SONS OF NORWAY – A PROUD HERITAGE
Sons of Norway is a fraternal benefit and cultural society that was founded in 1895 and is dedicated to preserving the Norwegian heritage in North America. We have over 65,000 members and over 400 lodges across the country.
The local lodges have monthly meetings and activities where members can celebrate their Norwegian heritage, traditions and culture. From Viking dinners to Syttende Mai celebrations you will not go away hungry. Every lodge meeting has a great meal (usually pot luck), interesting programs, and a short business meeting. We also have several events outside of our monthly meetings where members can enjoy bus tours, picnics, and other Nordic celebrations.
Sons of Norway members believe tradition and heritage is worth preserving for the future. We are an organization for all men, women, and children who share a passion for the culture and heritage of Norway.
VALHALL LODGE HISTORY
Valhall Lodge was formed in 1907 and is the oldest Norwegian fraternity in our area and has been a focal point for most Norwegian activities in the community.
We are primarily a social club but are involved in several community outreach programs.
We have several scholarships for schools and camps.
We are also linked with the district and national Sons of Norway organizations that have many resources, links, and information on other Nordic activities around the country.
A Brief (?) History of Sons of Norway By Hildegarde M. Strom
Professor C. Sverre Norborg begins his fine history of Sons of Norway, An American Saga, with this descriptive paragraph: "The founders of Sons of Norway were Americans. They had crossed the wide Atlantic in search of greater opportunities for themselves and their families. From the day they passed through the immigration gates at Ellis Island, they knew that their lives and fortunes were linked forever with this vast and free land."
This is the strong thread which runs through much of the Sons of Norway story: a love for the land of their birth but at the same time a fierce loyalty to their new land and the history of Sons of Norway could be described as one of steady and deliberate progress. By the 1870s, Minneapolis had a very active nucleus of Norwegian emigrants, many of whom had come from the Trondheim area to form a colony in the northern part of the city. From that group came the 18 founders who signed on as charter members of Sons of Norway.
Interestingly enough, it was a woman who was at the center of all of the activity prior to this forming. Ingeborg Levorsdatter Langeberg was the first permanent Norwegian resident of Minnesota, coming here as a maid in the home of Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey. She subsequently met and married a well-to-do farmer from a northern suburb of Minneapolis. When her husband died, she became a wealthy widow whose home was a friendly center for all newcomers, one of whom was Ole Draxten. He was the first Norwegian to build a house in the area and it was his son Bersvend who was later to become the first Supreme President of Sons of Norway.
Norwegian pragmatism rose to the surface during the severe depression which began in 1893 and was a time of economic disaster throughout the land. These founders were cautious men, not taken to dreams of big business but of mere survival for their families and neighbors. They recalled the group assistance plan about which some of them knew from Trondheim where members paid a small amount each week and in return received free medical care for themselves and their families. It was in this spirit of real necessity that Sons of Norway was founded as a mutual assistance society, one built on the moral principles of American fraternalism.
"Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson" was the name first selected for the new organization but it was soon rejected on the realistic grounds that the American people would find it quite impossible to pronounce. "Sønner av Norge" was the name settled upon and the formal inception with the 18 founders was completed on 16 January 1895.
The fledgling organization provided not only security against financial crises and a forum to celebrate their new nationalism, but it also served to preserve the many things Norwegian which were treasured by those who had left Norway: the literature, music and art which formed such a large part of their heritage.
With this modest beginning in north Minneapolis, there were surely no ideas of a far-reaching organization, only that possibly all of Minnesota might join the order. Article three of the incorporation document lays down the solid foundation on which the society was built: "This corporation is organized upon fraternal principles, for the purpose of creating and preserving interest in the Norwegian language by its members, insofar as compatible with the loyalty they owe the United States of America; to labor for the development, enlightenment and progress that conduce to honest citizenship, in order that the Norwegian people in this country may be properly recognized and respected; to aid its members and their families in case of sickness and death, by according them financial assistance of such magnitude, and upon such conditions, as may be determined by its by-laws."
To qualify for membership, one had to be male, either Norwegian or of Norwegian descent, give proof of being morally upright, in good health, capable of supporting a family, at least 20 years old and no more than 50.
This first lodge changed its name to Nidaros Lodge l-001 when a second lodge was formed under the name Oslo Lodge 1-002. Quickly, others were formed around Minnesota so that by the end of the century there were 12 in all. "The Norwegian Empire" extended from Illinois and Wisconsin through Iowa, Minnesota and into the Dakotas. At about the same time, a similar organization was forming on the West Coast. That organization was different from the ones in the Midwest since it was made up of a variety of groups: immigrants arriving directly from Norway, a considerable number from the Midwest farm communities, the Norwegian sailors who chose to quit the life at sea. This mingling tended to make the West Coast group a more progressive one. As early as 1847, Martin Zakarias Toftezen of Levanger, Norway, had crossed the great desert on horseback and became the first Norwegian settler in the Pacific Northwest. Some 90 years later, a granite monument in his honor was erected by the Sons of Norway and dedicated by Crown Prince Olav during his 1939 tour in the United States.
On April 26, 1903, officers were elected and the name given to the new West Coast group was Grand Lodge, Leif Erikson Lodge 2-00l, Seattle. Though they were patterned after the Sons of Norway lodge from the Midwest, their request to become affiliated with the Sons of Norway brotherhood was turned down just as "Den norske forening" of Everett, Washington, had been refused for membership just a few months prior to that. The West Coast group retained the name Sons of Norway in spite of the rejection by the Minneapolis lodge.
The main bone of contention was that the Pacific Coast group had discontinued the compulsory insurance clause, an idea which the Midwest group felt was out of the question. However, a compromise was presented to the convention held in Wisconsin in June, 1909, and the merger between the West and the Midwest was at last realized. Therefore, in the years 1905-1914 the Order became a true nation-wide fraternal organization with lodges across the entire continent. Over the years since then, many changes have taken place within the Order but the essential purposes and reasons for existing remain the same. The extensive insurance program offered to qualifying members-women now included-provides a firm foundation and economic base from which the extensive programs are carried out, furthering the cultural values of the heritage.
The titles also evolved from Head Lodge when Bersvend Draxten was its first president to Supreme Lodge when the lodges expanded across the entire country. When the membership was extended into Canada, the official name became the International Order of Sons of Norway. However, today the name is Sons of Norway making the Sons of Norway a world-wide organization with more than 400 local chapters servicing nearly 66,000 members.
Today, Sons of Norway continues to make a conscious effort to build on the traditions of the past while at the same time focusing on the contemporary Norwegian-American lifestyles, thereby taking on a more modern look. There must be programs vital enough to appeal to the 4th and 5th generation descendants who show interest in their roots. Those original 18 members of "Sønner av Norge" would doubtless be surprised to see where their idea has gone since those first days in January, 1895, but one must feel confident that they would be proud to share in this modern philosophy of the fraternal organization they formed.