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Norwegian Hotelkeeper, Andrew Knudson of Grand Forks


In the time of the “Great Dakota Boom,” from 1878 through 1886, a flood of settlers flowed into the area that became North Dakota. The population grew by over 1,000 percent, from about 16,000 to 191,000 people.

Norwegians were the largest group of Scandinavian immigrants to the state and some of these newcomers had difficulties in their first months in America. In Grand Forks, hotel keeper Andrew Knudson, a Norwegian who immigrated in 1861, understood the travails of the new arrivals to his city. “In the conduct of his hotel business,” Knudson “made it a practice to meet all the trains” and help families get lodgings.

By this means, Knudson “was able to do a real service to the great numbers of Norwegian emigrants who passed through Grand Forks in the 1880s” because very few understood English, and they often had problems like taking the wrong route or getting off the train at the wrong place. Consequently, they often needed his hotel, and whether they had any money or not, he saw to it “that they got started out right.”

So many people were passing through Grand Forks during the 1880s, that the hotels did not have enough rooms. In order to provide a place for the new Norwegian arrivals, Knutson would put beds on the office floor or other spaces so that no one needed to be turned away.

On this date, in 1887, Knudson’s name was in the newspaper because a small fire had broken out in his Hotel Knudson, and the fire was extinguished. Reportedly, all losses were covered by insurance.

Andrew Knudson had operated hotels in Grand Forks from the time of his arrival in 1882 through his death, at age 78, in 1919. He first had bought the City Hotel, changing its name to the Hotel Knudson, sometimes known as the “Scandinavian House.” He later bought the Arlington Park Hotel.

Andrew Knudson was remembered in Grand Forks for being a Civil War veteran and a successful businessman, but he was renowned for his hospitality towards all. In giving a helping hand to recently-arrived immigrants, it was said that this Norwegian-American hotelkeeper numbered his friends by the thousands.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.

Sources: “Hotel Knudson Scorched,” Grand Forks Herald, March 7, 1887, p. 1.

E.J. Lander, “Henry Knutson Biography," Pioneer Biography Files; W.P.A. Historical Data Project: Biographies, 1936-1940, Grand Forks County, p. 2.

“Andrew Knutson,” 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Grand Forks Ward 1, Grand Forks, ND.

Elwyn B. Robinson, “The Themes of North Dakota History,” Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library, University of North Dakota, http://www.und.nodak.edu/dept/library/Collections/Robinson/themes.html, accessed on September 28, 2009.

D. Jerome Tweton, “Norwegians Make Up State’s Largest Ethnic Group: Scandinavians Dot Entire State,” North Dakota Studies,

“Mr. A. Knudson,” Grand Forks Herald, June 17, 1883, p. 4.

“An Important Transfer,” Grand Forks Herald, June 3, 1906, p. 8.

“Knudson Will Retire Soon,” Grand Forks Herald, April 11, 1919, p. 12.

“Andrew Knudson Passes Away: Pioneer Resident and Civil War Veteran Succumbs To Heart Trouble,” Grand Forks Herald, May 29, 1919, p. 12.