Fillmore County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settlement in the state of
Minnesota was established in Fillmore County and therefore this county
is mentioned in connection with the first settlers. But the accounts
one sees in newspapers and books have been inaccurate. When, for
example, it states that Hans Valder was the first, it is like jumping
over two years - and several persons.
Chr. Hellicksen, who has lived among the first
settlers and their children in Newburg, Fillmore County for 50 years,
and who, thus, knows what he is speaking of when he says that Rven
Eilertsen† from Kragerø and Halvor Gjællervig† from
Stavanger came to Newburg from Muskego County, Wis., in 1851*. Later in
the year came Anders Nepstad† from Valders, Hellick Glaim from Nummedal
as well as Mikkel† and Anders† Lunne from Land parish.
Lars Tollefsen with family from Hallingdal came to
Mabel from Wisconsin in 1852. His son Lewis was born the 6th of July
1852, was the first Norwegian child born in Minnesota. The information
about the Tollefsen family comes from E. L. Tollefsen who came along
when they settled in Mabel in 1852, so it can be relied on. In the same
year came O. Vem† and settled in the Root River Valley, while Even
Knudsen Besteland and the brothers Knud and Aamund Olesen
Qvæstad, all from Sætersdalen built their cabins at York.
Ole Jørgensen from Sætersdalen and Daniel Steensland also came to Fillmore in 1852.
In 1853, there were many who settled in the county.
Hans Valder from the Stavanger area and 6 others with their families
came (from La Salle County, Ill.) and settled in Newburg: Ole O. Tuft
from Slidre, Valders and Oliver Goodrich settled in the area of
Rushford, Peter Petersen Haslerud from Nummedal settled in the area of
the town of Peterson, which gets its name from him. Jens Johnson Nessa
from Aardal and Tore Olsen Faae† from Finnø went to the Town of
Tawney. The last two and their families came from La Salle County, Ill.
with 3 pairs of oxen, 2 old wagons, 4 cows and household goods: as
neighbors they received about twenty Indians, who had their camp right
beside them. They each built a log cabin, 10x12, without a floor and a
roof of basswood bark. Next after them came Jacob Haga† , R. C. Spande,
Christian Christophersen† , Ole Gjermonsen† , Bjørn Larsen and
Lars Tarvestad from La Salle County, Ill. About the same time came Hans
Arnesen, Fillmore County's first blacksmith, from Rock County, Wis.
We see also that the immigrations came partly from
Illinois and partly from Wisconsin. Some came in their wagons past
McGregor, Ia., others over the Mississippi River at La Crosse, and even
others others came by steamboat to Winona, which at that time was
Fillmore County's marketplace. To get their Norway letters and other
mail, they went to Decorah, Ia. - to there, it was only 20-30 miles!
The first Norwegians in the area of Harmony were
Tallak Vrølsen, Arne Kirkeli† , Even Kirkeli† , Even Evensen
Kirkeli† and Torger Hofta, all from Sætersdalen, Herbjørn†
and Østen Engusland from Tinn, Johannes Sauelien† , Ole Kvammen†
, Johannes Tho† , and Anders Olsen, all from Hitterdal, Ole Stabek,
Gunder Toe† , and Kittil Fjøstuft, all from Seljord, as well as
Ole and Asle Flatastøl† from Vinje, Telemarken, Torger Feland
from Moe parish, Nels Gaasedalen† from Valders, and Erik Solseth with 4
sons from Hallingdal.
All these came in 1854. Next after them came
Svennung Johansen Bergan, Knut Petersen Husevold, B. J. Bruflot,
Helleck Olsen Morheim, Nels Nelson and Østen Nelson Morheim,
Halvor Joh. Busness, Gjermund Joh. Kasen, John Johs. Kasen and Tosten
Ellefsen Kvammen and more.
Ole Hellicksen, Mathias Hellicksen, Peder O. Hadland
and Herbjørn Olsen Øian, all from Tinn, Telemarken, as
well as Ole O. Halling from Hallingdal were the first in the area of
The first in the area of Whalan were John Johnson
Rodebakken from Strand at Stavanger. Right after him came Gilbert Holt
(Holt Township is named after him), John Ellefsen, M. S. Andersen, Knut
O. Vaagaard, John Anderson, Halvor Kittilsen, Ole M. Rekaness and Ole
In the area of Pilot Mound Christian Bratrud was the
first. Wheat, rye and oats was the pioneer's main source of income. Day
pay at that time varied between 0.50 to $1.50. I have already given
particular place to Fillmore County, because it is the first - and one
of the most Norwegian counties in the State of Minnesota, which overall
has the most Norwegians than any other state in the union. But I must
also include some bits that give a closer understanding of the
pioneer's travels, life and hardships.
Old Gjermund Kasen writes the following, "I
emigrated with my parents from Vestfjorddalen, Tinn, Telemarken in
1843. About the 20th of May we set off on an old half-rotten ship. And
when we got out on the North Sea, there was a terrible storm that drove
us back to land. Even the captain had little hope for our rescue. We
had to go into Lindesnæs for repairs. Finally we got to Havre in
France, but here we had to wait for two weeks for an American sailship
that was to conduct us further.
While we lay in Havre I and three comrades took a
tour in the city - and went unfortunately so far and twisted that we
could not find our way back.
After a whole day's desperate wandering, we reached
the ship, that was ready to sail, and both we and our parents wept at
Arriving at Milwaukee, Wis., we were met by Halvor Thompson (better
known under the name 'Wind Lake'), who took us to Muskego (by Wind
Lake) with oxen and log-wheeled wagon. We reached there in September -
after a 4 month trip. That fall nearly all the settlers became sick of
swamp fever, from which many died, they were buried at a place known
today as 'Indianerhaugen' (Indian mound). I was one of the very first
confirmed in the Muskego Church, the first Norwegian church in America.
In 1856, we came here to Fillmore County, where we
also experienced the pioneer difficulties - always in hope of better
times, that finally came.
After a stay of over 60 years in this country, there are many things to
look back on, but it is heavy that most of the old, familiar faces are
Fillmore County's most traveled Norwegian is John
Johnson. He was born in Sollien, Gudbrandsdalen in 1835 and went to sea
in his 20s. His second trip was to Archangel on the White Sea. Here
they had a ship wreck, but were finally rescued in an exhausted
situation. Later - after having visited most of Europe's ports - he
joined the navy - for a time under the command of Baron Vedel
Jarlsberg. After that he made a couple of trips to Brazil, South
America, where once they had to stay in their oilskins for several days
in a row during a desperate battle with the elements. After that he
made a trip around the world. Finally he emigrated to America
(naturally, he went as a seaman) and on this last trip, they collided
with an American sailship which went to the bottom with 14 of its crew.
The collision took place on the Newfoundland banks in a thick fog. Now,
John lives on solid land in Pilot Mound and is surrounded by old
acquaintances and friends.
Gullick Johnson from Tinn, Telemarken, was one of
those that (1854) emigrated by sailship to Havre, and several months on
the sea, 2 weeks from New York to Milwaukee and then by ox team, first
to Muskego, Wis., then to Decorah, Ia., and finally to Canton, Minn.,
where he now lives. H. A. Steensland, one of the pioneers at Tawney,
was married to a girl who was of an even poorer background than
himself. Her parents were a Norwegian pioneer couple and she was born
the stable of Charley Luraas in Norway, Ill., 1858. "But," says
Steensland, "if the house room was not big for pioneers, the heart room
was certainly bigger", and this has made him happy the whole time.
Our well known countryman, E. A. Hjelle of Whalan is
responsible for the following pioneer tale: "Their house stood not far
from a large river. The husband was away at work to earn something to
maintain the family. However, a severe rainstorm caused the river to
overflow its banks. Suddenly, while the mother and children were
inside, the house was surrounded by water, which poured in through the
door and other openings, and after a few minutes, everything that was
loose floated. Unfortunately, they could not get to the steps up to the
loft, so she broke off some boards in the ceiling and lifted the
children up through it. She could not get up herself as she had nothing
to climb on and did not have the strength to haul herself up. She had
to stand on the edge of the bed, holding onto the opening until the
next day, when her husband came home, got hold of a canoe and rescued
them from their dangerous and unpleasant situation. Do not forget the
old ones and what they have suffered." With respect to clerical things,
pioneer priest A. E. Boyum, Rushford, Minn., writes, "I came here to
Fillmore County in the fall of 1856 and live in the first period,
partly in the Town of Arendahl and partly in the Town of Rushford.
While I was here, we had a visit by Elling Eielsen, who held several
edification meetimgs and conducted necessary ministerial activities.
There was no church here at the time. Nor a priest in the area. I
heard, however, talk of a Pastor V. Koren, from Iowa, who had traveled
across the prairie to various places in the summer before I came in
1856: it was likely the southern part of ther county he visited. I was
sent as a missionary by Elling Eielsen's Friends to hold meetings among
the people in the southern part of Minnesota and the northern part of
Iowa until the end of January 1857. The next winter there was so much
snow and no roads, so I obtained a pair of skis that I continued to
use, first to a Stavanger settlement, 20 miles south of Decorah and
from there eastward to McGregor on the Mississippi River and further to
Norway Grove, Dane Co., Wis., where my parents and other relatives
lived. I got there when it was approaching spring. And in June we left
with ox wagon here to Fillmore County, where as mentioned, I had been
earlier, and where we now settled. There was established then a rather
large Norwegian Lutheran congregation and they called me as priest as
soon as I was ordained (1858). The next year we took the first steps to
get a meeting house, that, at a size of 18x34, we had sufficiently
finished in the summer of 1860 that we could hold our Synod meeting
there. This log house, according to recollections as well as research I
can state that it was the first Norwegian house of God in Fillmore
County ( and the first in Minnesota). It stood in the Town of Arendahl,
6 miles west of Rushford. The congregation that built it belonged to
Elling Eielsen's Society."
As mentioned above, Elling Eielsen's congregation in
the Town of Arendahl was established in 1857. The following year, there
were established the 'Bloomfield Norwegian Lutheran Congregation' by
Pastor V. Koren of the Norwegian Synod and 'The First Norwegian
Lutheran Congregation at Highland Prairie' by Pastor A. A. Scheie, who
belonged to The Augustana Synod. This was thus the beginning. And the
number of congregations and churches has grown.
According to the information I have collected in
1900, there were 30 Norwegian congregations and 24 churches in the
county, 16 belonging to The United Church, 7 to The Norwegian Synod, 5
to Hauge's Synod and 2 to the Methodist Church.
For information on the political area, see the
section 'Norwegians in public positions in America'. And for more about
'Vesterheimen', 'Det Udflyttede Norge' and 'The Christian Youth', that
were published in their time here, see the section, 'Norwegian
newspapers and periodicals'.
Place with Norwegian names: Holt and Norway
Townships, Rud, Peterson, Soland, Hurdal and Bratsberg post offices:
Arendahl is called both a Township and post office. (N.B. The
description post office means also a small town - usually)
*While these who settled in Fillmore Co. in 1851
were truly the first Norwegian settlers in the State, I will point the
fact, that a Norwegian girl got lost in Minnesota the year before
(thus, in 1850): see Hennepin Co.
Aitkin County, Minnesota
Edward Carlsen from Smaalenene was the first
Norwegian in the area of Dorris, where there is a little Norwegian
settlement, established in the 1890s. Further south in the direction of
Opstead, there were two families who settled about the same time,
namely Reier Bakke and George Arnesen. Cedar Lake congregation, that
was established at Dorris by Pastor Ole Dahle in 1896 of The Lutheran
Free Church, was the first Norwegian congregation in Aitkin County. The
church was built in 1900. Now there are two Norwegian churches and
three congregations in this county, 2 of the congregations belonging to
The Lutheran Free church and 1 to The Norwegian Synod.
The first Norwegian to hold a public office in the
county was Ole R. Mousten from Sogn, he was elected as Sheriff in 1892.
Later (in 1898) he was elected as a member of the State Legislature.
Tronnes was the name of a post office that once
existed in Aitkin County. The post offices Erick and Jacobson exist
now, but it is doubtful they are of Norwegian origin. The Swedish
population is clearly larger than the Norwegian in Aitkin County.
Anoka County, Minnesota
At Ham Lake, where some few Norwegians settled,
Peter Eidum from Nedre Stjørdalen was the first. He settled here
in 1894. Also here, they had church service by priests of The Lutheran
Becker County, Minnesota
Hans Hansen from Hallingdal was the first Norwegian
in the vicinity of Detroit. He settled there in 1870 with Indians as
neighbors, at least they lived nearby.
The first Norwegian settler in the area of Lake Park was Martin Olsen. The year he came here is unknown.
The first to settled in Lake Park itself was Ole
Johnson Berg from Tolgen and in his immediate neighborhood was Peder
Ebeltoft from Tromsø. They settled here in 1872.
The first Norwegian to settle among the Indians in
the vicinity of where Dahl P.O. is now located, was Ole A. Dahl from
Bjørnør, N. Thjms. Amt.
About the Indian unrest in Becker County, one of my
correspondents has the following account, "There came rumors that the
Indians were on the warpath and that they had killed farmers up in
Richwood Town. Everyone fled hastily to what is now Lake Park, where
they built a fortification of boards, timbers and anything else that
was useful. A warehouse served as bedroom, dining room and storage for
provisions. All sorts of weaponry was also gathered here. The farmers
(and their families) from near and far kept within the fort and a watch
was instituted, both night and day. The men were in great suspense and
the women and children wept in fear of the wild Indians, who were
expected at every moment. However, in a few days, word came that the
whole thing was a false alarm, and the farmers went back to their
respective homes. There is, however, one Norwegian who bears a bad scar
from the Indians, namely T. K. Torgersen from Hallingdal, but that was
in Nicollet County, where he was in conflict with them. Torgersen's
father was one of those who took part in a hard battle against the
Indians at new Ulm in 1862.
Hay Creek Congregation, that was established at Lake
Park in 1871 by Pastor T. Vetlesen of The Norwegian Synod, and that
built a church in 1884, is the oldest Norwegian congregation in the
county. Now there are 13 Norwegian churches and 17 congregations, 6
belong to The Lutheran free Church, 5 to The Norwegian Synod, 4 to The
United Church, 1 to Hauge's synod and 1 to the Evangelical Free Church.
In 1871, when Becker County was being organized, the
Governor appointed some Norwegians to look after it. For information,
both about them and their Norwegian successors, see the section,
'Norwegians in public positions in America'
Pastor J. H. Myhre began a newspaper 'Fredsbudet' in
Cormorant in 1890. And for a time he published one with the name
'Brød og Sværd'
Lake Park Children's Home was started in 1896. (See the section, 'Norwegian-American Charitable Institutions)
Post offices with Norwegian names: Voss, Dahl, Senjen, Brager and Sorkness.
Beltrami County, Minnesota
John Stenerson from Østerdalen as well as H.
Samuelsen, H. Kjelsrud and Mr. Storgaard were the first Norwegian and
white settlers in the vicinity of Oakwood, they settled there in 1890.
The first in the area of Bemidji was Hans Rosby, who
settled there in 1894. Aksel Knudsen, Lars T. Otterstad and the
brothers Andrew and Mons Ericksen were certainly there (hunting and
fishing) a little earlier than Rosby, but they did not claim land
The first at Olberg was Sam Svalesen from Stavanger, he settled there in 1896.
The first in the vicinity of Spaulding was a Hans
Knudstad, who became mentally ill because of the lonely, sad life he
led. (There are, unfortunately, several of our pioneers in America who
have succumbed to the same illness)
The first settlers in Beltrami County were also
tormented by the Indians. They were often on the warpath and scared the
settlers from their homes. The Indian chieftain, Bemidji, who was an
honorable man, went around and warned the whites and instructed then in
hunting and tracking. There are many who owe him a debt of gratitude,
not only for his guidance and guard service, but also for his
hospitality they received in his home. Now they are free of the
redskins, since, as soon as they found out that trees and bushes did
not give them sufficient protection against Krag-Jørgensen
bullets, they disappeared.
(N.B. The mentioned rifle has won official recognition and was much
used in America also, which speaks well for Norwegian industry and
ingenuity. The rifle is still used in Norway)
The first Norwegian to hold public office in Beltrami County was Jacob Nygaard, Sheriff.
Landstads Congregation, that was established at Bagley in 1900 by
Pastor H. Thoresen of The United Church, was the first norwegian
congregation in the county. Its church was built in 1903. Pastor A. K.
Lockrem (then of The Lutheran Free Church) was, though, the first
priest working in this area. Now there are 6 Norwegian churches and 21
congregations, 11 belong to The United Church, 7 to The Lutheran Free
Church and 3 to The Norwegian Synod.
Places with Norwegian names: Holst, Aure, Rosby, Jette, Langor (Langaard) and Myran.
A Norwegian newspaper, 'Vort Nye Hjem' was begun in Bemidji in 1905, now its name is 'Normannaheimen'
Benton County, Minnesota
Ole Ingebrigtsen Gaustad from Lom, Gudbrandsdalen
was the first Norwegian in this county. He settled at Glendorado in
1867. Later in the year came Martin Eriksen from Elverum, Ole Solberg
from Ørskaug at Kristiania, Even Thompson from Ringsaker and B.
A. Frøiseth, Engebret and Sylvester Stenersen Sulem.
The following excerpts are from a book the
enterprising priests, P. Langseth, A. Larsgaard and R. J. Meland have
published about the settlements (Benton, Mille Lacs and Sherburne
Counties) where they work:
"The first summer there was so little food in these
areas, that the government in St. Pauls had to send a little maize and
wheat flour. But the settlers themselves had to fetch it at Clear Lake.
It was that summer that Even Thompson and Solberg had to carry the
flour sacks on their backs the long way - with great danger to
themselves and the sacks over an insecure log bridging across the St.
Almost all the young men who had guns went hunting,
and one can still see these old, venerable weapons in their houses. The
Indians still moved around in large groups at that time. At
'Indianerhaugen' where Per Stae now has erected his residence, the
Indians had a fixed meeting place, where 50-60 could camp during the
summer into the fall. From there they would roam about the new settlers
and begged for tobacco, bread, meat and anything they could get hold
of. Often, also, they would come at mealtimes. Mrs. Ole Engebretsen,
who felt sorry for them, often made a fine meal, put a white tablecloth
on the table and laid knives and forks. They behaved honorably and took
an especial interest in her son, who often met them while hunting. When
he had died, some of the Indians came and wept at his grave. Mrs.
Perlinus tells that they had a surplus of meat in their camp, but they
were not so inclined, that they gave any to the whites. Once, when the
chieftain's children were sick, he came and asked for eggs for his
children. She also made visits to 'Indianerhaugen' and was then kindly
received. They took her into a tent and pointed to the animal hides she
was to sit on. The squaws sang so strangely to their children, it
sounded so drab and monotonous to her ears. On a little slope south of
their camp are the remains of the weapon workshop - and many pieces of
Old Holland asserts that he was the best bear hunter in the whole area.
When he first came up there, he could sit in his doorway and shoot
bears and deer. Nils Gilbertsen says that when he came, the deer up
there came in small herds and that there were for many years, more of
them than to see than cattle. In the fall of 1881, Olav Andersen shot
16 or 17 and Jørgen Simonsen, 13. It meant watching at dusk,
when they came out to feed. A good hunter had to know its traits and be
positioned properly, next have a steady hand, not have buck fever and
finally, sight and shoot at the right moment."
But the amusing is mixed with the sad. There is also
recounted this from the pioneer era, "Lars Hegland was pulling a block
of ice out of a frozen pond, formed by the river in flood times. Then
he fell into the water and when his daughter heard her father's cries,
she raced to him and stretched her hand to him. But with that she was
pulled into the water and perished along with her father."
Santiago Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, that was
established in 1873 by Pastor H. G. Stub, belonging to The Norwegian
Synod, was the first and until now, the only Norwegian Lutheran
congregation in the county. Its church was built in 1879. Besides there
is a 'free-free' congregation consisting of Norwegians, Swedes and
Danes - Anabaptists.
There is a post office with the name Ronneby (Rønneby) in this county.
Big Stone, County, Minnesota
C. K. Orton, from whom the City of Ortonville
received its name, was the first white man that settled in Big Stone
County. He came there from Fillmore County early in the 60s and began
trading with the Indians. At his death he was a wealthy man.
Ole Bolsta from Aamot, Østerdalen and David
Johnson from Tromsø were the first Norwegian farmers in Big
Stone County. They came from St. Peter, Minn. and settled at Artichoke
Lake in 1869. They started growing wheat. To New Ulm, their nearest
marketplace, it was 112 miles. They used oxen exclusively for driving
In the vicinity of Beardsley, Mathias and Lars†
Olsen from Biri, Arnt Holmlie from the Trondhjem area and Lars
Halvorsen Bøe from Nedre Telemarken, were the first settlers,
they settled there in 1871.
In Big Stone County, there are 7 Norwegian churches
and 12 congregations, 3 belong to The Norwegian Synod, 3 to The United
Church, 3 to The Lutheran free Church, 2 to the Baptists and 1 to the
There once existed a post office with the name
Holmlie and one of the Norwegian area still goes under the name of
Eidskog. (Norwegian place names - - on American land - - was an
adornment for Norwegians. They had to plant them as often as possible
and then fight to retain them)
Blue Earth County, Minnesota
Even Pedersen† , Knudt Strøm† and Anders
Strøm from Øier parish, Gudbrandsdalen were the first
settlers in Blue Earth County, for in 1857 they settled in Butternut
Valley, right by Linden, that was the center for the first Norwegian
settlers in Brown, Blue Earth and Watonwan Counties. Linden lies in the
southeast corner of Brown, adjoining the other two counties here
mentioned. The Indians raided badly here in those days and they had
many (sometimes bloody) battles with them.
The first Norwegian in the vicinity of Rapidan was John Roland† from Gudbrandsdalen
The first in the area of Medo were Ole Johnson from the Kristiania area and Thron Hoverson from Flekkefjord.
And the first (or one of the first) at Mankato was
Ovald Røsler. He came to America on the sailship 'Marie' from
Bergen in 1864. The ship suffered breakdown on the Atlantic Ocean, was
14 weeks underway and the passengers were three times in open boats on
the wild sea.
Blue Earth Congregation, that was established in
1863 by Pastor T. H. Dahl, belonging to The Norwegian Synod, is the
county's oldest Norwegian congregation. Its church was built in 1872.
Now there are 11 Norwegian churches and 14 congregations, 5 belonging
to The Norwegian Synod, 3 to The United Church, 3 to Hauge's Synod, 2
to The Lutheran Free Church and 1 to Eielsen's Society.
There has been an attempt to build a Norwegian Old Age Home in Mankato.
Thron Hoverson Ovedal from Bakke, near Mandal, was the first Norwegian to hold public office in the county.
Brown County, Minnesota
The first norwegian here was Andrew Lundberg from
Hurdalen. He settled at Linden in 1857. (Compare Brown with Blue Earth
and Watonwan, the adjacent counties)
Pastor A. S. Fredriksen was the first Norwegian who
visited these areas, next V. J. Muus and it is to these priests, that
Linden Congregation, the first in the county, owes its existence. The
first settlers in Butternut Valley, Town of Madelia, Riverdale and Lake
Hanska belonged to Linden Congregation, which embraced a large area. It
was established in the 60s. Now there are 6 Norwegian congregations,
each with its church, in Brown County, 5 of them belong to The United
Church and 1 to the Unitarians. Pastor Kristofer Janson, now in Norway,
was the founder of the last mentioned congregation, which has its
church at Hanska.
Nils C. Rukke from Næs, Hallingdal was the
first Norwegian to hold public office in the county. He was elected
County Treasurer in 1872. The first of our countrymen to represent
Brown Co. in the State Legislature was Knud Helling, elected in 1875.
The post offices Linden and Godahl have gotten their
names from Norwegians in the area. Linden is also the name of a
Township, as mentioned above.
Carlton County, Minnesota
Anton Dahl from Gudbrandsdalen was the first
Norwegian in the vicinity of Wrenshall, where there is a small
Norwegian settlement. He settled there in 1895.
At Cloquet, there are also a number of Norwegians.
Ole Brune from Volden, Søndmøre was one of the first here.
One of the Norwegians - a logger, who traveled in
the forests up there before there were any white settlers, tells that
it was anything but pleasant to live up there among the ravenous wolves
and wild Indians. And he adds, "Many of those who have disappeared in
America without anyone knowing where, have probably closed their eyes
in the primeval forest, they get no grave marker, no posthumous fame,
no recognition and thus are that class that, more than any other,
opened the way for civilization."
There are 2 Norwegian churches and 5 congregations
in Carlton County, 3 of them belong to The Norwegian Synod and 2 to The
Lutheran Free Church.
Norman P.O. has probably gotten its name from Norwegians.
Carver County, Minnesota
A man by the name Axel Jørgensen from
Fredrikshald, who was quite an adventurer, settled at a place where
Carver City now lies, as early as 1852, but he moved away within a few
In 1855, there was a small company of Norwegians who
settled right by the aforementioned place, namely Paul Olsen Voldberg
with wife and children (among them Ole Paulson, later a priest) and Ole
Hendricksen from Grue, Solør as well as Østen
Gunnøvsen with his son from Tinn, Telemarken It is also said
that there were some from Lands parish. But they soon moved away and
turned the area over to the Swedes. There is no Norwegian settlement in
Cass County, Minnesota
In the vicinity of Pequot, where there is a small
Norwegian settlement, the first was Kittel Halvorson, who came there in
In the area of Graff, there are also some
Norwegians. Hal. Rosendal from Trondhjem was the first here. He came in
Lunde Congregation, that was established at Pequot
in 1895 by Pastor D. J. Grove, belonging to The Norwegian Synod, is the
county's oldest Norwegian congregation. It built a church in 1900. The
Norwegian settlement in Cass County is, however, new. Several
congregations were under organization at the time when this information
The first Norwegian to hold public office in this
county was M. J. Quam from Inderøen, he was elected Registrar of
Deeds in 1898.
J. P. Bakken moved the Norwegian newspaper
'Arbeidsmanden' from Fertile, Polk County to this (Cass ) Co. in 1901
and continued the same here.
Graff P.O. got its name from the Norwegian Flategraff there.
Chippewa County, Minnesota
One of the very first Norwegians in this county was
Ole G. Heen from Vang, Valders. He writes from Maynard, where he has
lived for 47 years, since he came there in 1857.
Further west - in the vicinity of Montevideo and
Watson, these were the first: Ole Jacobsen Haugland from Bøe,
Telemarken, Hans Halvorsen from Hadeland, Knut Angrimsen from
Sætersdalen, Ole F. Roe from Tønsberg, as well as Hans
Gulden† , Ole Svennungsen† and Angrim Knutsen† , who settled there in
1867. They lived in dugouts until they were in a position to build
proper houses, or as one of the old-timers says in his travel account,
"- - and then on the wild prairie, where we dug ourselves into a gravel
pile." Wheat growing became the county's main source of income.
Immanuel Congregation, that was established at
Watson in 1870 by Pastor L. J. Markhus, belonging to The Norwegian
Synod, was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. Its church
was built in 1876. The same year, Zions church was built in Tunsberg
Township, it was also Synod people who built it. Now there are 19
Norwegian churches and 20 congregations, 11 belong to The United
Church, 5 to The Norwegian Synod, 2 to the Methodists, 1 to the
Baptists and 1 to The Lutheran Free Church.
