Peter Thybo Petersen

En erindring om en Klakring-drengs opvækst i Danmark og udvandring til Amerika for at gøre lykken. Peter Thybo Petersen, født 1875, er opvokset på en gård i fiskerbyen Klakring. Som 15-årig tager Peter alene til Missouri Valley, USA. Han etablerer sig ved forskelligt arbejde, så han kan tjene til dagen og vejen. Efter noget tid følger resten af familien trop. Skæbnen vil, at han finder kærligheden i Amerika – i Karen, som han har kendt fra sin barndoms hjemegn. Erindringen beskriver familien og menneskerne, der omgiver dem, og tidens forhold: Det daglige arbejde, maden, bryllups- og begravelsestraditioner - og meget mere. Teksten er på Engelsk. Gør ejerskabskrav på erindring

Indsendt af Ole Pedersen, hvis mormors søster (Karen) var gift med Peter Thybo Petersen.


Autobiography by Peter Thybo Petersen

(Written at the age of 89)

Revised and Printed by Helga and Agnes Petersen, November 1965

My childhood in Denmark

Min familie

I was born in Barrit, Denmark on April 8, 1875. My father’s name was Lars Christian Petersen and my mother’s maiden name was Kyrstine Jensdatter. My grandfather on my father’s side was Peter Thybo. My grandmother’s first name was Sara. My mother was raised by her grandmother, so I don’t remember my grandparents on her side of the family. Dad had two half-brothers, Anton Fredericksen and Torkel Knudsen. Torkel’s father Knud was the only grandfather I can remember. My mother also had two half-brothers, Carl and Marius Jensen. That’s about all I know about my forefathers.

Huset i Klakring

The first thing I remember about my childhood was moving into a new house in Klakring, which was a little town in a belt between Jutland and Fyen, one of the biggest islands in Denmark. This was in 1880 when I was five years old. Dad was a carpenter who had learned the trade as an apprentice. He worked for four years without pay. After he had learned the trade he always had plenty of work but the pay was small and we never had much money at our house. Before we moved to Klakring the folks had lost two babies. After they lost the second baby they took in a baby girl to raise. Since Mother had just lost her baby she had plenty of milk to nourish a child, so she breastfed baby Mary just as she did all of the rest of us when we came along. Five years later I was born. Then there was Lona, Theresa and Carl. Lona died when she was seven. The folks had another little girl later and they named her Lona, too. She was the youngest child in our family.

Dad bought ten acres of land just outside of Klakring and that was where he built our new house. One edge of the land touched the seashore. There were just twelve miles of water between our place and the town of Bogense, which is on an island. There are many islands in Denmark. The sea got pretty rough at times and fishermen going from Barrit to Bogense to trade were sometimes lost at sea. They used little sailboats and a strong gale or rough sea was too much for them. They were happy people and took their life as it had to be. It was fishing, eating fish, and selling fish. Fish peddlers carrying baskets on their hacks went from house to house in the town of Klakring peddling. We lived about two miles from town where we went to school. The little towns of Barrit and Klakring, like most little towns in Denmark, were made up of farm buildings as well as homes. Most of the farmers lived in town too.

They built four houses in a square around a yard. This was paved with cobblestones. One house was for the family. Others were for horses, oattle, hogs, sheep and chickens. There was a barn for hay and grain for the lifestock too. The farmers went back and forth taking care of their crops. They usually had a mile or two to go to do their farming but they were good farmers.

Mary was then when we moved into the new house, I was five, Theresa three and Carl one. The house had just one bedroom with two built-in beds. One was a two-story bed. I slept in the upper story and the other three children slept in the lower story. There was a dining-room and a front room that we didn’t use. In the front room dad had built a window seat that could be turned out to make a bed. He made all of our chairs and tables, too. There was an open fireplace in the kitchen. There was a built-in oven that was so big that I could crawl into it to pile up wood to burn and hast it. When it was hot enough to turn the bricks red on the inside, we scraped out all of the hot coals and ashes and baked our bread in the oven. We baked about 20 loaves at a time. It was dark bread made with rye graham and tasted real good. We used a long handled shovel to put the loaves into the oven and to take them out when they were baked. When the bread was all in the oven, we put the iron door back in place and the heat from the bricks would bake it nice and brown. We stored the loaves of bread on rafters in the attic. We only baked bread once a month. Mother did all the cooking on the open fireplace. The kitchen floor was made up of little rocks and sand. There was a door from the kitchen to dad’s workshop. From the shop there was a door to the barn and a place to thresh the grain. In the barn we had a cow, some chickens and a pen for a pig. This was all under one roof. Mother made all of our clothes. She had a spinning wheel to spin wool into yarn for long woolen stockings. She knit stockings and mittens for all of us.

Skoledage og militærtræning

I started to school in Klakring when I was six years old. I had about a mile to walk to school. Mother made a bag for me to carry my lunch and books in. I had a Bible History, a Catecism, a slate and slate pencils. The school house was a big building with an apartment at one end for the teacher and his family. Our school-room had seats for 60 children. The seats were built together. There was room for six of us on each bench and for five benched on each side of the room. The boys sat on one side of the room an the girls on the other. In the morning when we were all in our seats, the teacher would lead us in the Lords prayer and singing religious songs. Then we all read from the Bible-history book. Two times a year the Preacher and the township foreman would come to the school to judge our work. They decided which class that we should be in. We had just two classes, the big class and the little class. We had school six days a week for eleven months of the year. The little class went to school four days in the summer and and two days in the winter. The big class went two and a half days in the summer and four days in the winter.

