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Even Ellertson

Death: January 18, 1887 (87)
Immediate Family:

Son of Eilert Nielsen Farsio and Anne Kristine Evensdatter Landsværk
Husband of Alaug Isaksdatter Ellertson
Father of Ellert Evenson Ellertson; Private; Private; Private; Private and 1 other
Brother of Halvor Eilertsen Dahl

Managed by: Philip J. Ramstad
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Even Ellertson

Our ancestor, Even Ellertson (1799-1887), also known as Even Ellertson Dahl, was the first Norwegian immigrant to own land in what is now the state of Minnesota. He was also a master builder who helped build the first Norwegian Lutheran Church building in America at Muskego, Wisconsin, in 1843-44. In 1861, as a Foreman of the Norwegian Lutheran Church on Highland Prairie, in Norway Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota, Even was one of two officers of the congregation who signed the petition for incorporation of that church.

Even was born December 26, 1799, on the farm Hegland, in Sannidal, near Kragerø, in Telemark, Norway. His parents were Eilert Nielsen and Anne Kristine Evensdatter, who had been married April 21, 1794, at the Church in Sannidal. They bought the little farm Buåsdalen where Even grew up. Even was baptized in the Church at Sannidal on January 5, 1800. He was confirmed there in 1816. That summer - 1816 - Even was tending cattle on the farm Gjerde, making it easier for him to go to the church. In the church records his marks are “very good” both for knowledge and behavior.

Even was married August 7, 1825, to Alaug, daughter of Isak Ellingsen Farsjø and Barbro Gundersdatter. An item in the Sannidal church paper gave her name as Aslaug Isaksdatter Lunde. Alaug was born December 9, 1803, and baptized in the Church at Sannidal on December 26, 1803. Her parents lived on a small farm, Holmvass-seteren, near the border of Bamble.

Even had rented a small farm, Dybedahl under Vefall, just across the border in Drangedal. In 1827, he bought the farm Buåsdalen from his father, and he and Alaug and their growing family lived there until they emigrated to America on April 29, 1843. (Even’s and Alaug’s house on the shore of Lake Hull, near Sannidal, was still standing in July 1979 when it was photographed by his great-great-grandson, Don Ellertson, of Battle Ground, Washington.)

The part of Norway where Even and Alaug lived is in the southern part of Telemark, a province stretching from the coast some 200 km. inland to Hardangervidda, a mountainous plain some 3,000 feet above sea level. The southern part of Sannidal was a small fishing village. Even lived about 10 km. inland and was engaged in farming and forestry.

1843 was a fateful year in which misfortunes caused many Norwegians to leave their native land to seek better opportunities and a more prosperous life in America. It was at the end of April that year that Even and Alaug, with their children, became the first Sannidal residents to emigrate. They were accompanied by Even’s brother, Halvor Eilertsen Aare, known also as Dahl, from Vafoss, his wife, Anne, and their children. The two families sailed from Porsgrund on the sailing vessel Salvator - Johan Gasmann, captain - arriving in New York in July 1843. The trip took eight weeks.

After landing in New York harbor, the Ellertson family, as they were known in this country, traveled by canal boat to Buffalo and, from there, by steamboat to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They left Milwaukee by oxen and blockwheel wagon and traveled overland to the Muskego settlement some twenty miles south and west. There they bought forty acres of land and became Pastor Claus Lauritz Clausen’s nearest neighbor. Pastor Clausen, a Danish school teacher who had been persuaded to cast his lot with the Norwegian immigrants, was ordained and became the first pastor at Muskego that same year - 1843.

It was in 1843-44 that the Muskego Church was built. Construction plans were initiated December 28, 1843, and the building was completed and used for worship during the summer of 1844. Peder Jacobson, a lay assistant to the pastor in liturgical and musical worship (i.e., song leader), was in charge of the building, and Even Ellertson was one of the builders. The church building was moved by Jacobson’s sons in 1904 and rebuilt on the grounds of the United Church Seminary - now Luther Theological Seminary - in the St. Anthony Park section of St. Paul, Minnesota. This writer, an ordained minister, has had the joy of officiating at two family weddings in the Old Muskego Church, with Even Ellertson’s portrait looking down on the proceedings from the gallery. The weddings were those of two of Even’s great-great-great granddaughters - Holly Ramstad and Sigvard M. Birkeland in 1982, and Lockie Ramstad and Walter L. Chapman, Jr., in 1984. At Old Muskego Church in 1998 this writer officiated at the baptism of Janice Ann Douglass, great granddaughter of Even’s brother, Halvor E. Dahl, who also helped build the church.

