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The Fox River, Illinois Settlement

La Salle County, Illinois

 

In 1833, Cleng Peerson with two companions sets out on foot to explore the great west and ends up starting a second colony, the Fox River Colony in La Salle County, Illinois. Peerson is said to have walked 2,000 miles in this adventure. Peerson left from the first settlement at Kendall, New York and is reported to have walked through Michigan, finally reaching Chicago, which was then a village of about 20 huts. He walked further west, and found what he believed to be a perfect settlement area on the Illinois River in the Fox River Valley.

Six families left Kendall, NY with Peerson in 1835 and founded the Fox River Settlement southwest of Chicago.  Land was available for purchase for the standard government price of $1.25/acre. Eielson's meeting house

 In 1836, two brigs, Den Norske Klippe (June 8) and the Norden (May 25) sailed from Stavanger to New York with 167 people. Most went to the Fox River settlement. Some went to Kendall but moved on to Fox River within a few years.

The first to leave Telemark was a party from Tinn in 1837. At Sandven at the shores of Lake Tinnsjø a crowd gathered on May 17. Fifty-nine from Tinn and Hovin were leaving. The minister and sheriff (lensmann H. A. Bernaas) made speeches. The emigrants wore old costumes, had trunks and supplies with them, and rowed down the river as family, left behind, waved. In the south end of Tinnsjø the emigrants had to walk through Gransherad and Heddal down to Lake Heddalsvatn. They went by boats along Lake Heddalsvatn and thereafter Lake Norsjø they almost reached Skien. The last distance was made by foot. Five days after departure from Tinn the group embarked, went onboard the sailing vessel Paketten in Skien (May 22) with Ole Halvorsen as Captain. The ship arrived at Gøteborg/Gothenburg, Sweden a few days later. The emigrants changed ships and left for New York on the Niord about May 31. The ship arrived August 15 in New York after 10 weeks. From New York the Telers traveled to Chicago and arrived at the Fox River Settlement in September. Most of them settled there, including Snowshoe Thompson (Jon Torsteinsen Rue).

Elling Eielson built his meeting house in Fox River in 1841. It became the oldest Norwegian-Lutheran Church in America, and it remains an active congregation today. In the 1840's, Fox River became a stopping-off point for Norwegian immigrants who entered America through New York, Quebec/Great Lakes, and the port of New Orleans. From there, Norwegian pioneers moved on to establish large settlements in Wisconsin and in Iowa after a brief respite and good advice from the Norwegian citizens of Fox River.


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