Peder Garberg Oral History Interview, 1984  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Garberg, Peder
Peder Garberg Oral History Interview
1984 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Peder Garberg, a Norwegian immigrant.
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
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The oral history collection is open to all users.

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

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Peder Garberg was born on December 8, 1898 in Selbu, Norway to Ingebrikt and Kari Garberg. He was one of four children. Peder worked on the family farm until he left for America in 1917 with two neighboring boys. During his trip to America aboard the Bergensfjord, Peder witnessed a burial at sea. Peder went to LaCrosse, Washington because his friend had talked to someone in Norway who had been in LaCrosse before. The first winter in LaCrosse, Peder worked on the Wigen farm and stayed there until the next spring. Eventually, Peder leased a farm for 41 years until it was sold and then moved to Spokane, Washington in 1962. In 1921, Peder married Brynhild Kjøsnes in Spokane at the Old Holiday Hotel. Peder became an American citizen in 1936. Peder and Brynhild had four children: Clara, Irwin, Sadie, and Phyllis. Peder does not feel that there is anything special with the Norwegian's. He felt that a person's personality determines who the person is no matter where they are.


Full Name: Peder Garberg. Father: Ingebrikt Garberg. Mother: Kari Garberg. Brothers and Sisters: Ingebrikt Garberg Jr., Arne Garberg, Ane Garberg. Spouse: Brynhild Kjøsnes Garberg. Children: Clara Garberg, Irwin Garberg, Sadie Garberg Allen, Phyllis Garberg Maynor.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Peder Garberg on August 23, 1984 in Spokane, Washington. The interview contains information on his childhood, relatives in America, reason for going to America, his trip, occupations, settling in LaCrosse, Washington, leasing a farm, marriage to Brynhild Kjøsnes, his family, and his Norwegian heritage. The interview was conducted in English with some Norwegian towards the end of the interview.

