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This page is dedicated to the history of our Icelandic ancestors in northeast North Dakota. Our history begins with Pastor Pall Thorlakson (1849-1882), "The Father of the Icelandic Settlement of Dakota." A video, "The Founding of the Icelandic Settlement of Dakota" is featured below. It is a compelling webinar that features photographs and an English-language narrative with the reading of Pastor Páll's own words, dictated from his deathbed on February 11, 1882.

Páll Þorláksson (1849-1882) emigrated as a student from Iceland to Wisconsin in 1872. For three years, he studied theology at the Concordia Theological Seminary in St Louis, Missouri, and graduated in the spring of 1875. He was ordained the same summer and began serving an Icelandic congregation which he had organized in Shawano County, Wisconsin. Here he had shortly before founded an Icelandic settlement. At the same time, he also served a Norwegian congregation. He traveled between Wisconsin and Manitoba settlements until the spring of 1878, when he encouraged the Icelanders to settle northeast Dakota Territory. He helped them in so many ways to become a successful community.

By the fall of 1879, about 50 families had moved to the Pembina Hills area. Most of them were destitute. Séra Páll also had moved to Mountain permanently by this time, but he was seriously ill with tuberculosis. Even though he was extremely frail, he continued to conduct services and assist his countrymen in the best ways possible.

In the fall of 1880, Séra Páll and the pioneers made plans for scheduled religious services. Séra Páll writes, ‘‘At last, there appeared to be good reason to believe our settlement would survive the coming winter for several farmers had a fair crop that autumn and our community had been augmented moreover, by the arrival of a number of self-supporting individuals and even men of some means from Lyon County, Minnesota, and Shawano County, Wisconsin. Quite a few of the settlers who had hired out as harvest hands returned to their homes with appreciable sums of money, and we were also joined by people with means of their own who came from Winnipeg and other places in Manitoba.’’

In 1881, he donated land in Mountain for a cemetery and a church. Knowing that his health was failing, he strongly recommended his cousin, Séra Hans Thorgrimsen, be called as the next pastor in Dakota. Séra Páll continued to hold services in his log home and his health continued to decline. The energetic and respected pastor died 12 Mar 1882 of tuberculosis and he was buried in the cemetery later that spring.

Despite his untimely death from tuberculosis on March 12, 1882, Pastor Páll left an indelible mark on the community. He was deeply beloved by the early Icelandic pioneers in North America. The video in English with the reading of Pastor Páll's own words, dictated from his deathbed on February 11, 1882. Will Beaton delivers this poignant reading. Sunna Olafson Furstenau is the moderator. These powerful words illuminate the historical, sociological, and cultural significance of Séra Páll's contributions to our shared Icelandic heritage. Although his life was cut short, Pastor Páll's leadership impact extended beyond our local community, influencing Icelandic communities across North America.


We encourage you to delve into this rich history and gain a deeper understanding of Pastor Páll's important role in shaping our cultural landscape and the history of our Icelandic Settlement. Click on the blue link below to watch the video.

Pastor Hans Bogöe Thorgrimsen (1853-1942) is the cousin of Pastor Páll. On 13 June 1872, a small group of seventeen people left Eyrarbakki in southern Iceland for Wisconsin. This group of sixteen included Páll, his brother Haraldur, and his cousin Hans. 

Hans was in St. Louis at Concordia Seminary when Séra Páll died. Séra Hans graduated a few months later. He had requested time to visit Iceland before coming to Dakota. His first service at Mountain was held outside on 05 Aug 1883.

Construction plans were made on 10 Mar 1884 to build the Vikur Church on Séra Páll’s homestead. The oak-beamed, log church was 46’ x 28’. The construction was completed at the end of the summer under the leadership of Séra Hans. He also led the Icelandic congregations in Canada and the United States to be united in the Icelandic Lutheran Synod, which is a great story in itself.


To learn more about this important pastor to our congregations, read the article, "Remembering the Life of a Pioneer Pastor," by Icelandic Roots.



The photos below are of the Vikur Church through the years. We respect our Icelandic ancestors and the pastors that achieved so much in the early days of our Icelandic communities. Continuing to preserve these historic churches honors their hard work and dedication. It preserves the story of the Icelandic pioneers for future generations.

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Silvia Johnson Solveig Kristjansdottir.jpg

The two paintings above are by Johanna Sigurros "Rose" Benedictson. The second one shows the church and the small house owned by Silvia Johnson (Sólveig Kristjánsdóttir 1882-1967). Silvia is an important person in our story - especially for the Vikur church as she gave the land so a basement could be built under the church when it moved to the north. She was a teacher, a community leader, and the the first woman and first Icelander Superintendent of Pembina County Schools.

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Working Vikur.jpg

A new church basements was poured and the log cabin church was moved onto the foundation in 1947.

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