Where is Norwegian Ridge?

Norwegian Ridge was an early name for the area around Spring Grove, Minnesota. From the beginning of the immigration boom from Norway in the late 1850s, many settlers made their first American homes in this region.

In 1852, quite a number of Norwegians took land along the high ridges a short distance west, north and east of the present village of Spring Grove.

The ridge on which the best farms in Houston County are situated is a rather peculiar phenomenon. Between the Upper Iowa River and Root River, the valleys stretch into a wide and uneven plateau divided by gaps and slopes. Along the middle there rises a 12- to 15-mile-long, smooth, solid limestone outcropping a couple hundred feet above the plain. The top is flat and without a bush on it. The scraggly sides are forest-covered and watered by springs.

Up here the first Norwegians climbed up and clung hard to the tree groves by a brook. Here there was good soil for plowing on the flat and plenty of wood and water nearby along the slopes. Therefore, these tracts of land were the first to be occupied.

High up on this broad ridge, with a view extending 15 to 20 miles on both sides, lies the village of Spring Grove, perhaps the most thoroughly Norwegian town in the U.S.

— History of the Norwegian Settlements, by Hjalmar Rued Holand

Thousands of arriving Norwegians and their descendants established a historically significant immigrant community in the area between Norwegian Ridge and the Upper Iowa River, including parts of Houston, Winneshiek, and Allamakee Counties. Within this web site, “Norwegian Ridge” refers to this broader area.

Many thousands of Norwegian families established their American roots in the Norwegian Ridge area. As available land became more scarce, later immigrants and children of Norwegian Ridge settlers made up a new generation of pioneers that ventured west to claim 160 acres  under the Homestead Act of 1862, often choosing farms along the Red River Valley. These new communities would, in turn, welcome the next generation of emigrants from Norway. (This map of Norwegian communities in the year 2000 census illustrates these areas nicely.)

Map of the Norwegian Ridge Area

5 Responses to Where is Norwegian Ridge?

  1. Eunice Kvaale Sankey says:

    My great-grandmother, Olina Viker, was born in the Spring Grove area, not sure if it was Fillmore County or Houston County. I have found her family censuses (father Hans, mother Sigrid) in Fillmore County. She married my great-grandfather, Hans O. Lee and they lived in Badger Township, Polk County, MN until her death at the young age of 39. He remarried and continued to live there, and my family still owns land in that immediate area.

  2. Halvard Rønningen says:

    Jørgen Iversen born 1816 in Bø (Bo) in Telemark.
    I think i died in 1885


    HI Eric,
    I am researching Hanson family history for my dad’s 80th birthday. I’ve been digging for nearly a year and really am at a loss to find a trail for his great-grand parents. They came over from Nordfjoreid in 1869 (US census records) and settled in Faribault County, MN. I’ve been in contact with the court house and librarians in Blue Earth to no avail. I realize that Norwegian Ridge is not that close, but could you give me clues how most of these people entered the country? Was it through Castle Grarden, New Orleans, Boston, Quebec? They probably followed the same route. I have clicked through many of your resources and online books…very informative! His great grand parents name’s are Peter Hanson (b.1830), his wife Barbara (b.1834), and their toddler Hans Peter (b.1865).I have enjoyed your blog and appreciate your input. Thank you so very much. KKH

  4. RLS says:

    My Great Grandfather homesteaded in Riceford. Rasmus C Spande. I have many cousins and aunts who still live in Austin and Winona. My Grandmother still lived in Riceford until her death in 1980. Thanks for the great information found here.

  5. Eunice Sankey says:

    Kristin Hanson, have you gotten any responses? My great great grandfather, Hans Nelsen Viker, came through New York. He arrived in May 1850. There were waterways to probably Chicago, then they probably had to use railway (if there was any) from there or travel in horse-pulled wagons.

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