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Book CoverNorwegians on the Prairie
Lovoll, Odd S.

ISBN 978-0-87351-571-9
321 pp. Copyright © 2006, The Minnesota Historical Society Press

The history of America, many historians argue, is the history of its small towns. Noted Norwegian American scholar Odd S. Lovoll takes the premise one step further in Norwegians on the Prairie, tracing
the development of three midwestern towns whose histories reveal a distinctly ethnic flavor.

Benson, Madison, and Starbuck, all located on the western Minnesota prairie, were settled primarily by Norwegians and served as urban centers -- railroad hubs, destinations for trade, gathering places -- for the farming communities that surround them. Lovoll delves into the small-town and rural experience of these Norwegian immigrants and their descendants, revealing that, like many Norwegian Americans, they resisted the pull of the city, instead developing ethnic enclaves while simultaneously taking active roles in the larger town community. Their larger numbers affected local businesses, politics, education, social events, and religious practices. Whether dominating the landscape with their Lutheran churches or bringing together other ethnic groups to celebrate Syttende mai, Norwegians in western Minnesota left indeible marks on their communities.

This pioneering study -- the first to consider country towns through the lens of ethnicity -- benefits from meticulous research into census data, careful reading of local newspapers, and extensive iinterviews with the descendants of Norwegian immigrants, revealing strong ties to homeland that are visible today in each town's social, political, and religious character.

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