The Autobiography of Ivar Hinderaker - Excerpts

Ivar Hinderaker

Excerpt from an autobiography by Ivar Hanson Hinderaker (1851-1942), written sometime between 1933 and 1942 and later translated from Norwegian by Dagny (Paulson) Hinderaker, wife of Hoseas Hinderaker (Ivar and Martha Hinderaker’s oldest son).

Hinderaker Gaard on Karmoy, My Second Home

I think I was about three years old when my parents moved back to Hinderaker from Norem… In the northern part of this island I grew up and lived there till I was 21. On the Hinderaker Gaard (farm), from which we get our family name. At seven or eight years, I began to attend the religious school – we went from house to house. I remember very little from this “omgans skole”,as a school house was soon built. But I had to walk several English miles to get to the school house. It was a big school, but only one teacher – Torkel Lindeland.

The school was divided into three classes – two classes got two days a week each and the third class had one and one-half days of school each week. The children who did the poorest were placed on the lowest (back) benches. As time went on, the pupils were moved up according to how they were doing. We were moved up, bench after bench, hoping to reach the first. I attained this honor, but there were four ahead of me on the front bench. Most of learned the “forklaring” (explanation of Luther’s catechism) and the Bible history lessons by heart, but it seemed few of us got much our of “regning” (figuring). We had reading and writing; no geography or history.

When approaching 15 years, I prepared for confirmation. Our pastor, Vetlesen, was our teacher. He held no catesitation, but he saw that we learned our lessons. From my confirmation day, I remember best these words by the paster, as his land rested on my head; “For your soul’s salvation.” Now we were grownups.


Pastor Oftedal was Vetlesen’s successor. He was very gifted, both as a speaker and as a singer. The Avaldsnes church was too small when Oftedal was there. A great revival came to pass. It seemed that the greater part of the congregation was awakened – young people, especially. I remember his first youth meeting so well. After a Sunday service, he invited all the young people to come to his home on a certain day. The day came and many of us went to the parsonage. We stood along the wall in a big room. The pastor began by singing part of a hymn beautifully. “No one finds the way to eternal peace with pressing mightily forward. The soul must endure a struggle for faith, which by our salvation is…” The song made a strong and lasting impression on me. Our new pastor now told us that he planned to start a school for young people, where they might learn writing, figuring, etc. Yes! Everyone wanted to attend a school like that! Most of us needed it.

The following Sunday afternoon, we met in the school house – it was plumb full – many had to stand. The meeting started with singing and prayer. David’s first psalm was read. No arithmetic lesson. But we wrote conversion stories that the pastor told as he walked the floor. Those Sunday afternoon sessions continued much the same throughout the whole year that Oftedal was with us. We read the 40th Psalm at our last meeting – had started with Psalm One – read on each time we met. Throughout the week, he held prayer meetings in the homes…

To Work in a Mine

The copper mine, called ‘Visnes Gruben’ was only a few (English) miles from our Hinderaker Farm. In my 12th or 13th year, I began to work in that mine. To begin with, we were paid 12 cents a day, later we got 25 and 35 cents – that was the limit. Much of the time we got contract work, and then we could earn up to 50 cents a day. We worked from 7 o’clock in the morning until 6 in the evening, with one hour off at noon.

My Childhood Home

We were poor people – each one worked and tried hard not to be a burden. This was also the reason for my going to work in the copper mine, for a pittance at 12 or 13. Folks of better means did not allow their children to work in ‘Visnes Gruben’. But we were 8 or 9 in the family and the income from the little farm and from fishing, just didn’t'’ cover expenses. Mother suffered most from this – with all her hard work and economy, it was not always possible to keep the family fed and clad, at times. Dear Mother! God bless your memory!

Ivar Comes of Age

At 21 I knew I must leave by home and earn my own living. But where? Some of the young men in the area went north to Nordland, far north in Norway, to work on fishing boats. Another flock planned to go to America. Not many in our parts, had, as yet, gone to America. An uncertain journey at the time and most of those who went, never saw their homeland again. I must choose between the two. I shall never forget the quiet evening hour when I talked it over with my father – asked his advice. His answer; “If you must go, I would rather you go to America than to Nordland.” So now it was settled. Praise God who put the right answer into Father’s mind! My Norway days were soon at an end, but many great and precious memories remain!