The first Norwegian county officials were Ole
Torgersen Rød and Oliver Helgesen, County Commissioners, Ole
Overson† , Sheriff and Iver Knudsen† , Registrar of Deeds - they were
elected in 1869.
Ole O. Lien from Røldal was the first
Norwegian to represent the Chippewa County in the State Legislature, in
Townships with Norwegian names: Mandt,
Kragerø and Tunsberg (Tønsberg). Post offices with
Norwegian names: Seljord, Kragerø, Risør, Tunsberg,
Kalmia, Hagan (Hagen) and Wegdahl. Only the last two exist now.
Chisago County, Minnesota
There are not many Norwegians - and just one
congregation, belonging to The Lutheran Free Church. The congregation
has recently built a church. It was the Swedes who occupied this area.
Clay County, Minnesota
Ole Thompson from Aal, Hallingdal was the first
Norwegian in this county. He came from St. Ansgar, Ia. and settled at
Holy Cross, Minn. in 1869. (His address now is Kurtz, Minn.)
Later in the year came P. Røkken from Sogn
and Bernt Anderson from Hedemarken. The latter settled at Hickson N.D.,
right across from Ole Thompson - on the other side of the Red River.
Narve Moen also came about this time. They began to grow wheat and
oats, but they had to go all the way to Alexandria to sell their
products and to obtain necessities. "The oxen had to scurry along, you
can be sure."
The first Norwegians in the vicinity of Rollag and
Hawley were Martin Olsen from Beitstaden, N. Trondhjem's Amt and
Johannes Tetli from Frosten, they came from Winneshiek Co., Ia. in
1870. Right after them came Tom Gundersen† from Moland, Telemarken,
Claus Olsen, similarly from Telemarken, Petrus P. Solum from Namsos,
Sevrin P. Solum from the same place, Erik Hansen† , Tov Herbrandsen†
and Torsten Arneson, the last three from Rollag, Nummedalen, A. Rusfelt
from Finmarken, Knut O. Myrbø from Telemarken and Jørgen
?? from Toten. About the same time came John O. Tansem from Eidsvold,
Amund Røgle from Nannestad and Iver Ranum† from Opdal. Tansem
settled in the area where a P.O. bears his name. Røgle and Ranum
settled closer to Norwegian Grove.
In the vicinity of Stockwood, Martin Thomson† was
the first. He settled here in 1870 or '71. It was a long time before
the iron horse puffed across the prairie. However, they could see
Indians travel back and forth and sometimes they would visit a home,
frightening the women and children. What a difference from then and
now! Now there are rolling fields, splendid houses, railway stations,
schools and churches everywhere - and it was the Norwegians, more than
anyone else, that have built this great change. The grasshoppers and
the Indians who had sworn to drive the vikings to flight, had to flee
themselves. It was in the 70s that the control struggle took place in
One of the old settlers gives an example about how
the mosquitoes pestered them, "I was going to town to get some
provisions," he says, "but since I did not know this area, I got lost
on the return trip just as dusk fell. Thus, I could not drive further.
It was warm and humid and the air was fully packed with mosquitoes, so
that I could not open my mouth without filling my mouth with them. My
horse rolled and foamed from pain and sought to break away from me. I
tried to change things by lying down and rolling but I suffered just as
much. I will never forget that night's torture. For several days my
body was terribly swollen from the mosquito poison."
Grong Norwegian Evangelical Congregation, that was
established at Rollag in 1872 by Pastor B. Hagbø, belonging to
The Conference, was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. Now
there are 20 Norwegian congregations and 17 churches, 11 belonging to
The United Church, 4 to The Norwegian Synod, 4 to The lutheran Free
Church and 1 to the Adventists.
The first Norwegian to hold public office in the
county was John Thorsgaard† from Gudbrandsdalen, he was elected County
Treasurer in 1876.
Peter E. Thompson of Barnesville was the first to be elected as a member of the State Legislature (in 1890).
Norwegian place names (Townships and post offices)
in Clay County: Kragness, Lund, Hitterdal, Viding, Moøand,
Rollag, Hagen, Morken and Tansem.
Concordia College, a Norwegian school, was started in the Moorhead in 1891.
The newspaper 'Nye Nordmanden' appeared in the latter city in 1894 and a short time later 'Dagen' was begun.
Clearwater County, Minnesota
P. O. Enneberg from Sigdal parish was the first
Norwegian to settle in this county. He came from Fertile, Minn. and
took land at Willborg in 1883. He was accompanied by a Nils Berg. Later
in the year came Tor Klevstad, Christ Stenerson, Andrew Stensrson,
Peder Berg, Andreas Morstad and a Mr. Rode† . Potato growing and
logging was the new settlers main source of income. The nearest
marketplace, Crookston, was 65 miles away. The first time Enneberg went
to Crookston, it took him a month, but he had to chop his way in
several places through the forest, and he had to build bridges over a
couple of rivers so he could get across with his load. However, one of
the bridges gave away under the weight of the load and so both the
driver and his horses got a highly involuntary bath in the icy waters.
Most of what he had with him, he found along the shore.
Once, rumors came that the Indians had gathered for
a war dance and he (Enneberg) and his neighbors, who lived closest to
the reservation, would be the first victims. Then there was great fear,
especially among the women and children. But just then a company of
soldiers came and protected the settlers against the savages. The
redskins were, however, good except when whisky appeared among them.
Clearwater Congregation, that was established at
Shevlin in 1895 by Pastor J. R. Vaaler, belonging to The Norwegian
Synod, was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. There are
now 13 congregations and 8 churches, 5 of them belonging to The
Lutheran free Church, 4 to The Norwegian Synod and 4 to The United
Most of the first officials (who took office in
1902) are Norwegian. See the section 'Norwegians in public positions in
Post offices with Norwegian names: Olberg, Holst and Gonwick (Gonvik).
Cook County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians in this county were H. E. and
J. E. Redmayer (Rømyr) from Tromsø. They settled here in
1882. The settlement was called Redmayer, but when the founders moved
to New Hall, Wash., the settlement's name was changed to Schroder. The
next settlers were: H. O. Engelsen as well as John, Andrew, Johannes,
Eddie, Hans, Helge, Martin and Nils Tofte, Andy Sho, Nels Eide, Sivert
Eide and Thomas Lande, all from Halsnøen, Søndhordland,
Berge Bertwet from Storøen and Ole Narvik from Skudesnæs.
They settled at a place to which they gave the name Tofte. Logging and
fishing has been the Norwegian's main source of income. To Two Harbors,
that in the beginning, was their nearest marketplace, it was 64 miles.
They used dogs as draft animals.
Peder Rindal from Rindalen and Hans Gulbrandsen from
Ringerike were the first in the vicinity of Grand Marais, they came
there in 1891. At that time there were only Indians nearby. Mr. Rindal
says that the difficulties and trial they had to go through at first,
when there were no other white settlers, it was indescribable, but that
is what the trail blazers had to undergo and they held out. Now it is
good to be here.
There is 1 Norwegian church and 3 congregations in Cook County, 2 of them belong to Hauge's Synod and 1 to the Methodists.
Norwegian place names: Hovland, Tofte and Rømyren.
Cottonwood County, Minnesota
Haagen Anderson† from Sigdal was the first Norwegian
to take land in Cottonwood Co. but Gullick, Carolius† and Ole† Pedersen
and Joe Christensen, all from Helgeland, were the first to get their
houses built. They came from Dakota Co., Minn. and settled in the
vicinity of Westbrook in 1868. It was partly dugouts and partly log
cabins, they welcomed their families to. Wheat was the settlement's
main source of income. In the first time, they also had some furs to
sell, for with the lack of people, there were many animals. New Ulm, ca
60 miles away, was the new settlers' nearest marketplace.
Mr. K. R. Langeland, one of my correspondents in
Cottonwood Co., writes, "During the Indian War in 1862, I lost my wife
and 4 children as well as everything else I owned. I remained without
all earthly goods. Some of my Norwegian neighbors were also killed.
(More information under Jackson Co., for it was there the
aforementioned murders took place).
A bad grasshopper year was 1876 for the people of
Cottonwood County. They ate everything to the ground. The following
year, they were a little gentler, since they left a bit of the harvest.
There are 5 Norwegian churches and 7 congregations
in this county, 4 belong to The United Church, 2 to The Lutheran free
Church and 1 to the Methodists.
Erick Sevatsen from Hallingdal was the first
Norwegian to hold public office in the county, he was elected Sheriff
in 1870. He was also the first Norwegian to be elected from here as a
Member of the State Legislature (in 1887).
Places with Norwegian names: Dale and Storden. Dale
is a Township, Storden is both a Township and a post office.
Crow Wing County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settler in this county was Nils
Tørris from the Bergen area. He settled 9 miles east of
Brainerd. The year is not known.
The first in the vicinity of Garrison, where there
is also a small Norwegian settlement now, was the Stavanger man by the
name of E. Eliasen, who became Postmaster and began a store among the
Indians and the Irishmen (in 1897).
The Lutheran congregation, the was established at
Brainerd in 1886 by Pastor K. Bjørgo, belonging to The Norwegian
Synod, is the county's oldest Norwegian congregation. Its church was
built in 1888. Now there are 9 congregations and 7 churches, 4 of them
belonging to The Norwegian Synod, 3 to The
Lutheran Free Church, 1 to The United Church and 1 to Hauge's Synod.
The first Norwegian official in Crow Wing Co. was Anton Mahlum from Næs, Hedemarken.
Dakota County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians in Dakota County were Peter
Sampson† from Voss, Ole Olsen† and Ole Toresen from Hallingdal and
Johannes Jacobsen† from Vinje, Telemarken They came from Wisconsin and
settled in 1853 in the area that was later called the Christiania
O. P. Ruh, who settled there a couple of years later, writes, "We came
up here with oxen 400 miles (from Muskego, Wis.) and continued to use
them 10 years after that time. Our nearest towns, Hastings and St. Paul
were 25 to 30 miles away. If one wished to tell of the new settlers'
struggles, the Indian raids and war fears, it would be too much."
They first began growing hay but wheat became the
settlement's main source of income later on. People who wished to earn
cash, received 50 cents a day. There was ample clearing work to do.
The Telemarking, Halvor Torgersen, who lived here
for a time but now lives in Homen, N.D., writes, "In 1862, when the
Indian Wars broke out, we were not secure in the Christiania Settlement
either. In case of need, the new settlers had decided on a gathering
place, namely John Jacobsen's. It happened once, when Ouver Olsen and
Torger Juveland led a group of refugees (with women and children) that
Ouver shouted the command, 'drop down!' (which meant that the Indians
were approaching). Everyone dropped headlong, thinking certain death
was at hand. After a moment, Torger Juveland, who was the bravest of
the leaders, peeked up to see where the Indians were, but when he saw
none he said, 'You can get up now, it was just the back side of a deer
that Ouver saw!' and this awakened a feeling of good spirits in the
fleeing group. Torger still tells this anecdote, even though he is now
over 80 years old. He still lives on his homestead in the
Christiania Congregation, that was established in
1857, that built a church in 1862 and that belonged to The Augustana
Synod, was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. My
correspondent adds, however, that The Norwegian Synod established a
congregation about the same time. Now there are 2 Norwegian churches
and 2 congregations, 1 belonging to The Norwegian Synod and 1 to The
Lutheran Free Church. The aforementioned settlement lies west of the
City of Farmington.
There have been in Dakota County two post offices with good Norwegian names, namely Christiania and Eidsvold.
Dodge County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settlers in this county were
Knut Rockne† from Voss, Louis Evenson Folkestad from Bø,
Telemarken, Ole Benson† from Valders as well as Jacob Helgesen Dalen†
and Anders Christophersen† , they settled in the vicinity of
Mantorville in 1854. A short time after came Johannes Bendikson
Fjerestad† and Bottolf Larson Eithoren† from Vik in Sogn, Hans
Kittelsen and Jacob Hansen† from Kviteseid, Telemarken, Ole Monsen†
from Voss and Tollef Hellicksen† from Valders.
In the vicinity of Oslo, the following were the
first: John Kittelsen† , Nils Sjursen Gilderus† , Andreas Torgrimsen
Moen† , Jacob Knudsen Thoe† , Ole O. Lia, Helleck Gulbrandsen
Waagtveit, Erik Reiersen Bakko, Halvor Knudsen Berg† , Erik Clausen
Himle, Lars Sjursen Gilderus† , Ole Olsen Esterli, Torgrim Torgrimson
Moen† , Isak Anderson† , Anders Ellefsen† , Erik Knudsen Torvik† and
Sjur Olsen Brækhus. They came from Dane Co., Wis. They began to
grow wheat and had to drive right to Winona, ca. 70 miles. It was oxen
they used for plowing and driving.
That it was far between farms in those days, the following example from
St. Olaf Settlement will possibly convince us, "An old man was going in
foggy weather to a neighbor to borrow a large kettle. On his way home
he lost his bearings and kept going through the wilderness until he
came to Brownsdale, about 20 miles to the southwest, where there were
some settlers. Since he could not find his way from there, he walked to
Highforest in Olmstead Co., about 16 miles southeast from his home,
where there was a road he knew. He carried the kettle the whole time."
In Dodge County there are 3 Norwegian churches and 5
congregations, 3 of them belong to The Norwegian Synod, 1 to The United
Church and 1 to Hauge's Synod.
L. G. Nelson from Naas, Drangedal was the first
Norwegian to hold public office in the county. He was elected Registrar
of Deeds in 1872.
And John N. Hansen from Furness in Hedemarken was elected as member of the State Legislature the same year.
Post offices with Norwegian names: Thoe and Oslo, both closed.
Douglas County, Minnesota
Nels Mickelsen† from the Røraas area was the
first Norwegian in Douglas County. He settled in the vicinity of Holmes
City in 1865. At that time there were Indians in the neighborhood. In
1866 many Norwegians came, of whom can be named: John Arntsen from
Kobbervik, Ole Brandson† from Hedemarken, Ole Urness† , Lars Grinden†
and Amos Johnson† , all from Sogn, Mathias Wolstad† , Sivert Olsen† and
Hans Pedersen, all from Hedemarken, Gunder Johnson and Ole Hammer from
Trondhjem, Renhard Bottner† from Solør. Petter E. Julin from
Hammerfest, Ole Ellefsen from Telemarken as well as Petter Stenstrup,
Tore Evensen† , Ole Amundsen† , Albert Barsness, Torsten Hovde, Gunder
Knudsen, Jens Gundersen† , Charley Brown† , Karm Øen, Ole
Pedersen and Johannes Olesen.
Some dug dugouts, others built log cabins, all were
poor. Nor was work to be found in the area, but those who had oxen and
wagons went to St. Cloud, where there was the opportunity to carry
goods west to the forts (where soldiers were stationed against the
Indians). The settlers who did not have the means for this transport,
supported themselves mainly with trapping muskrats, of which there were
many, and a good price was paid. My informant adds that if there had
not been something to trap, it would have been impossible for the new
settlers to manage. Now it is different. Wheat has made people
Another of the old settlers in Douglas county
writes, "I emigrated in 1854 on the sailship 'Urania' from Stavanger
and was 11 weeks on the sea. When we came to Montreal, the cholera
began to rage. About half of our company died on the way to Chicago. We
were 203 persons in all - the greater number from Strand and Fister
parishes and islands in Ryfylke. I especially remember a family from
Monstrevaag. The man's name was Peder Knudsen Rygmyre, as far as I can
remember. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon all were healthy, by 9 in the
evening, his wife and three eldest children were dead, and now the man
remained alone with a child that was only 8 months old. But then I had
to weep with him even though at that time I was just a youth. The trip
from Montreal to Chicago will never be forgotten by those who survived
A third writes, "When we came here to Evansville,
there were not many white people here, however many Indians. I was with
them now and then and saw them eat muskrats. Now the Indians are gone,
game and fish similarly - and the land has changed - yes, and it seems
even the climate is different from what it was in the old days."
Vor Frelsers Congregation, that was established at
Holmes City in 1867 by Pastor L. A. Carlson, belonging to The Norwegian
Synod, was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. The first
church was built in 1877 by Moe Congregation, belonging to The Synod.
Now there are 12 congregations and 11 churches, 7 belong to The United
Church, 3 to The Norwegian Synod and 2 to The Lutheran Free Church.
The first Norwegian to hold public office here was Thorer Evensen, who was elected Co. Commissioner in 1871.
The current Senator Knute Nelson was the first
Norwegian who represented Douglas Co. in the State Legislature (in
1875). For detailed information in the political field see the section,
'Norwegians in public positions in America.
Townships with Norwegian names: Lund, Moe, Solem,
Brandon and Urness. Post offices with Norwegian names: Melby, Moe,
Urness and Brandon.
Wartburg Mission School was started in Alexandria in 1901.
Faribault County, Minnesota
Knut Thompsen Trovatten from Vinje, Telemarken was
the first Norwegian in this county. He settled in the area of Delavan
in 1855. No Norwegians accompanied Thompsen nor did any come the first
years he was here.
In the settlement at Blue Earth City, these were the
first: Ole Nilsen Hundery, Anders Tenhold† , Gilbert Gilbertson and Ole
Johnson, all from Sogn as well as C. C. Hamre, Jeff Amundsen and Stener
Mikkelsen. Where the last three came from in Norway is not known.
Mikkelsen is dead. Hamre lives in Blue Earth and Amundsen in Frost.
Dugouts and log cabins were the pioneers' first
homes. Wheat growing was their main source of income. Hastings was
their nearest marketplace, to there it was 120 miles and they went
there with help of oxen.
"Jackson Lake Congregation" that was established at
Delavan in 1862 by Pastor B. J. Muns then of The Norwegian Synod, was
the county's first Norwegian congregation. The church was built in
1870. Now there are 9 Norwegian churches and 13 congregations, 5 of
them belong to The Norwegian Synod, 4 to The United Church, 3 to
Hauge's Synod and 1 to Elling Eielsen's Society.
Fred P. Brown (Brun) from Kopervik was the first
Norwegian to hold public office in the county. He was elected Registrar
of Deeds in 1872.
The first to be elected a Member of the State Legislature was the Telemarking, T. S. Wraalie (in 1878)
Post offices with Norwegian names: Homedahl and Olesen.
Freeborn County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians in this county were Even Nelson
from Næs, Hedemarken and Ole Gulbranson, who settled at Albert
Lea in 1855.
Next after them came Rollef Thykesen, Gunner
Thykesen, Stener Mikkelsen and Ole O. Kleppe, all from Telemarken and
Nels Nelson Wangen from Voss. They settled in the area of Manchester,
the 15th June, 1856.
Later the same year (1856) came Thor Anderson,
Anders Evenson, Ole Kittelson† , Ole Petterson Slette† and Halvor
Petterson Slette† , all from Sigdal, O. O. Fossum and Peder
Fossum from Telemarken as well as Anders Lybeck† from
Krødsherrred. They settled in the area of Manchester, as
mentioned, in 1856. At that time this area was a wilderness full of
Indians and wild animals* Albert Lea, which is now a large city, then
consisted of two log cabins.
Halvor Opsahl from Hjertdal, Telemarken was the first in the area of Bath. He settled there in 1857.
In the same year (1857) came Lars Torkelsen from
Sigdal, Torsten Eriksen from Eggedal, Thore Hoff from Hallingdal as
well as Lars Nilsen, Nils Nilsen and Isak Johnson, the last three from
Hedemarken, to the area of Knatvold, where they settled.
In 1857, the following persons also came to Freeborn
Co., but the report does not mention what area they settled in but it
looks like they settled in the area of Hayward. Their names are:
Guttorm Bottolfsen† , Anders Bottolfsen, Joh. Hermundsen and Anders
Syversen Sjelve, all from Vik in Sogn, Charley Pedersen from Hakedalen,
Anders Olsen† from Lyster, Sogn, Christopher Mikkelsen† from Nannestad,
Peder Lunde† and Endre Gulbrandsen from Aadalen, the brothers Ole and
Torstein Morheim from Telemarken, Ole Narveson† and Ole Varnaas† from
Sogndal, Ole Styve Sr. and his son O. O. Styve and Ole Mittun from Voss
and Bjørn Atlesen Øen, whose birthplace is unknown to the
The first Norwegian in the area of Freeborn was
Syvert Olsen from Nummedal. And the first in Emmons was H. G. Emmons
from Eggedal. The post office bears his name.
Most of Freeborn County's first settlers had lived
for a short time in Wisconsin, from where they came in small groups
(caravans) and settled in various places, usually near forests. Their
nearest marketplaces were Winona and McGregor, Ia., about 100 miles
away. Their main articles for sale were butter and meat.
A. N. Teslow of Hayward concludes one of his letters
with, "The first years here were full of mosquitoes, snakes and other
horrors such that we were in danger of losing our lives, but see, we
still live, both my wife and me, and we are 77 years old."
The most traveled man in Freeborn County is Andreas
Sandersen of Hayward. He came from Norway to Wisconsin and was there
for 3 years. But then came rumors that gold could be found in large
nuggets in California. He and a comrade went to New York and took the
sea route - around South America, naturally - to California. How it
went with the gold digging is not known but when they were finished,
they put their packs on their backs and walked to San Francisco, which
was then a little shanty town. From there they went to Sacramento,
which was also nothing much. Their walking trip continued through all
of Oregon, Washington and a part of British Columbia. Tacoma, Wash. did
not exist in those days and the population of Victoria consisted of
only 3 fisher families. Sandersen returned to Wisconsin via the Panama
peninsula after having been off on his adventure for 4 years and 5
months. He finally ended up in Minnesota.
Ole J. Ellingsen was the first Norwegian to hold public office here. He was elected Co. Treasurer in 1860.
T. G. Johnsrud from Aadalen was the first to be elected to the State Legislature (in 1872)
"Søndre Minnesota Tidende" and "Albert Lea
Skandinav" were published for a short time. "Signalet", a Baptist
newspaper was also published in Albert Lea.
Luther Academy, a Norwegian school was established in Albert Lea in 1888.
Post offices with Norwegian names: Knatvold, Emmons and Lerdal (Lærdal)
*Newry Township was similarly settled in 1856 - by
the brothers Knut, Syver and Bennet Benson from Hemsedal, Helg Olsen
Otterdokken from Gol and Jens Amundsen from Næs, Hallingdal. T.
A. Halvig, one of the pioneers here writes: "At this time the Indians
were numerous in this as well as adjacent areas, and they were a great
fear - especially for the women and children when they were home alone.
The men had to travel to town now and then and this took two weeks as a
rule. That was probably in Winona where they sold their farm produce
and make purchases, but when grain was to be ground, they had to go far
down to Iowa. When the winters were longer than expected, it could
happen that the grain had to be ground in coffee mills."
Goodhue County, Minnesota
It was in 1854* when Norwegians first captured
Goodhue County, they took it, so to say, by storm and settled in two
townships at the same time - in Holden and Wanamingo, yes, and a part
of Leon and Mineola Townships as well. As soon as the Norwegians came,
the Indian dominion was history, although to the white settlers, the
Indians remained a regular nuisance, of which we will later give
examples. Here is a list of the first Norwegian settlers: Hans
Ovaldsen† from Kragerø, Henrik† and Tøge† Nilsen Talla
from Lyster, Sogn, William Rønningen from Sandøkedal,
Anders Vaanhus from Søvde, Telemarken, John Strømme† ,
Anders Hesjedalen† and Haldor Eide† , the last three from Strilelandet,
Tosten Aaby† from Sigdal, Bernt Sauland from Jæderen,
Torbjørn Wraalstad from Drangedal, Nils Fenne† and Enver
Homedal† from Voss, Gunder Hestemyr† from Sandøkedal, Ole P.
Ness from Vik in Sogn, Guttorm Otternes from Aurland, Mathias Rindal†
from Faaberg, Christian Lunde† and Andreas Erstad from Land, Tosten
Gulbrandsen† from Gudbrandsdalen, Ole† and Aamund Ofteli from
Telemarken, Knut, Anders, Ole and H. K. Finseth from Hallingdal as well
as Jens Ottum, O. J. Sortedal, Kolben Egtveit† , O. O. Huset, Halvor
Enersen, Torbjørn Enersen Ole O. Oakland, Ole J. Bakke, Tosten
Andersen and Nels Gudbrandsen. As far is known, they all came in 1854 -
most from Wisconsin. Next after them came Svend Norgaard† from
Telemarken, Ole Qvernhus from Krødsherred, Kristian Halvorsen
Dokken† from Hallingdal, Ragnvald Olmstad from Aurland in Sogn as well
as Ole Eriksen, Elling Halgrimsen† , Lars By† , G. K. Norsving, Ole O.
Nesseth, Erick Anderson, Nils Mikkelsen, Mikkel Johnson, P. R. Langemo,
Syvert Halvorsen Dokken† , Halvor Syvertsen Dokken† , Syvert Markussen
and Lars Markussen† , Helge Gulbrandsen Bakken† from Vang, Valders, who
also came about the same time, came by foot from Decorah, Ia.
Mrs. Ole Bakke, the first white woman in Holden
tells, that she left her child lying alone in bed when she went out for
water, and when she came back, the child was gone. She hurried out and
when she heard the child's cry from a nearby grove, where she ran as
fast as she could. An Indian woman had stolen the child, but when she
heard the mother come, she laid the child down and ran away. Mrs.
Torbjørn Enersen delivered the first child in Holden. And Erik
Elton died here in the fall of 1855, this was the first death in the
The pioneers in Goodhue County were just as poor as
they were skilled. The worst was that they did not have the clothing to
face the harsh cold. But they got through it quickly. They soon began
to grow wheat on a larger scale.
As an example of what the first settlers had to
endure, a man who was on his way to Oronoco, Olmstead Co. in the winter
of 1855, stayed overnight with Erik Talla and continued his travels the
next morning. But three days later he came back. The whole time he had
wandered the prairie - in a blinding snowstorm - without knowing where
he was, and not finding people.
The following Indian story comes from Mr. Kleng J.
Dale, "It was in the year 1862. One evening about 7 o'clock, the
warning came that the Indians were on the move and that they had
murdered our nearest neighbor and his family. A good solution was not
easy. The thought to save some of our possessions, we gave up. We
thought it was advisable to flee, as we were. With our year old
daughter, my wife and I went eastward to Osmund Wing and found he was
in the process of loading his family in a wagon. The decision was that
we would proceed in an easterly direction to Torger Rygh, an old
faithful countryman with whom people often gathered. There was soon a
large group of people there. The women and children found place on the
second floor while we men stayed below and armed ourselves as well as
we could with clubs and hay forks since we did not own guns. Those of
the men who had the most of Viking blood in them were stationed as
guards. But the Indians did not come. In the morning we sent out two
scouts, who were to see how it was with our homes. They came back with
the word that as far as they could see and hear, everything was quiet
and our homes were in order, we left and returned home. Further west -
in the area of New Ulm - many whites were killed and their homes
destroyed by the Indians. At this time B. J. Muus was the priest for
the Holden congregation, he fled with his family right to Red Wing."
But he came back and worked until he became old.
