The Unspoken Speech

By Gunleif Seldal (of Klepp, Norway)

Delivered (spoken) at Tulocay Cemetery, Napa, California, May 15, 2004


Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends.

My wife Kate and I are pleased to be present here today at this remarkable event. And we are honored to be invited by Peg and Keith, who took the initiative and organized the work to erect this bauta in memory of Keith's Norwegian ancestors, Serena and Jacob, two of the Sloopers. Very young they left their homeland and came to America aboard the tiny sloop Restauration almost 130 years ago. Jacob was then 18, he had left his family to seek the freedom and fortune here in America. Serena was merely a child, somewhat over 11, and she came with her parents and two older sisters. Her parents died shortly after arrival, Tormod in 1826 and Siri in 1829. And there she was, in a foreign country, an orphan of 15, now relying on her older sisters and her Slooper fellows to support her. However, Jacob and Serena had found each other and got married shortly after. Throughout the following years they moved westwards, westwards, westwards, and they prospered. Ended up here in sunny California. Almost on the other side of the globe, further west than any other Slooper.

For me today it is almost impossible to imagine what courage it took for these young people to build a life in a foreign country on the far shore of the huge ocean. Probably realizing that by leaving, it was the last time they ever saw their families, their friends and their homes. For them it was a long travel, it lasted more than three months. Needless to say, but there was no Internet in those days. Without knowing the language, and with hardly no other possessions than what they could wear on their body. Well, opportunities in Norway were not that great in those troubled years, the country was poor after having been exploited by the Danes, who also had involved the Norwegian people in war after war for centuries. The latest war in 1807-01814, the Napoleonic war, resulted in famine, divorce from Denmark and ended up with Norway in union with Sweden, the former enemy. And even though Norway got its constitution the 17th of May 1814, the most liberal in all Europe at the time, the rich got richer, and the poor stayed poor. So perhaps the choice was not that difficult.

And I am proud to be here at this memorable event. Serena's mother was born at the same farm as I am; we share in fact some of the same blood. After I met with Peg and Keith back in 2000 and realized their genuine interest in their ancestors, I was inspired to find out more about the Sloopers. You know, in Norway nothing much is written about the individual Slooper as such, the focus have been on the pathfinder Cleng Peerson, and the leader Lars Larsen Jeilane. And during my research, which is not completed, I have discovered new and interesting things which not yet are commonly known. Some day I hope to publish an article, maybe even a booklet, on the subject. But now I propose a toast to Peg and Keith for their tremendous effort in bringing important history to light, and for making it possible to be remembered for years to come by adapting the ancient Norse custom to erect this beautiful bautastein. And a toast for Einar and Rotraud Slogvik, who donated this stone and arranged for it to be shipped all the way from Tysvær, Jacob's birthplace.


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