Erik Rotvold - A Special Tydaling

Erik Henningsen & Margrethe (Olsdatter Hyttmo) Rotvold
Gatzke, Minnesota

From Jul i Neadalen
Årsskrift for Selbu og Tydal Historielag.2004
Pages 22-24
Odd Svelmoe, author
English Translation by Olaf Kringhaug
Erik Rotvold - A Special Tydaling

Erik Rotvold was born the 25th June 1833 on the Rotvold farm in Stugudal as no. 3 of 7 children. His parents were Henning Larsen from Stuevold Østre and Ellen Gjertine Sakariasdtr. Barmann from Hitra. They bought the farm in 1830 from Sakse Henningsen of Møsjødal (Rote). Formerly the farm had been a seter under Jensgården in Græsli. Erik grew up here - certainly an existence of much struggle and toil for all to sustain the family.

The farming society changed a great deal during the 1800s. There was more and more an end to the idea that absolutely all goods had to be produced on the home farm. New eating habits led to the need to purchase such goods as coffee, tobacco, sugar, salt and flour etc. The payment could be made with cash, but most often the purchase was made through exchange of their own farm products. There were peddlers or 'veskytter' earlier but a more organised trade of goods now began.

City merchants had formerly had exclusive right to all sorts of trade. In 1838, Stortinget asked the muniipalities to give their opinion whether farmers who lived more than 40 km from a town should be allowed to trade goods themselves. The Selbu and Tydal council did not like changes in the existing situation. They came to the decision that it was neither desirable, beneficial or useful that the farmers could trade in 'necessities'. As late as 1861 Lensmann Schive stated, "A number of buyers swarm through the district....to whom people sell their products of their farms, partly for cash and partly with trading for other goods. Some trade in illegal goods, sometimes even spirits is associated with these persons"

Erik early showed great energy and was quick to take on new things. At only 25 he started with commerce at Lunden. That was comparatively early. Fr. Birch in Selbu opened his store in Selbu in 1852 as the first in the valley. Petter Olsen at 'Varhusbakken' was the first Tydaling who operated trade in food. Much of the goods were purchased from Birch in prepaid amounts. In 1860, Peter bought goods for 500 speciedaler (2000 kroner) from him. Erik was a good merchant and in time forced Petter Olsen out. (Perhaps it was him that Schive referred to with regard to sale of spirits).

Erik was very good at calculation but he never learned to write. He certainly did not get a complete education up at Stugudal either. The priest Hansteen said when he passed a confirmant of 18 who had been turned back 3 times, "One cannot expect anything else from you who lives up among the birds"! Trading in credit could have led to problems but Erik solved the accounting with the debtor rather cleverly. A cheese was a circle while a grindstone was a circle with a square hole in it! The system functioned remarkably well. In 1867 he started a 'branch' in Ljungdalen in Sweden. In summer he brought goods like grain and salt etc in pack saddles 60-70 km over the mountain. In winter he used sleds on the same route. He brought back iron wares and other goods the Swedes had produced. There were no roads, only trails.

In June 1861, Erik married his cousin Maren Larsdtr. Brendås, born 1840. Maren had a son before marriage, Ole P. Brendås. He grew up with Erik. Over time they had four children together, Lars, Ellen Gjertine, Henning and Peder. As adults, the three oldest went to America while Peder married into Løvøia. As a married man, Erik had to have a farm, so he bought the Berget Vestre property and lived there after.In 1867 his father-in-law sold half of the neighbouring Brennåsen to
Erik. The other half was sold to Ole A. Bakken (Hyttmo) from Ålen. With all the forest and outfields that accompanied the purchases, Erik had a significant farm by Tydal standards.

Unfortunately Maren died of tuberculosis the 6th July 1874. With 5 minor children to care for and a large farm to operate, it became too hard to be alone for long. As early as April 1876 he maried Margrethe Olsdtr. Hyttmo (born February 1857). It must have been rather tough for a 19 year old girl to marry a man who was 24 years older and at the same time take responsibility for the children. It looks like it went well. From 1876 to 1894, they had 11 children together; 7 boys and 4 girls. Nine of the children grew up but only two remained in Tydal. Their son Lornts died, 23 years old, in a rock fall. Over time six children emigrated to the USA.

In addition to his goods trading, Erik was very busy with the purchase of livestock for sale in the city. His stepson Ole P. Brendås remembers that as a child and youth he had to herd the animals barefoot in the mountains all summer before in the fall they were driven down to the railroad for slaughter. In addition Erik had 'rental' cows on may farms and cotter's places. One of these was the cotter 'Berginn' at Bergrommet. He did not have his own animals but Erik had a cow and two sheep 'boarding' there. His parents had operated Berget in their time but he had to move when Erik bought the farm. Ole Pedersen Aas, as he signed himself, was fond of the strong stuff. Berginn supported himself partly with building and carpentry. For the most part he did farm work for his farmer. This did not provide much income. He played cards and drank with Erik in the evenings. Erik played cards in earnest, so much of the earnings went to that and spirits. It was said that Berginn was able to keep just enough that his family did not starve to death. In 1882 the family were helped with a one-way ticket to America. As usual Ole had had a drink and his parting words were that they were now going to depart "this here manure hole". Afterwards clever tongues said that "the manure has gone, but the hole remains".

