A Hunt for Norwegian-American Records
By Carlton C. Qualey (Volume VII: Page 95)
At the 1931 meeting of the executive board of the Norwegian-American Historical Association an appropriation of three hundred dollars was voted to finance the activities of a field agent for the summer of 1932. This agent was to gather as much as possible of written and printed records relating to the Norwegians in America into the archives of the Association at Northfield, Minnesota. It was felt that there must be a large amount of such records scattered about in Norwegian-American homes and elsewhere that would in time be lost or destroyed unless some effort was made to obtain and preserve them. The late Professor O. E. Rølvaag had gathered a considerable collection of material, chiefly books, pamphlets, and newspaper clippings, with some manuscripts. Dr. Theodore C. Blegen, Mr. Gunnar J. Malmin, and others had also added to the archives. The work of Professor Rølvaag in actually gathering materials, coupled with the interest in such matters that he inspired, made an excellent beginning for this phase of the work of the Association. The employment of a field agent was to be in the nature of an experiment, none having been sent out by the Association previously. The following report will enable the Association to judge the feasibility of making a field agent's work part of the annual program for several years to come.
Before actually starting out on field trips in search of records, it seemed desirable to obtain as much information as possible about the location of papers and documents desired
for the archives. Moreover, much could be done in the way of stirring up interest in the project. Both of these objectives were stressed continually throughout the period of my work as field agent and took a considerable part of my time. It was considered of almost equal importance with the work of actually obtaining documents, to try to arouse interest in the project, to make people conscious of the historical value of the papers and books in their possession or in the possession of others. The preliminary work was carried on principally along the following lines: the circulation of printed folders urging the preservation of records and listing the various kinds of records sought, with a view to obtaining information as to their location; newspaper publicity; radio talks; talks to the student bodies of schools and to other groups; and personal contacts.
With the collaboration of Dr. Blegen a folder was written of which five thousand copies were printed. This folder contains an appeal for the preservation of the records of the Norwegians in America and lists twelve kinds of materials that are particularly desired. On the back is a blank form to be filled in with information as to the location of materials and the names of persons who might have or might know about the materials sought for the archives. The secretary of the Association was kind enough to have the folders sent to all the active members and also to a considerable number of pastors of Norwegian-Lutheran congregations. Folders were enclosed by the secretary in all Association mail and thus more people were reached; this will doubtless continue while the supply of folders lasts.
The responses from those to whom folders were sent were many. Much information was obtained as to the location of collections of materials, and the names and addresses of a considerable number of people were sent in, many of whom were visited subsequently. The folder was used daily during the field trips, and it served as an invaluable aid in
introducing and explaining the work that was being undertaken. Numbers of folders were left in general stores and other public places in Norwegian communities where they might be picked up and read. They were also distributed at the gatherings at which I spoke in the interest of the archives. The folder proved a most effective agent of propaganda and an invaluable aid.
It was hoped to obtain the cooperation of the Norwegian-American newspapers and other publications in stirring up interest in the preservation of records, and in all eases they gave the heartiest cooperation and much very valuable publicity. Three newspapers in particular were kind enough to give space both editorially and in articles--Decorah-Posten, Minneapolis Tidende, and Skandinaven. Mr. Kristian Prestgard contributed an excellent editorial in the issue of Decorah-Posten for June 21, which was undoubtedly read by thousands of readers of that paper as well as by a great many others in other newspapers and magazines in which the editorial was reprinted--notably Lutheraneren. In subsequent issues of Decorah-Posten appeared editorials and articles in support of the work, some of which were my own accounts of the progress of my field work. Mr. Carl G. O. Hansen of Minneapolis Tidende likewise gave the pro-jeer his hearty cooperation, both through the columns of his paper and by a most encouraging letter to me. His editorials and his articles based upon my accounts of the materials I had found brought the project to the attention of the thousands who subscribe to and read the Minneapolis Tidende. Mr. N. A. Grevstad of Skandinaven devoted much of the editorial page of the issue of July 12 to the cause of gathering records for the archives. He stressed the need of gathering material relating to the part played by the Norwegians in the history of the United States and in the history of its states and counties. The three editors named were visited, and all were found to
be more than willing to give support to the work of the Norwegian-American Historical Association.
Publicity was also secured in several local newspapers in Norwegian communities, such as the Wisconsin towns of Westby, Viroqua, and Mt. Horeb. The local newspapers were usually willing to give space to the work of the Association as set forth in the folders. The two weekly magazines of the Norwegian Lutheran church, the Church Herald and Lutheraneren, both gave publicity to the work. The St. Olaf College newspaper, the Manitou Messenger, devoted half a column to the archives work on the occasion of my chapel talk there.
The publicity given by the newspapers and magazines was invaluable. In many eases my path was made smooth by the editorials and articles, the families visited having already read of my work. Even when no particular attention had been paid to these newspaper accounts at the time the paper was received, they served as introductory matter when I called attention to them on my visits. In view of the fine cooperation shown this past summer, it is suggested that more extensive use be made of the Norwegian-American press in the interests of the archives.