Herman Hansen Bakke, who now lives at Spring Valley,
Wis., tells that he settled at Belvidere Mills, Goodhue Co. in 1855 and
that he had no harvest the first five years. The prairie fires ruined
it for him. One time, he also lost his farm equipment and everything
else he owned, except for his house.
Ole Serumgard, who is now the manager of the US Land
Office at Devil's Lake, North Dakota writes (after having referred to
Amund Nilsen Opheim - 'Pioneer Nilsen', who we find mentioned in Griggs
County, N. Dak.), "Another Norwegian worthy of mention who moved to the
Sheyenne Valley (in the aforementioned State) in 1881, was Sven
Norgard. He was a veteran of the Civil War and in his youth he had been
a boisterous fellow. Norwegian readers know Mr. Janson's story of the
'Bygdekonge' (Community Boss). In this there is an account of the
battle between the Boss and his gang and a young pioneer, who with his
wife and children, tried to clear a home on land the others had
illegally tried to keep free of settlers. Janson's story is a real
depiction of the young pioneer who, with his wife and children, tried
to clear some land in the woods of Goodhue County, Minn., and
eventually won the 'Klubbeslaget' (club battle) and beat the Boss black
and blue, was none other than than the same Sven Norgard. He was big
and strong and a real Viking - in his younger days he would more
properly called a berserker- and there are many old settlers in Goodhue
County that can tell about his activities. From there he moved to
Yellow Medicine County, Minn. where he was elected as District
Attorney. While he was there some Norwegian neighbors were charged with
illegal cutting of timber on railroad property. Norgard defended them.
The case came to court in New Ulm, Minn. The case lasted a long time
and the defendants were almost worn out. One evening when the case was
to be handled, the lights in the courtroom went out, and when the lamps
were lit, the case documents had disappeared. The most careful search
could not find them and the case was dismissed and Norgard's clients
went free. Reliable sources say that Norgard, when the lights went out,
got hold of the papers and ate them. This is clearly a lawyer's trick
that no one has repeated. That the old one, with his wildness, still
had a good heart is shown by the following. Omund Opheim had a daughter
who was not always sensible. She was married to a rowdie by the name of
Olsen who left her and their five children. Olsen had a fine homestead
in the woods at Sheyenne. When he left, he sold a relinquishment to a
saloonkeeper in Moorhead, but when the old Governor Austin, who was
then the Registrar in the Land Office in Fargo, was advised of the
situation, he refused to accept the relinquishment since he thought it
was just that the land in this case belonged to the wife and children.
The wife went insane and was sent to the asylum in Yankton. This was in
1885. The grandfather took in the children but he died and a Swede by
the name of Olsen obtained the land as a homestead through underhanded
means since the necessary final proof had not been done in the right
time. Old Norgard, now a senior, could not stand to see that this
injustice should befall his old friend's descendants and took on the
case - and the land was granted to the mentally ill wife and her
children in 1899, almost 20 years after it was first claimed as a
homestead by pioneer Nelson's son-in-law. These two men, Pioneer Nelson
and Sven Nordgard, stand out for me as true types of Norwegian pioneers
here in the northwest. Without much education but with a surplus of
natural talent in a long life on civilization's frontier they have
developed a brave, sterling character. It is such as these we can thank
for the respect we have won among the population in our new home in the
Pioneer Peder Langemo tells, "The houses were small,
as a rule only 10x12, but small as they were, they housed two-three
families and even 'the bailiff'. The first year after Minnesota became
a state, came the order that the town treasurer was to collect the
taxes. In Holden Township, it happened that the Treasurer and his
family lived together with another man in their log cabin, which
seemingly was smaller than the others. It happened one day that a
Halling, who lived on the west side of the town, came to pay his taxes.
But as he approached, he feared he had come to the wrong place. After
examining the cabin from all sides, he asked, "Is it here, the bailiff
lives?" The treasurer was the honorable Ole Solberg and after a
confirming answer, the Halling paid his taxes.
Holden Congregation, that was established in 1856 by
Pastor H. A. Stub of The Norwegian Synod, was the first Norwegian
congregation in the county. The congregation had no steady services
before Pastor V. J. Muus came (in 1859). The church was built in 1861.
Now there are 26 Norwegian congregations and 25 churches, 11 to The
United Church, 5 to Hauge's Synod, 3 to The Norwegian Synod, 3 to
'Brodersamfunnet', 2 to The Lutheran Free Church and 2 to the Methodist
Hans Hansen Holtan was the first Norwegian to hold
an official position in Goodhue County (1857). For information about
him and others, see the section 'Norwegians in public positions in
'Budbæreren', Hauge's Synod's organ, that
started in Red Wing in 1868 was the county's oldest Norwegian
newspaper. Later came 'Børnevennen', 'The Little Messenger' and
'Nordstjernen', all in Red Wing as well as 'Broderbaandet' in Kenyon.
For more information, see the section, 'Norwegian-American newspapers
For information about the Red Wing Seminary, the
Hauge's Synod school, and 'Lutheran Ladies' Seminary, supported mostly
by the people of The Norwegian Synod, see the section,
'Norwegian-American Teaching Schools'
One can find further information about the United
Church's hospital in Zumbrota under the title, 'Norwegian-American
Places with Norwegian names in Goodhue County:
Holden, Norway, Toten, Eidsvold, Dovre, Sogn, Henning, Vang, Nansen,
Aspelund and Stuberg. Only the last three post offices exist now. The
free postal service (R.F.D.) has taken the place of the smaller post
offices here and in other parts of America.
* Mathias Pedersen Ringdahl from Hadeland had come
to Red Wing in 1851 and stayed there for a year, then he moved away,
but came back to the same town in 1853. He was therefore he first
Norwegian in Goodhue Co. But he established no settlement.
Grant County, Minnesota
Ole Gudmunsen from Støtvig, Smaalenene and
Peder Gran from Vestre Toten were the first Norwegians in Grant County,
they came from Houston County by ox and wagon and settled at Elk Lake
Township in 1865.
The first in the vicinity of Erdahl were A. Hansen
from Kristiania, Lars† and Elland† Anderson from Eidsvold and Jacob
Olsen from Valders, who settled there in 1866.
The first in Ashby was Knut Melby, who settled there
in 1867. A part of Ashby was built on his land.* In the fall of the
same year came John P. Sætre from Numedal, who settled nearby.
Ole E. Lien from Hemsedal settled in the vicinity of
Barrett the same year (1867) and was thus, the first there.
Knut Laastuen from Hallingdal was the first at Elbow Lake.
And Ole Torstensen from Hadeland was the first at Hoffman.
The first in the vicinity of Aastad were Hans
Haavig, Tørris Hansen† , Knut Hansen† , Gunder Ericksen† , R. G.
Baasen, K. P. Eidal and Jens E. Pletan.
Ole O. Hillestad from Lærdal was the first at Norcross.
Wheat growing became the county's leading source of
income. Besides, the first settlers did much hunting and trapping. Day
pay at that time was 50 cents.
That the Indians terrified people in this as well as the adjacent
counties is obvious. Once, there came rumors that the Indians were on
the warpath. Everyone took their oxen and fled from their homes and
went toward Alexandria. But on the way they learned that the rumor was
false, so they returned to their daily duties. This was before
there were any soldiers stationed at Pomme de Terre Fort.
Pomme de Terre Congregation, that was established in
1869 by Pastor L. Carlson, belonging to The Norwegian Synod, was the
first Norwegian congregation in the county. Now there are 12 Norwegian
congregations and 8 churches, 6 belong to The Norwegian Synod, 3 to The
United Church, 1 to Hauge's Synod, 1 is Independent Lutheran and 1
belongs to the Methodists.
The first Norwegian county officials were Wendelbo
Olson† , Ole Larson Sundvold† , Ole Thompson Ring, S. Frogner† and K.
R. O. Melby. They were all elected in 1873.
Gilbert Hagen published the newspaper 'Samhold' in Elbow Lake in the 90s.
Places with Norwegian names: Erdahl and Lien
Townships, Fridheim, Erdahl, Pikop, Thorsborg, Ramstad, Lillemon and
Aastad post offices.
*Another part of Ashby stretches over Simon Larsen's
land. When he came here, he had everything he owned in a gunny sack. It
would be much harder for anyone to carry everything he owns now. And
the gunny sack would be far too small.
Hennepin County, Minnesota
The first person of Norwegian origin that settled in
Hennepin County (the county that makes up the center of the Norwegian
northwest and that includes Minneapolis - Norway in America's capital)
was a woman and her name was Ingeborg. In 1850, she came to Meomny
(about 8 miles north of St. Anthony) where for a time she had
employment in a small hotel. The City of Minneapolis was founded later
- in 1855 - it took St. Anthony's place and it has, as we know, grown
very large - yes, now it reaches almost up to the place where Ingeborg
settled. She has herself told that it was not many years before she
met people from the Land of the Midnight Sun, where
she had come from. About that time she married an Irishman by the name
However, her destiny was that she would get a
Norwegian husband. It went so, Mr. Clark died after a short marriage,
and. thus, the Norwegian woman became a widow. And further out in
Minnesota there was a Norwegian by the name Michael Johnson, who after
a couple years stay at Smith Lake (Wright County) had moved to Acton
(Meeker County) in 1860, and who lost his wife while he lived at that
place. A bit later (the spring of 1864) he went to Hennepin County to
seek work and came by chance to the aforementioned widow, who had a
farm, horses, livestock etc., and who needed a working man. To this
post then, the Norwegian Michael Johnson (from the Moen farm in Selbu,
near Trondheim) was the very man. We can guess the result of this
meeting. But we can certainly write it down. These two then became man
and wife - in the fall of 1864. Their home was in Brooklyn Township, to
which, in the course of time there came several people from Norway -
likely from Selbu - and where they established a Norwegian Lutheran
congregation in 1876. Ingeborg died some time ago. However Michael is
still alive and lives with his son, J. M. Johnson, 720 8th Ave. S.,
Minneapolis. (I will add that Mr. Chris. Swensen, one of Michael
Johnson's earlier neighbors, who now lives in Robbindale and who got
the task of finding him and paid almost a dozen streetcar fares before
his mission succeeded. This is an example how difficult it has been to
get hold of such persons, who could give reliable information about the
old days. Auth.)
In this connection, it is told that at this time, a
Norwegian, who stayed temporarily in St. Anthony in the 50s, and who
was for a time the owner of Nicollet Island (now Minneapolis' centrum).
He claimed the land by preemption. Later he sold it for $500.00, which
he thought was well done, since he had obtained it free from the
government (that is, by using his homestead rights). Now, it is worth
several millions. Further information about the man cannot be found.
Even his name is unknown. All that is known of him is that he moved
westward to become a farmer. But later (in the 60s) Norwegians began to
settle in Minneapolis, that is now the most Norwegian city in America
in relation to its size, since ca. 45,000 of its 300,000 citizens are
of Norwegian ancestry.
The Norwegian Lutheran Trefoldigheds Congregation in
Minneapolis, that now belongs to The Lutheran Free Church and was
established in 1867 by Pastor Nils Olson (who at that time lived in the
Christiania Settlement in Dakota County), is the oldest Norwegian
congregation in Hennepin County. Its first church (that was also the
first Norwegian church in the county) was built at the corner of 3rd
Street and 13th Avenue South, in 1868. Pastor Ole Poulsen was
Minneapolis' first Norwegian priest, since he had taken over the
service of the aforementioned congregation by 1868. Both he and Nils
Olsen (the congregation's founder) were Augustana men. Vor Frelsers
Congregation was established in 1869 by Pastor Nils Ylvisaker,
belonging to The Norwegian Synod. Its first church was built in 1871,
where the Great Western Railway Station now stands. The number of
Norwegian congregations has now grown to 23, while the churches have
reached the number of 22. The congregations are divided so:
The Norwegian Synod - 9, The Lutheran Free Church - 4, The United
Church - 2, Methodists - 2, The Evangelical Free Church - 1, Hauge's
Synod - 1, M. Falck Gjertsen - 1, The Brethren - 1, Baptists - 1 and
Unitarians - 1.
'Nordisk Folkeblad' that was begun in 1870 by
Hjalmar Eger, a student from Kristiania University, was the first
Norwegian newspaper in Minneapolis. Later there were started, 'Norsk
Maanedstidende', 'Budstikken' (a continuation of 'Fedrelandet og
Emigranten', now 'Daglig Tidende' and 'Minneapolis Tidende'),
'Minnesota', 'Normanna', 'Norsk Maanedskrift', 'Folkebladet',
'Familie-Vennen', 'Felt-Raabet', 'Kvartal-Skriftet', 'Luthersk
Børneblad', 'The North', 'Saamanden', 'Samfundet' (now
'Lutheraneren'), 'Ungdommens Ven', 'Det Frie Ord', 'Krydseren',
'Viking', 'Typografstidende', 'Lynilden', 'Nye Nordmanden' (now
'Politikken', 'Santhalmissionæren', 'Gasseren', 'Luthersk
Børneblad', 'Den Lutherske Missionær', 'Missionsvennen',
'Den Forente Kirkes Missionsblad', 'Vingaardsmanden', Northland
Weekly', 'Children's Companion', 'Sønner av Norge', 'Gaa paa',
'Vor Tid', 'Den Kristelige Lægmand' and 'Kvindens Magasin'. For
more information about these and other newspaper ventures, see the
section 'Norwegian-American Newspapers and Periodicals'.
Augsburg Seminary, that was founded in its own
building in 1872, was the first Norwegian school in Minneapolis. Later
came Wraamann's Academy, Minnesota Normal School, The United Church's
Seminary and Skørdalsvold's School. For further information, see
the section 'Norwegian-American Teaching Institutions'.
The Norwegian Lutheran Deaconess Home, that was
started in 1889, was the first of that kind. Now money is being
collected for hospitals.
In the '90s, the Norwegians erected several society buildings, The
Norwegian Christian Youth Society and Normanna Hall, but both were lost
because of debts. The Ole Bull Statue, that was designed by sculptor
Jakob Fjelde and that was raised in Central Park in 1897, will be
permanent, since it was paid for in advance. *
Of societies that work in comprehensive activities,
one can mention 'Sønner av Norge', 'Døtre av Norge', the
Christian relief societies and temperance societies.
The first Norwegian to hold public office here was George H. Johnson, elected as Sheriff in 1870.
Civil War veteran Albert E. Rice was the first
Norwegian to represent Minneapolis in the Stae Legislature (1870), he
moved to Willmar that same year. Later he became Lt. Governor.
For further information about these and others who
have had official positions, see the section 'Norwegians in Public
Positions in America'.
*But have Norwegians over here only done that which
is creditable? No. Take for example, the bank scandals that took place
in Minneapolis a few years ago. A half dozen 'prominent' Norwegians and
some other 'smart' fellows went into the banking business with more
debts than money. They managed to get some references, and after
trusting people, likely Scandinavian workers, deposited their savings,
these went as 'loans' to the 'bank directors' themselves and their
friends - and so the bank went bankrupt - to a pecuniary loss for the
depositors and damage to the Norwegian name in America.- and especially
in Minneapolis. After that time here, it has been rather difficult for
Norwegians to obtain positions of trust of any significance. Now a
similar scandal has taken place in Chicago.
What a single person has done cannot rightly be laid
to a people as a whole. The facts still say that the Norwegian
immigrants as a whole conduct themselves well. As an example it can be
mentioned that in a newly prepared crime statistic for Chicago that
Norwegians (compared with other nationalities) are listed with the
least number of lawbreakers.
Houston County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian in this county was Torkel
Aagesen† from Stavanger. He settled in the area of Blackhammer in 1853.
Knut Olsen from Stavanger as well as Guttorm Olsen and Jens Winjum,
both from Urland, Sogn, who also settled in that area in 1853, but a
little later in the year, as far as is known.
Hans Nilsen Myra from Hadeland was the first at Spring Grove.
The first in the area of Houston was Hans A. Dahle from Øvre Telemarken.
The land was mainly covered with forest. After this
was cleared away they began wheat growing as their main source of
income. From 25 to 35 cents a day and board was what a man received for
rail-splitting and grubbing in those days. But the farmers did almost
all their work themselves. There were not many workers nor did anyone
have much to pay with. With the lack of a flour mill nearby, they often
had to grind their grain in a coffee mill. Mills were not found any
closer that Lansing, Ia., and if one wished to go there, it was a trip
of two to three weeks.Guttorm Guttormsen Øino from Rotnem in
Gol, Hallingdal, Ole Evensen Dølehus from Hemsedal as well as
the Stutelien brothers and G. G. Karsenborg from Valders were the first
white settlers at South Fork River, but at that time the area was full
of drunken Indians and even though they were not hostile, one had a
constant fear of them.About the aforementioned Guttorm Øino, it
is told, "After an 18 week trip by sailship, he and his family landed
in New York and then they were without money or food. Nevertheless, in
the course of the following three weeks they got to Illinois (on a
lighter, most of the way) They now had to get out to find some land and
one day, as they wandered in a wild area, a terrible storm blew up. But
towards evening they found a farmer, who allowed them to overnight in
an old tumble-down stable. There his wife became ill - and bore a child
in the course of the night - and there they remained in a pitiful state
for several weeks, after which she died of childbirth and swamp fever.
Her name was Helga Larsdatter from Hulebaklien in Gol. Øino's
and the other pioneers' hardships here in Houston County will be for
many to consider.One of Spring Grove's oldest settlers has sent me a
long poem instead of an account in prose. I cite a couple of verses in
which he speaks of the new builders so:
"First you had a cabin and then a steering yoke,
To that a wagon and then your spirits rose.
You broke up some fields and sowed your seed,
And it bore much fruit and lightened your temper.
You felt so lost and lonely many times
Without help and means in the primitive land.
But your spirit never left, you went to work again.
For your and your children, you built a home."
He concludes by saying that the young must be
grateful to their elders that they have received everything in good
condition from them. An he turns over to the poets of the new
generation to correct his poem with all the art's rules since he
himself is not and does not pretend to be a poet.
'Norwegian Ridge Congregation', belonging to The
Norwegian Synod, was founded in Spring Grove in 1855 and it was the
first Norwegian congregation in the county. C. L. Clausen was its first
priest. Now there are 7 Norwegian congregations and 7 churches, 5
belonging to The Norwegian Synod and 2 to The United Church.
Ole Knudsen, who was elected County Commissioner in
1856 and who died long ago, was the first Norwegian official in the
Jørgen Timansen Quarve, who is also dead, was
the first Norwegian who represented Houston County in the State
Legislature. He was elected in 1859.
Sven Ellestad published a newspaper with the name 'Spring Grove Posten' for a time.
The post offices Nittedal and Norman, that both got their names from Norwegians, have been closed.
Hubbard County, Minnesota
Jacob Evensen, who came from La Salle County, Ill.
and settled at Dorset was the first Norwegian in Hubbard County.
Evensen's parents were from Stavanger.
The first Norwegian in the area of Rosby was Ole J.
Færden from Valders. He writes, "The first years we were here
there was no railroad station closer than 70 miles, we had to drive
there with oxen. In the winter we often had to go on skis to get what
we needed to maintain life."
There are 5 Norwegian congregations in the county, 2
belonging to The Lutheran Free Church, 2 to The Norwegian Synod and 1
to The United Church.
A. G. Johndal, who was elected County Commissioner in 1900, was the first Norwegian official here.
Places with Norwegian names: Farden (Færden),
Helga, and Hendrickson (Townships), Rosby, Dorset and Maltby (Post
Itasca County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian in this county was Thomas Irgens
from Modum. He came from Dakota and settled at Grand Rapids in 1888.
Later in the year came Johannes Jensen† from Kristiania, Fredrik
Christiansen from Frøiøen near Kristiansund,
Kolbjørn and Bernt E. Bensen and O. K. Sherman from Vaaler,
Solør, L. A. Willmann from Ørkedalsøren, Lars Orge
from Søndmøre, Fritjof and Martin Madsen from Kristiania,
Ole Hansen from Kragerø and Ed Holum from Overhalden. Firewood,
timber and game have, until now, been the Norwegian settlement's main
source of subsistence.
P. O. Bohn was the first in the vicinity of Rosy. He
was from Ørskoug, Søndmøre. Indians were the first
Norwegians' nearest neighbors. One of the pioneer's writes, "I settled
in here in the thick primeval forest to fight with mosquitoes, brush
ticks - and wild people, if necessary. And how I chopped, cleared and
dug! But it is now good to be here."
There are 4 Norwegian congregations in the county, 2
belonging to The Norwegian Synod, 1 to The Lutheran Free Church and 1
to The United Church.
Jackson County, Minnesota
Simon Olsen Slaabakken from Tolgen, Jackson County's
first official, writes, "The immigration of Norwegians began in 1860,
for then came Børre Olsen from Holtaalen, with his three sons
(Bersvend, Ole and Jonas), his daughter and son-in-law (Hans Lien from
Røraas) after an arduous journey from Winneshiek Co. Ia. They
came here to the lovely Des Moines Valley, that was richly covered with
forest - something that the Norwegians eagerly sought as the first
necessity when they wished to build a home, they wished to settle where
there was a forest. But alas, every single grove was occupied by a
Yankee. 'Well,' says Bør, 'we came here to find a home. The land
is good, we will have to ask Mr. Yankee how much it will take to get
Besides the aforementioned persons, there came Ole
Pedersen from Røraas, Engebret and Anders Olsen Slaabakken from
Tolgen, Ole O. Førde and Knud Midtstad from Voss along with
several others, 15-20 families altogether. This was thus in 1860.
In 1861 many others came, some bought claims, others
found free forested land, and all felt happy and well satisfied.
Even though there were no Indians nearby, we did not
feel very safe. In May, D. M. West went to the Governor and received a
number of guns and ammunition. Then we organized ourselves as a home
guard with drills every Saturday afternoon. However, there came a
request for soldiers to hold in check the rebels in the South. And from
the little settlement at Jackson, 22 men left. Many of those who were
to protect the settlers from the Indians also went away.
About the 20th of August news came that the Indians
were on the warpath and that they had robbed and murdered people at New
Ulm. They gathered together - two to three families at each place - to
assist each other in case of need. On Sunday, the 24th August, when a
number of the population were gathered for services, Ole Førde's
eldest son came, dripping with sweat and blood, and told that the
Indians had arrived, he had been shot through his arm. One can imagine
the fright that arose. Everyone ran to their respective homes as fast
as they could, but most soon gathered again at the home of the
Postmaster in Jackson. The most intrepid wanted that they should
fortify themselves and face the attack with such weapons that they had.
However, the majority of those present were so frightened that they
wished to go to Etherville, Ia., about 25 miles south of here. Just
before sunset they left and reached there the next morning, received
food and drink and began to organize a company of horse, that on
Thursday drove up to those places they were informed that the savages
had murdered and plundered. They found 12 dead and some wounded. Among
them were two daughters of Knud Langeland, one was dead, the other
survived. Anders, the son of Knut Slaabakken, they had shot twice, hit
on the neck and stabbed in the side with a large knife and was left
with the thought that he was dead. He came to life and crept to a water
spring where, after getting a good drink, was in such condition that
could reach his home, where he hoped to find something to eat. But
everything was destroyed. He then went to the barn and laid down in the
manger to die. There he lay from Sunday until Wednesday, when he was
found and taken to Etherville, a doctor was called and his life saved.
Just think, what he had to go through in those three days!"
A list of those who were killed by the Indians the 24th of August, 1862:
Mikkel Olsen Slaabakken from Tolgen, born 1st March, 1831
Ole O. Førde from Evanger, Bergens Stift, born 18th January, 1822.
Johannes K. Exe from Voss, Bergens Stift, born 26th August, 1833.
Knudt Midtstad from Voss.
Brita Midtstad from Voss.
Lars Larsen Førenes from Strilelandet, born 1834.
Anna Larsen, his wife, born 1834.
Anna Langeland, Knut Langeland's wife, born 1824.
Anna Langeland, Knut Langeland's daughter, born 1853.
Aagaata Langeland, Knut Langeland's daughter, b. 1857.
Nicolai Johan Langeland, Knut Langeland's son, born 1860.
Knud Langeland, Knud Langeland's son, born 1861.
Now there was a temporary end to the Norwegian
settlement in Jackson: all the survivors moved eastward, some to
Winneshiek County, Ia., others to Houston County, Minn.
The new settlement began in 1864. The Indian
troubles had obliterated all organization and it became necessary to
reorganize the county, which was done in 1865 by the aforementioned
Simon Olsen Slaabakken and two Americans, who were appointed by the
Anders Olsen, another of the old settlers, writes that he transported
the materials for the first church in the county - from Mankato - a
distance of 80 miles - 160 miles each trip! Once he went astray in a
snowstorm and stumbled around the prairie for 5 days - without food -
and poorly clad. Grain, cattle and swine were the first settlers' main
source of income. The nearest marketplace was Mankato. In 1873 and the
following 4 years, grasshoppers destroyed most of the crops, so it was
rather tight for the people.
There are 9 Norwegian churches and 11 congregations
in Jackson County, 4 belong to Hauge's Synod, 3 to The United Church, 3
to The Norwegian Synod and 1 to Elling Eielsen's Society.
For information in the political area, see the section 'Norwegians in public office in America'
Places with Norwegian names: Christiania (Township),
Verdal (Værdalen), Bergen and Namsos (Post Offices). Only the
last P.O. still exists.
*They learned this. The price for a good forest
claim was usually a pair of oxen and a wagon. The price was paid and
the Yankees had to move.
Kanabec County, Minnesota
The first, or at least one of the first, Norwegians
in this county was H.E. Sjøbøen from Os parish, near
Bergen. He moved from Winneshiek County,Iowa to the vicinity of Mora in
1898. There were many Indians at that time and few whites. The
Norwegians were mainly occupied in mixed farming.
In the area of Lewis Lake, Ole and P. Langlie, S.
Huser, H. Olsen, A. J. and H. Hansen, A. E. Mehl and P. Stark were the
The aforementioned H. E. Sjøbøen was
to first Norwegian to receive public office in the county. He was
elected County Commissioner in 1900. Hauge's Synod, The Norwegian Synod
and The Lutheran Free Church each have a congregation in this county.
Kandiyohi County, Minnesota
Even Railsen (Glesne), Andrew Railsen (Glesne), Ole
Knudsen and E. O. Glesne, all from Sigdal had settled by Norway Lake by
1858 and were thus the first Norwegian settlers in the county. Next
after them came Christopher C. Engen from Nordre Land, Erik Kopperud
from Hadeland as well as Lars Andersen† , Ole Hagen† and Sivert
Andersen and more. St. Cloud, about 60 miles away, was their nearest
marketplace. They began with growing wheat and had just gotten on their
feet with buildings and farming, when that bloody Indian uprising took
place (in 1862).
Ole Hagen, who lived on Section 32, was found dead
at the edge of the road, not far from his home. He had filled his
wounds with grass in the hope that would stop the blood loss, but it
did not help him. The bodies of Berge Bergesen, Fredrik Olsen and Mrs.
Olsen were also found near Hagen's home.
