Cemetery Walk 2016

Visitors at the 2015 Cemetery Walk
Visitors at the 2015 Cemetery Walk

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to visit with someone who lived on this earth 100 to 150 years ago?  If you come to the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery on September 12, you will have the opportunity to do just that.

For the last several years, the Ephraim Historical Foundation, in conjunction with the Ephraim Moravian Church, has presented a cemetery walk called the “DEARLY DEPARTED.”

Each year, several people agree to enact the part of a specific person from Ephraim’s past, while wearing appropriate costuming.  An effort is made to portray both men and women, and to choose personalities who have been gone from Ephraim for various lengths of time.

Niles Weborg as Ole Larson
Niles Weborg as Ole Larson

One of the first characters to be portrayed was Ole Larson, who aided Reverend Iverson in choosing the land which became the village of Ephraim. Reverend and Mrs. Iverson have also been portrayed.

Paul and Frances Burton as the Iversons. Photo by Tad Dukehart
Paul and Frances Burton as Reverend and Mrs. Iverson. Photo by Tad Dukehart

In order to give you a hint of what you might expect when you attend this event next week, we reprint here some of the words spoken by a participant a year ago, well-known hotel owner, Fordel Hogenson, describing his life in Ephraim during the past century.

Fordel Hogenson
Fordel Hogenson

Hello! My name is Fordel Hogenson, and I was born in Rodo, Norway, in 1849. My parents brought our family to America and we settled in Door County. Ephraim looks very much like Norway, so we felt right at home. Not only that, there were many other Norwegians already living here.

 I had learned to be a carpenter back in Norway, and of course, I certainly was a good fisherman, so I was quickly able to find work. I followed the carpenter trade for about seven years, sometimes finding time to build something for myself….I built more than one boat in my life. Later, I decided to be a fisherman for a while.

Fordel and Tonetta Hogenson
Fordel and Tonette Hogenson

Soon I met a delightful young woman named Lene Rinehartsen. We were married and set up housekeeping. I bought property on the shore in Ephraim and I built a small house for us to live in. We joined the Ephraim Moravian Church, and I became the Sunday School Superintendent.

Eventually we had seven children, four sons and three daughters. 

However, the birth of our seventh child was a day of great sadness, as it caused the death of my wife. The children and I were devastated by this loss, because Lene was the heart of our family. I named the infant girl Lene after her mother, but she was sickly and only lived for 4 months, leaving me with 6 children to raise. Luckily we had employed Tonette, a young Norwegian woman some years earlier, and she helped me with the children. Soon I learned to love her. We were married, and she was a wonderful wife to me and mother to the children.

In 1897 I saw an article in the Door County Advocate. It stated that “Ephraim wants a good hotel and tourists would be plenty.”  I thought this over, and realized that we had enough property in a good location, so my wife and I decided to become hotelkeepers. By this time, we only had one daughter still at home, and she was agreeable to help with the hotel.

An early photo of the Evergreen Beach Hotel
An early photo of the Evergreen Beach Hotel

We started with several rooms and immediately discovered more would be needed. Eventually we had a 3-story hotel that could accommodate 80 people, plus a dining room and a big kitchen. Because of the lovely cedar, balsam, and pine trees in Ephraim, and our location on the shore, we called the hotel “The Evergreen Beach.” Ours was the very first hotel in Ephraim, but many others soon followed.

I had always been a very physically active man, so you can imagine my dismay when I suffered a disabling stroke in 1920. This meant that I was unable to help with the hotel in any way. Also, I was a very tall man and Tonette was a very short woman, so she was finding it very hard to care for me.

A photo of the Evergreen Beach Hotel (now the Water Street Inn)
A recent photo of the Evergreen Beach Hotel (now the Water Street Inn)

A young man in the village, Peder Knudson, had recently lost his wife. He had sold his own hotel and decided to go back to being a carpenter in order to provide for his little girl. Tonette asked him if he and the child could move in to our house so that he could take care of me, since he was a big strapping man as well. He agreed, and they came to live with us. It was wonderful to have a little girl in the house again and Dena, our daughter, became very fond of her. Peder was not only a wonderful help in caring for me, but he also had some good suggestions for Tonette about running the hotel.

In a year, Peder and Dena decided to be married. He bought his hotel back and they moved to the Knudson House at the north end of Ephraim. At this time, my son Herman and his wife Lillie moved back to Ephraim to run the Evergreen Beach Hotel with Tonette and to care for me. I hated being bed-ridden because I had always been active, but it was wonderful to have one of my sons in the house again.

I passed away in 1927, knowing I had had a long and happy life in my new country.

We hope this blog information will whet your appetite to learn more about Ephraim’s ancestors. Please come to the Ephraim Moravian Cemetery, on the corner of Norway Street and Willow Street, on Monday, September 12.

There will be two performance times: one at 1:00 p.m. and the other at 2:30 p.m.

There will be seven Dearly Departed folks there to talk about their lives in Ephraim:

Rev. J.J. Groenfeldt and his wife Elise, Ida Seiler Sohns, Charlotte Amundsen, Clara Oneson Scudder, Halvor Anderson, and George Larson.

Parking is available at the Ephraim Moravian Church, on Moravia Street. The event is free, although donations are appreciated. We will hold the Cemetery walk, rain or shine!

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