Ole J. Ramstad took the name of his home town, Ramstaddallen, Norway, as his surname. Ole was a farmer and fisherman. Jensine Klokk, who lived across the river from him, was the girl he married; their daughter Carrie was born January 24, 1906. Ole’s brother came from America to visit them and persuaded Ole to trade his Norway farm for his brother’s farm on South Whidbey Island.
In 1911, Ole, Jensine, and five-year-old Carrie set up house-keeping in the center of a huge field of stumps and logged land about a mile and a half up the hill from the Clinton waterfront on what is now State Highway 525. At that time, however, it was merely a rutted road. This is not what the Ramstads had expected when they left Norway.

A few days after their arrival, a frightened Jensine stood in the doorway of her strange house in a strange field on a strange island in a strange country with a strange language, facing the strangest looking humans she had ever seen. These people had black hair, black eyes, and red skin—a far cry from the blond blue-eyed fair-skinned people of her native land. In Norway, she had heard about American Indians. They scalped white people. Instinctively, she pulled her neat white dust cap closer over her hair.

The black-haired woman with three children facing Jensine didn’t act as if she had scalping in mind. In fact, she spoke English and was merely asking for a drink of water. Jensine couldn’t understand English, but she did understand gestures when the Indian woman pointed to the water bucket and dipper and pantomimed drinking. Cautiously, Jensine gave her visitors a drink. They departed peacefully, going into the woods behind the house to pick berries.

Jensine was later to learn that many former South Whidbey Snohomish Indians came regularly from the Tulalip reservation each year during berry picking season. At first their arrival made Jensine uneasy but one day an Indian woman brought a woven basket filled with blue berries as a gift. After that the flaxen haired lady from Norway and the black haired lady from Whidbey became friends and when they came Jensine would bring out coffee and cookies, with milk for the children.

Carrie picks up the story here and tells of her life on South Whidbey Island in her own words.

“During the summer that I was five years old, my uncle, who lived in America, visited us and talked my dad into trading his farm in Norway for my uncle’s farm on South Whidbey Island. The deal was made and we left for America, going by ship from Liverpool, England, to Montreal, Canada, then across Canada to Vancouver, British Columbia, and south into the United States as far as Everett, then across Saratoga Passage to Clinton, and about a mile up the hill to our new home.

“The situation in which we found ourselves was a far cry from what we had expected. The house [which was still in use in 1985) was located in a field of stumps. As a six-year-old, I investigated stumps and poked holes in them to send all manner of bugs scurrying about. This was great fun, but my father found a field full of stumps totally unsuited for farming, although he did acquire the usual farm livestock such as chickens, pigs, and cows.

“Even purchasing a cow posed unexpected problems for Dad, who was unused to island living. Prior to coming to Clinton, we had stayed briefly in Everett with my dad’s brother and family, while the tenants who had been living on our farm were moving out. Dad spent those days shopping for items which he knew we would need on a farm. Among these was a fine cow which he purchased in Mukilteo. As soon as we were settled in our new home, Dad borrowed a row-boat and rowed across Saratoga Passage from Clinton Dock to Mukilteo, expecting to bring the cow back in the row-boat. Which, of course, was ridiculous, as he soon discovered.

“At that time, Dad didn’t speak English and he couldn’t ask anyone around him what to do, so 54 he walked the six miles from Mukilteo to his brother’s home in Everett. They told him that he could put the cow on a freight boat which left daily from Pier One in Everett and stopped at Clinton. Dad stayed with his brother overnight, then walked back to Mukilteo, took Bossy by the halter and led her the six miles up the railroad track to the pier. If a train had come along, it wouldn’t have bothered him at all. He would have just hauled her off the track, held her tight, and let the train pass. Eventually man and cow arrived at Pier One and embarked on the steamship Clatawa which docked at Clinton. Then Dad and the cow walked the mile and a half up the Clinton hill, home.

“We soon discovered that walking was the accepted means of travel. There was no main highway and the roads were little better than wagon trails which turned into mud and ruts that washed out entirely in bad weather. The county commissioners hired a road crew to keep them repaired. Dad soon found that stump-farming didn’t pay enough to support our family, so he went to work for the road crew under the management of Jake Simmons, who was our commissioner at that time. The pay was a dollar a day; the work schedule ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sometimes the job at hand was several miles from home and Dad would have to be up in the early hours in order to walk to work and arrive on time. At the end of the work day, he would have to walk back home.

