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Segregation and Assimilation of Norwegian Settlement in Wisconsin {1}
    By Peter A. Munch (Volume 18: Page 102)

In popular opinion, the continued existence of nationality groups in the United States is commonly regarded as merely a sentimental "hang-over" from previous generations, a phase in the development of the nation which would be overcome in time, in that a "hard core," in stubborn conservatism and clannishness, has simply failed to make an adjustment to the modern American society. In scholarly discussions, particularly among sociologists, the phenomenon is given the more sophisticated label of a "cultural lag." But the idea is the same: the nationality group represents an Old-World culture that has not yet been assimilated into the American society. This assumption has received some indirect support from a series of studies conducted in the department of rural sociology of the University of Wisconsin under the direction of George W. Hill. In these studies, the differentiation of nationality groups is generally interpreted in terms of "culture types."

"In our work . . . we observed how patterns of behavior-sociological and economic-differed from locality to locality, or within localities, as the dominating nationalities changed. Here then was a tangible bit of evidence of culture-not that nationality explains the whole complex configuration of culture, and certainly not that the two concepts can be taken as synonymous. Differing nationalities, however, develop certain social values and attitudes peculiarly their own. These values and attitudes tend to crystallize into [103] social heritages and, as such, condition the behavior of nationality groups in their new cultural settings." {2}

It is the merit of the Wisconsin studies to have recognized the nationality group as an important aspect of the present-day social situation in the rural Middle West. However, the emphasis on cultural differences seems exaggerated and lends itself easily to undue generalizations on the basis of cultural background and heritage.

Certainly, in every culture there is a conservative tendency, especially when the culture concerned is an old and well-established one, like most of the European peasant cultures that were brought to America with the immigrants of the nineteenth century. In every situation of culture contact, or of culture change, there will be a conflict of values and, evidently, the cultural assimilation of groups may be retarded by the simple fact that some values are hard to give up. Besides, there is the tendency of every group, particularly every minority group, to emphasize certain culture traits, norms, or qualities peculiarly its own and to cultivate them as symbols of its identity. Thus, the loyalty of the nationality group in America is very often brought to overt expression and stimulated within the group itself through the cultivation of certain culture traits by which the group distinguishes itself conspicuously from its social environment. Undoubtedly, this inborn conservatism of every culture has been a contributing factor for the perpetuation of ethnic identities in the United States, and there may be evidence to show that the cultural heritage from the Old World has been a factor in certain cases in determining the form of adjustment of a particular nationality group to the American society.

However, looking at the various nationality groups in the United States today, it appears that, with regard both to [104] the form of adjustment and to the degree of persistence of Old-World culture traits, conspicuous variations are found not only between the various nationalities but even between different settlements and communities of one and the same nationality. {3} While some of these settlements and communities may exhibit a comparatively strong retention of Old-World traits, others will actually appear to have very little in common with the original culture.

Besides, in comparison with the people of their respective countries of origin, the members of almost any "ethnic" American community clearly stand out as Americans, a fact that is conspicuously evident every time an American visits his "old country." Generally, the immigrant groups of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have, by now, become extensively assimilated to the American way of life, having adopted the values and norms as well as the techniques of the New World. Even the distinctive culture traits, by which a nationality group may give symbolic expression to its identity as a distinct social unit in the American society, are not necessarily of an indigenous nature. They have been partly acquired in the new country and must be described as truly American. An example is the "Sons of Norway" lodges of the Norwegians, which are, formally, nothing but another organization of secret societies set up according to the general American pattern of such organizations. Another is the cultivation of tobacco, which has almost become a symbol of Norwegianism in certain parts of Wisconsin. And even if the distinctive culture traits do have a connection [105] with the old country, they have usually acquired a symbolic significance to the group, whereby they have been subject to considerable changes in meaning and contents, sometimes even in form, as well as in the situation in which they occur. Thus the famous lutefisk dinners of the Scandinavian churches are definitely American in form, contents, and purpose (as a money-making scheme), and the only thing "Scandinavian" about them is that lutefisk is served, but in a situation where this dish would have been utterly out of place in any of the Scandinavian countries. Besides, many of these distinctive culture traits, especially if they are conspicuously of Old-World origin, are usually of little significance in daily life viewed on the background of the whole configuration of culture, which is definitely American. Thus, a meal in a Norwegian-American family is ordinarily a meal of definite American character. The special features are not there at every meal, and when they are there (usually on special occasions) they only give an extra touch to an other wise American meal.

The essential fact, however, is that, in spite of the extensive general adjustment to the culture of the New World, and in spite of the variations in the forms of adjustment between regions and communities, the nationality groups still stand out as clearly identified social entities within the American society, with their own institutions and organizations, and, above all, with their own particular loyalties by which they are distinct from their social environment. Evidently, an almost complete cultural assimilation is not necessarily followed by the expected social assimilation.

In view of these observations, we will have to distinguish between two aspects, or fields, of differentiation and assimilation in a culture contact situation: there is, on the one hand, the cultural field, which involves the differentiation and assimilation of cultures, including values, norms, and patterns of behavior as well as forms of material culture and [106] skills and techniques in manufacturing. On the other hand, there is a social field of differentiation and assimilation which is a question of solidarity of groups. In previous studies of assimilation, the emphasis has been on the cultural aspect of the problem. The interest has been focused on patterns and how they have been modified and changed in response to a culture contact situation. And the presumption has generally been that any specific characteristic of a given ethnic group could be explained on the basis of the contents of its indigenous culture. This has led to an overemphasis on the peculiar culture traits as if they formed the core of a specific "culture type" while, in reality, they are rather marginal elements in a general American culture.

Thus, the differentiation or assimilation of ethnic groups in the United States is a social as well as a cultural process and we have to look at it, theoretically, as a manifestation of the general dynamics of solidarity and social differentiation in human society.

"Solidarity" may be described as a sentiment of coherency based on what Giddings called "consciousness of kind." This consciousness of kind always implies, and is even conditioned by, the recognition of a difference by which the members of the group distinguish themselves from the outsiders, usually so that one of the parts is thought to be in possession of certain attributes or qualities that the other part has not got. But the most important attribute is always the attribute of "belonging," which is the primary basis on which the line is drawn between "members" and "outsiders."

