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Minnehaha County, South Dakota

 

In 1859, six wagons of Norwegians pioneers set out from Stoughton, Wisconsin (Koshkonong) for Dakota. This was two years before Dakota Territory was established and would become South Dakota. Because of a lack of trees, it was 1860 and 1861 before many more Norwegians went there. Then the onslaught of the Sioux wars slowed settlement activity. According to the 1860 census, Dakota Territory had only 129 Norwegians.

East Nidaros Lutheran ChurchPioneer minister, Abraham Jacobsen, visited the Dakota settlements in the fall of 1861, traveling from Decorah with a party of eight Norwegians. On June 4, 1866, the first real Norwegian settlement was established in Minnehaha County, SD. John Thompson and Jonas Nelsen Fosmo took land near Sioux Falls.  In 1868, the first Telemarkings arrived in Minnehaha County from Goodhue County, Minnesota.  They were Andreas Hogstad and Halvor O. Ustrud. They were joined by families from Winneshiek County, Iowa.  of Goodhue County, including Iver Bersheim of Hardanger and his two sons, Thomas and Ole. Ole and Soren Bergeson from Winneshiek, originally of Hedmarken, soon established a homestead there. Also, in June of the year the first Tellers appeared at Canton, a caravan of 22 wagons besides other freight wagons, all from Eastern Iowa.

By 1870 there were 68 Norwegians in the county and in 1871, the first settlers came to Sioux Falls, SD. Lars Simonson was a Telemarken. It was at the Coulton settlement (Toapi and Grand Meadow Townships) where most Telemarkens settled down. Charles T. Austin (Kaase) was the leader of this settlement.

In 1873, Paster O. O. Sandro came to the Nidaros Congregation in Minnehaha County. By 1874, migration was well underway, with many Norwegians leaving Winneshiek County IA and Fillmore County MN for Rock County in the southwest corner of Minnesota and Minnehaha County in Dakota.

A boy living near the rim of the Dakota country in 1882 long remembered the pageant of pioneer caravans that passed on their way westwardPrairie Schooner. "We watched the schooners come up from the south," he wrote many years later, "zigzagging up the tortuous trail like ships beating up against the wind. Slowly they drew nearer - sometimes one, sometimes five or six in a fleet. Out to the road we went to watch them pass, and it was the only event of interest from one day to another. Usually the woman was sitting at the front driving the team, and beside her or peeking out of the front opening were a flock of dirty, tousled, tow-headed children. Often she held a small baby in her arms. Behind followed a small herd of cattle or horses driven by the man and the boys on foot, for the rate of travel was a walk". Sometimes the travelers would stop. "They told us where they came from, Fillmore or Goodhue County in Minnesota, or Wisconsin, or Iowa………Slowly the wagons passed on, the children now peeking from the opening in the rear, the schooner receding into the distance, very much like a real ship plowing its way over a trackless sea and then disappearing below the horizon.

 from "Sod Houses and Prairie Schooners", Minnesota History, 12:153-156 (June, 19331) and reprinted in Norwegian Migration to America, Blegen, Theodore, C., 1940.



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