Torger Peterson Finds Ohop Valley and Builds a Road to Rainier

Torger Peterson family
Torger, Asse, and children Anna Elena and Peter

The following is one of two memoires written by Torger Perterson (courtesy of Gary Hendrickson). Torger was an original settler of Ohop Valley and tells here how he came, settled and worked to get a roads in place — including one to Mount Rainier.

Torger Perterson
I was born the 22nd day of January, 1855 on my Father’s farm (Langtvet) in Holtsogn Norway. This farm had reverted from father to son for over three hundred years.

My Father’s name was Peter Haaversen; my Mother’s name was Anna Togesdatter Goderstad.

We had a very good common school, and I was confirmed at the age of 14. From the time I was nine years old, I would herd my Father’s cattle and sheep, and on a high hill out in the woods, I could see the ocean and the ships sailing, and would wish that I might some day go on these ships and see the foreign land.

At the age of 15, I went to sea as a cabin boy at $3.00 per month. The next year I got $4.00 per month. Able seamen $9.00 per month; First Officer $14.00 per month; Second Officer $12.00 month. Captain $50.00 per month and 5% of gross earnings.

When I was 21 years of age, I took my examination as a Navigator and had a Masters’ certificate at that age. The same year I married Aase Elena Olsdatter Goderstad Holtsogn. I sailed as an Officer for a few years and got badly hurt and quit. Went into the logging business and ship building, but the small wooden ships that we would build could not compete with the big steel vessels and steamers, so I made up my mind to go to America, and to the City of Tacoma in the State of Washington. I had heard that Tacoma was just starting up at the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad on Puget Sound and my intention was to build schooners for the Coasttrade.

Torger Peterson
Torger Peterson, County Commissioner

On my trip from Norway to Tacoma, I stopped off in Ashton, Dakota Territory to rest my family and also to visit relatives who lived there, and they persuaded to take up land and go farming.

When I decided to take up land, I went to the County seat 12 miles out on the prairie to take out my intention papers to become a citizen. The Clerk asked me my name, and I told him Torger Peterson Langtvet. He fixed up my papers and I paid him the necessary fee and put the papers in my pocket without looking at them. When I came back to Ashton, I looked over my papers and found that the Clerk had omitted the name Langtvet, and hand my name recorded as Torger Peterson. He no doubt thought that was a good enough name for a Swede.

I made the first wagon track fourteen smiles South from Ashton on the Milwaukee Railroad to the Missouri River, going due West and there I located. The first year’s crop was destroyed by grasshoppers; the second year’s crop was destroyed by a hot wind that lasted three days and cooked everything. I then made up my mind it was about time to go there I originally planned, Tacoma.

Ohop Valley
Ohop Valley

I covered two wagons and went immigrant style up the Missouri River and over the old Government trail; crossed the Missouri on a ferry at Bismarck and drove into Montana where my wife gave birth to a child, which stopped us for a time. As soon as my wife was able to travel, we took the Northern Pacific train and finally landed in Tacoma, broke. After a couple of years of hard work, and after looking over the a good deal of the Western part of this State, I found the Ohop Valley which was then surveyed, but as a Navigator, I surveyed it to my own satisfaction and knew what section I was in, and squatted on it for seven years before the Government finally surveyed it.

Torger Peterson in Canyon
Torger Peterson in the canyon when Canyon was being built.

I found the Valley in the summer of 1887 and moved my family out there in April, 1888. At that time it was one of the worst wilderness that it was possible to find, and after we had gotten out some logs and brush so that a wagon could travel, it took us three days to go from Tacoma to my home in the Ohop Valley. I remember friends of our told my wife that I had gone crazy and for her not to go out there, after a while I would get tired and come back. My wife however said she had never found me crazy and laughed at our friends and said she would stay by me.

The pioneers of Western Washington have all had a hard time of it and I think our lot in the Ohop Valley was as hard as any.

After we had cleared up some land, the main thing was to get a road, and the County helped us in this way; for every day we worked gratis, they would give us $2.00 a day for the following day, and this is the way the first road was built into the Ohop Valley and beyond. It was always a puzzle to me how Norway, a poor country, had such splendid roads, and a country as rich in natural resources as our State of Washington, could get along with such poor roads, not better than a cow trail, and it was my chief object to see if I could not interest the people in getting good roads built so that the farmers could get their product to the markets at a reasonable cost.

Indian Henry Hunting Ground, by Kevin Bacher
Indian Henry Hunting Ground, by Kevin Bacher

In October, 1988, I went in company with Indian Henry and some other Indians up to Mount Tacoma. We went on horseback through brush over logs and finally landed in what is now known as Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds. It was a clear day and the sun was just setting when we reached the Mountain, and I will never as long as I live forget that sights; such a park surrounded with flowers of all colors and descriptions. And right then I made up my mind to do all in my power to get a road to that Mountain so that the people could see that wonderland and inhale that invigorating Mountain air.

For twenty years I attended every County Convention. At first the people thorugh I was crazy when I mentioned a road to Mount Tacoma, but as years went by I had more and more followers. The Commissioners all promised to help, but each time failed me, so that last I decided to run for Commissioner myself, and was elected and the road was completed.

