Studies and Records
Published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association,
Copyright © 1950 by the Norwegian-American Historical Association
The Board of Editors look forward, as the Association rounds out a quarter century of activity, to publishing a book devoted to the many-sided story of Norwegian-American life on the Pacific coast. Anticipating this event and wishing also to observe in a special way the Association's "coming of age," they opened the covers of the sixteenth volume of STUDIES AND RECORDS exclusively to papers and documents dealing with the west coast, one of America's "last frontiers." In doing this, they departed only temporarily from a well-established policy of welcoming to the series any and all articles probing into varied aspects of immigration-asking only that they reflect careful research and contribute to the understanding oŁ Norwegian-American history.
The completion of the Union and Central Pacific railroads in 1869 was an event of striking significance in the story of immigration. For the Norwegians of the Middle West, a transcontinental rail connection meant not only a closer union with the small colonies of Scandinavians in the San Francisco area and elsewhere, but easy travel as well to a region that looked increasingly good to a land-hungry people beset by depression, drought, grasshoppers, and the extremes of summer heat and winter cold. When subsequently the northern "transcontinentals" were constructed, the migration to the coast, especially to the Pacific Northwest, assumed really large proportions.
In 1870 the Norwegian Synod, sensing at once an opportunity to extend its work westward, sent the Reverend Christian Hvistendahl on a mission to San Francisco; he organized the Scandinavian elements residing there into a church and remained among them until 1875. At about the same time the eccentric Pastor A. E. Fridrichsen answered a call to serve a similar Scandinavian congregation in Portland, Oregon. These two pioneer pastors, each in his own way, became and for some time remained the chief sources of information, about west coast conditions and opportunities, for the readers of the Norwegian-language press of the Middle West. Hvistendahl's letters to both the church and secular papers are treated in some detail in this volume. Professor Solum analyzes the interesting career and writings of Fridrichsen, and by concentrating on his secular reports paints a colorful picture of the Pacific Northwest as it appeared to the first Norwegians to move into Oregon and Washington Territory.
Dr. Sverre Arestad renders a distinct service to history by permitting O. B. Iverson --- surveyor, farmer, and respected leader in Washington --- to tell in his own words the story of how he found an area of settlement for friends and relatives on the Puget Sound. Arestad focuses attention on the Stillaguamish flats, near Stanwood, which was one of several districts that were to become distinctly Norwegian in population.
The discovery of gold in the Yukon in 1896 set off a stampede for the Klondike and was followed in turn by discoveries at Nome and elsewhere in Alaska. Professor Clausen assembles a number of letters written by Norwegians who hazarded the perilous journey to the Klondike and described the fate of those who searched for gold. Dr. Lokke uses diaries, family letters, and other materials to relate the experiences of several members of his grandfather's Klondike expedition who went down the Yukon to Nome and beyond. Both writers have captured something of the excitement and color of the Alaska drama, in which Scandinavians figured as both major and minor characters.
The volume closes with the twelfth of Mr. Hodnefield's indispensable series of bibliographies.