Biographies - D



Reprinted from Telesoga
Volume 2, October 1909
Reprinted again May 1999
Transferred to computer 2003
Spelling and word usage left as in the original document.
Translated by Arnold Ness

The oldest in Telelage is Gunder Gunderson Dale from Climax. (Seljord, II-p.167.) He will soon be 86 years old. He was with us at the Telestevne in Climax last year and this year was with us as Crookston, “And how glad I am in Telelage,” he says. Olav Breivik has written up the life history of Gunnar Dale and it is Breivik’s write up which follows.

He was born in a husmann’s place, Fiskehyl in Seljord, on December 31, 1823 son of Gunnar Kjetilson Gravli (or Gravalid) and Toril Gunnarsdotter. There was no great need during the early years but they wanted more and as time went they made progress. His father was a capable man and at last became part owner of Haugland and later he moved to DALE, the place Gunnar took his name from.

The fall when he was nine years old he went with his mother’s sister to Hovdekleiv in Kviteseid ands was there until he was confirmed. The Gunnar went out to be on his own and as many young Telemark boys at that time went North over the mountain. He and another boy went over the mountain on skis and didn’t stop until they reached Jarbraek in Suldal. There they had to leave their skis. Then they traveled further to Roalkvam.

Gunnar signed on as a hired hand from summer to summer and the pay was homespun clothes and four speciedalars in money. When the year was out he took a job with an Erick Oddson Risketjon. He was a hard driving man and it was not such that a young man could take it. In all luck, there was a kind man by the name of Olav Uraedd who worked on the farm. He said to me, “You won’t be able to take this, Gunnar, but I tell you what, I will arrange it such that you can get free of your work contracts.” And this I really wished to do. So he said to Erick one day while cutting grain, “This young boy cannot cut as much in a week as I or another good man can do in a day. He just eats up you food and you have no use of him.” When Erick heard this he was more than happy to see Gunnar go. We agreed that I was to get ¼ of my year’s wages for the 14 weeks I was there. It was not much but anyway I was glad to get away.

Later I worked for seven weeks for a kind man named Nils Reine. I received 16 cents a day and thought it was great pay. That fall I went to Stavanger for the market and for the first time saw what city life was like.

There I met a man named Andres Myklebust and I was at his place over the fall threshing out his stacks. At Myklebust were six farms with houses one after the other like a town. Late I was with Andreas fishing as Lutaman, as they called it. I received fishing clothes and a ¼ part of the catch, which was 3-½ speciedaler.

Later I traveled back north to Roalkvam in Suldal and I met four Tinndallers with whom I went together over Hauklifjell to Hylen, which is six Norsk miles and you can well say that that was a good day’s trip. The day before another group of Tinndallers had traveled the same way and one became tired out and froze to death on the mountain. We then traveled through Grangedal, Vinji, Hoidalsmo and Dalane to Kviteseid. I was happy as a bird in the sky when I saw my home.

I remained at Kviteseid for a year’s time, but wages were small and the work hard and so I began to think of going to America. I went to Knut Sveinson who was married to my sister. He sold his farm and made ready to go to America and I went with them. This was in 1845 and I was 22 years old. We sailed from Skien on the “Axel and Valborg” with 135 people on board. We set course for France. The passage was $5.00 from Skien to Havre. We laid in the English Channel for eight days before we reached land. The storm and wind blew us to and for and it often looked like we would go under. At Havre we went aboard a good Post ship which took us to New York. The passage was nine dollars but we had to furnish our own food.

From New York we went by canal boat, which was pulled by a horse. In Milwaukee I met the first man that I knew in America. This was Svein Sveinson from Seljord and I went home with him to Hartville Prairie. There lived Knut Andreson Huvestad who had been our neighbor in Norway. I was with him for a time and my sister and her husband decided to settle here but I and Leiuv Bjorguvson went to Jefferson Prairie. There I received work at an American’s place hauling manure for 25cents a day. That was good, I was used to low pay from home.

Later I worked for an old acquaintance named Sommund Aa for about the same. I would rather do that than lay around. During harvesting I had $10 per month. In threshing I received 50 cents a day. With the threshing rig was an Irishman who boasted that it would be a small task to throw a small Norwegian like me. But the man who had the rig said that in no way was a Yankee or Irishman as good as any healthy Northman. I and the Irishman went to it and to make sure I used the familiar Norwegian back throw and swung the Irishman in the air so that he landed on his head and got a bad scare, and after that he didn’t want anything more to do with me.

There was so much remarks in the community among both men and women and gossip. I stayed away from it and would not give satisfaction when they asked of this and that I went to Koshkonong and bought the right to 80 acres of land for $20.00. I had to send $100.00 to the land office in Milwaukee to obtain title. The land had a log house and one acre of planted winter wheat and I though this was a pretty nice field. I put a foundation under the house and got it in shape and how happy I was in my own home. This was the first thing I had ever owned in this world and I was just about 26 years old. The year after I was married to Gunhild Halvorsdotter Skrei from Fyresdal (Fyresdfal Gardsogaettesoge. P. 1545). Pastor J.W.C. Deitrickson performed the wedding.

