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Red River Valley Norwegians

12/17/2015:

On this date in 1895, a convention was being conducted in Fargo to consider the needs of each of the counties in North Dakota regarding immigration. Delegates assembled from all parts of the state and created the North Dakota State Immigration Association. Most of those attending were themselves immigrants or first generation descendants. They believed that the time was ripe to once again encourage homesteaders to come to North Dakota, and they studied proposals to point out the state’s advantages, which they outlined in a four point resolution.

They noted that the climate was healthy and invigorating; the diversity of the soil allowed for all branches of farming and ranching; the people of North Dakota would openly welcome the honest and industrious home seeker, but other classes of people need not apply; and finally, they proposed to advertise that the grasses of Dakota were scientifically proven to be better for livestock than eastern grasses.

It was interesting that although the new association was inviting settlers from the eastern United States and Canada, the only European countries they targeted were the British Isles and Northern Europe. Much of North Dakota, notably the Red River Valley, had been settled by people from the Scandinavian counties, especially Norway.

Being from Norway may have even evoked some privileges, as evidenced by an article in the Casselton Reporter. In an attempt to report on the convention, the publication of the Fargo Argus, had been delayed, and it failed to send out its mail edition. When chided by the editor of Casselton paper for missing the mail train, the Argus editor offered the following explanation:

“The mailing clerk fell into a dream. He saw the sun making a halo over the snowy tops of the Scandinavian mountain peaks; he heard the lapping sound of the waves in the fjords, rushing to kiss the pebbled beach; he sniffed the scent of the fish in the village at the foot of the hills; he looked afar, over the blue ocean and saw the sea gulls darting to and fro. He was in his native Norway, in sight of the solemn ocean, once again – and then the whistle on the candy factory brought him back to Fargo in time to see the western train scooting past the shops.”

While the Argus editor admitted that they deserved the censure, it seemed as though it was difficult to find fault with a homesick Norwegian in the Red River Valley in 1895.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis

Sources:

The Casselton Reporter December 20, 1895