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Otter Tail County Minnesota

Norwegian Grove Township






From Trygg Historical Maps, Trygg Land Office, Ely, MN www.trygglandoffice.com/maps.html
b=bottom land, m=marsh, p=prairie, s=swamp

 Basic Facts:

Township N136, Range W44
Government survey 18??
First Settled 18??
Organized January 7, 1873


[Copied by Lory Brasel, lbrasel@leagent.net, from the book "History of Otter Tail County" Volume I - 1916 by John W. Mason]

The heavy immigration of Norwegians into congressional township 136, range 44, in the early seventies, was responsible for a petition from these worthy citizens for the creation of the above described territory into a civil township. This petition was presented to the county commissioners on January 7, 1873, and at the request of the petitioners the township was called Norwegian Grove. The first election was ordered held on the 25th of the same month at the house of Ole Johanneson Tolrud. The commissioner's record states that August Lorentzen, J. Torkelson and Arne Engebritson were to post the notices and have general charge of the election.

The petition asking for the organization of the township was dated December 30, 1872, and contained the following signatures Ole Johanneson Tolrud, Martin Johnson, Ole K. Gullekson, Arne Olson, Ole A. Lund, Ole Olson Holt, Hans Thompson, Johanny G. Tollerud, D. Christenson, E. C. Thomkins, Arne Engebritson, Torsten Olsen, Brede Olson, Edward Elasen, E. M. Vungrud, Hans Anderson, Andreas Erikson, Paul Visenstad, Carl Hansen, Andreas Johanson, Jacob Torkelson, Hans Hanson Husby, Ole Neilsen Viste and Ole T. Nyhaugen.

This township was originally a part of Wilkin county, but by the legislative act of 1872 and the subsequent election provided by the act, it was attached to Otter Tail county along with the five other congressional townships of range 44, which are now a part of Otter Tail county. Two townships were organized out of range 44 on January 7. 1873. Norwegian Grove and Western two others, Oscar and Trondbjem, were organized at the July session the same year. All of these townships except Western were settled nearly entirely by natives of Norway.

Norwegian Grove township has a fair share of lakes, the largest being Olaf, Grove, Jacob, Annie, Alfred and Gobs. Most of the township is drained by tributaries of the south branch of Buffalo river, which enters the county from Wilkin on the west. Generally speaking nearly all of the township is excellent farming territory and it was this fact which brought in so many settlers early in the history of the county. The first postoffice was called Norwegian Grove and was located in the central eastern part of section 9. As early as 1880 there was a store, blacksmith shop and church at this place, but now there is nothing left but the church, the postoffice being discontinued in 1905. For some years there was a postoffice by the name of Center Grove in section 28, but it was discontinued in 1903, when rural free delivery was established out of Pelican Rapids. The first churches were established 10 and 26 and at a later period churches were built in section 4 and 6. Cemeteries are maintained in connection with all four churches. The town hall is in the northwestern corner of section 22.

The present township officers are as follow Supervisor, John T. Maasjo; clerk, Anton N. Benterud; treasurer, John E. Maasjo; justices. Peter Klovstad and E. O. Aas; constables, M. J. Tollerud and C. O. Sundby.


The Trek to Pelican Rapids, Minnesota.

On 17 June 1868 Pernille Ursin Hansdatter and Henrik Jacobsen (Ongstad) left the port of Trondheim, Norway for the United States of America on the ship Scandinavien. The passengers had journeyed from their farm of Ongstad on the Island of Hadsel, Nordland. Listed are Henrik Jacobs Ongstad, Farmer age of 58, Pernille, wife age of 53, Erik H., son age of 20, Hans Peder H, son age of 18, Maren Dorthea H., daughter age of 18, Albertine H., daughter age of 16, Oluf Peder H., son age of 11 and Johan Sofus H., son age of 9. Missing on the ships list is Helena H., daughter age of 24. Mathea (Thea) Oline the oldest daughter, age of 26, is married to Johan Jokumsen, age of 33, they had two children, Jokim Johansen age 4 years, Rena Helmina Petra Johansdtr age 2. Thea and Johan, left the Island of Hadsel, Norway in 1869 and came to Norwegian Grove via New York. (They changed their last name to Bredahl.) Helena may have come with her sister’s family or was missed on the ships list. She was in Norwegian Grove by 1870.

The Ongstad family arrived in Coon Valley, Wisconsin, 10 July 1868 where Henrik’s sister, Mrs. Peder Houg lived. (Susan A Jacobsdatter) Six weeks after their arrival Typhoid Fever caused the deaths of Maren and Albertine. Erik, the eldest son, died in the winter the same year in an accident on the Mississippi River. Of the children who came to the new frontier with them at the time, half of them were denied the bounty of the country the first year. One must wonder how devastated the parents were and the stamina they must have had to continue on the next spring to find their new homes in the strange new country.

In the spring of 1869, the Ongstad family along with the Jacob Torkelson (later known as Jacobson) and the Nils Hagastuen families decided to leave the deep, narrow Coon Valley and head for Kandiyohi or Chippewa County in Minnesota. At La Crosse, they took passage on a Mississippi steamboat for St. Paul. The steamboat was an old side-wheeler with an immense paddle wheel on each side that splashed in the muddy spring waters of the river.

From St. Paul, the party took a train to the farthest railroad terminal, which at the time was St. Cloud. Here they stayed for a week and met Ole Raade, Iver Dahl, Henry Israelson, and John M Johnson who had just returned from the logging camps of the North. The young men were heading for Pelican Lake where they hoped to homestead. Pelican Lake and the surrounding area was supposed to have abundant timber, prairie hay meadows and game. The three families decided to join them.

