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History of the Hadeland Lag
Hadeland is located about 30 miles north of Norway's capital city of Oslo. It is a part of the Oppland 'fylke' (similar to a county) and wraps around the southern end of Randsfjorden.
Emigration from Hadeland began with a trickle in the 1830's but had swollen to a steady stream that transported entire communities across the Atlantic by the turn of the 20th Century. The immigrants who came from small tightly-knit communities in Norway could be found in settlements that stretched from concentrations in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota to sparsely populated areas of North and South Dakota, Montana and beyond.
Thomas A. Walby, a Hadelending from Hudson WI, was an International Harvestor Company special salesman who traveled throughout the upper Midwest. The Minnesota State Fair was the drawing card for farmers from throughout the region and Machinery Hill with its displays of the latest and greatest farm equipment was a "must see." Visiting the hill also afforded a chance to meet and catch up with old friends from around the state, including the affable Walby who manned the International Harvestor display.
When Hadeland immigrant farmers stopped for a visit with Walby during the 1910 fair, he encouraged the notion of starting a 'bygdelag' for Hadeland. Immigrants from other districts in Norway had already formed these organizations. The farmers with whom he spoke liked the idea. On September 7, 1910 a dozen or so men gathered at Walby's International Harvestor display and founded the Hadeland Lag. The minutes of their meeting report "...blev afhold et møde den 7dr Sept 1910 i International Harvester Company lokale ved Minnesota udstilling" .... the birth of the Hadeland Lag.
Thomas Walby was elected
president, Per Jacobsen, also from Hudson WI, secretary-treasurer. Others
present who paid dues were: G. L. Elken, Mayville ND; Mikal H. Froslee, Vining
MN; John Ballangrud Holm, Hudson WI; H. H. Rasaasen and E. S. Gunderson, Sacred
Heart MN; H. P. Rekstad and H. H. Heen, Adams ND; Hans Larson Hole, Lakeville
MN; Erling Jacobson and John Lee, Hudson WI. Within the first year membership
grew to include 105 members - 92 men and 13 women. Dues were $1.00 for men
and $.50 for women.
In June of 1911, 161 Hadelendings registered and additional visitors attended the second stevne in Como Park, St. Paul MN. The fourth stevne, held in Blanchardville, Wisconsin, saw attendance soar to 1500, with 352 members registered.
The 1914 stevne was scheduled to coincide with Sytennde Mai and the 100th anniversary of Norwegian Independence. It was agreed that a cablegram be sent to the sogneprest in Gran, Hadeland that read (as translated from the original Norwegian) "Hearty greetings to all Hadelanders from the Hadelendingen meeting at the festival (100 years) in Minneapolis." It was also at this stevne that the Mindegaven Fund was established. The interest from the funds, deposited at the Gran Spare Bank in Norway, were to be distributed to the needy in Gran, Brandbu, Tingelstad, Jevnaker, and Lunner each year on December 15th. A five person committee was established to manage the fund.
Although there were formal meetings of the Hadeland Lag once a year at the annual stevne, during its early history Hadelanders in geographical areas would often gather for a summer picnic. The picture on the right shows the crowd at a 1919 picnic in Huntington WI.
The tenth anniversary of the Hadeland Lag was celebrated in June of 1920 at the fairgrounds auditorium in Fergus Falls MN. The weather was beautiful and everybody arrived in a festive mood for the eleventh stevne. 1000 kroners was raised for the purpose of installing electricity in the Gran "hovedkirke" Sister Church. There was great interest in arranging a Lag trip to Hadeland. Thomas Walby and two others were assigned the task of making the arrangements.
The tour of Hadeland took place in the summer of 1921. At the twelfth stevne held in September of 1921, the Hadeland hosts were made honorary members of the Lag by unanimous consent. Stortingsman Chr. Daehlin; Orderforers (mayors) Ole Egge, Helge Kaestad, Ole Berger and Halvor Lunner; Gaardburger (farmer) Lars Bleken; Mayor Jorgen Jahren; Superior Court barrister Halvdan Gulden; Editor Finn Lee; and teachers A. G. A. Tvindesaeter, A. E. Volla, Iver and John Prestkvaern were thus honored for the hospitality that had been shown the members on the tour.
