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Subject: Norwegian Sailors on the Great Lakes - 62-71
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 09:24:43 -0700


The following selection is taken from "Norwegian Sailors on the Great
Lakes" published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA)
in 1928. The volume is out of print and not available from NAHA at where you will also find the first 33 volumes
of Studies and Records online. This chapter is published with the kind
permission of NAHA. The book this selection is drawn from is under
copyright and permission has been granted for educational purposes and it
is not to be used in any way for any commercial purposes.

In early years the Norwegians also engaged quite extensively in
shipbuilding on the Great Lakes, as the demand for lake vessels afforded
an opportunity for lucrative employment also in that field. Very
prominent among early Norwegian shipbuilders was Elias Sørenson, born at
Kragerø, Norway, on January 30, 1825. In 1849 he came to America, and
settled in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where he established a shipyard and
engaged in the building of lake vessels. After some time he moved to
Milwaukee, later to Fort Howard, and still later to Depere in the same
state, where he also established shipyards and engaged in the building of
lake vessels of all kinds: sailing vessels, steam vessels of all sizes,
barges, scows and tugs. {82} His brothers, Captain Lars Sørenson, Captain
Peter Sørenson, and Christen Sørenson, were associated with him in the
shipbuilding industry. At their shipyard in Manitowoc they built the
following vessels: {83}

1853 schooner "Lomira" 120 tons capacity
1854 schooner "Toledo" 100 tons capacity
1854 schooner "North Star" 175 tons capacity
1854 schooner "E. M. Shoyer" 120 tons capacity
1855 schooner "Anna Thorine" 89 tons capacity
1856 schooner "Guido" 116 tons capacity

At Depere they built some vessels, among which were:

1867 schooner "Walhalla" 114 tons capacity
1868 schooner "Butcher Boy" 359 tons capacity
1873 schooner "North Cape" 386 tons capacity
1875 schooner "Lizzie M. Sørenson," a three masted vessel. {84}

Later Elias Sørenson moved to Seattle, Washington, and then to Ballard in
the same state, where he continued his shipbuilding activity. In all 118
vessels are said to have been constructed under his supervision. He owned
some lake schooners, but not many, as he devoted his attention mainly to
the building of vessels. In 1851 he married Miss Jacobine Abrahamson
Kullevig. He died in Chicago, August 10, 1911. {85}
One of the earliest Norwegian shipbuilders on the lakes was John Thorson
from Stavanger, Norway. He built, among other vessels, the brig " Scott,"
which in 1854 sailed from St. Joseph, Michigan, to Europe and returned.
Peter Larson was very prominent among the early Norwegian shipbuilders on
the Great Lakes. He was born at Roverud in Bamle, Norway, on June 11,
1830. In 1856 he came to the United States, and settled in Manitowoc,
Wisconsin, where he built a shipyard and engaged in shipbuilding. The
following vessels were built by him: {87}

1870 schooner "Industry" 55 tons capacity
1871 schooner "Espindola" 54 tons capacity
1871 schooner "G. Knapp" 186 tons capacity
1872 schooner "Willis" 260 tons capacity
1873 schooner "Felicitous" 199 tons capacity
1873 schooner "Woodstock" 164 tons capacity
1873 schooner "C. Luling" 233 tons capacity
1874 schooner "Julia Larson" 59 tons capacity
1874 schooner "Merchant" 66 tons capacity
1881 schooner "Tallahassee" 760 tons capacity
1881 schooner "Lalla Rookh" 60 tons capacity

In 1864 Peter Larson married Miss Anne Caroline Christianson of Oslo,
Norway, who died in 1914. Fourteen children were born to them. Larson
died July 11, 1895.
Other vessels built at Manitowoc by Norwegian shipbuilders were:

Date Schooner Builder Capacity

1873 "Hunting Boy" Capt. Christianson 55 tons
1874 "Rap" Capt. Worden 20 tons
1874 "Ramedary" Capt. Worden 22 tons
1875 "Success" Capt. Jørgenson 161 tons
1876 "Tennie and Laura" Capt. Jørgenson 57 tons
1877 "B. Jones" Capt. Knudson 45 tons
1881 "Isolde Bock" Capt. Jørgenson 70 tons