When we were 14 we went to the preacher to get ready for confirmation. The preachers and teachers were hired by the government. When we boys started to school we started our military training. Two times each week our teacher would line us up, then he would walk along the line to see that we were all standing straight. He would say “Turn on your heel. Turn right, turn left” and the “Fall back in line“. We marched two in line all over the yard. Once a week he would march us to the ocean more than a mile away. We would undress and get into the water and roll around. There was nice white sand on the beach. He always watched that we didn’t get out into deep water. After about fifteen minutes we got dressed and back in line to march back to class.

Damplokomotiv mellem Horsens – Juelsminde

A new railroad was being built at that time. Part of it would run across our land. It was a little private railroad running from Horsens to Juelsminde. There were five stations on the line and dad helped to build them. There was a station at Klakring and one at Barrit. Most of the work was done with hand shovels and wheelbarrows. It was three years before we saw the first steam engine. That was a big event in our lives. How we kids loved to hear the whistle! The only transportation we had ever seen before was by horse or by oxen.

Forældrenes udearbejde

The folks lost a baby boy born about the time Carl was two. Now, a year later they had a baby girl and they named her Lona after her older sister who had died when she was seven. Mother went out to work for others when Lona was two years old. She worked on the days i didn’t go to school. Dad was working away from home every day except Sundays. Sometimes he borrowed a team of horses from our neighbor Peter Krogh, and plowed up a piece of ground and sowed it in grain. Dad did all of the carpenter work for Peter Krogh, who was a very wealthy man and had one of the biggest farms in Klakring. He had a lot of buildings to keep up. His buildings weren’t in town like most of the farmers, but were built in the middle of his farm. Peter Krogh was a half-brother to my mother’s father.

Opdragelse og afstraffelse

In our home, we all learned the Lord’s prayer as soon as we were old enough to talk and Dad saw to it that we said it every night before we went to sleep. Our folks were strict with us. Dad didn’t punish us very often, but when he did we knew that he meant business. Mother was softer when she gave orders. I don’t remember ever getting a whipping from dad. I do remember that one time Carl and I had been using some of his carpenter tools. He had strictly forbidden us to touch them. We damaged one of them and when he saw it in the morning he told us that we could think it over till evening and if we would come to him and ask forgiveness he wouldn’t spank us. When it was time to go to bed he was sitting in the dining-room so I went in and told him that I was sorry. Carl wouldn’t do this so dad took him across his knees, pulled down his pants and smacked him pretty hard. That was the only time I remember him punishing any of us. I only remember my mother punishing me one time. It was when Carl and I were having a scrap out in dad’s workshop. Carl was mad at me and was trying to hit me with his wooden shoe. I had him down and was holding him till he cooled off. Mother heard the fuss and came out. She picked up a piece of stove-wood and hit me across the shoulders with it.

Den sorte hane

One day Theresa, Carl and I were playing out in the shop. Lona must have been asleep and mother had gone to work. We had some chickens there, about half grown. We cornered them up and caught them and threw them up in the air to see them fly. I caught a big black rooster and threw him up in the air a little too high. He came down a dead rooster. We didn’t know what to do; we knew mother would feel bad. She had said that we would eat the big black rooster for dinner the next Sunday if the fox didn’t take him before then. We decided not to tell her what we had done and I took the rooster out the back way across the field about a half mile and threw him in some bushes. I was the guilty one and I never did forget it. I didn’t tell the folks till after they came to this country. It was on my mind every night when I said my prayers.


Children in Denmark didn’t often get inside the church. Their parents took them to be baptized and again when they were confirmed. The confirmation class always met at the preacher’s home. The folks went to church about four times a year. That was about the average for most of the people in our town. We lived about two miles from church and they always walked.

Ud at tjene på nabogården

Most of the boys started to work out when they were ten years old but I was small for my age and Mother worked away from home so much that she and Dad decided to keep me at home to look after Lona, who was two-and-a-half then. Theresa and Carl were both in the little class, going to school four days a week. The next summer when I was eleven I was hired out to one of the neighbours. He had a small farm next to ours. I worked from May 1st to November 1st. My wages were 14 kroner, one pound of wool and one pair of wooden shoes. The man’s name was Hans and his wife was Trina.

My job was to take care of the cattle and sheep. Hans had two horses and usually did most of the field work himself. They had another boy, fifteen, to help with the fieldwork. He and I slept in the building where the livestock was kept.

Hans called us at four or four-thirty each morning so we would have time to do our chores before breakfast. Martin fed the horses and I cleaned their stalls. I cleaned the cow barn and fed the cattle. The cows were kept in their stalls from the time the pasture dried up in the fall until spring. Their feed was brought to them on a track and there was a well in the barn so we pumped the water into a trough. We did this with the pump handle so it took quite a long time every day. They had seven or eight cows to milk and Trina did the milking. That was a woman’s job. Men and boys in Denmark never learned to milk. After the milking was done she got our breakfast of coffee and rye bread with lard. Then we were ready for work.

My job was to get the cattle and sheep out on grass. I din’t have to take them very far but the cows were hard to manage after having been in the barn all winter. It was hard to get them all tied together and Hans helped med the first two or three times. I tied them together in two rows and lead them to the pasture. There were no fences and all of the animals were kept tied up. I tied two ropes around the neck of the lead cow, these were tied to two more and so on until they were all tied together. Then I took them out to the pasture and staked each one down with a wooden peg. I had a big wooden hammer to pound the pegs with. I had to move each cow every hour. That was an all day job every day all summer long. I brought them home at noon so Trina could milk the ones that were giving much milk. Then we had dinner which was usually a big crock of soup or rice. This was set in the middle of the table and each of us got a spoon. We all ate from the same bowl. We each got another big slice of rye bread and lard, too. Then we went to bed to rest for about an hour while Trina milked the cows. After that she made coffee and we all had coffe and a lump of rock sugar. I took the cows out again and back in again at about six-thirty in the evening. Then we had supper – more rye bread with lard, home made cheese and a cup of milk. When I had finished up the chores for the day it was bed time. That was the routine for three summers.

