My great-great-grandfather Ole Estensen Hoel was born in 1806. He lived in an area of Norway near Kaafjord, on a farm, he also worked in the copper mines. Most of the families worked in the copper and silver mines, or as fishermen. Our genealogy lists family members there since the 1600’s. Ole and his wife Johanna had eleven children between 1839-1864, three died young. Scarlet fever took many lives in those days.
Copper and silver mining was the main means of employment for the men of the area. Working conditions were bad, primitive and dangerous. In the 1850’s many mines were in trouble because of low copper prices, management and political unrest. There were many different reasons but the mines started closing in Norway, families there were desperate.
The hard times prompted many families and young people without families to think of going to America where copper mining was booming in the state of Michigan. My great uncle Simon Hoel born in 1848, was one of those who decided to leave in 1868. His first cousin Torsten Estenen born in 1852, also decided it was time to search for greener pastures. Torsten’s mother Inger was a sister to Simon’s father.
They went to Michigan together and found work near Calumet and Marquette were they both met and married their wives. Working in the copper mines there was not their goal, or desire. The two fearless, hardy young men were driven to continue west to Dakota Territory. Plentiful, rich farmland was just becoming available to those who were willing to stake a claim on it.
Simon and Torsten ended up living on adjoining land on the southeast side of Lake Poinsett where they both raised their families. The Lake Poinsett area must have been very appealing to them, with a plentiful supply of fresh fish.
They knew all too well, many hardships lay ahead of them, much in the way of trials and tribulations could be expected. Above all else, hard work from sunup to sundown would be the norm. Along with that, howling winds and subzero temperatures in the wintertime, they were used to winter weather, coming from near the arctic circle in Norway.
Simon and Torsten were both men with a strong faith in their creator. Torsten was a preacher, it is said that he baptized over 500 children, into the Old Apostolic Faith. The church’s in Norway kept very good records of all families. Children learned the bible at home from their parents, starting at a very young age.
Their childhood faith traveled with both Simon and Torsten as they came to the United States. Simon married Christina Lindolahti while they were still living in Michigan, they had six children together. Torsten married Greta Kaisa Taskila at Calumet Michigan, they had eleven children.
In the 1880’s those two pioneer families started life in South Dakota in holes dug into a hillside, as any animal would do for shelter. They then built sod houses. Their lives steadily improved from their diligent labors. Simon built a house from the plentiful field stones left behind by the glacier period. Torsten built a wood frame house. Their families did very well.
I wanted to write this story for those who are living today and for future generations. They should be proud to have come from such a heritage, a pioneer spirit, an unshakable faith. May we be always thankful for the blessing of the memory of those who have gone on before us. Let us hold on to and keep that faith that sustained them.