Four of our neighbor boys and I decided to go to American together. My two cousins, Kristian Skeie and his brother Helge, together with two neighbor boys, Lars Kvalevaag and Hans Stokdal and I made up the party. We, with many other emigrants, left Stavanger, Norway in June or July, 1872, on the sailing ship, Orvarot. The journey from Stavanger to Quebec, Canada, took six weeks and cost me $10. We brought our own food – this also had cost $10.

On shipboard there were prayer meetings as well as dancing and such – every one to his own taste. There was a death, too – burial at sea. The trip from Quebec to Chicago to Pontiac and Rowe, Illinois, took only a few hours. The whole journey, from Norway to Rowe, Illinois, had cost me a little more than $30. Times change – We newcomers had now parted. Everything was new and strange, but I was well received at the Johannes Kvalevaag home. Their home became my third home and I remained there for more than three years. It was a Christian home – the Kvalevaags were good and Christian people.

I got work right away at the Joe Finley farm, an American of Irish background. This was something else again! I was to get $18 a month! The following year, in 1873, I got $20 a month at Finley’s. Mr. Finley paid me $20 (a month) in 1874 also, but in 1875 I changed places and got $24 per month. In January or February of 1875, a friend, Ola Hovde and I made a trip back to Norway.

My Norway Visit

In the early spring of 1875, it was a strange and wonderful feeling to again set foot on native soil! The greatest thing, of course, was to see my family and friends once more! I came to Father’s and Mother’s home in evening twilight…I have many dear memories from my 1875 visit to my native land, but also remember some disappointments. I could find no suitable work – also I suppose my three years in Illinois had changed me somewhat. So after three or four months in Norway, I returned to America. I had saved enough money so that I could bring a brother and sister with me to Rowe, Illinois – Halvor and Asseline. This time we came on the ship ‘Harald Haarfagre’ (Harald Fair-Hair) of the Norwegian-American Line, from Bergen to Philadelphia. My trip to Norway and return with my brother and sister, cost several hundred dollars. Our return trip took about 14 days, that is across the ocean.

Description of Karmoy

…Karmoy is one Norway’s saga (legend) islands. To describe it geographically, it lies about 6 Norwegian (42 English) miles north from Stavanger and 45 English miles south from Bergen, on the southwest coast of Norway. The most northern point of Karmoy is separated from the city of Haugesund by a narrow sound, Karmsund. Following this sound south beyond Norseim, to Salhus, the sound [is] so narrow that a person could almost stand on the island and yell to someone on the mainland. There the strait is called Salhus Sound, and is less than half an English mile wide.

On the east side of the island, the weather is calm and pleasant, but not so on the west side where a stormy North Sea often beats on the shore. The reverberating din of the ocean could be heard for miles inland, while spray and foam were thrown hundreds of feet in over the land. This has built up a “karm” (ridge), which is a protection for those who live farther east. Karmoy is about 28 English miles long, and it is almost cut off in the middle near the city of Koppervik. Large portions of the island are fairly level, fertile and attractive – it is often mentioned as one of Norway’s most beautiful islands.

The climate is very pleasant. The summers not very warm – at times not warm enough, and in the winters not severe. Some winters we called open winters, when we walked in slush and mud. I remember seeing men fishing from a boat – in the morning they would dip their wool mittens in the salty sea, and the mittens would keep warm and soft all day. We never had much snow on the island.

14,000 people live on Karmoy. How do they earn their living? By agriculture, fishing, and “skibsfart”

[NOTE from the translator: …not quite sure of the English word, anyway it means sea-faring. A great many went ‘down to the sea in ships’, as a poet said. Many became skippers to faraway ports...] Autobiography continues…

Religion: There are six large congregations on the island, each with their church. One of these is the Avaldsnes Church, not far from our home. This “prestegaard” was once a king’s home and is named after King Augveld [NOTE from the translator: not sure if the parsonage or the church, but prestegaard” should be the parsonage.] Only one English mile north of this “prestegaard” a great king, well known, even in world history, lies buried. The name on the old tomb is – King Harald Haaragre (Harald Hairsfair). One thousand years after this king’s death, a celebration was held on “Harald’s Hill”, at which King Haakon spoke. This was in 1933. My mother grew up at Gaard [Gaard farm], close to Harald’s monument….


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