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Early Norwegian Settlement in the Rockies
    By Kenneth Bjork (Volume I8: Page 44)

A. M. Holter had made a fortune in business ventures that touched in one way or another on mining and related activities, but his conscience had always restrained him from urging fellow Norwegians to seek employment in the Montana mines. He had a different attitude, however, toward farming and immigrant land seekers. "When I think back," he wrote in 1878, "and recall the large migration into Iowa and Minnesota during the years 1853 to 1857, then it seems to me that there must still be Scandinavians who would want to grasp the opportunity, if only they knew of it, inherent in the fact that there are millions of acres of government land in Montana that is just as fertile as the land in the Mississippi Valley and can be acquired under the homestead, pre-emption, or desert laws." He continued:

"Under the desert law a person can take up 640 acres at 25c cash per acre and $1.00 more each year for three years. During these three years one is obligated to dig an irrigation ditch and bring in enough water to flood the land. Here I should like to explain that farmers cannot anticipate sufficient rain; therefore they must dig ditches to the nearest streams, in order to inundate their fields as often as necessary; in this way crops do not fail during drouth."

Holter described Montana Territory in detail, explaining that it was larger than Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois combined, yet had a population of only about 25,000. According to an official report of 1867, some 30,000,000 acres were suited to agriculture. What remained was partly covered with forest and partly with some of the best grassland in America. Furthermore, the prices of farm produce were high. Wheat, said loiter, brought $2.35 to $2.50, oats, $2.15, and potatoes, [45] $1.50 to $1.75 per hundred pounds; butter 45c to 50c a pound; and eggs 30c a dozen. It was stock raising, however, that earned the largest profits. Some who produced cattle and horses had reported to him that they enjoyed a return of from 24 to 36 per cent annually on their investment in stock. Sheep raising was even more remunerative; Major W. Davenport had informed Holter that his sheep brought him a yearly interest of 60 per cent. While admitting that this last figure might be exaggerated, Holter reminded his readers that horses and cattle foraged for themselves in all sea sons. Wool was shipped to New York and meat to Chicago, while some other products went to London. Thus Montana enjoyed a world market. In concluding his letter, Holter said:

"I have been living in this territory for almost fifteen years, have operated a sawmill and lumber business, and have always used horses and oxen to haul goods. Thus I speak from experience. A short time ago I acquired a section of land near the large Missouri cataract at the mouth of the Sun River. This place is eighty miles north of Helena and twenty miles east of Fort Shaw. The nearest neighbor is twelve miles away and the land between us is unclaimed, yet is of the finest quality. I consider this valley to be one of the best for a Scandinavian settlement, for all products can be sold to the soldiers at Fort Shaw at good prices. Though I prefer Sun River Valley over any other place, I would direct the reader's attention to the land along the Marias River, in Judith Basin, and along the Musselshell and Yellowstone. In the near future we expect to be linked with the civilized world, for a railroad is now being constructed from Ogden in Utah and about one hundred miles of this line is already completed. Passenger tickets from Omaha to Helena along this route are as follows: first class $105, second class $90, for emigrants $45. We are also hopeful that within a few years the Northern Pacific will come in here. A passenger ticket from St. Paul to Bismarck on this line costs $20; from [46] Bismarck to Fort Benton the steamboat fare is $20 for emigrants." {1}

From this discussion by Holter, Montana took on a some what different character in the migration story, but many years were to elapse before any considerable permanent settlement by Norwegians took place in that area. {2} "S," writing from Glendale early in 1880, thought it strange that while there were many Scandinavians spread about in the mining centers, they had no real settlement anywhere in the territory. He predicted that ranching would enjoy a great future because of the abundance of rich grassland and the light winter snows; he noted, too, that where the land was irrigated, yields of from 40 to 50 bushels of wheat per acre were common. {3}

The population of Montana, "Unknown" observed, was concentrated in the western part of the territory, on both sides of the Rockies. Along the many small streams that flowed from the mountains, sheepherders tended their flocks. Higher up the slopes were the mines. The Missouri, Prickly Pear, and Nevada valleys had excellent grass for livestock, and people living there, who had come to western Montana ten or twelve years before to work for wages, now in many instances owned herds valued up to $20,000. In Montana and Idaho, too, there were any number of valleys ideally suited to agriculture, where not a foot of land had been taken. Why not, "Unknown" argued, start a Norwegian community (bygd) in one of them? "When the pioneers have been at it for a year and have things organized, they could send for a preacher and a schoolteacher and have a jolly setup." Houses and fences could be built from the plentiful supply of spruce and pine, and wild game offered variety for the table. "This [47] is rather far west, all right, but still preferable to the naked prairie for a lively person who is eager to get ahead in the world and who plans to maintain himself by the work of his hands." He urged young men of peasant stock to "offer heart and hand to some charming girl who is willing to share sorrow and gladness with you and come up here; start a home where you can be surrounded by mountainous scenery suggestive of Norway. Here you can have a wrestling match with a bear as your ancestors did in the old country; that is something to quicken your blood and revive the Norwegian spirit of liberty which you should represent over here." {4}

An urgent plea in Skandinaven, presumably by Holter but signed only with an "H," repeated the arguments listed above and then asked, "What is the reason that I never see anything in Skandinaven about the remarkable opportunity Scandinavians now have to take land along the route of the Northern Pacific Railway?" The railroad, he declared, would be completed in a year and a half, and people from all over the world were coming in to occupy the fertile land along its course. Therefore "H" felt it to be only his duty to let his countrymen know what a chance they were missing. The land near the Northern Pacific, he maintained, would one day be as valuable as that along eastern railroads. Therefore it had been a comfort to him to read in the Helena Independent that a group of about a hundred Scandinavians planned to form a colony in eastern Montana. {5}

Holter read Skandinaven carelessly, for the paper actually carried considerable information about Montana, both before and after his letter was published. This was also true of Norden, in which N. G. Dahl of Bozeman appealed to Norwegians to come to Gallatin County. It was not exaggeration, he insisted, to say that one could earn twice as much there as in the East. Though admitting that much of the [48] land was too hilly and uneven and that the summers were too short to permit precisely the kind of farming readers were familiar with, he pointed to bright prospects for cattle and sheep grazing, and he described the beautiful and fertile valleys, stressed the abundance of timber, and emphasized, as loIter had done, what the completion of the Northern Pacific would mean to the territory. Somewhat later Folkebladet carried a story fully describing the topography and climate of Montana. {6}

K. Opheim explained in detail that Montana's heavy growth of bunch and bluejoint grass was rich in food value and that it fattened cattle quickly even in winter. Continuous activity in the mines assured a steady and good market for all agricultural products. Farmers, he said, usually combined cattle raising with cultivation of the soil. Sheep required less initial capital than cattle, and the wool produced-a fine, soft product almost the equal of Merino wool-yielded a 25 per cent annual return on the investment, so the over-all profit from a flock would amount to 80 or 90 per cent. Montana, he added, was not, except in its eastern portion, a continuation of the endless and treeless prairies of Minnesota and Dakota; it had in its central and western sections vast pine forests and large supplies of coal, and would be able to supply Dakota with fuel. {7}

The frequent appeals to Norwegians to settle in Montana were not entirely fruitless. For example, Henry Foss and his brother-in-law left Morris, Minnesota, on June 1, 1883, bound for Bozeman in quest of land. What Foss saw of Dakota and eastern Montana en route did not interest him. In the vicinity of Bozeman he thought the farming was good in places. They traveled from Bozeman to Helena by rail and stagecoach; they discovered that the search for gold continued, that the Sabbath was not respected, and that horse stealing and gambling were common in Helena. Buying a [49] pony and saddle for $50, and outfitting themselves with a tent and other supplies bought at a high price, they set out on foot over the mountains, which they found to be more beautiful than those they had known in Norway. They traveled toward Missoula, where there was a land office; they hoped to settle about a hundred miles from there. If their search for land was successful, they planned to build a house and prepare a home for their family. {8}