It was my privilege to speak in the interests of the work on six programs over radio station WCAL at St. Olaf College, Northfield. The first broadcast was given on the Monday before the Easter holidays, when I addressed the St. Olaf College students and faculty during their chapel hour. The second program was the morning of May 31, when I occupied the entire half-hour period from 9:45 to 10:15 ordinarily occupied by the chapel hour, it being examination week at the college. My third talk was given on the morning of June 21, just before starting out on my first field trip. The fourth talk was given on July 18, immediately after my return from southern Wisconsin; the fifth was on the morning of July 25, after my return from northwestern Iowa; and
my concluding talk was given on Friday, July 29, at the time I was completing the work of reorganizing the archives.
In each of the talks I tried to stress the importance of preserving records and to describe concretely the various kinds of materials that should be deposited in the archives. Few people have any definite conception of what historical materials are, nor do they have any real appreciation of the historical value of the papers and documents that may be in their possession; they must be informed. That seemed to me to be one of my duties.
Although it is impossible to estimate the audience reached by means of the radio, the responses that were received, though not many, indicated a widespread reception. It was very generous of those directing the radio programs of station WCAL of St. Olaf College to permit the use of the station's facilities for these talks, and I wish to express in this report my thanks and those of the Association for the cooperation and interest thus manifested.
One of the first things I did to obtain information about the location of materials was to speak to the student bodies of St. Olaf College and of Luther Theological Seminary, the students in each group being largely from Norwegian-American homes. My first talk at St. Olaf was arranged for the Monday before the Easter holidays, so that the students who were about to return to their homes for a short vacation might make inquiries while there. President L. W. Boe very kindly made some introductory remarks. I had provided mimeographed sheets with blank forms to be filled out by the students, and several of the students and faculty supplied information as to materials and persons who were thought to have materials.
The same procedure was employed at Luther Theological Seminary, where President T. F. Gullixson permitted me to speak for a few minutes after the chapel hour. The theological students will in time serve as local agents for the
Association in the preservation of historical materials, in the same way that many of the pastors of Norwegian congregations do at the present time. In the course of my field trips I had occasion to speak to several local groups, notably a meeting of the Sons of Norway in Blanchardville, Wisconsin, and a woman's club in the Lutheran church west of Lisbon, Illinois.
As is so often the ease, personal contacts proved most fruitful in creating interest in the work of gathering documents for the archives. Although the personal element can be easily overestimated, it remains true that confidence inspired in the activity and purposes of the Association by the fact that it has a field agent traveling about in Norwegian-American communities seeking records for the archives. He is able to explain that the Association is not an organization for scholars only, devoting all its energies to publication, but that it is making an effort to get into actual contact with men and women in the many Norwegian communities in the Northwest and elsewhere. To many of the people who were visited the Association was a very remote organization; some had never heard of it. But everywhere genuine interest was shown in the work that is being done.
I feel that every visit I made in homes in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, even where no actual materials were obtained, served to stir up interest in the preservation of Norwegian-American and Norwegian papers and books. In some cases the active cooperation was obtained of men and women who will in the future serve as local agents in the work of gathering materials for the archives. The pastors of the various congregations almost invariably showed interest in the work being done and were usually glad to give all possible aid. Visits with editors, writers, and local leaders were, I feel, very much worth while. Personal contacts are the best means of stimulating interest in the work of
gathering records for the archives and in stimulating interest in Norwegian-American history.
My first field trip was planned for southern Wisconsin, but at the suggestion of the secretary, Dean J. Jørgen Thompson, I drove to Fairmont, Minnesota, on June 22 to interview Dr. J. J. Heimark. Dr. and Mrs. Heimark are actively interested in the work of the Association and are at present translating a pamphlet written by a Norwegian Union prisoner at Andersonville during the Civil War, a work that will be turned over to the Association when completed. Dr. Heimark gave me valuable information about persons and materials in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and Dakota, and he drove me south to Wallingford, Iowa, to the farm of Mr. J. M. Wolden. Mr. Wolden turned over to the archives a collection of bound church magazines and books and a volume of letters left by his father, Peder P. Wolden, a pioneer of the territory near Wallingford. The elder Wolden went there in 1866 and had been a schoolteacher and postmaster as well as a farmer. The forty-six bound volumes included Norwegian church papers and other magazines. The collection of letters had been pasted into a notebook and included letters from friends in Norway and in America, Wolden's circle of acquaintance among church leaders being wide. The entire collection, the letters in particular, formed a very valuable acquisition. Much of the credit for obtaining the collection must go to Dr. Heimark, who had learned of it and who so generously drove me to Wallingford. Mr. J. M. Wolden showed great interest in the work and promised to interview several families of his community who he thought would have materials for the archives, particularly the family of the late B. K. Rockne.
