Norway

As published in "Commemorative Biographical Record of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1906), pages 498-499

The first settler in the town of Norway was Thomas Drought, who came from Lower Canada, with oxen and wagon, and in September, 1838, made a claim of 160 acres in Section No. 12, in the northeast part of the town, where he has ever since resided. He was accompanied in his settlement by a sister, and was afterward followed by other members of the family, and the section of the town where he located has ever since been known as the "Drought Settlement." James Ash came into Norway in the autumn of '38, and Alfred Thompson and George Drought in '39.

In the summer of 1839, a vessel arrived at Milwaukee laden with a party of sturdy emigrants, about forty in number, fresh from their homes among the Norway mountains. They were destined for Illinois, but were prevailed upon to delay their journey. Mr. George Walker, whom good health had made ruddy and corpulent, urging them to settle in Wisconsin, and another person, from Illinois, whose countenance fever and ague had sadly blighted, urging them to carry out their original intention. The healthfulness of climate, as then judged of by the appearance of the representatives of the two states, decided the question with the rugged Norwegian pioneers, and they chose Wisconsin as their future home. -- They had listened with wonder to descriptions of the great land beyond the ocean, the strong attachments that bind dwellers among beautiful mountain scenes to their native huts and lost their power of restraint, and now with brave hearts and determined purpose, they were ready for hardship, adventure and work. A few days after landing at Milwaukee they lost their faithful interpreter, who was accidentally drowned in the river, but furnished with guides, a party of emigrants set out upon explorations, and soon found themselves within the vicinity of Muskego Lake. It was a dry season, and the marshes resembled prairies in their appearance surrounded by forests. Cabins soon sprung up on the hillsides around the marshes, but the bright hopes of the settlers were quenched when the spring floods came and converted the promising prairie land into lake and morasses. This caused a removal of the colony further south and west. Mr. Halver Thompson settled on the banks of Wind Lake; John Nelson, another of the party, settled on an adjoining claim, which he improved considerably, and from which he subsequently removed to Kos Kenong prairie. An American by the name of Flether also located in the vicinity of these settlements.

In the spring of 1840 Soren Backe and Johannes Johansen, men of intelligence and means, who had come from Norway the preceding fall, and spent the winter in Illinois, visited the region. They were looking for a place to establish a colony. The cluster of beautiful lakes, the clear streams of living water swarming with fish, and the forests abounding with game, which they found in the town of Norway, satisfied their desires. A cabin was built on the bank of one of the lakes; reports of the country were sent to their friends across the sea, and in the fall of 1840 Evan Hansen, known also as Evan Hansen Heg, arrived with a large company of emigrants and settled around the lakes. Backe having considerable capital, which he invested in a large tract of land, sold parcels to the poorer colonists upon favorable terms. In a short time the colony increased in numbers and became the center of Scandinavian emigration to the state, and Johannes Johansen, Soren Backe and Evan Hansen were regarded the founders of the first permanent Scandinavian colony in Wisconsin. Among the other colonists were Sivert Ingerbretsen, Knud Arslarksen, Johannes Evensen, Ole Hogensen, Gurder Gurtesen, Niels H. Narum, John Larsen, Hans Jacobsen, Peter Jacobsen and Ole Andersen.

A trading point was established on Mr. Heg's farm. An excavation was made in a large Indian mound and roofed over and fitted up into commodious apartments for families. Johannes Johansen received the appellation of "King" and here the colonists received their supplies and mail, and the first Scandinavian newspaper in the country was published, called the Nord Lyset (Northern Light), and edited by J. D. Raymert. This was also the birthplace of John P. Jacobsen, to whom I am indebted for information concerning the establishment of the first Scandinavian settlement in Norway.

Evan Hansen was the father of Hans C. and Ole Heg. His name, as inscribed on his gravestone, is Evan Hansen Heg, and I am told that the name Heg was derived from the place where the family lived in Norway, of the farm which they possessed, and which was known as "Headquarters."

A log church was built at the central point of the settlement, by the colonists, in 1845. The settlers were a religious people, and of the Lutheran belief. In the church yard, where the log church was built, many of the original founders of the colony were buried, and here rest the remains of Hans C. Heg, a gallant soldier, who fell fighting the battles of his adopted country.

The town of Norway was created by an act of the Territorial legislature on the 11th of February, 1847, and the people who gave to the town its name, and who have so successfully built up the colony originally projected by those I have named, have distingished themselves as among the most prudent, industrious, and thrifty citizens of the county.




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