Meanwhile, at Helena, A. Synnes struck a pessimistic note. While admitting the moderating influence of the chinook winds, he felt that Montana was too cold, generally speaking, for ideal farming. Furthermore, mining and water companies controlled much of the water supply needed for irrigation, and wheat was subject to smut. Even Synnes, however, con ceded that in low valleys, as in the Missoula, Gallatin, Judith, Fort Benton, and Yellowstone areas, farming was good. The last-named valley, which enjoyed excellent bunch grass, was being rapidly settled in 1883. {9}

It soon became apparent that all indeed was not well, especially among the ranchers. The terrible snows and cold of 1880-81 resulted in a heavy loss of stock. Synnes reported early in 1884 that another such winter would have to be endured. S. F. Johnson stated in the same year that all the desirable farm land had been taken, though it was true that the Northern Pacific still had some sandbanks to sell. While the bandit peril had declined, it was not yet over in 1884. In June and July of that year several mail robberies took place in the Helena area and horse rustling was extensive. Over fifty thieves had been shot by an alert citizenry, and vigilantes and temperance people were active, but it appeared that "Bacchus will never be knocked out in one round." During the summer of 1886 streams dried up; it was impossible to irrigate and difficult to water stock. In times such as these the cattle barons bought up the stock of the [50] small ranchers and farmers. The second half of the winter of 1886-87 saw heavy snows, storms, and temperatures of 300 to 400 below zero. Old-timers from California began to talk about Snowshoe Thompson, and a ski club was organized at Helena, where skis were known as "Norwegian snow shoes." Though the chinooks were on their way by March, no one dared guess how many cattle and horses had survived the terrible winter. {10}

While the number of Norwegians in Montana remained exceedingly small until the twentieth century, correspondents reported their presence here and there. Thus Rosebud, on the Yellowstone, was an exclusively Norwegian settlement in 1887, composed of nine young bachelors engaged in coal mining; natives of Mandal, they had gone to Montana from Sims in Dakota. Great Falls was said to have "not so few" Scandinavians in 1888; they were mostly laborers. A "large settlement" of Norwegians was reported near Melville in the Sweet Grass Valley; they had arrived from farther east in 1881. Nordvesten, which was attempting to arouse interest in the Milk River Valley and in northern Montana generally, spoke of a Norwegian settlement at Dawson Station. {11}

Helena numbered about 25,000 in 1890; and T. S. Norgaard, who came from Ward County, North Dakota, and was editor of Montana folkebladet, estimated that 1,300 or 1,400 of these were Scandinavians. As many of them had been in the area since the gold rush days, some were well-to-do; this was true of such men as Holter, Jakob and Ole Olsen, Oscar and Sven Carisen, Ole Kraabøl, Isak Mysen, E. Eilefsen, N. H. Brun, N. R. Anderson, Ed Bye, and others who were engaged in the real estate, banking, lumber, retail, and contracting businesses. Norgaard also reported the existence of two Scandinavian literary and social societies, [51] Skandia and Norden, which together had a library and files of Scandinavian newspapers; a Swedish-Norwegian singing society; and an older Danish-Norwegian paper, Montana statstidende. On March 2, 1890, Our Saviour's Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Helena was organized, with N. N. Bøe of the Norwegian Synod as pastor. Pastor Bøe had gone to Montana in the fall of 1889 to engage in mission work at Butte, Great Falls, Sandcoulee, and in the mining camps, as well as at Helena; he was said to be proficient in English and German as well as in Norwegian, and ideally suited in other respects for his tasks. {12}

A traveler, obviously a pastor, confirmed what Norgaard had to say about Helena and added that the Swedes had a church building but no regular minister, whereas the Danes and Norwegians had a pastor and only a church lot. The same observer reported that in Butte there was a Scandinavian brotherhood of about 60 members. In the same city a shoemaker, P. Pedersen, held services every Sunday evening in the Good Templars' hall. Few Scandinavians thought seriously of living permanently in Butte, because of the smoke and gas present in the air. In Anaconda the traveler found few Scandinavians, though at one time there had been about 500 Swedes there. At Race Track, in Deer Lodge Valley, he discovered a colony of Danish Mormons who had renounced polygamy and called themselves the "Saints of the Most High." They irrigated their lands and worked industriously but were disunited in religion; apparently they were both hospitable and prosperous. Near Deer Lodge were a score of Norwegians who were linked in the popular mind with the Saints because they had no church of their own and were surrounded by Danish Mormons."{13}


The pioneer sheep rancher in Montana, and the most prominent one, was Martin T. Grande, a native of Verran, [52] near Trondhjem, who had migrated to America in 1866. Grande has himself told, in outline form, the story of his life in America. With his brother Anton and two other passengers, he made the Atlantic crossing in a small sailboat. At Quebec the brothers bought tickets to Brownsville, Minnesota. From there they walked to a settlement about 200 miles distant and found work in the harvest fields. For hard labor on the farm from sunrise to sunset they received 75c to $1.00 a day in wages, and as cash was scarce, their pay at the end of the season consisted of two head of cattle, which they sold. Anton went to Michigan to work in a lumber camp and Martin decided to go west.

"At that time," he later recalled, "Martin and Anton Holter were engaged in the sawmill business at Helena, Montana, and they advertised for men in the newspapers, so my brother and I decided that Montana should be our final destination, as we knew that there we would find 'landsmænd' . . . and also employment." Grande read other advertisements asking for men to work in the coal fields of Wyoming. "So I decided to strike out for that locality, where I worked in the coal banks for three years, Anton having preceded me to Montana." Martin traveled in a stagecoach to Montana in 1872, going by way of Salt Lake City. Instead of hiring out to the Holters, however, he decided to try the Smith River country and took a stage to Fort Logan, where for a time he cut cordwood for the soldiers stationed at the fort. He struck out for Sun River and there, too, he cut wood and engaged in hunting.

"William (Bill) and John Smith . . . and some others had located a gold property in Thompson Gulch," Grande re called, "and I worked there two summers, while during the winters I made my home at Willow Creek . . . where the Smiths had located a claim. It was thought nothing much could be raised on the land, so few were engaged in farming in that district, or in other parts of the state." He continued: [53] "I recall a pioneer farmer near Helena and remember that he brought milk and eggs to that market. . . . He received a dollar a dozen for eggs and a dollar a quart for milk." The placer mines in Thompson Gulch meanwhile played out. "The first year we took out a lot of gold and got it all in the first sluices, and the boys made lots of money, but the second year was meager in returns. Some days only seventy-five cents' worth of gold was found, and wages were six dollars a day." As a consequence, the Smith brothers sold their claim and began to raise sheep on their Willow Creek ranch. Out of work, Grande, together with Pete Jackson, hunted elk and smaller game along the Musselshell River. One spring they had "over 400 elk hides that we took down to the trading post on the Missouri River and sold for a total of $800. . . . The next spring such hides were worth nothing."

How Grande made his start in sheep raising is both interesting and revealing. He explained:

"I think it was in the spring of 1877 that John Smith and I went to Helena and purchased a wagon and two yoke of oxen. We loaded the wagon with 'grub' and drove down to the Musselshell to the point where the Smiths had located near Martinsdale. We decided to get some sheep, so Bill Smith and I struck out for Boise City [Idaho] . . . where we purchased a band of yearling ewes. We trailed the sheep over to the Smith ranch on the Musselshell and completed this task about a week after the now historic Nez Percés Indian up rising, in the summer of 1877. The next spring we divided the sheep and I located on my present ranch. My brother Anton, who had gone to the Black Hills at the time of the gold rush, returned to Montana and we formed a partner ship in the ranching and sheep business, under the title of Grande Brothers, this fraternal and business alliance having continued until the death of Anton Grande, in 1897."

