Telemark to Wisconsin
The Kleven Family,
Norwegian Immigrants to America
1842-1843 and After


Memoir by
Emma Cleven

History of Kleven Family:
Early Settlers, Muskego, Wisconsin

August 1940

Tosten Kleven: presumed dead on the Atlantic passage

Tosten Kleven left Siljord, Norway on March 4, 1842 for Skien, where he obtained passage to Goteborg, Sweden. At Goteborg he met his friend Aanund Bjoin and they helped load ballast for the ship in which they were to sail for America. A large party of Norwegians had embarked from Langesund and joined them at Goteborg. About forty of them went to Muskego settlement. There were 129 passengers on the boat, and according to regulations they were only allowed to carry 127, so two of them preceded the others to New York from quarantine so as to comply with the rules. They were held in quarantine for some time as there was a great deal of sickness. Among the passengers were Hermo Nielsen Tufte and family, Johan Lansverk and family, Sondre N. Maaren and wife and brothers Ostein and Nils from Tin, Aanund Bjoin, Osten G. Meland, Tosten Kleven's uncle from Tin, together with Tosten R. Kleven from Flatdal Anekse, Seljord, Telemarken.

[Some of these emigrants' names, but not seventeen-year-old Tosten Kleven's, appear on Norway-Heritage's Clarissa passenger list, 1842. Tosten seems to have traveled aboard Ellida, out of Drammen and Goteborg for New York, as "Torsten Gulliksen Kleven"; see Ellida passenger list, 1842. — RWF]

Tosten Kleven was very sick on the boat and had been in a sort of coma for some time and they thought he was dead as they did not have a physician on board the ship. They called the sickness "ship fever" but it may have been typhoid, which is an infectious fever often caused from impure water. They had prepared him for burial and were carrying him on to the deck and as they were bringing him up the stairway and he was exposed to the fresh air he raised his hand and they discovered he was still alive. I suppose his heart action was very poor and he had the appearance of a dead person. When they arrived in New York he was taken to a hospital as he still was unconscious and they did not expect him to live. There were others too who were taken to the hospital and the following day Tosten Bön and Olav Einong went to the hospital to visit the sick and Olav Einong was very much surprised to see that Tosten was still alive. As he stood in the doorway looking at him Tosten said "why don't you come in and talk to me" and that was the first he had spoken since his illness. Nine died on the ocean before they reached New York and many more before they reached Milwaukee. Tosten Kleven remained in the hospital in New York for some time and as soon as he was able to leave the hospital he was taken to a large fruit farm in New York state where he remained until he was able to continue his journey. John Einong, his cousin, stayed with him until he was able to travel. He arrived at Muskego on October 14, 1842.

The rest of the party were met by Elling Eielson on August 16, having spent almost 12 weeks on the ocean, who accompanied them up the Hudson River by boat to Albany, thence by Erie Canal boat for Buffalo, New York. Those who were sick were allowed to go on the mail boat as that was faster while the others traveled on a slower boat. The trip from Buffalo to Milwaukee required from three to four weeks time and they arrived at Muskego in the early fall of 1842.

The cost of passage from Goteborg to New York was $50, and $14 from New York to Milwaukee over the Erie Canal and Great Lakes. They all carried their own food in large wooden chests, consisting of flatbread, salt pork, dried herring, cheese, etc.

When Tosten arrived in Muskego he was owing his friends $2.00 but his chest of clothes had been sent ahead with his friends so he was well supplied. Part of the first winter he spent with his uncle Osten Meland, his mother's brother, and part of the winter with Simon and Holje Veemork, two bachelors, in their sod hut near Muskego. He obtained what work he could during the first year. He worked on the Crosby farm part of the first year and learned English from a five year old boy there.

From the Black Plague to the Vinterveiret

In the year 1843 a great many Norwegian emigrants came from Telemarken and other districts in Norway. Among them were Egil O. and Astrid Kleven from Flatdal, Seljord Parish, Telemarken (Egil was born Feb, 7, 1795 and died in Muskego, Racine Co., Feb. 16, 1877; and Astrid Maeland Kleven born Aug 10. 1800 and died Feb. 26, 1867), (parents of Tosten Kleven), and their children: Ola E. who died in Muskego in 1847; Gunlik who took the name of Gulick, served under Colonel Heg in the Civil War and died in Muskego at the age of 91 years on Dec. 20, 1918 (his son Simon Gulick loved at Muskego until his death a few years ago); Liv Kleven Hedjord, who died at Muskego on Aug. 23, 1911; Ingeborg Kleven Roswall, who died at Whitewater, Wis., on Aug. 29, 1924 at the age of 94; Tosten Kleven who died at Stoughton, Wis., on Jan. 31. 1898 at the age of 74; Ola Kleven Jr. who died at Pasadena, California at the age of 60; and two small girls who died in infancy.