Many Tydalngs enjoyed a party with spirits and card playing on the weekends. Erik was among them. He held an open house for the young people so they could dance. It is told that one fall there was a dance in the summer house. Erik lay fully clothed in a doored bed and watched the young people. On a little table in front of him he had a "doktor" that he sipped. Stor-Ingebrigten of Aasen and his brother Henning got fired up about something and settled up outside. Even though Henning was a powerful man, he met his match in Ingebrigt. Ingebrigt went right back in and danced. But Henning was not finished with the matter so he found a reasonably long pole that he threw through the window. The pole went over Erik's head in his bed and past Ingebrigt and through the other window. Erik exclaimed, "What, Lord Jesus, what is it?" Then he drained his cup in one swallow, pulled his toque over his face and pulled the fur cover over himself. He remained lying there but the party continued without him.

Several of his neighbours also enjoyed card playing and a dram. It happened often that they sat up all night and played cards, often "femkort/kule" (a sort of whist). In a set there are two tricks. As the drams were drunk, a little sense was lost. They argued as to who had the most tricks. "I have a trick," said one. "But I have two," said Erik and swallowed the drink. Now and then Erik accompanied a neighbour home to fetch a cow or sheep out of the barn when they did not have enough money to pay up. The next morning was up at the crack of dawn and chopped wood or worked at something - fresh and active, while his neighbours stayed in with hangovers and regretting the night before. It was said the spirits did not affect Erik. The secret is probably that he drank a full glass of cream before the partying began. Margrethe dutifully sat up and looked after the stove, food and coffee. When her husband got tired of the party he got up and said to his life's partner, "If you love me, you'll follow me to our chamber"!

One Christmas, Erik overestimated his strength. They were at a party with Lars Halvorsa at Halvorsgården. Erik certainly drank much or perhaps the quality was a little poor? He became unsteady and did not feel fit to walk home. It was below minus 20º outside. His pals decided to put him on a sled and drag him home. So that he would not fall off, they took a rope and tied him down securely.On the way, the rogues came on the idea that they would go in and say that he had fallen and was dead. Erik also thought this would be humorous. He wished to find out what his wife and children would say when he had 'gone' away. Down in the farmyard the helpers would go in and tell the widow and fatherless children the sad news. Erik lay well fastened to the sled an awaited the reaction. There was the snag that when they got in, they asked if Erik was at home. As they knew, he was not, so they asked if they could come in and have a drink before they went further. This was immediately granted. Erik lay outside and became angrier and angrier and more and more frozen. The rope was well tied and things could have gone badly. Eventually he got free and went in. The intruders received the order to depart immediately. Such poor friends he did not wish to see in his house!

One Christmas with a great snowfall and strong winds, the old man decided to take a trip up to Bønstrøa and Lars Halvorsa. It was in the middle of the night so it was hopeless to walk. They then hired Svend Aasgård, who was just a youth, to drive them. He refused at first but he would get 10 kroner for the task. (This was several day's pay at that time) The assumption was that they would arrive without the sled being upset. If he could not manage that then he would get a real old-fashioned beating! Sven had a big strong horse and good equipment and they set off. he almost made it but unfortunately the sled upset in a big snow bank. The old man kept his promise and gave Svend a beating before they went the last bit on foot....one's word was one's word.

Erik held strong opinions about much. If he did not like a person he did not compromise. This also happened within the family. He quickly got out of step with one of his daughters-in-law. Perhaps he felt she was too domineering? Margrethe felt this was bad. "I feel sh elooks kind," she said the Erik - or "Old-Erik" as he was called when he got up to the "old man" age. "Just wait until she beomes known," was the answer. At the wedding he wished everyone welcome to the table. The in-laws were not mentioned at all!

Three of the oldest children emigrated to the USA about 1890. Two of them settled as farmers at Gatzke in Minnesota and after a time did rather well. "Old-Erik" crossed the 'pond' early in the 1900s and liked what he saw there. In the spring of 1911 he sold the farm and took Margrethe and the 4 youngest children on the long trip to Minnesota. Up on Karlshaugen by the highway, they stopped for a rest and looked over Bergegrenda for the last time. "Such beautiful green hills you will never again see, Margret," said Erik, before they went further down the valley. He is believed to be the oldest emigrant to leave Tydal. Erik was then 78 years old.

In the USA they lived for the most part on the farm of his eldest son, Lars. Erik was in good health for a long time and helped with the farm work well into his 80s. He continued with a little card playing and a dram on the weekends. A temperance society was established among the Tydalings and other Norwegians in Gatzke about 1915. Erik did not like this. People who invented such modern foolishness he wished to have nothing to do with, he told one of the "apostates".

In 1923 Erik celebrated his 90th birthday at Gatzke surrounded by family. Over time there were many descendants in Norwegian America - 9 children and 48 grandchildren. Now it goes further to great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren so that today there are many hundreds of descendants of Erik. Many of them have done well over there. In addition there are 3 children and 12 grandchildren with descendants at home in Norway. One can confidently say that Erik was a remarkable and strong personality who left a deep mark after him.

Erik died in June 1924, just over 91 years old. His dear Margrethe died in 1930. Both are buried in Landmark Cemetery in Gatzke. The life that started in poverty up in the mountain forest at the foot of Skarsfjellene, ended in Minnesota's fertile and flat land, deep in the USA.

Note: Erik came from the same area as John & Guri Nysetvold in Norway. He was related to both of them. The picture is from John Nysetvold's glass negative plates that I have and scanned.

Sources: Tydalsboka
Bygdebok for Tydal
"The Tronsaune-Rotvold History"
Conversations with older Tydalinger about Erik.

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