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Studies and Records
Volume VII

Published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association, Northfield, Minnesota
Copyright © 1933 by the Norwegian-American Historical Association


The grim struggle of man with the prairie has been depicted both in history and in fiction, with attention usually centered upon the stout-hearted conquerors of the land. It should not be forgotten, however, that in the advance of the American frontier the minister was never far behind the tiller of the soil. The pioneering pastor and his wife followed and sustained the Per Hansas, gave spiritual aid to settlers, set up a focus for pioneer social activities, led the way in education, served as music teachers, brought books to the prairie, sometimes played the roles of doctor and nurse, and in many other ways made their influence felt. In the present volume the wife of a pioneer Norwegian Lutheran pastor constructs from her own experiences and those of her husband during seventeen years in South Dakota a mosaic of the social aspects of prairie pioneering. Mrs. Brandt's paper is a distinct contribution to American history, for it represents a novel point of view, is detailed, and is stamped with the spirit of truth and of simplicity.

It is not inappropriate that the same volume that includes such a narrative should also contain a critical interpretation of the author of Giants in the Earth and a tribute to his exuberant genius. No more penetrating analysis of the Nordland fisherman who became a great novelist and gave America its saga of the pioneer has appeared in print than the essay herewith presented by Professor Einar I. Haugen. It is based upon a close study of Rølvaag's works, a mass of unpublished correspondence, and the observations of a student who enjoyed the privilege of studying literature under the St. Olaf College master. Of unusual interest, also, is the tribute to Rølvaag that comes from the experienced pen of Professor Julius E. Olson. Given originally as an address before the Norwegian-American Historical Association, it appropriately devotes considerable attention to the extraordinary enthusiasm that Rølvaag lavished upon his work as secretary of that Association, but it also includes a thoughtful survey and a friendly appreciation of the man's career as immigrant, teacher, and novelist.

Three other contributions find places in the present volume. One is a translation of a vivid account, written by a Norwegian argonaut, of the Fraser River gold rush in 1858. The name of this Pacific Coast adventurer is not known, but he left his story in a letter that was published in a contemporary Norwegian newspaper, and it is this document that Professor C. A. Clausen skillfully turns into English. Another contribution is Mr. Hodnefield's survey, the third in its series, of current publications relating to Norwegian-American history. With indefatigable industry he has combed through innumerable magazines, books, and newspapers in search of pertinent items. The usefulness of his bibliography is enhanced by a series of interesting supplementary notes. The third contribution is an illuminating report by Mr. Carlton C. Qualey on his work as field agent of the Norwegian-American Historical Association during the summer of 1932. Mr. Qualey has rendered a distinct service to the Association by securing for it a mass of valuable historical materials from widely scattered sources and by arranging these and other documents in the depository at Northfield. His chief contribution, however, is his convincing demonstration of the possibilities of historical field work, intelligently planned and aggressively conducted.

Theodore C. Blegen
The University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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