[Another girl, Groe Egilsdatter Kleven, born 17 February 1837, came with them to America; but "Gro at age of 16 y. died from a rattlesnake bite". — RWF]

Egil Kleven had served in the war between Norway and Sweden and the family had occupied the estate in Telemarken since the time of the Black Plague in the fourteenth century when most of the people died in that section of the country, and in one section of Telemarken there was only one man left in the one valley and they named it "Mandal". I can remember my grandmother singing a song about it. In those days there were not many books and historical facts were passed on from one generation to another as a rounde-lay.

They sold this farm in 1843 and after paying all the expenses covering their voyage to the United States they still had $1500 when they arrived in Muskego; which was a good deal of money in those times. They purchased a tract of 160 acres of land in the town of Norway [Wisconsin] and bult a substantial house which is still in use by the present owners of the farm. Egil brought his anvil and other blacksmithing tools along from Norway, and his sons Tosten and Ola did their own blacksmithing work as well as that of of the others in the community. They made a "Kubbe Rulle" for themselves out of round pieces from tree trunk for wheels, and also for others, and also made the first wagon with spokes in it in Muskego township, which was used by the whole settlement when they wanted to take a trip to Milwaukee or Racine, a distance of about 30 miles.

The Vinterveiret [or Vinterflid, Captain Oluf Elligers; or Winterflid], the boat on which the Kleven family took passage also contained the following passengers: Aase Kvaalseth, who later became the wife of Tosten Kleven, and Ingeborg Kvallseth who married Gunlek Kleven his brother; Knut and Asloug Hougan, grandparents of Ole Evenson, Stoughton; Aanund Drotning, Aslak Olson Gjerrejord (Jargo); Tarbjorn Vik and wife and son and daughter; Ole Hedjord a cousin of the Kleven family, Gunhild Einong (Mrs. Hans Heg) another cousin of the Kleven family; and a great many others who were most of them related or later intermarried.

[Norway-Heritage has the Vinterflid passenger list, 1843: "Egil Olsen" & family; sisters "Aase & Ingebor Olsdatter"; etc. — RWF]

The Vinterveiret was twelve weeks crossing the ocean. From New York they proceeded up the Hudson River and then via Erie Canal boat to Buffalo. The boats on the canal were propelled by horses and when the passengers became tired of riding the boat they would get out and walk for a while. From Buffalo they went by boat over the Great Lakes to Milwaukee where they arrived on August 13, 1843.

Tosten Kleven and many others settled in Muskego but Aanund Drotning, Aslak Jargo, Tarbjorn Vik, Knut Hougan and Aanund Bjoin came almost directly to West Koskonong, near Stoughton, Wisconsin, after spending a short time with friends or relatives at Muskego.

Aase Kvaalseth: immigrant girl and American wife

Aase Kvaalseth was well all during the trip [on the Vinterveiret] and as she was a very capable practical nurse she helped care for the many passengers that were ill during the voyage.

Aase Kvaalseth went to the town of Raymond where she was employed with an American family by the name of James Preston, in order to learn the English language and American ways. She received 50¢ per week and thought she was fortunate, but was lonesome for Norway: especially at Christmas time and the family took her for a ride on Christmas day. In February she went to Racine where she secured employment at the home of Consider Heath, an attorney at $1.00 per week, where she remained 10 months. She was employed for six months by Truman Wright at $1.00 per week and then went to Rochester where she was employed at $1.50 per week, but worked very hard so went back to Racine where she was employed by Nelson Pendleton at $1.00 per week.

She then went back to Muskego where she was married to Tosten Kleven on May 4, 1846. They lived with Egil and Astrid Kleven for a few months and then in the spring of 1847 Aase and Tosten Kleven purchased 80 acres of land from Aasle Forgaard in the town of Yorkville, for $150. Aase had saved $20 and Tosten $30 and they owed $100 on their place. They built a log cabin on this farm and my grandmother told many times of the many families and friends who made their home with them until they could find a home of their own. All their children were born in this home and they were all baptized in the Old Muskego church, which they helped to build, and the older children were confirmed in that church. This farm was sold in May, 1866 to Ole Hedjord, a cousin, who had married Tosten Kleven's sister Liv, and is now the property of the Alby and Hedjord families. Tosten Kleven and family then moved to a farm one mile northeast of the West Koshkonong Church, Pleasant Springs township, Dane County, nine miles fromt he city of Stoughton, Wisconsin, adjoining the homesteads of his friends Aanond Bjoin and Aanund Drotning.