Grande had been obliged to borrow money to make the first purchases with the Smith brothers of some 2,000 sheep. [54] These sheep then grazed on the Smith ranch, and fortune smiled on the venture. Marketing the wool, however, was another matter. The dealer in Helena, over a hundred miles away, refused to buy at the prevailing price of 6c a pound. Grande then proposed shipping the wool by river boat to Boston; this was done, and the wool brought 30c a pound. As a consequence, the sheep business flourished. In 1879 Grande ended his alliance with the Smith brothers and drove one third of the sheep to his ranch on Comb Creek, where he had homesteaded a year earlier. There the Grandes had built a cabin, stables, and corrals. They fenced off a pasture for bucks and horses and cut hay for winter feeding-a futile precaution, as it proved unnecessary ever to feed the flock. By 1883 the Grandes had some 4,800 head of sheep, representing a natural income from the original ewes; and many animals had been sold. In time the flock increased to 12,000 head, and they had herds of horses and cattle as well. In later years, because of the encroachments of dry-land farming, it became necessary to reduce the flock to about 3,500. {14}

The Grande story, though unique in the degree of success that resulted, is typical in several respects of the story of many single young men who pioneered in the West. Grande was a victim of "America fever" in Norway. Feeling that re wards for labor would be greater in the Far West than in Minnesota, he made a second long migration within a very short period. He worked in mines, sought gold, hunted wild game, and eventually was attracted by the surer profits in ranching. He rode horseback to Wyoming and slept under the stars at night. During his first years of ranching, he had to keep a sharp eye on the flock, guarding it against Indians as well as wild animals. He grazed his sheep, by arrangement, on the ranch of others before he acquired a place of his own of some 17,000 acres. He lived first in a shepherd's tent, then [55] in a "half cabin," and finally in a log house. What set Grande apart from the average immigrant was his keen business sense. Eventually he had twenty-seven well-constructed buildings-a regular village-on his ranch. Cowboys in true western costume cared for his stock. He became known as a man of affairs, and one responsible task after another came his way. It has been suggested that he lived like a feudal baron or a little king on his ranch at Lennep in Meagher County. Many Norwegian immigrants, as well as others, found work with him, and the story is current that one Norwegian American, when asked who was president of the United States, replied, "It must be Martin Grande." {15}

Farm settlements on the frontier have always been characterized by neighborliness and co-operation-by a surprisingly close group life-as well as by individualism. Early ranching, which placed a premium on an abundance of grazing land, produced a somewhat different spirit, which has been admirably and frankly stated by a Norwegian in Dawson County. He wrote:

"I live ninety miles from the nearest post office and forty miles from surveyed land. My neighbors are extremely few and they are far away. We are a people fighting for our lives, but we do not wish to have neighbors. On the contrary, we seek to keep people away, in order to have the plains alone for our cattle. Strictly speaking, this is wrong, but it is a fact nevertheless. It would naturally be pleasant to have a flock of good neighbors. But thereby our means of earning a living would shrink. And so it is almost everywhere in Montana." {16}

The dangers attendant on early ranch life in Montana are touched upon in a statement by John Buan:/pr>

"Sivert Moltuen and I left Union County, South Dakota, [56] the fourth of May, 1885. We had our families with us and a number of cattle, and each family owned a wagon. At the large Sioux reservation between Fort Pierre and the Black Hills, we were one day caught in the worst hailstorm I have ever experienced. It came so suddenly that we were not able to get the horses unharnessed. Then things happened! The women and children cried, the horses went wild, and our cattle ran with the storm. When it was over, we had to go several miles to round up our stock.

"We arrived here on the 8th of July. . . . We had many visits from Indians, both on the way and after we arrived, but they did nothing to us. When we settled here [at Capitol] the vicinity was full of Texas steers and cowboys. The cowboys were then about as dangerous as the Texas steers; in any case, they could not be counted among mother's best children. In 1887 a cowboy was shot down by another right in front of my house. Four murders have since been perpetrated among these half-wild shepherds, who also have the habit of stealing both horses and cattle. So it certainly has not been pleasant living here."

The ever-present danger of Indian uprisings is vividly described by Buan:

"In 1890, during the last Indian war, we were under constant fear of being attacked. We built a defense-or, better, we dug a big hole in a high bluff and entrenched ourselves there as best we could. The settlement numbered between fifty and sixty persons, among them eight grown men-that was all. The rest were women and children. One evening about eight days before Christmas there came a hurried communication from Camp Knock [Crook?], South Dakota, warning us that we could expect Indians at any time. We gathered that night at Bernt Mælum's and prepared for a fight. Next day we occupied the fortification. . . . But we were happy when we heard that the Indian chief, Sitting Bull, and many of his men had been killed and that the rest [57] were in flight. He was killed the night after the warning reached us. Indians have given us some concern since then too. But, all in all, we now have reason to be satisfied. We waited and hoped for victory and it came. Civilization has begun to set its stamp here too." {17}


In 1874 a miner at Placerville, on the western side of the Rockies in Idaho Territory, reported the agricultural possibilities in the areas he had seen. He considered the Idaho climate ideal for fruit raising because of the warm days and cool nights in the summer. Miners, he said, obtained apples from the Boise Valley and melons from Payette. The sunny mountain slopes were free of snow during most of the winter, and there the cattle grazed on the native bunch grass. In the Snake River, which offered a means of transportation to the Columbia and to Portland, was an abundance of salmon and other fish-as in the other rivers. In this area, however, irrigation was necessary. The Snake Valley was free of sage brush and was good for farming, but it also lacked timber. Higher up the mountain slopes, trees were plentiful, some of them five feet in diameter. {18}

Norwegian settlement, however, was to take root farther north in the area of Moscow, where irrigation was not required; and the first non-Mormon Norwegian to settle permanently in Idaho Territory appears to have been Tønnes Møller, a native of Sogndal, Stavanger, who went from Wisconsin to Nez Perce County in 1876. He was joined in the next year by John Tetly, and by further reinforcements shortly thereafter. These pioneers lived in crude cabins built of logs and dirt; they erected barricades against the hostile Nez Percés Indians in 1878, raised wheat, and saw their [58] settlement grow into a substantial Norwegian-American community. {19}

What it meant to reach the western slopes of Idaho and to live there during the early years of settlement has been told by John C. Sæther. He left Baldwin, Wisconsin, in July, 1877, traveled by rail to San Francisco, went by steamer to Portland, and then set out-presumably by river boat and on foot-for Idaho. He reached Thorn Creek in Nez Perce County, where he found the soil fertile, the land somewhat hilly but suited to farming, and water abundant. There were, he said, one Danish, one Swedish, and two Norwegian families in the vicinity when he arrived; by 1878 these had in creased to twenty or thirty families and all seemed satisfied with their lot. They were planning to organize a congregation the following spring. The light fall of snow permitted their animals to winter out of doors. Within a radius of three miles they had plenty of timber for every use. The nearest market, however, was twelve miles away, the sawmill ten, and the flour mill fifteen. {20}

During the Indian wars of 1878 over a hundred whites were killed, and property valued at a million dollars was destroyed. It is not surprising, therefore, to hear a cry of concern from another Scandinavian settlement-in Goose Creek Valley, just across the boundary from the northwest corner of Utah. It is obvious that this colony, largely Danish in composition, was one of many Mormon settlements in the vast semiarid region that stretched in all directions from Salt Lake City. I. Iversen described this part of Idaho as a great treeless prairie with fertile soil and an abundance of home stead land. These Mormons certainly irrigated their lands. Norwegians were to be found elsewhere in Idaho, in the Fayette Valley, for example, but it was the area around Genesee that exerted the strongest attraction. {21}

Typical of the Norwegian groups that migrated to Genesee was a party of twelve that included John E. Toskey, who left Jewell County, Kansas, on July 5, 1880. They traveled by emigrant train to San Francisco, where they stayed for five days at the Chicago Hotel, which was owned by a German but "run" by a Norwegian to attract Scandinavian emigrants. The party continued the journey to Portland aboard the steamer "California," which was described as both speedy and comfortable. At Portland they at once boarded a river boat that took them sixty miles nearer the goal. The company then transferred to a train, soon boarded another steamer, only shortly to change once more to a train. They made, in all, six transfers between Portland and Lewis ton. Toskey wrote:

"On the morning of the 27th [of July] we set out in a northerly direction toward the large Norwegian settlement, where we have both relatives and friends. We had now come to Norway; the region cannot be compared with any of the plains in the East. Here we saw large and small mountains rising in the distance, immense tracts of timber, hills and valleys, and prairie land; and far to the east we could make out the snow-clad peaks of the Bitter Root Mountains proudly raising their heads to the sky. Nature is grand in the fullest sense of the word; nothing is lacking to make the picture impressive. The poet and artist will find here in their proper proportions subjects to record for others."

