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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Syttende Mai celebration in Westby, May 17, 1914

by Madeline Anderson
Westby Area Historical Society

One of the early Syttende Mai celebrations in Westby was in 1914. It marked the hundredth year of Norwegian independence. The following articles were in the Vernon County Censor. There are no Westby Times articles available as those years were destroyed in a fire.

From the Vernon County Censor for May 13, 1914, under the headline of Centennial Anniversary, we find the following article:

Syttende Mai parade participants lining up in front of the new public school
on West Avenue South.

"Next Sunday, in song and praise, in speech and impressive service Westby citizens will observe the one hundredth anniversary of the independence of Norway. A morning program is arranged at the church, where religious services will be held. At Davidson's grove, in the afternoon, following a parade to the place, fitting exercises will be carried through. People generally are invited to join. The speaking will be in English and Norwegian.”

In a follow-up article from the Censor, dated May 20, 1914, the Censor reported the following: 

"Westby citizens did themselves proud on Sunday last in giving vent to love for the mother country and its institutions and history. The hundredth anniversary of the event was duly and appropriately celebrated throughout the country, but nowhere more in keeping with the times than in our neighboring village of Westby. And there assembled people from all directions making it one of the memorable days in the history of that place.

"The morning hours were given over to religious services in the new Lutheran church. At two o'clock an imposing procession march through the principal streets to Davidson's grove. The cornet band lead the way, blending of stars and striped and the Norwegian flag borne aloft, girls dressed in native costumes, Boy Scouts on bicycles, Sons of Norway, school children, each carrying a flag, making a procession that was both creditable and inspiring.

"The program consisted of addresses by Revs. Eijkarud and Green in Norwegian and Hon. A. H. Dahl in English, singing of American, the Norse national song "Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Landet," band music, etc., making a full afternoon. Rev. H. Halverson presided and Dr. Schreiner was marshal of the day. Mr. Dahl's talk in English combined the historic and patriotic , breathing a spirit of love for the mother and adopted country. He paid a high tribute to Norsemen as statesmen, educators, proficiency as soldiers on land and sea, their earnestness as Christians, thrift as citizens. He said the Norwegians made good Americans because they were peace-lovers, industrious and patriotic.”

The photo of A.H. Dahl addressing the crowd is from a photo album that was donated to Westby Area Historical Society. 

A.H. Dahl addressing the crowd.
Contributed by Westby Area Historical Society
A few historical notes:

Davidson's grove is now Davidson Park. Jens Davidson would often grant permission for special events to be held on his property, prior to donating the land to the city of Westby in 1922 for the park.

Rev. Anders Halvorsen Eijkarud was assistant pastor at Country Coon Prairies church from 1890-1893. He served as pastor at North Coon Prairie church from 1893-1921 when he returned to Norway.

Rev. Joseph Marius Green was a pastor at Perry, Wisconsin and in charge of the Madison circuit for the church at that time.

Hon. A.H. Dahl was Andrew H. Dahl, merchant and influential Westby citizen. He represented Vernon County in the Wisconsin State Assembly, acted as State Treasurer, and also served as a supervisor for the village of Westby among other prestigious offices.

To see the bigger photo, click  HERE.

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