Nels and Gertrude Simonseth Oral History Interview, N/A  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Simonseth, Nels and Gertrude
Nels and Gertrude Simonseth Oral History Interview
N/A (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Nels and Gertrude Simonseth, Norwegian immigrants.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 253-535-7586
Fax: 253-535-7315
Access Restrictions

The oral history collection is open to all users.

Additional Reference Guides

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Nels and Gertrude Simonseth left Norway on September 1, 1922, departing from Oslo. The trip went well, and there was a lot happening on the boat, including church, dancing, and a variety of good foods to eat. From New York, Nels and Gertrude took the train to Dawson, MN, where they knew a farmer named John Egen. Nels began doing carpentry work and farming for John's neighbor, and Gertrude became a housekeeper. They were married on January 29, 1923 and moved into town, where Nels began working for the railroad. Nels was later contracted to do carpentry work in Winthrop, MN and Scobey, MT. Gertrude took the train to Scobey to meet Nels, and from there, they moved to the West Coast, eventually settling in Stanwood, WA. In Washington, Nels worked in logging camps for fifteen years and also helped construct various military bases when the war broke out. Nels also did work on his own, building houses on Whidbey Island and around Stanwood. In the meantime, Gertrude and their children picked berries to make extra money. Gertrude also worked as a waitress at the Cedar Inn and as a cook at Sunset Home in Stanwood. Nels and Gertrude have made several return trips to Norway but did not know very many people.


For their lineages, see their individual interviews. Nels Simonseth t111 Gertrude Simonseth t112

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Nels and Gertrude Simonseth provided a personal tape, which chronicles their departure from Norway until their settling in Stanwood, WA. See also Nels Simonseth (111) and Gertrude Simonseth (112).

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on use.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Custodial History

The Oral History collection project was started during an experimental course on Scandinavian Women in the Pacific Northwest. Students in the course were encouraged to interview women and learn about their experiences as immigrants to the United States. The project was continued and expanded with support from the president's office and by grants from the L.J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation, from the Joel E. Ferris Foundation and the Norwegian Emigration Fund of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project was directed by Dr. Janet E. Rasmussen. The collection was transferred to the Archives and Special Collections Department.

Acquisition Information

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Processing Note

Nels and Gertrude Simonseth provided a personal tape. A research copy was also prepared from the original. To further preserve the content of the interview, it is now being transferred to compact disc. We deliberately did not transcribe the entire interview because we want the researchers to listen to the interviewee's own voice. The transcription index highlights important aspects of the interview and the tape counter numbers noted on the Partial Interview Transcription are meant as approximate finding guides and refer to the location of a subject on the cassette/CD. The recording quality is good

The collection was transcribed by Mary Sue Gee, Julie Peterson and Becky Husby.


Rasmussen, Janet Elaine. New Land New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific NorthwestTacoma, WashingtonUniversity of Washington Press1993

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The partial interview transcription highlights important aspects of the interview. Numbers may be used as guides to important subjects. Two numbers separated by a slash indicate that the first number is for cassette and the second for CD.

