Gramps Started to Get Bugged

Art Norlen, a big old-time Swede, lived a rough and tumble life in the mines and logging country of Idaho. He decided to settle down by marrying our widowed friend, Ruth Hussa. He wrote a very interesting autobiography entitled “The Vanishing Immigrant.” 

Like Art, my scope of recall lies too much around my own environment. I just know there were a lot more interesting things that had happened in Lincoln County than I know. Local history excites me. 

All this got me to thinking about how an immigrant with his five motherless children spent the first Christmas in Washington Territory. 

First, let’s go back for this century-old story to Germany in the spring of 1872 when a guy by the name of David Kik, Sr. ran off with the baker’s daughter and beat it to America. Grandpa did not want to serve in the German Army, as he had no desire to learn how to kill people. He and his brand new wife got on a sailboat so they could be blown over to New York. 

Yankton, South Dakota, was the first test for these newlyweds as they staked out a homestead. After five years and a few babies were born, Gramps started to get bugged when he saw what the grasshoppers were doing to his crops. He found a guy that didn’t mind grasshoppers and sold him their farm. 

He then decided to take his family to Los Angeles to see what 10,000 Mexicans and about 500 white settlers looked like. Hot weather and cactus wasn’t their bowl of cherries. 

So Kik piled his family on a schooner that was headed for the Columbia River. Gramps then bought a team of Arabian horses named Kitty and Sally, and hooked them to an overloaded wagon and then headed north. His only protection and food-getter was a double-barreled, muzzle-loader shotgun. Why it took Grandpa six months to get up here to Fort Wallula, I never did know. 

"A Pioneer Story", Kik-Backs, page 5, part 1 (continued)     (home)

"...piled his family on a schooner..." 
Wawona, circa 1900. Photo: Northwest Seaport, Seattle

1862 Survey Washington Territory (detail of Columbia River to Walla Walla)


  1. Interesting find! Art Norlen was my grandfather’s cousin. I have fond memories of him and Ruth. They came to visit my family sometime in the 70’s and my most vivid memory was the sky blue diesel Mercedes they drove.

    1. Thank-you for the memory! I had not researched Art's book until now and I found a copy on Amazon and a review on Goodreads. Have you read the book?

    2. I have, but it’s been forever. I’m sure my father still has a copy.


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