Here are memoirs of an old lumberman.1 Born just under the Arctic Circle in Norway, he rolled his first log as a youngster in northern Wisconsin, then made his name on the west coast of Canada.1,2 He got respect for riding through white water, but that was at Hell’s Rapids. This is a humble man’s version of an extraordinary life.
TO BE DELIVERED IN PARTS. THIS IS PART I
Scope for the historian: the logger was son of a homesteader, Civil Engineer and surveyor. Thus, there is data relative to the latter quarter of the 19th Century in northern WI; insight into farming, road and rail-bed construction, issues of labor, wages, prices and the economy – as well, the making of a complete logger. Forest fires, bygone logging firms, accidents and breakfast in the middle of the night are woven into the story of the timberman’s legacy that completes in British Columbia, at the end of the first half of the 20th Century. The logger was our grandfather.
HOMESTEAD FARM METHODS AND PRODUCE; WISCONSIN CIRCA 1880
Scope for the genealogist: these are memoirs of a truthful soul, with an altered account of his early years. The good man attested to Norwegian birth while in Wisconsin, but claimed Wisconsin birth once in Canada. These papers are of the elderly man still holding dear to the latter notion. He does not mention Norway. He never regaled his grandchildren at Christmastime, with stories of reindeer in his backyard.2 These papers come new to we descendant writers of this blog, who had been puzzled because deceit was not the mark of the man.
These, his words, compared to statutory record, shows us a more poignant explanation; he placed himself, indeed, his whole family, together at his mother’s sickbed of long decline, by memory-melding events in Norway with those in Wisconsin. “Actions speak louder than words” and those around the death of his first wife – guaranteeing he would “be there”, and again, at the birth of his first son, would bear out his most tender heart. Posts that discuss his traumatic migration from Norway are here, and here.
The historian must know if grandfather was referencing Norway or Wisconsin. The genealogist needs to understand family dynamics. Heritage documents available today allow us to suggest correction.2 We comment as needed.
LOG CABIN CIRCA 1880: CONTRUCTION AND DESCRIPTION
VICISSITUDES OF LIFE
SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION, SEASON AND PUPILS
COOKHOUSE FLUNKY CIRCA 1888 – WAGES $35/4 MONTHS
Reflection on the education of Ole’s children: Ole had two families. Three of six, from the first set, survived to an adult life, as did six of eight, from the second. Formal education for the first set was cut very short by the death of their mother. Death of their father hampered that of the second.
English was the second language for the first set. That was true, more so for Etta and Matt who arrived approaching teenage, while the other survivor, Ed, arrived at four.
The point here, is about our Aunt Margaret, who typed up this draft. The Granddad we knew spoke like an educated man, word-usage wise. We can compare his writing, to the spoken word of his brilliant half-brother, Clarence. We provided his audio tape in our post “Hemmingson: One Entrepreneur And One Radical Socialist”. Clarence was formally schooled to the eighth grade, and Granddad to the fourth. The difference is that our dear Aunt Margaret taught her Dad, as she advanced through school.
We could then, revise Matt’s history, to claim a twelfth grade education. He was quite wise in discovering advantages available to him. Clarence too; he simply did not have a child to school him.
VICISSITUDES ON STEROIDS
CIRCA 1890: COMMODITIES IN WISCONSIN
River drive for $56, Eggs for 7¢ and tobacco via pilferage.
BUILDING ROADS AND TURNPIKES CIRCA 1890 WISCONSIN
Ole Hemmingson was hugely engaged in building and road construction. No surprise then, that Matt was experienced in these matters too. In fact, he would find this “home schooling” invaluable to his career. No surprise either, that he could recount road specs, high bids and pioneer work schedules over half a century later.
DEPRESSION OF 1893: RAILROAD CONSTRUCTION AND EMPLOYMENT
Matt was 14 as the 1890s opened, 17 as the depression hit. He was an experienced man of the world by then, having begun work at 12. He probably wanted to give himself a good kick in the rear for his terrible decision to quit his job, without another in hand.
Harvesting tan-bark from hemlock gives a glimpse of how versatile a young man needed to be, to survive the settler life.
KICKING ONESELF IN THE REAR: PAYING FOR IT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
There was no mention of medical intervention or recuperative time. Arthritis is rather an understatement; Matt was wheelchair bound in later life.
