CINPThe Central Iowa Norwegian ProjectCINP


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About the Central Iowa Norwegian Project

See “2011 Update” Information Below

Central Iowa is the home of the third largest concentration of Norwegian-Americans in Iowa.

The goal of the Central Iowa Norwegian Project is to publish a history of the central Iowa Norwegians from 1855 to 1905 with the following objectives:

Anyone having information about the settlers, stories about the times, and/or resource materials is encouraged to contact Arlen Twedt (Atwedt@aol.com}.

Arlen Twedt is a descendant of two of the original Howard Township pioneer families.


How the Project Began

The idea for the Central Iowa Norwegian Project began in 1989 as a wish that someone would write a general history about the central Iowa Norwegians. Such a history could help family historians better understand the historical context in which their ancestors lived, especially when little or no direct information about their own ancestors had been preserved. It was after preparing a historical talk in 1993 that I realized maybe I could be that "someone." And so a commitment to writing a history began.

The book outline emerged slowly, but early on it was clear the story must be told through the lives and experiences of the people who lived in the settlements. To accomplish this, it is necessary to become acquainted with the people who lived in the settlements, especially the people whose stories have been preserved in letters, diaries, memoirs, biographies, and other documents. This is the reason for the above project objectives.

There is an extensive written record of the central Iowa Norwegian settlements including some excellent family histories. Why, then, is another history necessary? Most of these resources present information from the point of view of a particular church, community, neighborhood, or family. This limited focus does not help the family historian and others with more general interests understand the importance of the settlements as a whole and their significance to the immigration history of the state and country.

Another important need being addressed by this project is locating and cataloging the history that already exists. It is scattered in many documents in many libraries and in the personal possessions of many families. After ten years of concentrated research, I believe I have located eighty percent of the major documents, many of which are listed in the selected bibliography, but much remains to be discovered, especially in the local newspapers and from family historians.

I am also concerned about the oral history that is lost when our central Iowa Norwegian ancestors die or when important historical documents are thrown away when estates are settled. You can help by preserving the stories of your ancestors, placing copies of them in your local library, and making me aware of these resources. After the history is completed, I will place a complete inventory of the historical resources in selected libraries.

Those interested in the progress of the history can monitor it on the book outline page of this Web site. Chapter summaries will be posted as they are completed. Progress will be slow, however, as I want to enjoy the journey and because it will be a few years before I can devote full-time to it. If you know of other resources that could be added to the selected bibliography, please contact me at atwedt@aol.com.

Arlen Twedt, June 2000

2011 Update

Since my 2006 update, I have continued to make steady progress toward the goal of completing a history of the first 50 years of Norwegian settlement in central Iowa. In addition to working on the general history, I have also completed several special studies and historical talks.

I have changed the title of the history to The Central Iowa Norwegians: Histories and Studies of Their Settlement from 1855 to 1905, and have expanded it from two to three volumes. Each volume contains a signature piece by me followed by shorter histories, memoirs, and biographies by other authors. Below are the signature pieces for each volume, their completion status, and a brief description of each volume's other contents.

Vol. 1 - "The Settlement Period: 1855-1880"

This history, now over three times the length of the 2006 version, is 95% finished and awaiting completion of family biographies that will be published in Vol. 2. As I research the early central Iowa Norwegian families for the biographies, I am discovering new information to add to this history, and this is the reason for deciding not to publish Vol. 1 until Vol. 2 is completed. The rest of this volume consists of " Lisbon, Illinois: A Doorway to the West, " written by a friend especially for this volume and early histories of the central Iowa Norwegians by other authors.

Vol. 2 - "The Early Pioneers, 1855-60: Biographic and Demographic Profiles"

The biographic profiles I am researching and writing are brief family histories of the 135 Norwegian families that lived in central Iowa prior to 1861, and the demographic profiles will be updates of the "Early Settler Statistics" on this Web site. The biographies, which now account for 647 Norwegians who lived in central Iowa by December 31, 1860, are over half done. The rest of this volume consists of memoirs and biographies by other authors that describe early pioneer life in the settlements founded southwest of Cambridge in 1855 and east of Story City in 1856.

Vol. 3 - "The Town Building Period: 1880-1905"

I am still gathering information for this history, but a 10-page outline I completed last summer has helped to bring it into clearer focus. The rest of the volume will include the 1940 Palestine and 1907 St. Petri church histories, reports about the central Iowa Norwegian settlements published in Skandinaven (Chicago) and Minneapolis Tidende and translated by friends, accounts of the 50th anniversary celebrations, and an extensive bibliography for further reading and research.

I think about my research every day and work on it almost every day when my wife and I are not visiting our children and grandchildren, traveling, or I am not lured outdoors to work in the yard and garden. I am anxious to publish it and look forward to the next update announcing the publication of Volumes 1 & 2 of The Central Iowa Norwegians.

Arlen Twedt, January 2011

2006 Update

Thank you to everyone who has visited this section of Markís Web site during the past five years, either in the hopes of finding family information or to learn more about the history of the central Iowa Norwegians. This update gives me an opportunity to again thank Mark for inviting me to place information on his Web site.

In 1995, I published a brochure announcing my plan to have a history of the central Iowa Norwegians completed by 2005, the 150th anniversary of the coming of the Norwegians to central Iowa. Frankly, I was very naive then about the time it takes to do historical research. Fortunately, now that I am retired, I have more time to spend at the library.

When I knew I could not complete a book-length history by 2005, I decided to begin work on another book, a collection of histories others have written about the central Iowa Norwegians. “Certainly,” I thought, “I can have it ready to publish in 2005.” It, too, has been more time-consuming than I thought it would be, primarily because of notes I have added to some of the histories, biographies I have written about some of the authors, and three selections I have written.

Working on the second book has made me realize that my 25-page study of the settlement phase up through 1880 is all I want to write about this time period and that a similar study about the town building phase from 1880 to 1905 will also be sufficient. Researching and writing shorter pieces gives me time to explore other topics like the influence of Haugeanism in central Iowa. I also like the idea of publishing other authorsí histories, some of which have only recently been translated into English.

When I shared these thoughts with a friend, he suggested I use Norwegian-American Studies and Records published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association as a model for publishing my research. I like this idea. With histories others have written and the studies I have completed and intend to complete, there is enough material for at least two books. Presently, I am calling them, Histories and Studies of the Central Iowa Norwegians, Volumes 1 & 2. See About the Books for a tentative list of contents for each volume.

Another decision I have made is to publish the books through a Print on Demand (POD) publisher. POD books are generally not stocked in bookstores, but are printed one at a time as they are ordered at a national bookstore or online. This allows me to do what I like most, research and writing, and I can choose how much time I devote to marketing the books.

With this update, I have also revised the statistics in The Early Settlers section to reflect my latest accounting of Norwegians who lived in central Iowa up through 1860. Learning more about these people continues to be a priority in my research.

Thank you again for your interest in the Central Iowa Norwegian Project. Iíve enjoyed hearing from many people these past five years, and I look forward to hearing from others in the future.

Arlen Twedt, January 2006



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