History of Norway Township, Racine County, Wisconsin
From: Racine, Belle City of the lakes
and Racine County, Wisconsin.
Fanny's Stone, Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1916


The Town of Norway is one of the northern tier. It is hounded on the north by Milwaukee County; on the east by the Town of Raymond; on the south by Dover, and on the west by Waterford. Its area is thirty six square miles, embracing Congressional Township 4 North, of Range 20 East. In the northwestern part are three lakes, the largest of which is Wind Lake. Muskego Creek, the outlet of Wind Lake, is the only watercourse of consequence in the township. It flows southwardly from the lake through Sections 16, 17, 20, 29 and 32, and crosses the southern boundary about a mile from the southwest corner.

In September, 1838, Thomas Drought came from Lower Canada with a wagon and team of oxen seeking a new home in Wisconsin. After looking about for a few days he selected 160 acres in Section 12, and was the first white man to settle in what is now Norway Township. His sister came with him and other members of the family followed. They located near and thus what afterward became known as the "Drought Settlement" sprang up in the northeast corner of Norway. James Ash located in the township in the fall of 1838 and Alfred Thompson and George Drought came in the spring of 1839.

Quite an addition was made to the population in the summer of 1839. A vessel arrived at Milwaukee with about forty Norwegians on board, who had heard in their native land of the wonderful opportunities offered in America and had come to seek their fortunes in the New World. Before leaving Norway they had selected Illinois as their destination, but were detained at Milwaukee for a short time and there they were met by George Walker, who endeavored to persuade them to locate in Wisconsin. Mr Walker was evidently something of a politician. Blessed with good health and a ruddy appearance, he pointed out to the immigrants a man from Illinois who had been a victim of fever and ague to such an extent that his countenance was sallow and his figure somewhat emaciated, and argued that the climate was the cause of the difference. The Illinois man urged the Norwegians to adhere to their original intention, but Mr. Walker won the day.

Unfortunately, their interpreter was accidentally drowned in the river at Milwaukee a few days after they landed, but they secured guides and sent out a party to look for a suitable location for the colony. This exploring party selected a site near Muskeg Lake Says Judge Dyer: "It was a dry season and the marshes resembled prairies in their appearance, surrounded by forests. Cabins soon sprang up on the "hill sides around the marshes, but the bright hopes of the settlers were quenched when the spring floods came and converted the promising prairie into lakes and morasses. This caused a removal of the colony further south and west. Mr. Haler Thompson settled on the banks of Wind Lake; John Nelson, another of the party, settled on an adjoining claim, which he improved considerably, and from which he subsequently removed to Koskenong Prairie."

Soren Backe and Johannes Johansen, two intelligent Norwegians who came to this country in the fall of 1839 and spent the winter in Illinois, visited the Wind Lake settlement in the spring of 1840, with a view to bringing a number of their countrymen. The cluster of beautiful lakes were swarming with fish, the surrounding forests, in which there was an abundance of game, the fertile soil, and the presence of a Norwegian settlement already commenced, all met their approval. They built a cabin on the shore of one of the lakes and sent word to their friends in Norway to come on. Early in the fall a large company of immigrants arrived under the leadership of Evan Hansen - or Evan Hansen Heg, the name Heg having been derived from the place where the family lived in Norway, or the farm which they possessed, which was known as "Headquarters."

It seems that Soren Backe was possessed of a considerable sum of money, which he invested in a large tract of land. When the colonists arrived, he sold this land in small parcels to them on favorable terms Among these colonists were: Ole Andersen, Hans and Peter Jacobsen, John Larsen, Niels H. Narum, Sivert Ingerbretsen, Knud Arslarksen, Johannes Evensen, Gurder Gurtesen and Ole Hogensen, all sturdy men who were not afraid to encounter the hardships of frontier life and well calculated to build up a new country. Johannes Johansen, Soren Backe and Evan Hansen Heg were regarded as the founders of the first permanent Scandinavian colony in Wisconsin, the first named receiving the appellation of "King."

In a short time the colony increased in numbers and became the center of Scandinavian immigration to the state. A trading post was established on Mr Heg's farm, where the colonists purchased their supplies and received their mail. One of the early dwellings occupied by some of the families was made by excavating a tunnel into a large Indian mound and roofing it over. Here several of the pioneers lived with their families until other and better quarters could be provided. One of the early settlers in Norway was James D. Reymert, who published a newspaper in the Norwegian language called the Nord Lyset (Northern Light), which is said to have been the first Scandinavian newspaper in Wisconsin, if not in the United States. Mr. Reymert served as a member of the Assembly in the legislative sessions of 1849 and 1857, and in the session of 1854-55 was in the State Senate.

Nearly all the colonists were Lutherans and in 1845 a log church was erected near the center of the settlement. In the churchyard many of the original founders of the colony lie buried. Here also rest the remains of Hans C. Beg, son of Evan Hansen Heg, who was colonel of the Fifteenth Wisconsin Infantry in the Civil War. He was severely wounded while leading his regiment into the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19, 1863, and died the next day. His brother, Ole Heg, was quartermaster of the same regiment.

On February 11, 1847, Governor Dodge approved an act of the Legislature, Section 16 of which provided: "That Township Number 4 North, of Range Number 20 East, in the County of Racine, is hereby set off into a separate town by the name of Norway, and that the first town meeting in such town shall be holden at such place in said Town of Norway as the town clerk of the Town of Raymond shall by three written notices direct; and it shall be the duty of said town clerk to cause said notices to be posted up in three of the most public places in said Township of Norway, at least three weeks before the first Tuesday of April next."

The town derives its name from the nationality of the early settlers. It is an agricultural community, having no railroad nor any villages within its limits. In 1910 the population was 888, and in 1915 the property was assessed for taxation at $1,987,372.

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