Torger and Olena Gundersen
By Elizabeth Ada G. Hamilton
Transcribed by Lee McPharlin
In far away Norway, in the city of Drammen, there was born to Gunder Anderson and his wife Marie Tygersen, a son on March 1, 1821. In Norway in those days a child was known by his father’s given name. The child’s father’s given name was Gunder. So the child became Gunder’s son or Gundersen. Children were also called after the place names. The place in which they lived was called Oren. So the baby was called Torger Gundersen Oren. His nickname was Torger Oren.
Torger grew to be a man of great physical strength. He was tall and angular and well built. The city of DRAMMEN is located on the banks of the Glommen river which empties into the Christiania. Now Oslo Fjord. Torger became very efficient in handling a row boat, this being their most important method of transportation, as Norway is a land of much water.
The girl who became Torger’s wife was Olena Hansen, born 5 May 1816, in Tromso, Norway. Her father’s given name was Hans and his daughter was called Hansdatter or Han’s daughter. Her mother was Anna Olsen. When Olena was young, she was required to earn her own living, so it became necessary for her to go into the homes and do housework. She became very good at housekeeping and homemaking. This was good, for in the course of a few years she met Torger and they fell in love and were married 10 December 1841. Torger thought Olena very beautiful and described her as being fair as a lilly with cheeks like a rose.
In Norway about one-fourth of the country is covered with trees. Pine, spruce and other valuable hardwood trees making lumbering a very important industry. Torger became a lumberman by trade. The trees were cut down and floated downstream to the sawmills where they were made into lumber. Rafts were used extensively in this operation to keep the logs from becoming lodged. Torger became a very able raftsman and thus was able to provide a good living for the family which included eight children: Hans Gunelius, born Mar 11, 1843; Maren Annetta (Frank Williams grandmother), born 16 January 1845; Anton born May 10, 1847, Torval or Thomas born 25 September 1850, Edward, 5 November 1851, Olaf, 29 January 1855; Josephine Bergithe, 18 June 1857, Hannah August, born 1862. The first four children were born in Drammen, Norway, the rest were for in Fredrickstad. The family moved to Fredrickstad soon after their son Thomas was born to escape some of the persecution they faced by having joined the church
When Olena heard the Gospel she testified that she knew at once that it was the truth and she accepted it gratefully. She was baptized 2 August 1853. Torger felt sure that is was right but having been in rough company at all times and had adopted some bad habits such as profanity. He told the Elders that he felt he was a wicked man and not worthy to join the Church. The Elders promised his that if he would be baptized the desire to swear should be taken from him. Later in the month of August he was baptized in the Glommen River. He testified that as he came out of the water he saw an angel standing on the bank of the river and this angel placed his hands on his head and stroked him from head to foot. From then on he was able to overcome his bad habit. He never wanted to swear again.