“Write what should not be forgotten.”
A Novel Based on Southern California’s Norwegian Colony
As a young woman I saw a photograph of my grandfather, Oscar Olsen, watching county workers exhume the coffins of his six young sisters and brother from an old family cemetery at the corner of Moorpark and Olsen Roads. Grandpa’s eyes held unfathomable pain of a brother remembering his long-ago childhood. I wanted to know those little girls and boy. I wanted to connect with my heritage.
This story grew from thousands of facts known about the residents of the Norwegian Colony and the land that was later developed as California Lutheran University, in Thousand Oaks, California. The land was originally part of Jose de la Guerra’s Spanish land grant. It held brief interest for oil speculators, lying as an untilled section of property nestled against rolling hills. Then in 1890, Norwegians put a plowshare to the hard-packed clay soil. Their efforts resulted in mutual support and a community of friends as they adapted to dryland farming that was strange and challenging to newcomers. The Norwegians endured tribulation, but their joy and satisfaction with their new homes was well recorded in diaries and letters home. They laughed, sang, played and celebrated life within their little colony.
I began with a sheet of paper with a thick black border entitled: “Those buried in the Olsen Cemetery and moved to Ivy Lawn Cemetery in 1957.” From this list of names, birthdates, deaths I constructed the struggles of new immigrants in a foreign land. Some of the dialogue came from stories passed down to grandchildren now in their eighties, who recalled attitudes, personalities and actual quotations. For the rest, well, that is for the reader to decide.
Anne is a former President of WWW, an award-winning author of memoir and historical fiction and a proud grandmother. As a result of the 2020 WWW Conference, her marketing and website has changed direction. Visit her at anneschroederauthor.com