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1943: Nels Berg's life story begins in Norway

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.
One of Luverne’s oldest living retired carpenters is Nels Berg, 85, who came here in 1881, and who with the exception of a few years spent in South Dakota and Iowa, has lived here ever since.
Mr. Berg learned his trade in Norway. His father, who was a stone mason by trade, but who also did some carpenter work, wanted him to learn the shoemaker’s trade, but the idea did not appeal to the young man, so he chose instead to become a carpenter. He served two and one-half years as an apprentice, receiving only his board and room while doing so. His training gave him considerable experience in the making of many different things. He states he helped to make coffins, boats, cabinets, weaving looms and furniture in addition to building frame structures of various kinds.
Mr. Berg was one of two sons of Mr. and Mrs. Ingebreckt Berg. He was born near the village of Drammen, Norway, May 13, 1858, and grew to young manhood in the land of his birth. He completed his common school education, and then attended high school until he no longer had funds to continue his studies. He clerked in a store for a short time, and then was employed by the postal department at $60 a year. The latter was considered a high wage for a young man of his age at that time, he states.
Speaking of his life in Norway, he recalls he earned the first money he could call his own by helping his father and another man rip logs into two-inch planks for use in ship building. He explained that the log would be placed on a high scaffold, with one man sawing from above and one from below. It was his job to drive a wedge into the log, at the end where the sawing had been started, to permit free movement of the saw at all times. His wages for the job amounted to two cents per day.
Mr. Berg states he came to the United States mainly to get out of serving a year with the army. Norway at that time had compulsory military training, and Mr. Berg states that he could see no reason at that time why he should learn to handle a gun and bayonet, so he took his brother’s advice and came to the United States.
“I really didn’t like the idea of coming to this country very much at first,” Mr. Berg stated. “Everything they said about America sounded too good, and I thought they were bragging about something they didn’t have. When my brother told me that I could come here and work a little while and earn enough to go back to Norway if I wanted to, I decided to take the chance. I’ve never been back to Norway, and have never regretted coming to this country. Although I’d have liked to have visited in the old country when I was younger, I was always too busy to go.”
He recalls that when he first came to Luverne, the post office was located where the Skoland residence is now, on east Main street. W. H. Glass was the postmaster, and in addition to his duties in that capacity, he operated a drug store in the same building. There were still two log houses here then, and William Jacobsen was in the mercantile business almost directly across the street from where the post office was.
The first four months in this country he was employed on a farm by Ole Haga in Vienna township. The fact that he could earn $20 a month served as an inducement for him to decide that America wasn’t such a bad place to live after all.
“Don’t get the idea a fellow didn’t have to work to earn his money though,” Mr. Berg declared. “I’d be up at 4 or 4:30 in the morning, and would work until 9 and 10 o’clock at night. That fall, I broke 100 acres of prairie with oxen.
(Continued next week.)

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