The same day, 4 Indians came to Lars Andersen's
house, where they begged for milk, that he (Andersen himself) carried
out to them, but when he went back to the house, he was shot. His son,
Endre, on orders from the Indians, went to the garden to dig up some
potatoes for them and after that was done, they killed him. His
brother, Ole, was shot in the shoulder and fell, seemingly dead, behind
the stove. Their sisters, Guri and Brita, the first 17 and the other 8
years, were carried off by the Indians. But the next morning, while the
Indians were out looking for their horses, that had broken loose during
the night, they had the oppostunity to flee. Mrs. Lars Andersen had
hidden in the cellar with her 21⁄2 year old child. From the cellar, she
was witness to the extermination of her family. And, thinking they were
all dead, she began to lose her composure, but then she found that her
son, Ole, mentioned above, came to and she got her courage back. They
got hold of a pair of oxen and a sled and drove to Oscar Ericksen's
But here also, the Indians had carried out their
bloodbath. An unmarried Swede by the name of Carlson, who stayed with
the Erickson family, had been killed, Ericksen himself was badly
wounded in the abdomen and an American, who also lived there with his
family, was similarly badly wounded. The women in the house,
themselves, had to take up the combat against the savages after their
men had been rendered unfit to fight. They barricaded the doors and
windows and shot through cracks and holes with such skill that the
redskins found it advisable to withdraw, taking their wounded and one
dead. The women noticed, however, that one of their neighbor's houses
had been set afire, and since they feared the same fate, they decided
to flee with their children while the Indians were distant. Their
wounded men, they had to leave where they lay. It was luck, however,
that Mrs. Andersen and her son came with a vehicle and she took these
men with her to Forest City, where their families had fled ahead of
The whole settlement was the object of plunder and
murder. At Ole Knudsen's a number of refugees had gathered one evening.
Knudsen and his wife took a child each on their shoulder in all haste
to Even Railsen's home, but since Railsen and his family had already
abandoned their home, Knudsen and his group took refuge on a little
island in Norway Lake, that was out of gun range, to which they got
with help of a tree trunk that they pushed back and forth until all
were brought to safety. There they would resist, if necessary.
Among other Norwegians, who through a narrow squeak,
had avoided the redskin's murderous hand, was Thomas Osmundsen and his
father-in-law, Svend Borgen, from Nummedal. While they were occupied
with moving some furnishings and foodstuffs from Borgen's house, the
Indians, who were hiding in ambush, began to shoot at them. But when
those on the nearby island heard their cries, they began to raise their
voices so loudly that the Indians became frightened and took flight.
Rumours of the unhappy conditions at Norway Lake
had, however reached Paynesville, where it did not take long to equip a
small army to help their neighbors in the west. Among the first
refugees the Paynesville expedition met on their march westward were 5
children belonging to a Johannes Iversen, that the Indians had killed.
This group of children had wandered around the prairie, crying and
hungry and without a destination. About the same time, Even Olsen, Erik
Kopperud and Lars Iversen and their families came to Paynesville and
thence others began coming, one caravan after another.The company
continued further eastward in the direction of St. Cloud and over time
as they flooded forth, the company grew, since no one wished to be the
first victim of the redskins, who they believed were on a hunt for the
When the company reached the City of St. Cloud
obstacles met them since the ferry was closed and they could not get
across the large river that ran through that city. The businessmen and
others, who were dependent on the farmers, did not wish to see that the
area could be laid waste. But, the aforementioned Thomas Osmundsen was
not at a loss as to what to do. He mounted one of his oxen and had it
swim over with him - and his example was contagious, both people and
livestock quickly got across to the other bank. However, they agreed on
seizing the ferry by force, if the police would give way willingly.
From the refugee group's leaders people soon got the understanding that
they could just as well fight with the citizens of St. Cloud than go
back and fight the Indians. The consequence then, was that they got
their way. The police did not say a word.
The first Norwegian settler in the area of Kingville
was Halvor Jørdal of Drangedal parish. He later took part in the
Civil War, where he fell. See the section 'Norwegians in American Wars'
George Johnson, from Gudbransdalen, was the first settler in the area of Georgeville.
The first who settled in the neighborhood of Willmar
were Erik Nelson Elgeraas from Sveen parish, Søndhordland. He
came from Burnett County, Wisc., and settled in the aforementioned
place in 1863, thus after the Indian uprising. Next after him came Olai
Olsen from Ranen, Nordland, Ole Aslaksen, Tollef Homen, Halvor
Sondresen and Andreas Aslaksen† from Vinje, Telemarken. A little later
came Helmer Martinsen† from Lofoten, Ole L. Elgeraas from Sveen,
Søndhordland, Halvor Olsnes from Vinje, Telemarken as well as
John Oson, Matias Olsen, Mads Knudsen, Knud Staland† , Ellef Ellefsen,
Ole Sletten† , Thore Lindland† , Asbjørn Pedersen, Tore Feiring†
, Ole Torkelsen† , Jacob Jacobsen and Anders Christiansen, who all
settled near Willmar.
About this time also, the settlers who had to flee
the Norway Lake district during the Indian uprising, began to return to
their homes. A few others also settled there now, namely, Martin Engen,
Johan Haavelsen and Erik Negaard, all from Nordre Land, Elling
Sagadalen† and Erik Ruud from Hallingdal, Anders Skare† , John Hamre
and Erik Kvenrud from Eggedal, Iver K. Syse from Hardanger, Jacob
Ramstad from Sigdal and Lars Næs† from Sogndal.
Toløre Torgersen from Telemarken was the first to settle at Kandiyohi Station.
And the first in the area of Irving were B. C.
Bensen from Helgeland, Ole C. Christensen† from Næsne, Nordland
as well as N. Emeson and Størk Larson. This settlement was
called Nordland because it was founded by Nordlændinger (1866).
It lies in the northeast part of Kandiyohi County and the northwest
part of the adjacent part of Meeker County.
Norway Lake congregation, that was founded in 1866,
was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. Pastor Th. Johnson,
of the Norwegian Synod was its first serving priest. Its church was
built in 1868. Now there are 19 Norwegian congregations in and 16
churches in the county, 6 of the congregations belong to The Lutheran
Free Church, 5 to The United Church and 5 to The Norwegian Synod, 2 to
Hauge's Synod and 1 to the 'Free-Free'
The first Norwegian to hold an official position was the Nummedaling,
C. G. Lien, he was elected County Treasurer in 1867. (The northern half
of the present Kandiyohi County was then called Magnolia County and it
was here he was the Treasurer.
Andrew Railson of Norway Lake was the first
Norwegian who represented the county in the State Legislature (elected
Willmar Seminary, a Norwegian school was founded in
1882. Recently a school was established at Norway lake, mainly for
Norwegian children. The Free Church Children's Home was moved from
Lamberton to Willmar, Kandiyohi County this year (1905). For more
information on these establishments, see their respective sections,
later in the book.
Places with Norwegian names: Arctander, Aspelien,
Dovre, Hawick (Havig), Holum, Grue, Negord (Negaard), Norway Lake and
Kittson County, Minnesota
A. C. Teien, from Drammen was, as far as is known,
the first Norwegian to settle in this county. He settled in the area
that now bears his name, in 1879.
G. Medso from Overhalden was the first in the area of Hallock.
And B. M. Bothun, from Bergen, the first at Beaton.
About the journey to America, one of the oldtimers
(one who first lived in Wisconsin) had this to say, "I came to America
on a little brig from Kristiania. That was in 1862. We were 82 days on
the trip from Norway to Quebec and 16 days on the trip inland. During
two terrible storms, herring bunkers and boxes and everything else on
the deck was washed to sea. During one of the storms we lost all the
rigging. Masts, yards and sails - everything went overboard - while the
one wave after the other washed over the vessel. We all thought that
our time had come. One could hear many cries to God for mercy for our
souls. We did not soon forget the danger we had faced. Finally we came
ashore. It took 16 days before we reached our destination. The trip
through the country was long and unpleasant also. †œWhat a difference
there is in an American trip, then and now!"
Skjeberg congregation, founded in the Town of Teien
in 1883 by Pastor Iver Tharalfsen, of the Norwegian Conference, was the
first Norwegian congregation in the county. There are now 11 Norwegian
congregations and 8 churches, 6 belonging to The United Church, 3 to
The Lutheran Free Church, 1 to The Norwegian Synod and 1 to Hauge's
Ole Holter was the first Norwegian to hold a public position in the county.
P. M. Hendricks is so far the only Norwegian who has represented Kittson County in the State Legislature.
Places with Norwegian names: Norway, Teien, Reinholt, Visby and Siggestad.
Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settlers settled by the Lac qui Parle River in 1869.
It was a group of 40 families, mainly from Stavanger
and the Bergen area that settled amongst the Indians here. They came
from Fayette County, Ia. with F. Jacobsen as their leader, and he was
also the first to take land. Peter Thompson accompanied the colony as
priest and Peter Skoven as teacher.
The first in the area of Louisburg were Jacob Nilsen
and Torkel Thompson from Hallingdal and Ole Skordal from Telemarken.
The first in the area of Marietta was A. M. Aves from the Trondhjem
area. The first in the area of Boyd was Peder Quaal from
The first in the county's southern part - in the
area of Freeland, was Andreas Eriksen from Eidsvold, a veteran of the
In "The Town of Freeland's History" that some
enterprising Norwegians had written, Eriksen tells, "In the beginning,
we lived 15 miles from our nearest neighbors. The Indians visited us
regularly in the first years and made much mischief by pilfering
anything they could manage, when they lay fishing along Florida Creek.
Once, when my wife and children were home alone, an Indian chieftain
came from the Sisseton Reservation with a tomahawk in his hand and sat
in the middle of the floor in the house. His aim was to frighten my
wife and children out of there so he could help himself to the
foodstuffs, and his wish was fulfilled, since the terrified woman took
her children and fled as fast as she could. Otherwise, these Indians
were peaceful. In 1878, when the government decided that they should
move back to their reservation, they came in a great group with a peace
pipe, which we all had to smoke with them as a sign of peace and
friendship. When this ceremony was over, they withdrew peacefully and
we never saw them again."
He tells further, "In 1876-77 the grasshoppers came
in monstrous swarms that blotted out the sun as they flew in the air.
They landed in the fields and destroyed everything on their way. in
1877 we had 18 acres of wheat. We worked without a break, night and
day, took straw, hay and other combustible material and took it to the
side of the wheat fields and set fires, and so hindered the
grasshoppers from ruining the harvest, with fire and smoke.
This was strenuous work but it was a matter of a
living for the family. Our efforts were richly rewarded, on the 18
acres, we got 200 bushels of wheat, enough for ourselves and for next
year's seed. On other places the crop was totally destroyed, yes even
the grass and the leaves on the trees were eaten by the voracious
"Another dangerous element were the prairie fires
that from time immemorial have ravaged these plains. Just for fun, the
Indians set fire to the high grass and the fires were driven by the
wind at lightning speed across the prairie, consuming everything in the
way in a sea of flames. Like a consuming sea, the fire came racing over
the endless plateau. No plowed field, no river could do anything to
stop or slow its furious speed. Some furrows around our houses was the
only protection and sometimes that failed.
Often one lost everything one owned and escaped with
his life by the skin of his teeth. Many times I fought against prairie
fires until I was more dead than alive," adds Ericksen.
"Of snakes and serpents there was such a number," he
says, "that there was great trouble and fear, they crept into our
houses, that were not as tight as the farmer's houses nowadays, and
often got up into our beds. One time my wife found a snake lying rather
cozily beside our little child in bed. Once we found 15-20 in one
place. In a short time we lost our fear of them. It showed that their
bite was not poisonous and they were eradicated after the land was
Another of the old settlers, Berger Steffensen from
Eidskogen, tells about how it went when he wanted to buy a 'team' for
the first time. It was a pair of oxenf he wished to obtain. Naturally,
he had to go east to get them. After many days of difficult travel, he
finally bought a pair, northeast of Montevideo. He was poor and had to
buy them on credit but he was nevertheless happy to have his own team.
It was arduous to get to the oxen home, there were no bridges over
rivers or creeks, and there was no road. To get across the Minnesota
River, the oxen swam with the owner hanging onto their tails, but later
he got one of the animals to carry him on its back. Late in the fall he
went to Appleton, the nearest place one could get grain milled. He was
completely unfamiliar with the land, nor was there any road. Then the
skies opened and it began to rain heavily and the wet soil heaved. "I
finally got there and had my grain ground," he says. "On the way home
the weather changed to snow and biting cold. What the oxen and I
suffered on that trip is impossible to recount. After 5-6 days of
adversity, we finally got home."
Herman Olsen Dale from Eidskogen tells, "In the year
1881, when we had a bad snow winter, our dugout, that we lived in was
often buried in snowdrifts so that in the morning we had to shovel the
snow into the room so that we could get out, and the lamps had to be
lit all the time to get light because the snow lay 8 - 10 feet deep.
However, we were comfortable and warm and suffered no want."
"Lac qui Parle Congregation", that was established
in 1870 by Pastor Peder Thompson of Elling Eielsen's Society was the
first Norwegian congregation in the county. Now there are 27 Norwegian
congregations and 24 churches, 15 of them belong to The United Church,
7 to Hauge's Synod, 2 to The Evangelical free Church, 1 to The
Norwegian Synod, 1 to The Lutheran Free Church and 1 to Elling
Peter F. Jacobsen and Colbe Anderson, who were
elected in 1872 to County Treasurer and County Commissioner
respectively, were the first Norwegians in public positions in the
The aforementioned Peter Jacobsen was also the first
Norwegian to represent Lac qui Parle County in the State Legislature,
"Minnesota Tidende" (For a time called "Madison
Tidende") was published in the aforementioned city in the 90s.
The United Church's Normal School was founded in Madison, Minn. in 1892.
Post Offices with Norwegian names: Norman, Vaaler and Sverdrup, all closed.
Lake County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian in this county was Chas. M.
Flaathe from Hommelvigen near Trondhjem. He settled at Two Harbors in
1884. Later in the year came the brothers Ole and Andrew Hansen from
Romsdalen, M. A. and P. M. Johnson from Vefsen as well as John Osbakken
from Nordland. The major part of Lake County was covered by forest.
Logging was therefore the main source of income. Now it is almost all
cleared and as a consequence they have begun farming.
There are 2 Norwegian churches and 3 congregations,
2 of them belonging to The United Church and 1 to The Methodists.
For information about Norwegian county officials see the section, "Norwegians in public positions in America.
*One of the correspondents begins his message with
the following notation: "Now I have done my best with regard to the
sought information. But there are probably some of the readers who will
discover spelling mistakes in one or another of the names, that they
will criticize. These people demand the impossible." -- Yes, they do,
because they have not tried themselves, they speak as if they are
colour blind. They concern themselves only with what is, as a rule, is
nearest them, and the object of the main work, they do not see.
Therefore neither should we pay much attention to them.
Lincoln County, Minnesota
Knut T. Nameland from Bakke, Sætersdalen
writes, "Before I mention our present home, I will mention 'the home we
left'. We settled in the Rock River Settlement, 9 miles from Watertown,
Wis. in 1844. There we lived for 3 years. Our house was built of
basswood. A large tree, whose bark was loosened on one side, served as
both door and hinge. From Wisconsin we moved to Boone County, Ill.,
where we lived until 1870. Then I went to Lincoln County, Minn. At that
time this area was wilderness. I believe certainly that I was the first
white man that visited Lincoln County with the intention of taking
land. Some Indians (half-breeds) told me that there was still forest to
be found, and forest was what we all coveted at that time. I wandered
around for 4 days without finding either people or wagon tracks, but I
found what I was looking for. Later in the year, I received many
neighbors. The land was still not surveyed. To our little post office
it was 35 miles, the nearest flour mill was 60 miles away. Now, it is
only 2 miles to the nearest town - Porter."
The Honorable John Hanson, Hendricks, Minn. says:
"In the election of 1873, Lyon County was divided in
two parts and the western part (15 Townships) was organized under the
name Lincoln County. At that time there were only a few Norwegian
settlers, and they had settled in the northeast part of the county,
near where the little Town of Porter in Yellow Stone County was later
Of these can be mentioned: Jacob and Johannes Dahl
from the Trondhjem area, who are both dead. And Amund Gunderson from
Sætersdalen, he still lives there and cultivates his farm. Also,
Ole Syverson from Gudbrandsdalen, he is still alive but has moved from
there. These and some others were the first settlers in the Town of
Alta Vista. To the west lies the Town of Marble. This town also
received some new settlers in 1872, among them, Ole Fladeland from
Sætersdalen and Martin Paulson from Nordland, but these two
families moved from here many years ago and are likely dead.
West of Marble, we have Hansonville, where the
author of this account, John Hanson was the first settler. I settled
here the 4th July 1873 and functioned as absolute ruler for almost 3
years, but since I had only grasshoppers and blackbirds to rule, the
position was not so great as the words suggest, but big enough and good
enough since I sat here as one of Uncle Sam's sons (bachelors) and my
freedom was unlimited. But it is not good for people to be alone, I
needed neighbors and the emigration here had stopped. Whether it was
the grasshoppers that scared people off, I do not know, but I will put
the blame on them anyway, for they were very numerous, but for me it
made no difference, but they took all we sowed and planted and this
people usually detested. With these conditions, I found no other way to
get more people in our Township than to take a wife, and this ceremony
took place the 5th April 1876, when Miss Karen Caulum from Næs,
Hedemarken abandoned her maiden name and took the name Mrs. Karen J.
Hanson. This ceremony doubled the immigrant population in our Township
but diminished my lordship fifty percent.
As mentioned, in the spring of 1876 our Township had
only one family, but in 1880, when as an enumerator for the U.S. Census
Department,, I did the census for these three mentioned Townships, it
was 30 families and in all three Townships, not quite a hundred and
fifty families, of which at least ninety percent of the parents were
By this time the grasshoppers had disappeared and
the worst had been overcome, and a degree of prosperity had begun to
take the place of poverty, even though in 1881 almost everyone needed
to grind their flour in a coffee mill, since we had 3 to 20 feet of
snow in the fields so that no one could go the 30 to 40 miles to the
mill. But we had enough wheat that, as soon as we learned the milling
profession, we also had our own flour - a sort of first patent.
Then we were in our best age and of capable ancestry, had good health
and appetite and were not concerned that cold and snow drifts bit a
little in the ears and noses, we overcame everything we had to go
through very well.
Since 1872 until now, great changes have taken
place, the prairies has been converted to fertile fields and gardens
and greater or smaller forest groves are to be seen on almost every
farm, so prosperity and pleasant homes are to be seen everywhere.
Instead of sod huts we have large, splendid, modern houses, the horse
had taken the ox's place, threshing machines are run with steam, 'fine'
wagons are Top buggies and Surreys, the homesteader is called Master,
the wife uses false teeth and is called 'Missus'."
Of the oldest settlers there should be mentioned
Lars Fjeseth, John Knutsen, Ole Nesseth, Nils Thoresen† and Ole E.
Larson, all from Singsaas, Knut Støver from Opdal, as well as
Jens Hansen, John Thoresen and M. B. Nygaard. They came here in 1876,
most of them from Allamakee County, Ia.
There are 3 Norwegian churches and 5 congregations
in the county, 2 belong to The United Church, 2 to the Methodists and 1
to The Norwegian Synod.
The aforementioned John Hanson of Hendricks was the
first Norwegian official in this county. He was elected County
Commissioner in 1874. He was also the first and, until now, the only
Norwegian to represent the county in the State Legislature (elected
Townships whose names are of Norwegian origin:
Hansonville and Drammen. And for a time the was a post office with the
Lyon County, Minnesota
Johan Mo, Trønder and bachelor, was the first
Norwegian here. He settled in the vicinity of Cottonwood in 1870. In
1871 came another Trønder, Nils Nilsen Rosvold (from Leksviken).
He and his wife walked from Brownsville to Spring Grove, Houston
County, and from there by oxcart to their present home. The first thing
they did was dig a hole in the hillside, they lived there for 8 years.
Their dugout was often covered with snow so they had to dig a hole to
get in an out, much like the prairie gophers. It was such houses the
new settlers had to be satisfied with. Also in 1871, came three
Valdriser, Johannes Andersen (from Etnedalen) and O. Brenna and Ole
Brotten. Next after them came Knut Brotten and Mikkel Snortum,
similarly from Valdres.
The first in the vicinity of Minneota were the
brothers Svennung and Ole Pedersen from Solør, Johannes Ilstad
from Stavanger, Torjus Flom from Sogn, Nils Torgersen, Halvor Nyland,
Vetle Hovden, Torjus Loftsgaarden and Ole Nordbo, all from Telemarken,
Fred Holritz from Kristiania, Nils Gregersen, Tobias Trana, Niels
Anderson and Ole Myrvik, the last 4 from Nordland, and A. O. Strand,
Jacob Hansen, Torbjørn Hansen and Ole Espe. It was mainly wheat
and cattle raising they took on, but because of grasshoppers there was
very little wheat they could harvest in the first years. St. Peter, 75
miles away, was the nearest marketplace.
One of the most severely tested pioneers in Minneota
was N. B. Nelson Kvamme. He left Norway together with his parents in
1851, they came from Lærdal parish. Shortly before their
departure, his mother had a baby and being weak, she became seriously
ill after they came onto the sea. His father felt such a regret during
these circumstances, however, that he against his wishes, had brought
his family on such a long and unpleasant journey (by sailship) that he
eventually lost his reason. And here in a foreign land - far from
family and friends - sat a poor mother with five small children.
Ole Nordbo suffered frostbite of his feet in a snow
storm that raged in 1872. He had spent most of the time in a boxcar.
Hans Samuelsen was out in the storm for three days before he found his
way home to his family. And Nils Torgersen lost his oxen in the same
E. K. Rønning, C. P. Myran, John Myran, H. P.
Sanden, Andrew Sanden and C. P. Sanden, all from Opdal, C. J. Halset
from Fron and Peder Anderson† from Rennebo were the first in the
vicinity of Florence.
Ole Helgesen, Ole Andersen, Kittel Christoffersen
and Asle O. Bjerkerud (most, if not all, from Sigdal) and Nils S.
Taarud were the first in the area of Tracy. Taarud got the town, where
he lives, called Dovray (Dovre).
Iver S. Roti from Nordfjord, now in Cottonwood,
writes, "In 1871, my wife and I came from Norway to Trempeleau, Wis.,
from there we went by steamship up the Mississippi to Winona, from
there we continued our journey westward on foot. A haystack, not far
from an Indian tent was our lodging the first night. The next day just
as we came to a height from which we had a good view of the west's
plains, a storm broke loose with rain, thunder and lightning and we
were very frightened. After much travel, we finally reached Beaver
Ole A. Lien, also one of Lyon County's pioneers
gives a detailed description of a new settler's life. He writes,
"Nearly all who came here were poor people. And there was nothing here
to be earned. If we wished to earn a little money we had to travel east
to Rice and Goodhue Counties and often further. But what made our
position even more oppressive was the grasshoppers that ravaged this
area for the first 7 years. And another thing that cannot be forgotten
by those who went through it, was the snowy winter of 1880-81. It came
so early that almost no one was ready for it. Winter made its entry
with a violent blizzard as early as the middle of October and much of
the livestock lost their lives on the prairie. Either they froze to
death or they were smothered by the snow. One storm was replaced by
another in short intervals throughout the whole winter and as a
consequence, all contact with the outside world was closed. The
railroad was blocked almost all the time and it was about as impossible
to get to town with a team. Needless to say, we had to be satisfied
with the most necessary items and those we had to carry - or bring them
on homemade sleds that we pulled behind us as we went on skis. The
biggest problem was to get flour and firewood. There were many families
who had to get themselves through winter with what they could grind in
a coffee mill. And if the family was large, someone had to sit and
grind continuously from morning till night, all winter. For our fires
we had to use hay, straw and anything else - yes, even furniture, when
the pinch came.
St. Lucas Congregation, that was established at
Brenner in 1875 by Pastor K. Torstenson and that was in The Norwegian
Synod, was the first congregation in the county. Now there are 15
Norwegian congregations and 10 churches, 8 belong to The United Church,
5 to The Norwegian Synod and 2 to The Lutheran Free Church.
Hans Oakland† and O. H. Dahl were the first
Norwegians to hold public office in the county. Oakland was elected
County Commissioner and Dahl as court Clerk in 1875.
Places with Norwegian names in Lyon County: Nordland, Eidsvold, Sverdrup, Vallers and Westerheim.
Marshall County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian in this county was Halvor
Gundersen from Vægli, Nummedal. He settled in Oak Park Township
on a site that is now called Halvor (P.O.) in 1878.The names of the
first settlers in other areas is given below.
In the area of Bigwoods: Mathias Swensen, S., B. M.
and H. M. Swensen as well as John Helland, all from Telemarken, John J.
Enden, Martin J. Enden, John H. Enden, Hans B, Imdahl and Ole T.
Imsdahl, all from Ringebo, O. P. Oseth from Storelvedalen, Charles and
H. A. Larson, both born in Wisconsin, as well as A. Tondrum and John
Gjelhaug, both from Lands parish.
Warren: K. Tharalsæth from Nordfjord.
Newfolden: Hans O. Folden and Ole J. Folden from
Skjærvø, Finmarken, Even A. Schie from Rakkestad,
Smaalenenes Amt, Ole Hevle from Opdal, Ole O. Lie from Hallingdal, Hans
H. Saugen and Mathias Hansen from Hedemarken as well as Anton Stokke
and Ole Madsen.
Ellerth: Elias A. Haarstad from Gudbrandsdalen.
West Valley: Gulick S. Vedme from Sogn.
Excel: John Berg from Grue, Solør.
Apple: Elling Halvorsen from Sigdal.
Strip: Gulbrand Haugen from Ringsaker.
Ingalls: Jørgen Knudsen Moen from Vegardsheen, Telemarken.
Juvik: O. T. Odegaarden.
Ware: Anders Malvik† from Strinden and M. G. Broten†
from Toten. (Anders Malvik was run over on the railroad near Crookston
Liner: Otto P. Lee, whose parents were from Gudbrandsdalen.
Germantown: Emil Sigerud from Aasnes, Solør.
Thorwick: Saave Brokke from Sætersdalen.
Fir: Herbrand Helgesen from Gol, Hallingdal.
Foldahl: Mr. -- Dahl from Foldal, Østerdalen.
One of the first settlers writes, "My new settler's
story is hardly bright. I came here in great poverty and here there was
not a known person that I could turn to. The first fall I was here, I
became sick and lay 5 months in a little shanty, 8x12 feet. I slept on
some boards, a sort of bed, that were nailed to the wall. My wife slept
in a rounded old country trunk all winter. It was far from a doctor and
we had nothing to pay for medical help, for all we had was debt. But
until now, the lord has helped." This is an example of what opportunity
there was for medical help when a new settler became ill.
Another settler tells how it went with him when he
drove from his old to his new home (ca. 150 miles) with an ox team, a
sick wife and 4 children and some household goods in the wagon. There
was nothing, however, that could be called roads. When bad weather
came, and the roads became almost impassable, it was great to stay in
the wagon. One time he got stuck in a slough where there seemed to be
no people or oxen nearby to help. Fortunately there was a German in the
neighborhood. On my call for help, he came with his team and pulled out
The Lutheran congregation, that was established at Bigwoods in 1882 by
Pastor Andreas Øfstedal, belonging to The Norwegian Synod, was
the first Norwegian congregation in the county. There are now 28
Norwegian congregations and 21 churches in the county, 11 belong to The
Norwegian Synod, 6 to the Lutheran Free Church, 6 to The United Church,
3 to Hauge's Synod and 2 to the Methodists.