Two Danes, Jasper Hanson and Hans M. Scove, established a shipyard in
Manitowoc and built a number of vessels in the period 1870—1889, but the
carpenters and mechanics who were building these vessels were nearly all
Norwegians. One of these was Julius Johnson, foreman and expert spar
maker in the Hanson and Scove shipyard. He was a graduate of a navigation
school in Norway, and after the panic of 1873 had created hard times for
the shipbuilding industry, he was placed in command of the schooner "John
Schuette," which he sailed for his employers, taking a cargo of deals
from Manitowoc to England. He sailed the vessel back to Wilmington, North
Carolina, where he left it, and then returned to Manitowoc. As told
elsewhere Captain William Lund of Milwaukee went to Wilmington and took
charge of the vessel after Captain Johnson’s return. After sailing it to
Riga, Russia, and other places, he finally brought it back to Chicago in
September, 1879. The vessel was built by Hanson and Scove at their
shipyard at Two Rivers, Wisconsin, where they were located before 1873.
Another Norwegian in the employ of Hanson and Scove was Captain Christen
Olson, born at Grimstad, Norway, in 1830. He came to America in 1854,
settling in Manitowoc, where he served as shipbuilder, and later as
superintendent in the Hanson and Scove shipyard. He was part owner of the
schooner " Industry" and of the scow " Success." He married Miss Maren
Findahl, a sister of Mrs. O. Torrison of Manitowoc.
The following vessels were built at the Hanson and Scove yards: {88}

1871 schooner "K. L. Bruce" 34 tons capacity
1871 schooner "L. Meeker" 312 tons capacity
1871 schooner "C. Neilson" 315 tons capacity
1871 schooner "W. Keller" 263 tons capacity
1872 schooner "M. A. Muir" 347 tons capacity
1872 schooner "T. H. Howland" 299 tons capacity
1872 schooner "M. L. Higgie" 310 tons capacity
1873 schooner "Falmouth" 234 tons capacity
1873 schooner "H. M. Scove" 305 tons capacity

After 1873 they had their yard for some years at Two Rivers, where the
following vessels were built:

1874 schooner "J. O. Thayer" 380 tons capacity
1874 schooner "Granger" 366 tons capacity
1874 schooner "Bertie Calkins" 256 tons capacity
1875 schooner "John Schuette" 289 tons capacity

In 1880 they were again operating their yard at Manitowoc, where they
built the following ships:

1880 steamer "Daisy Day" 124 tons capacity
1880 schooner "H. O. Albrecht" 309 tons capacity
1881 schooner "Melitta" 83 tons capacity
1881 schooner "E. B. Maxwell" 360 tons capacity
18881 schooner "T. L. Parker" 628 tons capacity
1882 schooner "J. L. McLaren" 286 tons capacity
1883 schooner "Emma L. Nielson" 90 tons capacity
1884 schooner "James H. Hall" 100 tons capacity
1889 steamer "J. E. Hall" 343 tons capacity

