By Jean Cammon Findlay, as part of The Knutsen Archives
first the winter of 1865 was like any other, day only distinguished from night by a brief lessening in
the intensity of darkness. To
be sure, there was snow on top of the cliffs surrounding the Sognefjord,
but at sea level, in a region
date for departure chose itself according to
the space of a decade all the Kammens left Leikanger.
In the 1850's, Chris’s aunts, Marta Oline, Turine, and Birgitte,
and one uncle, Christian, left to make
their homes in other Norwegian parishes.
His bachelor uncles, Hans and Nils,
were economic considerations as well.
The population of
is said that those who went first to
did the Kammens choose their destination in the
In The Lien Family by Ruth Louise Lien, 1973, she wrote, “A Cammon nephew, first name unknown, had the following children...” and lists some of Chris’s younger brothers and sisters. The nephew is Ole Ferdinand Cammon, and though more than a century had passed when Ms. Lien wrote her book, this mention of collateral relatives speaks to the close ties the family originally shared. When the Cammons were living near Northfield, MN, the first of Chris’s siblings to be born in America (Christine in October 1867) was born in Wisconsin because Bergitte went to stay with relatives who could take care of her; I have no doubt this relative was Aunt Anne.
the months before April 1866, possibly as much as a whole year
prior, were spent getting ready to emigrate.
A cruise on a luxury liner it was not.
Passengers were told to prepare for a voyage that could last from
six to sixteen weeks, depending on the route and the weather, and each
family needed to bring their own bedding and
food. Even if Chris’s
family only ate twice a day, that was 504 individual meals for a
six-week trip. Additionally,
more food was necessary for the 1000-mile journey from
While Bergitte prepared the food, Ole Ferdinand built the containers to store and transport it, plus the clothes, goods, and whatever small treasures they could take. Everything else was sold or given away. I wonder what they took beyond the obvious clothes, bedding, and kitchen utensils. A spinning wheel for Bergitte? Ole Ferdinand’s tools perhaps? A Bible. A daybook that had been a wedding gift from their best man for sure. Not furniture, but pictures? Did they carry any musical instruments? Did the children take any toys?
For their $80 fare Chris’s family traveled in steerage as did all but 14 of the passengers on this trip. This was a temporary deck between the main deck and the hold, from six to eight feet high and lined with two tiers of bunks, and possibly a tier of bunks down the middle. There would be only enough space for the family to prepare meals. There were no dividers between bunks, no privacy at all. Even toilet facilities would be in the open on the main deck. The “Monsoon” sailed in ballast (with no cargo–in fact, the passengers were the cargo), so except for food, the passengers’ goods were stowed in the hold. There would be a hatchway into the hold from between decks and other hatches to the main deck, but during a storm these would need to be covered and there would be no ventilation. It is amazing that when the “Monsoon” reached Quebec on May 25, 1866, there had been only one death, one infant born (who died shortly after), and three people sick with “cold and debility.” Mercifully, it was a fast voyage: five weeks to the day.
Thirty-five days at sea. If you are three years old, almost four, how do you amuse yourself? The manifest says there were 46 boys aged 13 and younger, and two of these are recorded as age four while six others were three and four were aged five. If the boys and girls played together, there were also 49 girls of whom eight were aged three, four, and five. On good days the children were probably allowed on deck to run and play games–adults too, I hope–and there were indeed enough other children for Chris to make friends with.
the good times just kept on coming.
says the shortest route from
I imagine the joy of
arrival. Anton and his
family might even have come from
ask myself at what point did Chris’s family decide their long
journey was worth it. When
they left deprivation and hardship in Leikanger?
When at last, thank God, they reached
Built in 1851 in
Gesme, Ann Urness, Between Rocks
and Hard Places,
 In January 1862 both men joined Company D of the 14th Wisconsin, Union Army, and were sent to Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River near Madrid, MO. Both men became extremely ill due to bad food and water. Nils was discharged in July 1862 and nothing further is known of him, the assumption being he died before he could get home. Hans was also discharged because of illness a year later, in July 1863, and received a disability pension until his death in 1908.
 Gesme, p. 20.
Flom, George T., A History of
Immigration to the United States, Bowie, MD, 1992 (originally
published in 1909), p. 20.
In the mid-19th century, a typical house was one large room and two
small rooms which were the entry and a storeroom.
In comparison, Ole Ferdinand and Bergitte’s two story brick
 Gesme, p. 59.
At this time, the price for sailing from
 Those 14 were first class or cabin passengers.
 The manifest also records 18 infants not yet a year old. Imagine a transatlantic flight today with just one unhappy baby. Now imagine 35 days at sea in an airless hold with no disposable diapers and no laundry facilities. Hansine, at 18 months could not have been toilet trained, either. Poor Bergitte!
 Flom, p. 226.
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