The Muskego settlement was, according to Hjalmar Rued Holand, an example of how some of the newcomers to this country were taken advantage of by unscrupulous land agents. Swampy and with steep hillsides heavily wooded with large old oaks, the earlier Yankee land seekers had not given it a second look. But in 1839, land agents had persuaded a group of Tellemarkings from Norway to settle there. Swamp fever, ague, and malaria plagued the early settlers. Almost all the original settlers had moved on by 1843, but they were followed by others who bought their land cheap. In turn, the new owners sold their farms to later arrivals.

In 1844 the Ellertsons moved to the Koshkonong settlement near Stoughton, Wisconsin. There Even helped build another church building. In the record of members of the Koshkonong church, Even is listed as Even Elertsen Buaas (George T. Flom: "A History of Norwegian Immigration to the United States" to 1848, privately published in Iowa City, p. 315). Flom, p. 260, reports that in 1843 thirty five families and many single persons, a total of 182, settled in Koshkonong, the largest group being Telemarkings - fourteen came from the Kragerø area, including Even E. Buaas, born 1799, and Halvor E. Dahl, born 1802, and wife Anne.

In 1851, the family moved westward again and established a home on the prairie five miles west of what is now Hesper, Iowa. The area is known as Looking Glass Prairie. This time, in addition to oxen, Even had the luxury of a factory made wagon with a cover for protection against the weather. He and his family settled on unsurveyed land which they believed to be in Iowa. The date was July 4, 1851. A few months later a band of surveyors came through, together with a company of soldiers to protect them from the Indians. The survey revealed that Even’s property was in Minnesota, though his brother, who had joined him on this move, had settled on land in Iowa. Thus, Even Ellertson became the first of nearly half a million people of Norwegian heritage to acquire land in Minnesota.

Even Ellertson settled on the southeast quarter of section 31 of Newburgh Township. It is a beautiful, partially wooded farm lying on the Minnesota-Iowa border one and a half miles east of U.S. Highway 52.

The Ellertson home, a rather large house for existing conditions, came to be a depot where hundreds of Norwegians on their way to seeking land in Minnesota Territory stopped to replenish their stock of food. Holand’s Settlement History relates that in 1853 Lars Tollefson Haugen and family from Hallingdal, together with Hans Arneson, Lars and Thomas Trulson Ask and Lars Johnson, all from Ringerike via Rock Prairie, Wisconsin, “remained with Even Ellertson three days while looking for land.” They were the first Norsemen to settle in at Newburg and Stavanger Prairie, ten miles west of Spring Grove in Houston County, Minnesota. The Ellertson home was never molested by Indians! Even Ellertson and his sons explored the open prairies, refusing to have any soldiers with them as protection against Indians. They reached the Missouri River and returned to their home without meeting any other white settlers and without being molested by Indians.

In 1856, Even and Alaug moved eighteen miles north to Highland Prairie, near what later became the community of Bratsburg, south of the town of Rushford. There, in Norway Township, he settled permanently. The nearest market was in Lansing, Iowa, and the nearest mill was on Turkey River, fifty miles further north. There, as noted, Even Ellertson became a leader in the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church which had been started in 1854.

The 1882 history of Fillmore County reports that Norway Township became a separate unit on April 3, 1860, on which date a town meeting was held "at the house of Even Ellertson." N. E. Ellertson was elected Treasurer. Nels later served a term in the Minnesota Legislature before moving to North Dakota. One of two Justices of the Peace was E. Evenson. Was this Even's eldest son Ellert?

"De Norse Settlementers Historie", pp. 328-329, relates the story of "Even Ellertsen Dahl." It concludes: "Even Ellertson was a friendly and unostentatious man, quiet, and helpful. He was an exemplary neighbor and a support, as in all church work. There was great grief when he died."

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Even Ellertson's Timeline

December 26, 1799
November 27, 1829
Sannidal, Kragerø, Telemark, Norway
January 18, 1887
Age 87