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fire in Sandefjord mid 1880s?

Replies: 13

fire in Sandefjord mid 1880s?

Posted: 1363276101000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Henriksen, Olsdatter, Farrestad, Haugen, Harrison
I have several questions specific to Sandefjord, Vestfold, that I need local historians to help with. I’m afraid the background is a bit long, so please bear with me!

My grandfather, Henrik Olaf Henriksen, emigrated from Oslo 25 Apr 1890 with his mother Regine Olsdatter and 3 younger siblings, last residence Sandefjord. He was born 4 Jan 1878, (he always said in Sandefjord) bp. in nearby Sandar, where his parents were married 27 Oct 1876. Someone on the Norway list found the records of their departure, as I know no Norwegian, and couldn’t find them using Digitalarkives. They all used her farm name of Farrestad, part of why I couldn’t find them.

The father, Hans Henriksen, emigrated two years before. I still haven’t found his emigration records. The church out-migration records in Sandar show the whole family leaving in 1890. But he definitely was not on the feeder ship with the rest of the family, or when they arrived in Boston. He, like she, might have used his farm name, Haugen.

I have all the references for the relevant baptisms, parents’ marriage, and the family’s emigration, if that turns out to be useful. In America, they took the name Harrison, and my grandfather became Henry Olaf Harrison. His father became Hans Henrik Harrison.

My grandfather, who died 11 May 1975, very alert until the end, told his children and his grandchildren why his family had to come to America. This is how I heard it.

His father had a dairy business in a triangular wooden building in central Sandefjord. All the businesses in that building self-insured each other, not being able to afford the insurance rates of the (presumably Oslo) insurance companies. On a windy night, a fire burned down the entire building, in spite of efforts to put it out. Since all the businesses were insuring each other, and all were destroyed, each business was ruined.

This must have happened sometime in the early to mid 1880s, because my g grandfather, Hans Henriksen, afterwards tried a variety of ways to earn a living. One way was to form a co-op with other dairymen and try to sell dairy products, first in Oslo and then in Liverpool. Apparently there was a ship that went regularly from Sandefjord to Liverpool every week or two. He would take cheese and butter, stay until he’d sold it all, and then return. My g grandfather was chosen to go to England because he spoke fluent English—his family could afford to send him to school beyond the free schools. My mother, now 97 and mentally alert herself, remembers his good, British accented English, odd to her childish ears because it had a Norwegian accent! My grandfather remembered having gone on one or more of these trips to Liverpool. However, this enterprise was not in the long run successful, and finally the decision was made that he must go to America, alone, to make enough money to send for his family. We have a studio picture of Regine and Hans, looking rather grim, taken in Sandefjord before he left, and one of their three children taken at the same time. The story always was that he left two years prior to the family, but I have recently found an affidavit signed by my grandfather in 1909 saying that his father came in Nov. 1887. Since the fourth child was b. Feb 1888, the father was leaving a pregnant wife at a time when childbirth was still very dangerous. It’s no wonder the parents looked grim.

In 1971, while my grandfather was still alive, my parents visited Sandefjord. They asked him what to take pictures of, and he suggested trying to find this triangular-shaped area. In addition he asked them to find “the church with barn doors on all four sides of the tower.” They took many pictures, all over town. I was not living in Seattle, where both my parents and grandfather lived, at the time, so wasn’t there when my parents showed Grandpa the slides. Unfortunately, my parent didn’t tape record what he said, which was a shame, as often a picture prompted stories my mother’d never heard before. And neither of my parents thought to go home and immediately write them down. She remembers only a few now, because there were so many in a period of 2-3 hours. This was now almost 30 yrs ago.