Skomager Jensens

In the Winter time, when I didn’t go to school, I helped Dad in his shop. He made furniture and window and door frames then. He decided once to have me make a flower table for Shoemaker Jensen’s wife, Sophie. Dad always talked about how well Marius was doing. He said that a lot of the credit should go to Sophie as she was a good housekeeper and manager. Almost everyone I knew had been wearing wooden shoes and now they were changing to leather so that gave the shoemaker plenty of work. They traced around your feet to get the right size, then cut out the pattern from leather, stitched and completely finished the shoes right in the shoemaker’s shop. Dad thought it was a good trade and would have liked for me to take it up. I didn’t think I would like sitting on a bench all of my life. I finished the flower table and carried it six miles to Sophie’s house. She was very pleased and asked me to come in and rest for a few minutes. I think that was the last time I saw her. She died soon after that and left six little girls for Marius to take care of. It was hard for him after that; he had a hard time keeping housekeepers. His mother had stayed with the little girls the first year but it was too much work for her. The baby was doing well now; she was just ten days old when her mother died and Grandmother had given her a good start in life by starting her out on goat’s milk.

Factories were taking over the shoemaking trade and Marius was losing quite a bit of business. The next few years were hard ones for him. Then he married again. He and his second wife had three little boys. She was not mentally strong and was becoming so unreasonable that the little girls could not stay at home with her. They left home as soon as they could find a place to work. Poor Marius didn’t know which way to turn. He had tried to find a good mother for the girls but things just hadn’t worked out that way.

Arbejde ved Peter Krogh

In the spring of 1889 shortly after I was confirmed I started working for Peter Krogh. He and his wife Hannah were good people to work for. They were kind to their help. He was a good manager and a hard worker too. Their children were Alfred, Morton, Anna, Neils and Johannes. Morton was about my age. He was a good boy, but he couldn’t learn very well at school. We started in the same class. I remember the teacher asking me to trade places with him on the school bench. The children at school had certain places to sit, the poorest at one end and the best ones at the other end. I had advanced to the head of the class. Morton didn’t do so well, but the teacher knew that his dad was an important farmer and he wanted to keep on the right side of him so he put Morton at the head of the class. I never got over that.

Peter Krogh kept several hired men and to hired girls. I was hired to take care of the cattle. My wages was 65 kroner for the year. All through the winter cur job was threshing grain. They had two thresing floors. First we threshed and cleaned the grain on the fanning mill. The rye straw had to be handled with care and not broken as it was tied up in bundles again to be used for thatching roofs. The oats and barley straw was feed for livestock. We sent the grain to the mill to be ground – the rye for the people, and the other grain for cattle and hogs. We spread the bundles of grain out on the threshing floor – heads all at one end – and beat the grain out with flails (several wooden sticks fastened together with leather straps). Then we raked up the straw and chopped it, swept up the grain, cleaned it and put it in sacks to be taken to the mill. Most of the farmers had hand chopping machines for the oates and barley straws. It took two men to run it. Peter Krogh had just bought one that we could hook a horse onto. That was probably the first horse-powered machine in Klakring.

We boys had plenty of work to do. We did the chores before breakfast every morning while the two girls milked the cows. Hannah had breakfast ready then. Peter Krogh sat at the upper end of the table, the young men and boys sat on a bench in back of the table. The girls were at the front and they had to stand up to eat. Hannah was a good cook. We got good food and plenty of it. People drank beer instead of water there. Everybody raised their hops and made malt. They all made their own beer. They made an extra batch every spring just to keep until harvest time and by that time it had plenty of kick. There was always beer on the table and in the field when we worked with the grain.

Peter Krogh’s children all got to go to high school. Only the rich kids went to high school those days.

The men and the girls worked in the hay fields together. To men went ahead with the scythe, then two others raked it into little stacks and the girls followed behind raking up all that was left in the field. We worked together through the field, then walked back to the place where we started, had a little lunch or a drink of beer and started all over again. After the harvesting was finished we always had a big feast to celebrate the occasion. Then the other hired man and I started plowing. We each had a team of horses and walked behind the plow. I was driving a good team and liked walking behind the plow all day.

Drømmen om Amerika

When my year was nearly up, Peter Krogh told me that if I would stay with him for another year he would pay me 150 kroner, which was 90 more than I had been getting. I had to say no. I had already decided to go to America in the spring. My dad was building a creamery and I could help him some through the winter. I had heard many things about America. One thing was that orange trees were growing along the roadside and people could pick oranges as they walked along the road. I had heard, too, that in America the menfolks had to do the milking so I had been practicing milking when I could get away from my chores long enough. Dad thought that the United States was the place to find a good future for all of us and Mother agreed with him. He was making plans for the whole family to go to America as soon as he could save enough money for the tickets.

Several other young men were planning to go to America that year and Dad made arrangements for me to go along with them as they were going to Missouri Valley. This is where I was planning to go as my sister Mary was there.


I grow to manhood in America

On February 26th, I said good-bye to the family and started out on the big adventure of seeking my fortune in a strange new country. I was only 15 and it was hard to leave my parents, sisters and brother and my beloved Denmark – not knowing for sure, if I would ever see them again. I didn’t see a tear in anyone’s eye and I was thankful. Dad went with me on the train to Horsens where we met my traveling companions. Everything went as planned and I was on my way.

Turen over Atlanten

My two companions, Andrew Andersen and Jacob Jacobsen, and I boarded the ship March 1, 1891 at Hamburg, Germany. We stopped at a French port, Le Havre, to take on food supplies to the ship. We turned a little pale when we saw them come with large supply of horsemeat, and I was thankful for the box of home-baked goodies my mother had thought to send along with us. (To tell the truth we were all so seasick coming over that everything we ate tasted like horsemeat, anyway, so it didn’t matter much what we ate). We ran aground in the English Channel the first day and had to wait for the tide to come in, so another ship could pull us out.

