Written by Peder P. Hektoen
|Located on the Black River Indian trail one mile south of the current|
intersection of State and Main streets, Coon Prairie General Store,
owned by Peder Evenson Gullord, the first store in the area,
also served as postoffice from 1857 to 1880.
During the sumer of 1848 Evan Gullord arrived on Coon Prairie coming up the valley from Coon Valley through Timber Coulee seeking a suitable place to settle. Two years earlier this single man from Biri, Norway, came to Koshkonong located near Madison. In 1848 he filed claim on land on Coon Prairie. This was not legally right, so when he came back that fall to settle his claim, he discovered that two Americans, LeMars and Smith, had taken his claim. He took a new claim in Township 13, sections three and four.
Accompanying him were Hans Nilson Neprud with wife and four children: Nils Gudbrand (Oium), Helene (who later married Evan Gullord), and Elias; Hans Olson Libakken with his wife and one child, and Evan Pederson with his wife and children. All these were from Biri and settled on Coon Prairie. It is believed there were no settlers on Coon Prairie prior to 1848.
A year or two before 1848 a few American families settled in the Viroqua area.
In 1849 Ole Gullord, father of Evan Gullord, came with his wife and four children, namely Tosten Westby, who was already married and brought his wife and three children; Henrick Gullord and two daughters (later, Mrs. Nils Neprud and Mrs. Lewis); Tjøstul Oium from Fron, his wife and daughter (who married the aforementioned Gudbrand, son of Hans Neprud; Martin Paulhaugen from Gustad, his wife and son Amund; Klemet Berg with wife and children from the Oiers Church area; and a brother Jan Hovde.
Others who came that same year included Syver Galstad and family from Biri. In 1850 more natives of Biri who came included Peder O. Hegge, his wife, stepmother and five sisters of his wife; Tosten Nilson Unseth, a widower, with sons Evan and Peter, with five children; Ole Halvorson Heggestuen with wife and daughter Helene; and Per Gudbranson, who later married Helene Heggestuen and later took her last name.
Many others from Biri came shortly thereafter, either in 1850 or a year or two later. Among these were Tollef Hanson Strandbakken with his family and parents, and Albrect Albrekson, brother-in-law of Tollef Strandbakke. Tollef died in 1861 and just a few years later his parents also died. Later arrivals included Torger Neprud with his family, and in 1851 his brother Nils Skundberg with his family. Lars Onsrud also came with them.
Jan Bergum from Land church area, his wife, daughter Berthe Marie and son Vitus came to Coon Prairie in 1850. During the fifties the daughter married Jeremiah R. Rusk, who was governor of Wisconsin from 1882-1889. Torger Fremstad, his wife, and the half brother of Jon Bergum’s wife came to Coon Prairie in 1850 or 1851. They had arrived in Koshkonong during the summer of 1850 and were married by A.C. Preus. It is interesting to mention here that Bjornstjerne Bjornson is related to Mrs. Jon Begum and Torger Fremstad. Also arriving during these years were Tollef Saugstad and family from Ringsaker, and Jacob Michelet and family from Lillehamer. John Michelet had come about a year prior.
During the early fifties there were many who came from the area of Flekkefjord, incuding Michael Larson (the father of Pastor Christian Larson) Lars Tollakson, Erik Virak with his wife and stepdaughter, Peder Barstad, with his family; Halvor Egeland and family; Enoch Enochsen, Christian Egeness and family; Chris Sigbjørnson, Michael Lindahl, Nils Nilson; Nils Roiland and family, and Andrew Larson and family. Added to these in 1854 were Tonnes Larson and family; also Osten Kjeland and Tobias Regevig with their families.
From Oiers parish were Johannes Berg and family; Ingebret and Erick Tandhaugen and their families.
Between 1850 and 1855 Torjus Gunderson, or Torjuson came from Telemarken with his family. They accompanied Sven Stevens and John Spellum. Others from Telemarken had arrived at Koshkonong earlier. Included were Ole Ulland, and Even Christenson Ulland and their families. Since they both came from Faaberg parish, it is possible they were related.
In 1854 Lars Thorsdaard and his brother-in-law Gudbrand Theige and their families left Norway for America. They were from Ringabu. In company with them were Johannes Bjorge and family from Oilers. Towards the latter part of their journey, many became ill with cholera. Gudbrand, father to Ole and Edward Theige, died from complications in Koshkonong. Many years later, when Edward Theige was in Koshkonong for a Synod meeting, he searched for his father’s grave but it is not known if he found it.
Lars Thorsgaard’s wife was Ingeborg, born Himrud. Lars was a well-to-do man and bought land from Halvor Egeland where he settled and where he died in 1884, a year after his wife died.
Most or all of these early settlers made their journey in sailboats and landed in Quebec. This is also where Lars Thorsgaard first set foot in America.
At that time it was customary to travel by boat to Milwaukee. From there thy completed their journeys as best they could. Those who could afford it bought oxen and went here and there, but usually through Koshkonong where they met relatives and friends. Some caught a ride with travelers and others set out walking.
In 1857 the number of settlers on Coon Prairie increased considerably with the arrival of many from Oiers parish. Johannes L. Hovde, his wife, son Lars and other children, Amund Kolbo and family, Johannes Bershaugen and family and Gunner E. Alstenstad with wife and daughter Annetta (who latter married Simon Mockrud) as well as others were included in this group.
|Hans Ramsrud 1858 house located at original|
location at State and Davidson streets
Hans Ramsrud, a single man, was one of the early ones to arrive from Biri about 1850. In 1858 his house was said to be the nicest house in what became Westby. Staying with Hans Ramsrud in 1859 was Anders Jenson Eide (Little Anders) and his wife. A card game called “Vist” was often played.
Johannes Hagen and parents came from Lands Parish in 1856, and in the early days Johannes sharecropped part of what was then called the Christenson Farm, where Ole Benson later lived. A couple of years later he bought the land where his son Carl now lives, at the time not cultivated. Shortly after his arrival he married Karen, also from Land Parish, who came over along with the same group. Included in that group was Andrea Vassend, who died in 1922. Also, but not in the same group, was the Andreas Hammersborgand family. He had stayed for a while in Wiota, in LaFayette County, where there were many from Land.
In 1861, Gudbrand Struxness arrived from Land with his family. His brother Halvor stayed in LaFayette County for about a year before following Gudbrand to this area. Gudbrand’s son, Ole Struxness, who lives in Westby, was five or six years old then. That year Andreas Hanson came from Land. Andreas “Snedker” settled on what is today known as Lovaas Ridge.
The first ones to emigrate from Hurdalen came to Muskego when Pastor Stuf was there. Among these were Kristoffer Bratlie and family and brothers Kristen and Joe Tostrud. Erik Bratlie became postmaster in Westby, serving for many years. Mrs. Elias Neprud, Mrs. Evan Unseth and Mrs. Fleisher were children of Kristoffer Bratlie. They resided a year or so in Muskego before moving to Vernon County and Coon Prairie in 1855. The oldest daughter, Berthe, was Mrs. Evan Saugstad.