The Sloop Restaurationen.
by Rasmus Bjørn Anderson (portrait)
[Neil Hofland: The following is from Norwegian Immigration 1821-1840 by Rasmus B. Anderson and was published in 1895. I believe this is the first history of Norwegian immigration published in English. Rasmus was my great grand uncle on my mother’s side. He was one of the most famous and influential Norwegian-Americans in the last half of the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century. He is not now regarded as a good historian by today’s standards of scholarship, but this book and other materials he wrote have been quoted and cited as resources for over a century, so he wasn’t so bad. The book is written in the first person and Rasmus supplies plenty of opinions. I have included some notes to clarify and amplify the text. These are all contained in square brackets, as is this paragraph.]
All reports agree that Kleng Peerson, from the farm Hesthammer, Tysver [Tysvær] parish, Skjold district, Stavanger [now Rogaland] county, was the man who gave the first impetus to the emigration of the Norwegians to America. In the year he with a comrade, Knud Olson Eie, or more. properly Eide, from the small island Fogn, near Stavanger, left Norway and went by the way of Gothenborg, Sweden, to New York to make an investigation of conditions and opportunities in America. From all the information I have been able to gather, and I have interviewed a large number of the oldest Norwegian settlers in America, there remains no doubt in my mind that Kleng and Knud were practically sent on this mission by the Quakers of Stavanger county. It is nowhere positively stated that Peerson and Eide were themselves Quakers, but I have complete evidence from persons who knew both of them well that they were dissenters from the established church. Kleng Peerson was strongly attached to the Quakers and doubtless sympathized with their religious views, so far as he gave religion any thought, but neither Peerson nor Eide had at this time  any very pronounced religious convictions. While they dissented from the state church they had not accepted the tenets of any other. They appear to have lacked to a great extent the religious temperament. Later on I shall have occasion to discuss this subject more fully, as I intend to present as full an account as possible of the character and career of Kleng Peerson.
After a sojourn of three years in America, all that time presumably spent in and around New York city, where they did such work as they could find, Kleng Peerson, being a carpenter by trade, they returned to Stavanger and to Tysver in 1824. Here their reports of social, political and religious conditions in America and their description of opportunities in the New World awakened the greatest interest and culminated in a resolution to emigrate. Lars Larson (i Jeilane), the same man at whose house the first Quaker meeting had been held in Stavanger in 1816, at once undertook to organize a party of emigrants. Being successful in finding a number of people who were ready and willing to join him, six heads of families converted their scanty worldly possessions into money and purchased a sloop which had been built in the Hardanger fjord, between Stavanger and Bergen, and which they loaded with a cargo of iron. For this sloop and cargo they paid the sum of Kr1,800.00 [about $1300 in American money.] While six of the party owned some stock in this vessel the largest share was held by Lars Larson, who was in all respects the leader of the enterprise. He had acquired a pretty thorough knowledge of the English language, during his eight years' sojourn in England, and the general supervision of the preparations and of the voyage naturally fell into his intelligent hands. The captain, Lars Olson and the mate Erikson were engaged by him.
This little Norwegian Mayflower of the nineteenth century received the name Restaurationen [The Restoration], and on the American day of independence, July 4, 1825, this brave little company of emigrants sailed out of the harbor of the ancient and grotesque city of Stavanger. The company consisted of fifty-two persons including the two officers mentioned, chiefly from Stavanger city and Tysver parish north of Stavanger. There were also a few from other parts of Stavanger county. They were fifty-two, when they left Stavanger; but when they reached New York, on the second Sunday of October (Oct. 9), they numbered .fifty-three, Mrs. Martha Georgiana Larson, the wife of the leader, having given birth to a beautiful girl baby on the second of September.
Their fourteen weeks' journey across the Atlantic ocean was a romantic and perilous one. The stories of that voyage told to me by one of the party were the delight of my childhood. They passed through the British Channel, and a few days later they anchored in a small harbor named Lisett on the coast of England, where they remained until the next day. Here they began to sell liquor to the inhabitants, which was against the law, and when they perceived the danger in which they had thus placed themselves, they made haste to steer the little craft out upon the boundless ocean. They either must have lost their reckoning, or been looking for the trade-winds, or the captain must have been somewhat deficient in his knowledge of navigation, or to take a more charitable view of the case, the wind must have been against them, for when we next hear of them we find them drifting into the harbor of Funchal in the island of Madeira. Near the Madeira islands they had found a pipe [this is a wine cask with a capacity of 126 gallons] of wine floating on the sea.
