According to previous released articles, Hans Petter Lillejord was the eldest of 20 siblings. We have the impression that Hans was a gifted man. He was determined, he sought challenges and he had an optimistic attitude towards future. He left a life of poor opportunities in the Dunderland Valley, and together with his wife he walked through 30 miles of wilderness to establish a new life in the Beiarn Valley. He succeded, but was not satisfied. As we have seen, at the age of 56, he and his family left relatively good and safe conditions at home and emigrated to America, .
The Norwegian sociologist Eilert Sundt postulated in the 1850s that ”the best leave first”. The pioneers of Norwegian emigration to America were strong and persistent people, like Hans and Margrete.
Hans was not the only persistent member of the Olsen family. One of his brothers, Per, and a sister, Dina, settled in Beiarn, too, and two of his brothers and one sister caught the ‘America Fever’ and migrated to ‘The New World’.
Nevertheless, the most prominent member of the family was beyond doubt, Ole Tobias, b. 1838. He was first educated as a teacher, and later read theology at the University in Kristiania, now Oslo. However, he was probably more interested in technology than theology, and he did not serve as a priest for many years after graduation. He got interested in photography and was one of the first professional photographers in Norway. He travelled a lot and now and then he visited the family in the Beiarn Valley. Unfortunately his elder brother Hans Petter left for America before he got his camera. But we do have some photos from Beiarn, as the one of his nephew Sakri Olai, and the ones from his brother Per’s home and family.
Per Johan Olsen and wife Dortea Tomasdtr. with their family outside their home at Rengaard in Beiarn. The photo is taken in early 1870s.
(Photo: Ole Tobias Olsen, lended by: Beiarn Historielags fotoarkiv)
Per and Dortea’s home. It is a log house, and we may assume that the house of Hans and family was similar to this house. (Photo: Ole Tobias Olsen, lended by: Beiarn Historielags fotoarkiv) (Later local People have told us that this is Peder Olsen Leiråmo’s home)
During a trip to England in 1862 Ole Tobias got interested in railways. Back home he wrote an article in a newspaper, arguing especially for a railway to the high north of Norway. It would make a more efficient transportation of fish from the rich fisheries offshore the north of Norway, he argued. The struggle for The Nordland Railway became ‘the task of life’ for Ole Tobias Olsen. He planned and surveyed for the railway and was known as ‘The father of Nordland Railways’. At last he got the opportunity to see the Parliament’s decision in 1923 to build the railway. Ole Tobias died in 1924.
O. T. Olsen was a versatile man. He was interested in mining and was especially prospecting for iron ores in the Dunderland Valley. Later, an international company, The Dunderland Iron Ore Company, rose from those ores. From childhood on he learnt the folk songs and poetry of his home areas, and another one of his great tasks was the publishing of his collection of folk tales and folk songs from Nordland. Actually he also had a clerical career. He was minister of the small parish of Hattfjelldal for 21 years, and of course he became Mayor of the municipality.
Not so much is published about O. T. Olsen in English on the Internett. Comfort Hotel Ole Tobias in the city of Mo i Rana is one such place.
To those of you who can read Norwegian, we recommend an article in Encyklopedia of Norwegian Biography, which gives a brief summary of his life and work with references.
O. T. Olsen has been commemorated in many ways. Many towns and cities in Norway have named their streets after him, a hotell bears his name and so does a train on the Nordland Railways. A bust of him is placed at the railway station of his home town, Mo i Rana, and a plaque is to be seen at his childhood home at Bjoellaanes.
The bust of Ole Tobias Olsen outside the railway station of Mo i Rana. (Photo: Sandivas Wikipedia)
The collection of his photos is preserved at the National Library and Oslo City Museum.
Ole Tobias Olsen was in 1919 awarded the rank Knight Class I of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.