Such consciousness of kind is always of a more or less emotional nature, arousing a sentiment of attachment between the members of a group and an attitude of distance or more or less outspoken rejection towards outsiders. These "in-group" and "out-group" feelings are always correlative; both are equally essential for the existence of a group in the [107] sociological sense of the word, and either one is conditioned by the other.

Admittedly, in a situation of contact between different groups, this exclusive tendency is, under certain conditions, partly or totally counterbalanced by the effects of social interaction. Such interaction, as is amply shown by numerous studies in the field of acculturation, will often bring about a certain adaptive adjustment on the part of the contacting groups and may, eventually, lead to a complete merging of the groups. However, if this social interaction between the groups is restricted, e.g., by a dominating group assuming a superior status in relation to other groups or showing other signs of rejection, the tendency for exclusive consolidation seems to be highly increased. {4} A group that is exposed to this social pressure of dominance and rejection from another group is very likely to make a protective adjustment to that situation by assuming an increased solidarity within the group coupled with a "clannish" exclusiveness towards the suppressing environment.

Such social differentiation, based as it is on power and prestige more than anything else, is primarily a social rather than a cultural process. Certainly, any social difference thus established will have a tendency to manifest itself through differences in culture patterns, which eventually become symbols of the social identity of the group. There is a close connection, therefore, between a cultural and a social differentiation. However, in human society there are innumerable differences in culture patterns between groups, subgroups, and individuals, which are not socially recognized as significant for the identification of groups. Generally, it will be found, therefore, that the social recognition of such cultural differences as well as the cultural differentiation itself-i.e., [108] the cultivation of a divergent culture pattern-is the function of a social differentiation based on preconceived ideas of social identity rather than the opposite.

Looking at the problem of acculturation in the United States from this broad angle of sociological theory, it seems obvious that, even in this country, there are social forces working, not only towards an assimilation of ethnic groups but also in the opposite direction, towards a differentiation of groups on the basis of ethnic origin. Evidently, the form of adjustment is determined not only by the form and con tents of the original culture of the immigrant group but probably more so by the attitudes and reactions of the surrounding society; in other words, by the particular social situation to which the group has to respond in each particular case.

This situational factor is highly variable. It varies from one settlement to the other, from one community to the other, and even from one neighborhood to the other within the same settlement or community. It is well known, for example, that ethnic stock, or cultural background, may be an important factor for the definition of social status in a given community. {5} It is not to be expected, therefore, that any two nationality groups will hold the same social status within the community. Besides, there may be differences in social status between neighborhoods and other subgroups. And it is obvious, according to what is pointed out in the foregoing, that divergences in social status of groups, whether dominant or dominated, may highly determine the form of adjustment that they make.

Finally, the relative numerical strength of a nationality [109] group in the community is an important variable in determining the social situation. Most studies that have been made of the assimilation of nationality groups in the United States have been conducted under the assumption that the characteristic response of any given nationality group to the culture contact situation will be found in the "core groups" or in areas where the particular nationality has been able to form solid contiguous settlements. It is obvious, however, that the numerically dominant group of a given area, a! though it may be a minority group in a social and cultural sense, has to respond to a social situation extremely different from the one that the small and dispersed group is con fronted with. Accordingly, we have to expect variations in the adjustment of a nationality group on the basis of its relative numerical strength in the particular area where it lives; and a preoccupation with the "core" settlements in the hope that this will reveal the characteristic traits of assimilation of any given nationality group is hardly justified.


When European immigrants of the last century settled down in this country, most of them immediately made a sort of protective adjustment to the new environment by forming contiguous settlements, each with a definite national flavor. The Norwegians went even further than that.

"A remarkable aspect of the tendency of the Norwegian immigrants to flock together was that it was not enough for them to seek out fellow Norwegians. They went further and associated themselves with people who had come out of the very valley, the very bygd, from which they themselves hailed in the old country. . . . It is not sufficient, therefore, in suggesting the special flavor or color of a given Norwegian settlement in America, to say that it was Norwegian. Not withstanding an inevitable intermingling and jostling, the distinguishing marks of a settlement ordinarily were [110] furnished by the particular customs of some particular valley or area of old Norway." {6}

It is believed that this trait is not peculiar to the Norwegians. Some of the German, Swiss, and Irish settlements also stress their origin from certain districts. However, loyalty to the local district of origin may have had a particular significance with the Norwegians and may be explained in part by the extreme isolation of rural communities in Norway, mainly because of the topographical conditions of the country.

From the outset, the settlements in America were probably not too compact. Some of them were scattered settlements, sometimes with miles of woodland or open prairie between the settlers, or they were squeezed in between the extended branches of other settlements. As the settlements grew, however, their ecological distribution was changed. And already at this point we can distinguish two types of growth of a settlement, indicating two different types of adjustment to the social environment.

One type of growth is intensive and seems to be towards an increased consolidation of the settlement, and its characteristic features are the withdrawal of extended branches and the extermination of foreign elements within the restricted area of the settlement. This procedure will obviously shorten the relative circumference of the settlement and, thereby, the relative length of its line of contact with the surrounding groups. Naturally, it will also tend to reduce the actual social contact with the outside society and may be regarded as representing a protective form of adjustment.

The other type of growth of a settlement is of a more extensive nature and involves a strong expansion into adjacent areas, usually combined with a more or less liberal admittance of alien settlers into the central parts of the settlement. This type of growth seems to indicate a certain openness [111] towards the environment and suggests an adaptive adjustment, since it obviously tends to lengthen the line of contact and thereby increases the number and intensity of the contacts actually made with the environment. This type of growth may eventually lead to a disintegration of the settlement and its fusion into a larger social unit.

Generally, it seems that most settlements tend to go through a "life cycle" of consolidation, expansion, and disintegration, which indicates the expected development of a markedly protective adjustment in the early days of a settlement being gradually outruled by a more adaptive adjustment in later years. However, the regularity of this "life cycle" is often broken, and conditions vary greatly in different settlements.

This variation in ecological growth of settlements is illustrated very clearly by the Norwegian settlements in Vernon County, Wisconsin.