Esten E. Royem, who was elected County Auditor in 1881, was the first Norwegian official here.
Andrew Grindeland (now a district judge) was the
first Norwegian in the State Legislature from this county (1898).
Norwegian newspapers in Marshall County: 'Red River
Dalens Sol', Warren and 'Bud og Hilsen', Newfolden. (The first
mentioned existed only a short time)
Places with Norwegian names: Agder, Augsburg, Elmbo,
Englund, Esplee, Fodvang, Foldahl, Fram, Grygla, Halvor, Hellem, Holt,
Idun, Jevne, Jonstad, Juvik, Klep, Koland, Lund, Løveid, Nelson
Park, Newfolden (Nyfolden), Ny Solum, Opdahl, Oslo, Ringbo, Rockstad,
Skog, Sørum, Thorwick, Valborg, Viking and Wanger, altogether 34.
Marshall County takes the prize with regard to
Norwegian place names, it has more than any other county in America.
In 'Historical and Statistical Resumé' can be
found the total number of Norwegian place names here in the country.
McLeod County, Minnesota
Christen Johnson from Hedalen, Valders and Andreas
Olsen† from Hedemarken were the first Norwegians in McLeod County. They
came from Green Co., Wis. and settled in the Town of Bergen in 1856.
Later in the year came A. Anderson, A. Hansen, Arne Olsen, Østen
Syversen† , Esten Qvien† and Nils G. Tvedt, all from Valders, Esten
Bakken† from Trøndelag, Bryngel Pedersen† from Hardanger, Elling
Johnson from Gudbrandsdalen, Mathias Anderson† from Risør,
Gunder Halvorsen from Skjervø parish as well as Lars Vrengen† ,
John Ellingsen† , Nils Torgrimsen† and Ole Knudsen† .
The land was for the most part covered with forest. They began with
wheat and cattle raising. To the nearest marketplace, Carver, it was 25
In 1862, when people in other parts of the state
were being murdered and plundered by the Indians, there was unease her
also. They believed they saw Indians everywhere. And people moved night
and day. Everyone was frightened but they did not know where they could
best find safety.
In McLeod County there are 2 Norwegian churches and 3 congregations, all belonging to The Norwegian Synod.
Norwegian place names: Bergen and Winsted.
Meeker County, Minnesota
A man by the name of Danielsen was the first
Norwegian settler in this county. He settled at Acton in 1856. Next
after him came Ole Halvorsen Næss, Kittel Haraldsen Bank, Hendrik
H. Thoen and Ole H. Thoen, all from Næss, Hallingdal, and Anund
Nilsen from Eker.
One of my correspondents writes, "I can tell you
something about a man by the name of Helge Olsen, from Næss,
Hallingdal. He was not among the very first settlers but he had come
early enough to take part in the battle against the Indians. It was, as
is known, in the beginning of the 60s, at the outbreak of the Civil
War, that they struck and murdered people in various places in
Minnesota. In the Halling settlement west of Litchfield they also
killed a couple of people, after which the population fled to Forest
City, bringing their livestock and whatever they could take with them.
They fortified the place with planks and logs that the Indians' bullets
could not pierce. They raised a full stockade there in an unbelievably
short time. But it was about Helge Olsen I wished to write. This
vigorous Halling refused to flee, he remained with his old mother in
their log cabin. With his two muzzle loaders, one of which was equipped
with a bayonet, and with his dog 'Store-King' (Big King), who also
could make it hot for the redskins if they came. Yes, so came the
night, 'Store-King', who was outside, began to growl and bark
aggressively, and Olsen who understood the situation, jumped out of bed
and up into the attic where he took a position at the opening from
where he prepared to shoot his attackers in the neck as soon as they
came in through the door. When his guns were empty, he wished to use
his bayonet. He had no opportunity for that, since the enemies realized
the impossiblity and drew way. The aforementioned little Halling was
known for his Halling fist and for knocking down big Swedes and
Irishmen - without them really knowing what happened, it went so fast.
Ole Halvorsen Thoen, Jr. was the first white child born in the county
Bernt T. Hauger† from the Hauge farm in Sogndal, was
the first Norwegian settler in the area of Granada. He settled there in
For information on the Nordland settlement, that was
established on the border of Kandiyohi and Meeker in 1866, see the
One of the old settlers here tells that he lived in
LaCrosse, Wis., but worked on the Minnesota side and since the pay was
small and he was a poor father that could not pay the ferry fare.
Therefore he crossed the Mississippi on two logs that he had nailed
together. He adds, "What would people think now if they had to eat
bread made of bran and if they had to grind their grain in coffee mill?"
There are 3 Norwegian churches and 3 congregations
in Meeker County, 2 belonging to The United Church and 1 to The
A. R. Fosen was the first Norwegian county official
and Even Evensen the first - and until now the only - Norwegian in the
Legislature for this county (1886)
Mille Lacs County, Minnesota
John Johnson from Kragerø was the first
Norwegian in this county. He settled at Mille Lacs Lake in 1886. He
worked at shipping with his own steamship. He was actually a sea
captain from Norway, so to experience a lake in the middle of Minnesota
was not difficult for him. He now lives at Princeton. This information
I have received from John Skretting (from Opstad, Jæderen), who
came right after Johnson, and who gives his name to Opstad P.O. He
reached his present home after many adversities. He was, however,
untouched by the Indians, since Johnson had civilized some of them and
chased some away.
A couple of years after Skretting came the brothers
Hans and Ingvald Melsby, Peter O. Hagen and a widow, Mrs. Anna
Pettersen. Later came Helmik Skretting, Ole Thoreson, T. C. Thompson,
Carl S. Johnson, Jonas Skrettingland, Amun Hagen, Peter Ottersen, Ole
Langerud, Ole Andersen, Simon Gilbertsen, the brothers Hans, Martin and
August Ruud, August Anderson, Reinhart Graff, Anders and Mathis
Mathisen, Daniel and Ole Danielsen, Chr. Fredriksen, Thor Anderson, Per
Ellingbø, Louis Dale, S. Anderson, Bent Wamberg, Erick Dalen,
Didrik Gabrielsen, Fr. Suckow, Henry Ree etc.
In the vicinity of Greenbush, the first Norwegian
settlers were Jens Olsen from Hartmark parish, John Aarseth from the
Bergen area and Andrew Homme from Bakke parish. Next after them came
John Teutz from Grimstad, Jacob Ege from Lunde parish, Karl Berg from
Eidskogen, Daniel Andersen from Solør, Albert Jensen from
Maalselven and Jacob Jacobsen from Kvinnesdal. Later came Ole H. Uglem
from Selbu as well as O. P. Opsahl, G. Opsahl, John Erstad, Erik
Pedersen, Erik Eriksen and more.
The first Norwegians in the Bogus Creek Settlement
were Absalon Nelson, John Folvik (from Stjørdalen) and Hans
Christophersen from Gran parish.
The first in the vicinity of Milaca were Stefanus Pedersen and Rasmus Rasmussen.
The first Norwegian congregation in this county was
established at Opstead in 1894 or '95 by Pastor D. J. Grove, belonging
to The Norwegian Synod. Its name is Holden Congregation. Now there are
4 Norwegian congregations and 4 churches in the county, all belonging
to the aforementioned Synod.
Morrison County, Minnesota, Minnesota
The first Norwegian in this county was Martin
Christensen from Sarpsborg. He settled amongst the Indians not far from
Little Falls in 1870.
The first in the vicinity of Royalton was Lars Olsen from Kongsberg.
The first in the vicinity of Ausland was John Knudsen from Evje parish.
An old Norwegian settler tells, "One day an American
neighbor came to me and asked if I had paid my taxes. 'No,' I replied,
'I do not have the money for that yet.' 'Listen here,' he said, 'you
have two pigs and I have none, give me one of the pigs and I will give
you two wolf heads I have lying at home, take them to town and you can
collect the bounty.' Obviously I accepted the offer, and in this manner
paid my taxes in the fall."
There are 10 Norwegian congregations and 4 churches
in Morrison County, 7 belong to The Norwegian Synod and 3 to The
Lutheran Free Church.
Norwegian place names in this county: Ausland, Dovray (Dovre), Freedhem (Fridheim) and Strand.
Mower County, Minnesota
In the year 1854, 13 families came from Dane County,
Wis. came by ox wagons to the vicinity of Grand Meadow (the 1st July,
that year). Here there was free land and each made their own claim.
They were as follows: Ole O. Finhart† , Hans Anderson Gamlemon, Ole
Simonson Jobaaten† , Ole O. Hovda† , Erland Olsen Skalshaugen, Sivert
Olsen Skalshaugen, Anders A. Lybek† , Amund J. Lindelien† and Nils
Syvertsen Moen, all from Søndre Aurdal, Knut Klostøl and
Ole Olsen Skyru from Etnedalen, S. Aurdal and Ole Julsen from V.
Slidre, Valders. Next after them came Halvor Kløsstøl,
Aslak Aamodt and Gulik Dalen, all from Søndre Aurdal and
Christen Tuv from Slidre. Of the boys that were in the company, who are
now old men, can be mentioned Syver, Herman and Engebret Hovda as well
as Simon Simonsen and S. T. Simonsen.
But at the same time as Ole Finhart and his group
settled at the aforementioned place, Thor Olsen Qværsæker
from Øvre Telemarken settled in the vicinity of Rose Creek. He
came there from Mitchell County, Ia. Next after him came Gunder
Halvorsen† from Kragerø as well as Aslak Flaten† , Ole
Bjøndal† , Torjus Olsen† , Torger Guttormsen, Knut Lasteru and
Tideman Knudsen from Valders was the first in the vicinity of Adams. He settled there in 1855.
J. Solnes from the Kristiania region was the first in the vicinity of Lyle.
My correspondent in Adams writes, "The first
settlers in these parts experienced the new settler life's many and
severe hardships. Their nearest marketplace was McGregor, Ia., on the
Mississippi River, over 100 miles away. A journey there with oxen took
from one to two weeks, or more depending on how the roads were. Wheat
was their main source of income."
O. T. Olsen, son of one of the first settlers in Six
Mile Grove tells how he played together with Indian children. It was
not exactly the best company, but it went well, nevertheless. In any
case, he grew up big and strong and now lives as an old man in Belmont,
The Halling and Civil War veteran Erik N.
Løftegaard of Lansing writes, "I emigrated on the sailship
'Clausheste' and when we came to the quarantine station at Quebec,
naturally a doctor came aboard. They stretched a line across the ship
and everyone had to slip under it to be examined. The Captain came over
to me and said, 'Now you must do your Hallinkast' and when my turn
came, I leapt over the rope, right to the place where the doctor stood.
The oldster was really frightened, he thought I would leap onto him.
But the Captain laughed and said, 'I will show you that I have healthy
people aboard!' -- and we all were allowed to go ashore."
Bear Creek Norwegian Lutheran Congregation, that was
established at Grand Meadow in 1856 by Pastor G. L. Clausen, then of
The Norwegian Synod, was the first Norwegian congregation in Mower
County. Now there are 11 Norwegian congregations and 9 churches, 7
belong to The United Church and 4 to The Norwegian Synod.
There is also a Norwegian hospital (in Austin).
John Irgens (Lieutenant in the Civil War) was the
first Norwegian to hold public office in Mower County. He was elected
County Treasurer in 1870.
The first Norwegian to represent the county in the State Legislature was Ole Finhart, in 1872.
Murray County, Minnesota
Iver† , Petter and Albert Pettersen, together with
J. Ingebrigtsen, all from Valders, were the county's first Norwegian
settlers. They came from Winneshiek Co., Ia. and settled in the
vicinity of Slayton in 1868. Next after them came Sven Nelson, H.
Nelson, P. Sakrisen, Claus Clausen, G. Gulbransen† , Sakris Thompson,
Peder Thompson, Hans Simonsen, Erick Larson, Lars Solem, Gulbran
Johnson and Christian Christiansen. They settled in the vicinity of
The first in the vicinity of Avoca were Christ
Larson, Ole Olsen, Brede Tanner and Arnt Larson, all from Odalen.
It was partly dugouts and partly log houses they had as residences in
the first years. Wheat growing was the main source of income. The
nearest marketplaces were Heron Lake and Marshall.
One of the old settlers mentions the prairie fire as
one of the greatest dangers. When it came, things looked dark for the
new settlers. It was worst if it came when there were only women and
children at home. The men were often away at work. But, if one did not
lose his composure, it went well. And then one had to fight hard to
prevent it from reaching the huts and haystacks.
Beaver Creek Congregation, that was established at
Mason in 1873 by Pastor L. Lund, was the first Norwegian congregation
in the county. Its church was built the following year (1874) Now there
are 13 Norwegian congregations and 12 churches, 8 belonging to The
United Church, 2 to The Norwegian Synod, 1 to Hauge's Synod and 1 to
Civil War cavalryman Peter Petersen from Valders was
the first Norwegian to hold a public office in the county. He was
elected Registrar of Deeds in 1874. He was also the first to represent
the county in the State Legislature (in 1885)
Places with Norwegian names: Dovray (Dovre) and Ibsen.
Nicollet County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settlers in this county were the
brothers Mathias* and Peder G. Evensen as well as A. K. Skaro*, who
came from St. Paul to Rock Bend (now St. Peter) and took claims here in
1853. There was no sign of a town at that time. But there were Indians
and they were very unpleasant. (Once they whipped 3 Americans and put
them in the river in a canoe, they were never heard from again. This
happened close to the place where the aforementioned Norwegians
The Norseland Settlement was established the
following year (1854) by John Tollefsen from Toten, Tosten
Østensen from Tinn, Telemarken and Lars Swensen Rønning†
from Hallingdal, they came from Wisconsin. Next after them came Ole
Norman† , Bryngel Norman† and Chas. Larsen, all from Voss.
The first Norwegians in New Sweden were Ole Ostenson Bøen from
Tinn, Telemarken as well as Gunder Nerisen and S. Torgersen from
Sætersdalen. Here, as in other new settlements, they had to use
oxen for plowing and driving.
St. Paul was the new settlers' nearest marketplace
and it was 80 miles to there. Though, in the first 3 years the settlers
had nothing to sell. They sowed wheat and maize, but the grasshoppers
ate most of it before it was ripe. They had to drive to St. Paul to get
It was in this county that the Indians left the bloodiest mark. The
killings at New Ulm were colossal. Luckily, the Norwegian settlers
lived further east, so they avoided the terror, but they had to flee -
especially the women and children. Many of the men took to the field.
John Peterson (later Captain of the settler's Defense Company) was one
of those who took part in the battle at New Ulm. He writes, "While we
were there, some of the Indians attacked our settlement (further east),
they killed some and put the rest to flight. When I came back after an
week's absence, the settlers in Norseland and New Sweden had fled to
St. Peter and there I found my wife and my children"
Nicollet Congregation, which was established at St.
Peter in 1858 by Prof. Laur. Larsen, belonging to The Norwegian Synod,
was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. Th. Johnson was its
first and permanent priest. Its church was built in 1866. The material
for that had to be brought all the way from Minneapolis. Now there are
6 Norwegian congregations and 5 churches, 3 belonging to The Norwegian
Synod, 2 to The United Church and 1 to the Methodists.
John Peterson who was elected Probate Court Judge in
1873 (and held the position continually for 25 years), was the county's
first Norwegian official.
Christopher Amundsen was the first Norwegian in the State Legislature from Nicollet County (1879)
Places with Norwegian names: Solem, Granby and
Norseland. It is also claimed that some royalist Norwegians assisted
the Swedes in getting a Township and post office named Bernadotte (in
*Both Mathias Evensen and A. K. Skaro enlisted in
the Civil war. (Captain) Skaro fell in the Battle of Nashville, the
16th Dec. 1864, while he commanded his company. He died in the arms of
his comrade, (Sergeant) Evemsen's arms. The latter still lives.
Nobles County, Minnesota
Ole Gunderson† and John Hoff† , both from Nummedal,
as well as Hans Nelson, Hans Jansen† , Ole Petersen† and G. Gullicksen†
were the first Norwegians in this county. They came from Iowa County,
Wis. and settled in the vicinity of Adrian in 1872. Later in the year
came T. Tengelsen† , H. Hansen† , C. Hansen, E. Hansen, H. Dahl, Gunder
O. Joul (now in Minneapolis), O. Joul† , P. Osburn, Ole Garness† , H.
Olsen, C. Olsen and K. Thompson. They dug dugouts and began growing
wheat and oats, their nearest marketplace was Worthington.
The first Norwegian in the vicinity of Ransom was Louis Larsen from Drammen. He came there in 1874.
The following account about 'Han Ola paa
prærien' is claimed by the sender to be true - is a real
occurrence, but it is printed with all possible reservation.
"It was the first autumn. Ola had erected a log
cabin for his wife and the 4 children. But he still did not have a barn
for his cattle, of which he had about a half a score. He was, however,
frightened by these frightful Minnesota snowstorms and it looked like
all his livestock would perish, for they stood bound in an open yard.
But our Ole knew the answer, he sent his family to bed and brought all
the livestock into the house. He, himself, sat on a three-legged stool
by the stove, which he merrily kept going until the storm was over"
In Nobles County, there are 4 Norwegian churches and
6 congregations, 3 of them belong to The Lutheran free Church, 2 to The
United Church and 1 to The Norwegian Synod.
The well-known Captain Mons Grinager† held a public office for a time after his return from the Civil War.
Norman County, Minnesota
Norman County was settled by Norwegians in 1871.
Some settled at Marsh River in the vicinity of Halstad and Shelby in
the western part and some at Twin Valley in the eastern part of the
The first, who settled at Marsh River were Engel
Løvsnes† , N. R. Hage and R. R. Hage, all from the Stavanger
area, they came from Newburg, Fillmore County. Right after them came L.
L. Hauske, L. B. Larsen, H. Henderson, Jacob Hesby† , Jonas T. Redland
and A. Thompson, all from the Stavanger area, A. O. Paulson, Sivert
Paulson, Ole Paulson, Ole Halstad, John Grothe† , P. A. Paulson and
Paul Olson, all from the Trondhjem area, H. L Gordon from Nummedal,
Andrew Hawkins from Valders and Anders Golberg from Hallingdal. Some of
these (last mentioned) came from Fillmore County, Minn., the rest from
Coon Prairie, Wis. Most of them were family men and had their families
with them in wagons, drawn by oxen, and they also had some livestock.
It was early in the summer when they reached their future homes. But in
October, the men had to travel, they had to have flour and other things
to live off during the winter and to get this they had to travel all
the way to Alexandria, which took them three weeks. Their first harvest
(in 1872) they got little benefit from, the grasshoppers harvested it.
Yes, it was not enough that these 'black birds' ate the wheat and
potatoes that the people were supposed to have, they even ate the grass
so that there was not much left for the livestock. The grasshoppers
visited the area later also but it was only in 1872 that they stripped
the land bare. (N.B. Great amounts of wheat have been produced in the
Red River Valley - the world's richest wheat belt - since that time).
As mentioned, the eastern part of Norman County was
settled at the same time as the western. Martin Johnson from
Røken parish was the first who settled here - near Twin Valley.
He came from Vernon County, Wis. Next after him came Jonas Hommelvig
from Strinden, Peder Hille† from Stjørdalen, Peder Waller from
Solør, Søren Bergersen from Odalen, Jens G. Urdahl from
Sogn, Ole Fordal from Trondhjem, Mrs Enger from Risør and her
brothers Johannes, John and Jens, as well as Nils Nilsen, Nikolai
Overgaard, Gulbrand Haakonson, Ole Hansen, Andreas Hansen, Martin
Johansen, Hans Aamodt, Johannes Lien and Haakon Benson.
The first in the vicinity of Perley, the northwest
part of the county, were Ole J. Lee from Smaalenene as well as G. J.
Krosby, Johan Jacobsen and Mrs. Krogstad, with their families.
Old P. O. Herreid of Twin Valley tells, "I came to
America by sailship in 1857. At sea, a remarkable event occurred. An
emigrant from Bergen fell overboard one day in the middle of the
Atlantic. The wind was strong and the ship was making a speed of 13
miles per hour. A panic - questions about father and brother - seized
everyone. However, a life ring had been thrown out and since the man
was a good swimmer, he got hold of it. The ship swung about, and even
though the waves were as high as the tops of the masts, the emigrant
From a pamphlet that a number of enterprising
settlers had published in the vicinity of Wild Rice, we have the
following anecdote: - - - In the winter the timber was cut and in the
spring, the neighbors came together to help Søren Olsen build
the mill (at Wild Rice). A simple flour and saw mill was begun in 1876.
That the mill was very simple, and the following exclamation by Johan
Mattson, a clever man, will show. When he saw the waterwheel of the
sawmill he said, 'If that wheel can drive a saw, then pigs might fly!'
Since the mill had to be built on the north side of
the river, those who lived on the southern side had to take their wheat
and flour across the river in boats. Since not everyone was used to
handling a boat, there were many comical events. Once, when John Narum
was going to the mill, he lost his whole load in the river. Ole Holum
was also going by boat but since he did not know much about rowing he
drifted down river in the stream, shouting and complaining. So, they
attempted to build a bridge. Olsen obtained the material and the
neighbors came to get it erected. But the next spring when the ice
loosened, it was swept away as if it was made of straw. After a few
years, a young miller came here, Jørgen Heiberg, the son of
merchant J. Heiberg of Bergen, Norway. Olsen sold the mill to him with
everything belonging to it. Mr. Heiberg was unmarried but had a very
merry serving girl to look after him. One Sunday evening she went
across the river to fetch the mail etc for Mr. Heiberg. Since it became
late and dark, she spent the night on the other side. Early Monday
morning she was to go back and Olson was going to take her across. But
unfortunately someone had been there and taken the boat to the other
side and Olson planned to take a canoe he had and go across for the
boat, but she did not wish to wait and before Olson knew it she was
also in the canoe, and the consequence was that everything fell into
the river, Olson, the girl, the mail, cream and eggs. The girl held
onto the canoe but all that could be seen of her was her nose and the
feathers in her hat, that stuck up above the water. Many such stories
from those days could be told. But this will then be enough now to show
what the conditions were at that time.
John Narum tells about the arrival of the
grasshoppers in 1876, "In 1875, the grasshoppers had not laid eggs and
we began to believe we would be free of them. And in the spring of '76,
we saw nothing of them until the beginning of July, and everything
looked excellent, oats barley and wheat, and we all had high hopes. One
Sunday morning, probably the 9th of July, I accompanied Kristian Olson
and John Grønøen, who then lived at Fossum, west over
Sections 6 and 8 in Home Lake, where Mr. Grønøen wished
to look at some land. After having a look, we went north to Peter
Skjægrud's to rest a bit and have a chat, since we did not have
many neighbors to visit at that time, as can be understood. There was
beautiful, delightful sunshine and everything looked charming and
happy. We got to Skjægrud's just after noon. Mrs. Skjægrud
immediately began to prepare a dinner for us. When the meal was
finished, we left the table, but before we sat down, Mrs.
Skjægrud, who was looking out the door, exclaimed, 'But look, it
is snowing!' We went out to look, and true enough, it was snowing,
white, wet and thick on the fields and trees, as though it was
February. And it was so thick in the sky that we could hardly find the
sun. What kind of snow it was soon became very clear, for it was
nothing other than the grasshoppers. And they came so thick that within
an hour the the fields and pastures were completely covered with them.
When, somewhat later, we left Skjægrud's, he accompanied us to
see what effect the grasshopper's arrival had had. They lay so thick on
the fields that we could see our footprints with every step we took. I
took off my jacket, bound the sleeves, then with me holding one side
and Mr. Skjægrud on the other, we ran against the wind to see how
many grasshoppers we could catch. And we had not run very far before
the sleeves were so full they could not hold more. So you can
understand there were enough of them. And so they lay until Thursday
morning when there was a brisk west wind and they began to diminish,
one after another, so that within a few hours there were no more of
them except a few here and there. But they had also by then done their
job. The barley was completely gone, there was nothing left but an inch
of stem. Of the wheat they had not taken anything but some loose
leaves, the ears remained, so we had a good harvest of wheat, at least.
I had 4 acres and got 80 bushels. We have not seen any grasshoppers
since, at least not on the ground, and it is our hope that we never see
Marsh River Congregation, that was established at
Halstad in 1872 by Pastor B. Hagbø, then belonging to The
Conference, was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. The
first church was built here by that congregation in 1874.
Wild Rice Congregation, that was established at
Fossum in 1873 by Pastor K. Bjørgo, belonging to The Norwegian
Synod, was the first in the eastern part of the county.
Now there are no less than 41 Norwegian
congregations and 38 churches, 23 belong to The United Church, 10 to
The Norwegian Synod, 5 to Hauge's Synod, 2 to the
Methodists and 1 to The Evangelical Free Church.
Alexander Rønning was the first Norwegian county official here. He was elected Auditor in 1880.
N. L. Nelson and Sverre J. Lee were the first
Norwegians to represent Norman County in the State Legislature (1894).
The newspapers 'Vidnesbyrd fra Broderkredsen', Twin Valley started in 1890 and 'Folkets Blad', Ada, 1890.
The Wild Rice Children's Home, Fossum, was organized in 1899.
Norman County got its name from Norwegians, which is not to be wondered at, there are so many of them.
Townships with Norwegian names in Norman County,
Anthony, Flom, Fossum, Halstad, Hegne, Hendrum, Lee, Strand, Sundahl.
Post offices: Aaby, Anthony, Flom, Folkedahl, Fossum, Halstad, Heiberg,
Hegne, Hendrum, Ranum, Strand, Ringdahl, Sundahl and Ullman. Several
have been closed because of the free postal delivery (R.F.D.)
Olmstead County, Minnesota
The 'discoverers' of this large area (in Olmstead
and Dodge Counties), that are now filled with Norwegians, were Tollef
Olsen Solberg,† of Gol, Hallingdal and Nils Nilsen Siere† of the same
place, as well as Aaron Anderson† from the Trondhjem area, Even
Halvorsen Holtan† from Telemarken and Enver Nelson† from Land. They
came from Koshkonong, Wis., and settled in the area of Byron and Rock
Dell in 1854. (They were thus not just 'discoverers' but founders of
the settlement). Right after them came C. Tvedt, C. Helliksen, Ole
Weggar and A. Weggar† all from Telemarken, B. Larsen from Sogn, O.
Bensont from Valders, O. Amundsen† from Nummedal, H. Brekke† , H.
Stensrud† and Ole Solberg† , the last three from Hallingdal. They
spread out over a large area and each of them settled where there was
both woods and prairie on a quarter section.
St Olaf congregation that was established at Rock
Dell in 1857 by Pastor C. L. Clausen, the beloning to The Norwegian
Synod, was the first Norwegian congregation in the county. L. Steen was
its first serving priest. Its church was built in 1869. Now there are 5
Norwegian churches and congregations of which 2 belong to The Norwegian
Synod, 1 to The United Church, 1 to The Lutheran Free Church and 1 to
B. L. Bratager† was the first Norwegian to hold a
public position. He was elected to the State Legislature in 1858.
