Lee County Biography


Ommon Hilleson, the first Norwegian immigrant to Lee county, is regarded with so much pride by his countrymen as to suggest the attributes of a Scandinavian deity, and a little notice of him at the head of this article will not be out of place. He reached our shores in 1837, and walked all the way from New York to Chicago. From the latter place he started for the Norwegian settlement on Fox river on foot, but being overtaken by a covered wagon filled with men, women and children, and being invited to ride with them, got in. He was by this time able to understand a little English, and when two of the men got out and walked behind and talked together about his money, their real character and intentions were revealed to him. He had some money, and no doubt his situation was uncomfortable, until a man and a woman driving a team providentially overtook them, when he leaped out as the charmed bird flies when the spell is broken, and sprang into the other wagon without a word of parting to the one or of introduction to the other. His leap in the dark had brought him to good footing, for this time he had not fallen among thieves, but among some of his own people going home to Fox river, and his journey thither was happily relieved of further unpleasant incident. It has a singular seeming, but is nevertheless a verity, that with scarcely any knowledge of the English vernacular he left all his countrymen behind and pushed forward to Lee Center among strangers, not in habit, sentiment and nationality only, but in language also. This shows him to have had the truly pioneering spirit; he could not have been less than a pioneer. Having obtained work there, it was not long till he was able to start independently, and he settled in Bradford township, where he became wealthy, and his widow, Elizabeth Hilleson, yet resides. In course of time, as a certain consequence, other Norwegians came and settled around him, and as their numbers increased they scattered out, many going early to Sublette township. The first to go was Lars Larson Risetter, in 1847, who was also the second to come to Willow Creek.

Transcribed by Christine Walters (In the section for Norwegians)
History of Lee County Together with Biographical Matter, Statistics, Etc. Chicago by H.H. Hill and Company Publishers 1881


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