During the 1920's the stevner were well-attended, often by 1,000 people or more. In 1924, 2,000 Hadelendings attended the stevne at the Fair Grounds in Northwood, ND.
At the twentieth stevne, in June of 1929, the Vesterheim (Norwegian-American) Museum in Decorah, Iowa, expressed its appreciation to Hadelendings for the antiques they had contributed. It was noted that Hadeland was the first Norway district to send objects brought from Norway to the museum.
The 1930 stevne was held in Minneapolis to coincide with the June 10-12 Norwegian festival commemorating the 900th anniversary of the battle of Stiklestad and death of the leader (St.) Olaf. It was noted in the Lag's meeting minutes that had it not been for the lags attending, the festival would have been a non-productive effort. It was also reported that the Memorial Fund, now 15 years old, had distributed a total of 9500 Norwegian kroner, including 200 Nkr to the Hadeland Folk Museum and several other organizations.
The early years of The Depression were difficult ones for the Lag as for all Americans. The BRUA (newsletter) had financial difficulties and contributions to the Memorial Fund diminished. Attendance at the annual stevner also showed a marked decline.
In 1934 the Lag unanimously passed a resolution in protest of the possibility of removing the word "Norwegian" from the name of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. The protest was registered by a telegram sent to the church meeting being held in Minneapolis.
In 1939, Lag members were deeply concerned about their families, relatives, and friends in Norway after its invasion by Hitler. There was a virtual black out on communications. Until the restrictions were lifted, it was not known if the Hadelanders were alive and well, starving, or prisoners of war. Although fearful and necessarily careful about everything they said and did, the agricultural communities of Hadeland fared better than most. The Lag is eternally grateful for that! The annual stevne, held in Pelican Rapids MN, was scheduled at the same time that Norwegian Crown Prince Olaf was touring the Midwest. Attendance was therefore sparse, and the group decided to forego the meeting and head to Fargo to see the Prince.
No stevne was held in 1942. It would have been the last for Thomas Walby as President of the Lag. When the Lag met in Rothsay, MN in 1943, Joseph Melaas took over as presiding officer.
In 1947 C. M. Sorum took over the reigns as president of the lag, followed by Olaf Drovdahl in 1950. In 1951 the last of the Brua Yearbooks was published. Not surprisingly, the Lag had suffered declining participation during WW II, but membership did not rebound thereafter. Hadelendings were beginning to spread out around the country. In 1952, when John Braaten presided at the forty-third stevne, members from California, Idaho, Canada, Chicago IL, and one from Norway joined those from Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Iowa in the assembly.
John Braaten was succeeded by John Eastvold who presided over the stevner from 1954-1964. Chris Sherva was elected to replace him when John declined to stand for re-election.
During the 1950's there was some talk of bringing the Mindegavn (Memorial) Fund back to America and discontinuing the Christmas distribution to Hadeland's poor, but it did not go beyond discussion until 1966. At that time it was publicly announced that no more money would be placed in the fund. Further, the money in the Gran Sparebank was supposed to be divided equally between Hadeland Haugen and the Folk Museum of Hadeland and Per Hvamstad for the book "Gammelt fra Hadeland." The distribution did not occur, but the fund will not be mentioned again in the minutes of the meetings for almost thirty years.
In 1968, only 13 members attended the fifty-ninth stevne, although total attendance was between 35-40. Ellef C. Erlien presided over a serious discussion about the continuation of the Lag. The old pioneer members were either too old to attend or had passed away. It was decided that the secretary would contact the Landingslag about meeting jointly. Mr. Erlien declined to seek a second term, and Karl B. Stensrud was elected to replace him.
In 1969 thirty-three members registered from five states. It was decided that contact would be made with the Toten Lag about joint meetings, as that group had not met since World War II.
Mrs. Lars Hammer, a devoted Lag member who served as recording secretary from 1947-1965, made this comment in 1970, perhaps her last to the Hadeland Lag. "It sounds like they had a good meeting. And the Lag will carry on. Lars, my husband, was quite ill for a while, and I am in very poor health. Someone reads the newspaper clippings to me because I am almost blind. So now we have to stay home, but we are along in our thoughts for every convention. So this is probably the last report from me. I can't keep up like I used to. So greetings to all I have met in the Hadeland Lag. Mrs. Lars (Marie) Hammer, Scobey, MT."
