The Toftezen Monument honors Washington State’s first Norwegian settlers

Tafteson Monument

Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge members visiting Toftezen Monument

If you found yourself bicycling or walking by Our Saviour’s Lutheran Cemetery in Stanwood, I suppose that you would easily take note of a rather tall monument relatively near the road and perhaps go take a look, but it otherwise might take some knowledge and interest in local history to find yourself in front of this particular monument, especially if you are from Whidbey Island as opposed to Stanwood.

Buried in Our Saviour’s Lutheran Cemetery is Zakarias Martin Toftezen (also spelled Tafteson or Taftezon), and this monument honors him as the first Norwegian settler in Washington State. Tafteson died in 1901 on Whidbey Island but in 1931 his body was removed from an old abandoned cemetery in Oak Harbor on Whidbey and reburied in Stanwood, which at that time was apparently the largest Scandinavian settlement on Puget Sound. Other members of Toftezen’s family were already buried there, having moved to Stanwood or Camano Island prior to their deaths. The Pioneer Historical Society of Stillaquamish Valley and the Sons of Norway erected the Toftezen Monument, and it was dedicated by King Olav of Norway on May 27, 1939.

Zakarias Toftezen (born in Norway, 1821) also was Whidbey Island’s first Norwegian landowner. He arrived on Whidbey Island in late 1849 along with C.W. (Charlie) Sumner (a Yankee) and Ulrich Freund (Swiss), and the three filed their ‘Donation Claims” on January 4, 1851, each taking 320 acres in what is now Oak Harbor. Detailed and interesting accounts of these three adventurers may be found in Dorothy Neil’s By Canoe and Sailing Ship They Came: A History of Whidbey’s Island, published in 1989 and the story of the monument’s dedication may be found on http://www.historylink.org.

The inscription on the Toftezen Monument reads as follows:

WASHINGTON’S FIRST NORWEGIAN SETTLERS

Zacharias Martin Toftezen settled at Oak Harbor in December 1849. He was followed by his mother Emmerenze, and sister, Bernhardine, who sailed from Norway in 1863, rounded Cape Horn and arrived at Oak Harbor in 1865. Eilert Graham came to Oak Harbor in 1858. He married Bernhardine in 1866. In 1868 Eilert, Bernhardine and Emmerenze homesteaded on Hatt Slough. Emmerenze died on October 27, 1871, the only eighteen century-born white person in the Stillaguamish Valley. Christian and Sophia Toftezen and daughter, Maria, came to Coupeville in 1874, moved to Utsalddy, then to Stanwood, where Christian died in 1884. Sophia died in 1894. Eilert and Bernhardine died on Camano Island in 1884 and 1906 respectively. Martin died August 13, 1901, at Oak Harbor.

Erected by the Pioneer Historical Society of the Stillaguamish Valley and the Sons of Norway of America. Dedicated May 27, 1939.

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