RURAL BRYANT, SD, PRESENTS:
Our Norwegian Immigrants,
A Hundred Year Saga Told in Pictures
The early years were hazardous. The journey across the ocean had been long, slow, and dangerous. Once they arrived their entire lives had to be started anew. They had to face a score of adversaries such as epidemics, pests, storms, landsharks, etc. Still more and more immigrants followed.
Hard work was nothing new to the settlers and they willingly gave of their strength and devotion to the building of America. In the early years they were drawn towards farm life but later they contributed heavilyt to diverse crafts and trades as wsell. In this book we meet them all, in the grief of departure, in the joys and sorrows of a new life, at work and in leisure.
This overwhelming display of historically valuable photographs swere originallycollected and made available tot he American public in connection witht he 1975 Sesaquicentennial Photography Exhibition., "With Our Hands and Minds." The exhibition concentrated mainly on the Mid-West. In thisbook that material is supplemented by pictures from immigrant life in the West and in Alaska.
It took grit, courage, perseverance, and faith to make this vast leap from Old Northern Europe (Scandinavia) and its established, well-known circumstances and culture, to the virtually unknown new world of America. Our forefathers in Norway evidenced all these traits in abundance. Once they landed, it took initiative, foresight, self-sacrifice, intelligence, farming and manual skills, and unremitting hard work to make the most of often difficult and even disappointing conditions in the new land. What sustained these immigrants most of all, we contend, is not their personal strength and ingenuity or intelligence--for courage can fail in even a strong and resourceful man or woman--but FAITH. Faith abides when all else fails, they found time and again. It is the record of their faith that testifies to us today of the golden legacy they bequeathed by their examples to succeeding generations. We their descendants of Norwegian immigrant descent can be very proud of their epic achievements over time to subdue the mostly virgin sod in pioneering days, but where strength failed, faith kept them going, and they did not slacken off in faith--as we know from our family records as Stadem and Holbeck descendants.
They did not have faith in faith, it must be noted, they had faith in God Almighty. The Bible was their Book, by which they ruled and conducted their lives and all their dealings with each other. Love of God, love of the church, love of the Word of God, love of family, love for one's fellow man--at bottom was love, without which human life is meaningless and misdirected and cheerless and self-serviing.
Most books about Norwegian immigration do not say this about the immigrants' faith, for they focus on the sociological perspective and seem to think that it defines human beings to the core--which it does not and cannot do. Man is not a political creature, as Aristotle may have taught, and modern thinkers might hold too, but he intrinsically a SPIRITUAL creature created especially by God for unique fellowship with Him. That he has failed, since Adam's fall into sin, to be that spiritual creature is contrary to his original design as the Bible describes it. We are not just sociological or political or economic and political creatures--we were designed to be children of God, living in accordance with God's holy laws and the Grace of Christ.
In describing our forebears and relaying the records and documents and life examples and writings they left for us as our inheritance, we have always sought to portray this vital spiritual dimension of theirs. Though it is scantily documented in the lives of Sjur and Oline Stadheim while over in Norway, unfortunately, we can still see how they lived and acted in America--and truly they were a spiritual family, as they proved by their taking founding roles in Pleasant Lutheran Church, in Pleasant Township, in Dakota Territory. A Stadem couple (Peder, son of Sjur and his bride Marie Karlsen) was the first couple married in that pioneer church, in fact. Stadems were elders in other Lutheran churches, notably Canton's and Bryant's, as well as others in the Dakota territories. Church participation remained a vibrant, big tradition with them from the very first, so we can tell by this that it was probably nothing new to them--they just continued what was going on over in Norway perhaps for centuries or at the least, several generations. In other words, they didn't just "get religion" when they came over to America from Norway, they already had it, and then carried it to wherever they settled and planted their families, cultivating it just as carefully as they cultivated their farms' rich prairie soil.
Another notable fact that substantiates this spiritual role of the Stadems from times past in Norway is that they resided in Bergen on the west coast of Norway for a number of years after re-locating from their ancestral community of Vik on the Sogn Fjord. There were a number of ancient churches in their community, one of them a Stav edifice of Viking days, but Bergen had something more for them: it was a center of revival and evangelical faith.
This thriving seaport of Bergen, with all its cultural and economic advancement possible, was a primary hotbed of spiritual advancement as well. It was the adopted home of none other than Hans Nielsen Hauge, the greatest evangelist of Norway and one of the greatest in Christian history since Paul the Apostle--since an entire nation was won over to Christ and pietism by this epic evangelist. There is no way that the Stadheims could reside in Bergen without being in almost daily contact with his followers and his teachings. Perhaps Bergen provided them with the fullest possible expression of Haugeism, the evangelical faith that his witness inspired from one end of Norway to the other. Love of Jesus, repentance, and transformation of the old man into the New Creature in Christ, these were the hallmarks of a truly regenerated man--and there is no doubt the Stadheims were exposed to this spirituality that shook Norway free from dead orthodoxy and the rule of legalism in the church culture, reviving and bringing a saving, life-transforming spirit to Christian beliefs and practice.