After the people had been there and seen the wonder, it was not difficult to get all the money necessary and today we have a boulevard from Tacoma to the Mountain.

In addition to serving as County Commissioner, I was elected from the 36th Representative District as Representative and served in the 1917 Session of the Legislature.

My wife and I have five children; three died. Anna Elena and Peter being the only living children.

I am writing this with the thought it mind that in the future my great grandchildren might be interested in knowing where their ancestors came from and who they were.

Torger Peterson

Tacoma, WA

May, 1925

31 responses to “Torger Peterson Finds Ohop Valley and Builds a Road to Rainier”

  1. Thanks Gary for getting this to Diane for this site.
    As the great granddaughter of Torger I have the originals of this and his other paper (previous). I also have Ledgers of three or four school years at Edgerton (on the Peterson property). One was the first year of teaching for Velma Kjelstad. Any interest Diane?


    • I am VERY interested, Linda — partly because of the history, but also because I think live on part of the site. (My folk who farm next door purchased 6 acres from the farmers who were working Torger’s farm in the 1980s.) I think about him all the time. I would love to get more of the history up on the site.


  2. Yes, I know your parents, and your grandparents were still there when we left the farm. I’m not too computer savy so best if you get my telephone number from Gary Henricksen, to talk, before I mess something up.


  3. Greetings from Norway!
    Torger Peterson was my grandfather’s second cousin, and for me this is a very interesting website!


    • Hi,
      Glad you like the website. I feel like we practically know each other. I live on a piece of what was his farm and just got back from Norway to visit friends. Do you have any information about Toger’s family there? Feel fre to share it on the site. 🙂


  4. Hi,
    I know quite a lot about his siblings (one brother and one sister also emigrated to the U.S.) and his ancestors. Not so much about later family.


    • It would be great to know more about his family there, since we know mostly what happened after he arrived in the U.S. and his family. In fact, his great grand daughter is in the historical society with me – Linda Lewis. Her grand father was Pete, Torger’s son.


      • I know, and Torger’s brother – Andrew (Stian Andreas) Peterson Langtwait – also lived some years in Pierce County. His son Stanley (Stan Langtwait) was born there – and lived in Eatonville later on (well known for his “Shapes of Clay”) 🙂


      • Mr. Johannessen,

        I’m very curious to know more about my great grandfather Andrew Stian Langtwait.
        Of particular interest is the location of the farm he grew up on in Norway and living relatives.

        Thank you,



  5. Oh, I didn’t make the connection. SMALL world, my mom worked for Stan for years and I have some “Shapes of Clay” work here in the house. Might have to post the connection. 🙂


    • Here is a bit more information:

      from Langtvedt (Langtwait) farm, Holt parish, Aust-Agder county, Norway:

      Peder Haaversen Langtvedt (1820-1886). Farmer. Married to Anne Torjesdatter (Torger’s daughter) Goderstad (1822-1876).


      Haaver Pedersen Langtvedt (1852-1943), ran the family farm Langtvedt in Holt parish by Tvedestrand in 55 years. My maternal grandfather’s second cousin. Among other things: Vice Mayor of Holt. Married to Anne Nilsdatter Berge (1851-1931).
      Torger Peterson (1855-1934), married to Aase Elene Olsdatter Goderstad (Aase Peterson) (1844-1915). Torger and Aase were both cousins and second cousins (!) – and besides, both my grandfather’s second cousins. Emigrated to America 1883. After some years in South Dakota Torger and Aase moved to Washington, where Torger led several large-scale development projects in Ohop Valley, Pierce County. Torger and Aase are buried in Tacoma, Pierce County.
      Ellen Martee Pedersdatter (1858-1938), married to Soren Johnsen (Soren Johnson) Fiane (1854-1941). Ellen Marthee and Søren emigrated to Iola Township, Waupaka County, Wisconsin in 1892 – and there they lived the rest of their lives. Ellen Marthee was my maternal grandfather’s second cousin, and Soren is my relative on my father’s side (he belonged to the Swedish-German-Walloon ironwork-families Gasman and Henning). A number of other relatives of Ellen Marthee and Søren settled in Waupaka County (a lot of Goderstads).
      Stian Andreas Pedersen (1862-about 1925?). Emigrated to America 1882, where he called himself Andrew Peterson/Andrew Langtwait. Lived for about 20 years in Lead, Lawrence County, S. Dakota. Moved to Pierce County, Wisconsin about 1902 – then to Jackson, Oregon, and further to Los Angeles, California. Married to Estelle (Langtwait), b. 1877 in Nebraska, d. 1962 in Pierce County, Washington. One of their children was Stan Langtwait (1913-1984), Eatonville.

      Oddbjørn Johannessen


    • Wow, my mo worked for Stan for years. Let me see if she has some information. My family has been living in Ohop Valley since 1946 and may have some information for you. 🙂


  6. Brett

    I need to check site more often

    Your great grandfather, Andrew Langtwait and my great grandfather, Torger Peterson were brothers. I have information here and some in Norway. Contact me.


  7. Yes, we did meet, I think you were still in high school. If you are interested in some family history give me a call some time at 253-565-6482. If love to share pics and info.


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