Ukendte kulinariske traditioner i Chicago

Anyway, the time passed and in two weeks we docked at New York Harbor. We, then, boarded a train for Missouri Valley, Iowa. We stopped over in Chicago and explored the town. We were really hungry by this time. (I was still carrying the box Mother sent with me and there were a couple of doughnuts left in it, but somehow they didn’t look good to me anymore). We came to a bakery and stood and looked at the good things there in the window. We finally got up enough courage to go in and point out to the clerk three juicy pies in the window. We had never seen pies in Denmark and hadn’t the slightest idea how to eat them, but that fact didn’t worry us very much. After we had been in this country awhile, we could understand why people stared at us as we walked down the street holding our pies in our hands and eating them as they were cheese sandwiches!

Mælkemand i Missouri Valley

We arrived in Missouri Valley on the 19th of March. Mary was at the station to meet us. She sure looked good to me. Mary had been in America since she was 16. Her real father had come over here from Denmark and had settled on a farm in South Dakota and had sent for Mary. But Mary and her Stepmother didn’t get along very well, so Mary had gone out to work. Her minister had helped her to find work with some of his friends in Missouri Valley. Mary was the sociable type and had made many friends in Missouri Valley. In no time at all, she had found work for all three of us boys.

My first job was on a 20 acre farm. I helped put the crops in, but when that was done, the job was over. Then I got a job working for a milkman. My job was taking care of the cows and milking six or eight of them morning and night. I was glad I had practiced milking in Denmark for here I was milking cows just as I had heard the men did in America, but as yet I hadn’t seen any orange trees growing along the roads. Sometimes, I got to help deliver the milk, I liked to do this. The evening milk was cooled over night in a water trough. In the morning, we poured in into five-gallon cans, took along a two-gallon can with a long spout and two measuring cups. These were hung on the long spout. We loaded this all into the spring wagon and were ready to go. We carried the two-gallon can and the measuring cups from door to door. The housewife met us with a container and paid us with tickets bought ahead of time. We got 5 cent for a quart of milk. We had to get out early in the mornings before the milk got sour. I worked there until November 1st.

Genforening med familien

Mary was good to help me. She got me started to attend the Danish Methodist Church. Here, I met many nice people who helped me to find work and, also to speak the English language. The second year I was in the Valley, I worked on the section and in the railroad car repair shop. I had now started to save money to help get the rest of the family to America. The highest pay I recived was 13½ cent an hour. Out of this, I paid $3.50 a week for board and room. When I had saved enough money for two tickets, I sent it to my father to bring Carl and Theresa over. Dad then sold everything he had and bought tickets for Mother, Lona and himself. I could hardly wait to see my family again. I was working for the railroad then and I watched every train come in. At last they arrived. It was late in the afternoon one day in May of 1893. That was a very happy meeting. They hardly knew me as I had grown so much. I was such a little squirt when I left home.

They had a little money left, so we rented a house in the Valley and bought some second-hand furniture. Dad made the kitchen table and chairs. I worked in the railroad shop, Dad got a job with a Danish housebuilder, and Carl, a big, strong boy of 15, took work of any kind, when he could find it. I got laid off in the summer and then we were both looking for work.

Then one day a good Samaritan came along in the form of a saloon keeper. He had a saloon in the Valley and a 120 acre farm two miles west of town. He passed our house on his way to the farm and he had been watching us. He asked us if we would be interested in going out to his farm to live and work his ground for him. He said he would give us one-third of the crop. We were ready to move the next day.

Things looked real good for us then, but after a month or so Theresa got sick. We had Dr McGavern from the Valley to see her and he said she had malaria fever. Carl got sick, too. Theresa died about the ninth day and Carl almost died too. The Doctor said it was caused by the water we had been drinking. It was from an open well by the house and hadn’t been cleaned out for a long time. Dad made Theresa’s coffin. Making coffins was not new to him as it was part of his carpenter trade in Denmark. He had made coffins for the babies he and mother had lost in Denmark, too.

We worked the ground that fall and got it ready for spring planting. I got back to work in the shop for the winter. Dad worked some, too. We bought two cows and some pigs and chickens. That was a start. The spring of 1894 we had the ground in good shape and we planted the whole farm in corn. It turned out to be so hot and dry that most of it didn’t come out of the ground. It stayed dry until July. Then it rained and we replanted about 40 acres. It made a big crop, but was poor quality. We sold some of it for 55 cents a bushel and had some for feed. We had been buying horses and cattle during the summer and fall. They were all very thin. I got my first two horses for cutting fodder in the dried up corn-fields. There were so many farm sales and things were selling cheap. I bought a wagon and a set of harness for about $40.00. Then we got two old horses that a neighbor wanted to get rid of. They needed some feed and by spring they were in good shape. We worked there for about two years.

En kold flytning til Kelloggs farm og et eget sted

Dad now wanted to settle down and we wanted to get closer to a railroad station. We settled on a farm two miles north of Honey Creek. The owner of the farm was a banker named Kellogg. He lived in Missouri Valley. The renter he had that year had only half farmed and had moved off the place. He hadn’t picked any of the poor corn crop and Mrs. Kellogg said we could move on there and pick the corn, for cleaning it up. It was O.K. with us. We rented for half of the corn crop delivered at the Missouri Valley elevator.