We also called upon a neighbor, Mrs. Martha Peterson, from whom the Association may obtain some papers later.
A visit to this locality later this year is advisable. At the suggestion of Dr. Heimark, I drove to Blue Earth the next morning and called upon Mr. R. L. Jones (Jolnes), who in turn sent me to a farm near Winnebago, Minnesota, to see Mr. Sam Johnston. From him I obtained another valuable collection of material. Mr. Johnston had removed to his present home from Lisbon, Illinois, near the Fox River, in 1919 and had taken with him a collection of books and relics. From him I obtained two ledgers or account books of a general store in Lisbon, Illinois, for the years from 1856 to 1878. These ledgers contain the names of the Norwegian people there who were members of the congregation of the noted Reverend P. A. Rasmussen, and also information about prices and articles used; they are of distinct historical value. In addition, Mr. Johnston gave loose issues of the Ottawa (Illinois) Tidende for the year 1909 and a number of books and pamphlets. I returned to Northfield to unload the Wolden and Johnston collections before proceeding to southern Wisconsin. En route to Wisconsin I called upon Mr. Kristian Prestgard and others in Decorah, Iowa.
On the returned folder blanks and from other sources had learned of several collections of materials in homes in southern Wisconsin. There were enough of these to enable me to make tentative plans for a field trip there. Local inquiries and whatever success I might have would necessarily change my plans. I planned to make Madison, Wisconsin, my headquarters and I started for that city from La Crosse on the morning of June 27.
En route to Madison I stopped in several towns, the first being Coon Valley. I called upon the Reverend H. O. Bach and received from him a history of the Coon Valley congregations and was directed by him to the home of Mr. Adolph Brye. Mr. Brye is administrator of the estate of the late I. H. Koefod, who died at the Brye home in November, 1931. This estate includes an extensive collection of books and
papers, the bound volumes numbering about fifteen hundred. Koefod had been a school-teacher and book agent. Although all the books were required to be sold to satisfy claims upon the estate, Mr. Brye permitted me to go through the entire collection to point out materials that might be turned over to the Association when the estate was settled. I selected a large collection of pamphlets, letters, personal papers, books, newspapers, and magazines, all of which will be given to the Association as soon as Mr. Brye has gone through it for material of value in settling the estate. In addition, Mr. Brye has a large collection of books and newspapers in his own library that may be obtained in time. The Koefod material and Mr. Brye's newspapers will be shipped to the archives. I called upon Mr. Brye again on my return from Madison three weeks later and made final arrangements. I also called upon Mr. Obert Rundahl and his sister Miss Cora Rundahl and was promised some material if I would call on my return. I did so and received four letters dating from the sixties and some family histories and reminiscences written by Miss Rundahl.
In Westby I called upon the Reverend J. O. Holum, who directed me to several families in that town, all of whom I visited; I did not obtain any documents but received promises of letters and of a family history. The local newspaper editor promised publicity in his newspaper. This community has been dealt with to some extent in Mr. H. R. Holand's work on Coon Prairie, a copy of which is in the archives, but more material is to be obtained there. In Viroqua I made several calls, the most notable being one on Mr. Peter Munson, a retired newspaper editor who furnished several "leads" as to persons to see in Viroqua and Madison. In Madison I called upon Professor Rasmus B. Anderson, Mr. Albert O. Barton, and Professor Julius Olson. Mr. Barton gave a number of his publications to the archives. The following morning I drove to Mt. Horeb.
While some of the older regions of settlement in Wisconsin, such as Muskego, Koshkonong, and Rock Prairie, had furnished materials to numerous historians, the Norwegian communities southwest of Madison and in western Wisconsin had not been so fully treated. The preliminary information I received led me to believe that the large area of Norwegian settlement extending south and southwest from Black Earth must be fruitful of records. These expectations were more than fulfilled. After having visited the Dahle farm, "Little Norway," I interviewed the Reverend Hector Gunderson, who made appointments for me with Mr. Iver Simley of Black Earth and with certain families in Mt. Horeb. I spent the remainder of that day interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Thor Kittleson, aged eighty-eight and eighty-nine years, respectively, among the earliest settlers in the large Norwegian settlement in Perry Township near Mt. Horeb.
From Mr. Iver Simley of Black Earth, Wisconsin, I obtained a large collection of letters, newspapers, and Norwegian magazines, as well as some pictures. The manuscripts include letters from and to Mr. Simley's father, Ole Meiningen, a pioneer settler near Black Earth, some of which were written in Norway and others in America, documents relating to the purchase of government land, certificates from local officials and preachers in Norway, and other papers. The most interesting single manuscript in the collection is an auction list of 1869 written in Valders, Norway, on the occasion of the sale of the property of the Meiningen family preparatory to its departure for America. The list is long and evidently includes all the personal property on a Norwegian gaard, together with the prices and the total sums received. The document throws light on the preparations of a family leaving for America as well as upon the personal property of a gaard. In addition to the manuscripts I received numerous loose issues of Decorah-Posten, bound and unbound volumes of For Gammel og Ung, and
a most interesting collection of pictures of pioneers and pioneer scenes. I was directed by Mr. Simley to several families in Black Earth, who in turn directed me to others, but I obtained little more in that community.
