Norwegians make up one of the larger ethnic groups in North Dakota, with almost 1 in 3 boasting Norwegian heritage as of 2009. That’s the highest percentage in the country. This is no surprise, as Norwegians have been immigrating to North Dakota since the late 1800s. The first Norwegian immigrants came in 1869 and settled along the Red River Valley, but it was not until 1880 that Norwegians began coming en masse. From 1892 to 1905, one fourth of the immigrants coming to North Dakota were Norwegian.
John Sad was a child in one of the newly arriving families. He was born on this date in Hardanger, Norway in 1887 to parents Asbjorn and Martha. The family arrived in America the following year, settling in Valley City.
Many of the new arrivals from Norway were farmers, drawn by the flat, fertile land, but Asbjorn started out as a tailor. But in 1903, he too, chose the rural life, moving the family to a farm in nearby Dazey.
John Sad attended public schools and went on to attend the University of North Dakota. It was a different time, when few children completed even elementary school, but it’s been noted that Norwegians in particular valued education and encouraged their children to attend high school and college. For John Sad, this turned into a law career. He was admitted to the North Dakota State Bar in 1915. He practiced law in Cooperstown for 13 years, served as State’s Attorney in Griggs Country for six years, and in Barnes County for four years. Eventually, he moved back to Valley City to partner with two other lawyers, creating the firm of Hanchett, Sproul, & Sad.
In November 1951, at the age of 64, Governor C. Norman Brunsdale appointed him Judge of the First Judicial District and he served in that post until retiring in 1963. He died July 20th, 1969 – one life as a small example of the Norwegian immigrant experience in North Dakota.
Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas
Dazey History Committee, Our Heritage, Dazey, North Dakota, 1883 – 1983, (Valley City, ND: Printing Plus, 1983), pp. 196 – 198.