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The bygdelags (community organizations) date their origin from 1899, when immigrants from Valdres organized the first bygdelag in Minneapolis, MN. Some 50 "lags" were subsequently established representing almost every corner of the 'Old Country.'  In 1907, the immigrants from Telemark created Telelaget in order to preserve and strengthen bonds with their home bygd (community) in Norway.  Members wanted to preserve the unique customs and dialect of their Telemark home and pass those traditions along to the next generation.

In January of 1907 Telelaget i Amerika was organized at Piries Hall in Fargo, North Dakota.  The organization's venerable historian, Torkel Oftelie, offered the following report of the organizing effort in Telelaget's Yearbook for 1926:

Just before Christmas in 1906 a cry was sent out for some Telers to start a Telelag. Those who signed up during this call were Pastor Bendik Bondahl, Torkel Oftelie, A. A. Trovatten, Kjetil Knutson, Gunder Howard and Torjus Lundevall. We held a meeting in a hall in Fargo, January 16, 1907. There was a lively discussion at the meeting over whether Telelaget should be independent or whether it should be a subsidiary of the Norwegian Society. Pastor Bondahl and Dr. Herman Fjeld, who was with us, were very eager for the latter, and it was also adopted that we should be under the Norwegian Society, Pastor Bondahl read a constitution for Telelaget endorsed by Bondahl, H. H. Aaker, Torkel Oftelie, S.B. Salverson, Leif Thortvedt, A. O. Kragnes, A. H. Breiland, Knut Midgarden and A. K. Tveito. This draft was adopted. Pastor Bondahl was elected Chairman, A. A. Trovatten, Vice Chairman, S. B. Salverson, Secretary and Torkel Oftelie Soga writer.

Telelaget's First Officers
Bendik Bondahl, President A A Trovatten, Vice Chair S B Salverson, Secretary Torkel Oftelie, Soga WRiter
Pastor Bendik Bondahl, Chairman    A A Trovatten, Vice Chairman S. B. Salverson, Secretary Torkel Oftelie, Soga Writer

About the Founders:

  • Pastor Bendik Bondahl served Concordia Church in rural Glyndon, Minnesota.  He was the chairman of the Norwegian Society and the major force behind the organization of Telelaget. His influence, though critically important, was brief.  He died in 1908. More about Bendik

  • A. A. Trovatten was owner and editor of the Norwegian language newspaper Fram in Fargo ND. 

  • S. B. Salverson (Salveson) was a businessman in Fargo ND.

  • Torkel Oftelie was editor of the Ugeblad in Fergus Falls, MN.  More about Torkel

  • Kjetil Knutson

  • Gunder Howard

  • Torjus Londevall settled in Milan, Minnesota, about 1900.  He was reportedly a doctor by profession, but did not practice in Minnesota.  He returned to Norway, apparently because the woman he wanted to marry refused to emigrate to America.

  • H. H. Aaker

  • Leif Thortvedt was 11 years old when his parents led the first homesteading party from Houston County to the Buffalo River, Clay County MN, in 1870.

  • Aanund O. Kragnes was the first settler in Kragnes Township, Clay County MN.  He was a successful farmer and an early and generous donor to Concordia College, Moorhead MN.

  • Aadne Breiland was a successful farmer in Moland and Kragnes Townships, Clay County MN.

  • Knut Midgarden

  • A. K. Tveito

  Can you provide more information about any of the founders?  Send an email!

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