In this area there are two distinct Norwegian settlements. One is situated in the north central part of the county, on the plain known as Coon Prairie, but extending strongly into Coon Valley and other adjacent valleys. This area has been settled very predominantly by people from eastern Norway, most of the settlers coming originally from the valley of Gudbrandsdal and the areas around Lake Mjøsa in Norway.

The other Norwegian settlement in this area occupies the south central part of the county, with its center of gravity around Folsom and in West Prairie. This is actually the ex tended branches of the Utica settlement, which occupies the greater part of the town of Utica in Crawford County, and has an important trade center in Soldiers Grove. This settlement is almost exclusively of West Norwegian stock, with a dominant element of Sognings.

Between these two settlements, there is a belt of so-called Flekkefjordings, i.e., people from the southwestern coast of [112]


Norway. They form a kind of fringe to the Coon Prairie settlement (figure 1).

The two Norwegian settlements in this area have many important traits in common. In the first place, they are of equal age. Both were founded about 1850. And both of them were first formed as offshoots of the Koshkonong settlement in southeastern Dane County. Furthermore, the two settlements were situated at an approximately equal distance, about five to ten miles, from the city of Viroqua, which formed a convenient and natural prospective trading center for both. Economically and socially, they were both under [113]

Figure 2. THE VERNON SETTLEMENTS, 1878-1930

the dominance of the Old Americans in and around Viroqua who controlled the economic life of the area through their business and banking system.

Nevertheless, a marked difference is found in the growth of these two Norwegian settlements. The map, figure 2, which is made on the basis of plat maps of Vernon County of 1878 and 1930, shows the development of the two settlements on the basis of land ownership. There has been considerable expansion of the Norwegian settlements in the course of these fifty-two years. However, most of the expansion has taken place in the southern and central parts of the [114] county, where the Norwegians, obviously, have gradually succeeded the Old Americans as the latter withdrew from farming to a more urban life. And a study of the local origin of the present Norwegian population reveals that it is the Utica settlement that has had this extensive growth into the original Old American settlement. The Coon Prairie settlement, on the other hand, has had very little growth of territory between the years 1878 and 1930. There is some expansion towards the east, where the Norwegians have even surpassed the Old American settlement and formed a small ethnic island east of the Kickapoo Valley (not shown on the map). In the west the Norwegians have lost territory to the Germans. What little expansion there has been to the south is mainly due to the arrival of the Flekkefjordings, around 1880. In the Coon Prairie settlement, the development has rather been one of consolidation, the tendency having been to get rid of alien elements within the area of the settlement itself rather than to expand into new areas.

Thereby, the Coon Prairie settlement has been able to build up an independent and socially self-sufficient community of its own. In the city of Westby, which grew up around Ole Westby's store and still is about 95 per cent Norwegian, it has even created its own community center with most of the economic, social, and cultural services that are usually allotted to such a center in a community of that size. In this way, the Norwegians in this settlement have actually man aged to withdraw the whole area from the economic and social control of the "Yankee"-dominated city of Viroqua.

A tempting conclusion would be to explain these differences on the basis of the difference in cultural background of the two settlements. The persistence, in other words, with which they have retained their identity as specific district settlements is remarkable. Since the expansion of the Utica settlement they now form a more or less contiguous whole. But the intermingling between them is inconsiderable. [115] Thus the Utica settlement has encroached upon the territory of Yankee and Irish alike, but has apparently not been able to make its way into the Coon Prairie settlement to any considerable degree. Likewise, very few of the East Norwegians in that settlement have ventured to settle down among the Sognings. And the subsettlement of Flekkefjordings still forms an easily discernible fringe between the two settlements (figure 1).

These two Norwegian settlements, therefore, may be said to be of different cultural backgrounds, a fact that undoubtedly may have influenced the form of their adjustments. This conclusion would certainly be in accordance with the conventional theories of acculturation as generally applied to the nationality groups in the United States.

However, before we draw any conclusions we will take a look at another group of settlements. With respect to cultural background, the Blue Mounds settlements in Dane County, Wisconsin, are much more homogeneous. The whole of this area is very predominantly settled by people from Valdres with a small admixture of Telemarkings. Individual settlers from Sogn and other districts of western Norway are scattered here and there. Only in the southern part of the York settlement, particularly in Hay Hollow, is there some influx from the northern part of the Wiota settlement with numerous settlers from the eastern lowland districts of Land and Hadeland (figure 3).

In the Blue Mounds settlements, the situation is not quite as clear-cut as in the case of Vernon County. Even here, the Old Americans were the first settlers. However, they have not formed any strong settlement like the one they used to have around Viroqua, remnants of which are still found in the Kickapoo Valley. Only in and around Blanchardville do they seem to have retained a considerable position as a semi urban elite for any length of time.

Otherwise, even this area is strongly dominated by the [116] Norwegians. These Norwegian settlements are about as old as the Vernon settlements; they were founded shortly before 1850. They dominate the greater part of the towns of Perry and York as well as the adjacent parts of Brigham, Moscow, and Blanchard. Smaller but fairly strong subsettlements have been formed in Vermont, Springdale, and Primrose. Besides, the Norwegians dominate the city of Mt. Horeb and are very strong in Blanchardville. To the south, the settlement continues without interruption into the Wiota settlement, which stretches south through the towns of Adams, Argyle, Wiota, and Wayne into Jo Davies County, Illinois.

A study of the growth of these settlements was made by comparing plat maps of the area for various years. Figure 4, showing the situation of 1860, reveals an interesting point about the choice of land of the Norwegian immigrants. {7} The first Norwegian settlers in this area, as a general rule, settled in the valleys, avoiding the ridges and prairie land whenever they had a choice, although the latter offered the best farm land. This preference for the valleys, which is particularly evident in Perry and Primrose but is also found to some extent in Springdale and Vermont, may have some connection with water supplies but is believed to be particularly characteristic of the Norwegian settlers, reflecting an actual prejudice against ridges and prairie land. {8} However this may be, it is certainly in accordance with the typical pattern for the location of farmsteads in Norway, where the economic as well as prestige value of the land generally decreases as the distance from the valley bottom increases.