Speaking in a more practical vein about the territory, Toskey said:

"The southern portion of Idaho up to the Salmon River is not suited to farming because so little rain falls there that the soil is too dry to yield crops without the assistance of irrigation. In the northern part of the territory the climate is very favorable for rich production. Late in the fall we have sufficient rain and in the winter snow and at times rain. Late in the spring and in early summer we have showers that give [60] the crops a good start and healthy development. In July and August no rain falls, and harvest begins generally in the month of August. The soil is deep and rich. Wheat yielded last year [1880] from 35 to 50 bushels per acre, and other crops were equally good."

Furthermore, vegetables of all kinds attained a remark able growth in Idaho, and Toskey could not recall having eaten garden products in the East that matched them in taste. Nearby were a flour mill and two sawmills, and lumber could be purchased at a price of from $10 to $25 per thou sand feet in a form ready for building purposes. Flour cost $1.50 per hundred pounds, butter 25c a pound, eggs 10c to 30c a dozen. Horses sold for $75 to $125 each, good milk cows $20 to $30, and a wagon $100 to $150.

The market for farm products was still not good, but within a year the Northern Pacific would give the settlement connections with both the East and the Pacific coast and farmers would then receive higher prices for their wares. There was still plenty of government land, but at a distance from both the Norwegian settlement and Moscow, the point from which Toskey wrote. however, there were some, especially a number of "Americans" surrounded by Norwegians, who would be glad to sell out and leave the area. At least two hundred Norwegian families had settled in Idaho; they had al ready formed a congregation served by the Reverend Emil G. Christensen of the Norwegian Synod. A number of unmarried young men would welcome an influx of Norwegian girls. All in all, the Idaho Norwegians, who he said were a sociable people, "could never be described as opulent, but with effort and industry they will attain a comfortable status within a few years." {22}

Engvald Halvorsen left Minnesota in the summer of 1882 and from Omaha took the same route as the Toskey party; his company was destined either for Washington or for [61] Idaho. Nothing of importance occurred to them except that at Portland they were nearly torn apart by runners in the employ of the many hotels. The party, finally deciding on Nez Perce County, found the soil there rich and the wheat and flax harvests good. Halvorsen had liked Minnesota, but in the region where he had lived there was no timber; he had also disliked the long, cold winter of the Upper Midwest. In Idaho the winter was mild and short; there were no storms and, in summer, no mosquitoes. {23}

Toskey, in response to requests for further information about Idaho, wrote again to Skandinaven in 1883, mean while protesting that there were educated men in the community better qualified than he to describe the Norwegian settlement. In Nez Perce County, he began, was located the largest colony of Norwegians west of the Rockies. They had elected one of their number, Knud Larson, councilman in the territorial legislature-one of four from the county. Moscow, the nearest town of importance, was growing rapidly, and wheat had yielded 15 to 35 bushels in the best area, despite lack of rain. Unhappily, Christensen had accepted a call from Iowa. He would be missed not only as a pastor but also because of his great medical skill. Though Toskey had known many doctors, he could recall only one who was the equal of Christensen, who had saved his life and that of his two brothers as well. Christensen was described as upright, genial, and lovable. {24}

Samuel Johnsen, who had gone to Idaho six years earlier, reported in January, 1884, that people were satisfied with their condition in the Genesee Valley. The original handful of Norwegians had grown rapidly and, together with the Swedes who had also settled in the community, now numbered about 500. He qualified his praise of the soil and [62] climate of Idaho. Corn, for example, could not be raised because of the cool summer nights. The land was hilly, and half of Idaho-and eastern Washington as well-was unsuited to agriculture as the people of the Middle West understood the word. The best free land had already been claimed but one could still buy excellent farms at a reasonable price. Johnsen had been almost everywhere in America and he liked Genesee best of all. The Northern Pacific now ran through Moscow, affording an excellent means for marketing crops. {25}

On September 9, 1884, harvesting was only half completed, although it had been under way for four weeks. The reason was lack of sufficient machinery; farmers simply had to wait their turn for use of such equipment as was available. In Idaho a self-raking reaper cost what a self-binder would sell for in the Middle West, and the Genesee farmers had little money as yet. "Here," one pioneer said, "it is common custom and practice not to bind the grain, but to leave it untied. Only in rare instances do you find one who departs from this rule. A few, however, use the so-called header, but then they generally also have a thresher combined with it so that the harvesting and threshing are done in one operation." He expected a yield of 30 bushels or more of wheat to the acre. This, however, meant very little, as it was difficult to obtain cash in return for wheat. Furthermore, retail prices of staples were about twice what they were in, say, Wisconsin. The farmers of Genesee reaped another good crop in 1885. Flax yielded 20 to 30 bushels and sold for $1.00; wheat produced 30 to 35 bushels but brought only 50c, while oats, running at 60 to 70 bushels, sold at 60c per hundred pounds. The market, furthermore, was some 10 miles from the settlement. It was believed that conditions would improve when a projected branch railroad penetrated the valley itself. {26}

Apparently Amerika was the most widely read Norwegian newspaper in the Genesee Valley after 1885. It contained [63] innumerable letters from Idaho; most of them were favor able to the area, encouraging other Norwegians to join the earlier settlers. "A Pioneer," for example, maintained in 1886: "We need several Norwegian families in our settlement. Of young men there are already sufficient." He painted a bright future for the area. "An Ørendøl" mentioned that Swedes and Danes, as well as Norwegians, lived at Genesee. John Nilson urged Easterners to buy railroad land in Idaho at once, for it would certainly rise in value. A "Subscriber," in praising the land, claimed that 45 bushels was the average wheat yield in 1887, and he said that potatoes and other vegetables grew more satisfactorily in Idaho than in the East. He described the beauty of the Genesee Valley, writing, "It looks like a large lake in agitation, with an evergreen forest and high mountains in the background." Like most other writers, he praised the climate, especially the summer weather. "A Farmer" remarked that Nez Perce County was about as far north as northern North Dakota but was not afflicted with the malady called blizzards. The temperature might drop to 30° below zero, but the winter was short and farmers could proceed with their plowing in February. The ground did not usually freeze, because snow came before the frost; consequently people often left their potatoes in the ground in the fall-sometimes with unfortunate results. Pine, spruce, and cedar trees grew abundantly near the settlement. In 1888 the railroad that was to pierce the Genesee Valley had not as yet been built. {27}

While the overwhelming majority of letter writers spoke only in favorable terms of Genesee, sometimes an individual sounded a note of warning. In 1888 Ed. Bjørnson, for example, advised people with little means to stay away from [64] Idaho. A year later the North revealed that land near Moscow cost $150 to $300 an acre and that lots in town were correspondingly high. {28}

Recruits continued, however, to arrive at Genesee. Typical was Simeon Oleson, who left Hamilton County, Iowa, in January, 1888-a year that marked the beginning of a great trek to the west coast. He left Iowa because he saw a dark economic future for himself there and because he disliked the severe weather of the Middle West. He traveled via Kansas City over the Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe line, admired the Kansas prairie, but noted that from western Kansas to California the land was "like a desolate waste." At Oakland the passengers transferred to a ferry which carried them across the bay to San Francisco. "There," he wrote, "a swarm of hungry-looking hotel runners descended upon us, and as several of them grabbed at my bag, I shouted 'rats,' a word I had heard small children use in Iowa under similar circumstances. One of the runners answered that I would certainly find them where I was going; I had decided on the American Exchange Hotel."

As smallpox was raging in San Francisco, Oleson went to a health officer and was vaccinated before making a tour of the city. Work was difficult to find, more so for one who was not a member of a trade union. "I could just as well have tried to be elected congressman from Iowa as to try to obtain any honorable employment there," Oleson remarked. He was impressed by the beauty of Golden Gate Park, the city's pride and joy. On Sunday he visited the Reverend O. N. Grønsberg's Scandinavian Lutheran church, where the pastor preached to "a little flock of members." Oleson spoke well of the schools in Oakland, where, he mentioned, the Reverend I. L. P. Dietrichson had a Synod congregation and where the Reverend J. J. Tackle lived in retirement.

