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In the 40 years between 1860 and 1900, over 460,000 emigrated to America from Norway whose population in 1875 was less than 2 million. Many of those that came to the Lake Lillian community in the southeast corner of Kandiyohi County in Minnesota were farmer/fishermen from Balsfjord, Ullsfjord and the Lyngen areas in Troms fylke, Norway. Both of the ethnic groups, the Sami and Kvens were gradually assimilated into the Norwegian population through marriage and change of lifestyle. This was the case for many of the Norwegian families that settled in the Lake Lillian community from the 1860's to the 1890's, including Erik Joseph Larsen, and the Mathiasen and Solomonsen families.

Why did these people choose to leave their home and families in Norway to go to the undeveloped areas of Minnesota to begin to farm on the new land? They left the mountains, valleys and fjords of Norway for the open prairies of Minnesota where there were no roads or buildings. They left the summers that were light all night and winters that were dark all day for Minnesota which is at 45 degrees north latitude. They left the fjords where fish were a source of food and income to Minnesota that had many small lakes with fish. Names were changed to English spelling; "sen" was changed to "son", Johan became John, Maria became Mary, wives and children took their husband and father's last name, and married women took their husband's last name, etc.

In their effort to assimilate, much of the heritage was hidden and lost by not passing that information to the next generation. Those people with Sami heritage were at times referred to as "Finn" which was a derogatory term.

New land

There was an opportunity for new land. In 1862 the Homestead Act was passed and a settler could get up to 160 acres (64 hectare) of land if they would live on the land for 5 years, build a house and grow crops. After the conflicts with American Indians stopped in 1862 and Indians were removed from the area it was safer for the settlers to move into central Minnesota. However, this would not be easy because they came with no farm machinery, horses or oxen to plow the new land with thick sod (grastorv) and deep black soil. A house and barn would have to be built.

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