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Anniversary of Norse Settlers

10/23/2015:

In his extensive history of North Dakota, Elwyn Robinson describes how Norwegian immigrants made their mark. They carved out homesteads and settled the land. As the railroads came through and towns sprouted on the prairie, these new immigrants adopted the language of their new home. Many Anglicized their names. Laverans Fjelstad became Lewis Fisk. But at the same time, these newcomers clung to their homeland, often subscribing to Norwegian newspapers. They cooked lefse and lutefisk. They were Americans, but they never forgot that they came from Norwegian stock.

On this date in 1925, the Grand Forks Herald described a celebration of Norwegian heritage. The Leif Ericksson and Norse Centennial Festival was held at the City Auditorium. It was in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the first group of Norwegians to arrive in the United States. The celebration began with the Norwegian National Anthem sung by the Men’s Choral Union. Mr. Clausen, the general commissioner of the International League of Norwegians, spoke to the large audience. Another speaker was W.P. Davies, the editor of the Herald. Davies paid tribute to the Americans from other countries. He said these immigrants had become proud and successful, while cherishing their native traditions.

The evening continued with a combination of music and speakers. The editor of a Norwegian magazine spoke of Leif Ericksson. He said it was a well-known fact that Ericksson was the first European to set foot on what would eventually become the United States. Another speaker explained how the first Norwegians left their country in 1825 and ventured to the New World. A Norwegian author on a book tour read several selections by Norwegian poets. The final speaker described his hope that the event would promote interest in keeping alive the best of Norwegian traditions in the United States.

At last, the evening wound to a close. It ended as it began, with a performance by the Men’s Choral Union. This time they gave a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But the celebration was not over. Mr. Clausen announced that he would return on Sunday. He planned to give an illustrated lecture at city hall. This would be followed by a musical performance. All in all, it was a great weekend for the Norwegians in Grand Forks.

Dakota Datebook Written by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Robinson, Elwyn. History of North Dakota. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

The Grand Forks Herald. “Anniversary of Norse Settlers Observed Here.” 23 October, 1925.