By 1971 there were only 17 members. Annual stevner were discontinued. There were discussions about combining the Lags and holding one large stevne. It was noted that there seemed to be growing interest among younger people in genealogy and their cultural heritage.
Morgan Olson played a key role in efforts to revive the Lag. These resulted in the sixty-third stevne, held in combination with the Landings Lag in 1976. In 1977, the stevne expanded to include Gulbrandsdal Lag as well. In 1978, members of the Hadeland Lag journeyed to Norway for the stevne. In 1980, the Hadeland Lag celebrated its 70th anniversary, joined by the Landing Lag and a newly reorganized Toten Lag. In 1981, the Oppland County Lags - Hadeland, Land, and Toten - were joined by Telelag for the stevne.
Another "Four Lag Stevne" was held in 1983. In 1984 a fifth Lag, Sigdal, joined to create a "Five Lag Stevne" which was held at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.
In 1985, Morgan Olson contacted the Gran Sparebank and learned that the "Mindegavn" (Memorial) Fund had a balance of 39,995.45 Norwegian kroner (about $4500) and that the bank had faithfully administered the distribution of approximately $330 in interest to the welfare committees of Gran, Lunner and Jevnaker each year as specified by their decades-old instructions. It was decided that the Fund would remain at 40,000 NKR and that the annual income would continue to be used to assist the handicapped in Hadeland.
The 75th Anniversary of the Hadeland Lag was celebrated at the "Six Lag Stevne" held at Concordia College in Moorhead MN in June of 1985. Lags representing Land, Toten, Telemark, Sigdal and Numedal participated. Morgan Olson, who led the Lag back from near extinction in the early 1970's, chose to end his 10 years of service as president of the Lag. Olaf Nelson was elected to succeed him.
In 1986, seven lags - Hadeland, Land, and Toten from Oppland County, Telelaget, Sigdal, Numedal, and Ringerike - came together to form the Seven-Lag Stevne. E. Palmer Rockswold took the helm as President of the Hadeland Lag. It was decided that, along with the joint summer stevne, a fall meeting of the Hadeland Lag should be conducted as well. The first of these was held at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead MN, and as reported by President Rockswold, it was "A Real Winner!"
In the 1990's membership in the Hadeland Lag stabilized at approximately 300 members. The Lag sponsored tours/stevne in Hadeland in the summers of both 1990 and 2000. Hadeland Lag's fall meeting continued to provide an additional opportunity for discussions and planning. Leslie Rogne accepted the role of genealogist and developed a substantial collection of microfilms and other resources so that he could offer detailed research to Lag members.
With the income from its North Sea oil industry, Norway now has the highest standard of living in the world and its government supports and protects its most vulnerable citizens. In 1999 it was determined that the Mindegavn fund should be liquidated and turned over to the Hadeland Folk Museum. One of the most visible uses of this gift is the replica of the Dynnastein that sits on the Museum grounds.
The Lag created this website in 2002, and it is now accessed by over 3,000 visitors each month.
In the 2000's, the Lag incorporated as the Hadeland Lag of America, Inc. It was also granted tax exempt status by the IRS as a 501c3 corporation. New by-laws were approved. With over 500 families in the US, Canada, and Norway in its membership, the Hadeland Lag's new organization will see it well into the future.
In 2005, the Lag sponsored another visit to Hadeland.
The Lag celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010. A visit to Hadeland with special Centennial celebrations there kicked off the year's festivities. At the 7-Lag stevne, the Lag joined Landingslaget and Toten Lag in a special Centennial banquet. The fall meeting included a brunch cruise on the St. Croix. It was a year to remember!
It has been over 100 years since Tom Walby and a handful of Hadeland farmers gathered on Machinery Hill to create the Hadeland Lag. For them, the lag offered a way to keep in touch with friends, family, and their home district in Norway. Today, our members are second, third, fourth and fifth generation Americans with ties to many other ethnicities. In the twenty-first century the Hadeland Lag not only assists new members in their search for immigrant ancestors but also introduces them to the customs and culture of Norway and, most especially, the beautiful Hadeland their ancestors left behind.
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Last update: December 29, 2016