In the year 1854 , after a journey of seven weeks, the
families of Norwegians Torstein Østensen Bøen of Tinn, Telemark, Johan Tollefson
of Totten, and Lars Svenson Rodning of Hallingdal (a single man) crossed the
Minnesota River at the Traverse des Sioux. They climbed the far shore and
settled near what is now St. Peter in Nicollet County. This became known as the
Norseland Settlement. Torstein Østensen settled at Scandian Grove in Lake
About a year later, on October 7, 1855 a group of Swedes
joined him at Scandian Grove. Andrew Thorson of this group would write, "It was
a beautiful fall season. During the winter we lived among Indians who were
numerous in our woods. Four or five Norwegian farmers were living in the
vicinity. We were the first Swedes at this place."
Thorson reported that the Swedes spent the first winter in a
house that stood on some land "now occupied by Annexstad" (this would be the
Torstein Østensen Bøen farm). The next year, on June 17, 1856, Ole Østensen Bøen
and family from Tinn, Telemark joined his brother Torstein at Nicollet County.
Accompanied by Gunder Nereson and Swenke Torgerson, they settled near a grove in
the northern part of what is now New Sweden Township and named the area
By 1858, 31 families called Norseland home.
Pioneer C. C. Nelson found mostly Indians when he came to
what is now New Sweden Township in 1858. "We lived among the Indians four years.
They visited us frequently and occasionally stayed all night and we accommodated
them the best we could, although we didn't find them very pleasant or agreeable.
However, we tried not to cross them for fear they would attack us at any time".
During the Sioux Uprising, all of the settlers were terrified
and sought shelter in the city limits of St. Peter. An unlucky few were
killed, but all were affected by the events of August, 1862. For
several years following 1862, settlers posted armed men on the highest ground as
they performed their farming chores. Through it all, the Norseland Settlement
continued to thrive.
In 1874-75, the ravages of the grasshopper plagued Nicollet
County. The aid flowed in and it was noted "that this should stand out as a
perpetual memorial for this people, who in times of dire distress put forth a
self-sacrificing hand to aid their brethren....No one can form any idea of the
ravages of the grasshoppers in that section of the county without first seeing
them. For miles the ground is literally covered with them. They are coming this
way and mow everything before them".
The center of the community was its church, and Norseland Lutheran Church is
still an active Lutheran Congregation. Today, the old store at Norseland is
still in business. It is at this store that Mr. Swensen showed me the store
records of the 1850s and 1860s. There, on the old ledgers, I saw the signatures
of my ancestors from Telemark when they purchased goods on credit!