In March of 1904 a group of Tronders got together to plan a Trønderlaget stevne but failed. After some effort Trønderlaget (later Tronderlag of America) was created on September 17, 1908 at Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

There were 120 charter members but before the next stevne, more than 400 joined. In 1925 the membership had grown to 2,556 to become one of the largest stevnes.

2008 Tre Lag Stevne Group Photo
for Trønderlag of America's 100th Anniversary in Fergus Falls, Minnesota (the location of the original founding of Trønderlag of America). Attendance was so large that the group photo of all three lags had to be taken from a distance with all the members on a hill.

Trønderlag of America

From "Trønderlaget of America 1908-1984" . .

In March of 1904 a group of Tronders got together to plan a Trønderlaget stevne, but abandoned the idea because of bickering over what territory in Norway they should include. They were afraid they would cut a poor figure in comparison with the Valders group. A Trønderlag was hastily created in June of 1907 but received little support and failed.

The Trønderlaget of America was finally organized on September 17, 1908 at Fergus Falls, MN. Before the organization, there had been much writing and correspondence in the Norwegian papers, "Scandinavian" and "Decorah Posten". They had a difficult time finding someone to take the leadership. Faculty members of Tronder background at Park Region College in Fergus Falls, headed by the president Rev. D.G. Ristad, were among the promoters. Prof. Thomas Wollan and Prof. I. Darrum on their own called an organizational meeting.  All Tronders from the eight fylkes were to be included. Later there were 15 more stevnes organized. Prof. Wollan, a banker and businessman from Glenwood, was the first president. Other officers included D.G.Ristad, John Wist, Thomas Warloe, O.C. Hauan, A.C. Floen and Lars Hayseth. There were 120 charter members but before the next stevne, more than 400 joined. In 1925 the membership had grown to 2,556 to become one of the largest stevnes.

The Tronderlaget early published yearbooks and were early members of Nordmans-Forbundet (today - "Norwegians Worldwide"). They also helped organize Bygdelagens Fellesraad. Money to help build a Kors Altar (choir altar) was donated to Trondheims Domkirke and they also presented an expensive model of Nidaros Kirke to the Norwegian-American Museum at Decorah, Iowa.

In 1926 the Tronderlaget in Duluth was unkindly characterized as an "old folks coffee party," because it did not attract the younger generations of Tronders.

A magazine called the "Trønder American" was published from 1935-39. In 1936 a gathering of all the separate stevnes was held at Madison, MN with a good attendance. During World War II, no Tronderlaget stevnes were held.  When the Tronderlaget met in 1966, it was decided that because of the discouraging low attendance at the stevne, it had served its purpose and thus was disbanded. Henry Nycklemoe of Fergus Falls was president at that time.

The lag was brought back to life in 1982 in Dawson, Minnesota. The group responsible for that stevne included Agnes Boraas, Floyd and Selma Boraas, Irvin and Anna Kleven, Lowell and Bernice Oellien, Rudy and Bernice Prestholdt, Bervin and Arlene Skjei, Mildred Skurdahl, Ellsworth and Sylvia Smogard, Orvin and Josephine Larson, Selma Torstenson and Berdeen and Mable Vaala. They raised money by selling bumper stickers, pins, and other items and holding a raffle. They only charged $1.50 for a membership "so that no true-blooded Tronder would feel they couldn't afford to belong."  At the business meeting, the following were elected to the Executive Board: Co-chairmen Bernice Oellien and Mable Vaala; Secretary Orvin Larson, Treasurer Ellsworth Smogard, Historian Meredith Ulstad; Directors Curtis Olson, Esther Opien and Ilene Chapman.

In 1999 the lag was renamed "Trønderlag of America" and a new set of by-laws were ratified by members at the business meeting.

Below is a list of the 15 local lags that were organized at one time in addition to the National Trønderlaget:

Chicago Tronderlag; organized in Chicago in 1924
Chippewa Valley Tronderlag; organized at Eau Claire, Wis in 1920
Duluth Tronderlag; organized in Duluth in 1920
Tronderlaget in Everett, WA; organized in Everett in 1955
Grand Forks Tronderlag; organized in Grand Forks, ND in 1917
Brulle Tronderlag; organized at Emmett, SD in 1936
Lake Hendricks Tronderlag; organized at Lake Hendricks in 1930
Minneapolis Tronderlag; organized at Minneapolis in 1913
Tronderlaget Nidaros; organized at Tacoma, WA in 1927
The Northwest Tronderlag; organized at Minot, ND in 1929
Park Region Tronderlag; organized at Ashby, MN in 1926
Pope County Tronderlag; organized at Starbuck, MN in 1921
Sioux Valley Tronderlag; organized at Baltic, SD in 1922
Thief River Falls Tronderlag; organized at Thief River Falls in 1926
Tronderlaget Tordenskjold; organized in Seattle, WA before 1925.

Bygdelagenes Fellesraad

The "Umbrella" Organization over all of the lags.

Officially "Norwegian-American Bygdelagenes Fellesraad".

With the help of Tronderlag of America (Trønderlaget), Fellesraad was created November 17, 1916. The organization celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016. The 2019 Fellesraad annual meeting in Minneapolis was attended by representatives from each of 29 bygdelag.

From a translation of entries found in the 1929 year book come the following statements of purpose:

*To stand as a connecting link between bygdelag.

*To create a forum for the member groups where questions of mutual interest and meaning could be drafted by lag representatives.

*To be an advisory organization, to support and guide development of the lag movement  and to influence its cultural activities.

*To manage cooperative projects for the good of all bygdelag.

SOME HISTORY: Odd Sverre Lovoll in his book "The Bygdelag Movement" (Volume 25: Page 3) said "The immigrants were not content with merely flocking together in settlements of fellow Norwegians: They took one step further and formed colonies with people from the same valley, fjord, or parish in Norway. Thus there came into being in this country Halling settlements, Trønder settlements, settlements of immigrants from Telemark, Setesdal, Nordland, and other definable districts in the old country. "

Each lag might have a different set of core values or beliefs that was the framework for the creation of the lag. Of Tronderlaget, Lovoll says "Trønderlaget represented a new idea: it emerged as an expression of unity among people from a whole diocese (stift) . Few groups encountered so many difficulties as the Trønders before their lag achieved a viable and permanent form. Their halting start defied the proud slogan of many of its promoters: "It won’t amount to anything before the Trønders arrive" (Dæ bli ‘it no taa før Trønderan kjem)"

Many lags would make gifts to the area they came from to show support for that area. It might be aid to the poor or to help pay for something they learned the old district desperately needed.

The bygdelag movement was greatly reduced during WWI and was declining in the 1920s. Today with the popularity of genealogy many bygdelags have become family history/genealogy organizations and help those working on research or simply wanting a place to connect to their heritage.

Just as the early Norwegians bonded together for mutual benefit, today many bygdelags bond together. This is especially true of the annual stevner.

With several bygdelags holding a joint stevne, they are able to have a nicer venue, more and better presentations, fun activities, larger shared genealogy research facilities, and an overall more enjoyable experience.

It also makes sense as the bygdelags that join together are often for bygder physically next to each other in Norway. Attendees often have ancestors from more than one fylke (county) or bygd.

Tronderlag of America joins with Hedmark og Nord Hedmarken and Gudbrandsdal lags for this reason. When we take lag group photos at our stevne, some attendees are in all three photos.

You can learn more at our other fellow bygdelags at:
Hedmark og Nord Hedmarken

Learn more about Bygdelagenes Fellesraad