Kong Sverre

The History of Norwegians in Central Iowa

A Very Brief Introduction

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By the early 1850s many Norwegians from the parishes of Skånevik, Etne, and Fjelberg immigrated and located in an area centered in Kendall County, Illinois. But government land had been taken up by then. Having learned that government land was available in Iowa for $1.25 an acre, a committee of four men set out in the fall of 1854 to scout out the Iowa land. What they found were extensive prairie lands with timber located along rivers and in isolated groves. While there they purchased land and returned to Illinois.

The actual migration from Illinois began in 1855 and after the Civil War many Norwegians came directly to Central Iowa from Norway. The colonies that developed were centered in the northern part of Story County (Story City and Roland) into Hamilton County, as well as in the southern part of the county (Huxley and Sheldahl) into Polk County. While the first settlers had to endure hardships, their efforts eventually paid off resulting in a comfortable life, and even in prosperity for many. An important part of the lives of these people was their faith as expressed in the Lutheran religion.

As Central Iowa lands became more populated some of the original settlers and many of their descendants moved on into other frontier locations; Northwest Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and even Canada. Others headed west into Nebraska, Northwestern states, and California. However, many descendants of these pioneers can still be found in Central Iowa.

More history is available on the CINP "About the Book" page, as well as at Elmer Dickson's Kendall County, Illinois USGenWeb site. Many historical references are listed on the CINP "Selected Bibliography" page.