(1782 - 1865)

Klein Pedersen Hesthammer was born in Norway on May 17, 1783. He was to change his name to Cleng Peerson, and become known as the "father of Norwegian immigration." 

A Quaker, he forayed to the New World to scout it out as a refuge from religious intolerance. It is reported in "Restaurasjonen and the 'Sloopers":

In 1821 the Quaker community, in the Stavanger area, sent two of their members over to America to find out about opportunities for the community to settle in America. These two were Cleng Peerson (Klein Pedersen Hesthammer) and Knud Olsen Eide, who died after arriving in America. In 1824 Cleng Peerson came back and spoke of the good prospects he had seen in America. It was decided that a group should travel, and Cleng went back to America to prepare for their arrival. Only a small number of the sloopers were members of the Quaker community, but most of them were probably Haugeans, sympathizers with the Quakers. Some of them later became Quakers. 

Michael Holmboe Meyers, in his history-guide of Stavanger, includes an article on the Statue of Liberty. He writes:

[T]he first shipload of emigrants on board a 52 foot sloop, "Resturation" set out from Stavanger to New York. People thought it was pure madness when the 52 emigrants set out from Stavanger harbour July 4, 1825. Like the Pilgrim Fathers from England in the 16th century, the passengers onboard the "Resturation" left their country because of religious oppression. Cleng Peerson, who has been called the pioneer of Norwegian emigration, came from Tysvær in north of Rogaland. It was Cleng Peerson who encouraged the small group of Quakers to make the 98-day long voyage across the Atlantic to the New World. In the 100 years that followed the voyage of the "Resturation", some 800.000 Norwegians emigrated to the New World. Today there are more people of Norwegian descent in the US than the population of Norway which is currently over four millions. Only Ireland with its tiny population of three million, contributed more emigrants than Norway. 


Ottawa, Illinois' website, "The Town of Two Rivers: Ottawa," adds this information:
The news of rich lands in Illinois interested a colony of Norwegians near Oswego, New York. In 1834, Cleng Peerson led a group of settlers to Norway [Ill.], twelve miles Northeast of Ottawa. There were immigrants to the Ottawa region from New York and New England, with a small portion from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky..


The Norwegian Emigration Center website tells of Cleng Peerson and the Sloopers, relating:
This “Peer Gynt of the Prairie” came from Tysvær, and met the Sloopers when they landed in New York on October 9, 1825. They moved to northern New York state and settled in Kendall township on land Cleng Peerson had bought. The settlement became a stop-over on the way to the Middle West, where most of the Sloopers established a colony on the Fox River valley in Illinois, on the Sunday nearest to October 9th. 


California Court of Appeal Justice Earl Johnson Jr., in his article "The Norwegian Migration to the U.S.A.," writes of learning about Cleng Peerson while tracing his Norwegian family roots in Illinois. Travelling 15 miles from his grandfather's farm in Morris, he encountered the town of Norway, site of the fitrst Norwegian American settlement in the United States. He recalls:
Just on the edge of town is a large historical marker, a small clearing and the ruins of some small wooden houses. The Norwegian King dedicated this marker a couple of decades ago recognizing this as the location of the first Norwegian-American settlement in the United States. From that marker and an unpublished Ph.D. dissertation in the library in Aurora, Illinois I learned a bit about that first settlement and the settlers. They are called "The Sloopers" because they all came over from Norway in the same vessel, obviously a sloop.

It was 1833. There were about 30 families and a number of single men. They were led by a charismatic religious visionary named Cleng Peerson. (From what I later read at a museum in San Antonio, Texas, Cleng had visited North America a year or so earlier and scouted around.) In any event, the sloop arrived in Canada and Cleng led his followers to their first promised land, northern New York near Buffalo, etc. They arrived in midwinter. That proved too harsh even for Norwegians and they refused to settle there. So Cleng had another vision about verdant farmlands in Illinois. All but a couple members of the group headed out with Cleng for the area near Morris. Most of them built houses in the little settlement which much later became the town of Norway. Evidently this was not an entirely happy group. Cleng either was ousted or became dissatisfied. Within a few years he took off for Texas, this time by himself. (From what I saw and read in Illinois I gained the impression he fell off the end of the Earth, either dying on the way to Texas or disappearing into obscurity. I learned otherwise in San Antonio, however.) 

The jurist recites that in 1997, he and his wife attended an American Bar Assn. meeting in San Antonio, where he toured the Texas Cultural Museum. Johnson relates:
[T]his museum contains displays featuring each of the many ethnic groups which settled Texas — including the Norwegian-Americans. So guess who reappears on the scene. Ol' Cleng Peerson. It turns out he did make it all the way down to Texas and became quite an important figure in the Norwegian-Texan and later Norwegian-American community.

Peerson's role in bringing Norwegians to Texas is discussed in a report in News of Norway, provided by the Norwegian Royal Embassy. An article in the September, 1997 issue tells of festivities in the City of Clifton, south of Dallas. The article, titled, "Clifton Named Norwegian Capital of Texas," says:

The first immigrants settled west of Clifton, founding the Norse community in 1854. When eight couples arrived from east Texas, on advice from Cleng Peerson, "The father of Norwegian Immigration," they traveled to this part of the country that greatly resembled the "old country" and where free land was offered. Today, Peerson is buried in the Norse Cemetery by Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. The church held Norwegian services until 1941. In 1982, King Olav V visited this church in recognition of Cleng Peerson’s 200th birthday. 

The Texas State Historical Association provides an article on Peerson in which it recites that after helping to establish establish communities for Norwegian Quakers and others in New York, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri during the period from 1825-47...

[H]e moved to Texas in 1850 and lived with friends near Dallas until 1854. Then he moved to newly organized Bosque County, urging fellow Norwegians in East Texas to do so as well. In recognition of his service, the Texas legislature granted Peerson 320 acres of land in Bosque County, half of which he gave to Ovee Colwick in exchange for a home. Peerson lived with Colwick until his death, on December 16, 1865. He was buried at the cemetery at Norse, Texas.


A webpage on Clifton also mentions Peerson's role in leading Norwegian immigrants to the Lone Star State.


In its website article, Cleng Peerson, the Father of Norwegian Emigration, The Norway Post says of Peerson:

He organised the first emigration from Norway in 1825, on the sloop "Restaurationen."

Today one can visit the Cleng Peerson House in the open air area ' Sandbekken ' in Tysvær Council.

When one visits the Tysvaer's Culture House, which is in the Council centre Aksdal, visitors can see the exhibition "Travel to America" which is a permanent exhibition, and tells the story of the some 800,000 Norwegians who emigrated to North America.

On July 4 in the Year 2000, Norway celebrated Norwegian migration to the U.S. The itinerary for guided tours included Tysvær, birthplace of Cleng Peerson .