My next call was made at Klevenville, east of Mt. Horeb, in search of the papers of the Reverend I. Kleven. His daughter had a few books of a religious character, which she gave, and she directed me to her brother and a cousin in Minneapolis, whom I visited later. In Mt. Horeb I obtained from Mrs. C. O. Ruste a collection of seventy-six bound volumes of church reports, magazines, and controversial pamphlets for the period of the seventies and eighties that had been left by her husband, who died in 1924. The collection contains much information on the church controversies of that period.
I also obtained a tentative promise of the most remarkable set of farm and household account books that I have ever seen. They contain a complete record for the years from 1881 to 1924 of every cent expended and received on C. O. Ruste's "Rippling Rill Farm," six miles south of Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, and in his household. The farm accounts are being kept by a son at present, so that the records are complete for the entire period from 1881 to the present date. Prior to Ruste's residence on the farm, his father lived there, but apparently few papers relating to the earlier period have been preserved. The accounts include also some data on the farm loan activities of Ruste, who was a leader in his community, and on other enterprises, among them a creamery. These volumes contain source materials for general economic and social history as well as for Norwegian-American history. The family wishes to retain them for some years, but in time they will be deposited in the archives for safe-keeping. It is well to know of such unique and valuable records even though they cannot be obtained at once. Certain Norwegian magazines in the possession of
Mrs. Ruste had been promised to sons, but I took a complete inventory of all volumes that were not turned over to me.
From Mrs. Knut Stolen of Mt. Horeb I obtained three letters written in Norway in the sixties. The next day I visited Perry and Blanchardville. The old Hauge Log Church in Perry is famous in the region, being preserved as it stood when built in 1852. I called upon the Reverend I. A. Lavik and then visited several of the older families of the community, receiving from one of them, Mrs. Ole Dahlby, a most interesting collection of letters. Mrs. Dahlby left Norway in 1885 before her marriage, without her father's consent. His letters written to her subsequently reveal the strong opposition to emigration on the part of many in Norway. It seemed to the father that Norway was losing its very life blood.
Blanchardville, Wisconsin, proved a rich field. The Reverend John A. Houkom has a remarkable series of "Amerika-breve" written by his father, the Reverend Olaf S. Houkom, during his first years in America from 1870 to 1883. Some of these letters I took with me to be copied for the archives; the more valuable group was copied by Mr. Houkom himself and sent in, beautifully bound, to the archives. The originals of the letters are to be deposited in the Augsburg College archives, Mr. Houkom and his father both being alumni of that institution. The letters tell of the trip to America, the trip inland to La Crosse, Wisconsin, the years of labor near Highland Prairie in Fillmore County, Minnesota, on the railroad south from La Crescent, Minnesota, and in communities in southwestern Wisconsin. Although the necessity for work is emphasized, the letters are optimistic and encourage the readers to come to America. They form a complete series, and because of the excellence of the language and the detailed information included they are a highly valuable acquisition for the archives. In addition to the letters Mr. Houkom presented to the archives bound volumes of the
Luthersk Kirkeblad for the years 1906-1915 and a short history of the Hauge Log Church at Perry, written by himself and printed on a large chart.
From Miss Metre Holland of Blanchardville I obtained a History of the Town of Moscow by her uncle, Bjorn Holland. Mrs. Gustav Syse of Blanchardville gave a collection of letters written by her father and received by him during the pioneer years spent near Blanchardville. Most of them are from Norway. The Reverend Clarence Benson gave me aid in securing more materials, particularly in introducing me to a Sons of Norway meeting that evening at which I gave a talk and distributed folders. Two collections of materials were obtained as a result. One is a file of magazines given by Mr. E. Thompson; the other consists of the books, magazines, and pamphlets of the Nora Reading Society of Blanchardville during the eighties, given by Mr. Knut Nesheim. The latter group is of interest and value as revealing the intellectual interests of the pioneers and the nature of the libraries of these early reading circles, of which there were many in the pioneer Norwegian communities. The collection has been kept intact in the archives, its value being as a collection and not in its separate items.
For July 3 and 4 I accepted an invitation from friends in Chicago. While there I visited Mr. N. A. Grevstad of Skandinaven and Mr. Olaf Ray, who has done a great deal of work along etymological lines. His entire collection was subsequently shipped to the archives in Northfield. It includes forty-two bound volumes of dictionaries, works on old Norse and Anglo-Saxon, and similar material. There are also nine loose-leaf volumes containing the manuscript of his studies on some fifty thousand words. Mr. Ray seeks to have students continue his work and for that purpose has deposited his collection in the archives.