We had a thirty mile move to make, but we were saved a lot of hauling because there would be plenty of feed on the place and we could sell what we had. We only had horse-power at that time. Carl and I made several trips over with machinery. We drove the cattle about half-way one day and made arrangements with a farmer there to keep them until we were moved. We had been having nice weather and some rain and the dirt roads were frozen now and very rough. The day we moved the furniture it turned so cold that we had to walk beside the wagon all forenoon in order to keep warm. Dad, Mother and Lona rode in the spring wagon and stopped at Missouri Valley. Mary was married now and had a home there and they spent the night with her. Two of our neighbors were helping us that day. It was after dark when we reached our destination. We put the horses in the barn and fed them. Then we unloaded our furniture and got the stoves set up so we could make some coffee. Then we had plenty of hot coffee and frozen sandwiches. We carried in some straw and each of us made a bed for himself on the floor. It was almost morning and the sun was shining in a couple of hours later. We made more coffee and saw our friends start back home. Thanks was the pay the got and expected.

We all went to work cleaning up the farm and repariring the buildings. Then I took a job for a yearworking for a farmer. The next year Carl worked and I stayed at home. Mr. Kellogg wanted to sell us the farm and offered us any terms we wanted at a very reasonable price. Dad and mother wanted a place for themselves, a small place so they could take things a little easier. Mother’s health was not very good. She was always in good humor though, and so nice to everyone. A neighbor had a little 14 acre place that he wanted to sell and Dad bought it for $20.00 an acre. They moved on there the spring of 1898. Then Carl and I kept the place for one more year and Lona kept house for us.

Dad and Mother were in their own home now and Mother said she had never had it so easy or had so many good things in life before. Dad worked his little farm with one horse. He had some corn, a nice garden, fruit trees and grapes. They were not working so hard and it was good to see them so satisfied.

Brev fra Danmark og indflyttere fra hjemegnen

Mary had been married for some time now. She had married Jacob, one of the boys who was with me on the ship. They had been living in the Valley. I was 24 years old then and, like anyone else that age, looking for the right girl. There were several young girls in the neighborhood and we young folks got together quite often. The girls popped corn and made molasses taffy. We played cards or just had fun together. We had some pretty good times these days, too.

Marius had been writing to Dad and Mother. He told them how hard things had been for him and his girls. He didn’t know what to do about Sophie, the youngest. She was 11 years old now. She was a nice quiet girl and her stepmother was so unreasonable it was impossible for him to keep her at home. Etly was two years older than Sophie, but she was so jolly, things didn’t seem to bother her so much. She was getting on better with her stepmother than any of the other girls. Jenny was 15 and she was staying with the schoolteacher’s family. She was a bright girl and he offered to help her to get an education (He helped her through school and she taught school for many years. When she died she remembered his family in her will. She had always been grateful for his help). The three other girls, Karen, Carly and Emma were all working. Dad and Mother talked things over and decided to write to Marius and tell him that they would be glad to have Sophie live with them if he could get someone to bring her over. Marius wrote to Karen, who was working in Horsens at that time, and asked her if she would take Sophie to America. He said that if she didn’t want to he would bring her over. Karen didn’t want to come to America as she had always loved Denmark. She felt bad about it all; she didn’t want to go and she couldn’t say no. She knew how things were at home for Sophie. She decided that she would take Sophie to America and the minute that she had enough money saved up she would return to Denmark. She hated to leave Denmark and she didn’t want to leave her boy friend, Godfrey, but the decision to come back home as soon as possible made it easier for her to write the letter to her father telling him that she would take Sophie over. Dad sent the money for Sophie’s ticket and I had some money saved up then so I sent money for Karen’s. Soon they were on their way to America. Sophie enjoyed it all but Karen was seasick and miserable. She was sick on the long train ride, too, but when they reached Missouri Valley and it was time to get off, she was afraid to leave the train. They couldn’t talk to anyone and they didn’t know where they were. Finally, the conductor had to pick up their bags and put them off by force.

Mary and I met them at the train. There stood Karen on the platform with one shoe off and one shoe on – the conductor was holding the other shoe. She looked like a scared little girl. Sophie was hanging on to her sister for dear life. (Karen told med later that Sophie never left her side during the whole trip for fear of getting lost). Karen had grown into a very pretty young lady. Her blonde hair curled around her face and she was very tiny – I doubt she weighed a hundred pounds.

On the way back to the farm Karen told me how much she had hated to leave Denmark and that she wanted to return as soon as she could earn enough money. I was already hoping she would change her mind, but I promised I would help her to find work.

After a couple of weeks I took her to see one of our neighbors, Jim Bush, who had a daughter living in Omaha. I thought they might be able to help Karen to find work. Mr. Bush hooked up his horse, Lisa, and took Karen to see his daughter, Louise, in Omaha. Louise found a job for Karen working for some folks who had a big house and who were expecting to have a lot of roomers as the Omaha Exposition of 1899 was in progress at that time. Karen was to receive $1.50 a week besides her room and board.

Frieri og bryllup

After a couple of weeks, I decided I needed a vacation, so I wrote to Karen and asked her how she would like to see the World’s Fair with me. She said she would, so I walked to Honey Creek, took the morning train to Council Bluffe and rode the street car over to Omaha. Karen and I went to the Fair and took in the sights and had a lot of fun. There was a fellow there doing some fancy embroidery work on silk handkerchiefs and I bought one for Karen. He wrote her name, date and place on it. She was very happy over it and always kept it – our daughter now has the handkerchief. When the Fair closed for the day, I walked Karen home and we sat on the front steps of her house and looked at the lights of the city. That was when I asked her to marry me. She said “Yes” and we set the date for the wedding – August 9th – just three weeks away.

Everybody was busy getting ready for the wedding. Mother and Dad were almost as happy about it as I was. I was very much in love with Karen and I hoped she felt the same way, but I knew she was disappointed in not being able to return to Denmark. A few days before the wedding, we had a big surprise. Karen’s dad walked in. We were all so busy and excited, we didn’t find out why or how he had come until some time later.

