Bestafa, Lauritz Monsen aka Lewis Munson
Excerpts from Marion Munson Munson Pasquet's talk on video at the Munson family reunion 8/13/9
- transcribed by Kitty Munson Cooper
This is about Lauritz Mönsen "Bestafa" who was known in this country as Lewis Munson. He emigrated a year in advance of his family of nine children.
"Oh this is an interesting story that I only heard in 1963 [1953?] the, their father, the father [Lauritz Munson] of this large family wanted to bring them to Europe, I mean from Europe to America and so he had to save up money for the passage of all these children. And he had one disagreeable experience, he answered an ad for a company in Minnesota which said good wages, good living conditions, and so forth. So he thought well that might help him earn the money for his family. So he answered the ad and he went to Minnesota somehow. And he found out it was really just like a slave labor camp. There were dogs to keep them from going out and they had to buy at the company store which kept them always in debt. But he wasn't going to be stuck there, he had too much gumption for that. So he began feeding the dogs a little of his own food and after a while the dogs were so friendly to him that he just got up and walked off one night. [ general discussion of who this was ] But then he had to get to New York so he hopped a freight train. He didn't have any money. When he got to New York, he went to the Norwegian embassy, they gave him a ticket back to Norway.
But somehow or rather he did make the money. He finally got his family to New York in 1884. They all came to New York on a hot summer day. The first Sunday they were there they went to the Norwegian Seaman's church [ in Brooklyn ] and there was a baptism. They figured out later that it was my mother being baptized cause it was the same day, same time, so the association started early [ see Lawrence Josiah's diary for this fact as well
from Munsons, by Alexander Lee Munsontyped by Marian Munson Pasquet (MMP), html by Kitty Munson Cooper (KMC)
Bestafa Munson had a bewiskered face in a massive head set on massive shoulders. He was as strong as an ox. He spent the early part of his life as a ship’s carpenter, sailing the deep blue sea.
On fishing boats, he made many trips to the Lofoton Island fishing grounds. It was a cold, dangerous, and rough sea in the Lofoton, off northern Norway.
He tells of one voyage when a sudden storm caught the fishing fleet with howling winds and raging seas. They all dropped anchor and trimmed sail. It became as black as night..
Most of the anchors held, but many didn’t. He could hear the screams and prayers of the men being swept toward the rocky shore as they dragged by his boat..There was no way that they could provide help. He and his shipmates prayed aloud for their own and the others survival. There were no atheists in that fleet of worried men.
Bestafa was my father’s father, my paternal grandfather. He came to America and worked as a carpenter until he had saved enough to send for his family. He had rented a modest home in Brooklyn. He had a big family.
It was a great day when his family arrived at Ellis Island (MMP: not in use then. 1884 KMC: it was Castle Garden) The family consisted of Bestafa, Bestamor, (MMP: Inge), Christian, Andrew, John, Lawrence (My dad), Alfred, Gertrude, and Josie. Bestafa guided them to the nearby subway station. It was frightening and exciting. The noisy subway train took them under the river to Brooklyn. ( MMP: correction: Subways were not in use in New York until 1904. Dad remembered a long walk in heavy clothing under a hot July sun. KMC see LJM letters for description of the ferry ride and walk ) They walked a few blocks to their new home. The children were excited, they had to see everything. It was all so new. They lived there until Bestamor died, and Bestafa went to live with Aunt Gertrude who had a fine secretarial position in Manhattan.
I remember one time that Bestafa took me on a subway trip. He held my hand so protectively tight that it was painful. He was a powerful man with wide shoulders and a barrel chest. I remember praying that I would have his strength, and Dadda’s quick mind.
Bestafa built the bathrooms for both the upper and lower cottages in Cragsmoor. He also did some work at 357 Ovington Avenue, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where Dad and Mother had purchased a large three story house for a Music School, and for our residence, in 1916.
Bestafa had an accident on a trolley car when he was 80 years old. The trolley was an open trolley with a long running board on the right side running from front to back of the car. Similar to the cable cars at San Francisco with the motorman in front.
The car was not crowded. It was early afternoon. Bestafa sat in a seat near the right side. It was a long seat that reached from side to side without any aisle.. The car was moving pretty fast. Perhaps it was the motorman and conductors last trip of the day. The car hit a switch too fast and jumped the track. Bestafa was thrown out of the car. He landed on his head and shoulder.
The conductor ran to help him up and to find out if he was hurt.
Bestafa just got up shook himself decided to walk the last few blocks. "I’m all right," he told them, as a crowd began to gather. He died several years later, and only then did the doctors discover that he had suffered a broken skull. However his eyesight and hearing began to fail after that.
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