Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 439-40.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  B. O. Christenson

B. O. Christenson, a furniture dealer and cabinetmaker of Sioux Rapids, belongs to that class of enterprising, thrifty and progressive men that Norway has furnished to the new world and which constitutes an important element in our citizenship.  He was born in Norway, September 1, 1831, the son of Christian Swanson and Anna (Olsen) Christenson, who were natives of Norway, where they were reared and afterward spent their entire lives.  The father died in 1855 at the age of seventy-four years.


B. O. Christenson was reared in his native country and came to America in 1869, arriving on the 4th of July, when the country was engaged in the celebration of the establishment of the republic.  For about one and one-half years he was located in Chicago and was afterward in the employ of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company in their new shops at Aurora, Illinois, there spending eighteen months.


In 1872 he arrived in Buena Vista county, Iowa, reaching Sioux Rapids on the 29th of October, since which time he has made his home here.  Soon after his arrival he secured a location which he believed would be suitable for a furniture store and had the foundation laid for the building, but there was some delay in beginning the structure as lumber had to be hauled from Newell, Iowa.  Finally the store was built.  Mr. Christenson had admitted O. K. Hogen to a partnership but by the time the building was completed their capital was almost exhausted so that they had little left with which to buy goods.  Mr. Christenson's possessions did not amount to more than five hundred dollars, while his partner had about three hundred and fifty dollars, and almost the entire amount was used in paying for the building and ground.  They managed, however, to put about one hundred dollars into furniture and started in business. Difficulties and hardships awaited them for there was little money in the county and they were obliged to take payment for their goods in black walnut lumber, which at that time brought a very low price on the market.  The finest quality of black walnut sold for only four cents per foot for dry and three cents for green lumber.  Then came the financial panic of 1873; furthermore the country suffered from grasshopper scourge for several years and the outlook was very discouraging for the new settlers, many who came to this section of the state were forced to go elsewhere in order to earn a living, for crops could not be raised and in consequence there was little market for any kind of merchandise.


Mr. Christenson and his partner struggled along, however, doing the best they could and finally in 1880 the Northwestern Railroad was built through Sioux Rapids and gave impetus to the growth and improvement of the little town.  The farmers, too, had better crops, secured higher prices and with nearer markets times began to improve.  Mr. Christenson continued in the furniture business for about ten years, when another firm came into the field with a large stock of goods and the competition became so strong that the firm of Christenson & Hogen sold out to the new concern.


Mr. Christenson then opened a shop for cabinet and repair work and has continued in this line to the present time.  He learned his trade in the old country and is a skilled workman, having served an apprenticeship of five years, during which time he had to labor incessantly from early morning until late evening hours.  He had to be up every morning at five o'clock and his employers supplied him with but a scant allowance of food.  He practically had no wages and as his master possessed a cruel disposition.  Mr. Christenson had to endure many beatings and other harsh treatment.  However, he managed to gain a good knowledge of cabinetmaking and this is proving to him a substantial source of revenue at the present time.  He has always led a busy, active and useful life and still remains an energetic worker although he has now passed the seventy-seventh milestone on life's journey.  His record is a credible one for in all of his dealings he has been honorable and straight-forward.  He votes with the republican party and his religious faith is indicated by his membership in the Lutheran church.  He believes that he has had better opportunities in the new world than he could have had in Norway and is very loyal in his allegiance to the stars and stripes.