Oleson went north on the California and Oregon Railroad, [65] which followed the valley of the Sacramento for some distance and took him through Oregon and Washington Territory. "Of these," he remarked, "I will only say that all the elements of the earth seem to have been dumped together there." He discovered, too, that the hard winter in the Middle West had driven a great many poor people "to try the mild weather of the Pacific coast. They find the mild weather all right, although it is quite fog-filled in the North west. But arrived here, they stand with two empty hands."

For Genesee, however, he had only words of praise, calling it "a well-fed little Norwegian settlement, where both climate and agriculture are advantageous." There had formerly been only one congregation in the settlement, but a split had occurred. It was Oleson's opinion that there was little cause for this division. {29}


Apart from the Idaho settlement, which in several respects belongs to the west-coast story, the mountain territory that most seriously competed with Montana in newspaper cover age was Colorado. The explanation is found in the continuing discovery there of precious minerals and the creation of new centers of population; these opened up markets for farmers and ranchers who were willing to accommodate themselves to the conditions existing in a semiarid territory.

As early as 1865 Andr. Berger reported from Black Hawk that Colorado farming was "still in its infancy, but every day gains great importance and will be an exceedingly profit able occupation, for a good market is always present in the mining districts." Knut Nilsen Espesæt went to the territory in 1860, planning to return to relatives in Iowa and Minnesota within a year, but the West appealed to him and he settled near Greeley. He found the climate healthful and the many fast mountain streams ideal for irrigation purposes. Wheat, he said, yielded on the average 25 to 30 bushels, oats 45 to 60, and rye 35 to 45; and the grain was excellent in [66] weight. Ranching was profitable but somewhat risky, as no fodder was put up for the stock and cattlemen simply hoped that the winter would be consistently mild. Herds of from 100 to 1,000 head of cattle were common, and one man might own as many as 10,000 to 20,000. Most of the European peoples were represented in the population. In Gilpin County there was a Scandinavian settlement, and Espesæt under stood that it had a Norwegian school but lacked a pastor. {30}

Anton P. Forseth, who went west from Waukesha County, Wisconsin, largely confirmed what Espesæt had written. Asthma and lung trouble, he said, were unheard of in the mild, dry climate near the mountains. The summers were lovely, the nights cool, and the winters free of all but a slight amount of snow. In Greeley he had found a couple of Danes operating businesses, and two miles east of the town Espesæt had a pretty quarter-section farm, a large part of it hay land. Espesæt, who did a lively business in horses, was a true gentleman and willing to aid newcomers. The other Norwegians had settled near him, presumably brought there by his writings to the newspapers. Forseth frankly stated that the high, dry plains were not suited to the kind of farming his readers knew. Irrigation was expensive and difficult and grasshoppers were a constant pest. He thought that the territory was best suited to stock raising, and that sheep would bring the most profit. Anyone who had $2,000 or $3,000 to begin with and dodged ill luck at the start could soon be moderately well-to-do on a ranch. {31}

That Norwegian immigrants were aware of Colorado as a future home, even on their arrival in America, and also that they were sought after in Colorado, is indicated by an interesting letter from Leadville in the spring of 1880. According to this account, 300 Norwegians had arrived in New York late in January, intending to set out at once for Colorado. [67] The editor of one of the leading papers in the territory was quoted as writing, "I speak from experience when I say that we can never find better immigrants." Norwegians, he felt, had an unusual facility for becoming rapidly and thoroughly assimilated into the larger population. It is not clear from the records precisely where this group of Norwegians settled, if indeed they did settle in Colorado. {32}

Iver Hanseth, writing from Helena, Chaffee County, in January, 1880, said there were few Norwegians where he had been, and those he had met did not subscribe to Norwegian papers. This he considered unfortunate, as Norwegian Americans of the Middle West were thus prevented from hearing of opportunities in the territory. He described the climate as superlative, spoke of opportunities for investment in mines, and did not fail to mention the excellent markets for farm produce, especially at Leadville. After his first communication to Norden, Hanseth received many letters plying him with questions; to judge from his subsequent reports, these dealt largely with farming. Hanseth repeated the now familiar facts about stock raising and soil cultivation, and added that peas seemed to be the most satisfactory crop, that most of the land in the northern part of the territory, where it was unnecessary to irrigate, had been claimed, but that much free land was available in the southern and western portions. He explained that the first farmers had not known how properly to work the soil and irrigate, but that after ten or fifteen years of experimentation, agriculture was no longer an uncertain venture. Farming costs were considerably higher in Colorado than in the Upper Midwest, as equipment and labor were expensive; an ordinary team of horses or mules, together with harness and wagon, cost $300 in Denver. {33} [68]

A special plea was made by Johan P. M. Petersen for men to take advantage of the profits to be had in sheep raising. In the East, he argued, especially in the towns, were many single young men with no future ahead of them. In Colorado one could become a sheepherder at wages of $25 or $30 a month, with room and board, and yearlong employment. One's expenditures need not exceed $30 a year; thus one could easily save $250 in a year-a good deal more than he could put aside as a hired man on a Midwestern farm. Furthermore, the herder is soon permitted to put his own sheep with the rancher's flock; these double in number in one year. A sheep costs $3.00 in the fall; the next spring it produces a lamb worth $2.00, besides seven pounds of wool valued at 20c a pound, or $1.40. The gross gain is thus $3.40. One subtracts, however, a 4 per cent loss-12c-and clipping costs of 7c, or a total of 19c. This means a net gain of $3.21 on one's investment. Or a man might buy a lamb in the spring for $2.00. It increases $1.00 in value in a year and gives seven pounds of wool worth $1.40. From the gross gain of $2.40 must be subtracted a 4 per cent loss (8c) and shearing costs (7c)-or a total of 15c. The net gain is thus $2.25. Petersen estimated that, even without initial capital, a sheep herder could earn, with wages, $1,750 in a three-year period.

Ranchers were eager to have their hired hands buy sheep, to encourage them to take a personal interest in the flock. After three years, one could raise sheep exclusively for one self or with a partner. A ranch large enough for 2,500 sheep- with windmill, house, shed, and corral-would cost about $1,500. A sheep ranch rarely yielded less than a 25 per cent interest and usually returned 50 per cent on the capital. The work of a sheepherder, meanwhile, was not hard. He must get up early in the morning and wander out on the plain at sunrise with the sheep and a dog, and bring the flock home at sunset. Considerable patience was needed, of course, to keep 1,000 to 2,500 sheep together, and the weather was unpredictable. [69] The sheepherder had to carry stragglers home on his shoulders, possibly a distance of two miles. And for months at a time he lived alone. On many ranches the board consisted of black coffee, bacon, and butterless bread for breakfast, bread and bacon for lunch, and a repetition of the breakfast fare for supper, but the food was often more varied, thanks to an abundance of antelope and other game in the vicinity. Winters were cozy, and during the lonely hours in the fields one could always read.

