From Sogndal, which is located on the Sognefjord in the area of Sogn og Fordane, Norway, came the Aarestad sisters.

Anna Eriksdatter Aarestad had married Baard Qualey in Sogndal, Norway, on Nov. 21, 1850, and in April 1852 they came to America.

Ole, their first-born, emigrated with them, either dying on the way over or shortly after they reached America.

They settled in Dane County, Wis., where many of their acquaintances from their home area in Norway had settled earlier.

Times were bad in Wisconsin. Baard received only 25 cents a day for his labor the first year, and the second year he received 50 cents a day. Cholera was rampant and many of his friends and neighbors were dying.

So in 1854, he moved his family to Houston County and to Wilmington Township where they lived in a little log house that Gjermund J. Lommen had built.

Gjermund had become acquainted with the Qualey families when he moved from Valdres to Sogndal, and they met again in Wisconsin.

After Gjermund moved to Minnesota in 1853, becoming the first settler in Wilmington Township, he wrote a letter to Baard, but then had to walk to Brownsville, a round trip of 50 miles, just to mail it.

Baard and Anna settled on land two miles east of Gjermund, on land now owned by Strinmoens.

In the winter of 1856-57, an early snow and a bad ice storm made travel impossible, and Anna had to grind their wheat in a coffee grinder to get some meal to make bread and cook graut (porridge) for a couple of weeks.

By 1870, Baard and Anna owned 340 acres of land.

Baard was born in 1825 and died in 1911. Anna was born in 1831 and died in 1904. They had a family of 12 children.

Among the families the children married into are: Trehus, Glasrud, Reierson, Ostby, Myrah, Dahle and Haugstul.

Gitlaug Eriksdatter Aarestad was born 1828 and died in 1906. She immigrated in April 1851 to Dane County, Wis. She was married in 1851 in Koshkonong, Wis., to Peter Olsen Qualey (born 1831, died 1920) who had immigrated in August of that same year.

By 1855, they were living in Wilmington Township where the Wiebke feedlot is located today. They also had a family of 12 children.

Family names include Bergrud, Glasrud, Renslo, Fredricksen, Benson, Hanson, Lien, Livdalen and Teisen. At least four of the children died young and are buried in the old cemetery by Trinity Lutheran Church in Spring Grove.

Anna and Gitlaug Aarestad also had a brother who came to America. The first I was aware of him was when I found him buried in the Black Hammer Cemetery as Erik Eriksen Aarestad (in the records written "Aarasta"). Erik was born in 1824 on a farm in Rutlin, Sogndal, Norway.

He emigrated in March 1849. He married Britha "Betsie" Hemsing, Jan. 19, 1871, in Christiana, Dane County, Wis. The couple moved to Black Hammer, where they had two children, Sigri (b. 1871) and Ole (b. 1873), but Erik died from a fall from a wagon in 1873, the same year Ole was born.

No further information is available on Sigri but an interesting note on their son, Ole.

Over the years, I have heard of an Ole Orstad (note change of spelling) who ran the West End Restaurant, which I believe was in the building located where Lisa Bornholdt operates her shop called "Sweet", never realizing that his parents lived in Black Hammer, and that he was a relative of the Qualeys.

We don't know what became of him after he married here in 1895.

We have several books at our library at Giants of the Earth, which gives a tremendous amount of history about these early settlers of this area. Contact us at the Heritage Center or email

Additions and corrections are welcome.