was not very far behind.

In any case, all three of Fredrik's children came to America.

Ola became 2nd mate on the carferries. He married Oleanna Olsen from Halsa when she was nearly 40, and they had no children. Oleanna had worked as a housekeeper in Chicago - Evanston for many years before she married Ola. Oleanna met Ola when she was on a visit in Frankfort.

Oleanna could be interviewed at the home for the elderly in Frankfort at an age of 97 - in April 1985. She was nearly blind, but had remarkable hearing and was clear-headed as a youth. She said she thought it disgusting that they are now restoring Ellis Island in New York, where the emigrants landed. It was a frightful place, she said, and ought to be forgotten by everyone. But the passage and the food had been OK.

She arrived in 1906 with her sister, Kristine, and they settled in Chicago. Oleanna was 17 when she emigrated. She came to Frankfort with Kristine and her aunt, Johanna, when she met Ola.

Ola started as a handyman on the ferries from the time he came to Frankfort, and spent his whole life there.

Oleanna died the spring of 1985. Ola had then been dead for many years.

Photo reference 169/1: Ola (Myra) Glærum and Oleanna, at home in Frankfort | Belongs to: Fran Larson.

***

Ola's sister, Kristine, was the first to arrive. She went over in 1897, alone, on a ticket sent from the USA. Ola and Brit came together in 1903, and it is really Brit's brother - Ole Olsen Garte Skralthaug who journeyed with them. All had tickets sent from America.

Kristine's destination was New York, Ola and Brit were going to Michigan, and Brit's brother to Minnesota.

***

Kristine Glærum came to Frankfort and married Alexander Linus Larson (Stålsmo) from Halsa. The Larson's were 12 sisters and brothers who came over with their mother.

Photo reference 169/2: Kristine born Glærum and Alex Larson (from Halsa) | Belongs to: Fran Larson.

Kristine was called "pretty Kristine" in Frankfort. She and her cousin Brit (Bertha in the USA) Skralthaugbakken, who married Alex's brother, Ole, always wore large, pretty brooches when they went to church, it was said - for those who worked on the ferries were paid well in comparison to others in the town. Ole was a chief engineer and Alex a captain.

Kristine and Alex Larson first had a son - Lorenz, who died an infant. The next child was Elsie, who died 5 years old. Their daughter, Agnes, was graduated from St. Olav College. She died unwed 45 years old. Alex was one of the "great captains" about whom there are heroic tales. He also was mayor of Frankfort.

Photo reference 170/1: Next generation and an American: Agnes Larson, daughter of Alexander Linus from Halsa and Kristine Glærum (Myra), naming ceremony of American war ship.

Photo reference 171/1: Ole and Bertha Larson born Olsdatter Skralthaug | Belongs to: Fran Larson.

***

Brit and Ole Larson had a son Lawrence. Brit was twice home on visits to Norway before World War I, and with her son in 1932.

All three of these families lived on Leelanau Avenue in Frankfort.

Brit's (Bertha's) brother took the name Haugen in the USA, Brit called herself Bertha Olsen. A photo shows that her brother, Ole Haugen, resided in Minneapolis. Her brothers, Kristoffer and Kristian, lived in Montana.

Sources:  Gunvor Gulla, Oleanna Glærum, Fran Larson.

 

The brothers John, Martin and Nils Telgard - their sister Martha
John was called Stangvik in Norway but took the name Telgard (Teilgård) in the USA. He was from Nytrøa, Ulvund, baptized Johannes.

He came to the USA 14 years old in 1910 on the crew of a boat. He jumped ship in New York. He had two siblings in the USA - who presumably already lived in Northport, according to the family. John said that his father in Stangvik was a fisherman and that John was not going to be the same. He was a seaman on the ferries his entire life. He started at the bottom and worked his way up to the skipper examination, but was 1st mate. He first lived in Northport.

In 1920 he married Alma Carlson, born in Frankfort.

Children: Lorraine and Helen.

John was a good friend of Ola Glærum, and lived not far away - on Forest Avenue. John died in 1951.

Photo reference 171/2: John Telgard (wrote Stangvik at the departure from Norway) married to Alma born Carlson. Here with their granddaughter Jane Tifft born Laubach. | Belongs to: Helen Mead.

His sister, Martha, should have come before John. See section about the Telgards under Northport.

John's brother Martin became a lighthouse-keeper at St. Joseph, south of Muskegon. Later he had the same job in California - first in Mendicino, then at Fort Bragg, and he assuredly returned to St. Joseph in Michigan. His wife was called Caroline - otherwise no information apart from the fact that they had an adopted daughter, Martella. The family also believes Martin arrived before John. HH says that he married his niece, Inga Nelson.

There is no information about Nils. He married Anna Grendal from Meisingset, according to HH.

Source: Alma Telgard and Helen Mead.

Photo reference 171/3: A ferry no longer in use - Elberta, wanted as a future museum. Frankfort is at the other side of Betsie Bay. (1985)

 

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* Copyright Dordi Glærum Skuggevik 1986 - ISBN 02-991394-0-6. Please note: The original text and photo captions in Norwegian – and any digitisation and translation thereof - contain information from public, private and personal sources and may contain unintended errors, inaccuracies or omissions. The author - and as applicable: the digitiser and translator - accepts no liability for any such errors, inaccuracies or omissions. To continue, the reader must accept all limitations of liability and the text ‘as is’ - or should refrain from further reading.

The above content is from the book "Utvandringshistorie fra Nordmøre - Stangvik og Surnadal Prestegjeld" (History of emigration from Nordmøre – Stangvik and Surnadal Parish (Norway)) - published in 1986 by Dordi Glærum Skuggevik - and is used by the author's kind permission. All photos are used by the owners' kind permission.

The English text - except for part VII and photo captions - is a private translation from Norwegian by Sjur Sivertson, used with his kind permission (copyright Sjur Sivertson).

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