Life for Ellend & Anna Boyum in Norway
Life could be very hard for those in Norway without land. Such was the case with our ancestors, Ellend and Anna Boyum. Neither of them was the eldest so they led a very poor existence in Norway and what motivated the move to the U.S. They had planned to go when Arne and Gertrude went in 1853 but Ellend became ill. This passage from Pastor Arne Boyum’s autobiography gives a vivid account of the harsh life they led.
I was born on Easter Day, April 7, 1833, to Ellend Erikson Boyum and wife Anna Sevatsdaughter, in Balestrand, Outer Sogn, Bergen Diocese, Norway. On April 9 I was baptized and was named Arne after my father’s brother. My parents were children of farmers, but had older brothers and sisters who had allodial privileges. On this account they had to leave home and be satisfied with getting a small place, and becoming cottagers under my uncle, Arne Erikson Boyum. As a cottager my father had to toil and moil early and late for the support of himself and family, and this subsistence was often frugal enough.
There is not much to tell about the first years of my childhood. My experiences were like those of other children. In the first five years of my life, sorrow and joy, sickness and health, alternated. I remember only a few happenings from that time. The place in Norway where I was brought up, is an annex of Balestrand Parish, called Fjärland. A fiord goes north clear to the well known Justedal glacier, and at the end of this fiord, in the bottom of the valley, the Boyum farm lies, a large farm with many farmers. It is surrounded by high mountains where much snow usually falls in winter. Therefore there are often great avalanches of snow, plunging down from mountains as much as 5,000 feet high. At times these snowslides go past their ordinary limits, and do damage to both life and property. Such a snowslide reached the home of my parents too. I was then in my sixth year; but this event I suppose I will remember till my death. Our buildings were partly carried away, partly buried under the snow. The small house in which we lived, was only moved from its site. But then the slide stopped there, just as it appeared to us that we all would be killed. A little sister lost her life, and an old woman was so badly injured that she died a few days later. Some were hurt less seriously, and some escaped injury. I was among the latter. The Lord’s mighty angelguard was surely with us and protected us, without our knowing it. The Lord be praised and thanked for His goodness and protection of us poor sinners.
My parents now had to seek shelter in the homes of other merciful people. I had then just begun to read my A-B-C. But now my book was lost, and my reading was postponed until I was in my seventh year. Then I began attending the parish school. There I learned to read and write, and also got a little instruction in arithmetic. At that time the school was on a low level, so there was no instruction in grammar and orthography. But I owe thanks to both God and man for the little instruction I did receive. For I learned to read and also to write a little, and by making diligent use of what I had learned, and by private study, I gradually made progress. Time passed in hard work year by year. By hard work my parents were able to get along by practicing extreme economy and by living very frugally.
My parents did not dare rebuild on the same site, but got a new place to build on, where we lived for six or seven years, and had got things in order again in some measure, when a similar misfortune happened again. It was Easter Day and we had just sat down to eat our dinner, when again a mass of snow and water came down from the mountain and tore away all our buildings except the dwelling house. This remained standing.
I was then about twelve years old. At that time none of us was injured. But earlier that day my mother had had the misfortune to fall and twist her hand out of joint, so that she thereby was disabled for many weeks. Now the need became quite great: poverty and want, my mother sick, nearly all our buildings torn away, ruin on all sides. Our need was so great that we had to get help from compassionate people. Our school teacher, Erik Flesehe, went around and collected freewill contributions to help us get our buildings erected again. That was a hard and dreary time.