|Immigrant ship approaching Ellis Island 1906|
With the discussions about a “wall” to prevent immigration, it seemed appropriate to explore the histories of Sherburne County residents. These memories, collected from oral histories at the Sherburne History Center, show immigrants desperate to live in the United States. Immigrants, one hundred years ago, sought the freedoms in the United States as desperately as immigrants today. The poem on the Statue of Liberty rings true both today and one hundred years ago: “Give me you tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Here are the memories of two Sherburne County residents, Ella Kringlund and Astrid Moores.
I will just briefly say that my father’s parents came across from Germany---they eloped when they were 18 years of age. They did not have money to pay their transportation across, somehow they got on board ship, they were stowaways and when they were found they had to work doing kitchen work or whatever needed to be done to pay for their fare and the captain married them on board ship. They were supposed to land in New York City, but there was a storm at sea and they got to Galveston instead. Then years later they migrated up to Minneapolis and St. Paul.
I also have to tell you about my mother because she actually came to this country illegally. She was the first of five children in the family and her father, my grandfather, was killed in the Franco-Prussian War and Grandma was left with them; four small children and no pension. So Grandma had to work out and my mother who was 5 years old at the time was the big girl that had to look after the younger children in the family. And one time when Mama had to go out for something, one of the younger children in the house must have played with matches and started a fire and the house burned down.
After that there was no house for them to live in so the children had to be farmed out, there was no home for them anymore and my mother did not have an easy life. She wanted to come to America because she had heard from other people that life was better here. She heard that life was better. She had a friend from her hometown who had come to Canada and was working in Quebec, Canada and this friend had her mother in Germany. My mother had to go under the false pretenses that she was this other woman’s daughter to bring her across, ‘cause you had to have somebody with you and you had to have somebody in either Canada or the United States to whom you were going. You couldn’t just decide that you were going to go to that country, you had to have somebody that you could go to. So my mother went to Quebec, Canada with this lady and she stayed there one winter and she said she nearly froze to death, because it’s never so cold in Germany as it is in Canada or in the United States----northern United States.
Then she had a cousin living in Howard Lake, MN and he found out where she was-----they were very close friends and he saw to it that she got here to MN and somehow she met my father and maybe I should just throw in a little bit about their wedding day, because this was something that always intrigued me. They were married on the 28th of December 1891 to my father and they were married in Minneapolis. At that time they did have streetcar service and my father met my mother at some designated place to go to the minister to be married and at that time, the streetcars didn’t come to a complete stop, you had to be skillful enough to grab and hang on and my father was probably not the most chivalrous young man. He saw to it that he got on and my mother was left behind and she had to wait until the next streetcar came along. She knew where she was supposed to go, and Dad had gotten off where he was supposed to go, but my father had to wait for the next streetcar to come along before my mother and he were reunited to go in for the wedding ceremony. That was just one of the funny little things that happened that my mother often told us about.
I came with my folks in April 1915 on account of the World War. My dad was called into service for Sweden, so he left Sweden. We took the ship from Copenhagen. We came from Malmer [sic] in Sweden, and we just went over to Copenhagen and from there to Oslo, Norway. it was a stormy trip and we were stopped by an English submarine. And they had to come aboard. They looked through the freight for spies. Otherwise we got sea sick.
All we had was one trunk and a couple of suitcases.
We came to my mother’s brother in Harvard, IL and his name was Carl Johnson. We met a couple on the boat that had just gone to Sweden for a visit. We found out that they used to live where we used to live. “If you folks don’t like it with your brother,” she said, “you are welcome to come to our place, Birch Lake.” They had two houses; they lived in one and we could have the other one until we got settled. So about two months later, we did.
My dad worked on the railroad section in Big Lake, laying tracks and things like that. He worked there until he retired.