In order to follow the emigrant family Jacob and Gro Steinbøle, we first have to go to the starting point of their journey to Abrahamshaugen. Abrehamshaugen was a “husmannsplass”, i.e. not an independent farm, but only a separate part of it larger farm which the family managed. abrehamshaugen belonged to the farm “Nord Bjørtuft”.
The Husmannsplass was named after Abreham Jacobsen, who came here in 1825 with his wife Signe Halvorsdatter Bjørtuft and the children Jacob, Tomas, Ågor and Halvor. His son Jacob married Gro Eggerud and the two settled in Stensbøle, a Husmannsplass belonging to the farm of North Haddeland. Steinsbøle says that it is a place with many stones that were run down with a lavine.
It can be assumed that the letters of former emigrants have fueled the emigration of Jacob and Gro. There was much tempting in these letters from the “land of unlimited possibilities”.
In 1848, Jakob and Gro sold large parts of their property, packed their belongings and left Steinsbøle. Jacob was there in 37, Gro 46, the eldest son Abreham in 12, Helga in 5 and the youngest Nile 4 years old. They had enough of the many work and poverty on Steinsbøle. Nevertheless, it must be assumed that they were wistful when they saw Gaustatoppen and Vestfjorddalen for the last time. Sadly it was certainly also to say goodbye to the family and for the children it was a tear-rich farewell to their friends.
The way first led the family by rowing boat over the Tinnsjø, with horse and carriage on to Notodden, again by boat to Skien and Kragerø. Probably from there we continued with horse and carriage to Kristiansand/Stavanger. The actual crossing to America began in May 1848. On August 27, Jacob wrote to his father Abreham: “On May 29, we left Norway, 5 weeks and 3 days by sea to New York and from there 2 weeks to Mellwauke”.
For the children the trip was certainly already in Norway, with the Tinnsjø and the “great” cities of Skien, Kristiansand and Stavanger, a great experience, what they must have thought after 6 weeks at sea but from New York.
With a canal boat they went on to Wisconsin, Muskigo but that was not yet the destination of their journey, there it was too wet and swampy. With ox carts on 2 wheels and some animals we went to Iowa in another 5 weeks. The family settled in Cloverdale near Decorah.
It was a slightly hilly land with fresh water that the family took and called Jacobsen Farm. It was certainly exciting, because the Indians had their “hiking paths” there. In the early years, the “Tinndølen” were able to live in peace, but conditions worsened around 1860. Nils decided to go to war with the Indians.
Little by little house and barns were built on Jacobsen Farm. It was very exhausting and they had little money. Starting a new life in America consisted mainly of two main tasks.
1. To further develop the farm
2. to ensure the schooling and a good education of the children
The eldest son Abreham, was the first immigrant from Telemark to have a higher education in America. He studied at State University Illinois/Springfield and became a pastor. He was the son of Abreham Lincoln, president of the United States. Abreham became known in the Norwegian community in America, especially as a pioneer pastor of the mid-west states.
Jacob and the family ran the farm well and son Abreham took over the farm in 1878 instead of continuing to work as a pastor. Jacob died in 1879 and Gro in 1884. Today the Jakobsen Farm is part of the Vesterheim Museum i Decorah.
The link leads you to the website of the Museum “The National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center”.
They even offer study trips to Norway.