Mads Ornes was born in Vikedal, Norway, on September 29, 1834, and came
to Manitowoc in 1870 with his wife and five children. As he was a trained
shipbuilder from Norway, he devoted himself to shipbuilding. For O.
Torrison of Manitowoc he built the schooners "Linerla" and "Minnehaha."
In 1882 he built the schooner "Mishicott." He also rebuilt several older
vessels, among others the schooners "Imperial," "Glen Cuyler," and
"Ashtabula." He died on August 18, 1907.
Manitowoc became an important shipbuilding center especially through the
introduction by some of its shipbuilders of the clipper type of vessel, a
type of ocean sailing vessel which had been developed shortly after the
discovery of gold in California in 1849. Long and narrow, with sharp
concave bow and shorter aft than forward beam, the clipper ships were
remarkable for speed and had established a new time record for
trans-oceanic service. The " Sovereign of the Seas" made 3,144 sea miles
in ten days, and later the "Lightning" made 437 nautical miles in
twenty-four hours. Among the schooners of this type launched in Manitowoc
shipyards was the "Clipper City," built by Bates and Son in 1854. It is
of interest to note that the name of this vessel was adopted as the
nickname of the city of Manitowoc.
In Chicago Norwegian shipbuilders also established themselves, but as the
records were destroyed by the great fire of 1871 little is known of their
early activity. George Emerson, born in Norway in 1832, came to Chicago
in 1860, and devoted himself to shipbuilding.
Ole Christopherson, born in Skien, Norway, in 1828, served as a sailor on
the ocean for many years. In 1863 he came to Chicago and engaged in the
shipbuilding industry. He married Miss Maren Nelson in 1856, and resided
in the city till his death in 1904.
Abraham Larson built the sloop "Ole Bull," which was regarded as one of
the fastest sailing vessels on the lakes.
Gilbert Anderson, born in 1851 near Farsund, Norway, owned a shipyard in
Chicago, where he rebuilt and repaired ships for many years.
Bernt Anderson came to Chicago from Norway in 1880 and engaged in the
work of shipbuilding, but returned to Norway in 1905. {89}
Samson Anderson, born in Haugesund, Norway, in 1831, came to Texas in
1861 and sailed in canal boats for some time. In 1865 he came to Chicago,
where he built the schooner "Lomie A. Burton" in 1873, at Gas Island. He
then moved to Racine, Wisconsin, where he worked as ship carpenter. In
1902 he retired and went to live with his daughter in Evanston, Illinois.
Hans Hanson, born in Tjømø parish, on July 5, 1830, came to Chicago in
1894, and served as a shipbuilder.
The following Norwegian shipbuilders built vessels in this port:

Builder Vessel Date

Charles Gunderson schooner "Sam Caxton" 1874
Charles Gunderson schooner "Christiania" 1874
Peter Knudsen schooner "Annie Dall" 1882
Charles Larson sloop "Nora" 1883
Larson Brothers steam yacht "F. Parnell" 1884
Martin Larson sloop "Frolic" 1884
Severin Anderson schooner "Laura Miller" 1886
Charles Larson propeller "May A. Minter" 1886
Charles Larson steam launch "Sidney S." 1886
Charles Larson schooner yacht "Sketch" 1887
Charles Larson sloop "Charlotte R." 1890
Charles Larson sloop yacht "Ina" 1891
O. C. Olson schooner "Minerva" 1891
Charles Larson steam yacht "Laura S." 1893
Charles Larson steam launch "Duchess " 1895
James Christensen sloop "Charlotte R." 1895
Charles Nelson yacht " Mistral" 1895
Charles A. Hanson sloop "Diana" 1895
Halvor Michelson schooner "E. R. Blake" 1896
Halvor Michelson schooner "Grace M. Filer" 1896
C. J. Olson sloop "Seaflower" 1897
O. E. Olson schooner "Jessie Philips" 1898
Edward Olson tug "W. H. Wolf" 1899
Theo. Knutson steam tug "William Maxwell" 1900
W. Johnson, Knutson & Co. steamer "Panther" 1900