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

The interview was conducted by Janet Rasmussen using a cassette recorder. 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
277, side 1 015: NAME
His name is Peder Garberg and he was born in Selbu, Norway on December 8, 1898.
277, side 1 023: PARENTS
His parents were Ingebrikt and Kari. They were farmers. Both of them were from Selbu.
277, side 1 034: CHILDHOOD HOME
Peder grew up on a farm. They had a little dairy. The farm owned some forest area, in which they logged every year. Since he was young, he worked in the forest. They logged in the fall and transported the logs to a sawmill where his dad sold the lumber. They had 6-8 cows, some sheep, and a few goats. There were four children in the family. His oldest brother was Ingebrikt. He also had a sister, Ane, and Peder's younger brother Arne who died during a flu epidemic in 1919, a couple of years after Peder left. Ane stayed in Norway and took over the home farm. Her son is running the farm now. Ingebrikt Jr. died rather young, 42 years old. Ingebrikt Jr. went to college and became a teacher. There were four teachers in the family. His mother's brother had two boys and two girls. They all went to college and ended up as teachers. Another one of his mother's brother had a son who also was a teacher.
277, side 1 108: RELATIVES IN AMERICA
His dad visited the U.S. before Peder left Selbu. Ingebrikt Sr. had five brothers. Five out of the six brothers had been in America. Some of the brothers returned and some stayed their entire life. Three of his brothers were in Alaska during the gold rush in Klondike and Nome. Two returned to Norway. Peder's father returned to Norway after four years. Peder's uncle Pete was in America for about seventeen years before he returned around 1906, when the gold rush slowed down. Uncle Chris returned in 1910, he had been in America for around nineteen years. Chris did well in the gold rush, but lost a lot of it in a bank in Norway. Uncle Andreas lived in America and died in Seattle. He bought a place, broke up some land, and built a nice home there. Uncle Pete was married and bought a farm in Norway. Peder came over in 1917. His uncle in Seattle had died a couple of years before Peder went to America.
277, side 1 169: FATHER IN AMERICA
His father was in Minneapolis, MN, where he worked at a sawmill and in lumber camps in northern Minnesota. He was not married at the time. He returned to Selbu and bought a place, got married, and traded with his oldest brother, Pål, for the home place. The oldest son was supposed to take over the farm. Peder's father was number 3, out of the 6 brothers. Pål had been in America as well, in Seattle. Pål did not marry and he never had children. It was a pattern for young men to go to America to earn money and then return. A lot came back, but several did not.
The lust for adventure helped Peder decide to go to America. Two neighboring boys were going and he joined them because his brother was going to inherit the farm. One of the two he traveled with also went to LaCrosse, WA.
277, side 1 227: WORKING ON THE FARM
After confirmation he did the same work. He transported logs the last winter he was in Norway. He was eighteen at that time. The sawmill was close to the farm in the mountain and he used a horse and a sleigh to transport the lumber to the mill. Peder's father worked with him for a while, they had two horses, and after a while they hired one of the neighbors to help them. When spring came, he transported the timber to the highway. He received some money from the family to go to America. This was the only money he obtained for the work he did on the farm.
277, side 1 257: TRAVEL TO AMERICA
The ticket to America cost 440 NOK, which included transport from Trondheim, Norway to LaCrosse, WA. To be able to enter America in New York you had to show that you had 25 dollars and you had to have an address of the person you were traveling to. He did not have any addresses because he did not know any people there. When they were on Ellis Island, they were divided into lines to get their train tickets. They were supposed to call the person they had an address for. The immigrants were stacked like sardines. The boy he traveled with was ahead of him in line, so he had his train ticket long before Peder got his. Peder went to the Norwegian Seaman's Mission after he got his ticket and the Norwegians were supposed to wait until their train departed. When the neighbor boy did not see Peder, he thought he was lost, and went back to Ellis Island to look for Peder. They met when Peder was getting his train tickets. Then they walked together, Peder missed the telephone booth, or they missed him, so he did not call anybody here in America. Both were headed for the same farm in LaCrosse, WA and they traveled together until they got to LaCrosse.
277, side 1 299: SEAMAN'S MISSION
They had a room and had something to eat. They had to wait there for quite a while before they boarded the train.
277, side 1 307: IMMIGRATION
