Woldhagen Images

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his family, and Norwegian home

As a boy, Martin attended school , helped on the family farm, served an apprenticeship in cabinet making learning those carpentry skills that he would ultimately use to support his family . His brother, Nils had sent glowing reports about America telling about the freedoms, economic opportunities and affordable land. Shortly after the completion of his apprenticeship, in 1905, with his grandfather's or older brother's financial assistance, Martin left Melhus, Norway traveling by train to Oslo, by sea to London, overland to Liverpool, by steamer to New York City (Ellis Island), and finally by train to Chicago . All told, the trip took about 2 weeks. He was approximately 17 years old and spoke little or no English when he left Melhus and had limited supplies for the trip . At Ellis Island, he used his name, Martin Hansen (Hansen because he was Hans' son) with the farm name, Voldhagen (Woldhagen) as his last name. When he arrived in Chicago, he did not have money to buy land so he looked for work and stayed with his brother, Nils. He was turned down when he applied for a job as a streetcar conductor, because he did not speak English well enough . Fortunately, his carpentry training enabled him to find work as a journeyman cabinetmaker for the Treiber Piano Co., and later the Kimball Piano Co., making piano cases. Return to top


her family, and Norwegian home

Kamilla (b. 2 June1891) was the fourth child of Karl Karlsson and Petra Mortensen's children. The first, a son Karl, died at age seven, followed by three daughters, Anna, Karoline, and Kamilla. This may sound like a small family, but Petra had been a widow before this marriage and already had 10 children . They lived on a hill overlooking the Oslo fjord next to the prestigious Seamans School. Karl was a furniture finisher from Sweden and Petra Mortensen took care of her home and children. Their home was located near the king's palace and when he went by in his carriage, Kamilla would go to the gate and wave at him . Kamilla also enjoyed music and attended concerts on the fjord. She had trained to be a hat maker in Oslo although it is unclear whether or not she worked as a hat maker there. Her older sister, Anna (and perhaps Karoline, also) had already migrated to the USA . With Anna's financial assistance, Kamilla decided to take to visit her sister, Anna, and see if she, too, could find a good job. (Kamilla also had an aunt and uncle, the Martinson's, in Chicago but it is unclear when they came to the USA.) She migrated in 1909 at the age of 18 and made a trip similar to Martin's again without English fluency . At first, she probably lived with one of her sisters , and initially found work in the millinery trade (making hats). Later she found a better paying position as a domestic help with a successful family in Chicago.

Kamilla enjoyed music and had a beautiful alto voice and was in demand as a singer. Additionally she was a good dancer. Return to top


Kamilla and Martin

In his free time Martin joined a Norwegian Social (Dance) club (The Eidsvold Club). He was very popular and ultimately was elected President of the social club. Although he was short, he was such a fine dancer that he became a dance instructor. Mildred remembers that he taught his daughters to dance.

It was at the social club that he met Kamilla. While she was in Chicago, she accompanied her friends to the same Norwegian Social club that Martin attended. They entered and won a waltz contest during which the heel of the feet could not touch the floor. Chalk was placed on the heels of the participants' shoes and any contestants who left a chalk mark were disqualified .

They married in Chicago on March 17, 1911 at the Norwegian Lutheran Church in Chicago on the northwest corner of Logan Square . (Den Norsk Lutherske Mindekirke). Return to top


homes, family

Like many Norwegian families, they moved to Minnesota where the farming land was reasonably priced, the climate was similar to their homeland, and there was a large Norwegian American population. They started their trip by train to Duluth where the purchased supplies including a horse and buggy and other bare essentials.

They drove their buggy to their farm, Sunny Hill, in Normanna Township &endash; 15 miles outside of Duluth. It was near a lake in a densely wooded area that had to be cleared by hand. Their first "home" on the farm was a root cellar and that sufficed until they were able to build a small house. There were wagonloads of rock that need to be moved before tilling the land. Martin would spend the week in Duluth, living in a rooming house, and come home on weekends. Ironically, the city girl, Kamilla, tended the farm while the farming boy, Martin, was in the city. Six of their children were born at Sunny Hill farm with the help of neighbors and midwives . At the time that Helen was born, the family used a horse and wagon but by the time that Esther was little, they had their first car, a Model &endash; T .

In the autumn of 1918 there was a very dangerous forest fire . Martin put his children in a large hole in the ground and put a wagon over the hole to protect them. (Norman remembers thinking that it was funny.) Tante Karoline, Kamilla's sister visited at least once when the family lived here. The picture of her, during her visit shows Esther as a baby.

By 1922 they had moved to a different farm which was in the township of Gnesen. Ray was born on at the second farm, Schultz Lake. While the family lived here, Martin built a rowboat .

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The climate in Minnesota did not agree with Martin so they decided to move to a warmer climate. (According to Ray's information, he had something called "rheumatism of the stomach".) In 1925, they packed up a used 7-passenger Lexington (car) with 7 kids, a chest for food, and a few household items including a tent and themselves, and left Wisconsin. The move to the Tampa area took 6 weeks.

Brandon FL

Martin bought a plot of land in Brandon and built a house for his family on this land. This house had at least 2 bedrooms and a sleeping porch. Martin and Kamilla had one bedroom, Helen and Margaret, the other and the rest of the kids slept on the sleeping porch. He also bought a truck and had his business information painted on the side.

All of the children were encouraged to play musical instruments. On Sundays, the family would go for rides in their car and sing songs from song books. Mildred really enjoyed those "sing-a-longs", especially when her mother harmonized by singing alto. Other special memories are the visits to Bullfrog Creek for swimming and attending the Brandon Methodist Church where Helen, Margaret and Mildred sang in the choir. (The children always attended church.)

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Norway's Story

Kamilla's Story

Martin's Story

Family Images


Duluth area

Tampa area

San Antonio

This page was last updated by Carolynne White March 30, 2001