Norwegian shipbuilders were engaged in building vessels also in other
Lake Michigan ports. {91}
In 1855 Gunder Gutormson came from Norway with his wife and his son
Gunder Gunderson, then twenty-one years old, and settled in Green Bay,
Wisconsin. He was a shipbuilder by trade and followed that trade for four
years after he arrived in Green Bay. He died in 1893.
Gunder Gunderson, his son, took up shipbuilding in Chicago and followed
that pursuit in Chicago, Milwaukee, and other lake towns. He then settled
in Green Bay, but engaged later in farming at Depere, Wisconsin. He
assisted in building the schooner "Mary Nau" and other lake vessels. In
1866 he married Miss Pauline Anderson, whose father, also a shipbuilder,
settled at Fort Howard, now Green Bay, Wisconsin. Gunderson died on
October 27, 1912. {92}
Andrew Johnson, born in Norway, came to America in 1870 and settled in
Green Bay, Wisconsin. He returned to Norway after some years, but later
he again came to America and was engaged in shipbuilding at Green Bay
until his death in 1899. {93}
Andrew A. Johnson, son of Andrew Johnson, was born in Norway on June 12,
1843, and came with his parents to America in 1870. For the next six
years he was engaged in carpenter work and shipbuilding in the employ of
others at Oshkosh and Green Bay. In 1876 he established a business of his
own at Green Bay, which grew until he had his own shipyard in which he
employed upwards of thirty men constantly. He built boats and vessels of
all kinds — large lake steamers, tug-boats, schooners and motor boats. In
1876 he married Miss Petra Hoegh, who bore him five children. {94}
Captain Peter Peterson, Captain Gunderson and Lambert Nau, a German,
built the schooner "Mary Nau" at Green Bay. In 1867 Peterson and Nau
built the schooner "Libbie Nau." In 1872 they built the schooner "City of
Green Bay," and the following year they built the schooner "Annie M.
Peterson." The tug "George D. Nau" was also built at Green Bay by
Norwegian shipbuilders. Captain Lars Olson, already mentioned, built the
schooner "Ida A. Olson" at Green Bay in 1888. Søren Anderson worked as a
shipbuilder in Green Bay, where he owned a shipyard and built many
vessels. He was from Bamle, Norway.
This represents only a part of the work done by Norwegian shipbuilders in
this port, but more complete information is lacking.
In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, John Thompson and the Olson Brothers had a
shipyard and built many lake vessels. One of the vessels built by them
was the schooner "O. C. Johnson," which was launched in 1869. Later they
built the schooner "C. S. Davis." Norwegian shipbuilders in this port
also built the schooner "Arendal" in 1873, and the schooner "J. H. Mead"
in 1874. In 1875 Jacob Peterson and Martin Johnson built the schooner
"Wonder." Peter Larson, born in Norway, came to America in 1854, and
settled in Sheboygan where he engaged in shipbuilding. He also served as
a lake sailor. Many Norwegian shipbuilders were employed in all the
shipyards of this port. Ole Peterson lived in Manitowoc for a time but
went later to Sheboygan, where he worked for Rieboldt and Wolter in their
shipyard. He finally moved to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Ole Bordson and
Peter Nelson also worked in the Sheboygan shipyards.
Rieboldt and Wolter moved their shipyard from Sheboygan to Sturgeon Bay,
and many Norwegian shipbuilders were in their employ. Among these was
Jacob Nelson, born in Risør, Norway, in 1835. He came to Racine,
Wisconsin, in 1872, served as a lake sailor, and became captain of the
schooner "Simmons" in 1883. In 1889 he moved to Sturgeon Bay, where he
bought and sailed the schooner "Pride." While this vessel was anchored at
Egg Harbor a squall came up which suddenly capsized it and killed his
son. Nelson now gave up sailing, and worked afterwards in the shipyards.
Halvor S. Halvorson, born in Espevik, near Risør, Norway, learned the
shipbuilder’s trade. While yet a young man he came to America with his
family and settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where he found employment as
a shipbuilder. He died in March, 1924, at the age of seventy-seven years,
leaving two sons and a daughter, who live in Sheboygan.
Nels Nelson, born at Kragerø, Norway, in 1844, came to Sturgeon Bay in
1885, and became a lake sailor and captain. For some time he sailed the
schooner " Wm. Oelrich." Later he built pleasure yachts and worked in the
shipyards, where he also helped to rebuild the schooner "Joses," owned by
Captain Evan Johnson of Racine.
Mr. Egland, born in Stavanger, Norway, in 1841, came to America in 1863,
and served as captain of several tugs. Later he worked in the Sturgeon
Bay shipyards. His son was captain of the coast guard station for some
time. Later he had charge of the coast guard station at Racine.
The foreman of the Sturgeon Bay shipyard was Oscar Anderson, born in
Drammen, Norway, in 1855. In 1884 he came to America, and became a
shipbuilder at Sturgeon Bay. He owned a farm about eight miles east of
the town, where he established his home. He was married and had several
At Racine shipbuilding was also carried on by Norwegian shipbuilders, but
little is known of their work.
Samson Anderson, born in Haugesund, Norway, in 1831, came to Texas in
1861, and served on canal boats for some time. In 1865 he came to
Chicago, where he built the schooner "Lomie A. Burton" in 1873, as
already noted. Later he moved to Racine, Wisconsin, where he worked as
Captain Abraham Anderson and Halvor Jensen rebuilt the scow "Laurina" at
Racine. The schooner "Melitta" they rebuilt at Holland, Michigan.
Fred. Fredrikson and his brother Martin, born in Fredrikstad, Norway, in
1832 and 1835 respectively, came to Racine in 1868 and rebuilt several
ships. Both are now dead.
Fred. Fredrikson and a Mr. Ulrikson rebuilt the schooner "Caledonia" at
Racine. Ulrikson was born at Sarpsborg, Norway, in 1828. He came to
Racine in 1888, and worked as shipbuilder.
Jørgen Jørgenson, born in Arendal, Norway, in 1822, came to America in
1876 and worked as ship carpenter with Fred. Fredrikson for many years.
They rebuilt the scow "City of Green Bay" in 1881. Jørgenson also rebuilt
a number of other ships. He died in I893. {95}
In Milwaukee shipbuilding was a flourishing industry in early days.
Sixty-seven vessels were built there in the period from 1836 till 1858.
Of Norwegian shipbuilders in this port Elias Sørenson has already been
mentioned. Another was Jonas Cornelius Reinertsen, born in Farsund,
Norway, on April 8, 1820, son of Andrew Reinertsen, a shipbuilder in
charge of the government shipyard in that city. Jonas Cornelius
Reinertsen came to Milwaukee in 1844 with his wife Hanna Eliza (Hansen),
also horn at Farsund, and served as shipbuilder for many years. He died
in 1897, two years after the death of his wife.

