Norwegians in Iowa

Norwegians immigrated to Iowa for many reasons. Many were escaping problems in their homeland including overpopulation, lack of farmland, and the social climate. Norwegians were Iowa’s third largest immigrant group.


The Norwegians were the third largest foreign-born group to settle in Iowa, choosing Winneshiek, Allamakee and Clayton Counties, in the northeast, and Story and Mitchell, in the north central part of the state.

Only about three percent of the total land area of Norway is arable and that three percent is pretty rugged too. There isn’t that much more. You can clear more land, but it’s so steep you couldn’t use it for anything.

In the midwestern American frontier there was plenty of good, cheap land. Like most other European countries, Norway’s land was at a premium.

I think one of the main reasons was the social climate at the time, where the eldest son would inherit the land and the sons, daughters and what have you down the line, inherited nothing. And then there were a few years of rather poor crops. This, combined with the over population tended to drive people out of Norway, really. And America became sort of “the place to go” to improve your station in life.

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