Before July 4 I had written reports of my findings to that date for the newspapers. I sent weekly reports of my work
to Dr. Blegen and kept in as close touch as possible with the Association office at Northfield, information as to materials being sent in from time to time to the secretary and forwarded to me.
On July 6 I drove to Hollandale, Wisconsin. There I secured from Mr. John T. Johnson, joint administrator with the Reverend Clarence Benson of the estate of Bjorn Holland, the promise to turn over to the archives some short diaries of Holland as soon as the estate is cleared this fall. I stopped again in Blanchardville to pick up the Nesheim collection described above and to visit several other families. I then went on to Argyle, where I visited the Reverend L. B. Satheren, who directed me to Mr. Olaf Paulson and the Ole Rossing family. From Mr. Paulson, who is a son of the famous pastor, the Reverend Ole Paulson, I received some pictures and information.
From Mr. Knut Nesheim of Blanchardville I had learned of the diaries of Mr. Daniel K. Anderson, who lives near Woodford, Wisconsin, south of Argyle. I found a truly remarkable set of diaries, which will in time be turned over to the Association archives. Mr. Anderson has kept a diary since 1885 and the volumes have been carefully preserved. His father, Arne Anderson Vinje, the first Norwegian settler in Wiota Township near Woodford, kept diaries also during the years from the fifties to the eighties or later. He died in 1903. Both the earlier diaries and those of Mr. Daniel Anderson have been preserved, the former, however, being scattered. Mr. Anderson is now writing a biographical sketch of his father for publication in a Darlington, Wisconsin, newspaper and a copy will be sent to the archives.
The Reverend W. O. Wilhelmson of Woodford, Wisconsin, has a large collection of church reports and church magazines that will in time be turned over to the archives. He directed me to Mrs. Andrew Johnson, a neighbor, from whom I obtained a large collection of letters left by her
husband which includes correspondence from Norway, from communities in Iowa, from Nevada, and from other places. It was the largest single manuscript collection obtained during the summer. In addition, I obtained some loose issues of Fædrelandet and of Fædrelandet og Emigranten and some church papers. I made other visits in Wiota, but received no materials and went on to Orfordville, Wisconsin, to interview the Reverend L. M. Gimmestad.
Mr. Gimmestad gave me information as to the possible location of the papers of J. S. Johnson, suggesting Mrs. Amanda Steen of Albany, Wisconsin. As for the Luther Valley region, he felt that it had been fairly well combed for materials. I drove down into Illinois to Newark and Lisbon in the Fox River territory. Mr. Lewis W. Weeks, who lives near Newark, Illinois, informed the secretary that he had some materials that he would like to turn over to the Association. From him I received a large collection of books and periodicals, largely religious in character. From a neighbor, Mrs. Jane Tungesvik, I received an even larger collection of magazines, notably a file of Budbæreren and of P. A. Rasmussen's Opbyggelsesblad. I made several calls at Lisbon but obtained no papers. I distributed folders at a meeting of a woman's club at the large and beautiful church west of Lisbon, the former charge of the Reverend P. A. Rasmussen. I also learned of more Bjorn Holland papers from his nieces (daughters of his brother, Iver Holland), who live on a farm near Lisbon. I returned to Madison that evening, Friday, July 8.
At the suggestion of the Reverend D. G. Ristad I went to Stone Bank to call upon the Reverend C. Hougstad, the present pastor of St. John's congregation at Stone Bank and St. Olaf's congregation at Toland. These were originally the congregations of the Swedish immigrant leader and pastor Gustav Unonius, and subsequently the charges of the Reverend Nils Brandt and others. Several attempts had
been made to obtain for the archives of the Association the records of these congregations for the early years. The St. Olaf congregation had agreed to turn over the records, but the St. John's congregation had not.
These records are of great value to anyone working on early Swedish and Norwegian immigration to the Pine Lake region, northwest of Milwaukee. It will be recalled that Gustav Unonius came to that section from Sweden in 1841 with other Swedish and Norwegian settlers. Subsequently more came. Unonius, who was a graduate of Uppsala University, was asked to be pastor. He spent two years at the newly-established Episcopal seminary, Nashotah House, situated near by, and became its first graduate. This explains why a number of Norwegians in this region belong to Episcopal churches. Unonius soon left for Chicago and thence, after six years, went back to Sweden. The congregations in the Pine Lake region called the Reverend Nils Brandt and organized as Norwegian Lutheran bodies, and such they have remained.