Peder had information about the railroad from Norway. They were in Oslo for 3-4 days and before they got on the boat they had to show papers to the American Consulate there, so his papers were cleared back in Norway. They arrived in New York in the morning. The American citizens on board could walk ashore immediately. Peder and his friend had to wait on the boat until the next morning because they were immigrants. Then they were allowed to go to Ellis Island. They were split into lines according to what railroad you were going on. If you did not know what company was the right one, you had to look at the company name, and try to figure out what the right one was and then take a chance with one window. If that was not correct, a person had to try to find another line, and stand in line all over again.
277, side 1 341: TRIP TO AMERICA
Peder and his friend went by train from Trondheim to Oslo and boarded "Bergensfjord" in Oslo, heading for New York. The weather was good, so it was a nice trip. They witnessed a burial at sea. A woman died so they stopped the boat. They had the body in a wooden box on the upper deck. The captain gave a service speech and the box were lowered it into the water. Almost a week into the trip they picked up a fisherman from Newfoundland, Peder thinks he was Portuguese. He had lost orientation and had drifted away from the big ship he was on. The fisherman was sitting in a small rowboat without an engine. "Bergensfjord" picked him and took him along to New York. There were several people on deck when the fisherman was rescued. People knew something was going to happen since the ship suddenly stopped and started to turn. Peder was in his room and when he looked out the window, he saw something on the water. Peder got scared because this was during World War I and he thought it was a submarine. The trip happened in August, so the weather was warm and nice.
Peder came to LaCrosse because his friend talked to someone in Norway who had been in LaCrosse before. That person had worked in the woods in Spokane and on the farms during the harvest. Lumberjacks usually worked in the forest during the winter and helped with the harvest when it was necessary. Peder's friend had gotten the name and address for someone in LaCrosse that could help them. Peder's friend name was Per Garberg but they were not related. The farmer in LaCrosse was named Haldor Kjøsnes, but he was not related to Peder's wife, who was born Kjøsnes. Kjøsnes and Garberg are common names from Selbu.
277, side 1 420: ARRIVING IN LACROSSE
Peder and Per came to LaCrosse on August 7. They had gotten a name of a doctor in LaCrosse that could speak Norwegian, so Peder contacted him. The doctor knew two boys, Tim and Tom, who worked on a farm. They were in the LaCrosse delivering a load of wheat. Per and Peder contacted them and rode with them from LaCrosse to the farm on the empty wheat wagon the same evening. He does not remember much about his first arrival in LaCrosse because he was very tired. He does remember that it was very warm and he had very warm clothes.
277, side 1 441: TRAIN TO LACROSSE
Peder did not sleep much on the train because it was an uncomfortable trip. The train was a combination of passenger and freight train. They had first class tickets but they were not able to use them. Peder and Per came through Chicago and Omaha, Nebraska. He also came to Pendleton, Oregon, where he changed trains. They got to Pendleton during the night; he was very tired and laid down on the lawn to sleep. Then they traveled on the WRN from Pendleton to LaCrosse. They bought the food they ate on the train. They also bought some cured meat from Norway. On the ship a rat smelled the meat and managed to eat some of the meat.
277, side 1 470: "BERGENSFJORD"
From England he took the boat to Halifax, Nova Scotia because of World War I. The Englishmen examined the boat for propaganda and spies and they looked through everything. They stayed in Halifax for two days before they were allowed to continue to New York.
277, side 1 480: LEAVING NORWAY
He did not make any plans when he left. He had not told his parents if he was returning. Before Peder left, friends of his parents called and told his parents that they should not let Peder go to America. His mother answered that there were five people in the close family that had lived there before, so Peder was not the first person to go. His father had been there before, but did not say much, except that he told him to stay out of the cities and work on a farm.
Peder worked the first winter on the Wigen farm with Wigen's two sons. The eldest married and had four small children, which gave him several opportunities to learn the new language. Wigen had a four-year old girl that tried to help him all the time. Peder stayed there until the next spring. Wigen had another hired man and Peder was offered a better deal on another farm. He worked on several different farms for the next four years, until he leased his own farm in the area.
277, side 1 513: SALARY AND WORKDAY
