Hitching a Ride

In May 1875 the Estensens arrived in Philadelphia from Stjordal, Norway: Bertinus Estensen, his parents Esten Steffensen and his wife Gurine (both 60 years old), and their stepson Bordinus. They proceeded on to Black River Falls (see my previous post) and finally to Pigeon Falls, Wisconsin.

Here’s a bit of a sidelight…. In Homestead, Clara mentions that Bertinus was met in Black River Falls by Peter Ekern who gave him a ride to Pigeon Falls. I assume his three family members were part of that same group. But why Peter Ekern? Whether his meeting them was planned or happenstance, it would have been natural either way. This is why.

Peter Ekern, Clara writes, “was coming for groceries for his store.” That’s already a good hint Mr. Ekern was established in Pigeon Falls. He was that – and more. Peter Ekern played a key role in the development of this village from its beginnings. A full page and a half in the book A History of Trempealeau County, Wisconsin (c1917) is devoted to him. With his own family he had left Norway in 1867. After a time in Vernon County and then north of Pigeon Falls, he moved to the village in 1872 and bought the Johnson & Olson store. His trip to Black River Falls must have been to supply that new business. I wonder if he might have a similar role in helping other immigrants to the area.

Perhaps Bertinus and family had regular dealings with Peter Ekern. On page 6 in Clara’s Homestead, for example, she writes that Bertinus ordered a seedsower from Ekern: “a Monito-Force-Seed Sower Cultivator Combine” for which he agreed to pay $50.00 cash, dated April 15, 1882.

Peter Ekern, according to the Trempealeau County history above, “platted Pigeon Falls, erected a store and creamery {1885], rebuilt a large mill [1880] and developed extensive tracts of land. As a public citizen, he did such splendid work as chairman of the township and member of the county board for many years, that in 1881 he was called upon to serve in the [Wisconsin] General Assembly” (686). “After a long a useful life, Mr. Ekern died in 1899.” That was the year Emil Borreson and Gina Estensen were married, and for our family, a new chapter began.

I remember my father mentioning the Ekern family and I assume Peter’s descendents are still in the area. What I find interesting in regard to Bertinus and his family is the Ekern helpfulness that was typical of the immigrants. (Of course, they’d be future customers too.) I remember that Emil Borreson’s parents must have experienced the same hospitality residing with family or friends in the Halway Creek area a few years earlier.

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