It must have been very old wine, for the cask in which it was contained was entirely covered with huge barnacles. Lars Larson got out in the yawl boat to fish it up and while he was putting a rope around the pipe, a shark come near biting his hand off. To celebrate this piece of good fortune both the officers and passengers had to taste of the delicious contents of the pipe of wine and the result was that the most of them got more or less under its influence. They consequently neglected their duties to the sloop, and came drifting into the harbor of Funchal without colors and without command. Here it was feared that they had some kind of contagious disease on board and one of the officers of a Bremen vessel anchored in the harbor, shouted to them that if they did not wish to be greeted by the cannon already being aimed at them from the fortress, they had better hoist their colors at once. Thornstein Olson Bjaadland, who was for many years my neighbor in Wisconsin never grew weary of telling me this story and he always added that it was he who hunted up the Norwegian flag which had been stowed away with other baggage, and with the assistance of others ran it up to the top of the mast, thus averting the danger. A couple of custom house officers then came on board the sloop and made an investigation, finding everything in good order. Much attention was shown to the party at Funchal. the American cousul increased their store of provisions, giving them also an abundance of grapes, and before their departure, he invited the whole sloop party to a magnificent dinner. They arrived in Funchal on Thursday July 28, and left the following Sunday, July 31, and as they sailed out of the harbor the fortress fired a salute in their honor.
Four weeks had passed since they left Stavanger and for 10 weary weeks more the sloop had to contend with the angry waves of the rough Atlantic. It may be added here that only the captain and mate were seamen in the strict sense of the word; but Lars Larson was by trade a ship-carpenter, and the most of the other adult men on board having been reared on the coast of Norway as fishermen, were naturally familiar with the sea.
In New York quite a sensation was awakened by the fact that these Norwegians had ventured across the ocean in so small a craft. Such a thing had not been heard of before. Here they also got into trouble with the authorities on account of having a larger cargo and a larger number of passengers than the American laws permitted a ship of the size of the sloop to carry and in consequence of this violation of Uncle Sam's laws Capt. Lars Olson was arrested and the ship with its cargo was seized by the custom house authorities in New York.
But Kleng Peerson was in America when the sloop Restaurationen arrived there. Instead of risking his life in the sloop he had again gone by the way of Gothenborg, Sweden, and was already in New York ready to receive his friends and to give them such assistance as he was able. He had found Quakers in New York, who were prepared to give our Norwegian pilgrims a welcome and such help as they most needed. I suppose the authorities in New York partly in consideration of the ignorance and childish conduct of the sloop immigrants, and partly pursuaded by the intercession of influential Quaker friends, decided to be merciful. The fact, at all events, is that the captain was released from his captivity; and the sloop and its cargo were restored to their owners.
[An American federal act of 1819 which permitted only 2 passengers to each 5 tons of the tonnage of a trans-Atlantic vessel. Under the act the 45 passengers of the "Restauration", not including a crew of 7, should have had a ship of 112 1/2 tons, or 115 tons if you count the child born during the trip. The actual tonnage was under 40, though newspaper reports put it at 45. Customs officers estimated the tonnage at 55; later it was pushed up to 60 and a fraction, but even this was far short of the legal tonnage. Customs personnel didn’t want to cause the Sloopers problems and collector of customs offered to draw up a statement to be transmitted to the secretary of the treasury asking that the sloop be restored to its owners.
The sloop should have been carrying a crew of 7 and 16 passengers. The sloop was only about 54 feet long. They didn't wait for any pilot to come out and guide them in. They just sailed into the harbor, up to the dock, and tied up. Can you imagine what the New Yorkers thought? They just loved it. Imagine the collector of customs doing their paper work to get the ship released and fines eliminated. Less than 2 weeks passed from the time he submitted his statement to the treasury department until a hand written pardon came from the President of the United States, John Quicy Adams, and in his own hand writing.]
I have it from the lips of passengers who came in the sloop, that the Quakers in New York took a deep interest in these Norwegian newcomers, who were well-nigh destitute of food, clothing and money. These Friends gave many of them shelter under their own roofs, and supplied them with money to relieve their most pressing needs. The Quakers showed themselves in this case as everywhere in history to be friends indeed. Mrs. Atwater, the lady who was born on the sloop, has told me, on the positive authority of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lars Larson, how kind the Quakers in New York were to her parents and to all the sloop people. Enough money was raised by the Quakers to pay the expenses of the immigrants, $6 for each from New York city to the town of Kendall in Orleans county, New York where farms could be secured for them. [Orleans County is west of Rochester on Lake Ontario. Later the area they settled in became part of Kendall County.]
From the History of Orleans County, by Arad Thomas, I learn that a man by name Joseph Fellows, had been appointed agent to sell a tract of land in Kendall. Mr. Fellows was a Quaker, and he seems to have been in New York city about the time the Restaurationen arrived there, and I presume it was he who suggested the idea of locating these Norwegian immigrants on this land, and in this manner the first Norwegian settlement in America in this century was founded. [The italics were for emphasis and to let people know that the Norwegians had been here before. Rasmus had written a book entitled, "America Not Discovered By Columbus" in which he says, in no uncertain terms, that the Norwegians did.]
