Category Archives: History

The Nordic American Voices Oral History Initiative

Nordic American Voices2At the monthly meeting of the Nordic Lodge on September 17th,  Gordon Strand and Mari-Ann Kind Jackson, from the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, will talk about the Museum’s ongoing Nordic American Voices Oral History Initiative.
The primary focus of Nordic American Voices is to record, using high definition camcorders, the life stories of Nordic American immigrants and their ancestors in the Pacific Northwest. Individuals with stories of WWII experiences in the Nordic countries are also sought out.  To date, more than 550 interviews have been recorded, transcribed, and entered into a searchable database in the Museum’s permanent collection for research.

One book, Voices of Ballard and Beyond, and two documentaries, Under the Clouds of War – Growing up in Occupied Denmark & Norway, and This is my Childhood – Finland at War,  based on the stories graciously shared,  have been published so far. More are certainly to come.

All interested in hearing more about this exciting oral history initiative are welcome to attend the September Nordic Lodge meeting!  10:00 a.m., at the Nordic Hall.

Out of the Northwest Passage : March 19th Nordic Lodge program

DSCN7466_564On March 19th at the Nordic Hall just south of Coupeville, you are invited to join Jill Hein and Sandy Dubpernell, via photos & stories, on their voyage Out of the Northwest Passage (eastern Canada and the western coast of Greenland) where they follow the route of the ill-fated Sir John Franklin expedition in the 1840’s  and part of the route taken by the intrepid Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen 1903-1906.

Franklin, in 1845,  tragically lost his 2 ships and 134 men to illness and the harsh elements.

Amundsen and his little ship Gjoa and hardy crew of seven successfully completed the passage from Greenland to the Bering Sea (in 1906) after spending 2 years in Gjoa Haven, which he called “the finest little harbor in the world”. There he learned from the natives about their clothing, their diet and the use of dog sleds for hauling and transportation. What he learned from these people enabled him and his crew on the Fram to be the first men to safely reach the South Pole several years later.

The Northwest Passage landscape is stark and dramatic and geologically unique, the tundra covered with mosses, lichens, tiny brightly colored flowers and trees no more than 4” tall.   Icebergs, sunsets and northern lights are spectacular. Polar bears, arctic fox, muskox and beluga whales are occasionally spotted. In colorful little villages along the way,  hardy ever-smiling Inuit gladly share some of their culture.

The Nordic Hall is located at 63 Jacobs Road, Coupeville.  The program will begin following a short business meeting for Lodge members at 10 a.m.   Anyone interested in hearing about this journey is welcome.

Nordic Lodge February meeting to feature flag history

At the February 19th meeting of the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge, guest speaker Nancy Bolin-Romanski will portray Mary Pickersgill, the woman who created the American flag that flew over Ft. McHenry – The Star Spangled Banner.  Following Nancy’s presentation Lodge member  Dick Johnson will discuss the evolution of our Scandinavian flags.

In the summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill (1776–1857) was contracted to sew two flags for Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. The one that became the Star-Spangled Banner was a 30 x 42–foot garrison flag; the other was a 17 x 25–foot storm flag for use in inclement weather. Pickersgill, a thirty-seven-year-old widow, was an experienced maker of ships’ colors and signal flags. She filled orders for many of the military and merchant ships that sailed into Baltimore’s busy port.

Helping Pickersgill make the flags were her thirteen-year-old daughter Caroline; nieces Eliza Young (thirteen) and Margaret Young (fifteen); and a thirteen-year-old African American indentured servant, Grace Wisher. Pickersgill’s elderly mother, Rebecca Young, from whom she had learned flagmaking, may have helped as well.

Pickersgill and her assistants spent about seven weeks making the two flags. They assembled the blue canton and the red and white stripes of the flag by piecing together strips of loosely woven English wool bunting that were only 12 or 18 inches wide.

The meeting will begin at 10:00 am and is open to the public.


Reflections on the history of Central Whidbey Island

At the upcomingRoger Sherman, 2005 monthly meeting of the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge on Saturday, April 18th, well-known local historian Roger Sherman will be the program speaker,  sharing his knowledge of Central Whidbey Island’s history and helping us appreciate its past, present and future through his pictures, stories and musings.  Roger was born on Whidbey Island and has lived on Ebey’s Prairie all his life.  He is a fourth-generation farmer and along with other members of his family is part of the Sherman Farms organization.

Roger leads at least a few special guided tours of the pioneer section of historic Sunnyside Cemetery each year, the cemetery being located  on the hillside overlooking Ebey’s Prairie,  and is the narrator of the 31 minute historical documentary on DVD  “Sunnyside Cemetery: Where Central Whidbey Sleeps” that was released in December 2013.    He is also the author of The Sinking of the Calista – a Maritime History of Central Whidbey Island and the accidental sinking of a local passenger ferry in the 1920’s.

This meeting & program will be held at the Nordic Hall, 63 Jacobs Rd.,  Coupeville.  A light breakfast will be served at 9:30 (donation appreciated), a brief business meeting will begin at 10am and the program will start about 10:15am.   Jacobs Rd is located about one mile south of the intersection of No. Main and Highway 20 in Coupeville.

Vikings are again the topic for Lodge’s monthly meeting

jse_Jill HeinAt the February 21st meeting of the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge,  Jill Hein will present a short power point presentation about her visit to L’Anse aux Meadows, where more than 1000 years ago the Vikings established a base camp at the northern tip of Newfoundland. By being the first people to cross the North Atlantic and encounter indigenous people in North America, they completed the circle of human migration around the world.   A short business meeting will precede the program.
10:00 a.m. Nordic Hall.

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

The inscription on the Toftezen Monument reads as follows:


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.