Texas: Norwegian Settlements
The first known Norwegian settler in Texas was Johannes Nordbo. He was in his seventies when he arrived with his wife and children in 1841. Johannes settled in a short distance from Dallas. In 1850 there were 105 persons born in Norway. Johan Reiersen arrived in 1845 and settled Henderson County. Johan established the magazine Norge og Amerika while still in Norway, but turned it into an emigration newsletter, and operated it from Texas. Cleng Peerson came down from Illinois in 1848 to Henderson County to the community of Four Mile Prairie. He stayed only 2 weeks, but returned in 1850 bringing Bibles and New Testaments for the settlers. Peerson started travelling to Norway and back to Texas encouraging immigration to Texas. He became known as the Father of Norwegian Immigration to the United States.
Four Mile suffered a bad epidemic of ague, a fever similar to malaria, so the Norwegians started moving out of the settlement. Some moved north into Wisconsin, but eighteen Norwegian Lutheran settlers stayed in Texas and created the Norse Community in Bosque County in 1854. More than 100 had arrived before the outbreak of the Civil War stopped all immigration to the area. It resumed shortly after the fighting stopped, and the Norse Church (Vor Frelsers Kirke [Our Savior's Church]) was chartered in 1869. They met in members' homes until 1876 when construction on the church began. In 1905, the white frame building was enlarged and bricked, and a steeple was added. The original brick was replaced with stronger, more durable red brick in 1954 as a part of the Bosque County Centennial celebration, pictured above. Three other church congregations grew out of this original congregation, St Olaf Kirke [St. Olaf Lutheran Church] about 5 miles west, better known in the area as the Old Rock Church, Trinity Lutheran Church about 10 miles east in Clifton, Texas, and Faith Lutheran Church about 8 miles north in Meridian, Texas.
From 1870 until the turn of the century, immigration from Norway continued at a very rapid pace. By 1880, more than 1,000 Norwegian immigrants had moved to the area. In fact, you might already know that Norway is second only to Ireland in the percentage of its population that immigrated to America. About 51% of the population of Ireland immigrated to the United States, and 49% of the Norwegian population came here.
Timeline: Norwegians in Texas
Counties with Norwegian settlers 1850-1860:
Anderson, Bastrop, Bosque, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cherokee, Dallas, Ellis, freestone, Galveston, Hamilton, Henderson, Kaufman, Liberty, McLennan, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rusk, Smith, Sabine, Travis, Victoria, Van ZandtNorwegian]]