Mention of Bronco Busters was no help in accurately dating these memoirs. They played first, in the mid-1930s. Unless, that is, we have chosen the wrong reference.
Staggered emigration, revisited: Matt’s revelation of long and fatal illness for his mother, allows us to rethink the issues surrounding these events. We will keep that Ole left Norway first, because he had a contract in Wisconsin. That they all did not go together, may have been a combination of finances, the same month birth of brother, Ed, and his mother’s illness. The difference now is that the failing Berith may have left Etta and Matt behind, in urgent need to get the youngest to their father, for the eldest would soon be competent to travel alone, as finances permitted.
This ends Part I. There is much more of varied interest, to come.
Notes, Sources and Copyright. Please scroll below, to comment.
Part I of “Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967) Memoirs: History; Farming, Logging, Road Building. Life.” relied on the following sources:
1 Memoirs of Mathias Hemmingsen, Victoria BC gratefully allowed by the Matt Hemmingsen Family Collection. Mathias Hemmingsen/Hemmingson, aka Matt Hemmingsen. Born Mathias Berg Olsen on August 21, 1876, Hatfjelldal Norway to Ole Hemmingson and Berith Mathisdatter. Died: April 10, 1967 Victoria, BC. Marriages: Caroline Dybedal, Margaret Naysmith Alexander. Children of Hemmingsen-Alexander: Margaret Henrietta, Agnes Marie, John Oliver. William Buchanan, Robert Mathias.
2 The National Archives of Norway, the Digital Archives”. https://media.digitalarkivet.no
Church book for Vefsn parish 1851-1858 SAT/A-1459/820/L0301 [copy version] [Ole Mathias 1851]; Church book for Vefsn parish 1851-1854 SAT/A-1459/820/L0292 [Berith Hass]; Church book for Hemnes parish 1878-1893 SAT/A-1459/825/L0361 [Harald 5MAR1878 and Marie 18APR 1880] [Note: both posts verify birth years for Ole/1851 and Berith/1853]; Church book for Hatfjelldal parish 1878-1898 SAT/A-1459/823/L0325 [Einar/became Edward 4JAN1882]; Church book for Hatfjelldal parish 1860-1878 SAT/A-1459/823/L0324 [Henriette 9Dec1874/found in early 1875 and Mathias Berg 21JUL1876 ; Church book for Hatfjelldal parish 1860-1878 SAT/A-1459/823/L0324 [Marriage Hemmings/Mathisdr 30OCT1874 counter 100/156]; Norway Census 1865 RA/S-2231 of Nordland, Hatfjelldal. Trondheim politikammer (1) Emigrantprotokoll V 23.07-25.04, 1880-1882//SAT/A-1887/1/32/L005 for Hemmingsen, Ole counter.205/239 in 1882 (2)(2) 32/L0007: Emigrantprotokoll VII 03.07-22.03, 1885-1888// SAT/A-1887/1/32/L007 (2i) for Mathis., Berit with Einer, Marie and Harrold in 1886 counter 78/190 (2ii) for Olsen, Henrietta and Mathias in 1887 counter 177/190/
3 Picture of Margaret Hemmingsen “Aunt Margaret”: gratefully allowed by the Kofal-Dybedal-Hemmingson Family Collection
4 Translation of agricultural abbreviations used in Norway Census 1865: Norges Arktiske Univsitet http://www.rhd.uit.no/
5 Previous posts on this blog as cited. Posts authored by Doublegenealogytheadoptionwitness are copyright © MarileeWein.com 2019. All rights reserved.
11 thoughts on “Matt Hemmingsen (1876-1967) Memoirs: History; Farming, Logging, Road Building. Life.”
Hello friend! Is your story compiled
Hiya Jean How you be??? Alas, I have nothing to compile!
I love this with the annotations!
Thanks Luanne – I very much struggled with “correcting” Granddad’s word. He was so precious, so kind and so straightforward.
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Yes, you’ve conveyed a bit of that, I think.
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Marilee, I love the way you presented this!
I appreciate that Ann!
wow – I see some of Aunt Margaret in you from that pic. Sam constantly shocked at the number of deaths and how hard life must have been.
I should be so lucky, re Aunt Marg! I wish I could do Sam’s history for there would be lots of hardship there, as well. Compensating triumphs as well.