On April 20, 1853 — having been married only 3 weeks — 27-year-old Lars Anderson and 22-year-old Grethe (Paulson) Anderson left Christiana, Norway (now Oslo), and sailed for America accompanied by Lars’ younger brother Jens. After 7 weeks at sea they arrived safely in New York, like more than 6,000 Norwegians who reached the ports of New York and Quebec in 1853 alone.
From New York they went on to Milwaukee, WI, by lake steamer, then walked 50 miles to Waupun. They stayed in Waupun for 3 years until 1856 when they set off with their one-year-old son, Carl, on a 150 mile trek across Wisconsin, by foot and covered wagon, to Eau Claire. In the spring of 1857 they made their way to Chippewa Falls Township (the township split in 1860, leaving their land in the Town of Wheaton) where they finally set down roots on 120 acres crossed by Big Elk Creek.
According to the History of Dunn County, when the Andersons built their first home, “there was only one house between Mr. Anderson’s place and Eau Claire.” This first house was a hastily built cabin with a low attic. It was later used by the family as a granary, and was dismantled in the 1950’s.
Building a Home
Gabriel Jensen, a friend and neighbor, came from Norway, passed through Waupun, and settled in the countryside near Big Elk Creek as the Andersons had. Trained as a shipbuilder in the old county at the age of twelve, Gabriel had the skill to build the Andersons a lasting home.
The house was built from trees cut along Big Elk Creek. The exterior and ceiling beams were all hand-hewn and trimmed. The floor was tongued and grooved by hand. Two story construction with 2 bedrooms on the first floor, a second story loft, and an inside cook stove meant this house was not a rough cabin, but a fine, substantial home.
While Gabriel Jensen was the builder, the craftsman who designed the house and fit its joints, it’s clear that several neighbors lent their hands to the project. Home building was a neighborhood affair providing relief from the isolation of pioneer life.