Petersen, like other writers, was pressed for further information. He answered private letters by defending his previous statements about the money-making possibilities in sheep raising, but freely admitted the loneliness of the tree less and waterless plains. He also granted that there were dangers to the sheep; the chief one was hail. {34}

Among the cattle ranchers of Colorado were a limited number of Norwegians. One in particular, A. Peterson of West Las Animas, was recognized as a successful cattleman and also as a man of progressive outlook. He had joined the United States Army in 1858 and was sent to Utah to help quell the Mormons after the Mountain Meadow massacre. Discharged in 1861 at Fort Sumner in New Mexico, Peterson spent six years mining in Montana before turning to ranching in Colorado. He felt confident in 1886 that irrigation would prove profitable, for the cattle interests "would be much benefitted by the raising of feed. . . . If the farmer has anything to sell he will always find a good market with the cattlemen and the country will be greatly benefitted by the coming in of farmers, to raise grain to feed the cattle. Farming alone will not pay, neither can the cattleman get along without feed for his stock. . . . The best thing to raise in this country is alfalfa, although any kind of vegetables grow here splendidly, except potatoes." The quality of cattle, too, was improving rapidly. He thought Herefords best suited to [70] the range but also liked Shorthorns and Durhams. He owned all types and he had an abundance of feed which he gave his stock in the winter, believing that "good care tells more than anything else." An interviewer who obtained this information remarked that Peterson was "one of the most sensible men I have ever met" and one of the "most reliable men in this country." Unmarried, he had a fine home, was well read, and had a great interest in literature. {35}

The extent of Norwegian and Scandinavian settlement in Colorado is revealed in part through the reports of pastors on mission tours. The Reverend H. Christian Holm, traveling in the interest of the Conference of the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, found that Denver had a population of some 70,000 people in 1884, about 2,000 of whom were Scandinavians, mostly Swedes. The Swedish Augustana Synod already had a large congregation and a new church building in the city. The Norwegians were few, but there was a considerable body of Danes. The Reverend P. T. Hilmen of the Norwegian Synod had organized a Scandinavian congregation four years before; its members, except for a couple of Norwegian families, were Danes. After conducting several services in Denver, Holm journeyed to Colorado Springs, where he knew some Norwegians. The Scandinavians there proved too few to comprise a congregation-but he felt they should at least have regular services when a pastor came to Colorado. At Pueblo, a central point in the cattle industry, Holm discovered that the Swedish Augustana Synod had done mission work among the large number of Scandinavians, mostly Swedes, who lived there. In Pueblo he found that the people strongly desired a Scandinavian (Danish and Norwegian) congregation, and he planned to return there but was unable to do so. En route to Leadville, Holm heard of a settlement of Norwegians in a [71] long, narrow valley six miles out of Salida; on investigation, it turned out that a Norwegian colony had been planned there, but immigration had been slow and many of the settlers had turned to mining instead; as a consequence, Holm found too few people there for a congregation. Leadville, with a population of 13,000, had more Norwegians than any other town in Colorado, and the Scandinavians as a group were a significant part of the population. There Holm organized a Scandinavian congregation, and he hoped that the Conference would soon send a mission pastor to keep it alive. He also found Norwegians at such places as Black Hawk, Boulder, Golden, and Idaho Springs. {36}

The Reverend H. P. Hansen of the General Synod wrote from Denver in the spring of 1885, telling of opportunities in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. This valley was crossed by the Rio Grande and other streams, was 80 miles long and 60 miles wide, and covered about 3,000,000 acres. Its land required irrigation and already had three large canals and many smaller ones. Among the people moving into the valley were many Scandinavians. Hansen had recently visited the region on a mission trip. The Scandinavians he met were in good circumstances; they had been living there for ten or twelve years and had claimed some of the best land, but they had been poor when they arrived. In 1885 he advised only people of moderate means to go there. Among others in the valley, he had met D. S. Reuch, son of the cashier in Skillings Bank, Bergen. A Scandinavian Lutheran congregation, he said, would soon be organized. {37}

The simple irrigation methods of the first farmers gradually gave way to more ambitious and expensive undertakings. Rich men built large canals and sold water to the farmers at excessively high prices, according to Torkel Nelson, one of the Norwegian farmers near Greeley. When the [72] streams had little water in them, crops burned up; when water was plentiful, no state east of Missouri had such excel lent crops of wheat. Fruit, too, seemed to do well; Colorado produced food for over 350,000 people in 1885 and exported some of it. However, because of the high price of water, Nelson advised his countrymen not to go there seeking home stead land. {38}

After 1885 the papers contained less news than before about land taking in Colorado. In 1886 M. J. Lauridsen at Akron proclaimed the last general opportunity to obtain government land east of the Rockies. He predicted in March that thousands of people would pour into northeastern Colorado that year and announced that it was still possible to secure three claims per person. He urged Scandinavians not to delay going. "My plan," he wrote, "is to establish a Scandinavian colony." P. E. Tersen, who like Lauridsen lived near Akron, said the settlers there appeared to be well satisfied. While advertisements and pamphlet materials describing the land had an exaggerated tone, the country had good water and an ideal climate, and was served by two railroads. Building materials and other goods freighted in, however, were very expensive. Much of the government land had al ready been taken. Danes were fairly numerous in the area; he advised Norwegians who were thinking of going to Colorado to postpone making a choice until they had toured through the Rockies, some parts of which were like old Norway. {39}

At Brush, a small group of Scandinavians irrigated their land from the Platte River and other streams. H. Nelson maintained that 40 acres of irrigated land there produced the equivalent of a quarter-section farm that was not watered. It is apparent that at Brush, as elsewhere, cultivation of the soil was supplemented by cattle raising. While irrigation was [73] expensive, ranching costs were exceedingly small. In 1888-89 Norwegians and Danes were moving into the Brush region to claim government land, on which, of course, there were no irrigation ditches. Nelson praised the mild climate of the community and mentioned a Scandinavian congregation. {40}

In the southern part of Arapahoe County, some 100 miles east of Denver and 20 miles from the Rock Island Railroad, there were about 100 Danish and Norwegian families in 1889, and Christ Lund said they would be glad to see more of their countrymen arrive to claim the remaining free land. The soil of the rolling prairie was excellent and the Union Pacific would soon pass through the community on a line from Colby, Kansas, to Denver. Lund thought the territory better than either Minnesota or Dakota. Its shopping center was Arickaree, which was only a year old. {41}

Scandinavians moved into Denver in considerable numbers during the 1880's. Chas. Olson reported 10,000 of them there late in 1889. They had eight new societies, including a Republican club of about 800 members, a mutual aid fraternity, and a gymnastic association which had two Norwegian lieutenants, Christie and Nording, as instructors. The group also had two secret Scandinavian societies, and one clearly Danish and two unmistakably Swedish organizations. Most recent was Normanna, a Norwegian social and literary society. {42}


Land in and around the Black Hills, too, was carefully scrutinized by Norwegian gold seekers. K. J. Homland called attention to excellent farming districts near Spearfish and Rapid City and said that agriculture might be very successful on the edge of the foothills. Farmers began to sow wheat and oats in 1879, and Knud Torgerson Haave observed that the land yielded 35 to 40 bushels of wheat and 75 to 100 [74] bushels of oats per acre; he reminded readers of Skandinaven that considerable government land was still available for homesteading, and tempted them to go west by listing the prices obtained for farm produce in the mining districts. H. Solem predicted that immigration would be large in 1880 and confirmed Haave's remarks about high farm prices. {43}

That farmers of the Middle West were interested is shown by the fact that Haave received some twenty-eight letters inquiring about the Black Hills as an area of settlement. He answered them in the columns of Skandinaven. Nowhere else in the West, he wrote, could one find such a pleasant place to live. Land had been surveyed about a year before and a government land office had been opened at Deadwood. Land could be obtained by homestead, pre-emption, and forest laws. Most of what had been taken thus far was bottom land; near Spearfish, Redwater, High Creek, and Belle Fourche good sections remained. The countryside around Belle Fourche, he said, was ideal for meadow and cultivation, and al ready about twenty Scandinavians had settled there. If immigration were not too heavy in 1880 there would be enough land for all comers, but the choicest spots between Deadwood and Belle Fourche were already gone. One could always buy claims, but near the Hills they were high in price. The region had an abundance of wood for fuel and building purposes. Haave advised prospective settlers to bring teams with them if they did not live too far away; these could be sold in the Hills for $200 to $300 a team for horses or $100 to $150 a yoke for oxen, or they could be used to earn money. Work in the mines, sawmills, or on farms would aid settlers during the first years in the new home. {44}

West of the Missouri, the Reverend C. L. Clausen saw ranches and herds of cattle ranging in number from a few hundred to 20,000 head in 1880. In the Black Hills, however, [75] his critical eye discovered only a few areas that were suited to cultivation, as the land generally was hilly and stony. Still, excellent wheat grew in places, yielding 40 bushels to the acre, and oats and barley did equally well. Spearfish Valley, though providing good land, required irrigation. Near Dead wood, Clausen visited the 80-acre farm of J. Andersen, who kept a herd of 130 dairy cows and sold milk, butter, and cheese in Deadwood. His income from these products in one year was $7,000. Clausen also found excellent farm land on Centennial Prairie, along Whitewood Creek, and in places near Fort Meade. Best of all was Rapid Creek, he concluded, but most of the land near Rapid City had already been taken. {45}