“Dad also hired out on fishing boats, first with the Joyces who fished in local waters and up the Strait as far as Neah Bay, then with Nels Forde who fished in Alaskan waters. Mom and I had to do the work around the farm when Dad was away. Mom would do the milking and tend to the livestock; my job was to keep the wood-box filled, feed the chickens, and gather the eggs. In the spring when the hens started brooding, they would fly at me and peck when I reached for the eggs. They scared me half to death, but I had to keep on the job because there was no one else to do it. Mom and I usually spent our evenings knitting and embroidering. After I started school and learned English, I did a lot of reading in the evenings, borrowing books from the school library. This was a real treat.

“When I started school in the autumn of 1912, I knew very few English words. Luckily my teacher, Miss Sills, was Danish; she would keep me in at noon and recess and give me regular classes. At first I didn’t talk to anybody; I just kept my mouth shut around the other kids. One of the older girls, Helma Simmons, discovered that I could sing Norwegian songs. In Norway I was the first grandchild on my father’s side; everybody in the family had taught me all the songs they knew, good and bad. Helma and the other eighth grade girls used to eat their lunches on a stairway outside the school building which led to the upstairs eighth grade classroom, and they got me singing those Norwegian songs when classes were over. Most of the kids were from Norwegian or Swedish families and could understand the songs. We had a great time. Years later when we were grown, they would still talk about it.

“I had been in school about three months when I contracted pneumonia and was ill all winter, so I had to start classes over the following September, 1913. It turned out for the best. That summer, Henry Thorsen took me in hand and taught me English. He was attending Bellingham Normal School (now Western Washington University) studying to be a teacher. Without his help, I never would have been able to make it on my own at school, because we always talked Norwegian at home. He explained the language in such a way that while he was teaching me, some of it brushed off on Mom; this helped her also. By the time I was nine or ten, I had no further trouble with the language and became very active in a 4-H group.

“We had lots of entertainment at school with a program for every occasion. The parents always came. We would put on plays and have lots of recitations and singing. We’d have a basket social every year to make money and the whole school took part. The Clinton Progressive Hall was new and it had a stage at one end so we always held our socials there. Every May Day we would make May baskets at school and hang them on the doors of our near neighbors. We’d put flowers in the baskets—and candy, if we had any.
“After a time, our nearest neighbor the Thorsens and the DeWitt moved away so I had no playmates who lived close by. Edna Clark (now Edna O’Brien) lived at Maxwelton and every so often her dad would send her to the Clinton Store for groceries and feed. She drove a team of beautiful black horses. When I’d hear her coming down the road, I’d go out with her in the buggy and ride down the hill to Clinton. She’d stop at our house and visit on the way back and we’d have milk and cookies. Those visits were a real treat for both of us. I didn’t go to dances until I was almost 18. My mother didn’t approve and, since there were no other young people living nearby at that time, if my dad wasn’t home to take me, I couldn’t go. For excitement, I can remember that in high school (I graduated in 1925) some of my friends and I would go down to the post office every night—not that we expected mail, but it was a place to go.
“One of the problems we faced during our early years at Clinton was the fact that neither Dad nor Mom spoke English. Even the weekly newspaper we received from Seattle was printed in Norwegian. Dad more or less picked up English due to working at various jobs around the community. My parents developed a mixture of English and Norwegian words with lots of Norwegian idioms. There’s a family joke that after two month’s stay in Norway when Dad went back for a visit in 1951, he started talking about returning, at which his nephew exclaimed, ‘Oh, Uncle Ole, you can’t go yet. We’ve just begun to understand you!’

“The fact that most of the Clinton area settlers at that time were Scandinavian and used their native language at many of their gatherings didn’t help my parents much in learning English. There was the time that my mother first attended the church Ladies’ Aid meeting about three miles from our place at the Joyce home on what is now Humphrey Road. She walked there and back, of course. Everyone walked to the meetings. As they were walking home, Mrs. Berg asked my mom if she enjoyed the meeting. ‘Very much,’ Mother answered in Norwegian, ‘but I wished they had talked American.’ On Ladies’ Aid meeting days, all of us kids would walk together after school to the home of whomever’s mother was hostessing the meeting. It was fun. In 1916, four years after we had come to Clinton, my mother had courage enough to start speaking in English.

