"Stadems Sail to America,"

Oline and Sjur & Family's Voyage,

by Ronald Ginther


Berent Martin..................7 years old

Peder Johan....................5 years old

Ole Severin....................3 years old

Berntine Gurine................1 yr (actually 9 months old)

Berntine Gurine was baptized July 9, 1865 in Korskirken, Bergen;

the Family sailed from Bergen 25 April 1866.

Sjur and Oline and four children departed from Norway to America (via Canada) on BRODRENE, a Norwegian bark or barque, a wooden ship with fixed sails.

Departed Bergen 15 Apr. 1866, Arrived Quebec, Canada 27 May 1866, completing a voyage of 32 days, or about 4 and 1/2 weeks.

Father Sjur was 34 years of age, Mother Oline was 27 years of age.

Four children were survivors already, they had lost the first-born Ole, who was born and died, less than a year old perhaps, in Vik-i-Sogn, their starting home place. Ole Severin, of the four, produced no children and never married, the other three were fruitful in that respect.

Three more Stadem children were born to Sjur and Oline, over in Worth County, Iowa.

Oline and Sjur were married Dec. 29, 1857, in Hove Stone Church, Vik, in the dead of winter.

By the time they sailed to America they had been married 9 years.

Sjur was perfectly capable of supporting his growing family--but not with ease, but with difficulty in the circumstances back in Vik. That is why they re-located to Bergen, to prepare and gather resources for their voyage to America. In Bergen four children were born to him and Oline.

Norway was a hard place to make a living as a cotter or a landless farmer, who paid the land-owner part of his crops and labor; to make ends meet, Sjur also raised sheep as a hireling, and perhaps fished in the great Sogn Fjord if he could borrow someone's boat, and gardened as well. He could hire out as a general laborer. But there was no getting ahead in Norway without owning land, not in those circumstances: hence the move to America where there was promised a better future for a hard-working man and wife who knew how to farm.

Though a Danish-Norwegian subject of a Danish king earlier in life, the politics changed, and Norway passed to Sweden's overlordship. The adult Sjur Stadheim was a subject of the King of Sweden and Norway, a dual monarchy. He became a citizen of the United States in 1883 in Worth County, Iowa, April 10, 1883. He probably spoke Norwegian fluently all his life, reading and writing in it, listening to sermons in Norwegian at their church, and in a Norwegian-speaking family and rural community, he learned only a small amount of English.

In poor old Vik they left Baby Ole behind,

who was first-born of their family,

but in Bergen's better pastures

four children sprang forth,

the favor of God their parents could see.


Berent Martin, Peder Johan,

Ole Severin and Berntine Gurine--

these sturdy four "tupin" would sail to the New World

with their young, courageous Ma and Pa.




Wife Oline Madsdatter was twenty-seven,

Husband Sjur Olson was thirty-four.

Oline held a 9 month old Berntine Gurine,

while Sjur managed the older three of the four.


Berent Martin was seven, Peder five, of the older boys--

they too could help tend Ole Severin age three,

who only cared for his toys.


Nine years wed, this couple learned the ropes--

by which success can be gained,

not by luck but faithful, steady trust in God,

and long-cultivated hopes.


Sjur's brother Knud, followed by Mother Britta,

had emigrated to Iowa already before;

Sjur had such to draw on,

and so to faith was added experience

to calm them when assaulted by

fears or self-doubts amidst the sea's surge and roar.


But are these just names thrown out?

Were they once real people?

Could it be WE were not even dreamed of,

there was just this one family

that had never known life in America the Bountiful?


"Here we have no continuing city,

but we seek one to come"--

that is the scripture by which they lived,

and all they had ever done.


Would their Shining City be found in America?

Amidst the broad acres of her heartland's prairie?

Well, unless they risked all,

they'd never find out what God had in store

for them across the watery waste of the Sea.


Oh, there's security in the present "Known,"

but if you can fight off panic, fear and trembling,

there's a golden promise in the "Unknown."

Pioneers, that they certainly were,

even before they set foot in America,

or heard "Ha det gud tur da!"

they had to conquer all the challenges

that naturally occur.