Turning to the situation of 1890 (figure 5), the settlements appear to have grown considerably. Generally, it is an intensive growth, the colonizers tending to consolidate the settlement by filling the open spaces and buying land from non-Norwegian settlers within the settlement area. [117]


However, even in this area, there are considerable differences in the degree of consolidation of the various subsettlements. The strongest intensive growth in found in the [118]


Perry-York settlement, although the German Catholic settlement in Spring Valley has evidently been able to withstand the pressure from the Norwegians. The Primrose branch shows the weakest consolidation among the Norwegian settlements; it has even been subject to some disintegration through [119]


the expansion of the Swiss New Glarus settlement into this area.

By 1920, these settlements seem to have reached their highest degree of consolidation (figure 6). At the same time there has been a scattered expansion into the towns of Blue [120]


Mounds, Brigham, and Arena. However, the Swiss settlement of New Glarus has also had an extensive growth into the Norwegian areas of Primrose and Blue Mounds, and even the little German Catholic settlement of Spring Valley has expanded, causing a continued disintegration of the [121] Primrose and Blue Valley branches of the Norwegian settlements.

This extensive expansion and increasing disintegration is definitely characteristic of the next period, until 1947 (figure 7). The disintegration is particularly indicated in the town of Blue Mounds, and also in Primrose; and even Springdale and Vermont show signs of a beginning disintegration. Only the Perry-York settlement has apparently been able to keep up its ethnic integrity right to our day, notably in its central part. {9}

Comparing the two areas, we find that the strongest and most persistent consolidation is found in the Coon Prairie settlement and in the Perry-York settlement. These two settlements even have another trait in common: they were first settled by Norwegians. This situation, of course, was very favorable for the forming of strong consolidated settlements. On the other hand the Utica settlement, especially its Vernon branches, and the other subgroups of the Blue Mounds settlements had to squeeze in between other settlers, and this situation apparently has forced them to take on a more extensive form of development. The essential fact, however, is that in the solid settlements, like Coon Prairie and Perry-York, the protective trend has been retained rather strongly, while the extensive settlements, like the Utica settlement, have shown a more predominantly adaptive adjustment to the environment by expanding further into the areas of other groups rather than trying to isolate themselves through consolidation.

The obvious conclusion that can be drawn from these observations is that the adjustment of a minority group to its environment, whether protective or adaptive, is determined more by the particular social situation of the group [122]


than by its indigenous culture. It seems also evident that the determinant factor in the social situation is that of social contact, in that the more extended line of contact of the extensive settlement seems to call for a more adaptive type of adjustment. It remains to be discussed, however, whether [123] this hypothesis, which also is in accordance with a widely held popular view on intergroup relations, will be applicable without reservations to the social rather than ecological segregation of nationality groups.


Social interaction among human beings-or any living beings for that matter-is never all-inclusive. Every individual will identify himself with one or several groups, be it a locality group (neighborhood, community), a unit based on "blood relationship" (family, clan), an ethnic unit (nation or nationality group), a formal organization (church, lodge, or club), or even such an informal grouping as a circle of friends; and he will select his social contacts accordingly. Such selection is not necessarily inclusive of all members of the group, nor need it be exclusive of all outsiders. But a selection always takes place on the basis of one or the other categorical identification and is a manifestation of an emotional attitude of preference with respect to certain recognized categories of people. In a given social situation, therefore, the determination of any selectivity in social interaction is very important for the identification of significant social groups.

The question under consideration here, then, is whether there is, in the settlements under observation, a notable selectivity in social interaction on the basis of nationality. In this connection, the essential thing is not the amount of social interaction across ethnic lines, or the number of contacts made. The question is rather whether or not there is a preference of association within the nationality group.

For the purpose of finding an answer to this question, more intensive studies were made in six different localities, namely, the cities of Viroqua and Westby in the Vernon settlements, the city of Blanchardville, and the rural neighborhoods of Hay Hollow, Kittelson Valley, and Norwegian Valley in the Blue Mounds settlements. Westby, Hay Hollow, [124] and Kittelson Valley, forming parts of highly consolidated areas, may be regarded as representing the "close" settlement, while Viroqua, Blanchardville, and Norwegian Valley typify the "open" settlement in an ecological respect.

With respect to the present-day significance of the nationality group, there is no doubt that the several ethnic groups in the United States do exist as socially recognized categories. At least, this is true throughout the Middle West, and it is definitely true in the communities here under consideration. Almost every individual with whom the author got in contact would readily identify himself with this or that nationality group, and in most cases he would also be ready to identify the ethnic background of any other person within his circle of acquaintance. Most readily recognized as a social category, naturally, is in all instances one's own ethnic in-group, while the recognition of specific ethnic out-groups is generally limited by local experience and evidently conditioned by contact with a particular group. Consequently, the Norwegians in the settlements under consideration have a clear conception of such ethnic categories as "Germans" and "Irish" and very readily identify their German and Irish neighbors accordingly. In the Blue Mounds settlements they also recognize the Swiss as an ethnic category. Otherwise, whoever does not fall readily into one of the locally recognized ethnic categories is generally classified as an "American." Thus the non-Norwegians in Viroqua, for instance, are a group composed of many ethnic backgrounds, including Old American, French, and English. Yet, by the local Norwegians they are all, as far as they do not belong to the recognized categories of Germans or Irish, classified as "Americans." Evidently, people who are not readily classified into one of the locally known "immigrant" groups are regarded as representing the "American" society.

The significance of these nationality groups was generally recognized and was indicated by an informant in [125] Blanchardville in her own words, "It is easier to classify people when you know their background," which is a plain expression of the fact that status in the community is ascribed, at least in part, on the basis of nationality. This was confirmed, as far as the Norwegians are concerned, by formal interviews which included a question relative to this (Table 1). As might be expected, the recognized significance of the nationality group is highest in the consolidated settlements of Coon Prairie (Westby) and Perry (Kittelson Valley). Apparently, the people in these settlements have been more concerned about the nationality of their neighbors. Important, however, is the fact that, even in the more "adaptive" settlements, relatively few persons of Norwegian background are entirely indifferent to the question of the nationality of their neighbors.


