Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Skeletons in the closet... 
Fredrikstad, Norway
Albert Bradt de Normand



Albert Andriessen Bradt or Bratt the Norman, my tenth great grandfather, was a sailor along a large river, the Glommen in Fredrikstad, Norway.  As a part of the peasant class, he and his wife and two children were lured to New Amsterdam with the hope of bettering themselves.  The late voyage ran into many delays and storms, even narrowly missing privateers and lasted six and a half months.  A third child was born during a rough patch on the sea, and was named "Storm," often called "Storm of the Sea." 


The fly in the ointment was that Bratt couldn't seem to play well with others.  He was known for a violent temper and being quarrelsome. One wrote of him "I hear he is a strange character." His arranged partnership in a sawmill fell apart hardly before it started when he couldn't get along, and he pursued farming, furs and fishing instead. He raised apples, ran cattle, traded with the Indians, and dealt in real estate too. Bratt was fined many times for his smuggling, but refused to pay the fines.  He eventually had his own small ship for his commerce.  He went back to managing two mills on a large waterfall on the Tawasentha of Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha"fame.  The name of the river was changed to Norman Kill (River) after him.

"In the Vale of Tawasetha,
In the green and silent valley,
By the pleasant water-courses
Dwelt the singer Nawadaha
Round about the Indian village
Spread the meadows and the corn-fields,
Beyond them stood the forest,
Stood the groves of singing pine-trees,
Green in Summer, white in Winter,
Ever sighing, ever singing..." 

Bratt was not afraid to cause trouble with worship as well.  Back in Norway, his village's Lutheran Church predated the 1200's (still standing today.)  He became an elder in an unauthorized Lutheran congregation directly across the street from the Dutch Reformed Church.  There was an "altercation," after church and he was heavily fined.  He did not do so well the other six days of the week either.    He was brought before authorities for his cruelty and brutality towards his wife and children. He was taken to court for a knife fight, stabbing another man in the belly over a card game.   Finally he buried not one, but two wives.  He and his third wife (whose first husband was killed in an Indian attack) were legally separated a few months after marriage "because strife and difference has arisen between them." He was ordered to provide her with an annual alimony of "eighty schepelis in apples and beavers, but he didn't even do that.  Eventually he went to live with an unmarried son.  Even so, the community asked that his family either confine him or  "remove the old Noorman" as he throws fire around the house and threatens to burn his son."  He also was  accused of  behaving "improperly" before young people, throwing a knife at a neighbor, and destroying a neighbor's property. 

Was he suffering from a mental condition, driven by the demon of liquor, or had his well-known irascible behavior, which was "becoming a concern and embarrassment to his children," catch up with him?  His escapades are well-documented, almost more than any other relative.  Be careful how you behave, you might make a name for yourself on the pages of history like this Bratt of our family.

It won't do to  become set in your ways if your way is cantankerous.  Age graciously so that "With years a richer life begins, the spirit mellows." (Trowbridge)  "Ripe age gives tone to violins, wine, and good fellows." (Trowbridge)  My man and I remind each other to practice now for who we want to grow up to be in old age.  Scripture says, "Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding." Job 12:12 

Albert A. Bratt, you are a skeleton in my closet!    Rather appropriate for this time of the year, wouldn't you say?   My gr. grandfather can only serve as a warning, not as an example, to the generations that follow.  He's a blot in the Kinfolk book.  Only God knows if his name was written in the other book.

 Fredrikstad, Norway

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