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The Icelandic Celebration of 1928 and 95 Years Later

In 1928, the Icelandic community of northeast North Dakota celebrated the Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of the settlement. A book, Minningarrit 1878-1928, was created featuring articles about the pioneers to northeast North Dakota and various speeches given at the celebration. The book is mainly in Icelandic with some English articles. You can read this book in the Icelandic Roots Database under "Items of Interest - Books." Another fabulous feature in the database is how the people mentioned in the book are connected to the stories! So you can go to their pages and learn more about them, too, with an easy click of a link.

Below is the address by Judge Guðmundur Grimsson [I381201] translated into English. 3. On his personal page, there is much information about Judge Grimsson and the great work he did as a lawyer and a judge. Guðmundur, along with his parents and four older siblings, emigrated from Iceland in 1882. They homesteaded in East Alma Township in Cavalier County, North Dakota. Links to other articles and videos will be at the bottom of this page.


The words Justice Grimson spoke in 1928 are just as relevant today. We especially need to heed his words as we are now in the 4th and 5th generations from our Icelandic pioneer ancestors:

It is now up to us, their descendants, to prove ourselves worthy of all they have done for us—to so build our life on the foundation they laid as to justify all their sufferings, all their hopes and ambitions for us. I tell you, my friends, of the second generation, we have no small task on our hands. It will test the mettle in all of us to equal the courage and wisdom of those pioneers. On this occasion, we can best honor them by dedicating ourselves to the purpose of so living that we may be a credit to those sturdy, courageous pioneers.

His full address is below.

Mountain, ND 50-year celebration July 1928 Chairman's Address By Judge G. Grimson
Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
We are here today to commemorate the golden jubilee of the settlements in North Dakota. It is a great pleasure to bid you all welcome. I am sure you are all delighted to honor the sturdy and courageous pioneers who founded this settlement just fifty years ago. We all owe them a great debt of gratitude. They left the home of their childhood in the old country, their friends and relatives—in fact, everything with which they were acquainted to come to a new land, new people, new customs, new language and new occupations. They possessed in a full measure the sturdy courage of the Vikings and of the pioneers and pathfinders of all ages. They left the known of the old world for the unknown of the new for the sole purpose of giving us, their descend­ants, what they believed would be a better opportunity in life. With an inspiration born in the light of that mission, they selected this locality in the heart of the Red River Valley, which has since become the breadbasket of the world, as the foundation of their settlement. Their descend­ants have spread all over the continent. Whenever one re­turns to the home settlement, however, he has to admit the wisdom of their selection. No more fertile, no more hope-inspiring, no more beautiful land for their experiment could have been found. Those pioneers, men and women, built well. They made the most of their opportunities. Their early sufferings and sacrifices were tremendous. Yet they never lost hope, they never gave up. Now the few survivors who are with us today realize that their sufferings were not in vain, that their hope was justified. They have given their descendants most remarkable opportunities in life. Their mission has been fulfilled.
It is now up to us, their descendants, to prove ourselves worthy of all they have done for us—to so build our life on the foundation they laid as to justify all their sufferings, all their hopes and ambitions for us. I tell you, my friends, of the second generation, we have no small task on our hands. It will test the mettle in all of us to equal the courage and wisdom of those pioneers. On this occasion, we can best honor them by dedicating ourselves to the purpose of so living that we may be a credit to those sturdy, courageous pioneers.
We are glad to have on our program a toast to "Our Pioneer Mothers." No jubilee would be complete without a special tribute to them. What heartaches they suffered! Oh, all their silent prayers! Oh, what an inspiration their whole life!
Those pioneers and ourselves are honored by the presence here today, of representatives of our national and state gov­ernments. We appreciate that. To those honored guests I want to say that we believe that in honoring the founders of this settlement, they are recognizing that it is to such pioneers, their energy and steadfastness, and their indomitable courage and wisdom, that the American nation owes its greatness. Their own forefathers were such pioneers. The composite American character is made up of the best characteristics of all nations. America is the great melting pot. To that composite American character, we believe the pioneers who founded this settlement have contributed their share. In turn for what this country did for them, they gave the best that was in them. While they still loved the land from which they came, they and we believe that we can do Iceland the most honor by being good citizens of this country, and by keeping alive αnd contributing the best of the Ice­landic characteristics to the American nation.
We believe, therefore, honored guests, that in inviting you here in memory of the pioneers, we had something worthwhile to bring to your attention. We feel greatly honored by your presence in recognition thereof. Now, ladles and gentlemen, we beg your consideration during this program. We hope you may enjoy yourselves and heartily join with us in commemorating this wonderful occasion.