On the morning of the 9th, I drove to Missouri Valley to get the preacher. When we got back the house was full of people. Besides my parents and Carl and Lona, there were Karen’s dad and Sophie, Jacob and Mary and their three children, Powell Nelsen, Karen Powell and their family from Loveland, Chris Larsen, Anna Met and their family from the Valley, and our closest neighbors. They were Nels Christian Peterson, his wife Marie Nels Christian and their family and Jens Jorgensen, his wife Hannah Jens Jorgen and their family. Everyone brought presents. There were tables and chairs, lots of dishes, and a pretty red mahogny rocker. Powell and Karen gave us the rocker (Karen put it to good use six times in the years to come). Chris and Anna Met gave us some lion-head glassware which we still have and use on special occasions. We were married in the living-room. Karen was a beautiful bride in her black and white embroidered dress. She had such a tiny waist – girls don’t have these any more. I was real proud of her. After the wedding ceremony, we all had dinner. The women-folks had all brought food along and everyone had all they could eat. Then I took the preacher back to the Valley, everyone went home, and Karen and I started our life together – a life that lastet 64 years.


A farm, a family and hard work

We lived on the Kellogg farm only a few months. We were anxious to get our own farm, so we bought a 60 acre farm next to my folks’ for $20.00 an acre. We had saved a little money, but we knew most of that would be needed to repair the buildings, so we borrowed $1,000.00 and made out fine. There were only 20 acres in farm ground but 10 more could be farmed. The rest was timber and quite hilly. Karen was happy over all the fruit trees. Dad and Carl helped fix up the house – we plastered it and built on a bed room, with a closet, and a big pantry. After we moved in, we fixed up the other buildings. Carl and Jake bought the Kellogg farm. Jake and Mary got the half with the buildings. During the next fall and winter, we all helped Carl build a barn and chicken house on his half. He was staying with the folks and since his half of the ground adjoined theirs, it was handy for him to farm the ground.

Dygtig og flittig hustru

I soon found out that my wife’s ambition matched my own. She was a good housekeeper, a good cook and a good farmer’s wife. She loved the outdoors. She tended chickens and garden and milked the cows. She helped me dig potatoes and shuck corn. (Most of the farm women worked outdoors in those days, but I doubt many of them enjoyed it as much as Karen). In spite of spending so much time outdoors, she was a firstrate housekeeper. The house fairly sparkled – it was so clean – and while out food was plain, it was always tasty. We usually had boiled potatoes, salt pork and milk gravy for our noon meal plus extras from the garden and orchard. She baked all the bread as a matter of course – six or eight big loaves at a time and maybe a nice batch of cinnamon rolls. Baking day smelled so good. She carried in wood for the old iron cookstove and carried out the ashes. She carried water from an open well for cooking, washing and bathing. (The well was a long ways from the house, too). She churned our butter, washed our clothes on an oldfashioned wash-board and sewed all of her own clothes and linens.

Mere familiesammenføring

Karen’s sister Sophie started to a country school that fall after we were married. She had become acquainted with some of the neighbor children and was learning to speak English. She was fast becoming an American. Her father, Marius, came to live with us for a while. He wanted to start a harness repair shop, so we fixed him a room upstairs and he worked there all winter. He got all the work he could handle. The next spring he moved into a little one-room place near my folks. It was really a dug-out left by woodchoppers who had come from the prairies to the timberlands to cut wood through the winter months. They usually dug caves for themselves to live in. They often built a nice front on the cave with a roof, windows and door, and these living quarters were really quite comfortable. So Marius settled in one of these. He bought himself a little horse and buggy and got a job carrying mail from the Honey Creek Post Office to a little country store about six miles away. He made this trip twice a week.

Karen’s sister Etly came to America the next summer. She came over from Denmark all alone at the age of 14. Marius had sent her money for the ticket. She stayed with us that fall and winter. Both Karen and I were glad to have her as she was such a good company and lots of help to both of us.

Småbørn i familien

Our first son was born on the 24th of October. Karen woke me early that morning and sent me to fetch Marie Nels Christian, who was not only our very good friend but the neighborhood midwife as well. Things were not going well for Karen and Marie sent me after Dr. Newsom who lived down the road about a mile. He soon had everything under control and we had a fine 7½ pound boy. We named him Sophus after Karen’s mother, Sophia.

Before Sophus was a year old, I went to fetch Marie Nels Christian a second time. This was in the middle of the night of October 18th. We got our first daughter this time. We named her Theresa after my sister who had died soon after coming to America. What a pair those two babies were! Sophus was really quite timid but his little sister was bold enough for both of them, and Sophus always egged on her. As soon as he could begin to talk, Sophus would say: “Du go fust” – “You go first“, and Theresa was willing. She led him everywhere from the creek to the barn roof. Karen would always set things high before she left them alone in the house, but she could never set things high enough for safety. One day she set a 30 dozen egg crate-full of eggs – up on the kitchen table before she went out. When she came back, there sat Sophus on one side of the crate and Theresa on the other, gooey with egg from top to bottom. They were throwing eggs all over the room. They hadn’t missed a single target. The whole room was a grand mess.

“A danish settlement”

About this time Carl was working for the Illinois Central Railroad. They were putting in an overhead crossing close to Loveland. The dirt was all moved by man-power, mule-power and wheel scrapers. He received 25 cents a day more than the others. His pay was $2.50 for a ten hour day. He would always stop in and help Karen with the chores. I had bougt a new grain binder that summer and was gone from home so much of the time cutting grain for the neighbors that Karen and Carl would ususally have the chores all done when I got home. I had also cleared off ten acres of timber and bought fifteen more acres of ground, so I had more to farm, too. I put in such long days, it was good to come home and find the chores done.

