In April of 2013 I brought home the contents of my grandmother, Ella Dorothea Brevick Strand’s trunk, which filled about 5 medium sized cardboard boxes. She was an almost daily diary writer. She wrote in notebooks and on separate sheets of paper, or on the insides of envelopes if she didn’t have writing paper available. She also saved every letter she ever got.
Thankfully a great deal of the papers were saved, she wrote very legibly and learned English very quickly.
This is my dining room table in the early days of sorting:
Here is the living room work station where I sorted, by decades, the hundreds of letters she received over the years. And these are just the ones in English!
She wrote in English, Norwegian and in Pitman shorthand. Anybody know Pitman?
There were also many photographs in among the stuff. Even the children’s report cards!
She also saved newspaper clippings of friends and family weddings and funerals and 25th or 50th wedding anniversary parties. And she saved clippings of the Kennedy’s and the early space shots. (Copies of examples at a later date.) She was very interested in national and international events.
A brief biography: Ella Dorothea Brevick was born in Hemnesbjerget, Norway on October 4, 1893. Because her mother, Ida Elisa Anker Larsen, died when Ella was around 5 years old, she and her younger sister, Johanna Helena Brevick, were farmed out to other family members. Ella went to live with her father’s sister, Anna, in Narvik, Norway, above the Arctic Circle. In 1909, Ella immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Tacoma WA where she lived with all her brothers and sisters. She met her husband to be, Knute Martinus Strand, on Fox Island, near Tacoma. They married on September 5, 1915 and had six children, Karl (my father), Irene Marian who died at age 10 months of influenza, Robert, Dorothy, Norman and Marie. Ella died on June 3, 1991 after a long illness and a long life.
Here is an excerpt from her 1914 diary in which she reminisces about the day one year before when she had met my grandfather:
“May 25, 1914
Last year on this same date Christina, Peter, Louis, Johanna and I were out on Fox Island visiting Scarbo’s. The day was grand, warm and the sun shone brightly. I remember we had an excellent time and the fun was increased and the spirit heightened by the arrival of a boat owned by one of the Vikings. The crowd of men were out for pleasure and landed on Fox Island in order to see Scarbo who had been sick for several weeks. We girls all went aboard, joked and jollied with the men. I remember my first impression of a young, rather nice looking man in navy blue suit and gray hat. He did not seem to care to take part in the dancing which we girls amused ourselves with out on the lawn, while Scarbo played on the violin, but was rather a silent spectator. The rest were all older men. Later we all went aboard the vessel and I was most of the time busy talking to a comical Dane, while Johanna was talking to this young man and his friend. Before leaving the Dane had given us three tickets for a concert to be given the following Wednesday by Miss Orner and Normandines Singing Society. I then went over to where Johanna was standing and talked a few words with the two men and her. The next Wednesday I met him at the concert and this boy is Knut Strand. (Liz’s note: Knute with the E seems to be the anglicized version of the Norwegian Knut–both pronounced “ca–nute.”)
Just a year ago today and it seems as if I had known him for several years. I have never told much about him nor what I thought of him myself so therefore I shall write and tell what I think of him. My regard for him has grown higher and higher since one time we had a kind of misunderstanding. He is a good and industrious boy who does the best he can and is not afraid of work. He is also kind and sociable to other people as I can see from being with him on different occasion. Last Sunday I felt so proud of calling him my sweetheart, such admiration as I had hardly felt before.
His love for me is true and sincere and he treats me with courtesy and tenderness of nature which appeals to me. I feel sure that we shall be happy together and progress in every way.”
Left to right: Karl, Marie (below), Dorothy (above), Ella, Robert, Knute and Norman.
This is an amazing collection information about an amazing person who felt compelled to write it all down and we are so fortunate it has been preserved. I hope that someday it can become a book but in the meantime I am transcribing it into WORD documents and will get information out to interested family members and friends as I go via this blog. Please share your memories and photos too.
Lots of love, LIZ
Joyce Strand said:
Looks great, Liz. I look forward to your posts.
Liz – What a wonderful treasure. It seemed Ella wanted to get her story out.
I guess it’s up to you now. Like Joyce, I’m looking forward to more.
Thanks Liz for sharing this…it’s wonderful to be able to read the thoughts and musing of the people we come from isn’t it?
Can we subscribe to get notice when you make posts?
This is a wonderful idea — especially since I’ve always felt a strong connection to Ella — at least the person that I have always thought she was, though never really knew. This will allow me to discover my seemingly-amazing great-grandmother that I was born too late to know! Tusen takk, Liz.
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