Inside this Golden Jubilee book of 1928, they write about the population of Icelanders in North Dakota.


From pages 42-43: There has been no attempt to get a census of Icelanders specifically in North Dakota before. It's quite difficult because they are quite scattered around the country. This report is not entirely correct. But she's almost right. It is mostly taken in this year 1929. Many people have been helpful with information, and they all deserve thanks.
According to what has been possible up to this time, there are now 2,598 Icelanders in North Dakota and in addition 430 Icelanders visiting families. Of this number, 1,974 are Icelanders in the Pembina district and 221 Icelanders in addition.
In the Mouse River district including the towns of Bottineau, Minot, Upham and Bantry, Sigurður Jónsson in Bantry has received information about 235 Icelanders and 44 Icelanders with others in the family. In Grafton, there are 48 Icelanders and 17 others in the family. In Grand Forks, there are 58 Icelanders, and three others in the family who are Icelanders. In the old Fjalla village and Milton and the neighborhood, there are 111 Icelanders and 11 Icelanders with other relatives.

Fjalla and Milton as referenced above, are in Cavalier County. In this county, the Icelandic people mostly lived in three townships shown below. Montrose Township includes the city of Milton. The population has declined drastically since 1900 when 459 people lived in East Alma Township. Today, only 20 people live in the 36 square mile township. 2


In spite of the generations passing and the ninety-five years since this speech, the Icelandic heritage and culture remain strong in northeast North Dakota and beyond. However, many worry about the aging and declining population of northeast North Dakota. Who will continue to honor our Icelandic ancestors? Although the population statistics show a huge decline, you would not know it by the sold-out crowds at the annual Þorrablót or the thousands of visitors to the area for the annual Deuce of August (2nd of August) Icelandic Heritage Celebration. www.thedeuce.org


Below are some statistics on the population of Pembina County and a few of the neighboring townships in Cavalier County, where the Icelandic pioneers settled. In Pembina County, there are three townships where most of the settlement was by Icelandic immigrants: Akra, Gardar, and Thingvalla.

Location

Census Years

Population

North Dakota

1870

2,405

North Dakota

1880

86,909

North Dakota

1890

182,719

North Dakota

1900

319,146

North Dakota

2022

779,261

Pembina County

1870

1,213

Pembina County

1880

4,802

Pembina County

1890

14,334

Pembina County

1900

17,869

Pembina County

1920

15,177

Pembina County

1960

12,946

Pembina County

2020

6,658

Gardar Twp., Pembina

1900

761

Gardar Twp., Pembina

2020

98

Thingvalla Twp., Pembina

1900

752

Thingvalla Twp., Pembina

2020

121

Alma Twp., Cavalier County

1900

526

Alma Twp., Cavalier County

2020

37

East Alma Twp., Cav. County

1900

459

East Alma Twp., Cav. County

2020

20

Montrose Twp., Cav. County

1900

762

Montrose Twp., Cav. County

2020

39


Below is a current map showing the Icelandic areas of the settlement and the sites you can visit today. It is part of a brochure that also gives more explanations of each site. 1.


The blue #1 and #2 on the map designate the farms of my Icelandic family.

#1 is in East Alma Township on the eastern edge of Cavalier County. It is now an abandoned farm plowed under by a big local non-Icelandic farmer.

#2 is in the Eyford area of Thingvalla Township in Pembina County. My Amma and Afi grew up next to each other on separate farms at the #2 location. That land was combined when they married and is still part of the land farmed by my uncle and his son. They are teaching the next generation, too!


Do you know WHY Icelanders celebrate the 2nd of August? Read this ARTICLE to learn why.


The Icelandic Communities Association of Northeast North Dakota is still going strong. Next year, they will celebrate the 125th year of hosting this heritage celebration. I know that the story of our Icelandic ancestors is in good hands with the next generations. It is up to us to all work together and keep it going to preserve our fragile and unique heritage.


Each year the Icelandic Communities Association celebrates with a Þorrablót, Deuce of August (2nd of August) Icelandic Celebration weekend, a scholarship and grant program, plus much more. Click this LINK to learn about The Deuce.


Icelandic Roots volunteers traveled from Canada, Iceland, and the USA to be in Mountain for a FREE Genealogy session on Friday and Saturday. This was our 21st year of hosting a Genealogy Center at The Deuce! We are in Gimli at the New Iceland Heritage Museum on Sunday from 1-4.



Icelandic Roots is a proud sponsor of a large variety of Icelandic events, celebrations, projects, programs, and scholarships in Iceland, Canada, and the USA. To see a list of grants and scholarships, visit the website pages for GRANTS and SCHOLARSHIPS.


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