News from Shawano County|
Stefán Guđmundsson's bulletin from Framfari 1878
The author of this bulletin, Stefán Guđmundsson, later became known by the name Stephan G. Stephansson. He and his family where among the large group of people who moved from Akureyri in August 1873. To begin with, the group worked at various jobs near Staughton, Wisconsin and later settled in Shawano in 1874.
Framfari has already brought its readers little news reports from most of the areas " west of the Ocean," where Icelanders have settled and made homes for themselves. No one has yet, so far as I recall, mentioned Shawano County; I therefore take the liberty of requesting the editor to allow space in his paper for these few lines; for since no one else has raised the subject it is just as well that I attempt to break the silence. I therefore ask the benevolent reader's pardon if the subject be small and poorly reported.
The autumn of 1874 several Icelanders moved here, most of them family men; they took up land here and settled down in the hope that more of their countrymen might in time take homesteads here and become owners of land and livestock. Instead of that, two of those who homesteaded here have moved away, but their place has been taken and the number of land owners is just as high as at first; moreover, several young Icelandic bachelors have come to find work in the woods, especially in the winter time, augmenting the number of Icelanders here in Shawano.
The number of Icelanders here and their possessions is along the following lines:
33 individuals. 6 landowners.
"Fortyur" (?) 25. Cultivated acres 54.
Cattle 31. Horses 5. Ewes 25. Pigs 4. Chickens 137.
People will now perhaps think that we have not made huge strides toward wealth and a sufficiency of everything, but this is not at all our intention; we do, however, think we have shown and proven by our own experience that there is very good land to be had here and that Icelanders can make a living from the land alone, and wooded land at that, even though fisheries are wanting. There are extensive tracts here which are still unsettled, although they are quickly being taken by Scandinavians and Germans, who are not letting the woods thwart their patience and ability to thrive. It is not likely that more Icelanders will settle here than have already arrived, and there are two choices for those who reside here, either to shelter under the protective wing of one of the great powers ! Americans, Germans or Norwegians, and become altogether like them in speech and conduct, or to move from here somewhere where our countrymen have established themselves and are the most populous group. You must not let it upset you, my dear Framfari, if I tell you the news that we countrymen here are "strict Catholic" synod men!
On the Fourth of July just past, all the Icelanders living here got together to celebrate the American national holiday. The Rev. Páll Thorlaksson held a discourse, explaining how much greater Christian freedom was than the civil freedom, which we ought to thank God was not restricted in this country by any despotic power. People amused themselves as well as they could and joyfully celebrated "Independence Day."
I have now written more than was my original intention; but since it is always considered appropriate to conclude a lecture with a prayer, I would wish in conclusion progress to Framfari and prosperity and all success to its readers.
Written in the month of July 1878.