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1943: Berg continues story about arriving in Luverne

Bits By Betty
Lead Summary
Betty Mann, Rock County Historian

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
The following appeared in The Rock County Herald on Nov. 4, 1943.
(Continued from last week when Nels Berg, in his first four months in Luverne, broke 100 acres of prairie with oxen.)
When my brother told me I could guide an ox by talking to him, I wouldn’t believe it, but I soon learned to say ‘gee’ and ‘haw’ and the oxen understood what I meant.”
Mr. Berg explained that he did not learn any English while staying at the Haga home, as the boys would always play tricks on him when he asked them to say something in the American tongue. That fall, after repeated requests from friends, he decided to go to Canton, in hopes that there, he’d have a better chance to learn English. One day he started from Luverne at 5 a.m. and that night at 6 o’clock, tired and hungry, he walked into the hotel at Canton. He had never been to Canton before but managed to get there without any help, he states. In case he would have become lost, however, he had a note pinned to his shirt, which read, “Please direct this man to Canton, S.D.,” which might have helped him if he had become lost among people who could not understand Norwegian.
When he told the man in the hotel that he had walked the entire distance from Luverne, he was treated royally, and received a bounteous dinner. He recalls how they told the cooks, “Here’s a man who walked all the way here from Trondheim, Norway, and is mighty hungry. See that he gets all he wants to eat.”
In the hotel, all the women employees were Norwegian except one. Mr. Berg made a bargain with her that if she would teach him English, he would teach her Norwegian. “We had school every night,” he recalls, “and we both profited by it.”
He was staying in the hotel at the time of Canton’s big fire. He was the first one in the hotel to notice the blaze at the other end of the block, and it was he who gave the alarm in the hotel. “The minute I hollered ‘fire’, you should have seen the people pour out of their rooms,” he declared. The blaze destroyed nine buildings before it was brought under control, Mr. Berg stated.
He worked in Canton as a carpenter, and later, obtained a job with a building crew which was constructing depots and warehouses along the railroad from Mason City, Iowa, to Chamberlain, S.D.
It was while thus employed that he had an encounter with the Indians at Pukwana, S.D. The crew was out of lumber one Saturday afternoon so he and another companion went out along the drive to enjoy a picnic. They were enjoying themselves, discussing various subjects, finally coming to the topic of Indians. About that time, Mr. Berg was looking in the distance, and there looking at them was an Indian. “We were plenty scared, but we didn’t let on we’d even seen him,” Mr. Berg said. “We left our lunch and began turning handsprings and summersaults, and acted like we were half crazy. All the while, though, we were getting closer to a little valley. The minute we got into the valley and out of sight, we beat it for home. We never did see the Indians again, but we didn’t go around for them either.”
When he came back to Luverne from Canton, he entered the employ of George Soutar, contractor and builder, with whom he worked two and one-half years before going into business on his “own hook.” Many of the buildings in Luverne have known the pounding of his hammer during the many years he was actively engaged as a builder. He retired about 12 years ago.
Mr. Berg was married in the old Presbyterian church here in 1884 to Anna Lee. They became the parents of six children, two of whom are living. They are Frank Berg, Minneapolis, and Mrs. Ruth Fanford, of near Beresford, S. Dak. He also has four grandchildren. Mrs. Berg died two years ago, and now he and his only brother, Thor, live at their home on East Lincoln street.
He has been in poor health for a number of years, suffering with asthma. For five and one half years, he never slept in anything but a chair, it being impossible for him to lie down. He is able to sleep in a bed now, however.
Mr. Berg is a member of Zion Lutheran church here and attends services regularly. He is interested in world affairs, and reads both daily and weekly newspapers and listens to the radio.
Discussing the war, and the world at large, Mr. Berg gave his philosophy as follows: “I don’t know if it will be in this war, or whether it will be something worse later on, but I’m afraid of the people if this country don’t mend their ways, they are going to suffer even more than they are now. We know how God punished the ungodly in early time because of their wrong doings, and He is the same God today as he was then.”
Mr. Berg says he never entered politics. “I was always too busy with my other work,” he declared.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

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