Ancient artifacts and Norwegian history

The Bosque Museum in Clifton, Texas, offers unique insights

Bosque Museum

Photo: Cynthia Elyce Rubin
In honor of the 150th anniversary (1825-1975) of the arrival of the Restauration in 1975, Cleng Peerson appeared on a Norwegian NOK 1.40 postage stamp. This was a two-stamp issue that also included a stamp depicting a sod house or claim shanty with pioneers on a NOK 1.25 postage stamp. The image was based on the John Bakken sod house photograph in the Fred Hultstrand History in Pictures Collection, courtesy of the North Dakota Institute of Regional Studies in Fargo, N.D.

CYNTHIA ELYCE RUBIN
The Norwegian American

The Bosque Museum (bosquemuseum.org) in Clifton, Texas, features the region’s history. The largest collection and emphasis is on Native American artifacts collected in Bosque County, dating back 10,000 years ago, down through the Archaic period. This collection includes a major exhibit about the Paleo-Americans found in the Horn Shelter in Bosque County.

Almost 50 years ago, archaeologists Al Redder and Frank Watt discovered the double burial of an adult male and pre-teen female that dated back 11,700 years. This discovery was one of only 14 burials found that date to the Paleo-Indian period, some 13,500-9,500 years ago in North America and perhaps the only double burial.

The burial also included numerous grave inclusions, including turtle shells, deer antler tools, bird claws, coyote teeth, and snail shell beads. A finely made bone needle was also recovered. The exhibit features replicas of these objects and photographs by Smithsonian photographer Chip Clark. This trove of artifacts demonstrates the complexity of an ancient culture and is one of the more important archaeological sites in the United States. The current exhibit is being updated and will reopen soon.

Photo: Barbara Aars / Bosque Museum
The rocking chair made by Cleng Peerson is a prized piece in Bosque Museum’s Norwegian Collection and displayed in a permanent exhibit. It was one of the few artifacts that belonged to Peerson and was used by him when he resided at the Ove Colwick home (now CP Farm) until his death.

Other collections include a firearm collection, including 150 long guns and handguns dating from the 1750s, a photo archive of early photographs of the first immigrants and everyday life in Bosque County, and the Norwegian collection, which is important to our readers. This includes a book collection, books brought from Norway, many of which were used in an early lending library in the Norse Community and date from 1735.

The Joseph Olson Log Cabin served as the childhood home of Jacob Olson (1854-1937), founder of the Bosque Museum. His father, Joseph, built it in 1866. The cabin was moved to the museum grounds in 1985 when efforts were made to preserve and restore the walls and interior.

But the pièce de résistance is the rocking chair made by Cleng Peerson, the most prized piece in the Norwegian Collection’s permanent exhibit. The Restauration, a sloop built in 1801 in Hardanger, became a symbol of Norwegian-American immigration. On what is considered the first organized emigration from Norway to the United States, the Restauration set sail from Stavanger on July 4, 1825, with 52 people aboard. This group, led by Peerson landed in New York City on Oct. 9, 1825, after a three-month voyage. Later, in 1854, the Texas State Legislature granted Peerson 320 acres of land west of Clifton. This chair is one of the few artifacts known to have belonged to Peerson. He used the chair when he resided at the Ove Colwick home (now CP Farm) until his death in 1865. Peerson is buried in the cemetery by Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Clifton.

Norway published stamps featuring Peerson in both 1947 and 1975. King Olav V of Norway visited the cemetery and the Bosque Museum in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Peerson, and he planted a tree at the museum to commemorate the event. To view Peerson’s chair is a thrill, indeed.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Cynthia Elyce Rubin

Cynthia Elyce Rubin

Cynthia Elyce Rubin, PhD, is a visual culture specialist, travel writer, and author of articles and books on decorative arts, folk art, and postcard history, who collects postcards, ephemera, and early photography. See www.cynthiaelycerubin.com.

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