Monday, November 7, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Centennial History of the Town of Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin, 1848-1948; Pioneer Norwegian Settlement of Springdale

 From TheCentennial History of the Town of Springdale, ... 1848-1948, p.110

Although my Scots ancestors lived in what was called Scotch Lane and Scotch Hamlet, Springdale and the surrounding area also had many Norwegian settlers.  An unnamed author provided the following article of interest for inclusion in the  Centennial History of the Town of Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin, 1848-1948, pp. 109-111.


 A celebrated writer has said that "The men who make history haven't time to write it." and a complete story of the sturdy pioneers of Springdale will probably never be known.  Many of the struggles, hardships and vicissitudes of the earliest settlers were not recorded, and the available history concerning them has  been assembled from other sources.

Tthe first Norwegian settlement of Springdale was established almost concurrently with its earliest history.  The first white resident in the township was John Harlow, an American , who settled on part of Section 1 in 1845, on the farm now known as the Ruben Paulson farm, and who subsequently married a daughter of Jorgen Lee.  Iin the spring of 1846 the following permanent Norwegian settlers arrived from earlier settlements at Shelby, Illinois, in the Fox River Valley, and from Muskego, Wisconsin, namely Thore Thoreson Spaaanum, Tosten adn John Rue0Thompson, John I Berge, Ole and Knud (Kvistrud) Sorenson and Nils and Halvor (Grasdalen) Nelson, together with their families.  All were origianally from the Tinndal district in Telemark, Norway, and more or less interrelated.

These pioneers settled on lands in Sections 5, 6, 8, 9, and 17, purchased from the government at $1.25 per acre.  This was prior to the Homestead act, and immigrants desiring to buy land invariably walked to Mineral Point where the United States land office was located to file their claims and to make payments.  however, settlers often selected their land and lived on it a year or more before filing their claims.

Perhaps from their love and yearning for the mountains and valleys of their native Norway, but more likely because of the accessibility to woodlands, springs and streams, the early Norwegian settlers generally chose the hills and vales of Springdale for their abode in preference to the prairie lands then available throughout various sections of the township.

In most instances the first settler habitations were rude dugouts in the hillsides to protect them from the elements of the weather until they could erect log cabins similar in size to a present day family garage, consisting of one or two small rooms heated with a fireplace and chimney of stone, and often with no floors other than virgin soil packed hard by the footsteps of the occupants.  With the aid of an axe these hardy pioneers were capable woodsmen and cut, transported and fitted logs into substantial structures without the use of nails, spikes or bolts which were not then readily procurable.

People in those days did not have much to do with.  The building of a house was accomplished with nothing in the way of tools except an axe, a saw, a hammer and a draw-shave, and no material but the native forest, for there were no saw mills at that time in this section of the country.  The roof was made with hakes and in fastened to the house with a binder pole.  Furniture was home made.

The prairied wolves howled about these humble homes at night and the d3er were often seen in the day time, while poisonous snakes gave their mothers anxiety for their children.  Houses in those days were so small and the familiies usually so large that the children spent most of their time out of doors in the summer, and the great fireplaces made excellent ventilation in the winter.  Freindly Indisns roamed through the settlement, but other than being curious and geeged for things, they did not greatly molest the settlers.  An occasional bear wandered into the settlement and caused excitement and pigeons, prairie chickens and quail abounded in the early days.

The year 1848 was memorable as the one in which the town organization took place at the home of Morgan I Curtis, and among the town officers elected on the second Tuesday of the year was John I. Berge as constable.

From 1848 the influx of Norwegian emigrants increased , and among these settlers were Ole Lee, Aslack Lee, Gulbran Throndrud, Arne Hoff, Erick Skinrud, John Lund,  Levor Lien, Ole Stensbolet, Hans Gute, John Sylland, Knud Steenerson, Knud Skredden, Kitil Luraas, Jorgen Lee, Thore Lee, Knudt Herbranson Nees, Ole Anderson, Iver Thorson Aase, Henry Kogen, Engebret Tortun, Erick  Solve and Harold Hoff.

The first Norwegian Lutheran religious service in Springdale and largely attended by Norwegians in the surrounding settlements was held at the home of Thore Spaanum in an outdoor meeting on or about April 1, 1850, with the Rev. J.W.C. Dietrickson from Koshkoonong conducting the service to an audience that had gathered from great distances.  At this meeting eighteen children were baptized, among whom were:  Andrew Grinde, Betsy Grassdalen, Halvor Sorenson and Soren Soreson.  Older children were also catechised at this service.

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