The usual arrangement was $60 a month with free room and board. The salary could be better in the harvest season, but the average salary in spring was $60 a month. Jobs in the field were easy to find when Peder arrived in LaCrosse. He usually got up at 4am. The horses were out during the night so they needed to be gathered and fed before they could start working in the field. They were not finished until 7-8pm in the evening. Peder did not get much time off to go into the city. The salary in the harvest season also depended on the job you had. The farms usually used a stationary thresher. Wagons with four horses transported the crops to the machine. Working in the field was three dollars a day, feeding the thresher was four dollars, if you worked filling the wheat in the sacks, the salary was five dollars a day. That was a difficult job, especially on the machine. That was very hard, could be 500 sacks. On a combine, there was a chute on the side, where the sacks were dropped. That was not so hard. A sack could weigh about 145-150 lb. Peder worked with the sacks for one season, and he remembers getting tired after a day's work with the sacks. He worked mostly for Norwegian farmers.
277, side 1 563: LEASING HIS OWN FARM
Most of the people were satisfied with the farming they were doing. Peder did not think of going anywhere else, so he leased a farm in the area for 41 years, until it was sold and he bought his own house in Spokane. The lease was dependent on the crops and the rule was that the landlord received one-third of the crops. He paid the lease from 1921-1927 until the man that owned the place said that Peder could have the place without paying lease as long as the owners lived. Peder ran the farm until 1962. When the owner died, the three sisters took over the lease and they wanted to sell the farm in 1962. The farm was small, 320 acres and it was a wheat farm. Peder had some milk cows, some chickens, and some hogs. The property was never for sale, so he never had an option to buy the farm.
277, side 1 593: PRICE OF LAND
The price of land in 1921 was around $60 an acre. In 1928, a neighbor sold for $80 an acre. Then the Depression came and brought very hard times. In 1931, 800 acres that partly bordered Peder's place was for sale. This piece of land could be bought for $37 an acre because people did not have any money. Now the land sells for around $1,000 an acre in the area.
277, side 1 612: MARRIAGE
Knew his wife, Brynhild Kjøsnes, from the time he came to LaCrosse, because he used to visit her parents on Sundays after he got there. He was working on the Wigen place, and Brynhild's parents owned the neighboring farm. He had brought some things for Brynhild's sister from Norway. Peder and Brynhild were married in Spokane, WA at the Old Holiday Hotel, in the manager's apartment. Her parents were there for the ceremony, with Peder's brother and Per Kjøsnes. A Lutheran Pastor, John Rockne, conducted the ceremony from Our Savior Lutheran Church. The sermon was conducted in Norwegian. They did not go on a wedding trip; they went directly back to the farm. The weddings were usually completed in Spokane at that time.
277, side 1 637: CAR
His first car in America was a 1917 T-Ford, which he bought from the person who had leased the farm before him. He bought the car along with nine horses, three cows, some hogs, and chickens. Peder had not driven a car much before so the oldest brother on the Wigen farm gave Peder driving lessons. The Wigen's had an old Dodge. Peder had the car until 1928, when he bought the first four-door A-Ford in LaCrosse.
277, side 2 066: ADVICE FROM UNCLE
He decided to go to LaCrosse because Per had contacts there. He did not know what America looked like, except that Uncle Chris said that he should go to Seattle. Chris and Uncle Pete worked in Alaska in the summer and spent the winter in Seattle. Pål owned some land not far from Seattle. Pål married in Norway and visited America frequently. Chris told Peder to avoid LaCrosse and go to the West Coast instead. Chris had been in LaCrosse before and he did not like the area. Chris had visited a first cousin here, Mrs. Karlsen. He usually visited here in the spring when it was dusty. Peder never went to Seattle. Uncle Andreas had a nice house by Lake Washington but he married a bad woman.
277, side 2 143: LIVING IN AMERICA
Not everyone had it as good as Peder in America. The majority stayed in LaCrosse, but some returned to Norway. There are mostly 3rd and 4th generation living in LaCrosse now.
277, side 2 170: CITIZENSHIP
Peder became an American citizen in 1936. For the exam he studied the American government. Both had to take the exam to be able to stay. A Federal examiner held the exam from the superior court. The exam was held in the Colfax county superior court, in Colfax, WA. The examiner had one big question "Have you ever heard of the checks and the balance system in our Government?" Peder knew the answer and explained it in detail to the examiner. The examiner answered You have been studying, I see." He had no special reason why he took the citizenship exam in 1936. The exam looked hard and someone he knew had been there before and gotten turned down. His wife took the same exam a few years later.
277, side 2 218: CHILDREN