Lona married when she was 20. She married John Schroeder, a neighbor boy. Carl and John’s sister, Annie, stood up with them and a few years later Carl and Annie were married. Johan and Lona had a sixty-acre farm next to Jake and Mary. Carl and Annie settled down on Carl’s farm located between Jake’s and my parent’s farm, so our family made a small settlement of its own. It was a good arrangement for all of us. We men helped each other with the building, haying, molasses making, butchering and all other heavy or hard work and the women got together often for quilting or socializing. Of course, we soon produced a fine crop of youngsters among us and they had a ball growing up together. Carl, Jake, John and I bought a buzz saw in company. The power unit was a big clumsy affair. We hitched two teams of horses on it and they went around and around in a circle all day long. Dad stood on a platform in the center and kept the horses going. When the wood was sawed, the kids stacked it up neatly in the woodshed and we where all ready for winter. Dad would never let us saw his wood. He had bought an old hand saw over from Denmark and he still wanted to saw his wood the old-fashioned way. He never believed in changes.

Etly stayed with us until after our second daughter was born. I named her Agnes after a pretty little girl I had known in Denmark (Karen didn’t seem to mind). This was about the time Etly decided to get a job. We hated to see her go, but we knew that she should lead her own life so we helped her find a job doing housework on a farm near Underwood. Here she met and fell in love with a man who was working on the same farm. He was much older and much more worldly than Etly and we feared for her happyness, but she married him in spite of our fears. As it turned out, he was a drunkard and was very cruel to her. She lived with him for a year and then fearing for the safety of her new baby daughter, she left him and came back to live with us. We welcomed her and the three-week-old Violet warmly. Etly was a constant joy to our youngsters. No one could tell stories like aunt Etly and no one could bake such good apple pies and i knew that she was even good at pitching manure, for more than once she came out to help with things which were definitely not women’s work. We had a new baby girl at our house already. Little Elna was just three weeks older than Violet, so we had twin baby girls. They shared the same cradle the first winter. Girls were taking over our home. What with two women and four small girls in the house, Sophus and I certainly made up the minority party. We really didn’t mind too much. We felt kind of special because we always got the biggest pieces of Etly’s pie.

After Etly got her divorce, she got a job working at the Creche in Omaha. She could keep Violet with her there. But, whenever Etly got a few days off, she and Violet came home to visit and we were always glad to see them. Shortly before Violet was 4, she became terribly sick with the measles and scarlet fever. In spite of all anyone could do for her, she died. Part of Etly died with her. How Etly’s jolly laugh was missed around the house! We all mourned with her.

Sophie had been married about a year at this time. She married a good-looking fellow named Will Johnson, who lived about six miles south-east of us. She met him through Etly who worked for Will’s father for a short time after his wife passed away. Will had courted Sophie in high style. He always came to see her in a fancy cart pulled by two real driving horses. Most of the farmers couldn’t afford driving horses, so they would drive the same horses on Sunday that they worked in the field the rest of the week. So Will made a big impression on the whole neighborhood when he came courting. Sophie was a very nice quiet girl – kind and considerate of everyone. She was a good wife to Will and when their children were born, she was a wonderful mother to them.

Karens dad had bought a small farm near us and had sent for his wife, Christina, and three young sons to come to this country. He knew he couldn’t live with Christina, but he worried about his little boys and wanted them close. So he got Christina and the boys settled in the little house on the farm and he went to live with a bachelor friend near by. The boys’ names were John, Einar and Axel.

Sproget giver identitetsfølelse

We were still speaking Danish most of the time in our family. Sophus and Theresa, now 6 and 5, were ready to start to school and they didn’t know a word of English. Karen took them to school the first day. She had a hard time talking with the teacher and Sophus and Theresa couldn’t talk to her at all. The first few weeks were hard on both the teacher and the little Danes, but it’s surprising how fast the little ones picked up the language. They were soon teaching English to their mother and little sisters at home and in a very short time we were all speaking English. That made us feel like real Americans. My folks never did learn to speak English, though. The only English words my dad knew were “My Goodness” and he used them in almost every sentence he spoke. We always laughed at the younger children when they tried to speak Danish as they always started out with “My Goodness”.

Petersens smør

My mother died in 1908. We were never sure what caused her death. She had been having some bad sores on her leg, but we didn’t know what caused them. The kids all missed her because she had been so good to them. They liked to dress up and go down to see “Bestamor” because she would always have some cookies for them. After she was gone, my dad was lonesome so Marius went to live with him. Karen always sent them freash bread and butter when she baked and churned. She churned a lot of butter those days as we milked quite a few cows. Karen liked to make butter. We stored the cream in our cave. When she had saved up about five gallons of cream, she poured it in the old barrel churn, clamped the lid on good and tight, pulled up her chair and started turning the barrel. If the cream was the right temperature, she would have butter in half an hour, but if it was too warm or too cold, it could take hours. She often bounced a baby on her knee while she churned, but if the baby was quiet, she loved to read. She never seemed to mind how long it took if she had something to read. After the butter was churned, she drained off the buttermilk and rinsed the butter several times in cold well water, then she drained off the water and worked in the salt. She had a wooden paddle for that. In the winter she shaped the butter into big loaves and wrapped them waxed paper. Then she stored it in a cold room until we went to town. In the summertime she packed it in stone jars and stored it in the cave. We sold our butter to our grocer, Elmer Swanson, in Council Bluffs. He was always glad to get Karen’s butter. He sold it to special customers who always wanted the Petersen butter and were willing to pay extra for it. This made Karen real proud. Marius would come up and stay with the kids when we went to town. He loved the kids and they got along fine. He would always rock and sing the baby to sleep. The kids all behaved real good because they knew there would be big sack of candy tucked in with sugar, flour and coffee when Mamma and Papa got home from town.


