|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
An immigrant family of most any country in northern Europe usually kept contact with
relatives or friends in the homeland. When work was obtained or land secured one could
be certain such news was part of any correspondence. Most new settlers were impressed
by possibilities in this land and were quick to write of advantages over life in the old
country. All favorable comment fell on receptive ears of those people who were struggling
to keep body and soul together. Immigration rose and early settlers were often times able
to find locations for many of their home community people. This often resulted in an
actual transplant of whole neighborhoods from the old country to the new and was
characteristic of all nationalities.
Norwegian settlement of the eastern half of Trempealeau County began with a trickle in
the early 1850’s, grew slowly through the Civil War period and mushroomed afterward.
All good farm land available under homestead law or railroad purchase was about gone by
1872. The several settlements of these people followed, more or less, the above mentioned
trends. For instance, the Blair area was heavily populated by people from Solør, Pigeon
Falls and a large number from both sides of Mjosa, Norway’s largest inland lake, etc.
Five old country “bygds” (communities) settled in the present Strum area, although there
was a scattering from all over the old country. These five settlements began with one early
settler from each of these bygds, who through correspondence influenced relatives and
friends to come - this place was a good place to locate - and come they did.
Esten Johnson Dahl was the first Norwegian to settle in what is now the Town of Unity.
He and his wife had crossed the ocean about 1860, had lived south of Sparta and had four
children when they decided to move and obtain their own land. They chose to live in the
southeast quarter of section 29 of the future Unity, arriving there on June 18, 1868.
Their home in the old country had been at Tolga, a cold place whose main industry was a
copper smelting plant. When this operation closed in 1870 three men and three single
women who had been in contact with the Johnson family sailed and eventually ended their
travels in this area. All three men, Ole Thomasgaard, Nels Kleven and Lars Dahl, secured
land after a few years close to Johnson’s, and the first two mentioned married two of the
young ladies who came at the same time. All three men and Esten Johnson were very
prominent in early Unity township affairs. All served on school boards for many years and
were active in their church.
From the same bygd came the following after a decade or two: Ole P. Berg and wife, Ole
K. Berg and wife, Bernt Moe, wife and three sons, Knut Hammer, the Erik Erlien family,
Erik Holden and four children besides several others who came here and left at various
times. Several women came and were married during later years. These former Tolga men
were very active in township affairs, one or more were always connected as chairman,
supervisor, clerk or treasurer through many year.
Hurdal is a small valley about 60 miles north of Oslo. Timber harvesting and a glass works
were the sole industry back in the 1800’s and when the latter began curbing production,
men began rereading news about America and its unbelievably low priced land.
From this place came Even Evenson and his wife during the summer of 1869. He was 25
years of age when he homesteaded in section 30, one mile south of future Strum. He had
emigrated in 1866 along with at least one cousin and had spent two years around Sparta.
He had learned the English language well enough to qualify as town clerk of Sumner in
1870. Besides operating his farm, Evenson dealt in real estate and seems to have been an
intermediary for many Norwegian settlers in this area.
He was of the large Rognlien family and no doubt influenced a half-brother, Martin E. and