Lee County Biography

Lars L. Risetter
Willow Creek Twp.


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Lars Larsen Risetter, retired farmer, Lee, was born in Hardanger, Borgons stift (state), Norway, March 30, 1820. He was the youngest son of Lars Larsen and Anna (Peterson) Risetter, and was reared to farming, and received a common school education. In the middle of March, 1847, he left his home in Norway to take passage for America; he was delayed a month in the city of Bergen, was a month crossing the ocean, and still another month in reaching Chicago. He proceeded from New York by the Hudson river to Albany, from thence by rail to Buffalo, and the remainder of the way by the lakes. Ommon Hilleson, the first Norwegian settler in Lee connty, had brothers and sisters in the party with which Mr. Risetter came, and he was to meet them in Chicago and transport them to Lee Center, but failed to reach there before they got away, although they were detained awhile in the place. "Big Nels," the most prominent Norwegian in the Fox river colony, conveyed them aa far as his home, and there they hired a man and his team to bring them to Lee Center, where they arrived on June 20.

Mr. Risetter was taken with fever and ague and was ill all summer, and not able to work before December. He arrived at Lee Center sick, penniless, and unable to make himself understood and his wants known to the strangers among whom he was cast, for Ommon Hilleson was still in Chicago, or between the two places. To say the least, this was a painful situation, and Mr. Risetter will never forget it. But the cloud lifted somewhat and the sun shone with a brighter effulgence when Hilleson returned, for then was the meeting of old-time friends and near relations after long years of tedious separation and waiting. In the autumn he was married to Miss Gertrude Hilleson, who had taken passage with him from Norway, and immediately they hired out in Sublette, to Thomas Fessenden, for $15 per month for the labor of both. They continned so employed one year, and until they had saved enough to buy 80 acres of land from the government, when they began farming on their own account. They reared a little log cabin, in which they dwelt with much comfort until 1856, when they sold out and in February moved to Willow Creek. It should be recognized in this place that they were the first family of Norwegian settlers iu Sublette township and the second in this. Mr. Risetter bought the S.W. 1/4 of Sec. 15 at the price at which the government sold public land, $1.25 per acre, but was not forehanded enough to pay for it; so Col. Dement advanced the money at ten per cent interest, and held it in his name three years, when Mr. Risetter became the virtual owner. He and his wife labored with severe industry, and from this time dates a period of signal financial success in their history. At one time they owned 920 acres of valuable land in a body, besides tracts in various other places, but they have sold off 280 acres, and the rest is occupied by their children. Both belong to the Lutheran church, and Mr. Risetter is a republican. They have had seven children: Anna, Lewis, Holden, Thomas (dead), and three infants (dead). Anna is the wife of A. C. Olson, minister and farmer, and lives in Kankakee county, this state; Lewis married Miss Melinda Johnson, and lives on the old homestead, and Holden, who was married November 11, 1875, to Miss Julia Christopher, lives ou the N.E. 1/4 Sec. 21. Holden's three children are Louisa, Betsy, and Lewis. The Risetters are among tho most substantial, influential and best respected people in this part of the county.

Transcribed by Christine Walters
History of Lee County Together with Biographical Matter, Statistics, Etc. Chicago by H.H. Hill and Company Publishers 1881

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Lars L. Risetter is a fine type of the Scandinavian race that has done so much for Lee County in promoting its industries, its growth in various directions, and its welfare generally. He is one of its pioneer farmers, and has acquired moderate means by the successful management of his extensive farming interests in Willow Creek Township, of which he is an old and honored resident.

Mr. Risetter was born in Bergensteft, Hardanger, Norway, March 30, 1826. He grew to manhood amid the pleasant scenes of his birth, and was very well educated in the local schools. He early acquired a knowledge of farming on his father's farm, and continued to live in the old home until 1847. The 20th of April, that year, was an important date in his young life, as he then bade a long farewell to his old friends and the familiar places of his youth, and set his face toward America as the goal of his hopes and ambitions. He sailed from Bergen, and after a voyage of a month on the Atlantic ocean, he landed at New York on the 20th of May. He came directly to Illinois from that city, journeying up the Hudson over to Albany, from there by rail to Buffalo, and thence by the lakes to Chicago, where he secured a ride with a farmer to the Fox River settlement, and from there came with a hired team to Lee Center. He found himself a stranger in a strange land, without money, and unable to speak the English language, and, what was worse than all, sick with ague and from the effects of his long and tiresome journey of many thousand miles, his situation seemed serious for awhile. But a young man of his resolution; fortitude and strength of character who had traveled so far in search of a future home, was not to be defeated at the outset, and as soon as he was able he sought employment at whatsoever his hands could find to do and obtained a place to work on a farm by the month. His prospects were not bright; as he was sickly, but he was found to be a ready and willing worker, habitually industrious, quick and capable, and although not strong and robust he commanded the usual wages paid to a workman in those days. He prudently saved his money, and finally for the sum of $63 secured a land warrant entitling him to eighty acres of land in Sublette Township. It was a part of the wild prairie, which at that time was unsettled in this county, and deer, wolves and other wild animals were frequently seen where are now rich farms and flourishing villages. The settlements had been made mostly in the timber, as the value of the prairie land for farming purposes had not been realized. There were no railways in the State, and communication with the outside world was by the way of rough roads or over the trackless prairies. As a pioneer of Northern Illinois Mr. Risetter has been an interested witness of the many wonderful changes that the years have brought, and he has been a potent factor in developing this section from the wilderness.

Our subjects first needed work was, after he came into possession of his land, to build a log house after the pioneer fashion. He obtained the logs by felling trees that stood on his place, and then, as was the custom in those days of mutual helpfulness, invited his neighbors to the "raising," and in one day by their united labors the dwelling was completed ready for occupancy, and Mr. Risetter then devoted his energies to the improvement of his home and land. He sold that place in 1856 for much more than its original price, as its value had been much increased by the time and labor he had expended in its development. He then bought a tract of land in Willow Creek Township, same county, and has resided here. continuously ever since, being today one of its best-known citizens. He has met with ordinary success in the pursuit of his calling, has a home replete with comfort, a finely equipped farm, amply supplied with modem machinery for carrying on the various farming operations in which he was engaged, and at one time he owned upwards of nine hundred acres of choice land, but is now re­tired from farming and has divided the farm between his sons.

December 19, 1847, Mr. Risetter celebrated his marriage with Miss Gertrude Hillison, and the wedded life thus entered upon that far away Christmas more than forty years ago has been one of true happiness. Mrs. Risetter was also born in Bergensteft, Norway, and she came across the waters to a new home in this country in the same ship with her future husband. Their marriage has been blessed to them by the birth of five children, of whom three survive; Annie, wife of the Rev. A. C. Olsen, Lewis and Holden. Our subject gives intelligent heed to politics, and has mostly voted the Republican ticket. He and his wife are earnest Christians, and in the Lutheran Church find true teachings according to the Word of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

Transcribed by Christine Walters - Portraits and Biographical 1892

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