A 114 year old letter….Among the Ella Papers are hundreds of letters. Some in English and some in Norwegian. We are lucky to have a wonderful Norwegian translator, Silje (like Celia), who is a friend of my niece, Laura. They both live in Long Beach. I am scanning the Norwegian letters and emailing them to Silje. And she has finished two of them in short order! Tusen takk, Silje.

Here is the envelope of one from Narvik:


The letter is dated 6 July 1909.

They often used paper that was 8¾ “ by 11½ “. They folded it in half the long way and wrote with the fold on the left, then wrote on each side of the inside in columns and then on the remaining blank side.

Here’s the front of the letter. Isn’t her handwriting beautiful?



This was from a cousin named Edom or Edoni-–probably one of the family that Ella lived with in Narvik. The mother she refers to is probably Ella’s Aunt Anna, her father’s sister. And from the letter, we learn that Ella traveled to America via Liverpool, New York and Chicago.

Here is the English translation:

Narvik, July 6th, ’09.

Dear Ella,

Thanks for the letter from the 12th of last month. I am happy to hear that you now have happily arrived and that you are doing well and enjoy yourself, as well as that your siblings are healthy, all of them. I have also received the postcards from Liverpool and New York and Chicago, and I would have sent you postcards to those places, but I didn’t know an address where I could reach you. I did send a postcard to Liverpool, but I don’t know if you received it before you left England.

I received a letter from mother yesterday. She feels a little better, but it won’t help much if the arthritis doesn’t get better. Unfortunately, we haven’t had any summer until the last couple of days. Yesterday and today were very hot, 33 – 34 degrees Celsius (91 – 94 F), and now it looks like we will be getting some summer weather. Over there, where you are, I bet there is great summer weather.

My position just got permanent from July 1st, so the salary is a little better, and I don’t have to work nights all the time, neither holidays. Now I’ve only got every fourth night.

Now I have paid about half of what I owed when you left, so next month I will probably be debt free. I still have not found another apartment, but I am renting out the living room and kitchen to two sewing ladies from Hammerø, so now I’ve only got the bedroom to myself, and as soon as I find a comfortable apartment, I will rent it, because I am tired of living there.

The house you live in over there is beautiful. What kind of business is the man doing, that you live with? You also have to tell me what your brothers are up to when you write me back.

You asked about “Mons” (sp? Probably a cat). Unfortunately, I don’t know myself where he is, or whether he is dead or alive. He disappeared last month, and I have searched for him all over the city, but not seen any signs of him. I guess someone shot him.

Anna from Melsbø has not been here yet, so I haven’t gotten the box you know shipped yet. Neither have I seen anybody else from there, so I don’t know how they are doing there now, but as soon as someone arrives from there, I will ship the box.

Now I will write mom and send money and half a bag of German potatoes, since they’re out of potatoes in Maalø. Last month I sent a whole lot of groceries, so she shouldn’t be doing too bad where she is. I assume she will stay until at least August.

I don’t have any other news to tell this time, but I will soon write again, and then you’ll know what’s new.

I almost forgot! I have to thank you for the photograph you promised me. I hope I receive it soon. When I can afford a new uniform, I will get a photo of me and send it to both you and Hanna. I actually owe Hanna one already. Now I have to stop for now with a wish that both you and your siblings will be doing well always. Best regards, and tell all your siblings hello from your cousin. Write back soon.


Tacoma Theatre Building


 (Built 1889, burned down 1963 per Tacoma Public Library website)

I remember hearing that Ella and Johanna were maids to the manager of the theater.


There’s more to come….LIZ