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Sons of Norway in Cottonwood County

Cottonwood County Historical Society
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Sons of Norway Stavanger Lodge 538 banner

Banner for the Stavanger Lodge 538. Photographed at a lodge meeting held at the Cottonwood County Historical Society, 2018. Used with the permission of Janelle Kaye.

Cottonwood County citizens have participated in local chapters of the national Sons of Norway organization, called lodges, since 1938. Since 1974, Stavanger Lodge 538 has brought members together to participate in cultural, artistic, and community events that celebrate Norwegian American traditions.

The Independent Order of the Sons of Norway was founded on January 16, 1895, by eighteen Norwegian immigrant men living in Minneapolis. In 1893, they conceived the idea of creating a fraternal benefit organization in the wake of a severe economic depression. Inspired by both Norwegian and American ideals of fraternalism, the group sought to provide a range of social assistance, including insurance plans, to its members.

In its first years, the organization’s primary goal was to care for Norwegian immigrants and facilitate their assimilation into American culture. It provided security in financial crises; a forum for celebrating American nationalism; and methods for preserving Norwegian language, literature, music, and art.

By 1901, there were twelve Sons of Norway lodges in Minnesota. Between 1905 and 1914, it became an organization with national influence and reach. Lodges were established across the continent, from New York to the Pacific Northwest. In the 1920s and 1930s, more lodges were formed throughout the United States. They were divided (as they continue to be in the twenty-first century) into six districts on the US mainland, one district in Norway, and one district in British Columbia.

Cottonwood County’s participation in the Sons of Norway dates to September 23, 1938, when an organizational lodge meeting was held in Revere, Minnesota. Twenty-six members from Revere and Walnut Grove (Redwood County) and Westbrook and Storden (Cottonwood County) attended. They named their lodge Helgeland after the Helgeland region of Norway, in which most of them had ancestral roots.

The new lodge chose Storden for its headquarters and met for the first time around 1950. Meetings were held there until 1956, when the lodge moved to Westbrook. Meetings continued at the second site until June 17, 1958, when the group disbanded and its members joined lodges in other counties.

For fifteen years, there were no Sons of Norway lodges in Cottonwood County. Then, around 1973, Erling Husby, a benefit officer at the Sons of Norway Minnesota state headquarters in Minneapolis, was sent to Worthington to see if it would be a good location for a new lodge. During his visit there, he realized that Windom would be a better site due to the larger number of Norwegian immigrants living there. He recommended that the state organization choose Windom. On March 19, 1974, Stavanger Lodge 538 in Cottonwood County, a part of Sons of Norway District 1, was formed in Windom with 118 charter members.

Membership in the new lodge was open to anyone with Scandinavian heritage or an interest in learning about the culture. It is named for Stavanger, Norway, where several original members originated. Its mission is: “…to promote and preserve the heritage and culture of Norway, to celebrate our relationship with other Nordic Countries, and to provide quality insurance and financial products to our members.”

Members of Stavanger Lodge receive multiple benefits, including insurance and annuities; scholarships and grants; and sports, cultural, and heritage programs. They also receive the award-winning monthly magazine Viking—the national organization’s official magazine. The lodge awards sports medals to members who accomplish established goals in a fitness program and cultural medals to those who learn about Norwegian culture. Medals are awarded in twelve units: foods, literature, stamp collecting, rosemaling, genealogy, knitting, language, Hardanger embroidery, wood carving, weaving, folk dancing, and music.

In the twenty-first century, Stavanger Lodge 538 continues to flourish by building on the traditions of the past while also incorporating contemporary Norwegian American lifestyles into its programs. Lodge members continue to gather to celebrate Mid-Solen, the arrival of the summer solstice, much as it is observed in Norway. Lodge members collaborate with other organizations to bring programs and services to Cottonwood County residents. At the annual Riverfest celebration in Windom, for example, lodge members host a Scandinavian smorgasbord that showcases traditional Norwegian, and Norwegian American, foods and arts.

Sons of Norway continues to flourish by meeting the interests and needs of area residents just as it did in 1893.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
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  • Related Resources

“Brief: Swedish Fiddlers to Stop in Windom.” Daily Globe News, July 18, 2008.

Erickson, Marilyn (Stavanger Lodge member). Conversation with the author, Windom, Minnesota, 2018.

Iverson, Corinne. “A Bit of Local History—Helgeland Lodge 412: Sons of Norway.” Sentinel Tribune, January 10, 1995.

“Sons of Norway to Note Mid-Solen with Ole Olesen.”, June 22, 2010.

Strom, Hildegarde M. “A Brief History of Sons of Norway.” Sons of Norway membership packet, personal collection of the author.

Related Images

Sons of Norway Stavanger Lodge 538 banner
Sons of Norway Stavanger Lodge 538 banner
Meeting of Savanger Lodge 538
Meeting of Savanger Lodge 538
Meeting of Stavanger Lodge 538
Meeting of Stavanger Lodge 538
Meeting of Stavanger Lodge 538
Meeting of Stavanger Lodge 538
Sons of Norway Display, 2018
Sons of Norway Display, 2018
Sons of Norway lodge in Windom, 1925
Sons of Norway lodge in Windom, 1925

Turning Point

On March 19, 1974, Stavanger Lodge 538 in Cottonwood County at Windom, a part of Sons of Norway’s District 1, forms with 118 charter members.



Eighteen Norwegian immigrants found the Independent Order of the Sons of Norway in Minneapolis.


There are twelve Sons of Norway lodges in Minnesota.


Sons of Norway is a nationwide fraternal organization with more than 10,000 members.


A Sons of Norway meeting held in Revere, Minnesota, includes residents from Cottonwood County.


On January 12, Helgeland Lodge 412 moves its meetings from Revere to Storden.


Helgeland Lodge 412 meets in Westbrook for the first time.


On July 17, Helgeland Lodge 412 meets in Westbrook for the last time before disbanding.


Worthington is considered as a site for another lodge in southwestern Minnesota.


Stavanger Lodge 538 is established in Windom on March 19.


Stavanger Lodge 538 collaborates with the BARC Education Connection to host the performance of a group of folk musicians from Sweden at the Business, Arts, & Recreation Center in Windom.


Members of Stavanger Lodge 538 gather at a private home on Heron Lake to celebrate Mid-Solen, the summer solstice.