The Reverend P. T. Hilmen reported in 1889 that there were not many Norwegians in the Black Hills area, and he wondered if the name of the mountains kept them away. He wrote of the metal, timber, and soil wealth of the region and said that thousands could still obtain free land there. He advised settling near the stands of timber, where the drinking water was better and the fall of rain heavier. Hilmen noted that Norwegian settlements had been started at Buffalo Gap, Rapid City, and Belle Fourche, places that he visited twice a year in a ministerial capacity. The Northwestern line was the only railroad that carried passengers directly to the Hills. Jørgen Bøe and the Reverend F. M. Andreason were regular correspondents from Rapid City; they maintained that Norwegians in the area did well at diversified farming, observed that free land was still available, and spoke of good markets for farm produce {46}


In 1880 Skandinaven announced that the North Platte Valley in Wyoming Territory was being hurriedly settled, [76] for it was especially well suited to cattle grazing. Farmers were also moving into the Bear Creek Valley; the Medicine Bow and Laramie valleys seemed, on the other hand, to be attracting mine speculators. In Wyoming as a whole, cattle ranching was more important than cultivation of the soil- and more profitable. Water, all too scarce, was essential to any venture, and readers were warned that it was difficult to obtain a clear title to land because of the lack of adequate surveys. {47}

Laramie, an important division on the Union Pacific, had large railroad shops that attracted a considerable number of Scandinavians; in 1885 they comprised roughly 250 of the city's total population of about 4,000. In 1884 they heard religious services in a Scandinavian language when the Reverend F. M. Andreason of Kearney, Nebraska, paid them a visit. In August he organized a Scandinavian Lutheran congregation with a membership of 50. The congregation, which quickly grew to 75, called Andreason as pastor, and in January, 1885, he arrived with his family. {48}

Adolf Iverson was dissatisfied with what Laramie had to offer workers like himself in 1886. The wage for common labor was $1.75 or $2.00 a day-less than in most other places-and board cost $20 to $25 a month. Craftsmen apparently were no more fortunate. Iverson told of two Norwegian shoemakers, a painter, a carpenter, and a pair of Scandinavian tailors; not one, he said, was satisfied with his lot. Nevertheless, many remained and others appear to have joined them. "A. J." stated that in the spring of 1888 and in previous years Scandinavians had come in considerable numbers looking for work, but he knew of no arrivals in 1889 and he remarked that several young Norwegians planned to leave for Washington. Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians joined, however, in celebrating the Seventeenth of May in 1889; the [77] affair was sponsored by Nordstjernen, a Scandinavian society. {49}

Scandinavians, among them a sprinkling of Norwegians, also chose other towns in Wyoming, such as Cheyenne, for permanent residence. Their experiences were probably similar to those of Abraham Olsen. Olsen left Chicago after reading in Skandinaven of opportunities for shoemakers in Laramie; he established a modest business there and was pleased with the climate. {50}

The Norwegian influence entered Wyoming in other ways too. Visiting army officers from Christiania introduced Norwegian skis into the state in 1888; these were promptly labeled "Norwegian snowshoes," as in Montana, and it was not long before they were used by young and old alike. {51}

Except for the most casual references in miners' letters and an occasional news item of general interest, nothing about Arizona or New Mexico as a place of permanent settlement appeared in the Norwegian-American newspapers during the 1860's and 1870's. It is therefore surprising to find in Skandinaven the story of an unusual Scandinavian settlement at San Pedro, New Mexico, in 1881. The promoter was O. Ellison, Scandinavian agent for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad and a regular advertiser in the Norwegian-American papers. On occasion Ellison wrote news stories describing land suitable for settlement by Scandinavians in such places as Colorado, Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, and California; and he clearly had some influence [78] in the offices of Skandinaven, a paper friendly to railroad promotional undertakings.

In July, 1881, a group of 49 Scandinavians, 34 of them adults, bought railroad tickets in Chicago at $22 each (and half that amount for children); under Ellison's leadership, they boarded a train destined for the promised land of New Mexico, where they were to build a colony. The trip was pleasant enough and Ellison did everything in his power to keep the travelers in good humor, even to handing out cash; at Wallace, their last railroad stop, he bought a meal for the entire company. The emigrants journeyed by stagecoach from Wallace to their destination, twenty-five miles distant, and arrived in satisfactory condition.

At San Pedro they were quartered in a new hotel and were treated in the best manner possible. "Most of us," M. Aagaard wrote in a private letter, "are still at the hotel. Two families have obtained houses and so will the rest of us later. . . . We have not come to the farmland that was promised us, for the superintendent . . . wished us all first to work here at this place, because he needed us very much." Aagaard had not as yet seen the colony's tract of land, but Ellison had promised that they would soon make a tour of inspection to the place. Meanwhile the Scandinavians made the most of their situation. San Pedro was new, had a shop, offices, a few small houses, a stable, a large stamping mill, and other equipment for processing ores and washing gold. "We board at the hotel," Aagaard continued, "at a cost of five dollars a week for men, four for women, and one and a half and two for children. I shall soon be able to move into a house, where we will then prepare meals ourselves." In this way, he said, one could eat for three dollars a week. Supplies could be bought at a company store and products raised locally could be purchased from peddlers.

Aagaard liked the water and air of New Mexico and he observed that sickness was rare. The soil, normally dry, [79] had enjoyed several showers since their arrival. People of many nationalities -Mexicans, Americans, Germans, and now Scandinavians-were represented at San Pedro and they lived peacefully together. Aagaard liked the Mexicans and was surprised to find that they were not all thieves and liars, as they had been pictured to him previously. On the Fourth of July all had participated in the national celebration, which included fireworks and a dance accompanied by a full orchestra. He found wages to be higher than those paid in Chicago. Even so, some of the Scandinavians talked of returning. Aagaard said one could not expect paradise and he thought the future of the colony might be a bright one if they all put themselves to the tasks ahead. He added that his work in San Pedro was lighter than it had been in Chicago, and would improve with time. {52}

But despite this favorable early appraisal of San Pedro, the Scandinavian colony proved to be a complete failure. P. Moe, one of the group that went to New Mexico with Ellison, reported in 1882 that the colony had "completely disintegrated." He claimed that only one family remained and unfortunately it was "in such a condition that it can't go anywhere. Sickness, death, and other misfortunes have been the fate of the Scandinavian families during the past winter." Immigrants looking for land, he continued, should be warned against coming to New Mexico, "for the unclaimed land is only good for sheep raising, and even that is difficult because of the lack of water." Moe claimed that he had written an account of conditions in the San Pedro colony during the winter and had sent it to Skandinaven, "but Mr. 0. Ellison, who admonished us to travel out here, informed me that it could not be published in Skandinaven. {53} Interestingly enough, Skandinaven carried a long article on the [80] resources of New Mexico and Arizona in its issue of January 28, 1885.


Despite the fairly extensive coverage, in the Norwegian press, of Scandinavian-American life in the Rocky Mountain region, the number of Norwegians who settled there, either briefly or permanently, remained small. The 1870 census records indicate that natives of Norway totaled only 88 in Montana, 61 in Idaho, 40 in Colorado, 28 in Wyoming, 7 in Arizona, 5 in New Mexico, and 80 in Nevada. While both the Swedes and the Danes outnumbered the Norwegians in this area, it is readily seen that the Scandinavian population was small indeed. By 1880 the Norwegian element had jumped to 174 in Montana, 276 in Idaho, 354 in Colorado, 74 in Wyoming, 45 in Arizona, 17 in New Mexico, and 119 in Nevada; the Danish and Swedish elements had increased even more. In the 1890 records, evidences of permanent settlement are present. The Norwegians then numbered 1,957 in Montana, 741 in Idaho, 893 in Colorado, 345 in Wyoming, in Arizona, 42 in New Mexico, and 69 in Nevada. If one includes the other Scandinavian peoples, the figures are more impressive. Thus, in 1890 there were 9,659 Swedes in Colorado, 3,771 in Montana, 1,524 in Idaho, and 1,357 in Wyoming. In the same census report the Danes totaled 1,650 in Colorado, 1,241 in Idaho, 680 in Wyoming, and 683 in Montana. {54}

A breakdown of the 1890 figures shows that in Montana the Norwegians were concentrated in Cascade, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Silverbow, Park, and Custer counties. In Idaho they were located for the most part in Latah County [81] (which was organized from part of Nez Perce County in 1888). The few Norwegians outside Arapahoe County in Colorado were widely scattered, and the Wyoming Norwegians were mostly in Albany County. Denver had a "colony" of 3,622 Swedes, 470 Danes, and 297 Norwegians.