Some stories she does remember, however, have to do with “the church with the barn doors.” They found a church matching this description. Grandpa told them that his father was a member of a men’s chorus that on Easter morning would climb the tower of this church, open all the barn doors, and sing a hymn called “Halleluiah.” I’m not sure if Hans Henriksen was a member of this church, remained a member of the Hedrum church where he was baptized, or the Sandar church where he was married and his children were baptized. He did, however, have a beaver top hat he wore when he sang with this chorus. Once this chorus was asked to sing before England’s Queen Victoria, in their top hats (maybe this is when they acquired them, because court dress required them) and their native costumes (I don’t know the Norwegian term for the men’s costumes). There was a fuss because their costumes included breeches and Victoria’s rules required long pants, but finally she gave in! This top hat was so important to Hans that it was one of the few things besides photographs that came to America. My brother now has it in its original hat box.

Can someone identify this church with the barn doors? What is its name? Is it still functioning? What is its history? Does this ceremony still take place on Easter morning? Does this men’s chorus still exist? Do they still wear top hats for any performances? I would love to know anything about the church or the chorus.

The 10,000+ slides my late father took are still around. But they are completely mixed up and out of order, some at my brother’s house, some at mine, and we haven’t found the Norway slides. What we have found is a scrapbook my parents made with things like brochures, postcards, hotel receipts, and maps.

Recently, my mother and I looked at a map of central Sandefjord that was current when they were there in 1971. The triangle that figures in the family story as having burned down in the 1880s is still visible on this map. She thinks there were a variety of shops there when they visited. There are two large triangles on the map; the one of interest is the lower, smaller of the two, close to what she thinks is the inner harbor. Its apex, or point, faces slightly west of north, uphill. The closest street named on this map, crossing the apex, as nearly as I can read the map, is Hjertnespa Menaden. The print is small, in all capital letters, so I may not be reading it properly.

So, my next set of questions has to do with whether anyone knows if there was a fire in the 1880s involving a building or buildings in this triangle? Or in another triangle of businesses, if my grandfather misidentified it on the basis of looking at this map? What can you tell me about this fire, its date, and what it did to the businesses and the owners of the businesses? How did it affect the general economy of the town?

This is not the end of the story, however. A few weeks after we looked at this map, my mother and I were talking again about this story of the fire. I mentioned the story of Hans Henriksen’s dairy store. She said I had a wrong idea of what his business was. It wasn’t a store. Rather, he had a “city farm” within this triangle. Here they had their barns and other farm buildings, where they had their ”cows, pigs, chickens, and so on.” There was some pastureland, though in the summer they went to the seter outside town. They didn’t live at the “city farm,” but elsewhere in Sandefjord, and went there every day to do the farm chores.

This story surprised me very much, as it was so different from what I thought my grandfather had always said. But she seemed very sure, and she is still very smart and alert. I asked my brother what his impressions from Grandpa’s stories were, and he’d never gotten an idea one way or another of what kind of work our g grandfather did, just that the fire destroyed it. I asked my mother where, then, her grandfather sold the excess products of this “city farm,” and she had no idea. She did remember, however, a number of small markets in that part of town, even when they were there. I am very sure my grandfather talked about selling cheese and butter, but it might have been just a small surplus over what they used.

So my next set of questions has to do with how to check this new story. I have the 1875 census for Hans and Regine both but since that was before they were married, and both were living back on the farms where they grew up. They married in 1876. My grandfather was born in 1878, we think in Sandefjord, so if there had been an 1880 census, that could perhaps clear up the mystery. There is a 1900 census, but the family was in America by then.

So how can I go about finding out if there were such things as “city farms” in Sandefjord, and more importantly, if Hans Henriksen had one within this particular triangle of land in the 1880s at the time of the fire, if there was such a fire. Would there have been wooden buildings with businesses, as well as farms, within this triangle of land? Certainly barns and other buildings, hay and straw, could have burned along with other wooden buildings.

Thank you to anybody who has had the patience to read this too-long post! And if anybody can help solve any of these three sets of mysteries, I will be very grateful. So will my mother and brother.

Doris Waggoner
Seattle, Washington, USA
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