"Sjur of Stadhem,"

a Tribute to Sjur and Oline,

Dedicated to Leroy and Elizabeth Stadem,

by Sjur's Great Great-Grandson Ronald Ginther

Part One

"Stadheim Eaglets Leave the Aerie"


"The Challenge Before Them: Hang On, or Emigrate?"

Sjur is our Scion's name,

our Progenitor from Sogn Fjord.

His picture shows a sturdy frame

that could have swung a Viking sword.

Farmer-shepherd, his natural bent,

Stadheim land was sparse, owned by few;

So when came Oline (wife) and child,

he was hard-put to pay rent due.

Between a rock and hard place pressed,

to stay on there meant more distress.

Would things turn and give relief?

Or just get worse, and mock Belief?

They went about their daily chores,

while in their minds these questions burned.

No wonder cream ran thin and sour,

so hard to set up butter when Oline churned!

It's easier for a man out in the rough;

strong men can get stronger with the ax and plow.

But Sjur was hired shepherd too, tending flocks;

he couldn't spend all his time teasing barley from Stadheim rocks!

Sjur and Oline lost Ole their first-born;

they laid him in a grave forlorn.

They had no money for a decent grave stone,

so today his resting place is unknown.

Sjur likely carved a small wooden cross.

It wouldn't last long, it's true,

but still it spoke of Jesus Christ--that's the best this grieving father could do.

Destitute old age, or a child's early death,

only strong faith endures either such trial.

Life's North Face breathes a cruel, bitter breath;

the weak will wither, give up in a little while.

No future, just hard-scrabble drudgery,

year on year--but what of his family?


"A Hard Place Got Impossible"

Unlike eagles, it seems some men turn quail

and clip short their wings;

they won't launch out to brave the sky,

they set in places known and snug;

as for their reason, it's fear, that's why.

Not so Stadheimers! They trusted child-like in Providence;

Rationalist religion for them made absolutely no sense.

Knud, Sjur's brother and Mother Britta's eldest, launched first;

he refused to spend his life in a place that seemed accursed.

The brothers talked and planned all winter long,

how best to chart a course ahead out of Sogn.

They must have shared faith to start over anew here--

it would take more than Norse grit to venture so far to pioneer.

Some emigrants relied on themselves and had little faith in God,

but not so Olsons or Stadheims

sprung from Vik-i-Sogn's thin, rocky sod.

When Knud and children (and Britta following) had all gone,

Sjur and Oline were left virtually alone to carry on.

Hard as they tried, they couldn't raise their ship fare,

so they took their few sticks of furniture,

and left their ancestral cottage bare.


"Bergen was Their Launching Dock"

Years passed in Bergen's busy port and town;

the Stadeims grew in number,

but they hoped to move ahead, not sink down.

Sjur patrolled at night warehouses and docks;

crime was comon there--thieves burst

bolted doors and smashed heavy iron locks.

They carried off stolen goods in small, swift boats,

and some tried it with rafts, or just anything that floats.

Though policeman was his job,

at heart still shepherd by Sogn's deep blue-green water,

he and Oline kept few sheep,

tended their tiny garden, and played cotter.

Finally, they had their fares and little besides,

and they all boarded the BODRENE,

a fixed-sail barque--it took weeks to reach America.

In Canada they sailed St. Lawrence River to Great Lakes,

to join up with Knud in Worth County, Iowa,

they had to do whatever it takes.

So much depended on this our Stadheim Scion--

if you don't know, thousands of souls, won for Christ's own!

Part Two, A Tribute to Britta, the Grand Stadem Matriarch, will follow soon!

Note: Are we projecting too much faith in God in these simple folk, our forbears from Norway? Some might think so. But I don't think so. They showed by action, behavior, character, they didn't quickly "get religion" after they landed here. If they had not brought their faith with them, it is most likely they would have continued that way. As they proved soon after they arrived in Dakota Territory, in Pleasant Township, they thought church was important, family attendance and devotion to God's house and teachings was important, and living a consistent, godly, pious life was important. We had some "lapsed in moral character" individuals in the early line's families, but very few. Were they truly God's children, assured of heaven? God knows. They themselves thought they were God's children and held to the Luther-descended evangelical teachings with a passion and a reverence that would put us to shame today--all without pride or thinking that made them special in any way. Try to fault them if you can! You will have to work hard at it, you will find. Too much sobriety, perhaps, not enough "gemutlickeit" or jollity, perhaps, but they knew and did the right thing by God and man. They did it with love and faithfulness too--we can tell that by the references to them by their grandchildren, even if they are oblique.

Try to compare, if you will humor me a bit, a fillet mignon and a McDonald's quarter pounder? When you got your teeth in these people, so to speak, you got your teeth into something truly meaty. As for McDonalds, they are fine for treats, but what you get nutritionally is sometimes problematic. If anything, the Stadheims or Stadems were the last thing from problematic. They were real, and they stayed real to the end, the whole generation of them. What you saw was what you got. Isn't that refreshing, compared to what you see today? This arrogant and even morally ungodly popular culture, which at its best is so light, frivolous, materialistic and self-centered, could never produce indomitable pioneers such as "old" Norway, for all its faults, hardship and scarcity at the time, produced in Sjur and Oline, Knud and Britta.

Scripture says, "you shall know them by their fruits." That says it best, and I rest my case.--Ed.

Part II, "The Stadem Family Sails to America," an In-depth Study of the Epic Voyage, by Ronald Ginther

"Stadems Sail to America," View of Oline and Sjur & Family's Voyage, by Ronald Ginther

Links to other sites on the Web

Plain View Heritage Farm Home Page

Plain View Farm Roadmap

Acre One, of "God's Little Acres: A Little Family History," by Estelle Stadem Rangen

New Main Linking

Master Directory

Tribute To Pearl Stadem Ginther

SPECIAL THANKS TO: Rennard Svanoe, whose well researched article on Sjur and Oline provides clews to the character and motivations of our ancestors, Sjur and Oline, as well as Knud, Britta, and the other major progenitors. That article only reinforces the record that we have of their lives once they set up in this country. We see their lives written largely in the results: the hard-working, independent, godly, family-oriented, God and Church and community and country-loving kind of people they produced. Two of the valuable books Rennard donated to the PVF Heritage Archives are shown above for their graphic views of Norway at the turn of the last-last century.

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