Container(s) Description
122, side 1 002:
Nels begins with a story, which highlights what happened from the time they left Norway until the time they reached Stanwood, Washington.
122, side 1 007:
Left Norway on September 1, 1922. Took the train from Trondheim to Oslo. Spent the night in Oslo.
122, side 1 013:
Boarded the boat. Had a brass band playing. Speaks some Norwegian. People saying good-byes "probably for the last time."
122, side 1 022:
Boat went up the coast to Stavanger and picked up passengers up to Bergen then started off across the North Sea. Could see Scotland from the boat.
122, side 1 030:
Nice weather. Good trip. Lots going on on the boat, church, dancing, and excellent food.
122, side 1 036:
Landed in New York. Stayed on the boat 2-3 days waiting for other boats to go through. Went through Ellis Island.
122, side 1 040: TRAIN RIDE
Across the prairie, landed in Dawson, Minnesota. Knew a farmer, John Egen, who was an indirect friend of Gertrude's.
122, side 1 058: WORK
Nels worked for John's neighbor doing carpentry and farming. Gertrude was a housekeeper.
122, side 1 073:
Nels wasn't used to farm work, but made out well. Made $50 a month.
122, side 1 080: MARRIED
January 29, their first winter in the U.S.
122, side 1 084: HOME
Got a house on the prairie.
122, side 1 090: MOVED INTO TOWN
Nels to work with the railroad. Made $3 a day. One of the best paying jobs for common laborers. Rented a bigger house.
122, side 1 099: WORK
Contractor from Winthrop, Minnesota needed help with carpentry jobs in Wheaton, Minnesota. Did painting and repairing of grain elevators.
122, side 1 108: WORK
Two brothers from Winthrop, Minnesota got contracts in Montana to work on grain elevators. The railroad was extended from Scobey, Montana to Log Pine. Three new towns were built along the railroad and they built elevators for these new towns.
122, side 1 117: CAR TRAVEL
Drove to Montana in an old Model-T. Lots of problems, flat tires and the rear end went out. Stopped in Redstone, Montana to work on the car.
122, side 1 139:
Met a man in Redstone who spoke Norwegian. This man was married to one of Nels' relatives, which was a surprise.
122, side 1 156:
Gertrude was ready to go out west. She had relatives on the coast. Gertrude took the train from Minnesota to Scobey, Montana where she met Nels. They decided to go west.NOTE: SIDE ONE ENDS ABRUPTLY. THE REST OF SIDE ONE IS BLANK. IT PICKS UP ON SIDE TWO WHERE IT LEFT OFF.
122, side 2 008: CAR TRAVEL
Describes problems of snow on the windshield and not having automatic wipers. Nels stood on the running board and wiped off the snow.
122, side 2 021: TRAIN
Took the train from Scobey, Montana to Grandville. Caught the train for the west coast. Thought the country looked good, Rockies and timber. Country looked more like Norway.
122, side 2 030:
Landed in Everett, Washington. Took another train to Mt. Vernon, Washington. Took the bus to Conway, Washington. First man they met was John Strondal. He pointed out where the Dalseg place was. This was Gertrude's relative.
122, side 2 040:
Walked up to the Dalseg place and met all the relatives.
122, side 2 044:
Moved up to the old Berg place. Nels got a job working for an English Lumber Company as a grader. Then he got on the falling and bucking crew. Stayed in logging camps for 15 years.
122, side 2 060: WAR
War broke out. Built a lot of bases all around. Built a base at Oak Harbor. Nels joined a union. Paid $50 to join. Started doing carpentry work in Oak Harbor. $1.37 per half hour. Worked six days a week. Good money according to the times.
122, side 2 081:
Worked for the Austin Company in Oak Harbor. They had camps out these where they stayed during the week. Home on the weekends. Paid $11 a week for room and board.
122, side 2 088:
Nels worked in Mt. Vernon and Seattle. Started at the shipyard in Stanwood. Worked on housing in Bremerton, Washington.
122, side 2 096:
Nels worked on his own. Built a few houses on the island and also around Stanwood. He worked in Fairbanks 2-3 times during the Korean War, building air base houses for soldiers.
"They were not idle." Gertrude went with the children to berry fields and picked beans. Made a little money, which helped.
122, side 2 120: CHILDREN
Began working out and getting married. Gertrude began working at Cedar Inn as a waitress. Gertrude had lots of work to do, perhaps too much.
122, side 2 131:
Gertrude worked at the Sunset Home in Stanwood, Washington. Worked as the main cook for a long time.
122, side 2 139: TRIPS TO NORWAY
Gertrude has been once by herself. She met a lot of friends and old schoolmates.
122, side 2 152:
Both took a trip to Norway. Didn't know many people. Older ones were gone. Younger ones were grown up.
122, side 2 161:
Another trip to Norway. Visited people from previous visit.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Emigration and immigration
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Ocean travel
  • Railroad travel

Personal Names

  • Simonseth, Nels and Gertrude--Interviews (creator)
  • Egen, John

Corporate Names

  • Austin Co. (Oak Harbor, Wash.)
  • Ellis Island Immigration Station (N.J. and N.Y.)
  • Sunset Home (Stanwood, Wash.)

Family Names

  • Simonseth family

Geographical Names

  • Dawson (Minn.)
  • Norway
  • Scobey (Mont.)
  • Stanwood (Wash.)
  • Winthrop (Minn.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Carpenters
  • Cooks
  • Domestics
  • Railroads – Employees