Norwegian Immigrant Follows A Dream to a New Country


Ludvig Kristian GJØNVIK in Trondheim, Norway, circa 1910.

Ludvig Kristian GJØNVIK in Trondheim, Norway, circa 1910. GGA Image ID # 21796b23fa


Ludvig Kristian was born on 11 January 1892 in Trondhjem, which is now called Trondheim, Norway. He was the youngest of five children in a tradesman family. Unfortunately, at the age of nine, he lost both his parents and was sent to live with elderly relatives who were tenant farmers in the countryside north and west of Trondhjem. After his confirmation at the age of fourteen, he started working on farms and eventually became a shoemaker at A/S Trondhjems Skofabrik in Trondhjem.


The Decision to Leave Norway

Life was a challenge in Norway in the year 1913, and Ludvig had a dream of a better life in America. He discussed this idea with his friends and relatives. As a shoemaker, his earnings were insufficient, and it would have taken him several years to save enough money for the journey to America. Therefore, he decided to secure a loan from his relatives to cover the expenses of the voyage.


The Journey to the New World

In June 1913, Ludvig emigrated to the United States. He traveled on a small coastal steamer named "Åro" from Trondheim, operated by the Wilson Line of Hull. The steamer brought him to Hull, England, where he boarded a train to cross the country and reach the port of Liverpool.

Ludvig then boarded the Cunard Steamship RMS Laconia at Liverpool as a steerage passenger. The journey took ten days, and he landed in Boston, Massachusetts. After clearing immigration, he took a train to the Midwest.


Living in the Midwest

Ludvig originally lived in the Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois areas. He later moved to Madison, Minnesota, where he worked as a farm laborer in nearby Garfield. It was there that he met Clara Seefert, who would become his future wife.


The Great War


Corporal Ludvig Gjenvick, United States Army in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), 1917.

Corporal Ludvig Gjenvick, United States Army in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), 1917. GGA Image ID # 2179c63477


During World War I, when the United States joined the war, Ludvig was drafted into the Army. While he was stationed at Camp Pike, Arkansas, he received his citizenship. Ludvig was promoted to the rank of Corporal and served in France. He held a deep affection for his adopted country and was immensely proud of his military service.


Postwar Life

After the war ended, Ludvig married and settled in Minneapolis. He and Clara Susan Seefert had three children, Benjamin, Marie, and Lawrence.

For the most part, Ludvig lived in Minneapolis except for a few years in the late 1920s when he moved to a farm near Spring Valley, Wisconsin, with his family.

Before the start of World War II, he started working for the D.W. Onan Company. Ludvig began as a janitor but was later promoted to be in charge of the plant's maintenance and security as the company grew. He worked there until he retired in 1957 at the age of 65.


Ludvig Gjenvick at his Retirement in 1957.

Ludvig Gjenvick at his Retirement in 1957. GGA Image ID # 217a5a16e1


Life's Gifts to Cherish

Ludvig had a difficult life that was marked by multiple tragedies. His parents passed away when he was young, and his wife died in 1938. He also experienced poverty, anxiety, and suffering during the Depression and war years. Despite these challenges, Ludvig was deeply involved in his church. He served as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and superintendent and was an informal counselor to a succession of pastors.

Ludvig was passionate about missions and service for people in need. He generously gave his time, money, and energy to support these causes. As a young immigrant, he was captivated by Christian higher education. Although he lacked formal education, he inspired, encouraged, and supported his children's education and accomplishments.

Ludvig was a man of exceptional dignity and humor. He had countless friends who found unusual concern and wisdom in him. He was a warm and hospitable host or guest, and his charm made him always welcome.


The Journey's End


Ludvig Gjenvick Boarding a Train to New York to Return to His Beloved Norway in 1952.

Ludvig Gjenvick Boarding a Train to New York to Return to His Beloved Norway in 1952. GGA Image ID # 217aa6408c


Ludvig was a man of exceptional physical strength and energy. He loved nature and also appreciated the architecture of the city. Walking and physical work brought him great pleasure.

He found lifelong joy in music and loved singing with his family and friends. The church's Norwegian and English hymns enriched and sustained his life.

Above all, he was a man with profound personal faith. The Lord was his faithful and loving friend, whom he turned to in good days and bad. As he grew older and his strength declined, he longed to go home.

Ludvig created a tile mosaic of the Last Supper, which he gifted to Reverend Ronald C. Peterson as a farewell present. A short while later, at the age of 83, Ludvig passed away. He faced death with courage and hope.


Story based on a eulogy by the Reverend Benjamin A. Gjenvick, first published in 1975, revised and copyrighted in 2024 by the -Gjønvik family.


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