Allamakee co. IAGenWeb - Immigration & Naturalization

Norwegian Immigration Into Allamakee Co., Iowa
Article #2

Norwegian migration into Iowa stretched over three-quarters of a century from the 1840's until after World War I. Three main area developed: the first in the northeastern counties of Clayton, Allamakee, Winneshiek and Fayette; the second in the north central counties and the third in central Iowa. The migration originated in Norwegian communities in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. It was a planned movement directed by leaders who had already investigated land and picked a site. After the Civil War, the new arrivals were, as a rule, fresh from the Old Country.

The nineteenth century was a period of political, economic, and social change for Norway. On May 17, 1814, after four centuries of Danish rule, she declared her political independence and drew up a constitiution whose democratic features carried echoes from America..... (and) Norway enjoyed a renaissance. The landowning class, the bonder, challenged the long-entrenched power of state and church. As they rose to power they forced reforms that made more land available to more people and lightened the tax load on the farmer. In spite of this, conditions improved at a snail's pace, and thousands looked for a way out. Emigration began in 1825 and until the 1840's was spasmodic. But from then on, despite strong opposition from state and church, thousands of farmers and laborers left Norway each year. Except for Ireland, Norway gave to America a larger proportion of her population than did any other foreign country over the entire period of emigration.

The first Norwegians to make America their home were a band of Quakers from Stavanger ... sailing for America in July, 1825... settling a site chosen for them by Cleng Peerson, an eccentric Norwegian traveler. (Within a decade) Cleng Peerson was laying the ground for the migration into the Middle West. In the spring of 1834 several Quaker families, led by Peerson, moved west to the Fox River settlement in Illinois. It was the mother colony for settlements that devoloped in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin in the 1840's. The latter then became mother colonies for new settlements in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota in the 1850's and 60's.

In 1846 Ole Valle made a claim in the center of Clayton County, thus becoming the first of thousands of Norwegians to settle on Iowa's northeastern hills and valleys. His friend Ole Kittilsland also settled in the county. Their messages to friends in Wisconsin prompted many families to join them. These first settlers chose hilly, wooded land, leaving the open prairies to the Germans. Only after the Norwegians saw how speedily their neighbors developed productive farms did they discard their notion that prairie land was worthless. In the spring of 1850, a caravan of "kubberulles" (the canvas-topped wooden-wheeled wagons pulled by oxen), four families, four single men, and several cows and pigs arrived at "Painted Creek" in Allamakee County.

By the end of 1850 the settlement had two dozen cabins. In the next three years several large parties came directly from Norway. Five hundred Norwegians lived in Allamakee County by 1855. The peak was reached in 1885 when over 1,300, not counting the American-born children, made their homes in Allamakee.

In July, 1851, a Danish-born clergyman, C.L. Clausen, a leader in the Wisconsin settlements, arrived at Paint Creek, Allamakee County, and, to the joy of the settlers, held religious services. Clausen later planned and named the town of St. Ansgar in Mitchel County.

As settlement increased certain townships within the county became "Norwegian" while others were less or not at all. The rise of town life brought into being many centers which were principally Norwegian, usually towns of a few hundred inhabitants. Significant clusters were found in and around the following towns and postal centers by 1900: Quandahl, Waterville & Waukon.


~transcription note: I have extracted this information from the full article appearing in The Palimpsest; transcribing only the portions that pertain specifically to some background & to the Norwegian settlement of Allamakee Co. For the full text, please refer to the original publication, available from the State Historical Society of Iowa.

~source: The Norwegians In Iowa, by Leola Nelson Bergmann; The Palimpsest, Vol. XL No. 8, August 1959; The State Historical Society of Iowa, excerpts from pg. 289-303.

~transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall

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