Sons of Norway
Leif Erikson Lodge 6-83, Salt Lake City, Utah



When the Order of Sons of Norway first began, the first step to form an organization took place on January 6, 1895. A group of Norwegian emigrants, many of whom had come from the Trondheim and Selbu areas, forming a colony in the northern part of the city, met at 2029 Washington Ave. in Minneapolis, MN. There were eighteen men present, with Mr. James Peterson presiding. All the men present were enthusiastic about forming a permanent society that would provide assistance for members in case of illness, as well as providing a social life. "The Founders 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." (Strom)

At the January meeting, the name Sons of Norway ("Sønner av Norge") was adopted. The original charter members include:

* President E.O. Rognaas was born in Valdres in 1855. He came to Mpls in 1869. He operated a hardware store on W. Broadway Ave.
* Vice President James Peterson was born in 1850 in Selbu. He came to Mpls in 1887. He operated a saloon with Lewis J. Stokke on the first floor of the building at 2029 Washington Ave. No.
* Secretary Bersvend Draxten was born in 1866 in Selbu. He came to Mpls in 1867. He was employed in a local lumber mill. Mr. Draxten became the first Supreme President of the Order and officiated as installing officer of the Supreme Lodge Convention at the 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1944.
* Treasurer Lewis J. Stokke was born in 1857 in Selbu.
* Doorkeeper Peder G. Balstad was born in Selbu in 1865 and came here in 1866. He worked in a local lumbar yard.
* Ole Russet was born in Selbu in 1872. He came here in 1882 and operated a grocery store at 24th and Washington with his brother Peter.
* John O. Stokke was born in 1860 in Selbu. He came to the U.S. in 1881 and to Mpls in 1882. He was employed as a laborer at Smith Lumber Co. and also operated a rooming house for mill workers. He later purchased James Peterson's interest in the saloon. He is of no relation to Lewis Stokke.
* Eskild and Ludvig Pedersen, brothers from Trondheim (1866, 1871). They arrived here with their cousin Peder Larsen. Both brothers Local planing mill.
* Peder Larsen, also from Trondheim, was born in 1866. He was a farmer near Mille Lacs.
* Knut Rasmussen came from Orkdahl, near Tronheim. He was born in 1856 and came to Mpls in 1880. He was employed in a saw mill.
* Anton and Peter Johnson, brothers , were natives of Trondheim. They were born in 1867 and 1860, respectively. Peter arrived in Mpls in 1887 and Anton in 1891. Both men were employed in a local lumber mill.
* Ole Lodgaard was born in Trondheim and came here in the late 1880's. He was in the saloon business.
* Einar Dramdahl came from Oslo, but remained in Mpls only for a short time after Sons of Norway was organized.
* John S. Johnson was born in 1859 in Bergen. He arrived in Mpls in 1884. He was in the meat market business on the north side of town.
* E.M. Wold was a painter by trade.
* Edvard Larsen came from the Trondheim area. He returned to Norway the same year Sons of Norway was organized.

"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." (Strom) At the end of the first year of the Order, membership had increased to 81 members. At the end of the second year, membership totaled 116, including members from north and south Minneapolis. The Daughters of Norway, a sister society began on March 31, 1897. Most of the wives of the Founders of Sons of Norway became Founders of the Daughters of Norway.

With the popularity of the society increasing, it was deemed advisable to incorporate the society in order to establish subordinate lodges. On June 22, 1898, the society was chartered under Minnesota laws as "The Independent Order of Sons of Norway". The articles set forth as the purpose of the Order were: To gather Norwegians around their ancestral heritage of history, language and other cultural arts; To assist one another in sickness and need; To furnish opportunities for sociability.

A special committee was formed to recruit members for additional lodges, and subsequently many lodges, both here and abroad have been formed. 

Material taken from:

Information compiled by John M. Stokke, son of John O. Stokke, one of the founding Fathers of Sons of Norway

"A Brief History of Sons of Norway" by Hildegarde M. Strom

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