The records of these congregations are complete for the entire period from the time of Unonius to the present. A particularly valuable feature is the inclusion by Unonius and Brandt of a family register listing all members, the date of their arrival from Norway, where they settled, and vital statistics. It is the only one of its kind I have seen. I arranged with the secretary of the St. John's congregation and the board of trustees for a loan of the records for the years from 1841 to 1876 to the archives for the purposes of inventorying and perhaps copying them. This has been done, and the records returned. From the Reverend C. Hougstad I received a large collection of letters and diaries and pamphlets left by his father, Hans Christian Hougstad, a pioneer farmer in Gale Township, Trempeleau County, Wisconsin. This collection alone was well worth the trip to Stone Bank. From Reverend C. Hougstad, who was very kind and
generous in his hospitality and cooperation, I received the names of a number of people in that region who might at some future time be visited or communicated with.
My next trip was to Cambridge and Deerfield, in the Koshkonong region. In Cambridge I visited the home of the daughters of the late Knud Henderson, a man who had written extensively for the Norwegian-American newspapers and who, I had reason to believe, had a large collection of materials that would prove highly acceptable to the archives. To my chagrin I learned that nearly all of his papers had been burned after his death. I secured a promise that whatever was left would be given to the archives. This was not the first time that I had come upon a family where papers, until recently preserved by the older people, had been destroyed after their decease. It is to be regretted that a representative of the Association cannot be at hand whenever a Norwegian pioneer's estate is to be disposed of, to secure the irreplaceable and valuable documents.
I called upon the aged Reverend Mr. Wiese of Cambridge, from whom some papers may be forthcoming. In Deerfield I obtained copies of the history of St. Paul's congregation on Liberty Prairie, written on the occasion of its eightieth anniversary in 1931 by the Reverend C. A. Odden. Mr. Odden and Mrs. Styrk Reque of Madison suggested various people for me to see in Deerfield, but no materials were forthcoming. I also visited the West Koshkonong parsonages, but received no clues as to materials of sufficient promise to warrant further investigation for the time being.
Upon my return to Madison I made a number of visits. Mrs. O. G. U. Siljan gave me some information as to persons to visit in Worth County, Iowa. Mr. Nels Holmen, a retired newspaper editor of Deerfield, gave me the names of certain persons in Deerfield. I spent an interesting two hours with Mr. K. A. Rene of the Vosselaget. I met Mr. Peter Grinde, an aged pioneer of the Koshkonong region.
From Mrs. Styrk Reque I obtained some letters and a great deal of genealogical information. She is much interested in this field and in the work of the Association as well.
By this time I had accumulated a large and heavy collection of papers and books, some of great value. There was room for no more in the space available in my automobile. Furthermore, I had exhausted the most likely "leads" to materials in that part of Wisconsin. I could have spent another two months in various parts of Wisconsin and even then I would not have reached all the settlements. The results during the two and one-half weeks in Wisconsin had been highly gratifying. I returned to Northfield with the materials in my care. I spent the week-end writing reports and interviewing Mr. A. A. Rowberg, editor of the Northfield Independent, whose genealogical files are in the archives. Mr. Rowberg showed me some Lars Aaker letters in his possession, which will, I feel certain, be turned over to the archives by the owner, Miss Ruth Aaker Jacobson, Rugby, North Dakota. Through him I also learned of the congregational records of an extinct Norwegian Lutheran congregation at Port Washington, Wisconsin, now in the possession of Mr. N. M. Jacobson of Northfield, Minnesota. These also will ultimately become part of the archives.
After an interview with Dr. Blegen, it was decided that I should spend the balance of my time as field agent in reorganizing the archives and placing them in a more usable condition, first completing the trip I had planned to take into northwestern Iowa. It had been my hope to spend a week or more in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and Dakota, but the need of organizing the archives necessitated a change in plans.
In Iowa I first visited Northwood, where I called upon Mr. Ed Svendson and Mrs. Tollef Rone, daughter of Guibrand Mellem, the first Norwegian settler in that locality as well as in Worthy County. Mellem was one of the caravan
of families from Wisconsin that followed the C. L. Clausen group of 1853; Clausen stopped at St. Ansgar, and the rest of the group split, many going farther westward. Mrs. Roue gave me much information about pioneer times and her own family. I spent the afternoon at St. Ansgar and at farm homes near by. Mr. Andrew Halvorson, one of the original Clausen group that settled the St. Ansgar community, kept diaries from 1869 to 1886. Mr. Halvorson is still living and naturally desires to retain his diaries, but ultimately, it may be hoped, they will be deposited in the archives. From a neighbor, Miss Nellie Gilbertson, I obtained a collection of books, largely religious, and the promise of a copy of her father's diary. She would not part with the original but had copied certain parts of special historical interest.
Early the next morning, at Humboldt, Iowa, I visited the Reverend H. O. Hendrickson, who is writing a history of Cottonwood County, Minnesota, with particular attention to the Norwegian pioneers. My largest acquisition of material in Iowa was from Mr. C. H. Tollefsrude of Rolfe. He has prepared a scrapbook history of the Rock Prairie settlement in southern Wisconsin, including maps, family histories, pioneer reminiscences, registers of Civil War and World War soldiers, and other material. This manuscript volume is to be sent to the archives as soon as Mr. Tollefsrude has included certain addenda. In addition, he will send his Norwegian books and his collection of letters from C. L. Clausen, Elling Eielsen, and others. Mr. Tollefsrude, who is now about ninety years old, is much interested in historical matters.