Four and a half weeks...

at least there were services they could attend...

in chaplain-led worship of God they could forget

the strains and the awful shipboard reeks!


The Word of God assured them

that all was in His almighty care,

and their souls drew comfort and cheer

that was most welcome and fair.


Four and a half weeks aboard

cramped immigrant ship BRODRENE,

could strain every nerve and inflict sickness,

even death of a whole family;

but they had to arrive

at their destination in health,

or they'd be sent back--

it was the same for a poor man

and a man of wealth.


Sjur and Oline knew they

and their children were, thank God, all well;

but a weeks-long voyage,

how long before one or the other fell ill?

They could not tell.


Four and one half weeks at sea,

then down the St. Lawrence River--

only a Norwegian-born could contemplate it,

and not have a fit, shudder, and shiver.

The great Sea surges in Sjur's veins

though born a farmer

on the banks of Sognfjord.

Just the sight of the endless, rolling sea wave

doesn't frighten or appall him,

not at all, it strikes in his soul

a deep, welcome chord.


His ancestors plowed those same waves

with mighty vessels called the Knarr.

By them they could range for weeks, months,

even a year or two,

if they saw reason to go so long and so far.


Sjur could stand aboard the BRODRENE

as gulls swooped in their wake,

taking the broad Sea-Road to America!


Son of the Vikings,

it stirred up his slow blood,

and through his mind's eye ran

Greenland and even Vinlandish scenes--

and he chewed on them for long moments,

like a cow her cud.


Down in the hold,

in the long-bunked, fetid alleys

where the immigrants were stowed,

no such lofty scenes or feelings--

it took the open air

and the cold breeze

that flung back and salt-stiffened his hair.


Viking or not, he could not

tarry there too long,

he had three small sons

and infant daughter;

he himself was nothing, he knew,

without his family to belong,

and he loved his unshakable, steady,

square-jawed Oline Madsdatter.


Together they had weathered Vik

and made it to greater blessing in Bergen (and to the ship!)--

and the rest would come easier,

success in America was nearly in his grip!


He thought about their savings

Wife sewed into her hems,

from eggs she sold,

sheep he grazed,

to them it meant a chance

of new life

better than costly jems.


No shipboard thief could steal it away--

just a few ore in his vest pocket--

a laborer's wage for a day.

What did Sjur see and know of life?

He himself was no stranger

to man's worst nature and human strife.

He knew the crook, burglar, and worse, the son of Cain

who would slit a man's throat

for a paltry gain.


As City Watchman, he knew all types of men;

on his night-long patrols

he encountered beastly

creatures that live not like men but trolls.


Nothing less than dissolute spawn

of Hell's lord, the Devil,

they lived only to commit a next, worse act of evil.


He knew there's always some

especially evil-hearted men,

in crew or Passage on the Sea;

blasphemers, ungodly in word and deed,

no woman was safe,

nor even the innocent babe she might breast-feed.


He knew of some who acted out of perverse nature,

using others in contempt

after being dealt with in good faith.


After all, Adam's first-born son murdered his brother,

so how much were men improved

since this tragedy of humanity's First Father and Mother?


He had seen the woman utterly ruined

in her tender youth,

huddled in the gutter

no longer wanted by evil men now,

so she starved,

unable to sell herself for bread and butter.



Bergen's important to the Stadem Story,

the place where Stadems launched forth to failure or glory.

Norway's second city,

beautiful and vital in location,

today as great as it ever was,

Gateway to America in the West,

like Jacob's Bethel--"House of God"

birthed from mere earthly Luz.


These honest but penurious Stadems went from possessing

between little and nothing

to America's many broad acres with a grand future

and a hope--

for us, it started with an almost bankrupt Sjur and Oline,

when they left Vik behind

and the side of life that promises

more hard times, or, at best, lean.


Bergen prepared them for major changes to come,

if not for this city and its ways,

there wasn't much of value they might have


Thousands others sought much the same lift in life,

but these, once in America,

melted into its race for material gain,

and, not resting in God,

reaped only vanity, emptiness, and strife.


In Norway they had farmed

and lived by revered Saints Days,

notched with a knife on the old wooden calendar stick.