For a description of Hans Nielsen Hauge in fuller detail, you can go to the biography we have on-line. We also will feature excerpts from a later biography, "Pulpit Under the Sky," by Joseph Shaw.
But suffice it for now, the book jacket describes that book in this way:
"Pulpit Under the Sky," by Joseph M. Shaw: At the crossroads of the 18th and 19th centuries a young peasant [quite the same occupation of our forebears, the Stadheims--Ed.] traveled the open highways and fields of his native Norway preaching the Christian gospel. His followers became so numerous that, though he was never ordained into the ministry, he has been called "Norway's greatest spiritual genius."
The value of this book lies in its clear, objective study of a man who usually seems to have been viewed through the prejudices of his biographers. Like amy evangelicals of consequence, Hans Nielsen Hauge has been presented both scoffingly and reverently, and particularly in the English language has there been a scarcity of objective literature about him.
For Scandinavians who are most familiar with this giant of evangelistic fervor, this book reveals enlightening material and facts concerning Hauge and his effect on country and church. [And this is what we can infer from the Stadheim's residence in Bergen, a second home to Hauge, that there was a considerable influence exercised upon them of Hauge's evangelical fervor and his pietistic, restored faith--Ed.]
For others, who will read this book bcause of an interest in historical biography or in great revival movements and their leaders, it presents the man primarily responsible for Norway's pietism in the 19th century.
Shaw writes as a man fascinated and excited by the dynamic faith and driving energy of this layman [the Haugean lay ministry was indeed instrumental in the Svanoe family line too, evidenced in the Svanoe Island connection, which was the location of an estate that Hauge purchased and then turned over to a certain godly couple; a connection that led to the Svanoe descendant, Atle Svanoe, whose son married a Stadem in South Dakota years later, and who wrote the book on lay ministry, the "Work of Lay Persons," that we also feature in excerpts on this website--Ed.].
At the same time he sees the inevitable weaknesses of human nature. In this balanced picture he shows Hauge's relationship to his country: as a peasant son, a revival preacher, a patriarch, and even a prisoner... [and he also shows, we might add, Hauge's tender love and affectionate, godly relations with family members and his parents; now the remainder of the book jacket is lost, so we must end it here, though this fragment should be enough to give the reader an overview of Hauge and this book about him by Joseph Shaw.--Ed.]. A final comment about Shaws book: we intend to excerpt the concluding chapter, "Haugeanism and the Church," as it most fully describes the cradle in which the faith of our own Stadem forebears was born and nutured to full ripeness. It is not possible to call that faith ripe in Norway, for we do not have the records to show that, but America more than makes up for Norway's scarcity in this regard, as we can testify here on this website in many accounts. Please avail yourself of these accounts as they come on-line, for they will make up for the lack of any real knowledge of our forebears' faith. Scattered impressions or scant recollections of even our Grandparents, Alfred and Bergit Stadem, will be richly reinforced with these accounts, until we can see them like we perhaps never saw them before--and understand all the great issues of Christian life and faith they confronted so well in their time, as well as gain insight and vital lessons for our own time and its challenges to faith and Christian life.
We face today the predominance of a secular, humanist society and culture that has become mainstream and pervasive throughout the nation and even the government-- and that is not the full challenge, we also face the rise of militant Islam here and abroad. The breakdown of American and Western civilization, with all its social evils, is rampant and seemingly irreversible, a third challenge. The economy is also ailing, creating a fourth. And we might add a decline of evangelical Protestantism based on the Bible and the breakdown of the family and traditional marriage and morals, is even more disturbing than the first four. How can we best respond as Christians who love Jesus and look to him for salvation and a meaningful life as Christians in this fallen world? How can we combat the repudiation of the Biblical worldview and all the values that have depended on that view since our country's founding? These and other pressing questions will be given consideration and more than a dim, passing light by turning our attention to "Haugeanism and the Church" in regard to our own Stadem forebears, we believe.
Why do we believe that? We believe that our forebears' faith and examples provide many lessons and even answers that will help us as evangelical, Bible-based Christians find the right way to respond to this era's major challenges. Haugeism rooted in good soil hearts among both the Stadem and Holb lines. We found this is true in the historical accounts we have, that show Haugeism is not dead among the descendants. In many of them we see evidenced in lives and actions and ministries, their fervent faith in the Lord Jesus, their personal rebirth and regeneration of soul through the Redemptive work of Christ, and the holy and godly life portrayed and exhorted by Hans Nielsen Huage.