top of page

A Knight in Dakota, A Memoir by Sir Magnus Olafson

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

Announcing a Book Launch and Book Signing for Gardar, North Dakota native, Sir Magnus Olafson.

Magnus Olafson, or “Mike” as the locals call him is one of the most knowledgeable historians of the Icelandic Pioneers in our area of northeastern North Dakota. He has written a memoir of his life and will be holding a book signing and book launch at Borg Home on Saturday, 21. September 2013 and at the Icelandic State Park on Sunday, 13. October 2013.

As the USA Representative for the Icelandic National League of Iceland (Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga), I will be making a presentation to Magnus at 2 p.m. just before his book launch on the 21. September. The presentation is a certificate to Magnus Olafson honoring him as an Honorary Lifetime Member of the ÞFÍ (Icelandic National League of Iceland). This membership was bestowed upon him in 2005. At that time, he joined Former President of Iceland, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and Friend of Iceland, Stefan Stefansson of Manitoba as Honorary Lifetime Members. At the 2013 Convention in Reykjavík, these members in addition to others in Iceland and North America became members of the Heiðursráð Þjóðræknisfélags Íslendinga (Honorary Advisory Council of the ÞFÍ). Pictured below is this honor being bestowed upon Almar Grímsson and Atli Asmundsson. From Left to Right below: Halldór Árnason, President of the ÞFÍ; Anna Björk Guðmundsdóttir and Almar Grímsson; Atli Asmundsson and Þrúður Helgadóttir all of Iceland.

Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga Lifetime Honorary Members

A few little tidbits about Magnus:

On October 23, 1920, Dr. Olafur Bjornson rushed down from Winnipeg with the hopes of saving a baby and mother from imminent death during the birth. Both mother and baby boy survived – and this story is so interesting and is found in the memoir. Magnus believes both he and his mother would have died without the doctor´s great work. This doctor, Dr. Bjornson, is the grandfather of Christina Sunley, the author of The Tricking of Freya. She came to North Dakota twice in 2010 for book signings and readings from her fabulous book. She was also the North America to Iceland International Visits Program choice for 2010.

Christina Sunley and Magnus Olafson -2010

Magnus married Lois Patricia Flanagan October 30, 1945 in Gardar. They have two sons – Larry and Robert, and a daughter – Jean. They have four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Lois died November 2, 1984 just three days after their 39th Wedding Anniversary.

Magnus has been to Iceland ten times. The year he received the Knight’s Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon was the most exciting trip. President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson presented the medal to him in an official ceremony on November 28, 1999. The award honored Magnus for his efforts to preserve the history and culture of Iceland in America. He was in Iceland with the North Dakota tour group, which performed “In the Wake of the Storm” written by Mountain, ND native, Lauga Geir. This 3-act play was first published in 1957. The Order of the Falcon award was a complete surprise to Magnus.

Sir Magnus Olafson and President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson 1999

Meeting visitors from Iceland is one of his favorite activities. Magnus says, “I suppose that I have met almost every tour bus in the past 25 years.” The Icelandic tourists all love to meet “Sir Magnus” and are surprised that he is so down-to-earth and that he can speak fluent Icelandic.

In May 1986, the North Dakota Heritage Association was organized to continue the work of G.B. Gunlogson preserving the story of the pioneers in northeast North Dakota. In 1989, along with the Icelandic State Park, they completed the Pioneer Heritage Center on this property. There is a permanent exhibit of the homestead era, the Hallson Icelandic Church, the Akra Community Hall, the Cranley School, and a replica log cabin. Magnus and other board members have been meeting every Thursday for over 20 years. They laid out the site and buildings for the park while preserving the plant life, the sheepherder’s digs, and the homestead buildings.

Icelandic State Park and Heritage Center

Magnus is a long-standing member of the Icelandic Communities Association and he wrote the booklet, “Solving the Mystery of the 2nd of August.” He has assisted with several Iceland television documentaries including a film on Chester Thordarson, the electronics genius, and the History of Icelanders in North Dakota by Plus Films.

He is involved in fostering many relationships with our friends in Canada and in Iceland. North Dakota is proud to have “Sir Magnus” as part of our community. His knowledge of our Icelandic ancestors and the immigrants to our region is phenomenal and we value him so much. What a treasure his memoir will be to our Icelandic community.

Here is the Press Release sent to me by Kathy Thorlakson, Borg Home: “An Open House to celebrate the release of Magnus Olafson’s memoir “A Knight in Dakota” will be held on Saturday, September 21, 2013 from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm. at the Borg Memorial Home in Mountain, ND. Mike’s interest in his Icelandic heritage and his family history led him to record his memoirs as a special gift to his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. His book includes reflections on family and local history and also his visits to Iceland and the work done there that led to him being honored with the Order of the Falcon and the title of Sir Magnus Olafson. Books will be available for sale at the Open House and will by signed by the author. Please join Mike for a cup of coffee in celebration of a special day.”

Hope to see you at Borg Home on 21. September at 2 p.m. or at the Icelandic State Park on 13. October.

Email us your questions or join the conversation on our Facebook Group.

bottom of page