In America there were no such olden ways,

generation after generation

followed cycles of the sacred church calendar.

In America you let out the barn animals to grass,

plowed, sowed, and reaped

on the day you thought best to pick!


How were Sjur and Oline prepared

for all of that?

Again, Bergen was the bustling Crossroads of Sea and Land--

you may be a simple farmer,

but next you on the park bench,

or in church pew, a banker sat!


Bergen proved the place

they learned to bend more than one way,

and that became a strength,

even though they eschewed the tumult of city life

and chose not to stay.


But what they knew in Bergen was good,

they bent toward it all the more,

since in the big city they could see

plenty examples of what sin could do

to both rich and poor.


Bergen still shone with renown

as Hauge's second home;

the fires of revival ran through

the whole city

and still licked at the shore's sea foam.


Three centuries before Hans Nielsen Hauge

Martin Luther over in Germany rescued the Gospel of Grace--

restored God's Word too to the people,

set it back in the Church in first place.


Then much the same dry rot

that ate out the life

of the Spirit and stifled the Gospel before,

returned to the Church in Norway,

and the Clergy themselves

made faith a matter of formal ceremony, kept the people spiritually poor.


A man of the people,

a honest farmer's son too,

that was bound to give Hauge's Bible teachings

a hearing with both Swede and Norwegian too.

Then ruled by Denmark, The Two Kingdoms had a Danish king,

it was no loss to quit as his subject,

for he maintained a governance

from which Christian Truth had long taken wing.


Hauge, God's man, raised up to restore the breach,

walked and journeyed everywhere in the land,

working with people to their gain,

and afterward he would take up the Bible to teach.


Doing Norway's people great good,

it did not matter to the authorities,

just as it was with Christ long ago whom worldly Temple Sadducees

and religious Pharisees bitterly withstood.


Trumped up charges were brought,

Hauge was imprisoned.

His crime? Earthly powers challenged,

not God's, but vain, selfish men's!


Sjur and Oline could not have

escaped hearing of him,

Bergen's favorite son, Hauge was, to many a citizen.


Evil hearted men nurtured evil

born in envy and pride;

they cared nothing for captive souls

for which Christ, to set them free, had died.

Of course, most people like Lot are content in the wicked city of destruction,

deaf to the warnings of God's Word

writ so clear,

it will take an angel sent in haste

to rescue them out,

lest they perish with the rest,

damned eternally to condemnation.


But Stadems knew they must

keep to God's Word and True Way,

and not commit sin,

lest the Devil hold sway.

Not like the foolish, the sinful,

the lost,

who all seek some passing pleasure,

but oh! The awful cost!


We can't say how much

Stadems saw of this,

when they left Norway in spiritual decline.

But Norway was even then much like Babylon,

that city of the world ruled by the Man of Sin,

who will come, rule and destroy,

declaring himself God,

crossing the fatal, last line.


Stadems knew from God's Word

this old world ends in fire,

and all its vain works

will be cleansed away,

a shining new earth will

arise for God'strue saints.

Ruling as kings and priests,

as the scriptures say,

they'll know peace and happiness,

in Christ's reign alway.



Hans Nielsen Hauge bought

an estate on an island to be called Svanoe.

He meant it to help reform a converted man

through the graceful gift,

but it failed in its effect,

to another man it was to go.


These Hauge-favored folk,

the Svanoe families,

emigrated to Minnesota,

Little Norway in America.

Alfred Stadem's daughter Myrtle

married Kalvog-born William Rennard Marion Svanoe.


William's Haugean-influenced, pastor father, Atle,

wrote on Lutheran laypersons' ministry,

and so two streams of Haugeanism,

converged--through Stadems and Svanoes--

in one union that produced fruit prolifically.


The Stadem line

born of Sjur and Oline,

would produce missionaries on three or four continents,

while from the home Bible Study of William and Myrtle Svanoe

was birthed a mother church

that in turn birthed not two or more churches, but twenty-three!


--by Stadem Descendant, Ronald Ginther, April 4, 2013


With all due respects and gratitude to Barbara Vorseth Benson, Family Historian, whose excellent Stadem genealogy furnished the vital statistics and really the framework for this piece.--Ron Ginther

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