Adolph Bierman was the first Norwegian County
official, he was elected County Auditor in 1866. In 1890 he was elected
Closed post offices with Norwegian names: Ringe and Hanson.
Otter Tail County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian who took land in Otter Tail
County was Knud Quamme from Valders. It was in 1867 when he settled in
the area of St. Olaf. But he soon received neighbors. In the course of
'67 and '68 the following persons came, some with families, some
without: Ole and Knut Eggum from Lærdal, Tosten Thompson† from
Valders, Halvor Berge† and Ole† and H. L. Horness from Voss, Tarald
Olsen† and Isak Thompson from Stod near Trondhjem, Kornelius Aasnes
from Beitstaden, Ole C. Dahl from Gudbrandsdalen, Ole O. Rohn from
Hallingdal, Haldor Gulset and Nils Johnson from Selbu, Ole and Johannes
Berg† from Hedemarken, Peder Løkker from Odalen, Johannes
Andersen and Knud and Ole Ericksen from Reinli (Søndre Aurdal),
Knut Olsen† , Engebret Nelson, Nels E. Nelson and Haldor E. Nelson†
from Nordre Aurdal, Petter Larsen† from Hølen, Torleif† and Lars
Nilsen from Røraas, Amund Nilsen from Toten, Johan Grimseth† and
Ole Ihlseng from Hedemarken, Berge and Syver Lee from Voss, Nils
Røvang from Slidre, Valders, Carl Formo† and Andrew Olsen from
Trondhjem, Gabriel Stoutland† from Stavanger, Peder Penne from
Christiansand, Simon Weme from Ringerike, Theodor Andersen from
Aadalen, Christian Sethre† from Eidsvold, as well as Ole Lillemon, Knut
Paulsen and Peder Trenes, whose birthplaces are unknown to the
author.All these settled in the areas of St. Olaf, Tordenskjold,
Dalton, Underwood, Wall Lake, Fergus Falls and Elizabeth - a large area.
Below are listed Norwegians in other parts of the county:
In the area of Oscar: Hans Halvorsen from Toten, 1869.
Stod: Knut Petersen from Toten, 1869.
Pelican Rapids: Christopher Anderson† from Nordre
Trondhjem Amt, Brynild Syversen† , Syver Olsen Steen† and Ole Olsen
Steen from Voss, S. S. Sæbbe,
Torbjørn Legreid and Knut Legreid from Hardanger and Tron Rishof
from Krødsherred. They came there in 1870. The last mentioned
lived three miles north of the other white settlers. (Now he lives in
Clitherall: Anders Estby from Kristiania, 1870.
Leaf Mountain: Iver O. Rødenæs from Rødenæs, 1871.
Vining: Louris Thomas (Thomasrud).
Worden: Halvor Anderson.
Ole Jørgens, who was one of the first
Norwegian settlers in Otter Tail County, and who suggested nearly all
the Norwegian town names in the county, was the first county official
there. He has written much that has historical interest: "With the
exception of the government road to Fort Abercrombie and Gary, there
was not one wagon road in the whole county," he says, "nor were there
any bridges, even though there were many rivers and creeks." His first
acquaintance with the Otter Tail River was when he swam across it -
with his boots on - and with a town map and and a compass in his hat.
On the first Christmas Eve he and his family
celebrated in their home at Wall Lake, they had to let two half-Indian
families stay with them even though their home (log cabin) was only 12
feet square. It was a frightfully stormy and cold night and the Indians
had many small children. The Indians and Norwegians were crammed
together in that little log cabin.
Among the elements that made life unpleasant were
the mosquitoes, the blackbirds and the grasshoppers. The mosquitoes
were large, everywhere and terribly aggressive - a steady torture for
man and beast. And the blackbirds destroyed the new fields if they
could get to them. The women and children had to walk around the fields
with scarecrows and rifles to keep them away. The grasshoppers were
just as bad. "I remember," he said, "once when I drove from Elizabeth
to Pelican Rapids. There was somrthing that fell down into my buggy and
when I looked up at the sky, it was full of falling specks. The road
was soon covered with hopping grasshoppers. The were so numerous that
they actually darkened the sun. When I came back the next day, the
wheat was totally eaten and only the straw remained standing.
Once when he was visiting a neighbor, he found him
in the process of burning a valuable Swedish book. Jørgens
admonished him for that and the man admitted that it was not right to
burn the book, but he added that education and books were useless in
this wilderness. However, the woods were full of birds and the streams
had masses of fish. In that way it was better then than now. As an
example, he mentions that on one occasion while he was was walking
along Battle Lake, he killed a partridge with a stick. He gave the bird
to the Larson family, where he had stopped to rest. Old Mr. and Mrs.
Larson were the parents-in-law to the well-known John Schrøeder.
An old man by the name of Nils Johnson Aftret in the
Town of St. Olaf, tells that his wife delivered a son right after they
arrived. No house was to be found so they had to live in their wagon.
The mosquitoes were so bad that people and animals were nearly crazed
by their torment, but not a mosquito attacked the baby.
O. T. Bjørnaas of Underwood tells, "One day
during harvest, I believe it was 1871, one of my neighbors came with
the news that the Indians were approaching and that they 'ravaged and
burned wherever they went' and that we had to gather at a place to get
instructions. As soon as I had sent word to my nearest neighbor on the
other side, I took my rifle and went to the meeting place. There were a
number of people gathered there. All knew that the Indians were
expected but no one knew how far away they were. Therefore a man from
here was sent to another meeeting place that was further west, to get
more information and to learn what that meeting was going to do in the
matter. He came back with the message that no one knew where the enemy
was but that they could be expected at any time and that everyone
should take whatever measures they believed were best. We had, then,
nothing to do but wait and see. Right by our meeting place, there was a
lake, and in it an island that was pointed out as a good defensive
position in any future situation. But nothing was decided. In the
meantime, a height in the neigbouring town - Tordenskjold - seemed to
be the right place for defense, and here they began to throw up
fortifications. However, the redskins never came, they probably feared
that there were too many whites in the woods.(Perhaps the Tordenskjold
name was enough to keep them away) Thus they avoided the trouble, but
there was much confusion and many abandoned their homes, that they had
already put much work on. Some came back, others not."
And when we speak of pioneer life in Otter Tail
County, we must not forget to mention Mrs. Olava Vik (from Nordre
Trondhjems Amt), Minnesota's oldest women - that is, she was the oldest
until recently, she died in 1904 - 96 years old. She was known in a
wide area as 'Doktor Gamla' as she was skilled at healing wounds, there
are many who have her to thank that they still have their limbs. The
doctors would suggest amputation, but she found other means - and he
prescriptions had to be followed. If anyone sought her out and did not
do as she said, they learned 'what for!'
The nearest market place for the first settlers was
St. Cloud, ca 150 miles! A very long way, especially when one
understands the fact that they only had oxen to drive with.
In 1870, two Norwegian congregations were
established in Otter Tail county. Pastor T. Vetlesen, of The Norwegian
Synod, founded Hedemarkens congregation in Oscar Township (at
Carlisle), while Pastor J. A. Berge of The Conference, founded the
Tordenskjold congregation. The first Norwegian church in the county was
built by Hedemarkens congregation in 1871. There are now 57
congregations and 48 churches, 19 belonging to The United Church, 13 to
The Norwegian Synod, 10 to The Lutheran Free Church, 10 to Hauge's
Synod, 2 to The Evangelical free Church, 2 to the Methodists and 1 to
Otter Tail County stands highest with respect to the
number of Norwegian churches. As many as 48 are not found in any other
county in America.
As mentioned, Ole Jørgens was the first
Norwegian county official here. He was elected as Auditor in 1869.
Mikkel Anderson Fedje was the first Norwegian who represented the county in the State Legislature, elected 1879.
"Normanna Banner' (now Fergus Falls Weekly) started
in 1878. "Rodhuggeren" and "Red River Tidende" also came out in Fergus
Falls for a time.
Park Region Lutheran college was established in Fergus Falls in 1892.
St Lucas Hospital was established later in the aforementioned city.
Norwegian place names: Aastad, Friberg, Sverre,
Weggeland, Vining, Dora, Oscar, Sverdrup, Tordenskjold, St. Olaf,
Norwegian Grove, Aurdal, Stod, Trondhjem, Nidaros, Henning and Folden.
Pine County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians in the area of Pine City were
O. E. Nordrum, O. Olsen, the Ryan brothers, J. Thoresen, E. Hansen, O.
Blihovde, L. Grotte as well as ? Odegaard, ? Sagmoen, ? Larsen and ?
Christensen. The year they settled is not known.
The first in the area of Kerrick were Peder E.
Berset from Surendalen, S. M. Lund from Søndmøre, John
Vaagbø from Thingvold and Ole Overli from Kongsberg. These
settled here in 1887.
The first in the area of Banning was Fred S. Hansen
from Kristiania. The first in the area of Sturgeon Lake was Lars
Paulsen from Viksvang, Nannestad. And in the area of Groningen
was L. Fandskar from Nord Odalen was the first.
Nordland congregation, that was established at
Sturgeon Lake in 1894 by Pastor R. G. Nilsen, belonging to The Lutheran
Free Church, was the first
Norwegain congregation in the county. Now there are 3 Norwegian
congregations and 2 churches, all belonging to the aforementioned
Pastor R. G. Nilsen was elected as Tax Manager in
1898. He is the only Norwegian to now, that has held a county office.
Pipestone County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian in this county was Thos.
Thompson from Stavanger. He settled in the vicinity of Ruthon in the
70s. The first in the vicinity of Pipestone City was Erik Larsen.
The southern part was settled at about the same time as Rock County (see Rock)
That the Indians also had their shelter here and
that the whites came in contact with them is obvious, for this county
lies right in the Sioux Valley, where the Sioux Indians had their
headquarters and from whom the valley gets its name. That civilized
people go into the wilderness battle and hunting fields to seek their
homes can be interesting to hear or read about and there is much
romance in it for us. But what the new settlers had to undergo,
however, was anything but romantic. One can say that, actually - life
in the wilderness, where they were cut off from civilization and also
had to struggle for survival, was not just play and illusion. I say
that one can try to comprehend this but understand, that only those who
had tried it, knew and understood how hard and sad it was.
There are 7 Norwegian congregations and 3 churches
in Pipestone County, 4 belonging to The United Church and 3 to The
The only Norwegian place name in the county is Ibsen.
Polk County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settlers in this county were
Leif Steenerson from Telemarken, Ole Estensen† from Tønset, as
well as H. Simon, P. Simon, G. Spokkeli and Tollef Tollefsen, who
settled in the vicinity of Climax and Nielsville in 1871. They came
there from Houston Co., Minn. Their nearest marketplace was Alexandria,
150 miles away. This was then, before the iron horse and other swift
horses began to be used in these parts. They had to be content with
oxen, no matter how far it was. The new settlers began cattle raising,
but wheat growing soon became the county's main source of income.
The first Norwegians in the vicinity of Crookston
were Peter Cornelius from the Kristiania area, the brothers Arens and
Isak Simmons, as well as O. S. Johnson, Knut Brandvold and Bernhard
Sampson. Jeweller Nels Olson† tells that he came there as a traveling
salesman in 1873. At that time there was neither a town nor post
office. They fetched their letters from Grand Forks.
Knute Nelson from Bolstad, Voss (not the Senator,
but another good Knut) was the first white man to settle in the area of
Fertile, and the first person he met was an Indian on a horse.
The first in the vicinity of McIntosh was K. R.
Newton, whose parents came from Sætersdalen, as well as Knut A.
Helle, Ole H. Hosto† and O. S. Sannes also from Sæterdalen,
Gunnar Husby, John J. Torske and Martin Iversen† from Trondhjem, John
D. Knutsen from Stavanger, Fredrik and J. B. Hansen from
Gudbrandsdalen, H. Helgesen from Valders, Tobias Støbraaten† and
A. P. Envold from Toten as well as Ole O. Stenmoen and Ole P. Rukke
Mrs. Ingeborg Bee from Opdal and Inger Bee were the
first to take land in the vicinity of Granville. Next after them came
Johannes Bee* and Lars Eriksen, Rolf Olsen, A. Syrstad, A. Heierstad,
Ole Hendriksen, Thomas Hendriksen and Hendrik Hendriksen.
My correspondent in the aforementioned area writes,
"I do not know anything that is interesting to tell about the pioneer's
life unless it could be the manner in which the first wheat harvests
were threshed. It was late in the fall and it was cold. Then water was
poured on the ground and allowed to freeze until it was stone-hard,
next the wheat bundles were laid on the ice and the cows and oxen set
to tramp on them until the wheat was separated from the straw. This did
not go fast, nevertheless if they were done by Christmas Eve, it was
considered well done."
Halstein Lade from Søvden,
Søndmøre, one of the old settlers in the so-called
Thirteen Towns writes, "Yes, I came truly into the wilderness, 56 miles
from the nearest railway station. I began immediately to clear a little
patch for a new settler's cabin for the family and myself. The forest
was both thick and tall, so that a day's work did not make much
difference. After work the first day, I was going to a neighbor, who
lived about a 3/4 mile away. I felt certain that I was going in the
right direction. Though, after I had walked for an hour, I began to
wonder why I had not reached my destination. But soon I came to a place
where some clearing had been done. Yes, I thought, here some new
settler has thought to raise his pavilions, but where was I now? I had
no idea. I examined the work and it came to me how like it was to that
I had done that day. The tools also seemed to be like mine. Then it
came to me, instead of traveling straight, I had walked in a circle and
had thus come back to my own nest."
About Halvor H. Aarhus from Laurdal, Telemarken, the
first settler in the vicinity of Melvin, the following is told, that
fits many others as well, "In 1868, he emigrated on the sailship
'Amalie' from Skien, a ship that was barely seaworthy. They were not so
particular about what kind of ship the emigrants were transported in,
and at this time they had to bring their own provisions and be their
own cook. After a few days sailing, a fierce storm blew up, the ship
developed a leak and it was only through great exertion that it was
saved from sinking. After the crew had worked themselves dead-tired
with the pumps came the turn of the male passengers. After 14 weeks
sailing, they reached Quebec. The journey continued further to Lyle,
Minn., where they lived for a time. From there they traveled in the
usual way up through Minnesota, to Detroit took 4 weeks. Four weeks in
a row, the family was bound to their wagon box with canvas as a roof.
The canvas was stretched over some bows that were fastened to the wagon
box. It is clear that it was tight and uncomfortable in there, where
they also had their furnishings. Even worse, when the roads were such
that every moment one feared the wagon would tip over. And they often
met frost or rain and mud, that increased the trip's unpleasantness
After stopping for a time in Detroit, the journey
continued to the Red River Valley. Across the prairie lay masses of
buffalo bones as a reminder that the buffalo as well as other animals
and the Indians had ruled the land, and that now was the end of their
On the 17th May, the whole company were to take
permanent residence on their homesteads, but the roads were, as usual,
not much, one after another got stuck in the mud, and when they were
going to cross a river, both the livestock and loads threatened to
float away. On arrival at Wild Rice, a furious snow storm blew up, but
they still got to their land, where they immediately began to plow up
turf for their sod huts, in which they soon began to feel at home."
Next they would go to work clearing, plowing, sowing
and harvesting. And when this was done, they began to protect
themselves against the settlers' worst enemy - the prairie fires. It
happened not infrequently that fire broke out in the dry prairie grass
and that an area of several miles circumference was a sea of flame. But
as long as it was still, they felt somewhat safe. But if a strong wind
came the fire would come at a furious pace and a deafening roar and
spared neither life nor property if one had not insulated himself so it
could not reach buildings and hay. Naturally, they also made use of all
the water they could obtain and wield.
When the most important work on the farm was done,
they would travel to older settlements to earn the money for other
expenses. Everything was expensive. A cow cost $50.00, an ox team
$200.00, a horse team $400.00 to $500.00 - wheat $1.50 and oats 50
cents per bushel, meat 15 cents per pound etc. Much of what a family
needed to live, they had to buy. It took time before they could produce
all that was needed for their own use. Neither was getting these things
an easy matter for the roads to the market were long and the winters
Sand Hill Congregation, that was established at Neby
in Vinland Township in 1872, was the first Norwegian congregation in
the county. Pastor B. Hagbø of The Conference was the founder.
There are now 50 Norwegian congregations and 44 churches, 21 belong to
The United Church, 11 to The Norwegian Synod, 7 to Hauge's Synod, 6 to
The Lutheran Free Church, 3 to the Methodists and 2 to the Baptists.
The first Norwegian to hold public office in the
county was John Christiansen† , he was elected Auditor in 1872.
Bernhard Sampson, whose father was a Norwegian and
mother of Swedish origin, was elected as a Member of the Legislature
from Polk County in 1880. The Swede O. N. Nelson of Minneapolis has
written about this Sampson, who built the first house in Crookston, and
gives an interesting account in his book, "He saw a great deal of
frontier life here in the early days. It was no uncommon thing when
teaming throughout this region, prior to the erection of bridges, to
unhitch his oxen from the wagon, jump on one of them and swim them
across the stream, holding in one hand the end of a rope that was
attached to his wagon, and after getting the animals on the other side,
he would fasten the line to the yoke of the cattle and haul the wagon
'Red River Dalen' was the name of a Norwegian
newspaper that started in Crookston in 1889. In 1895, it got the name
'Red River Tidende'. Later came 'Vesterheimen', 'Bud og Hilsen' and
'Arbeidsmanden', the latter in Fertile.
Bethesda Hospital, Norwegian, was built in Crookston
in 1898. There is also a Norwegian school (Crookston College).
Places with Norwegian names in Polk County: Aldal,
Espetvedt, Helgeland, Meos (Møaas), Roholt, Neby, Higdem, Tynsid
(?), Brandsvold, Onstad, Johnson, Knute, Olga, Theodor, Sletten, Solie,
Sheldahl, Wig, Scandia, BYgland, Rindal, Winger, Lengby and Vineland.
*Johannes Bee is known for the practical manure spreader he invented.
Pope County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settlers in this county were
John Johnson Sandvig† and Greger Halvorsen, both from Telemarken, as
well as Salve Olsen Gakkestad from Sætersdalen. They came from
Scandinavia, Wis. and settled in the vicinity of a lake, that they gave
the name of Lake Johanna, a name it still bears. This was in 1860.
Later in the year came Olaus Olsen† from Kragerø and Ole
Kittelsen Evretvet from Sætersdalen. And next after them came Ole
Reina† and Halvor Hjelstad† from Telemarken, Iver O. Rønning†
and Hans Engebretsen from Gudbrandsdalen, Torger Vesteland, Knut
Torgersen, And. Torgersen, Gunder Olsen† and Knut Wisnæs† , all
from Sætersdalen, Ole Livdalen† from Hallingdal, Ole Pedersen†
from Valders, Nils N. Barsness, O. N. Barsness and E. N. Barsness from
Sogn and later a number of Telemarkings, namely Knut Simon† ,
Børre Olsen† , Aslak Swensen† and Aslak Ovesen, as well as
Martin Ranvig from Kongsvinger and the brothers Wollan, Anton Holte and
Andreas Schey, all from Stod, near Trondhjem. They spread out in
various directions, Gilchrist, Barsness, Starbuck and Glenwood.
The first in the vicinity of Lowry was Nils
Mikkelsen from Røraas. He settled there in 1864. Torsten Hovde
from Gjerdahls parish, who came there the year after Mikkelsen, says
that the crane fly was their worst enemy, they were so bad that had
they not diminished in the first two years, it would have been
necessary to move from there.
The first at Cyrus was Christian Johnson. He came from Iowa and slept under open skies for two months.
The new settlers' main source of income was wheat
and cattle raising. In addition they trapped muskrats for which there
was a good price. There were no nearer marketplaces than St. Cloud and
Sauk Center and to these places it was 50 to 75 miles from the farmers'
respective homes. In Pope County, as in many other places, they had to
live in dugouts and log cabins the first years, and for plowing and
driving they had nothing else but oxen.
The following poem come from the veteran A. Torguson of Glenwood:
"Glenwood, beautiful Glenwood, that lovely little place,
Like a crown it lies in a charming vale,
On the lovely shore of Minnewaska's waters,
Like a mirror it gives a reflection from heaven!"
Halvor Ericksen from Nordre Aurdal, Valders, who was
one of the first settlers in Pope County, now living at Thief River
Falls, Minn., writes, "Much could be told of our pioneer days but what
stands out clearest in my recollection is an event that took place
the10th July 1875. We went out as usual that day to break new land.
Suddenly we became aware of a group of riders on the way at an uncommon
speed and who spread out in various directions to the farmers in the
neighborhood One of them rode up to us and shouted that we must unhitch
our oxen from the plow, for this was a matter of life and death. The
White Earth Indians had broken out of their reservation and were coming
southward, killing and plundering what they could!
He also gave the order that all the settlers should
assemble at Ole Ericksen's where there was much forest and where there
was a good defensive position, since it lay between two lakes. There
was a good room on the isthmus (between these two lakes) for both
people and livestock and we set up a strong guard. 'Take what you have
of weapons and ammunition,' he added. Then he rode on as fast as his
frothing horse could stand.
And we hurried and packed our most important
possessions and then went to the aforementioned gathering place, where
several hundred people had already gathered and where they had
fortified themselves with wagons,boxes, sacks, furniture etc. They also
had a good supply of shotguns and rifles, yes even axes and hay forks
ready for use, if necessary. But luckily - we avoided our fears. The
Indians did not get far that time."
Three white settlers (not Norwegians) had been
killed in Pope County by the Indians (during the first immigration
here) and the rest of the pioneers had been chased away, but they came
Daniel Anderson from Ibestad, Nordland, one of the
old settlers at Lake Johanna, tells, "I was one of those who emigrated
by sailship. It took us 17 weeks from Bodø to Quebec, there was
plague and other diseases aboard, and many a corpse was buried in the
sea. There was also starvation among us, since the trip was so long and
because we were so many - - ca. 900 people, mostly from Helgeland and
Namdalen. - - - The first winter, we lived in our little dugouts, we
had Indians and half-breeds for neighbors, and in the summer there were
swarms of them: their boats, that were made of birch bark, they carried
on their heads.
One of the worst nuisances was the mosquitoes, in
the afternoons the mosquito swarms could be so thick that one could not
see the sun through them."
At that time we paid $17.00 to $18.00 for a barrel
of flour, $45.00 to $50.00 for a cow, about $300.00 for a pair of draft
oxen, $6.00 for an ox chain of 8 feet, #1.50 for an axe, $1.00 for a
milk pail etc."
In Pope County there are 24 Norwegian congregations
and 19 churches, 14 belong to The Norwegian Synod, 6 to The United
Church and 4 to The Lutheran Free Church.
Andrew Torguson (Vesteland) was the first Norwegian
to hold public office in the county, he was elected Coroner in 1866.
Isaac Thorson was the first Norwegian legislator
from here, he represented Pope County in the State Legislature by 1869.
In Glenwood, there is a Norwegian High School, started in 1894.
'Fakkelen' is the name of a Norwegian newspaper that
was published in Pope County for a short time in the 90s.
Places with Norwegian names: Barsness, Eggen, Hoff,
Hoverud, Langhei, Scandiaville, Trysil, Fron, Thorsen and Nora.
Ramsey County, Minnesota
Who were the first Norwegians in Ramsey County,
which includes Minnesota's capital, St. Paul, is not known. But it is
known that St. Paul and its neighbor, St. Anthony Falls (now
Minneapolis) were the end of civilization until the end of the 40s.
West of these cities, that are cut through by the Mississippi River,
there were no white people before one got to Utah with its Mormons and
to the Pacific coast with its fortune hunters and adventurers. However,
that there were Norwegian workers in the sawmills in St. Paul by the
beginning of the 50s is fairly certain As well at that time, the
immigrant flow to Minnesota was fairly strong - especially via the Twin
John A. Hansen from Mo i Ranen had the honor of
working on the first railway bridge crossing the Mississippi River (in
Minnesota), that was built in St. Paul in 1867. Earlier he was a ship's
carpenter but at the aforementioned time came the railroads with their
bridges and ruined shipping, he said. (We have found Hansen mentioned
before - under Polk County, Wis., where he was one of the first
settlers and where he still lives.
The first Norwegian congregation in St. Paul (and
Ramsey County) was established in 1858 by Pastor (later professor)
Laur. Larsen, belonging to The Norwegian Synod, and he also served it
for a time from Rush River, Wis., where he was then the priest. The
first Norwegian priest who settled in St. Paul was O. A. Norman, who
also belonged to The Synod. He took over serving the above mentioned
congregation in 1869. Until that time it was served by itinerant
priests. Its church - the first Norwegian church in the city and county
- was built in 1881. Now there are 11 congregations and 9 churches in
Ramsey County, 2 belong to The Norwegian Synod, 2 to Hauge's Synod, 2
are Independent Lutheran, 1 to The United Church, 1 to The Lutheran
Free Church, 1 to The Evangelical Free Church, 1 to the Methodists and
1 to the Baptists.
For information about 'Nordvesten', Theologisk
Tidskrift', 'Jubilate', 'Smuler', 'Valdris Helsing', 'Den Evangeliske
Basun', 'Heimdal' and 'St. Paul Tidende' etc, see the
section,'Norwegian-American newspapers and periodicals'.
And for information about The Norwegian Synod's
seminary (Luther Seminary) in Hamline, The United Church's seminary in
St. Paul Park and Luther Hospital in St. Paul itself, see their
respective sections. About Norwegians in public office, one can find
information in a special section elsewhere in the book.
At the State Agricultural College, Scandinavians
have, as a rule, ranked as No. 1, which is certainly of great
significance. That they have been seen as 'practical farmers', we have
always known, but that they stand at the top in the theoretical aspect
has been less known. It is with happiness that such things can be noted.
Red Lake County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian in this county was Ole Branum
from Trondhjem. He settled at St. Hilaire. The year is not known.
Gilbert K. Hove from Valders - - settled in the
vicinity of Thief River Falls in 1881. Later in the year came another
Valdris, namely Ole Aabole as well as Nils Knudsen and K. Knudsen from
Nummedal, Hans Langseth from Søndre Gubrandsdalen, Sander
Engebretsen from Hallingdal and A. A. Wassen from Søndre Land.
In the vicinity of Tweet, Sevrin L. Dimmen from
Søndre Søndmøre was the first. He settled at Tweet
at the same time as the aforementioned persons settled at St. Hilaire -
- thus 1881.
The year after, the Sogning, Ole J. Hegg, settled in the vicinity of Wyandotte and so was the first there.
Martin Rockstad, said to be from the Kristiania
area, was the first in the area where Rockstad P.O. is now located.
Red Lake County, however, is not old. For a long time it was part of Polk County.
The Indians here were, as in many other places where
Norwegians settled, their neighbors in the first years. They built log
cabins and began to grow wheat and oats, that they took to Crookston,
where they also made their purchases. It was 40 miles to there. There
was no closer marketplace.
There are 14 Norwegian congregations and 9 churches
in Red lake County, 4 belong to The United Church, 4 to the Norwegian
Synod, 2 to The Methodist Church, 2 to Hauge's Synod and 2 to The
Lutheran Free Church.
For information on Norwegian county officials, see the section, 'Norwegians in public office in America'.