As is generally true in human society, recognized social categories give occasion to the formation of stereotypes, which commonly serve to rationalize social differentiations. The Norwegian settlements here under consideration form no exception. Frequent allusions were made, for instance, to the thriftiness of the Germans, the fighting spirit but also the carefree good humor of the Irish, and the pride of the Swiss. These local stereotypes correspond very closely to the national stereotypes commonly held both in America and in [126] Europe and are evidently adopted from the general ideology of western civilization. For the most part, however, they were only vaguely articulated in these communities, and the existence of any significant difference in character between the various nationality groups was often denied. Obviously, the matter is more a question of social affiliations than of ascribed qualities. The important thing is to determine what group a person belongs to, what loyalties he may be expected to heed. Personal character qualities, although they are implied in the stereotype, seem to have only secondary importance.

Of particular significance in this connection, however, is the stereotype of the "American" as held by the ethnic group, in this case the Norwegians. To them, the "American" is the urbane, sophisticated businessman, secular and independent, and businesslike in all his dealings. In fact, this stereotype is so definitely urban that any adoption of an urban standard or way of life is identified as "Americanization," while an extreme rurality in values, attitudes, and behavior is regarded as exclusively characteristic of the various immigrant groups. It is also significant that, in the Vernon settlements, the rural Yankees living in the Kickapoo Valley are not identified as typical "Americans" but are recognized as a category of their own, referred to as "Kickapoo Yankees" or "Kickapoozians," the latter term always accompanied by a tone and gesture of contempt.

The "American," as distinct from this latter category, is a stereotype that enjoys a great prestige with the Norwegians, although allusions are frequently made with resentment to the social exclusiveness and aloofness ascribed to this group. "Progressive" and "modern" are characteristic terms used to describe the type, most often with a definite tone of open admiration-or of poorly concealed envy. Obviously, this stereotype reflects the dominant status of the urban Yankees in these communities, as well as in the [127] American society at large, and often suggests a feeling of inferiority on the part of the nationality group.

On the other hand, loyalty to the ethnic in-group was frequently expressed. In this respect, there are great individual variations ranging from the "social type" of the escapist, who stresses his loyalty to the dominant American society and prefers not to be identified with his own ethnic group, to that of the loyalist who takes a keen pride in identifying himself with the ethnic group and consciously tries to give his loyalty some symbolic expression. But the overwhelming majority of individuals interviewed in each locality expressed at least some degree of loyalty to the nationality group, either in terms of pride in the achievements of members of the group or in terms of an expressed preference of association in particular situations. And again it is important to note that these expressions of loyalty are not necessarily more explicit, or proportionately more numerous, in the highly consolidated settlements than in the more dispersed and, therefore, presumably more adaptive ones. In Viroqua, 68 per cent of the persons interviewed expressed at least a moderate loyalty to the nationality group, which is slightly higher than in Westby, where 65 per cent expressed a corresponding degree of loyalty. Similarly, in Blanchardville, with its mixture of nationality groups, the percentage of Norwegians expressing at least a moderate loyalty to their own nationality was 85, while in Kittelson Valley, in the heart of the highly consolidated Perry settlement, the percentage was 80. Of the "open" settlements, only Norwegian Valley showed a moderation in the expression of a specific solidarity that corresponds somewhat to the expectations one might have from a group highly adaptive to its social environment. Yet, even in this locality, there is a core group of Norwegians who, albeit living interspersed among other nationalities, cultivate their own solidarity and expressed preference for association with members of their own nationality group: of the persons [128] interviewed, 50 per cent expressed at least a moderate loyalty to the Norwegian group. {10}

If the proportional number of persons expressing at least a moderate loyalty to the nationality may be taken as an indication of the cohesion of the group, these observations are important because they show that, even in the "open"- and presumably more adaptive-settlements, a social consolidation of the nationality group has been effective, pre venting it from merging with other groups, particularly with the dominant "American" group. Sharing the same geographical area, and hardly distinguishable any more from a cultural point of view, the nationality groups still remain socially apart, each group preserving its identity as a distinct unit.


Even clearer is a certain segregation of the nationality group evidenced by a study of the prevalent selectivity in actual social interaction. An important aspect of such inter action is what sociologists call the "visiting pattern," which is simply the answer to the question: who visits whom in the community?

It is impossible, of course, to record all the "visiting" that goes on in a neighborhood or community, especially if it is of the informal kind which takes place "over the garden gate" and "in the market place"-or, rather (in our modern time), over the telephone and in the store. A clue, however, to this informal visiting, which is probably the most important kind of visiting in any community or group, is found in what might be called the "gossip acquaintance" and the "gossip circle." Members of any community, or of any social group that plays an important role in the members' lives, usually take a certain interest in the doings of other members and [129] like to comment upon them for praise or obloquy, or just for general curiosity, thereby exercising the most important form of informal social control in any group. Through this activity, they acquire a certain knowledge of one another, ranging from an amazingly detailed knowledge of the other person's private life to a slight acquaintance with looks and name. This knowledge, of course, is the result of numerous and constant crosscurrents of social contacts throughout the group and is in itself a manifestation of the solidarity of the group. The "gossip circle," therefore, is an important criterion for the identification of any socially significant group, be it a community or neighborhood, a clan or any type of social circle.

Selectivity of the "gossip circle" in terms of group solidarity is illustrated clearly in the Coon Prairie settlement, Reference has already been made to the strong consolidation of this settlement and its remarkable segregation from the "Yankee"-dominated Viroqua area. In consequence of this, a rather sharp line may be drawn between the two areas, not only on the basis of the origin of the residents, but also on the basis of interaction. In their social relationships, the two areas are, to a certain degree, mutually exclusive. Thus, the residents of Viroqua have their economic and other social connections mainly to the south and southwest, and the city itself forms a strongly eccentric "gravitation point" for the southern part of Vernon County and the northern part of Crawford County, extending as far as fifteen miles from the city in this direction; whereas there is relatively little inter action with the Westby area, whose southern borderline is only a couple of miles north of Viroqua. Likewise, the city of Westby forms not only the economic but even the social center of an area which extends about ten miles or more to the north and west, about six or seven miles to the east, but only three or four miles to the south.