The captain, Lars Olson, and the mate, Mr. Erikson, who by the way was the only one in the sloop party from Bergen, Norway, remained in New York, and at this point my knowledge of these 2 persons ends. The leader of the party, Lars Larson, sent his wife and daughter on with the rest of the sloop party to Kendall, but he himself remained for several weeks in New York city, to dispose of the sloop and its cargo. He finally succeeded in selling both for the paltry sum of $400. By this time winter had set in and in the early days of December he set out to join his family. The canal [Eire Canal] was frozen and he had to skate from Albany to Holley in Orleans county, 23 miles west of Rochester. He did not remain with the colony in Kendall, but went with his family back to Rochester, where he soon obtained employment from a canal-boat builder. It will be remembered that he had been a ship carpenter in Norway and both by his knowledge of English and by his trade he was equipped for his new occupation.
Lars Larson is described as a rather small man, with a smooth, intelligent face, with dark hair which turned gray very early. He was a kind husband and good father, in short, a man of good habits and large-hearted. His home in Rochester was hospitality itself. In the years from 1836 to 1845 he received visits from thousands of Norwegians, who were on their way from Norway to Illinois and Wisconsin. They brought him fresh news from Norway and from him they received valuable information and advice concerning America. His canal-boat business prospered, and already in 1827 he was able to build for himself and family a very substantial home in Rochester, a house which still stands on the original site and which, without doubt, is the oldest house now in existence, built in America by a Norwegian Argonaut of the 19th century. I am most happy to be able to give a picture of this house from a photograph recently taken. [The house was about 30 feet square, 2 stories, on a rather high foundation with a walk-in basement, and a front porch about 10 feet square on the front in the middle where the front door was. It had large shuttered windows. I would guess there were 4 large rooms and a hall downstairs and 4 large bedrooms upstairs.]
Lars Larson lost his life by an accident November 13, 1845, while on his way to New York with a canal-boat, which he intended to sell. There is also a suspicion that he was foully dealt with. He died from a fall from the boat into the canal, and his family believe that some one must have struck him and pushed him overboard. There never was a thorough investigation into the matter, and I simple report the views of the children now living. He had given his children a good education, and on his death he left them not a fortune, but a handsome competency for maintaining the old home. His widow, Martha Georgiana, a woman of great intelligence and force of character, lived to a ripe old age. I met her in 1875, and was struck with her stateliness and commanding dignity. She had become entirely Americanized, but still spoke her old Stavanger dialect with ease and fluency. Her death occurred in Rochester, October 17, 1887.
Although New York was a large city in 1825 and although its port was visited by strangers from every part of the known world, it occurred to me that this first coming of emigrants from Norway and that, too, under such peculiar circumstances would scarcely be left wholly unnoticed by the New York press. I had a curiosity to know what impression the first Norwegians immigrants to the United States in this century made upon the newspaper reporters, and accordingly induced my friend, Mr. Robert Filled, the managing editor of Johnson's Universal Cyclopaedia, to institute a search for me. The search was not in vain. The sloop Restaurationen did attract the notice of the press, and I offer no apology for reproducing here every word that I have been able to find in New York papers in regard to this first company of Norwegian immigrants.
The Commercial Advertiser for Monday, October 10, reports in its Marine List: "Arr. Danish Sloop Restoration, Holland, 78 days from Norway, via Long Island Sound, with Iron to Boorman and Johnston. 52 passengers." The curious mistakes will be easily detected by the reader. The ship was not Danish, it did not come from Holland and the number of passenger should be 53. The same notice appears verbatim in the marine list of the New York Gazette Monday, October 10, 1825, and also in the marine list of the New York National Advocate of the same date, and in the marine list of the New York Daily Advertiser of the same date, the last paper having addition "spoke nothing."
