The Settlement: The First Norwegian Lutheran Settlement In Montana
A timothy-hidden cemetery, rotting with age, in a field of cattle on a peaceful August day--1962. How can this be connected, even remotely with the strife, the policies that caused political turmoil, and the religious apprehension that characterized Norway in the latter part of the nineteenth century? Why are these graves crumbling so far from the homeland of their occupants and what of their descendants? Have they all become shadowy figures in the settling dust of the American West? This is that half-forgotten history of a home-loving people who died half-way around the world from their native hearths. These Norwegian immigrants settled along Billy Creek close to the Sweet Grass River in southwestern Montana, but it was the Crazy Mountains rising starkly into the sky that reminded them most of their fatherland. The stretches of level prairie, the buttes, the rolling hills, and the creeks with their natural brush shelters were quickly adopted by the settlers as their own. The author became interested in them for a number of reasons. Her great-grandfather, Paul L. Van Cleve, Sr., moved to Montana, and more particularly, Porcupine Butte on the Sweet Grass River, just four miles north of the Norwegian Settlement in the early 1880's. His only son married and settled a mile south of the Settlement. This alone would probably have been sufficient incentive to write the paper, but beyond that Paul Jr. had a daughter, Charlotte, the author's aunt who married Torvald Anderson, the grandson of Knute Anderson, one of the first settlers. For the story of these settlers, then, the author is deeply indebted not only to her own family, but to the following people as well: Sverre Untsed who spent the greater part of the summer of 1962 corresponding with the author to fill in the blank spots on the emigrants; Ben Olness, Mrs. Clara Liebel, Mrs. Eva Roquet, Mrs. Green and Reverend Johnson who were more than willing to aid the author by means of numerous interviews and the loan of any pertinent books and letters. Thanks should also be extended to the descendants of these settlers who were a great source of information to the author in everyday living.