Manifestations of the segregation of the two areas are [130] found in the rather sharp separation of the trading areas of the two centers as well as in the equally sharp separation of church affiliations and influences. Viroqua, being the larger center and the county seat, obviously has the advantage of a heavier gravitation and seems to be gaining slowly in territory at the expense of Westby. Thus, a few rural churches, which once were extended branches of the Coon Prairie congregation in Westby, have now united into one parish with the Viroqua congregation and are served by the Viroqua pastor. Likewise, people who belong to these churches, and others who still maintain their church affiliations with Westby, are now doing most of their trading in Viroqua. However, this recent extension of the Viroqua trading and church service area is mainly confined to the Flekkefjordings and has not encroached upon the proper Coon Prairie settlement, where Westby still holds its own very strongly, both as a trading center and as a church service center.

Particularly indicative, however, of the high degree of social segregation between the two areas is the extent and limitation of the "gossip acquaintances" of the Westby people. It is plainly evident that the "gossip circle" of Westby extends mainly to the north and west, including Coon Valley (the valley as well as the city) and the adjacent coulees and ridges, but also the prairie to the northeast as far as the area is settled by Norwegians, while Viroqua and the surrounding area is excluded from this circle of acquaintance, interest, and control, not because the Westby people could not possibly acquire the necessary knowledge about these people, but because they are not interested in acquiring and exchanging such knowledge. No doubt, the exclusiveness is mainly directed against the "Americans" in the Viroqua area. However, in its ecological manifestation, the selectivity became exclusive also of the Norwegians in that area and, indeed, of any outsider regardless of nationality or ethnic background, although the rejection is definitely stronger with [131] respect to non-Norwegians. Thus it was reported by several individuals from outside who had settled down in Westby that it is very hard to break into the social life of the community, especially for non-Norwegians, but to some degree also for Norwegians. Obviously, here is a clear, though not extreme, protective adjustment of a nationality group to the American society.

To the casual observer, the Norwegians in Viroqua as well as in Blanchardville seem to contrast sharply with Westby in the type of adjustment made to the social environment. At first glance, these two localities convey the impression of an almost perfect assimilation of a nationality group-in good accordance with the melting pot theory. Certainly, at one time, the Old Americans formed a dominant element in the two cities, and, undoubtedly, there was some discrimination on their part against the Norwegians. {11} Today, however, there is apparently no longer any recognized difference of social status on the basis of nationality. Accordingly, the Norwegians have now established themselves as businessmen alongside the "Yankees" and other "Americans," and they submit freely to the "citified" forms of life, which they identify as "Americanization." Some of the most prominent men in the localities are of Norwegian descent, and even partner ship in business and profession across nationality lines is quite frequent. The Norwegians do have their special solidarity but do not seem to express it in their contacts with "Americans." To all appearances, differences in national origin are recognized but do not seem to play a part in the social life of the communities.

However, a closer examination of the interaction patterns reveals that, even in these localities, there is considerable selectivity on the basis of nationality, even though the group [132] members themselves may not recognize how much they are influenced by ethnic loyalty. Again, it is significant that, in Viroqua, the "gossip acquaintance" of the Norwegians is well developed within the nationality group. Evidently, they take an interest in one another so that, though they might not be "friends" or even "acquaintances," at least they know of each other, and the writer had usually no difficulty in getting information from anybody within the group about any particular Norwegian, where he lived, what he was doing for a living, what his family relationships were, and sometimes quite a few things about his person (frequently volunteered in addition to the information asked). About people outside the nationality group, however, their knowledge was limited to a few persons who had distinguished themselves in the community, either through prominence in wealth or leader ship or through deviation from the acceptable norms. Other wise, unless he happened to be a friend or acquaintance, the person outside the nationality group was hardly even known, nor was there apparently any interest in knowing about him. In Blanchardville, the Norwegians seemed to include some of the older "Yankee" families in their "gossip circle," but they had hardly any "gossip acquaintance" at all with the Irish, except as a collective stereotype.

Naturally, as we shall presently see, the limitation of "gossip acquaintance" has something to do with the separation of churches. But it is significant that this gap has apparently not been bridged by any considerable amount of informal social interaction.

These observations are confirmed, as far as Blanchardville is concerned, by a study of the more formal visiting patterns. These were recorded in the Blue Mounds settlements. {12} [133] Certain reservations have to be taken when interpreting visiting patterns in terms of the importance of the nationality group. In the first place, visiting is traditionally a neighborhood activity. This was more true in the past than it is now, when even in the rural areas only 25 per cent of the house-visit associations are within the immediate neighborhood. Yet, it is important to keep in mind that many visit connections perhaps only incidentally are within the nationality group- because the neighbors may happen to be of the same nationality. If selectivity in interaction is what we are looking for,


this fact, to a certain degree, invalidates the figures obtained from the highly consolidated settlements, because, where all the neighbors are of the same nationality, there really is no choice. It is true that the consolidation itself is a manifestation of selectivity on the basis of nationality in the not too distant past. But it really does not tell much about the importance of the nationality group today when we find that, in the almost purely Norwegian neighborhoods of [134] Hay Hollow and Kittelson Valley, about 97 per cent of the house visiting is within the nationality group (table 2).

Far more significant is the fact that, in the mixed and "open" localities of Blanchardville and Norwegian Valley, as much as 93 per cent of the house-visit connections of the Norwegians are between families of the same nationality. However, even these figures must be interpreted with care; even they are subject to limitations, namely, by the fact that family ties play an important part in house visiting. And most family ties, particularly those given the highest social significance, are from their very nature, intra-ethnic ties. It is evident, therefore, that a strong social recognition of con sanguine family ties, as we have in our case, will tend to perpetuate ethnic affiliations. But it is also evident that it will frequently be impossible to distinguish ethnic loyalty from family loyalty. On this basis, it has occasionally been claimed that the apparent persistence of the nationality groups in the United States is a consequence of family loyal ties and traditions rather than an expression of loyalty to the nationality group as such.