“Gradually we got the stumps out of our land and our farm going. Like everybody else in the community we had our own orchard and lots of strawberries, raspberries, and loganberries. Everybody butchered their own meat—pork, beef, mutton, and poultry. When neighbors butchered, they would share with you; when you butchered, you would return the favor. Mother also made butter to sell, forming it into one pound prints. She had regular butter and egg customers in Everett where we did much of our business because of having relatives there.

“We did most of our buying at the Clinton Union Store, a cooperative on the waterfront in what is now known as Old Clinton. It was run by a board of directors who would hire a manager. You could take eggs or veal or small produce there but nothing big because they couldn’t handle it. If they got an order for ten sacks of spuds from somebody in Everett, they would take that.

“I can remember the year of the big snow in 1916. My folks had a front porch that jutted out and in one corner of it I made an igloo. My playmates were my dog and cat and Dad’s old hen. Biddy was a special pet and every day at three o’clock, coffee time, she would come to the house. Dad would dip bread in coffee and give it to her and she would make quite a fuss if she was neglected. The snow lasted for at least two weeks and we had no school; nobody could get through because the snow was so deep. We couldn’t even get from the house to the barn until Dad cleared a pathway which was almost like a tunnel.

“The center of our community’s social as well as religious life was Saint Peter’s Lutheran church which I still attend. Soon after we arrived in Clinton in 1912, Dad became the church janitor. On Sunday mornings, he would get up about 5:30 and walk down the hill to the church to build a fire in the stove so the church would be warm for Sunday school. Then he would walk back home, milk the cows, and have breakfast, after which we would all walk to the church for Sunday school. Some of our teachers were older men like John Jensen and Rasmus Andersen, but Mrs. Thorsheim and some of the other women also taught the classes.

“Mom and 1 helped Dad with some of the janitor work. There was a creek beside the Peterson house (Lyla Melsen lives in that house now in 1985) near the church. I’d carry water from the creek and fill a boiler on the back of a two-burner oil stove in the church. The sanctuary was the same size that it is now (1981) and we had no pews—just chairs. Every Saturday, Mom and I would go down to church and mop the floor. We’d pile all the chairs on one side of the room and mop the empty space, then wait until it dried before putting the chairs back. I wasn’t very big at the time and those chairs were almost more than I could manage. They were awfully heavy.

“At first we didn’t have a minister in residence but one would come over from the mainland twice a month unless it was real stormy and he couldn’t get across. At first he had to row from Mukilteo but later the motor launch was put into service. It picked up passengers, including the minister, at Everett, Holmes Harbor, Saratoga, Langley, Clinton, and Camano Island. The same minister who served our church also served Lone Lake. He would preach at Saint Peter’s in the morning then whoever had a horse and buggy would drive him over to Killyon Hill and Mr. Olsen would pick him up and take him to the hall for the evening service. Then he’d stay overnight at someone’s house and return to the main-land Monday morning.

“We had lots of church activities going on even without the minister present. There was prayer meeting each Wednesday night at some one’s home—often at the Joyce or Bardahi place (near the present W. E. Peterson home.) Everybody walked. Often we would all meet some central place and walk together. You would see lanterns twinkling all along the way. These weekly meetings were a lot of fun for us—and a real outing—because we didn’t have many other forms of entertainment.

“In 1919, a big event occurred in our family. We adopted a five-day-old baby girl, Alma. Actually we didn’t really adopt her; she just came to live with us. Alma’s father was my mother’s cousin. When his wife died in childbirth on Lopez Island, he asked my mother if she would raise the baby. He said that had been his wife’s request. Mom said she had never raised a baby in this country, but she would try. Alma became a part of our family. I helped at home because my mother became ill and I also worked out some of the time.
“On September 12, 1926, another big event happened in my life. Frank Melendy and I were the first couple to be married in Saint Peter’s Lutheran church building. The amusing part was that our minister—Pastor Berge—was away on vacation, so he didn’t arrive home at the appointed time for the wedding. Thus, we engaged the minister from the Langley Methodist church to perform the ceremony. Pastor Berge arrived at the church just as we were coming out at the close of the ceremony. My parents had a reception for us at their house. After our marriage, Frank and I moved to the house in Bayview in which I still live after 35 years.” (2598 East Highway 525.) The Melendy story is told in the Bayview part of this volume.