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-by Daniel Pawley

The Diary of an Immigrant

(Second of two parts; click here to read Part 1)

Evenson offers a similar bit-by-bit account of World War I and other events, revealing his passionate newspaper reading-which, while engaging, really isn't surprising. The amazingly literate Norwegians, who today are still near the top of the global literacy charts, brought their reading and writing talent to America in ways that enriched us all. By 1940, Norwegian Americans had founded more than 400 newspapers. Influential papers such as Emigranten did much to facilitate the Americanization of the Norwegian immigrants. And a special dimension of this was the fact that the newspapers were so "Christian," allowing for the integration of Christian thinking and living into the process of helping immigrants relocate happily into their adopted country.

Ministers were often the editors, which allowed them to be Christian political catalysts without using the pulpit as their medium, which they clearly felt was wrong to do. C. L. Clausen, the lay minister and Emigranten's first editor, argued, "Through our paper, we hope to hurry the process of Americanization of our immigrated countrymen. We want to be one people with the American." Ollis Evenson would have echoed that sentiment.

February 1, 1914: Finished reading Redpath's "History of the World." Was quite an undertaking.

Beyond this instinct for staying aware through the press, Evenson's diary also reveals his efforts at self-education through disciplined study. He tried to understand history and literature, citing the Redpath history volumes several times and often commemorating in his diary the birth and death anniversaries of such figures as Shakespeare and Robert Burns. Additionally, there are allusions to the anguish of a tradesworker continually frustrated in his efforts to make time for serious study projects. It was almost a blessing when, in the summer of 1913, Evenson dropped a bucket of boiling water on his feet, scalding them so badly that he had to be out of work ...

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