Their oldest daughter Clara was born October 4, 1922. Clara was married twice; her first husband owned a sanitary service in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. She had gone to Business College, so she was the bookkeeper. Clara's husband passed away in 1951 and left her with four boys, and 3-4 trucks and 8 men working in the business. She ran the business for some years, before she remarried. She is a head cook for a retirement home, run by the church in the area. They serve several hundred people there every day. The kitchen is run on charity basis, and they serve mostly senior citizens. Their son Irwin was born on August 17, 1925. He is married and has three sons, Earl, Paul, and Gerry. Gerry is living in New York and is a graduate from Columbia University. After he was in the military for four years, Irwin went to trade school to become a mechanic. Now he is a shop clerk for At CAT-dealer in the area.Sadie was born on July 6, 1928 and is married to a farmer, Gene Allen and they own a farm south of Spokane, in Valleyford, WA.Phyllis was born on September 5, 1935 and she went through Business College and works for a bank/credit card company in Spokane. She is married to John Maynor and has two boys, Jeffrey, and Kevin. They are both married and have children as well.
They attended church activities in the Selbu-Lutheran Church. All activities were conducted in Norwegian until they built a new church. Then the congregation got a new pastor who knew Norwegian, so he preached both in Norwegian and English. The church was a part of "Den Norsk-Lutherske Kirke I Amerika." In 1931, all the sermons were conducted in English, because the young people did not know the Norwegian language. The name of the church was changed to the Evangelican Lutheran Church. Peder and Brynhild belonged to this church until 1962, when they joined the American Lutheran Church in Spokane.In the beginning, the congregation shared pastor with Moscow, ID. Pastor Hall was the last one of them; he was there until 1918. The pastors lived in Moscow and came down on the train. The pastor stayed on the different farms when he was visiting the area around LaCrosse. The church building was about 8 miles from the town. The church was located in the center of the area, in which the Norwegians lived. Land was donated from the farmers to build the church. They had problems gathering funds for building the church, and getting the pastor there, but that is the same today.
277, side 2 401: TRIP TO NORWAY
They were in Norway for a visit in 1964. That is the only time they went back. The trip was much quicker than when they left for America. They went on a plane from Spokane to Trondheim, via New York, Denmark, and Oslo. Peder's sister and her husband met them at the airport. The biggest change was that people had cars; cars did not exist in Selbu before they immigrated. Farming methods were different. The land was steeper in Selbu, Peder's father used to farm it all, and they used a scythe to harvest the crops. Now the farmers used silos, but several still hang the hay on racks to dry. His nephew used a hay-dryer on his farm. The timber was logged differently. Cutting in 1964 was much more systematic, they cut it all, and new trees were replanted. Earlier they cut one tree here and one tree there. He did not like the new method.
277, side 2 458: NORWEGIAN HERITAGE
Peder does not feel that there is anything special with the Norwegians; a person's personality determines who the person is no matter where they are. He does not feel anything special about being a Norwegian. Peder does not think that there is much difference in any nations. Peder has not passed on anything special to his kids. He gave his kids American names because he was in America, and he felt that that was the way it should be.
He subscribed to "Decorah Posten" and later the "Western Viking." Peder's sister sends him the local newspaper from his hometown, "Selbyggen."
(This part is conducted in Norwegian) They ate lefse, fattigmann (Christmas cookie), and brewed their own beer. Peder had two weeks off during Christmas, from December 25 to January 13. They did not keep many of the Christmas traditions when he came to LaCrosse.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christmas
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Marriage service
  • Naturalization
  • Norway--Social conditions--1945-
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Ocean travel
  • Railroad travel

Personal Names

  • Garberg, Peder--Interviews (creator)
  • Garberg, Andreas
  • Garberg, Ingebrikt Jr.
  • Garberg, Pål
  • Kjøsnes, Haldor
  • Rockne, John
  • Wigen, Peter
  • Garberg, Brynhild Kjøsnes
  • Garberg, Chris
  • Garberg, Ingebrikt
  • Garberg, Kari
  • Garberg, Pete

Corporate Names

  • Bergensfjord (Steamship)
  • Ellis Island (N.J. and N.Y.)
  • Selbu Lutheran Church (La Crosse, Wash)

Family Names

  • Allen family
  • Kjøsnes family
  • Maynor family
  • Rockne, John
  • Wigen family

Geographical Names

  • Colfax (Wash.)
  • LaCrosse (Wash.)
  • Selbu (Norway)
  • Spokane (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Farmers