I had been informed that the diary of a certain Knut Swenson was in the possession of Mrs. Oliver Brandvold of Rembrandt, but I learned from Mrs. Brandvold that the diary had been sent to her sister, Mrs. L. H. Berger, 2904 Douglas Street, Sioux City, Iowa. The quest for this
document, which, according to my informants, is very valuable, continues by mail. At Estherville I obtained a great deal of information from Mrs. T. O. Berg, the oldest living Norwegian settler thereabouts, and secured the promise of some letters, which will be sent to the archives by her daughter, Miss Serene Berg. I visited two other families there, but obtained no documents. My next stop was near Frost, Minnesota, where I obtained from Mr. Nels Henjum a history of the Blue Earth congregation at Dell, Minnesota, written by him on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of that church. I also visited the Reverend H. O. Mosby at Dell. The archives may obtain later the congregational articles of organization written by Reverend C. L. Clausen, which document is being preserved in the church records. From that point I returned to Northfield, stopping at Blue Earth and at the Sam Johnston farm near Winnebago en route. The trip covered the days from July 20 to 22, and although it was a short one, the results were much worth while.
One other large acquisition of material occurred in Northfield, where I obtained 108 volumes of church reports and periodicals from Mrs. Lauritz Larsen. More will be forthcoming as soon as the volumes have been sorted out. Mention should also be made of a valuable collection of letters and clippings sent in by Mrs. Nanny Jaeger of Minneapolis, a daughter of Colonel Hans Mattson and the widow of Luth Jaeger.
Whenever I obtained materials for the archives, manuscripts particularly, I tried to secure as much genealogical data and pioneer reminiscences as possible. I secured such information from outsiders as well, and this information is filed in the manuscript division of the archives. For the present, until the manuscript collections can be completely inventoried, the genealogical data relating to families from
whom manuscripts were obtained is filed with the respective collections as an aid in making the letters and papers intelligible. When the inventory has been made, these data should be filed separately.
A card file of all persons visited, all collections received, all materials not secured for the time being, and persons to be visited later will be deposited in the archives for future reference.
At this time I had spent a little less than five weeks in field work. The following week was devoted to the reorganization of the archives.
Although the Association has had from the first a central depository, it is only during the last three or four years that growth of considerable consequence has taken place. In the hands of Professor Rø1vaag the archives gradually began to assume respectable proportions. St. Olaf College gave room for the collection in its new and fireproof Music Hall. Professor Rø1vaag was particularly interested in pamphlets and books, and consequently those departments were larger than the ones devoted to newspapers and manuscripts. During the last year of his life Professor Rø1vaag was unable to keep abreast of the materials that came in, and no adequate provision was made for the continued administration of the archives. With the addition of extensive manuscript and book collections this summer, a situation developed that made reorganization imperative. The archives were in disorder except for a loose alphabetical arrangement of the books and pamphlets, and a thorough cleaning was desirable and necessary.
In the course of my last week of work as field agent the following reorganization was effected. All unlisted items were recorded on cards and filed, a work that required the
assistance of a stenographer for three and one-half days. All books and pamphlets were arranged alphabetically in two sections labeled A and B. All periodicals and serial publications, such as annual reports, were arranged in sections C, D, and E, also in alphabetical order. All duplicates of the serial publications were placed separately. The bundles of the Association's publications, which previously occupied so much of the shelf room, were removed to a storeroom across the hall. Labels were placed on the shelves so as to make it easy to find materials. The loose issues of newspapers were laid out in folders, labeled, and placed in a rack adapted to that purpose. A dozen manuscript filing eases were ordered for the manuscript division. The various collections of letters were laid out in folders, each one labeled, and filed in the eases. Labels on the outside of each ease indicate the contents. No inventory of the individual collections was made, since that would have required far more time than was at my disposal.
Three eases were devoted to the correspondence of the Association and were so labeled. Two eases contain newspaper clippings relating to the Norse-American Centennial of 1925, the remainder of the clippings being pasted into loose-leaf notebooks and placed on the top shelf of section E. One ease contains miscellaneous newspaper clippings, un-catalogued. One ease was used for the collection of pictures and was so labeled. Over-size manuscript volumes and a few other papers remain outside the eases. After having completed the work of reorganization, I typed a direction sheet giving detailed instructions as to the use of the archives and the rules that should govern the use of the books and papers therein. A shelf was devoted to the publications of the Association and advertising matter for the publications was placed on the study table for visitors to take. Some shelves were left vacant for new accessions. The archives were left thoroughly clean and in order.
