Peterson, Harold - Early Minnesota Railroads and the Quest for Settlers, Minnesota Historical Society, March 1932
Link to Article
by Walter Sigtermans
This is where the Elmo Wick collection starts - with tens of thousands of Swedish-Norwegian Immigrants getting land grants along the railroad lines which run from St. Paul, Minnesota to Fargo, ND. Small pockets of isolated Scandinavian communities keeping themselves entertained by playing tunes from the homeland while sitting besides the fireplace on cold winter nights.
A Gammaldans literally means an "old dance" in Swedish. Nordic folk dance became quite popular in the 18th and 19th century especially as the industrial revolution caused village dances and music to be introduced into the larger cities.
Click here to see the sheet music to "Gammaldans"
Click here to hear an mp3 of "Gammaldans"
While steel tracks were being laid across the prairie the state of Minnesota sent representatives to Europe to recruit immigrants. 1867 - 1869 had been bad years for farming in Sweden and Norway. First there was too much rain, followed by drought, which led to the economic failure of a number of farms, followed by a re-organizing of farm ownership rules in Scandinavia. Sweden-Norway had remained out of the fray during the Napoleonic Wars, they had not lost thousands of men in years of battle as had the rest of Europe. So, there were thousands of farm boys (and their farm girl wives) who had the misfortune of not inheriting their family farms. They needed only to have assurances that Civil War and Indian Uprisings were not threats before they journeyed with boat and rail to greener pastures in another northern climate.
The Swedes and Norwegians seemed an exotic foreign peoples to the French, German, Irish and New Englanders in Minnesota. They played strange music on even stranger instruments. The Norwegians had their Hardanger fiddles, and the Swedes their Nyckelharpas
While the American Civil War was raging events were taking place that would shape the future of Minnesota. In 1862 Congress approved a homestead act to encourage immigration. In 1864 The Northern Pacific Railroad Company was created and began laying track to cross the prairie of Minnesota