Norwegians on Koshkonong Prairie 1839-1841
Koshkonong, "the lake we live by" named by the Indians. For generations they fished for suckers, pickerel, pike, catfish, black bass, perch, bullheads and dogfish in Lake Koshkonong. Only the Indians camped, held pow wows and hunted for partridge, quail and deer on Koshkonong Prairie. From 1830 to 1838 Chief Black Hawk and his Winnebago Indians camped near the lake. The Black Hawk Trail followed the Rock River from Rock Island, Illinois to the east and northeast side of Lake Koshkonong and on through Fort Atkinson (also known as Fort Koshkonong) to Madison, Wisconsin.
Then in 1839 three men from far-off Voss, Norway came to the prairie, seeking land for homesteading. They found a wilderness covered with a "luxuriant growth of grass, and a great profusion and variety of beautiful flowers, displaying the colors of ten thousand rainbows painted not by the hand of man".
Nils Gilderhus and Nils Bolstad with their guide Odd J. Himle had walked from La Salle County, Illinois 150 miles to Milwaukee and then 80 miles to the eastern part of Dane County, Wisconsin. The abundance of hardwood timber, plenty of marsh hay and fine fishing in the Koshkonong Creek were an answer to their quest. They each selected 40 acres and 40 for a friend, Magne Bystolen. With the approach of winter they walked back to La Salle County by way of Milwaukee.
Early in the spring of 1840, Gilderhus, Bolstad, Bystolen and Andrew Finno started for Koshkonong driving wagons drawn by oxen. They arrived on the prairie at the end of April and took possession of their land.
Their vivid descriptions of Koshkonong Prairie lured many of their countrymen and by 1841 the following Norwegians had settled there: Amund Anderson Hornefjeld, Bjorn Anderson Kvelve, Thorsten Bjaaland, Gunnel and Lars Dugstad, Nils Sjurson Gilderhus, Knut Olson Vindeig, Lars Kvelbdalen, Helleik Vindeig, Lars Davidson Rekve, Anders Nilson Lie, Gunvor Sjursdtr, Kolbein Vestrein, Lars J. Mon, Anna Suheim, John Haldorson Bjorgo and Ole Severson Gilderhus, Nils Bolstad.
This 150th Anniversary commemorative booklet contains the stories of many of these families who made their home on Koshkonong Prairie, 144 square miles in the southeast corner of Dane County bordered on the south by Rock County and on the east by Jefferson County and comprising the townships of Dunkirk, Albion, Christiana, Pleasant Springs and the southern part of Deerfield.
The booklet is 32 pp in lengh. There are stories about Nils Larson Bolstad and Anna Oldster Vindeig Bolstad, Odd J. Himle, Magne Bottolfson Bystølen, Nils Sjurson Giljarhus, Ola Sjurson Giljarhus, Andres Nilson Lie, Nels Andreson Lee, John Halderson Bjørgo and others.
Koshkonong Prairie Historical Society
Compiled by: Michael J. Bovre and Mary Ellen Christensen 1989
1999 Svein Ulvund