© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Stone Sentinel


Herman Fjelde came to North Dakota from Norway. He practiced medicine for more than 21 years. But he is better known for his cultural efforts than his medical career. Fjelde did not want Norwegian immigrants to forget where they came from. He was the driving force behind many of the sculptures in Fargo, including the Bjornson obelisk at NDSU, the statue of Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland in Island Park, and the statue of Rollo the Viking.

Others in Herman’s family also relocated to North Dakota and were very artistic. His sisters Pauline and Thomane were noted for their embroidery and weaving. When the United States prepared to participate in the World’s Columbian Exposition, each state was to be represented by a flag, but Minnesota had never adopted a state flag. State officials contracted Pauline and Thomane to embroider the first Minnesota flag. It won a gold medal at the exposition.

Herman’s son Olaf became a noted architect and watercolor artist. He was also an authority on stave churches and Viking boats.

Another relative, Pauline’s niece, was a well-known weaver. And Herman’s brother Jacob became a sculptor and a portrait painter. He moved to Minneapolis, and the area boasts several of his major works, including a statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha, one of Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, and a bust of Henrik Ibsen. Jacob’s son Paul also became a sculptor, and his grandson Rolf was an Ibsen scholar.

Jacob was commissioned to create a monument in honor of the First Minnesota Regiment at Gettysburg. The Regiment turned back a Confederate attack that could have overwhelmed the Union line. The statue at the top of the stone pillar depicts a soldier charging with lowered bayonet. At the bottom of the pillar is a bronze relief of the soldiers halting the attack. Jacob’s work was installed on the battlefield in 1893. On this date in 1897, the monument was officially dedicated.

The Fjelde family may not be well remembered in North Dakota, but the name still carries weight in Minnesota and Norway. Norwegian tourists are directed to Jacob Fjelde’s works as well as the statues commissioned by Herman. And the Daughters of Norway Lodge #51, in Minneapolis, is named for Pauline.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.


NDSU Archives. Herman O. Fjelde Papers, Mss 82.

DC Memorials. "http://www.dcmemorials.com/index_indiv0007018.htm" http://www.dcmemorials.com/index_indiv0007018.htm Accessed 20 May, 2015.

MNOpedia. "http://www.mnopedia.org/thing/hiawatha-and-minnehaha-jacob-fjelde" http://www.mnopedia.org/thing/hiawatha-and-minnehaha-jacob-fjelde Accessed 22 May, 2015.

The National Norwegian-American Museum and Heritage Center. "http://collections.vesterheim.org/items/browse?collection=3" http://collections.vesterheim.org/items/browse?collection=3 Accessed 22 May, 2015.