Places with Norwegian names: Norden, Nummedal, Garnes, Tweet (Tvedt) and Rockstad.
Redwood County, Minnesota
Ole Pedersen Hals from Hasseløen, Vesteraalen
was the first Norwegian settler in Redwood County. He settled in the
vicinity of Vesta in 1868. Next after him came Sivert Olsen from
Kvæfjord parish, Martin, Halvor and Syvert M. Dahl and Gunerius
Knudsen, all from Aasnes, Solør, Engebret C. Lyse from Lyse at
Stavanger, Lars Haagensen Nordland from Strand at Stavanger, N. S.
Lewis Sabbe from Ulvik, Hardanger, Greger J. Huseby from Opdal,
Nummedal and Jens P. Hustad and Bernt Frøland, both from
The first in the area of Grunden was Lars Pedersen from Strilelandet. He came there in 1871.
The same year (1871) there came to the area of
Sundown, Lars Højem from Levanger, Martin and Ludvig Bredvold
from Hedemarken and Jacob Lorens from Trøndelagen. They were the
first in this vicinity.
There are 7 Norwegian congregations and 5 churches
in Redwood County, 3 of them belong to The United Church, 3 to the
Norwegian synod and 1 to The Lutheran Free Church.
The Norwegian Lutheran Children's Home in Lamberton was started in 1898. In 1905, it was moved to Willmar.
'Norrøna' was the name of a Norwegian newspaper that was published at Walnut Grove about 1900.
Haagen Anderson† of Lamberton, was the first
Norwegian to hold public office in the county. He was elected
Commissioner in 1870.
Places with Norwegian names: Ann and Storden. The
latter town got its name from a Norwegian settler, who went under the
name 'Store John' (Big John) that was shortened to Storden. The town of
Ann was named after Mrs. Anne Andersen, the wife of Haagen Andersen,
who, as mentioned above, was the county's first Norwegian official.
Renville County, Minnesota
Hans Halvorsen† from Kongsvinger, Hellek (Helge)
Pedersen† from Nummedal, Johannes Andersen† from the Bergen area and
Tom Rude who settled in the area of Franklin, were the first Norwegians
in this county. Next after them came J. Gilbertsen from Valders, Erik
Løten† from Trøndelagen, C. Nelson† from Ullsaker, Ole
Anderson from Voss, Th. Tvedt, J. Tvedt† , J.J. Tvedt and Torkel Tvedt
from the Bergen area, as well as Peder Nilsen and Mathias Johnson. The
area was full of Indians when the Norwegians got there.
In 1866, four families came by oxcart from Fillmore
County to the area of Sacred Heart, where they settled and were the
first settlers of Norwegian origin. They were Thor Helgesen, Ole
Kaggelien (or Collin, as he called himself in American), Ole Halvorsen
Rennehammeren and Paul Pederson. The last was from Strilelandet, the
other three from Opdal, Hallingdal, so they were the founders of the
Opdal settlement here. But before that happened, the Indians, who also
had their homes and hunting grounds here, had to leave.
Wheat growing was the settler†™s main source of
subsistence. The market place they had, was no nearer than New Ulm,
C. A. Mork of Hector, writes as follows, "It was in
the middle of November 1873, my father and I drove to the Mississippi
River after a load of wood. On the way back we stayed overnight with an
Irishman. The oxen we put into a shed without a roof, the only place he
had for them. At midnight a fierce snow storm broke out that lasted
until the next day. When we got up in the morning, there was an inch of
snow on the quilt that covered us, since this was a real 'Irish' house
we were staying in. The storm continued to rage, but at risk to our
lives, we had to go out and see to our oxen. But it was a terrible
sight, the oxen were snowed under, only their heads and backs could be
seen, and blood was visible in their nostrils as a result of cold and
exertion. We finally got them out of the snowdrift, but we had to stay
with the Irishman one more night, and it was biting cold. Finally we
got home with our suffering creatures and wood."
Mrs. Christensen, one of those who came to America
at the time that the trip over took up to a half year, lives in the
neighborhood of Hector. She spent 20 weeks on the sea. Not so now.
P. C. Brevig from Foldereid, Namdalen, who runs a
bank in Sacred Heart, has neither anything good to say about the trip
over. "Arriving in Quebec," he says, "we were loaded into freight cars
with planks to sit on and a water barrel (standing in the middle of the
floor) to drink from. The barrel slid during travel so most of the
water went a way it was not supposed to. After three days travel in
that manner, we reached Sarnia (near Toronto), from where we traveled
by steamboat. But something happened here that I will never forget.
When we got far enough out on the lake that we could not see land, a
fire broke out in a wood pile in the engine room and the fire spread at
a frightful pace. I cannot in words describe the panic that arose in
the poor (strangers to this sort of thing) emigrants. Luckily, through
united effort, they mastered the flames - the lamenting cries stopped
since we were saved."
The aforementioned P. C. Brevig and Benjamin Bjøraak, Christian
P. Bjøraak, Christopher Anderson, Mathias Saglie, Nils Lien,
Hans Bergh, Erik Synnes, Iver and Edward Mathisen came with their
families from Olmstead County to Hatuk Creek, where after a similarly
long and difficult trip, they settled, where they were the first
Vor Frelsers congregation that was established in
1868 in Sacred Heart by Pastor J. E. Bergh of The Norwegian Synod, is
the oldest congregation in the county. Here, as in so many other new
settlements, the services had to be held in dugouts, sod houses and log
cabins in the first years, until they were in condition to build
churches. Now there are 19 Norwegian congregations and 16 churches, 8
belong to The Norwegian Synod, 7 to The United Church and 1 to Hauge's
Erick Ericksen and Hans Grønerud were the
first Norwegian county officials, they were elected in 1872, Ericksen
as Auditor and Grønerud as Treasurer.
The following year (1873) David Benson was elected a Member of the State Legislature.
"Sacred Heart Bladet", half Norwegian and half English came out for a short time in the 90s.
Norwegian place names: Reishus and Wang.
Rice County, Minnesota
That part of Rice county that adjoins Goodhue County
at Kenyon was settled at the same time as Goodhue (see there).
The first Norwegian in Rice County (outside of the
Goodhue settlements) was Ole Torgusen† from Sætersdalen. He
settled in the vicinity of Walcott in 1855.
One of the pioneers writes, "One day in August 1862,
an urgent message passed from house to house, that we should see to
leaving as fast as we could, for the Indians were on the warpath. Then,
shortly after came the word that it was a mistake. However, the people
felt very insecure. There was war in the South and here at home the
Indians were an impending danger. It was not at all splendid in those
days. But finally both the rebels and the red men had to bite the dust.
On the 26th December, I was in Mankato and watched when 36 Indians were
hanged. They were buried like animals on the plains by the Minnesota
River. But the people as well as the times and the land have changed
for the better."
There are 13 Norwegian congregations and 11 churches
in Rice county, 5 belong to The United Church, 3 to The Norwegian
Synod, 3 to Hauge's Synod and 2 to The Lutheran Free Church.
Osmund Osmundsen was the first Norwegian here to be
elected to a higher position. He represented Rice county in the State
Legislature from 1872-73.
St. Olaf College was started in Northfield in 1874.
It was also there that the Anti-Missouri Brotherhood, that marked the
beginning of The United Church, was established in 1886.
'Kinamissionæren' was the name of a Norwegian
mission newspaper that Hauge's Synod published in Fairbault in the 90s.
Norwegian place names in Rice County: Trondhjem, Moland, Urland and Nerstrand.
Rock County, Minnesota
Bendik Evensen (Evans) from Valders and Ole Steen,
his name given to the Steen P.O., were the first Norwegians in this
county. The settled in Clinton Township (in the vicinity of Steen) in
In Martin Township (vicinity of Hills), Nils
Anderson, Anders Anderson† and Joseph Jacobsen were the first, they
settled here in 1871. They were all from Helgeland.
In 1870, Ole Nilssen claimed land at Luverne but he
did not settle there until 1872. The first real settlers here were T.
O. Opsata and Ole Hage from Hallingdal, who settled here in 1871.
T. O. Tollefsen, Sevat Anderson and Ole Guldhagen,
all from Hallingdal, were the first in the vicinity of Hardwick, they
settled there in 1871. Anton Larsen from Nittedal was also one of the
first settlers there. In his time he went by land from Iowa to
California by oxen, and was several times attacked by Indians. But he
escaped with his life and was one of the luckier gold-seekers. He is
now over 80 years old.
Blue Mountain Congregation at Luverne was
established in 1872 by Pastor Hans Z. Hvid, belonging to The
Conference. At the same time the Rock River Congregation, 14 miles
southwest of Luverne, was established by Pastor E. Olson, belonging to
The Norwegian Synod. These were thus, the first congregations. The
first Norwegian church was built by the aforementioned Blue Mountain
Congregation in 1875. Now there are 11 Norwegian congregations and 8
churches, 5 of them belong to The United Church, 5 to The Norwegian
Synod and 1 to The Lutheran Free Church.
The first Norwegian to hold public office in the
county was J. O. Helgesen, he was elected Court Clerk in 1874.
Norwegian place names: Kongsberg and Steen.
Roseau County, Minnesota
In 1887 the following Norwegians came to the
vicinity of Roseau and settled, Mikal Anderson, whose parents were from
Toten, Per and Nils Jørgensen Bø from Drangedal, Gunvold
Solum from Valders, Jacob Sønsteng, Jacob Lunde and Joe Dalen,
all from Gudbrandsdalen, Ivar Torfin and John Torfin from Hardanger,
Andrew Thompson† from Eidskogen, Christian R. Eilertsen† from
Kristiania, Thor Gundersen from Østmarken, G. A. Overvold from
Aadalen, Ole F. Lien and Ole O. Moen from Hedalen, Valders,
Østen Haugen, also from Valders, as well as Ole Olafsen and H.
Shervem, whose birthplace in Norway is unknown. These came to Roseau in
several groups at various times of the year.
In the vicinity of Pine Creek and Ross, these were
the first, Arne Knutsen from Valders, Sivert Eriksen Rue from
Hallingdal, as well as Gulbrand Bertilrud, Martin Braaten, Anders K.
Lund and Nels Besserud.
The first in the vicinity of Duxby was Fred Andal
from Domaas*, Dovre. He supported himself and his family by hunting,
the first years.
Syver E. Haugtvedt from Gran, Hadeland and Amund
Pedersen, Otto K. Foss, Edward Holen, Ivar Alme, C. L. Hagen, Tron
Hermansen, Hans Hagen and Colbjørn Johnson were the first in the
vicinity of Pelan.
At Greenbush, Nels Samson from Sogn, was the first.
The first in the vicinity of Pencer was Ole L. Haugen from Ringerike.
And in the vicinity of Sanwick, the brothers Halvor and Ole† Johnson were first.
T. S. Nomeland, who came to Roseau in 1888, the year
after the first settlers, tells the following, "I and many others with
me left North Dakota to find a home in northern Minnesota. The distance
was ca. 150 miles. I had a pair of old oxen for the wagon, in which I
packed my family, my furnishings and the necessary provisions for the
trip. However, we had not come far when a terrible rainstorm broke out,
the road became muddy and the few bridges there were, were washed away.
But we did get through after a long and anything but a pleasant journey.
The settlement's main source of income was wheat and
cattle raising. It was 75 miles to the nearest marketplace, Stephen.
People drove there with their oxen, both winter and summer and when
evening came, they had to rest, whether they had come to a house or
not. There was no question of comfort. One had to accept everything
that came, no matter how sad it was.
Indians we had enough of in this area. And in the
winter of 1890 came rumors that they were going to chase the whites
away. Here there was real confusion. They let their livestock out so
they could feed on the haystacks and then they took their families and
some provisions and left. Night and day one could see refugees passing
by. A meeting was held at Jadis (now Roseau) P.O. and there we made the
decision to build a blockhouse, where the women and children could be
brought, and where the men would serve as a guard. The rest of the men
skilled with weapons would then meet the enemy. Rifles and ammunition
had come to Hallock from the government in Washington for the use of
the settlers. It was also decided (by us) that 3 scouts would be sent
to Lake of the Woods to observe the movements of the assembled Indians.
We had actually been informed that 300 of them had gathered there for a
war dance (a sign of departure) and it was up to us to keep an eye on
them after they were finished with the dance. One of the scouts was
Andrew Solum from Ringerike. In a few days they came back with happy
news that there were 300 friendly Indians gathered there and there was
nothing to fear. While the frightened settlers had fortified themselves
at Jadis, the Indian chief Meckinock had looked after their livestock
and kept an eye on their abandoned homes. He was a splendid chap."
The first Norwegian congregation was established at
Jadis (now Roseau) in 1889 and came to belong to The Conference. K. V.
Birkeland was the first priest that visited this area, R. Askeland was
the first resident priest.
The first Norwegian church in Roseau County was
built by the aforementioned congregation in 1896. Now there are 22
congregations and 14 churches, 10 belong to The Lutheran Free Church, 5
to The United Church, 4 to Hauge's Synod and 3 to The Norwegian Synod.
This county was part of Kittson County until 1895.
It was then that the partition took place and Roseau got its name.
The Norwegians, Hans Ericksen, A. O. Skagen, Syver
G. Bertilrud, A. G. Løkken and T. S. Nomeland were members of
the first county government (1895).
Norwegian place names: Haug, Grimstad, Sanwick, Soler (Solør) and Caspersen.
*This seems to be a typo for Dombaas. OK
St. Louis County, Minnesota
Paul Shervey from Levanger was, as far as is known,
the first Norwegian that settled in this county. He was at least, one
of the first. It was in 1870 that he took up residence in in Duluth,
where he was elected Sheriff for a time. Later he was appointed State
Marshall. He died in 1904. P. O. Stenson, who in his time was one of
the city's first businessmen and property owners, was also a pioneer.
He came to Duluth in 1872.
In 1879 there was established a Norwegian Lutheran
congregation in the aforementioned city. Now there are 15 Norwegian
congregations and 12 churches in St. Louis County, 7 belong to The
United Church, 3 to The Norwegian Synod, 2 to Hauge's Synod, 2 to The
Lutheran Free Church and 1 to The Methodist Church.
'Duluth Scandinav', a Norwegian newspaper, began at
the end of the 80s, next 'Scandia' that is now published in Chicago, as
well as 'Duluth Banner', which after a short time, merged with
'Superior Tidende' (in 1902).
Now (1905) they are gathering funds for a Norwegian
hospital in Duluth. The hospital will bear the name of the deceased
Norwegian place names: Breda, Skibo, Norway, Norman, Sundby and Molde.
Scott County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians to take land in this county
were Ole Rouland from Telemarken, and Peder Thompson and Torstein
Knutsen from Valders. That was in 1856 and they settled in the vicinity
of New Market. But they moved to Dakota County a short time later.
Ole K. Stee† from Telemarken (or Valders?) and
Tosten Stordal from Hedemarken were the first actual settlers in the
county. The settled at New Market in 1859.
Since none of my correspondents in this county has
ventured to write anything further, I will quote an excerpt from that
time, 'Terje Terjeland' came to America. The account was coined in
'mixed language' which, alas, also suits the situation in our time.
"Right after their arrival from Norway, Terje and
some others were guests of a man who lived on the second floor. His
wife was making pancakes. The cat tried time and again to get a taste
but was scared away by the man. Finally, the man became angry and took
the cat and threw it down the stairs and shouted, 'Du e den styggaste
raskal, æg har seet uti denna contry. Æg ska teke deg by de
neck og hiva deg downstairs nerover trappen, saa det smala i deg'
'You are great at speaking English,' said Terje, 'I
did not understand a single word.' 'Det trur æg nok,' replied the
man proudly, 'for naar æg blir vond, saa spika me altid English."
There are 3 Norwegian congregations and 2 churches
in Scott County, 2 belong to Hauge's Synod and 1 to The Norwegian Synod.
A post office by the name Eidsvold existed here for a time.
Sherburne County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians in this county were Ole
Pedersen, Peder Thoresen and Ole Jacobsen, who settled at Orrock in
1871. Next after them came Erik Olson, Christian Olson, Ole Hansen,
Berger Mathisen, G. Nelson, Anders Larsen and Ole Hermansen.
The first Norwegian in the settlement at Santiago was Gunder Aslaksen, who settled there in 1881.
Pastor Ole Paulson of The Conference had established
a congregation at Orrock already in 1873, it was the first Norwegian
congregation in the county. Now there are 4 Norwegian
congregations and 4 churches, 3 belong to The Norwegian Synod and 1 to
The Lutheran Free Church.
J. O. Gilligaard was the first Norwegian county official, he was elected Commissioner in 1902.
Sibley County, Minnesota
Neri Nerisen, Jørgen Nerisen and Ole Auersen,
all from Sætersdalen, were the first Norwegians in Sibley County.
They settled in the southern part, right on the county line, in 1855.
This settlement is called Norwegian Grove, but is connected to and was
established at the same time as the New Sweden Settlement in Nicollet
One of the old settlers tells, "When we went to the
mill, we had to equip ourselves for a three week journey. Often we got
into sloughs where we stuck fast, with the consequence that we had to
carry our sacks over to the other bank, - - and after we had a hard
struggle to get the oxen and wagons across. We also broke a wheel now
and then since we drove in the wilds, where there was no question of
finding a smith or tools, so it was not always easy.
When we went out to visit neighbors, who as a rule were rather far
away, we set the family in a work wagon and let the oxen amble away
with us. But we had satisfying moments when we came to the dugout
dwellers. We were all dugout dwellers in that time.
Now they have splendid houses, good roads, good
wagons and swift horses everywhere. The dugouts, draught oxen and all
other pioneer equipment is now a closed chapter. Yes, even the sloughs
There are 2 Norwegian congregations and 2 churches in Sibley County, both belong to The Norwegian Synod.
Stearns County, Minnesota
In the beginning of the 60s there were a couple of
Norwegians, John Sandvig and his brother, who trapped in the southwest
part of this county, but they were chased away by the Indians. These
two we cannot consider as settlers, however, we find them again in Pope
The first real settlers in Stearns County were Hans P. Heieie† , Ellen
Baalsen† , Nils O. Strandemoen, Kittel N. Strande† , all from Flaa,
Hallingdal, Ole Ruud from Aal, Hallingdal, and Østen Gubberud
came together from Spring Grove and settled in the vicinity of Brooten
in 1865. About the same time came John Udalen† from Winchester, Wis. He
was from Tinn, Telemarken. Later in the year came Hans Kittelsen, Hans
Halvorsen, Kittel Halvorson, Hans S. Skordal and Halvor Halvorsen, all
from Hjertdal, Telemarken, Sivert Langum† from Arendal, J. J. Andersen†
from Flaa, Hallingdal, Nils Hellicksen from Nummedal and Sivert
Albertsen† , whose birthplace is unknown.
The land was mainly covered with forest. As soon as
they got rid of some of the forest, they began to prepare for wheat
growing, which became the main source of income. Raising livestock was
also of considerable importance. St. Cloud was the nearest marketplace
and it was about 60 miles from the first settlers' homes.
S. H. Johnson from Tinn, Telemarken was the first Norwegian in the vicinity of Belgrade.
Ole O. Liabraaten, one of the oldest (and now a
prosperous settler in North Fork) tells that in the first two years, he
was so poor that he did not even own a pair of oxen. His trips to town
- St. Cloud - he had to make on foot. Often he would meet Indian bands
with their wagons or 'cars', as they called them, drawn by an ox or a
skinny pony. From a long distance one could hear the din of these
peculiar vehicles since 'Standard Oil' had not reached there yet.
Crow River N.E.L. congregation, that was established
in 1867 by Pastor V. J. Muus, then belonging to The Norwegian Synod, is
the county's oldest Norwegian congregation, its church was built in
1871. Now there are 19 Norwegian congregations and 19 churches, 6
belong to The Lutheran Free Church, 5 to The Norwegian Synod, 3 to
Hauge's Synod, 3 are Independent Lutheran and 2 to The United Church.
It was in this county that Kittel Halvorsen had his
home when he was elected to the United States Congress (in 1890).
'Nordvestens kirkelige Missionsskole' that was started in Belgrade (Stearns County) in 1900.
Steele County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settlers in this county were
Borge Larsen Gjermhus† from Kongsvinger and Martin Hansen from Toten.
They settled in Lemond Township in 1854.
Below is listed the names of the first settlers in
other parts of the county. All these came in 1856: Lars K. Johnson†
from Hardanger, Andreas Auersen† from Ringerike, Ole Hoganson† , Ole
Johnson and John Johnson Hegg† , Agrim Johnson† , Johannes Nilsen† ,
Torsten Nilsen† , T. T. Nilsen† , Lars Johannesen† and Mons Anderson† ,
all from Lærdal in Sogn. These, or at least most of them, came
from Dane County, Wis. and settled in the areas of Pratt, Bixby and
Anfin Anfinsen Seim† , Ole Anfinsen Seim and Halvor
Hougen† , all from Aardal in Sogn settled in the vicinity of Ellendale
(in Berlin Township)
They dug dugouts - and when that was done, they
began to prepare for wheat growing, which became this settlement's most
important source of income. To Red Wing, their nearest marketplace, it
was ca. 50 miles.
Ole Seim tells, "In 1854 my parents and I left on a
sailship from Bergen to New York. The rest of the way we used
railroads, steamships and river boats, according to availability. We
came first to Muskego, where my mother died of cholera - in the spring
of 1856. Then we went west in the company of Mikkel Anderson, Ole
Pedersen, Bjørgo Olson and another Bjørgo, whose surname
I did not know since we called one Big B and the other Little B. They
were all from Østerdalen. When we got to La Crosse, Wis., we had
to wait a whole week before we could get across the Mississippi since
the flood of emigrants was so large. We could not all get over the
river at one time. It went by turn, or number, more correctly. The
Østerdalings we traveled with settled in Otisco, Waseca County
(later they moved to the Red River Valley) but my father and I and
Halvor Hougen settled in Berlin, Steele Co. The oxen and wagons that
brought us all the way from the southeast corner of Wisconsin and up
here, we used for a long time after that as well. The Winnebago Indians
were our nearest neighbors the first time."
Beaver Lake Congregation, that was established at
Ellendale in 1858 by Pastor Nils Olsen, was the first Norwegian
congregation in the county. Pastor Olsen served it right until his
death in 1885. He belonged to The Augustana Synod. Now there are 8
Norwegian congregations and 7 churches, 5 of them belong to The United
Church, 2 to The Lutheran Free Church and 1 to the Baptist Church.
The first Norwegian to hold public office in the
county was J. L. Johnson of Lysne, he was elected Co. Commissioner in
Lysne (P.O.), mentioned above, is the only place with a Norwegian name in Steele County.
Stevens County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian in this county was Erik Harstad
from Odalen. He settled in the vicinity of Donnely and died in 1874.
One of the first settlers is said to have told the
following, "A bear peeked in at me one Sunday morning while I was
frying bacon. Another time it visited my neighbor and pulled a flour
sack on his head while he slept, similarly it took a ham, a syrup
bottle and a pail of sour milk and ran off with them." (Even though the
account seems to be exaggerated, it is repeated here - as an example of
what the lonely newcomers tried to cheer each other up with when, after
long periods, they got together. Life was otherwise sad enough)
In Stevens County, there are 5 congregations and 4
churches, 3 belong to The Lutheran free Church and 2 to The Norwegian
Norwegian place names: Synnes and Framnæs.
Swift County, Minnesota
Nels O. Braaten from Flaa, Hallingdal and three
others from Hallingdal, Hans Sagadalen† , H. Hansen and T Hansen as
well as Anders Monsen† from Sogn and Tosten Kvamme from Valders were
the first Norwegians in Swift County. They came from Rice County and
settled in the neighborhood of West Lake in 1856. Next after them came
Iver K. Syse† from Hardanger, Lars Monsen from Sogn, Ole Wefle, Ole
Ellingboe, A. Ellingboe and Carl Finstad, all from Valders, Halvor
Gandrud from Nes, Hallingdal, Henrik and Tosten Sagadalen, also from
Hallingdal, Ole Søndreaal from Sogn as well as Knut
Søndreaal, Christopher Kvale etc. The first settlement was
established in the county's eastern part.
Wheat, maize and oats became the settlement's main
sale products. It was 60 miles to the nearest marketplace, St. Cloud.
Oxen were the only draught animals they had.
Ole O. Simenstad from Ringsaker, Lars Kristensen
from Sogndal and Tosten Flaten from Eggedal were the first in the
vicinity of Benson. Mr. Meldal was the first merchant thereabouts. With
the help of a pair of oxen, he broke up the sod, from which he built a
store. Now there are many shops in Benson, but none of the
There are 15 Norwegian congregations and 13 churches
in Swift C., 6 of them belong to The United Church, 5 to The Norwegian
Synod, 2 to The Lutheran Free Church and 2 to The Methodist Church. It
is regrettable that our people are so split up into so many church
The first Norwegian to hold public office in the
county was K. P. Frøvold, he was elected Auditor in 1874. The
first to represent Swift Co, in the State legislature was John P.
Jacobsen (in 1877)
Todd County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians in this county were Knut Larsen
from Helgeland and a Civil War veteran by the name of Andrew Johnson.
They settled in the Town of Kandota in 1866. Next after them came Per
Eriksen, Steffen Pedersen and Peder O. Jemtvold.
Mikal Klukken and Baard Anderson from Værdalen
were the first in the Town of West Union, it was '68 or '69 when they
settled there. Martin Olson, also from Værdalen, came a little
The first in the Town of Little Sauk was Sergeant
Knut O. Bjerkness from Hevne, Søndre Trondhjems Amt, Nils A.
Berg from the same place, Nikolai Nilsen Schotten† from Namsos and
Julius Olsen from Kristiania, they settled there in 1869. Next after
them came Jens J. Stjørdalsvold and Emanuel Johnson from Meraker
and Ole Pedersen† , Lars Jensen, John Olsen and Ole Sørensen.
Tosten Nelson, Lars Pedersen, Lars J. Stenmoe and
John Pedersen, all from Meraker were the first in Gordon Township, they
came there in 1870. Next after them came Ole Kleppen.
The first in the vicinity of Eagle Bend was Ole J.
Pedersen who settled there a short time after he had been 'beating up
These were expensive times for the first settlers in
Todd County. A barrel of salt cost $6, a barrel of flour $5, a cow from
$40 to $50 and an ox team $200. Luckily for the newcomers here, an
American built a saw mill at Little Sauk, where one could get an
allocation of forest, and thus they had something to live off. One of
the old settlers adds, "Had it not been for the saw mill at the Little
Sauk River, we would have starved to death."
The following is an extract of an article that Prof.
J. Stjørdalsvold wrote for 'Minneapolis Tribune' and
'Decorah-Posten' under the title,
'A Tenacious Trønder':
"In the deep forest between Osakis and Long Prairie
in the middle of Minnesota lives a man, who at various times and in
various ways has been, so to say, right in the jaws of death, but today
he is in the most excellent physical and mental condition, even though
he has begun his sixtieth year.
After ten years consideration, I have come to the
conclusion that the public is entitled to hear a little about this
man's remarkable experiences, and here it comes.- - - -
In 1867, Minnesota had a famous flood. At this time
Thorsten Nelson (from Stordalsvolden, Øvre Meraker) lived with
his wife and two children in a small house, that stood in a narrow
valley a little west of the current parish in Goodhue County.