On the other hand, in view of the expressed loyalty to the nationality group referred to before, it is fairly safe to assume that nationality still remains a significant factor in the selection of established visit connections. Besides, there is evidence from the material at hand that the nationality group is significant in itself, apart from family relations, as a basis for selection. House-visit connections outside of family ties are few, as an average of 75 per cent of the recorded house visiting is within the extended family. But they are sufficient to indicate that, apart from family ties, there is at least some selectivity in favor of the nationality group. This is particularly true in Blanchardville, where 81.8 per cent of the house-visit connections of Norwegians with nonrelatives are with people of the same nationality, while, with a random selection, we should expect no more than about 50 per cent [135] (table 2). Not so conclusive are the figures for Norwegian Valley on account of the small number of recorded visit connections outside the family (twelve). But if a conclusion may be drawn from this figure, it would be negative with respect to the significance of the nationality group because the proportion of extrafamilial visit connections which re main within the nationality group (eight out of twelve) is probably no more than could be expected from a chance selection in this neighborhood. This corresponds to the fact that, even in other respects, Norwegian Valley (despite its name) seems to be the most highly assimilated of the localities under study.

As already mentioned, church affiliations play an important part in the differentiation of nationality groups. It is a well-known fact that the immigrant groups very early established their own religious and educational institutions. Churches were erected locally according to the traditions of the old country and were soon organized into "synods" and "conferences" according to nationality. An important thing happened in this connection: these religious organizations became symbols of loyalty, not only to the spiritual values in the cultural traditions of each group, but also of loyalty to the nationality group itself. And up to this day, these church organizations have served as focal points of ethnic loyalties. That seems to be particularly true in the case of the Scandinavian churches. In spite of the fact that church leaders in the various camps have tried to emancipate their church organizations from the identification with a particular nationality group, yet it is safe to say that, to the majority of church members on the "grass-root" level, the church-no matter what its official name may be-is still the "Norwegian" church or the "Danish" church, the "Swedish" or the "Finnish" or the "Icelandic" church. And, at least on the local level, it is likely to remain that way for generations to come, regardless of what mergers and [136] reorganizations may take place at the top level of church organization.

In the localities under study, it is virtually impossible to distinguish "Lutheran" from "Norwegian." It is true that non-Norwegians have taken membership in the Lutheran churches. Most of them, however, have done so only after having married Norwegians. And they still remain the exceptions. Thus, the largest Lutheran church in Viroqua, with an active membership of approximately five hundred adults, has only between 13 and 14 per cent non-Norwegian members. Likewise, the Norwegians who have-mostly, again, through marriage-affiliated themselves with non-Lutheran churches are comparatively very few. In Viroqua, no more than fifty persons have thus broken their ties with the Lutheran church. In Blanchardville, only three individuals of Norwegian origin were found in the membership lists of the two non-Lutheran churches. Thus there is no doubt that the separation of churches in these localities, despite some degree of intermingling, is still definitely based on nationality.

Even more significant, however, is the fact that these Lutheran churches are still identified, both by the members themselves and by outsiders, as Norwegian, so that people are expected to belong-or not to belong-by virtue of ethnic affiliation rather than religious or moral conviction. Evidently, loyalty to "Lutheranism"-i.e., loyalty to the Norwegian Lutheran Church as an organization rather than to Lutheran doctrines-is a symbolic expression of ethnic identity of the Norwegians. As a matter of fact, so strong is the identification of the church with the nationality group that Norwegians who have joined the Methodist Church or any other non-Lutheran religious organization are no more recognized as "Norwegians" in the full sense of the word, which is simply a consequence of the fact that, by dissociating themselves from the Lutheran Church, they have excluded themselves from the solidarity of the Norwegian group [137] as well as from a very important part of the social life of that group. {13}


Despite a thorough adjustment and assimilation to the American society, with an extensive participation of the Norwegians in the functions of their communities, we have found the Norwegian nationality group to be a well-recognized social unit in each of the localities under consideration, and one which is not only the object of loyalty on the part of its members, but also exercises considerable influence on various aspects of their social life. It may seem peculiar, therefore, that we never find this group, so important in the lives of its members, engaged, as a whole, in any kind of activity or function. Apart from its identification with the Lutheran Church, it never appears in action as an all-inclusive unit. In this respect, a change has taken place in the last generation. Less than a generation ago, Norway's Independence Day, May Seventeenth, used to be celebrated regularly in all these settlements with a public program. Although participation may not have been universal within the Norwegian group, especially towards the end of the period, yet the celebrations were an activity of the nationality group as such and a public demonstration of its solidarity as a social unit. Today, these celebrations have ceased completely. Some of the older people are familiar with the implications of the day and claim that they always remember it with a remark at the dinner table. But to most of the younger people the date has no meaning at all, although they may know from the [138] talk of their elders that it is "something like Norway's Fourth of July."

Similarly, special organizations of the ethnic group, formed for the explicit purpose of expressing and strengthening identity and solidarity of the group, show a sharp decline in popularity and importance during the last generation. Such organizations are the two parallel lodges, Sons of Norway and Daughters of Norway. In the localities here under observation, these organizations are very weak. Chapters of any of the lodges are found only in Viroqua and in Blanchardville, and in both places they are obviously struggling for mere existence. In Viroqua there is a chapter of each of the two organizations. The Sons of Norway chapter has a membership of seventy, and the Daughters of Norway have thirty-four members, which is considered not bad. But the meetings are poorly attended, and it is obviously difficult to keep up sufficient interest for the chapters to survive. In Blanchardville, there is a Sons of Norway chapter only, with fourteen members in town and seven in the farm area and in neighboring villages; but all activity, except the insurance business, has been given up for lack of interest.