In the New York Daily Advertiser of Wednesday, October 12, 1825, we find the following most interesting notice, headed "A Novel Sight. A vessel has arrived at this port with emigrants from Norway. The vessel is very small, measuring as we understand only about 360 Norwegian lasts or 45 American tons, and brought 46 passengers, male and female, [Everyone figured that there had to be a crew of 7.] all bound to Ontario county, where an agent, who came over some time since, purchased a tract of land. The appearance of such a party of strangers, coming from so distant a country and in a vessel of a size apparently ill calculated for a voyage across the Atlantic, could not but excite an unusual degree of interest. They have had a voyage of 14 weeks and are all in good health and spirits. An enterprise like this argues a good deal of boldness in the master of the vessel as well as an adventurous spirit in the passengers, most of who belong to families from the vicinity of a little town at the southwestern extremity of Norway, near Cape Stavanger. Those who came from the farms are dressed in coarse cloths of domestic manufacture, of a fashion different from the American, but those who inhabited the town wear calicos, ginghams and gay shawls, imported, we presume, from England. The vessel is built on the model common to fishing boats on that coast, with a single mast and topsail, sloop-rigged. She passed through the English channel and as far south as Madeira, where she stopped 3 or 4 days and then steered directly for New York, where she arrived with the addition of 1 passenger born on the way. It is the captain's intention to remain in this country, to sell his vessel and prepare himself to navigate our waters by entering the American Merchant Service and to learn the language."
This is doubtless a very faithful description of the facts. The reporter is mistaken in regard to the number of the passengers and the destination of these immigrants. They were not bound for Ontario but for Orleans county.
In the same paper, New York Daily Advertiser, for Saturday, October 15, 1825, we find this additional notice of the sloop party: "The captain and passengers of the sloop Restoration from Norway, desire in this public manner, to express their grateful thanks to John H. March, Esq., American Consul at the island of Madeira, for his humane and generous relief; when compelled to touch at that place for refreshment after a long and perilous voyage, and to the inhabitants of that island for the kind and hospitable manner in which they entertained destitute strangers [New York National Advertiser]."
On Saturday evening, October 22, 1825, The New York American contained the following clipping from the Baltimore American: "The public have already been interested in the account which we republished from a New York paper on Saturday last (October 15) relative to the arrival of a vessel from Norway. This vessel of only 45 American tons burden contained 46 passengers, male and female, bound to Ontario county, in the state of New York, where an agent had already been sent who had contracted for the purchase of the land. They set sail from Cape Stavanger and after a voyage of 14 weeks, arrived in safety. We have learned some particulars with regard to the agent who was sent over here on this business, calculated to set his character in a very interesting light. Two agents were originally sent over by the company and funds appropriated to defray the expense. These funds, we understand, were placed in the hands of a man, who was afterwards unfortunate in business. They then found themselves in a strange land, among a people of different laws, customs, and language, with all of which they were unacquainted. Determined notwithstanding to fulfill the object of their mission, they resolutely set out on their inquires, laboring with their own hands to defray their expenses. They proceeded in this manner until one was seized with a malady which brought him to his grave. During all the time of his sickness his confederate, independent of watching by his bedside and performing those kind offices so necessary to the comfort of a dying man, procured the best medical attendance, still laboring with his own hands for his support and debarring himself of the comports of life, to administer to the necessities of his friend. After the decease of his friend, the survivor left as he was solitary and alone, proceeded on foot to examine the country, the character of the different soils, our mode of agriculture, engaging without an hesitation at any kind of employment to meet the current expenses of the day, by which means he obtained a knowledge of our customs, laws, language and agriculture. In this manner he scoured the vast regions of the west and left a journal from day to day, which in due time he transmitted to the company, by whom he was sent to make the examination. This report was so favorable that the little colony have at length arrived here, to settle amongst us, and to assume the character of American citizens. They belong to a religion called the Saints, corresponding in many points to the principles of the Friends. (Quakers) We understand furthermore that they have sought an asylum in this favored land from religious persecution and that they will shortly be succeeded by a much large body of emigrants."
The agent here referred to is, of course, Kleng Peerson. The reader will find some romance in the story, but what it corroborates are the facts, that Kleng Peerson was an advance agent of the sloop party, that these people were Quakers and complained of religious persecutions, and that they expected more to follow them from Norway. …
The New York Evening Post, for Tuesday, October 25, 1825, contains the following, copied from the Albany Patriot of October 24:
"On Saturday, as we are informed, the Norwegian emigrants, that lately arrived in a small vessel at New York, passed through this city, on their way to their place of destination. They appear to be quite pleased with what they see in this country, if we may judge from their good-humored countenances. Success attend their efforts in this asylum of the oppressed!"
This shows that our immigrants were already on their way to Orleans county, N. Y. The reader will probably agree with me that these first glimpses of Norwegian immigrants in clippings from the American press of the day are most interesting and precious and well worthy of being reproduced and preserved. Imagine my happiness when I received these newspaper clippings in a letter from Mr. Robert Lilley!
Neil Hofland has transcribed most of this old hard to find book and made it available in a series of installments posted to the Roots-Web Norway List. These can be found by searching the Norway List archives under the subject of "Uncle Rasmus."
Also thanks to the work of Neil Hofland, the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) now has many past articles from their annual Norwegian-American Studies publication available on-line. These can be accessed though their publications page.
Click here to go to Keith's SLOOPER LINKS page for more Slooper information.
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