The first permanent* Norwegian settlement was in LaSalle County around the Fox River, which is now Norway, Illinois. This first pioneer group, called “Sloopers”, was led by early explorer, Cleng Peerson. The Sloopers came to America primarily for religious freedom. The group of 52 immigrants was a combination of Quaker and Hauge Lutheran, both outcasts of the time by the State Church. Soon after their settlement along the Fox River, word got back to Norway, and the rush began to secure new land in America. Within the next 80 years over 800,000 Norwegians would relocate to America, a number second only to the Irish.
*Nine years prior to the Fox River settlement, the Sloopers made a home in Kendall of upstate New York, but that is not considered permanent since all but two families relocated to Illinois. Even today there is a strong presence of Slooper descendants in the Fox River area.
There were Norwegians in America long before 1825, usually sailors settling down, but not as large a settlement as the Sloopers.
The Norwegian “Mayflower” called the “Restauration” left Stavanger, Norway, for New York City with 52 brave emigrants who, as Quakers and Haugeans, sought relief from religious persecution in Norway. The Restauration was a small “sloop” style ship, built in Hardanger in 1801. Her dimensions were 54 feet long and 16 feet wide.
Stavanger was then only a little town of about 3,000 [between the size of Illinois towns, Seneca and Marseilles] so it created much talk and gossip when it was found that a group of Quakers and Haugeans were to leave for a distant and little known land called America.
The Norwegian “Mayflower” called the “Restauration”
You are cordially invited to the 93rd annual meeting of the Slooper Society of America. This meeting also extends to include our Sons of Norway friends and anyone else with an interest in Norwegian-American history and culture.
Please mark your calendar for Sunday, October 7th, 2018, and plan to join us at the Norway Community Building, Norway, IL, just off Route 71. Doors will open at noon and dinner will be served at 1:00 pm. We ask that each family bring a dish to pass. Table service and drinks will be provided.
Entertainment will feature the Stoughton Norwegian Dancers. The Stoughton Norwegian Dancers are a group made up of Stoughton High School students who perform various, authentic Scandinavian dances. The group began in 1953, performing for their home community at Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day). Today, they share their talents all across the United States, entertaining young and old and leaving all with a warm appreciation for their Norwegian heritage.
The main program this year will feature Bill Injerd, the “unofficial” historian of the Slooper Society. He will give an audio-visual presentation on, “Norwegian-Americans and World War 1” in celebration of the end of that war 100 years ago on November 11, 1918. All Norwegian-American veterans who served in the military are encouraged to attend.
Vesterheim Gold-Medalist knife maker Perry Straw will have a display table of his beautiful creations. Perry is also active with the Friends of the Viking Ship and will have a display explaining this historically important ship.
As the 200-year anniversary of the Sloopers arrival approaches, we are hopeful that more current-day Sloopers will gain an interest in their very special and important heritage. To that end, we would like your help in identifying and reaching out to your Slooper relatives. If you would please take some time to send us the contact information for your children, grandchildren, and cousins we would like to partner with you in connecting these lost Sloopers with their very unique heritage. Please complete the enclosed form and either mail it to us before the reunion so that we may send them an invite or simply bring this completed form with you to the reunion so that we can be sure they get an invite next year. Alternatively, you can simply email me directly with any contact information at firstname.lastname@example.org . I do hope you will please take the time to do so.
There will be a short business meeting following the program. The Norsk Museum will be open immediately following for those interested. The Norway Store has many Norwegian items and foods and will be open until 5:00 p.m.
The re-printed book, The Sloopers: Their Ancestry and Posterity, will be offered for sale at a special discounted price this day only for those that attend.
Please join us for an afternoon of great food and fellowship!
Renee Mies, Secretary