There may be several reasons for this sharp decline in the organizations, institutions, and ceremonies that explicitly symbolized the solidarity of the nationality group as such. The most important reason, however, may possibly be seen in the considerable pressure from the dominant American society, under which the ethnic minorities found themselves. Undoubtedly, the wave of highly emotional nationalism which swept over the United States during and after the First World War has had its effect in this respect. In the extreme nationalistic propaganda of those days, the open affiliation with any ethnic minority was interpreted as exclusiveness and disloyalty to the fighting American nation, especially if it took a form which expressed loyalty to any "old country" in Europe. Such national awakenings are [139] always critical to minority groups. The point readily comes where they have to choose between the values of their own specific traditions and loyalties, and the value of being accepted as a part of the larger group, the nation. In general, the Norwegians, like most nationality groups, chose acceptance, and at least what was the then younger generation adopted the current view that rapid "Americanization" was a desirable goal. From then on, there is a conscious attempt-even among those who were otherwise loyal to the cultural values and traditions of the nationality group and identified themselves strongly with it-to play down and gradually abolish the more explicit symbolic expressions of loyalty, while, to the rest, such symbols came to be associated with a feeling of shame, or even guilt. It is characteristic that, during this time, the official use of the Norwegian language in the Norwegian Lutheran Church as a whole saw its sharpest decline so far. It is also interesting to note that it was about this time-in 1917 to be exact-that the proposal first came up to abolish the word "Norwegian" from the official name of the church, although it was more than twenty-five years before the decision was finally made. {14}

The decline in the explicit self-expression of the nationality group in the localities under study is undoubtedly a reflection of this general trend. It is significant, however, that such self-expression of the group tends to take place, implicitly as it were, in forms that are "acceptable" because they form parts of well-established American culture patterns. Particularly important in this connection is the function of the local Lutheran churches-unintentionally, perhaps, on the part of the church leaders-as focal points of ethnic loyalty. Here is one aspect of American culture, religious denominationalism, where differentiation and segregation of [140] groups are accepted without arousing suspicion of disloyalty to the nation as a whole.

According to the principles adopted in this article, a local study like this does not lend itself to sweeping generalizations. But at least in the Wisconsin settlements here under study, the Norwegian nationality group is a highly important social unit. Reprobate, to a certain degree, by the ideas and values of the American society, particularly since the First World War, it is barred from expressing its identity in an explicit way. But implicitly, it functions through institutions and patterns that are acceptable in the general American society because they are manifestations of American values. Thus, in particular, family loyalty and religious denominationalism have become the most important crystallization points for the social consolidation of the nationality group, even in an unfavorable ecological situation. Although the nationality group as such never appears as a functional unit, and although it never, of course, is completely isolated from its social environment, yet it is segregated in certain respects from that environment and exercises an important influence upon the patterns of social interaction and the behavior of its members.


<1> This essay represents in part a study made under the auspices of the committee on the study of American civilization and the department of rural sociology, University of Wisconsin.
<2> George W. Hill, "The Use of the Culture-Area Concept in Social Research," in American Journal of Sociology, vol. 47, no. 1, p. 39-47 (July, 1941). The quotation is from page 43.
<3> See, for example, Walter Lucius Slocum, "Ethnic Stocks as Culture Types in Rural Wisconsin," and Glen Laird Taggart, "Czechs of Wisconsin as a Culture Type." These are manuscript theses submitted for the degree of doctor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin in 1940 and 1948, respectively. Copies are in the possession of the department of rural sociology at the University of Wisconsin. Slocum states the existence of a certain cultural homogeneity of the German settlements on the basis of significant differences in man-land adjustment between Germans and their non-German neighbors but, in his interpretation, seems to overlook the fact that Germans in different settlements differ from their neighbors in different ways. The supposed homogeneity of the German immigrant groups, therefore, is clearly overestimated.
<4> Compare the statement by Ralph Linton in "Nativistic Movements," American Anthropologist, 45: 234 (1943). He says, "Although the immediate causes of nativistic movements are highly variable, most of them have as a common denominator a situation of inequality between the societies in contact."
<5> Veronica Nisbet, "Nationality Background as a Factor in Social Stratification of a Rural Wisconsin Village," a manuscript thesis submitted for the degree of master of arts at the University of Wisconsin in 1946. A copy is on file in the department of rural sociology, University of Wisconsin. See also Evon Z. Vogt, Jr., "Social Stratification in the Rural Middlewest: A Structural Analysis," in Rural Sociology, vol. 12, no. 4, p. 364-375 (December, 1947); and numerous other community studies.
<6> Theodore C. Blegen, Norwegian Migration to America: The American Transition, 75 (Northfield, 1940).
<7> No records were available to the writer for Iowa and Lafayette counties for the year 1860, or close enough to that year to be included.
<8> Theodore C. Blegen, Norwegian Migration to America, 1825-1860, 140 (Northfield, 1931).
<9> It should be noted that much of this disintegration is due to intermarriage. Many farms, therefore, which have apparently passed out of Norwegian ownership, have been acquired through marriage by non-Norwegians whose wives and even children may still identify themselves as Norwegians.
<10> The persons interviewed in each locality were classified as expressing a high, moderate, or low degree of loyalty to the ethnic in-group on the basis of the number of affirmative answers to a series of eight relevant questions. It should be remarked that the figures, like any "measurement" of human values, have to be accepted with a great deal of reservation.
<11> It was reported by one of the older residents of Old American background in Viroqua that, in former days, it was a mark of distinction for an Old American family to have a Norwegian housemaid, a situation which clearly indicates that the Norwegians were regarded as a separate class of people, appropriately taking the status and role of the servant.
<12> It is necessary, when such records are made, to include only the more formal type of visit, spending time in somebody's home, with or without a meal. This, admittedly, is probably not the most important, but is presumably a relatively selective form of visiting. In the Blue Mounds settlements, a total of 358 established house-visit connections were recorded by asking each interviewed person to name the five families whom he (or she) visited most frequently in their homes.
<13> A very clear illustration of the strong identification of the Norwegian nationality group with Lutheranism was given by a Viroqua boy newly graduated from high school. In order to test his recognition of nationality groups and his ability to identify individuals accordingly, he was asked to pick out and name the non-Norwegians from a list containing the names of his own class of graduates. With no hesitation, he started to name the Methodists: "So-and-so is a Methodist," etc. At the mention of a clearly Norwegian name, the inter viewer broke in, "But that is a Norwegian name." The mother, who was present, explained, "His people probably came from Norway." The boy, however, insisted, "But he is a Methodist," and that apparently settled the question.
<14> Einar Haugen, "The Struggle over Norwegian," Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 17:29, 31 (Northfield, 1952). This article has since appeared as chapter 10 in Einar Haugen, The Norwegian Language in America, 1:233-260 (Philadelphia, 1953).


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