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Jefferson Prairie Settlement, Wisconsin

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Title: Jefferson Prairie Settlement, Wisconsin  
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Jefferson Prairie Settlement, Wisconsin

Jefferson Prairie Settlement was a pioneer colony of Norwegian-Americans located near the village of Clinton, in Rock County, Wisconsin. This site and the nearby Rock Prairie settlement outside Orfordville, Wisconsin served as a center for both Norwegian immigration and developments within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.[1]


Ole Knudsen Nattestad and Ansten Nattestad, two brothers from the valley of Numedal in southeastern Norway, emigrated in 1837. Numedal is a traditional district located in the county of Buskerud, Norway. Together the Nattestad brothers played a key role in promoting immigration from Norway and for directing immigrants to southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Ole Knutson Nattestad first came to the Town of Clinton in 1838. Ansten Nattestad returned to Norway to have the letters of Ole Rynning published. Rynning had been an early immigrant living in Beaver Creek, Iroquois County, Illinois. Rynning's work was published as True Account of America (Norwegian: Sandfærdig Beretning om Amerika).[2]

The return trip of Ansten Nattestad to Norway was instrumental in promoting interest in America. Ansten Nattestad organized more than a hundred emigrants and led them to Wisconsin, arriving in September, 1839. Some joined Ole Nattestad at Jefferson Prairie; others settled in nearby Rock Prairie. The Jefferson Prairie Lutheran Church was organized in 1844. Pioneer Lutheran Minister, Claus Lauritz Clausen, accepted a call during 1846 from Norwegian-settlers at Jefferson Prairie. He relocated from the Muskego Settlement and made Rock County the center for his activities among the settlements in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, remaining until 1853. Clausen based part of his efforts from Rock Prairie, which he rechristened Luther Valley.[3][4]

During 1846, the Eielsen Synod, a Norwegian Lutheran church body, was founded at Jefferson Prairie by a group led by Elling Eielsen. In 1853, the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the "Norwegian Synod") was organized at Luther Valley. The organizing meeting of the Augustana Synod was held at Jefferson Prairie in June 1860.[5] Today a historic marker near Wisconsin Highway 140, four miles south of Clinton, marks the former location of the Jefferson Prairie Settlement and highlights the role of the Nattestads in its development.[6][7]


Additional sources

  • Ulvestad, Martin Nordmændene i Amerika (translated by Olaf Kringhaug as “Norwegians in America“. History Book Company’s Forlag, Minneapolis, MN. 1907).
  • Blegen, Theodore C. Norwegian Migration to America, 1825-1860 (reprinted: Ayer Co Pub. 1969).
  • Anderson, Rasmus Björn Scandinavians in America (reprinted: Arno Press 1979).

External links

  • “History of the Augustana Lutheran Church”
  • ““History of Clinton and the Surrounding Area” (The Clinton Community Resources Guide. Village of Clinton, Wisconsin 1998”
  • Jefferson Prairie Settlement Historic Marker
  • Jefferson Prairie Cemetery
  • Ole Knudsen Nattestad, Wisconsin Historic Society

Coordinates: 42°29.620′N 88°51.796′W / 42.493667°N 88.863267°W / 42.493667; -88.863267

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