As a result of my experiences the past summer, I am thoroughly convinced of the feasibility of sending out a field agent to gather materials for the archives. The materials do not readily come in of themselves. It is necessary to go out into the Norwegian communities, to make inquiries and stir up interest, and to secure by direct negotiation the records that should be in the archives of the Association. That there are collections of papers -- diaries, letters, magazines, newspapers, and other material -- must be evident to anyone reading this report. The papers are there, but if no measures are taken to obtain them as soon as possible, they will gradually be lost. In general, people are willing to deposit the papers in the archives if they are properly
approached. A field agent can accomplish much in saving these records.
The work last summer had to be planned from the ground up; there were no precedents. I tried to cover as much ground as time and money would permit. The experiences of the past summer should be utilized another year. I feel that the regions in southern Wisconsin have been fairly well investigated for the time being; northern Iowa has been canvassed better than any other region west of the Mississippi River; but other regions about which little has been written await attention. The following regions are suggested for field trips in the future: western Wisconsin; southeastern Minnesota; the Minnesota River Valley above Redwood Falls; the Minnesota park region from Kandiyohi County northward; the Red River Valley and much of eastern North Dakota; and eastern South Dakota. These are very general regional directions. The names of persons of communities on file in the archives, however, will give the field agent clues to specific routes. Further publicity and the distribution of more folders in these regions will facilitate plans of action. Agents should have been sent into these areas long ago; now
the need is almost imperative. The field agent himself must have a good command of conversational Norwegian as well as of English. He must be able to meet people of all types and classes, to talk with them in Norwegian, and to make them feel a sense of confidence in the Association and its archives. He must be ready to cooperate fully with the pastors of all church groups. He must be prepared to devote nearly all of his time while on field trips, both daytime and evening, to the work. An automobile is, of course, essential.
The archives of the Association are now in a usable condition, but a permanent reorganization by a skilled librarian, acquainted with the Library of Congress system of classification and familiar with the care of manuscripts, is necessary. It is not desirable that any amateur should be employed in such work, for his work would only have to be done over. Work of permanent quality should be done from the first, in the interests not only of efficiency but also of eventual economy. At present the archives are not adequately catalogued. All items are merely listed by author, alphabetically, or, if the author's name is not given, by title, and the books, pamphlets, and serials are arranged on the shelves in this way. The manuscripts are gathered into folders by collections and are filed in cases, but the respective collections have not been inventoried. This should be done at once, in order that the manuscripts may be made more usable to the visiting student. For efficient use it is essential to have an inventory and catalogue of manuscripts.
The newspaper collection is small and has been adequately taken care of for the time being. The A. A. Rowberg genealogical files are kept in order by Mr. Rowberg himself. For proper care of the archives it is essential 1) that the sixty or more collections of manuscripts be inventoried; 2) that a separate pamphlet division be created with proper equipment and that pamphlets be inventoried and given a Library of Congress classification; 3) that the entire collection of
books, pamphlets, and serial publications be catalogued according to the Library of Congress system of classification; 4) that an appropriation be made by the Association for these purposes, involving the employment for a limited period of time of a skilled cataloguer and curator of manuscripts.
If the Association is to maintain a depository that is to have utility and permanence, this depository must be started correctly. The archives are growing steadily. There are now 1,147 titles, with 1,757 volumes of books, pamphlets, and serial publications. There are some sixty collections of manuscripts, some of great value. There is a large collection of newspaper clippings. The newspaper division will grow rapidly if emphasized more in the future. If cataloguing and correct care are now neglected, the Association will find that in a short time the archives will have grown to such an extent that proper reorganization will be prohibitive in cost. If the Association is unable or unwilling to care for the collection so as to render it of use to students, there is little object in maintaining it. There are other historical agencies, capable of caring properly for such a valuable collection, that would be glad to take over the entire archives. It is my hope, however, that the Association will recognize the imperative necessity of the proper care of the archives and that the steps suggested above will be taken. These essential steps having been accomplished, the archives will have been started upon the path of permanent organization so necessary to its growth and utility. These suggestions are submitted as a result of my observations while reorganizing the archives and after consultation with scholars acquainted with the situation.
In conclusion, I should like to express my appreciation to Dean J. Jørgen Thompson for the splendid cooperation he gave me at every stage of my work as field agent. His work as secretary takes up a great deal of valuable time and
requires a tremendous amount of work, all of which he gives most willingly in the cause of the Association's work. To Dr. Blegen I wish to express my thanks for the privilege of acting in the capacity of field agent for the Norwegian-American Historical Association. The work has been instructive and a source of renewed inspiration in my work on my doctoral dissertation. Dr. Blegen's letters to me have been very encouraging and his suggestions, as always, of the greatest value. I have acknowledged the aid of others in the body of this report. To the executive board of the Norwegian-American Historical Association I wish to express my thanks for the generous appropriation that made possible the work of the past summer. It is my hope that such appropriations will be made a part of the annual budget of the Association for several years to come.