In preparation for the journey, the group of 18 bought 5 yoke of oxen, 4 wagons and a dog. On their way the only guide was a map of the government trail leading to Ft Abercrombie and other forts in the Dakota Territory. As they journeyed northwest, they were advised by others to turn back because of the dangerous Indians. They passed through Sauk Center, Osakis, Alexandria and Pomme De Terre where they saw remains of an Indian Stockade.

At Dayton (where Dayton Hollow Dam is now) they crossed the Red River (now called Otter Tail River) on a ferry. It was here that they left the military trail and headed North and East. As they now traveled over unbroken trails, two men would walk ahead and signal the best route in order to avoid hills, lakes and streams. At what is now Elizabeth they saw Pelican River for the first time. Also, here was the last sign of settlement evident in two log huts built by German settlers. The men explored east of the river and found the underbrush full of mosquitoes.

On the following day the men headed north along the river and returned reporting the discovery of a beautiful lake with rolling prairie on one side and thick forest on the other. The party headed for the lake, journeying over hills, through swamps and finally camping at Prairie Lake.

According to Sofus Ongstad, “We came to Prairie Lake on May 24 or 25, 1869.” They were soon occupied with pitching camp, when they were surrounded by Indians pointing guns. The settlers suddenly wished they had taken the advice of the people they had met along the way to turn back. J. M. Johnson, with knowledge of the Chippewa language, soon learned the Indians were looking for a band of Soux who had killed a member of their tribe. From these Indians, the settlers learned of the good hunting and fishing in the area.

The next day the single men in the party left to explore the surrounding countryside and to stake claims. All the men except Ole Raade picked out claims in what is now Pellican Township. The men staked their clams using tree and knolls. While the men located their claims, Mrs. Hagastuen immediately planted some onion sets she had brought with her.

On the second day of their stay at the lake Mr. Ed Andrews visited them. The men were absent from the camp exploring the country and to locate claims.

Sofus Ongstad reports on the first visitor. Mr. Andrews was accompanied by a woman whom he presented as his wife. She stayed a little distance behind and he called her to come nearer, she obeyed, but walked very slowly and showed visible signs of uneasiness in the presence of the party. She carried a baby papoose in the folds of a blanket on her back. Both the head and arms were visible above the folds of the blanket. Believe me, it was a sight for both my mother and Mrs. Hagestuen who had just left Norway ten and a half months before.

It was a pretty baby, I see it yet. Mr. Andrews according to my recollection was a light complexion. He had quite a conversation with Mr. Torkelson who spoke English fluently and said he lived on the other side of the lake and disappeared in that direction after the visit.

On the third day while the single men were helping Mr. Raade put up his log cabin, the first in Norwegian Grove Township, and building a milk cellar, they saw some people coming their way in a wagon with cattle. They soon learned that those coming were their own party fleeing from Indians. Chippewa Indians had appeared the night before, acting strangely, so the settlers hurriedly packed up and traveled three miles further west. In the hurry, Mrs. Hagastuen did not forget to pull up her onion sets and take them with her! So this is how these families came to settle in Norwegian Grove rather than Pelican Township by the river and lake.

This article compiled from a family history book written and published by Esther Bergerud Ugstad. Edited by Bruce Dancy (bdancy@shaw.ca) Sep 2002.


Population totals in state and federal census summaries.

   Norwegian Grove
 1875  358
 1880  559
 1885  752
 1890  744
 1895  739
 1900  676
 1905  674
 1910  642
 1920  571
 1930  558
 1940  540

Places of birth for Norwegian Grove Township in the 1905 state census.

 Native (USA)  23   3%
 Minnesota  425   63%
 Foreign  226   34%
     Germany  0   0%
     Sweden  4   2%
     Norway  221   98%
     Canada  0   0%
     Ireland  1   0%
     Denmark  0   0%
     England  0   0%
     Poland  0   0%
     Finland  0   0%
     Russia  0   0%
     Scotland  0   0%
     Other  0   0%

Land Maps


The following names have been extracted from original land records (by John Nelson) and Mason's History (by Karen Terry). Allen , John B ; Ambers , Ole ; Anderson , Anton , Ole ; Arneson , Martin ; Avenson , Hans ; Bredal , Johan N ; Christensen , Amund , Andrias ; Christenson , Didrik ; Dillerud , Anton E , Berthe ; Eliason , Edward E ; Engebretson , Arne ; Erickson , John ; Erikson , Andrew ; Evanson , Samuel ; Evenson , Even , Ole ; Freeman , John ; Gjuve , Bjorn C ; Gulsrud , Marie , Marie A ; Gundersen , Ole ; Gunderson , John ; Hansen , Charles , Erik , Jacob , Johan , Niels , Nils ; Hanson , Iver ; Haug , Einar T ; Henryson , Hans P ; Holt , Ole O ; Jacobson , Henry ; Johanneson , Ole ; Johansen , Iver ; Johanson , Andrias , Ole J ; Johnson , Andrew , Even , Martin , Niels ; Kenfield , Eugene ; Kjostolson , Gunder ; Kopperud , Johanes O ; Larson , Arne , Lars , Salomon ; Laurenson , August ; Martensen , Christian ; Nelson , Knute ; Nielson , Ole ; Nilsen , Ole , Ove ; Nilson , Ole ; Olsen , Arne , Johan L , Martin , Michael , Nikolai , Osmond , Torsten ; Olson , Eberhard , Halvor , Nils , Ole K , Syver ; Quamme , Rognald H ; Raade , Ole ; Rossum , Brede S ; Salomonson , Lars ; Sillerud , Brede O ; Sjetne , Hans A ; Sorenson , Dyre ; Thompson , Hans ; Thorsen , Ole ; Torgersdatter , Guro ; Torkelson , Jacob ; Torstensen , Ole ; Vigenstad , Paul ; Wagner , Ole J

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