The published census statistics are inadequate for a comprehensive review of settlement, if for no other reason than the fact that they do not include persons born in the United States. Professor Qualey estimates that the Norwegian stock in Montana in 1900, for example, numbered 4,764. Of these, 2,487 were born in Norway, 1,228 in Montana, and the others in Utah and states lying to the east. Thus, slightly more than half of the Norwegian population was American born. {55} The percentage would naturally be lower in 1890 and even more so in 1880, yet a full and accurate counting would reveal a somewhat larger number in the Rockies than are included in the census reports.

By 1890, however, there was an irregular pattern of Norwegian settlement, from the Great Plains to the west coast. This had largely dispelled the uncertainties and ignorance and greatly reduced the fears concerning the vast mountain area. Careful readers of the Norwegian-American press were well informed of the western states and territories, and those who traveled from, say, the Twin Cities to Seattle not only could enjoy the comforts of a car on a northern transcontinental railroad but could find countrymen, in larger or smaller numbers, residing in all of the major towns at which the train stopped.


<1> Skandinaven (Chicago), May 7, 1878.
<2> Sentiments similar to Holter's had been expressed earlier, but less convincingly, by others. See, for example, Skandinaven, December 28, 1870, and Nordisk folkeblad (Minneapolis), June 23. 1875.
<3> Norden (Chicago), March 17, 1880.
<4> Skandinaven, September 13, 1881.
<5> Skandinaven, April 25, 1882.
<6> Norden, June 28, 1882, and Folkebladet (Minneapolis), January 18, 1883.
<7> Tillæg til Skandinaven, November 28, 1882.
<8> Folkebladet, June 26, 1883; reprinted from Budstikken (Minneapolis).
<9> Skandinaven, July 3, 1883.
<10> Skandinaven, March 25, June 3, November 25, 1884, February 9, April 13, 1887.
<11> Amerika (Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin), February 9, 1887, April 4, 1888; the North (Minneapolis), September 25, 1889; Nordvesten (St. Paul), October 14, 1886, April 14, 1887, January 17, 1889.
<12> Amerika, March 26, 1890.
<13> "Reisebrev fra Montana," in Amerika, September 10, 1890.
<14> Robert George Raymer, Montana, the Land and the People, 3:169-174 (Chicago and New York, 1930).
<15> Arne Kildal, De gjorde Norge større, en bok for ungdom, 36 (Oslo, 1945). For other accounts in Norwegian about Grande, see Skandinaven, October 4, 1912, May 23, August 15, 1930; Minneapolis tidende, May 15, 1930; and Decorah-posten, December 4, 1931.
<16> Quoted in Martin Ulvestad, Nordmændene i Amerika, deres historie og rekord, 1:224 (Minneapolis, 1907).
<17> Quoted in Ulvestad, Nordmændene i Amerika, 1:224. Apparently there was some sort of Norwegian community along the Little Missouri River; Nordvesten, November 7, 1889.
<18> Skandinaven, September 8. 1874.
<19> Ulvestad, Nordmændene i Amerika, 1: 231.
<20> Skandinaven, January 29, 1878.
<21> Skandinaven, September 10, 1878, January 25, 1881.
<22> John E. Toskey, "Fra det fjerneste vesten," in Skandinaven, May 31, 1881. The letter was dated Moscow, April 24.
<23> Nordvesten, March 22, 1883.
<24> Skandinaven, November 27, 1883. The lack of a competent doctor was remedied for a time in 1886, when Dr. Mathias Johnson spent the spring and summer at Moscow; Nordvesten, December 30, 1886.
<25> Norden, February 5, 1884.
<26> Norden, September 30, 1884; Folkebladet, January 6, 1886.
<27> Amerika, April 14, 28, 1886, May 18, 1887, February 15, March 21, 1888. J. M. Olsen spoke of the settlement as being "spread out over one of the prettiest and most fertile valley regions in Idaho. . . lying right on the boundary between Idaho and Washington territories; on the one side it is surrounded by large forests and great mountain peaks . . . and on the other side by enormous stretches of rolling prairie land"; Decorah-posten, August 24, 1887.
<28> Skandinaven, September 5, 1888; the North, July 8, 1889.
<29> "En nykominer paa stilehavskysten," in Amerika, June 6, 1888.
<30> Emigranten (Madison, Wisconsin), March 20, 1865; Fædrelandet og emigranten (La Crosse, Wisconsin), December 24, 1874.
<31> Fædrelandet og emigranten, September 9, 1875.
<32> Skandinaven, March 2, 1880.
<33> Norden, January 28, April 7, 1880. in a letter of April 25, 1881, Hanseth reported that snow had made plowing easy; normally it was necessary to irrigate before plowing. Corn, he added, did not thrive under irrigation. Norden, May 11, 1881.
<34> Norden, February 19, September 16, 1884. Petersen's address was Pumeo Post Office, Weld County.
<35> Pac. Mss. L220, in the manuscript collection of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
<36> Folkebladet, December 30, 1884.
<37> Skandinaven, April 8, 1885.
<38> Skandinaven, January 21, 1885.
<39> Skandinaven, March 17, 1886; Norden, January 18, 1887.
<40> Decorah-posten, November 21, 1888, February 6, 1889.
<41> Decorah-posten, May 22, 1889.
<42> North, October 9, 1889.
<43> Tillæg til Skandinaven, June 19, 1877; Skandinaven, March 23, April 6, 1880.
<44> Skandinaven, July 8, 1880.
<45> "Reise til Blackhills," part 1, in Folkebladet, November 4, 1880.
<46> Amerika, June 5, November 27, 1889; Nordvesten, February 7, March 14, 1889. Andreason remarked that settlers with limited funds could earn good pay by cutting wood in the forests and selling it in town.
<47> Skandinaven, July 13, 1880.
<48> Skandinaven, March 25, May 20, 1885.
<49> Nordvesten, November 4, 1886, June 13, 1889.
<50> Skandinaven, February 17, 1886.
<51> Nordvesten, April 7, 1887; Skandinaven, April 4, 1888. The person in the Rocky Mountain region who approached the stature of Snowshoe Thompson on skis, and thus dramatized their use, was Peter Nelson, who had custody of the telephone lines in Yellowstone Park. Each tour of inspection-on skis in the winter-was about 126 miles. It was Nelson who received the Norwegian skis in 1888, but he had been using skis, probably of his own construction, before that time. On one occasion he was the hero of a sensational story of courage and endurance in the Livingston (Montana) Enterprise; reprinted in Nordvesten, April 7, 1887.
<52> Skandinaven, August 9, 1881.
<53> Norden, May 17, 1882. Moe wrote from New Albuquerque, New Mexico, May 2.
<54> The largest Scandinavian settlement in any one of the states mentioned in this chapter was the Swedish one in Colorado. An interesting account is Elmer Carison, "The Earlier Swedes in Colorado," in American Swedish Historical Foundation, Year Book 1949, 87-56 (Philadelphia, 1949). For the mountain region as a whole, see "The Swedes in the Mountain States," in Helge Nelson, The Swedes and the Swedish Settlements in North America, 1: 310-321 (Lund, Sweden, 1943).
<55> Carlton C. Qualey, Norwegian Settlement in the United States, 246 (Northfield, 1938).


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