It is not my intention to write of this flood here. But it must
however, be noted that it came at night and that the onrush of water
poured down in a few minutes, so that many a stalwart man and women
paled with fear.
Thorsten Nelson's house stood on a small height. It
was not pleasant to see the torrent split so that the farm became an
island. Soon the water reached walls on every side. And it rose, inch
by inch, until it began to flow in through the window. The water rose
high above the floor and when it reached them, lying in bed, both Mama
and Papa understood that this threatened the lives of all four of them.
So they each took a child on their shoulders to try to find land where
they knew the water was shallowest. The lightning was almost incessant,
at times it looked like they were wading through a torrent of flame. In
some moments it was so dark that eyes were useless. But it rained
without stop, as if it boiled around them.
The flow was dangerous. The water reached their hips. It reached their chest. Even deeper!
But when the water reached the little ones who sat
on Mama's and Papa's shoulders, they agreed that with the mercy of God,
they would go back to the house and live or die there.
It was not pleasant in there. The water flowed in
the door so it was impossible to close it. Everything that lay loose
had been swept away by the current - furnishings, clothes, shoes and
Even though the water reached up to the bed, they
had to stay there for, naturally, the water was even deeper on the
When it stopped raining, the water fell even faster
that it had risen and all four had escaped with their lives. But even
now Mama and Papa shudder when they think of that night.
The next morning Thorsten Nelson went barefoot to a
neighbor, for whom he worked until he got a pair of new boots. They
cost 7 dollars, but they were stout and heavy.
On The Ice
Thorsten Nelson and his family have lived in their
present home since 1870. In the first newcomer years, Sauk Center was
the town where he and his neighbors generally went to, when there was
something to be bought or sold.
On a return from Sauk Center, he and a group of his
comrades decided to save a few steps by crossing over a bay in Sault
Lake that was right on their way. It was late fall and the ice was
fairly firm along the shore. But they agreed that it was not safe
further out. Since Thorsten Nelson had crampons on his boots, it was
seen that it was safest to let him go ahead so the others could see how
the ice was.
When they got about half way out on the bay, it
began to creak very ominously under their feet, and just then
Thorsten's heel went through the ice. The others leapt back just in
time to save themselves. But around Thorsten it was actually so thin
that it billowed around him just like water. In a flash it struck him
that if he stopped to turn back, he would certainly go through the ice.
Therefore he hunched forward and ran as fast as the swift man was able.
The others could see clearly a hollow in the ice where he ran. But he
got across and his life was saved.
In The Threshing Machine
Some years later he had a thick scarf around his
neck while he threshed in the cold fall. He knew that this sort of
clothing was dangerous around threshing machines and therefore he kept
it tucked well inside his tightly buttoned coat. But while he was
cleaning out some loose material that had piled up in the front of the
machine, the scarf fell out. This was one of the old-fashioned
machines, that was driven by round iron rods that went from the horses
to the machine itself.
The scarf began to coil around the drive shaft but
Nelson was not aware of it until he was pulled down toward the shaft.
He had the presence of mind to shout that the others should cast the
rods aside. This was not done. However, the horses were stopped faster
than usual in such accidents. In the meantime, however, Nelson was
swung around the shaft at such a speed that his feet hit a man, who was
feeding the machine, and threw him far out in the field. The board that
the man stood on, was struck by Nelson's body so it rang as if he was a
When everything was stopped, Nelson was wrapped around the drive shaft and everyone believed he was dead.
Some resolute men stepped up and cut him loose. Then
they carried him in as though he was dead. His neck looked awful and
distorted. But, they well knew the man's toughness, so they pulled his
neck straight and put his body in a natural position. He was
extraordinarily heavy clothed. Even so, the skin was torn off across
his chest, where the drive shaft had laid.
Yes, there is life in him! He is coming to! When he
regained his consciousness, he said that he became unconscious as soon
as he started to go around the drive shaft. But he felt no pain,
neither when he lost nor regained consciousness.
He was a 'straggler' for a few days, but in two
weeks he began to work. And the involuntary dance around the threshing
machine's drive shaft is just a memory among many others.
Club on The Head
Once Thorsten Nelson and one of his neighbors were
setting up fence posts. One held the post and the other hammered it
into the ground. They used a wooden mallet with a large iron ring on
each end, and the whole thing weighed all of twenty to twenty-five
Just as the neighbor swung the hammer, the head flew
off and hit Nelson in the middle of the forehead. 'I dropped like a
stone,' tells Nelson, himself. In a few seconds he regained
consciousness and then rested for barely five minutes. But he admits
that he had a bad headache for several days after.
Blew the Rifle Up
Here I will add a little sample of how ingenious Thorsten Nelson was in getting things to work.
Once he bought a gun for hunting larger game. It was
a real beast of a rifle. It was loaded from the back and the bore was
much narrower at the mouth than where the ball was loaded. The ball was
ground or compressed quite significantly when it was driven by the
When he was hunting some smaller game, Nelson had
put in a rather small charge. The consequence was quite comical. There
was not enough power to drive the ball out of the rifle and it sat
stuck about six inches from the muzzle.
Now Nelson attempted to push the ball back from
where it had come. But no, that would not work! Instead of taking the
rifle to a gunsmith, Nelson put in a new load, and this time he was not
sparing of powder.
Now Nelson was very careful, he held the rifle over
his head when he shot. What a bang that time! But what was it that
echoed so strangely in the woods in the direction the rifle pointed?
After looking, he noticed that the end of rifle was
blown off where the other ball had sat. It was the blown-off piece of
the muzzle that had echoed in the forest.
In The Sawmill
When Thorsten Nelson got a steam-operated saw, he
was not one to let others take the most dangerous jobs. When everything
was ready to start, he stepped up to the first log that was to be sawn
into planks, in the new mill.
The saw cut its way through the log such that it was
lovely to watch. But on the return, the log had such a speed that
Nelson lost his balance. Just as he tottered over, he grasped the log
with his right hand, close to the circular saw. The reader will
understand that the log now moved backwards while the saw continued its
path as before. Therefore, Nelson's hand was carried toward the saw
where the teeth were spinning upward. The instant the saw's teeth hit
his hand, it was so terribly torn apart that it 'did not show a sign of
fingers on it', only a bloody, formless mass.
The doctor who took care of the hand must have been
skilled in his profession. It was true that no bone was hacked through.
But tendons and muscles were torn apart and twisted together and the
outer knuckle of the thumb was stripped of flesh and muscles, so that
the bone remained, naked and glistening. It was a tough piece of work
for the doctor to patch the fingers and hand together, but he did it so
well that the hand became quite natural, and as strong as before.
This time it was several weeks before the injured hand could be used for work.
Sheep Shears In The Chest
Such an innocent thing as sheep shears can also be
dangerous, that Thorsten Nelson learned when he was trimming the mane
on a horse.
This happened in the stable. Just as Thorsten Nelson
was clipping, the horse bolted out the door. He tumbled down flat and
at the same time he felt a sharp pain in his chest. He fell with a
significant speed onto the blade of the sheep shears. One point which
was extremely sharp struck a rib just over his
heart. The point drilled into the bone, so that
his chest was sore for a long time. Had the point struck just a little
higher or lower, it would clearly have pierced his heart.
Wagon Pole In The Thigh
It is only a few years since Thorsten Nelson experienced his last serious misadventure.
He was on his way home from Long Prairie and drove a
buggy with a pair of spirited horses. The horses became frightened when
the traces fell out. When the horses had reached a good speed, the
wagon pole also fell down. Now they became ten times wilder. In the
next moment, the front of the pole stuck into the ground and broke off
about three feet in front of the buggy.
This event is so strange and difficult to understand
that I need to get into some detail and length, although that hardly
suits an event that only lasted a few seconds.
The wagon pole broke at an angle so the broken ends
were thin and sharp. That part of the shaft fastened to the buggy fell
down. The front of the broken piece stood at an angle in the ground and
the other end stood up in the air in front of the buggy. Just when the
pole broke off, in some way or another unexplained manner, the horses
broke loose from the buggy. Nelson held firmly to the reins and when
the buggy stopped, the horses pulled him out of it. But he did not get
far. His right thigh struck the projecting end of the pole. He was
literally gored, while the horses ran away.
Just now did Nelson and his comrade realize what had
happened. The pole had gone through his thigh, a bit closer to his hip
than his knee. It had slid past the bone and the end stuck out at least
six inches on the other side. His comrade now grabbed Nelson and pulled
him off the pole.
As soon as Nelson was free from the spear, he helped
his comrade pull the bloodied pole out of the ground. It was stuck so
hard that it was only with great effort that they got it out.
The horses were nowhere to be seen. But the tracks
showed where they could be found. And it was Nelson himself who
recovered the horses, even though they had run a good distance.
Then he borrowed a wagon and drove back to his
buggy, which he tied to the wagon and drove home as if nothing had
happened to him personally.
But now his sons took him to a doctor in Osakis. The
first thing he did was pull out four to five inch long piece of wood
that was still in the wound.
Next he washed the wound thoroughly. And this he did
in a very practical manner. There is a saying 'nothing is so bad that
it is not good for something'. Here the pole had gone right through his
thigh. The doctor stuck an clean wash cloth in one side and out the
other and by pulling it back and forth a number of times, it was an
easy matter to get the wound clean. On the one side the wound was so
large that the doctor could get his hand a good distance into it. The
doctor said, 'You must stay overnight'.
But the next day, Nelson got up and bought himself a
new wagon. He was even prepared to walk the five miles home, but his
son came and rented transport for him.
Then he stayed in bed for barely a week and in three weeks he went back to his usual work.
Now there are only a couple of scars to remind him of this event.
At the age of nineteen, Thorsten Nelson was married
to Anne Mikkelsdatter Tjernmo and she has truly been a splendid wife
ever since the day she was a bride. They have had four sons and four
daughters and five of the children are alive. When you drive from
Osakis to Long Prairie, you will see among many lovely homes in the
Town of Gordon, none lovelier than theirs.
When so much unusual happens to one and the same
man, some could doubt the truth of it. But since I have always sought
and kept to the truth, I wish to remove such doubt. Therefore, I have
asked Nelson himself and later some of his neighbors to read this. And
here comes their declaration.
We the undersigned, who were born in the same
neighborhood as Thorsten Nelson in the old country and have lived in
the same neighborhood as him for 30 years or more, find that above
account is absolutely truthful.
Jens Johanssen Størdalstvedt
Manuel Jensen Tevedal
Lars Pedersen Stenøien"
Little Sauk Congregation, that was established in
1872 by Pastor Chr. Saugstad of The Conference, was the first Norwegian
congregation in the county. Its church was built in 1873. There are now
15 congregations and 9 churches, 10 belong to The United Church, 2 to
The Norwegian Synod, 2 to The Lutheran Free Church and 1 to The
The first Norwegian to hold public office in the
county was Henry Ellingsen, he was elected Registrar of Deeds in 1867.
Traverse County, Minnesota
Norwegians are comparativelty few in this county.
However, there are 2 congregations, both belonging to The Norwegian
Synod. There is also a Norwegian church.
Andrew Petersen, who was elected to the State
Legislature in 1892 was clearly the first Norwegian to be honoured with
a public position.
Monson Township gets its name from Norwegians.
Wabasha County, Minnesota
The Norwegian population here is thin. There are
only two small congregations, both belonging to The Methodist Church.
But in the neighbouring counties, we have many Norwegians.
Wadena County, Minnesota
Who were the first Norwegian settlers in Wadena
County is not known. It is however certain that the oldest settlement
is in the vicinity of Wadena City.
The first to settle at Aldrich was Peter Thurstensen from Namsos, it was in 1887 when he settled here.
Wadena Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation
is the oldest in the county. It was established in 1878 by Pastor K.
Bjørgo, belonging to The Norwegian Synod. Its church was built
in 1883. Now there are 8 Norwegian congregations and 4 churches, 4
belong to The Lutheran Free Church, 2 to The Norwegian Synod and 2 to
The United Church.
Waseca County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians in this county were Sjur O.
Bagne† from Hardanger, Peder Nilsen† from Sogn, Aslak H. Kvitne from
Voss as well as Torbjørn Johnson and Tarald Amundsen† from
Vinje, Telemarken. They settled north of Waseca in 1855, they had come
here from Dane C., Wis. Next after them came Sigurd Johnson† , Ole
Engelsen Neset† , Gregor Kjøstofsen, Halvor Johnson† , all from
Vinje, Telemarken as well as Oval Olson† from Sætersdalen, Ole
Christophersen† from Eidsvold and Peder Thoresen from Hadeland.
Sigurd Johnson, one of those named above, and his
wife were married in Skien in 1845, just before they were to board the
sailship that was to take them to the promised land. They had their
honeymoon then, on the journey to America. This was not as pleasant as
could have been wished but it was certainly long. The trip from Skien
to Dane Co., Wis. took 26 - twenty six - weeks.
In 1856, the New Richland Settlement was founded.
The first there were: Anthony Sampson (Sørensen) Kongsgaarden† ,
Hans H. Sunde† , Halvor T. Bakstevold† and Even O. Strenge, all from
Sandsvær, Knut O. Rukke† and Christen K. Syvertsen† , from
Hallingdal, Webjørn Anderson† , Ole K. Hagen† , Halvor T.
Haugerud† and August Møller from Skien, and Nels C. Kopstad from
Eker. Next after them came John Thompson† , Hans Olsen Sunde† , Paul H.
Sunde, Ole Halvorsen, Bernt Johnson† , Anders A. Berg† , Ole H. Sunde†
, Erick Christensen Saga† , Torkel T. Lund† , Hans Jørgen H.
Steg† and the brothers Christopher† , John† and Johannes†
Sørensen Kongsgaarden, all these from Sandsvær, Ole J.
Høgaas† from Sigdal, H. F. Gulbrandsen† and Nels O. Lysholm from
Kristiania, Helleck Andersen from Nummedal and Hans Bjørnsen
from Hemsedal. Nearly all of these had lived for a time at Spring
Valley, Rock Co., Wis. and came up here by ox team.
All of this area was wilderness at that time. There were only Indians and wild animals to be seen.
The first 4 years were times of need here. They
began by growing wheat but the harvest was so small that people could
not live off it and there was nothing to be earned. Therefore, they had
to sell livestock at spot price. A good ox team that the farmers had
bought for up to $150 they had to sell for $40, a good cow for $10 each
etc. Also they had to drive all the way to Freeport, near Decorah, Iowa
to buy corn meal, which was almost all they had to live on for a long
time* The nearest city was Winona, a distance of 85 miles. There was no
railroad west of the Mississippi at that time. One had to use oxen
The Winnebago Indians had their reservation nearby,
their Agency was on the line between Waseca and Blue Earth Counties.
And the Sioux Indians sent riders to them every day to urge them to
break out and kill the whites. The consequence then was that they did
break out - in 1862 - and caused much destruction. But in 1863 the
soldiers came and drove them away. And many of the families that had
fled eastward came back. After that time the conditions have been good,
writes one of the oldest settlers.
While we speak here of the first Norwegians - in
every county - it is appropriate to mention old Elling Johnson in
Waseca since he was the first in several counties, i.e. he 'visited'
several of them before any other Norwegian. In the 60s, when he was
young he crossed almost the whole of Wisconsin from south to north and
finally ended up in the copper mines of Otonogan Co., Mich. on Lake
Superior's shores. It was at that time they began to build roads
through north Wisconsin's forests and build bridges across the rivers.
Johnson was occasionally involved with this. He was on the way
northward anyway. Many a night he and his comrades slept out in the
snow on the so-called 'Indian Trails'. He came from Arnefjord, Norway.
Nordre Waseca Congregation that was established in
1858 by Pastor V. J. Muus, then belonging to The Norwegian Synod, was
the first Norwegian congregation in Waseca County. The first Norwegian
church in the county was built in 1863 by the Le Sueur Congregation at
New Richland. Now there are 6 congregations and 5 churches, 3 belonging
to The United Church, 2 to The Methodist Church and 1 to The Lutheran
The first Norwegian to hold public office was
Anthony Sampson, who has already been mentioned among the first
settlers. He was elected Assessor in 1858 and a member of the State
Legislature in 1877.
*As an example, it was told that a large family
lived through the winter on 200 pounds of corn meal and a few other
necessities, the whole cost would now be $20.00.
Washington County, Minnesota
The Norwegians in this county are comparatively few.
However, there are 2 congregations (each with its own church), both
belonging to The Norwegian Synod. There are also some Norwegian
Watonwan County, Minnesota
John H Berdell (Berdahl), who was the first white
child born in Watonwan County, says that his father Hans Johnson from
Sogndal in Sogn and John Anderson† from the Bergen area were the
county's first settlers. They came from Dane Co., Wis. and settled at
Odin in 1856. There were only Indians in these parts at that time and
the new settlers' children learned the Indian language rather well.*
They began with wheat and cattle raising. Mankato and St. Paul were
their nearest marketplaces. To the latter city it was 122 miles, a road
that the oxen had to cover many a time. Day labor was paid at 50 cents
The first Norwegians to settle in the vicinity of
Madelia were Ole Jørgensen† , the brothers Nils, Jens and Thos.
Thoresen† and Lars Orvik† , all from Kragerø and Lars Halvorsen†
whose birthplace is unknown to the author, they came from Waukesha Co.,
Wis. Later in the year came Salve Torgersen† from Telemarken, Helge
Plamer† from Hønefos as well as Mads Boxrud† , S. O. Fjeldstad†
and Mads Olsen† , the last three from Toten. (Old O. H. Howe in Echols
says that there were more that came at the same time but he cannot
remember more names)
Dugouts and log cabins were the new settlers' first residences.
About the pioneer's life, Ole Reinert of Butterfield
writes, "As old and as forgetful as I am, I can never forget what we
went through in the first years we were on these prairies. One can
guess at the long trips we had with oxen - with no roads or bridges -
in rain and snow storms. If there had not remained a bit of viking
blood in our veins, the hardships would have been unendurable"
In Watonwan County we find 11 Norwegian
congregations and 9 churches, 6 of them belong to The United Church, 3
to The Lutheran Free Church, 1 to The Norwegian
Synod and 1 to The Methodist Church.
The first Norwegian to hold a county office was Jens
Torsen† , he was elected Treasurer in 1871. Ole H. Howe was the first
who represented the county in the State Legislature. (1873).
Norwegian place names: Godahl, Norwegian, Odin and Nelson.
Wilkin County, Minnesota
The large Norwegian settlement, that was founded in
Otter Tail County in the 70s also stretched over the county line and
into the vicinity of Rothsay, Wilkin County. This county has then no
distinct history with regard to the foundation of first settlements.
But later there were founded Norwegian settlements
further in the county. John Ericksen from Værdalen was the first
in the vicinity of Doran, he settled there in 1887.
John Aune from Selbu was the first in the area of
Everdell, it was 1890 he settled there. The settlement in the northern
part of the county is connected to the settlement in Clay County.
Wilkin County's leading source of income was wheat growing, cattle raising and mixed farming.
Mathias Halvorsen tells, "In the time I lived
further south in Minnesota, I was sent one day to the nearest town with
a load of wheat. But the way was long and the oxen, who became tired,
finally got the idea of lying down. My vigorous efforts to get them up
again were absolutely fruitless. Now it happened that a carpenter lived
nearby and I complained to him about my problem. 'Take it easy,' he
said, 'we will certainly get them up on their feet again!' Then we
filled two sacks with wood shavings that we piled around the oxen and
then the carpenter lit it with a match and in an instant they were
surrounded by flames. They pondered what this meant, but were soon
aware that under these conditions it was best to stand up and move on!"
"In the first years I lived on my homestead here
(near Elizabeth)," continues Halvorsen, "I had no other livestock than
an ox. He had been with me since he was a calf. During the day he would
go out on the prairie to the lovely pastures and in the evening he was
always right by the house. A bit later I bought a cow but she just
wandered where she wanted and now a solution was difficult. The only
way I could think of was to tie the two together with a short rope and
let them roam side by side out in the pastures. And the ox showed
himself to be just as faithful in the new circumstances as the old. In
the evening I saw him approaching home - dragging the completely
unwilling cow with him!"
"A few years later I was caught in a snow storm. I
had a little wood lot on the west side of the house and I cut a few
cords of wood now and then. One day, a man who lived a few miles away
asked me to bring him a load, which I promptly did. When we had gotten
a bit on the way we could see a storm was brewing, so my guide left, by
Shank's Mare, to get home as fast as possible. But since I had a large
load, I had to go slowly. The snow storm increased, darkness approached
and since I was unfamiliar with these parts and there was nothing else
to do but stay overnight where I was. I tied the oxen to the load and
dug a hole in the snow but I found it impossible to fall asleep. I
feared that it might be my last one. I had to keep moving all night in
the cold and drifting snow. When I reached people the next day it
showed that one foot was frostbitten - and later all the toes had to be
removed as a consequence."
Hamar Congregation, that was established at Rothsay
in 1874 by Pastor T. Rosholdt of the Norwegian Synod, was the first
Norwegian congregation in the county. Its church was built in 1876. Now
there are 10 congregations and 8 churches, 4 belong to The Norwegian
Synod, 3 to The United Church, 1 to The
Lutheran free Church, 1 to Hauge's Synod and 1 to The Baptist Church.
John Nilsen, who was elected County Treasurer in 1875, was the first Norwegian to hold public office here.
In this county there is a Township with the name Tanberg and a post office named after Henrik Ibsen.
Winona County, Minnesota
The first Norwegians known to have settled in this
county were the brothers Torbjørn and Tollef Gundersen Fladeland
from Vraadal, Telemarken. They came from Dane County, Wis. and settled
at Winona city in 1852. That town was usually regarded as the head of
navigation in those days and consequently there was much traffic, which
suited the Fladeland boys very well. Torbjørn went into wheat
trading. However, he soon moved to the neighboring county (Fillmore)
where his saga continued. See the section, "Norwegians in public
positions in America". Tollef died in McKee, Oregon, 1902. He was a
merchant and postmaster there in recent years.
One of the pioneers in Winona County writes as
follows, "I emigrated to America in 1854. The trip to Quebec went well,
but on the way inland and through the canals, it was sad. Our group was
attacked by cholera. Children died from their parents and parents from
their children - yes, we even witnessed infants suckle on a mother's
breast after she was dead. On the canal boat's decks there was such a
mass of corpses and helpless people that one had to step over them to
After having spent a couple of years in Dane Co.,
Wis. I came here. The first winter it was very far between neighbors
but so much snow that it was higher than the rooftops.
It was a good thing that I had learned to ski and
use a rifle before I left Norway. Those who were not at home with those
skills suffered much need before the winter was over. I recall one day
when I was returning from a hunting trip with a deer and a pair of
hares. I gave the hares to a man who was chopping wood. When he took
them, he began to cry, which surprised me until he told me that in the
past 4-5 days he and his family had not had anything to eat other than
In Winona County there are 4 Norwegian congregations
and 3 churches, 2 belong to The United Church and 2 to The Evangelical
Wright County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settler in this county (at
least, the first that is known of) was Michael Johnson (Moen) from
Selbu, near Trondhjem. He settled at Smith Lake in 1858, but moved
after a couple of years to Acton, Meeker Co. and later to Hennepin Co.
where we find further information about him.
In Wright County there is just one Norwegian congregation and one
church. The congregation, which is Lutheran, stands outside any
There is only one Norwegian place name, Lund.
Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota
The first Norwegian settlers in Yellow Medicine
County were Hellek Glaim† from Nummedal and Ingebret Johnson† and
Gerhard Garman, both from the Stavanger area. They came from Rushford,
Fillmore Co. and settled in the vicinity of Hanley Falls in 1866. Right
after them came the Sogning Jens Stevens† from Adams Co., Wis., who
settled in the same area. Next after the aforementioned came Halvor
Besteland, Even Besteland and Ed. Evensen all from Sætersdalen,
S. L. Orwold from Sogn, Lars Kolhei, Ole L. Kolhei and Ingebrigt Kolhei
from the Stavanger area, Henry Ellingboe from Vang, Valders and Ole
Anderson from Lyse.
The Telemarking Tobias Reishus† who as a soldier in
the Indian Wars passed through this area, liked the land so well that
he moved here fron Arendal, Minn. together with Ole and Andreas Lende.
They were also among the first settlers.
Sod houses, dugouts and log cabins served instead of
palaces. They began growing wheat but they had to take it all the way
to New Ulm (75 miles) to sell it and had, naturally, nothing but some
slow oxen to drive with. People who worked for cash at that time earned
50 cents per day.
About the trip to America etc, J. H. Jertsen has the
following to tell, "I emigrated with my parents from Ulefos Iron Works
in 1850. We travelled by sailship from Porsgrund, were 11 weeks at sea
and then landed at New York. There was famine aboard so it was high
time we reached land. From New York the journey continued in the usual
way. It was certainly not fun with emigrant transport, whether by land
or sea in those days. Through the Erie Canal the boats were drawn by
horses. I remember that the men went ashore and when we passed one or
another bridge, they (the men) were out of sight to the great concern
of we children and for the women who remained on the boat. Several of
the children cried at the thought that father had gone away. But it
went better than we believed. From Milwaukee we drove with oxen to Pine
Lake, Wis., where we lived for a year. There my father and his brother
cut wood for 25 cents a cord and split rails for 25 cents per 100. The
next spring we went to Fort Winnebago (now Portage City, Wis.), where
in some way we got some poor land. My father and the others were
actually foundry men from Norway and had little understanding of land -
at least not in America. However, there was many a skilled man duped in
those days. We remained there for a few years.
The men went by foot to Milwaukee or Chicago to find
work in the foundries while we remained home surrounded by Indians. I
remember in the first winter we spent there, there were five Norwegian
families living in one house, 14 feet square and ten feet high. But
come to Yellow Medicine now and see how we are!"
Yellow Medicine Congregation, that was established
at Lilliard in 1868 by Pastor Johannes Bergh, belonging to The
Norwegian Synod, was the first in the county. The first Norwegian
church (in the county) was built by the aforementioned congregation in
1879. Now there are 16 Norwegian congregations and 14 churches, 10 of
them belong to The United Church, 3 to The Norwegian Synod, 1 to The
Lutheran Free Church, 1 to Hauge's Synod and 1 to The Methodist Church.
Ole O. Lende, Ole Dale Ole Joel who were elected,
the first two as Commissioners and the last as Sheriff in 1871 were the
first Norwegians to hold public office in the county. The first
Norwegian to represent Yellow Medicine Co. in the State Legislature was
O. S. Reishus (1872).
Dr. Falk (Norwegian) published the first newspaper
in this county, part of it was in Norwegian and part in English. At
first its name was 'Minnesota Falls Journal', later it became 'Granite
Falls Rock'. 'Minnesota Folkeblad' (Norwegian) was published in Canby
in the 90s, and 'Norge' in Granite Falls around 1900.
Norwegian place names: Sandnes, Vinland, Norman, Normanna, Seljord, Hammer, Stavanger and Wergeland.
Vernon, British Columbia, Canada
Nordmændene i Amerika by Martin Ulvestad, 1907
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