The land I had was low and unhealthy to live on so I sold it for $900.00 and went to Fillmore County, Minnesota and bought 80 acres of woodland and Highland Prairie. I then bought a quarter on the prairie for $120.00. I had purchased soldier right and therefore got it at that price. Here I built a good home and all went well thereafter.

But then several years’ later war broke out in the land and I had to go wage blood for Uncle Sam. We were 100 men that left Fort Snelling.

We went down the Mississippi and it took us three days to LaCrosse. We went the train to Chicago and then further south to Chattanooga. There we received weapons and uniforms. We hadn’t been there a week before we were sent into battle at Atlanta, which was one of the hardest battles I was in. I was in Company C and it went hard for them. Many were wounded and nine died during the night. I had to stand my watch and it was terrible to hear all the crying and moaning. Many who died were either sitting or standing and stiffened up and one had to grab a person to know if he was alive or not. We won the battle and our opposition retreated to Janesburg and there we did not envy them. They had lost so many times to the 2nd Minnesota that they were happy to have nothing more to do with us. The 105th Ohio had also lost, they were mostly German. The two companies were called the Twins and we were under the command of General Thomas. General Grant wanted to get hold of us but General Thomas said that he did not like to lose the 2nd Minnesota. “Here are men who are able, can and will fight, and I don’t have to use the “black snake” (bull whip) on them, but I will have to let them go when Sherman makes his March to the Sea.

We couldn’t come into town because it was dammed up and Sherman offered $70,000.00 to anyone who would open the dam gates, but the enemy themselves opened the gates. We were gathered out on the land which was low and they thought they could flood and drown us, but it didn’t happen. So Sherman sent word to the town that if they did not surrender he would make them into labskaus (stew) in 24 hours. They surrendered and we took over.

There was a meeting between General Johnston of the South and General Sherman of the North towards the end of the Conflict. Sherman asked if he wanted to settle but Johnston answered, “No, now I have you where I want you.” “Well answered Sherman, “That which we cannot eat in South Carolina we will burn and you will never stop me, that I can tell you. When I have taken you prisoner, you are my pig, but I shall take good care of you. You starve and plaque your people but I don’t do that, and if you aren’t satisfied with that and want to fight I will kill 100 of your men for every 5 of mine.

They did not come to terms, so we took off to a river at Sister Crossing. There were two sisters that had a ferry there. The land was swampy and difficult to travel but we came to Carolina. There we had a battle, we won and the enemy had to retreat.

We were battle strong for 60 miles with 60,000 men so we weren’t anything to fool around with. We took all of our provisions and when they saw that they couldn’t hold out any longer Johnston called in his troops and gave up. It was coming towards then last of the war so we went to Louisville, Kentucky, where it was arranged that we were discharged.

You can well imagine how great it was when the struggle ended and the good times began. General Sherman was a kind man who thought a great deal of us and we of him. He had a warm talk and thanked his officers but mostly thanked us, whom had gone form home and family to serve his country. In North Carolina the first flag was raised for the Union and freedom and it was greeted with joy by the multitudes.

We went in company formation homeward via Richmond and Washington. We said farewell to our beloved General and continued homeward through Michigan to Chicago and Milwaukee to LaCrosse.

People came out with whole baskets of food for us and when we said, and true it was, that we could not pay since we had no money, they said that makes no difference. Music followed us constantly, so people knew we were coming.

On the steamship up the Mississippi the Division General Bishop read the names of those that left originally. There were 1,100 officers and men and of those only 70 came back. We were still a full regiment because the ones that were lost were replaced. We reached St. Paul eight days early and had to stay aboard until they were ready for us. When we went ashore we were met by the Governor with a real swell welcoming speech. We followed him to a big banquet. Everything was grand and elegant and we ate and drank as gentlemen. When we were done we went to Fort Snelling and received our papers and pay and then we took off for home via Winoa. Of my comrades, there were at last only eight of us and we hired a German to drive us to Highland Prairie. I got off at Dolalie and then it was only a mile to home. It was late at night when I came through our pasture, and the horses came prancing around as if to bid me welcome. It was then that I realized that they recognized me too. With my wife and children there aren’t words to describe how glad they were when I came into the house that night. I had been away over a year. I left in May of 1864 and returned in June of 1865.

This is the story of old Gunnar Dale who has worked himself up and forward in this world and who is an honorable man. He has always stood on his own feet. The worst sorrow for him was when his beloved wife became sick and died in 1894. He was no longer able to run the farm and gave it out between his eight children who mostly live in the Red River Valley and are doing well. He lives with his son Gunnar Dale and is yet in good health and of sound mind. He said, “If my health holds out I will be at Telestevne one more time”.


In several newspapers during the 1930s, Rønning, on behalf of the Telelaget, urged people to submit histories of immigrants from his region of Norway as well as letters, diaries, and other documents pertaining to Telemark. {21} The results of this campaign are uncertain. Rønning organized the last large-scale Telestevne, or gathering of immigrants from Telemark, in Minneapolis in 1937, and he was able to publish a few new issues of Telesoga from 1938 to 1953.

submitted by Pamela D.L. Berry October 2006
43 Plumb Point Loop
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21005


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