<82> H. C. Clarendon & Co., Railroad Business Directory of Chicago, 520.
<83> Edward Carus, "List of Vessels, Steamers and Tugs Built at Manitowoc
from 1847 to 1920," unpublished, Luther College archives.
<84> Bella French, The American Sketch Book, A Collection of Historical
Incidents with Descriptions of Corresponding Localities, 3: 248 (Green
Bay, Wisconsin, 1876) says: "June 15th, 1875. A beautiful three-masted
vessel, named ‘Lizzie M. Sorenson,’ and built by Elias Sorenson of De
Pore was launched." "A new sawmill was built by Elias Sorenson at De Pere
In 1868." Ibid., 197. "Captain Elias Sorenson had a shipyard at De Pore
as early as 1855, at which time he built the sloop ‘Traveler.’ Since, he
has built some twenty-four steamers and Other vessels. The steamers
‘Elwood Loy,’ ‘Mary Reid,’ and ‘Kate Reid’ were among them." Ibid., 204.
<85> Verdens Gang, August 11, 1911.
<86> Skandinaven, February 3, 1874.
<87> Carus, "List of Vessels, Steamers and Tugs Built at Manitowoc from
1847 to 1920"; Plumb, History of Manitowoc County, 296; Dr. Louis Flage,
History of Manitowoc County, 1 : 149.
<88> Flage, History of Manitowoc County, 1 : 149 ff.; Carus, "List of
Vessels, Steamers and Tugs Built at Manitowoc from 1847 to 1920";
Manitowoc Pilot, June 30, 1888.
<89> Verdens Gang, April 21, 1905.
<90> Notes by Capt. Even Johnson, Luther College archives. Capt. Johnson
states that this vessel was built between 1865 and 1870. According to
History of the Great Lakes, 2: 802, it was built In 1873.
<91> Master Carpenter’s Certificate, United States Customs Office,
<92> History of Brown County, Wisconsin. Past and Present, 2: 262.
<93> History of Brown County, Wisconsin, Past and Present, 2 : 201.
<94> History of Brown County, Wisconsin, Past and Present, 2: 201.
<95> Notes by Capt. Even Johnson, Luther College archives.

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