Tosten and Aase Kleven had seven children who lived to adult age: Egil, Thomas and Henry Kleven; and Astrid Kleven Drotning, Caroline Kleven Drotning, Elizabeth Kleven Bjoin, and Anna Kleven Howe.

Tosten Kleven sold his farm to his son Thomas but he and his wife lived with their son until their deaths. Tosten died Jan. 31. 1898 and his wife died Jan. 1, 1906.

Thomas Kleven (name changed to Cleven) lived on the farm until April 1, 1919 when he moved to Stoughton, Wisconsin, but the farm is still the property of the Kleven family. Thomas married Mary Rustom who had come to Stoughton from Vaage Gudbransdalen, Norway a few years previously to make her home with her brother. They had ten children all of them living: Emma Kleven, employed in the office of the Land Commissioner, Northern Pacific Railway, Co., St. Paul, Minn. [author of this memoir — RWF]; Anne Kleven Wilkins, wife of Dr. M. C. Wilkins, Chicago; Thea Kleven Skavlem, wife of Owen B. Skavlem, Plymouth, Wisconsin; Esther Kleven Struthers, wife of Wm. D. Struthers, Tucson, Arizona; Mabel Kleven Swartz, wife of Dr. A. E. Swartz, Chicago; Florence Kleven Altman, wife of Dr. James S. Altman, U.S. Department of Health, Springfield, Ill.; Truman and Paul Kleven, General Motors Corp., Janesville, Wis.; Thomas Kleven Jr., Fisher Body Corp., Flint, Mich.; and Edmund H. Kleven, Illinois Bell telephone Company, Chicago, Ill.

Thomas Kleven passed away on February 3, 1927, but his widow still makes her home at Stoughton, Wisconsin.


August 8, 1940

Historical facts collected during
a period of years by
Emma Cleven, St. Paul, Minn.

Historical / genealogical notes by Robert W. Franson:

I've long felt gratified that my lifelong strong appreciation of fresh air and the essential inspiration of clear oxygen, stems from an inherited family necessity. Emma Cleven is a sort of double great-aunt of mine.

Esther Gullik Howe Several of my ancestors are mentioned above; bold-type in the list below. In and among old documents, confusion may result from referencing a single person using different combinations of first-name, patronym, family-name, and place-name, from olden times into the Nineteenth Century in Scandinavia; and spelling of such names also varies in and among documents, even slightly within Emma Cleven's estimable account. Additionally, there are many similar personal-names and place-names which are not mere spelling variants. My own mother pronounced her great-grandmother's family name as though spelled Kvaalsett or Qualset, with a hard final t.

  • Egil Olsen Kleven m. Astrid Thorstensdatter Maeland
  • Egil Gulick [or Gunlek or Gullik Egilsen Kleven] m. Ingeborg Olsdatter Kvaalseth Nystue
      [or Ingebor Olsdatter Qualset]
      (respectively brother and sister of Tosten Egilsen Kleven & Aase Olsdatter Kvaalseth Nystue)
  • Edward Erickson Howe m. Esther Gulick
      (married 29 April 1876 in Racine, Wisconsin)
  • George Edward Howe m. Margaret Catherine Peters
      (married 6 March 1905 in Racine, Wisconsin)
  • Wilfred Robert Franson m. Esther Vera Howe

The 19th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment of the Union Army in the American Civil War includes on its muster rolls my great-great-grandfather "Gulic Eggleson" from February 1862 - April 1865. His gravestone [as "Gulick Eggleson"] correctly lists him for the 19th Wisconsin, not the 15th Wisconsin commanded by Colonel Heg — as conflated by the accompanying newspaper obituary [as "Gulick Eggleson Gulick"] as well as by Emma Cleven and by my mother Vera Howe Franson. Incidentally, my mother told me that when the paved walkway was put into the Norway Lutheran Church Cemetery (Racine County, Wisconsin), his and some other gravestones were moved, but his remains abide safely under the walkway.

My great-grandmother,
Esther Gullik [or Esther Gulick] (Howe) pictured at right;
a double cousin of Emma Cleven.

Telemark info and resources

Telemark County - official site
(some info in English)


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