Our new home

Our family was growing both in size and number. We had just welcomed our fifth child to the household – another girl, when we decided to we needed a bigger house. We were living in a two-room house and we were beginning to bulge out all over. We also needed a new barn for the livestock. We now had eight horses, twelve milk cows, lots of young calves and thirty tons of hay that needed shelter. I decided that we needed the barn the most, so we built that first – then we started to plan for the new house – an eight-room house we decided would be just right with four bedrooms upstairs and one bedroom down besides the parlor, dining-room and kitchen.

Sygdom, kolik og andre trængsler

Before we got started to build, we had our first real sickness in our family. Theresa got a bone infection in her right leg. Our country doctor tried lancing it, but it did no good. Theresa suffered terribly and Karen almost went crazy with grief over her. Finally, the country doctor told us to take her to the hospital in Council Bluffs where other doctors could see it. The other doctors decided an operation was necessary, so they made a big opening in the bone and scraped out the infection. She stayed in the hospital about a week the first time. I made a daily trip to Honey Creek after Dr. Frazier. He would clean and dress the wound. We were so afraid she might loose her leg. We knew another little girl with the same trouble who had to have her leg amputated. But finally, the pain let up, and the wound healed, and she was able to run and jump again like the other children. But the trouble came back again and again – I think she had fourteen operations on it – and she made many trips to the hospital during her childhood. The doctors called her trouble osteomyelitis.

When we did start to build the house, we had lots of confusion and many small troubles. Our new baby had colic for three months and cried all of the time. Someone was walking the floor with her night and day. I got called in on night duty. We were so busy we didn’t name this baby until she was 13 months old. Then Karen and I argued all the way to her baptism over the name. I wanted to name her Dagmar and Karen wanted to name her Helga. Karen won the argument, and she was christened Helga Emily.

About the time Helga was was crying with the colic and Theresa was crying with pain in her leg, the other two girls decided it was time they got some attention. So Elna went on a biting spree. She bit everyone, but mostly Agnes. She chased Agnes all over the place with mouth open ready to attack. Poor Agnes would climb up on a chair and scream for help. She didn’t dare to bite her little sister back. Karen said it was time for me to step in and straighten Elna out. I thought she was too little to spank. I put her in the closet for a few minutes. Then I opened the door and asked her if she would be good. “No!” was the quick reply. So I shut the door for a few minutes longer and repeated the process. Again she shook her head and said “No!” when I asked her if she would be good. (I don’t know where she got this stubborn streak). She never did agree to be good, but the next time she bit Agnes, she got the spanking she should have gotten the first time. The man who was helping to build our house tried to reason with her and told her about the nice, new house she would soon have to live in. Elna would stamp her little foot and say, “I’m going to throw that new house over to Kellys!“. (Kelly’s were our nearest neighbors). From this, Elna became known as the  “Kelly Girl”.

Then Agnes developed a tooth-ache – real or imaginary – we didn’t know which – and there was still more crying around the house. Sophus was the only one who didn’t give us trouble during those days.

Gode tider

Finally, things got to look better. The house was built at least, the baby got over the colic, Elna turned into a real angel, the toothache disappeared, and best of all, Theresa didn’t lose her leg. Peace, order and happiness settled down in the new house with us.

We were all very proud of the new house with the long, wide front porch. It was so nice not to be so crowded – the kids were no longer underfoot all the time.

About the time the novelty of the new house wore off, we got something else new and exciting. I made my last night trip after Marie Nels Christian. This time was kind of special – a boy after four girls in a row. Everyone was pleased over this new 12 pound boy, but no one was quite as happy over him as big brother Sophus. He ran the whole two miles to school the next morning to be the first one to carry the good news to the teacher and the school kids. The least pleased was Helga, who hated to give up her place as the “littlest”. However, she soon decided there was some consolation in being the littlest girl, anyway. Karen and I decided to let the kids name this one – we had so much trouble getting the last one named. It didn’t take them long – Theresa sort of headed the naming committee. She soon announced a tie vote between Victor and Vincent. It didn’t take me long to pick Victor as I knew an old drunken fishpedlar named Vincent – so Victor Thybo he became.

Vågenætter og begravelse

When Victor was about a year old, Karen’s father passed away. He was living with us again as his health had gradually been failing. He was no longer the same rollicking happy grandfather to the kids, so we knew he wasn’t well. He suffered a stroke in March of 1913 and about a week later, he died. Funeral homes weren’t big and fancy those days. The undertaker always came to the home to take care of the body, and the body was kept at the home until the day of the funeral. Neighbors would come in and sit nights – the whole thing was pretty much of a strain on the family. We had a Lutheran minister come in and perform the last rites, and while he was there, we had him baptize Victor. All of the other children were baptized in the Methodist Church in the Valley. Strange as it may seem, Victor became a Lutheran when he grew older – the first one of our children to join the Lutheran Church.

Et familieportræt

Another important event in 1913 was Etly’s second and last marriage. She married a wonderful young fellow – Dan Crawford – who she had been going with for some time. They made an interesting and handsome couple. He was very dark and she was very fair. They both had very pleasing personalities and were popular wherever they went.

One nice summer day, Karen and I were visiting over our morning coffee. We were sort of counting our blessings. We agreed the good Lord had been very good to us in this new wonderful country. We had been fortunate with our family, our crops and with our own good health. As usual, Karen showed some fear for what might lie ahead for our boys and girls.

Let’s remember today – how good it is“, I said, “Let’s round up the kids and go to town and have a family picture taken. We can always look at it and remember the best days of our lives“.

Karen thought it was a good idea, so we did, and here we are – one man’s family – on one of the best days of my life.


Missouri Valley 51555 IA US
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