Johan A. Henrickson was the young millwright who was not good enough for his in-laws. But when he got to the sugar plantation in Hawaii, he was the only one who could repair the mill. Because of that he was given the job of mill engineer.
Johan, born in Bergen in 1854, his wife Jenna, born in Christiania in 1851, and their daughter Magda Alvida, born in Drammen in 1877, were passengers on the Beta.
When interviewed by historian Eleanor Davis, Magda said that the government of Hawaii sent a Mr. L’Orange to Norway to recruit new workers for the sugar plantations. Mr. L’Orange told the Norwegians that they “could go to the hills and find eggs and chickens. They could pick their own coffee from the trees.”
However, reality proved to be a different story. At first the family lived in barracks in Papaikou and cooked their food in a shed outside. But when their father was transferred from the heavy toil in the fields to the position of mill engineer, conditions got better and they moved into a nice house on a hill beside the mill.
“The plant manager had red hair and beard and was called the Red Devil by the Norwegians,” Magda said.
The following is taken from the writings of Stanley Hartmann, who is grandson of Jenna and John:
“Grandma Hendricksen used to tell of her early days on Hawaii. The house they lived in had dirt floors and was a whitewashed shack. She would cry and cry because of the miserable living conditions.
Then she would tell of her childhood in Norway and the lovely home she lived in with lots of dairy products, pastries, eider down comforters, white linens, and parties.
Jenna married Johan Henrickson, who was a millwright, against her parents’ will.
Henrickson was below her social level. Her parents disowned her because of the marriage. She would tell of going to church, sitting in the pew behind her folks, and they would not even recognize her. It was because of this disowning that Hawaii seemed like a good venture.”
He could do the job
Once the plantation mill broke down and the engineer could not fix it. The manager sent word to the field hands that whoever could get the mill running again would become mill engineer.
Henrickson repaired it and got the job.
“Aloha from Forgotten Norwegians in Hawaii”