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The Norwegians were the earliest of the Scandinavians to migrate in considerable numbers. The Swedes and the Danes soon followed the example of the Norwegians, and by the middle of the nineteenth century the migrations of all three were well under way. About two million Scandinavians went to America after 1825. Most of them settled in the Middle West and the Northwest following accustomed occupations on innumerable farms and in villages and cities serving those farms. With them they brought the heritage of generations of thrifty folk, accustomed to hard work, generally literate, respecters of property, believers in democratic government, religious, aggressive and independent.

1. Migration Factors: The first vessel reported is the Norwegian sloop “Restaurationen” and its fifty-three passengers and crew. It arrived in New York Harbor October 9th 1825. The destination of the party was Orleans County. After an interval of eleven years, more shiploads came, and thereafter the stream from Norway to the American shore was constant. Although there was a pause in the first year of the Civil War, migration gradually grew in the first half of the sixties, when most of the Norwegians came into the United States by way of Quebec. This tremendous emigration is indicative of the fact that Norway was physically incapable of adequately supporting its population. The majority of the Norwegians in the United States settled in the upper Mississippi and Missouri valley. With the Fox River settlement in northern Illinois as an apex, settlement spread into a fan-shaped area westward, northwestward, and northward.

2. THE SLOOPERS GO WEST: Tthe trend of Norwegian settlement in the United States was to turn, within a decade after 1825, almost entirely toward the regions west of Lake Michigan. The earliest considerable group of Norwegian immigrants settled in the state of New York, thirty-five miles northwest of Rochester, in the northeastern part of Murray Township, Orleans County, between the newly completed Erie Canal and Lake Ontario shore. Also known as the “Kendall settlement” since the northern part of Murray Township was organized as Kendall Township not long after the Norwegians settled there. This settlement was the first dispersion point for Norwegian settlement in the United States, and the coming of the Norwegians on the sloop “Restauration” in 1825 together with the migration of the sloopers to Illinois nine years later constitutes the prelude, so to speak, to the main movement of Norwegian settlement in America. Includes a map of Illinois indicating counties where Norwegian born and native-born people of Norwegian parents settled in Illinois.

3. PIONERING WISCONSIN: Within four years of the migration of the sloopers from New York to Illinois, Norwegian settlement had turned definitely northwestward into Wisconsin following the direction of the larger westward movement of American population, which by this time had swung around the southern tip of Lake Michigan. By 1850 there were 9,467 Norwegians in Wisconsin, and by 1860 they numbered 29,557, and by 1870 they numbered 59,619. The Norwegians outnumbered the Swedes and Danes two to one in the 1850s, but these two groups together outnumbered the Norwegians by a few thousands twenty years later. The Norwegians have been, from the first, the most numerous of the three Scandinavian groups in Wisconsin. Includes a map of where Norwegians settled in Wisconsin in 1870, as well as illustrations of magazines and the title page of a book by Johan Schröder.

4. ON INTO IOWA: It is fairly certain that by 1839 Hans Barlien and William Tesman chose land in Lee County, Iowa Territory. The migration of most of the Missouri settlers to the so-called Sugar Creek settlement followed. In 1840 twenty-one Norwegians resided in this vicinity. The sugar Creek settlement never became large. It was located on the banks of the Mississippi on the opposite banks of which is situated the principal seat of the Mormons in Nauvoo. It states that a part of the inhabitants have gone over to the Mormon teachings. The main stream of Norwegian migration was following paths far to the north of Sugar Creek, and many from the first Iowa settlement of Norwegians ultimately rejoined their fellows in northern Iowa, Minnesota, and other vicinities. Includes a map outlining the counties where Norwegians lived in Iowa in 1870.

5. “A GLORIOUS NEW SCANDINAVIA:” What a glorious new Scandinavia Minnesota might become! The climate, the situation, the character of the scenery agrees with our people better than that of any other of the American States.” Norwegians settled in Minnesota largely in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. 1st. period from 1850-1865. 2nd period from 1866- the middle seventies. Their settlements, hardships, Indian treaties, railroad, and progress when the Civil War ended.

6. THE GIANTS’ COUNTRY: The migration of Per Hansa and Beret, Store-Hans and Ole, and Ånd-Ongen as recorded in O. E. Rølvaag’s Giants of the Earth. How they left Norway, their travel through the territories of Dakota, Minnesota, crossed the Missouri River, to Nebraska, across Iowa, Minnesota to newly opened areas.

7. NORTH DAKOTA AND BEYOND: Rapidly increasing number of land-hungry Norwegian migrants of the seventies and eighties, the apparently endless reaches of the Dakota prairies. Far to the north, the Red River region became heavily populated by Norwegians, and the valley of its tributary, the Sheyenne Valley, became, as one pioneer put it, “solidly Norwegian.”

8. MICHIGAN: Some were able to purchase land, but much had already been taken by the time the Norwegians came. However, Michigan offered an immediate income in accustomed occupations. It’s lumbering and mining were familiar occupations to the northern peoples, and many grasped the opportunity to follow them. The railroad expansion that accompanied the development of parts of the lower and the upper peninsulas also provided a temporary labor market. The Great Lakes themselves offered opportunities to Scandinavian seamen and captains, and, in particular, to Norwegians, many of whom lived in the coast towns of Michigan. As mining and lumbering increased in importance, Great Lakes traffic grew enormously. The immigrant traffic itself provided profits in Great Lakes transportation. Soon, a new labor market provided by the automobile industry attracted a large number of Scandinavian engineers and mechanics. Many, after earning a competence in the lumber camps, mines, or factories of Michigan, went farther west to take up farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and beyond. Large numbers, however, made Michigan their permanent home.

9. ISLANDS: Some of the Norwegian smaller settlements were scattered throughout the United States and were separate from the main body of where Norwegians settled. One was the Oleana colony in Pennsylvania, an idealistic venture that did not succeed. Others, like the early Texas colony, were the creations of single individuals, imbued with an idea. In Utah, religious factors played a part. Professional interests drew many Norwegians to cities and areas far removed from the main body of Norwegian settlement. The influences that attracted Norwegians to given areas were similar to the prime factors in Norwegian migration such as opportunities for employment in farming, fishing, mining, ocean and lake transportation, and lumbering – accustomed occupations all.

10. APPENDIX: Includes a list of states and territories where Norwegians settled from 1850 to 1900.


12. THIS BOOK WILL BE HELPFUL TO THE SCAND. REF. STAFF: It tells when early Norwegian immigrants came to the America, their migration patterns in the US as well as where the majority of them settled. It also includes which occupations they chose and how they influenced the work market where they settled.

FHL Book US/Can 973 F2ng
Summary Report: by Liv Anderson May, 2009