Andrew A. (Andrew Anderson) Veblen.

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I 364















The Valdris Book is written because some sort of Manual
of the Valdris Samband appeared to be required at this time.
The undersigned became its author for the reason that there
seemed to be no one else available for the undertaking; and
he became solely responsible for its contents and its general
character, for the further reason that he had no opportunity
to secure collaboration in its production.

Those Americans who are in any degree of Valdris strain
or descent, doubtless outnumber their kinsmen in the old home
valley two or three times over. A considerable number would
of course have enjoyed to have the book offered to them in
the language of the fathers; but to make the contents acces-
sible to all of them, as well as to the general public, with
whom Valdrises will wish to share whatever of special infor-
mation the volume may contain, it has been written in the
language which forms our national medium of expression.

The first chapter, on Valdris^ is designed to serve the
purpose of introducing the young American Valdris to the
ancestral habitat of the fathers, and it is hoped that it may
help to stimulate deserved interest in the fair valley that
produced our sturdy pioneer forbears.

The bygdelag movement, which has grown out of the
kinship feeling between those that have come from a com-
mon neighborhood, began among the Valdrises twenty-one
years ago. They gave this sentiment concrete expression in
their stevne-reunions and in the building up of their "Sam-
band", which stood as a unique, fully evolved type for the
"lags" that the other kinship groups formed, when, some
years after, they began to emulate the example set by the

This peculiar position of the Valdris Samband among its


younger sister bygdelags, so interweaves its history with that
of the whole movement, that it can not well be isolated for
treatment. Hence the outline sketch embodied in the second
chapter, which it is hoped will, moreover, be found useful
for its own sake inasmuch as a fulfer history of the bygdelag
movement is not yet available.

The lists of members and of war service people, with the
information which they contain, are commended to all con-
cerned for careful scrutiny. They have been compiled with
painstaking care, but doubtless they are marred by errors,
which in the nature of the case have likely crept in. If cor-
rections are sent to the author, he will endeavor to supply
the proper rectifications for the records of the Samband,
from which the compilations have been made.

An overlooked omission in copying the manuscript is re-
sponsible for the misleading reference to Harold's realm at
the top of page 26.

The author wishes to tender his thanks to all who have
aided in securing the information concerning those who served
in the war, to his colleagues of the Styre for their encourage-
ment and active aid in bringing about the publication of the
Valdris Book, and particularly to Mr. Iver Hain, to whose
ever unfailing efforts, in- these for bookmakers troublous
times, is in large measure due the successful issue of the

Andrew A. Veblen.

East San Diego, California

June, 1920.


Xonvay, 9. Valdris, the Name, 11. Situation and Sub-
divisions, 13. Physical Characteristics, 15. Roads, 22.
Dairying, 24. Tradition and History, 25. The Princess
Gyda, 25. Historical Personages, 27. Schools, 29. Folk-
lore, 31. Church Architecture. Stav-Churches, 35.


Some Definitions, 44. Conditions that Led up to the
Movement, 45. Chronology. 48. History of the Move-
ment, the Valdrises, 51. Newspaper Agitation, 54. The
Fargo Coterie, 56. Formation of Bygdelags, 61. Claims
of Originating the Movement, 68. Co-operation, 17th of
May Celebration, 70. Council of Bygdelags, 81. Consti-
tution of the Council, 83. Bygdelag Publications, 84. The
Bygdelags and the War. 87. List of the Lags and Of-
ficers, 88.


Chronicles of the Samband, 91. First Reunions of Val-
drises, 97. Organization of Valdris Samband, 102. The
Constitution, 105. Personl Records of Members, 107.
Valdrisgjesteb0, 111. Valdris Helsing, 116. Local Sam-
lags, 119. Expansion of the Stevne, 122. History Com-
mittee, 124. Parish Tags, 126. Samband Magazine, 127.
The 1914 Celebration, Valdrisgave, 132. The Samband and
the War, 134.

Introductory Explanation, 136. The Membership List, 139.

Introductory Statement, 218. The Service List, 221.

The Constitution of the Valdris Samband, 280. Lajord's
Letter of Febr. 2, 1899, 282. The "Otter Tail" Letter,
283. Lajord's Song at First Stevne, 285. Lajord's Song
of 1900, 286. Letter from President G. Hoyme, 289.
Valdrisn, O. K. Fuglei, 290. Valdris, T. K. Rogne, 292.
Bufardagen, R. N. Qualley, 293. Eit Minde fraa Slidre,
E. A. Hjelle, 295. Haelvtumsingen, Prof. John Dahle,*
296. I Valdris, O. L. Kirkeberg, 297. Vang, O. I. Platen,
298. Langbein Rese, O. I. Flaten. 298. Diktarsjuka,
O. K. Fuglei, 299. Tenistgutn, Johs. Belsheim, 301. Han
Ellend Sjel, 302.

Folding to Inside of Back Cover.





The Scandinavian Peninsula, lying between the Baltic and
the Gulf of Finland on the east and the North Sea and Atlan-
tic and Arctic Oceans on the west and north, is occupied by
the two kingdoms Norway and Sweden. The area of the
former is to that of the latter in the ratio of 11 to 14, and
Norway embraces very nearly 125,600 square miles. The dis-
tance in a straight line from the Naze, Lindesnes, at the ex-
treme south to Vardoe at the farthest northeast, near Russia,
is 1120 miles. If a line be drawn so as to touch the headlands
of the coast, from the Swedish border in the south to the Rus-
sian boundary on the Arctic, it will be 1710 miles long. But the
total length of shore line, traced into all the bays and numer-
ous deep inlets, measures about 10,500 miles.

The northearn part of the country, for nearly two-thirds
of its entire length, from the Russian border to the Trondhjem
fjord, is a strip of varying breadth from the coast to the
watershed, averaging perhaps 65 miles. Southern Norway,
containing the greater part of the population and being other-
wise the portion of chief general importance, may be described
as a fairly regular oval, some 400 miles long from north to
south and about 260 miles maximum width from the cost to

A fairly well marked ridge forms a watershed along the
boundary between Sweden and Northern Norway ; but though
Southern Norway is very largely a mountainous region it can
hardly be said to have any clearly marked chains of mountains.


The interior is rather an elevated table-land but quite broken
with gorges and valleys and rising into many peaks and a
number of icefields of considerable elevation inland. The
wildest and most elevated portion of the mountainous interior,
occupying approximately the center of the oval, is often called
Jotunheimen, meaning the Home of the Jotuns, or fabled
giants of the ancient Norse mythology.

The population of Norway, which is not far from two and
a half millions, is distributed upon the limited areas of low-
lying coast lands in the south, along the shores of the peculiar
long inlets, and among the narrow and frequently canyon-
like valleys of the watercourses throughout the interior.

In the political subdivision of Norway the Amt is the chief
administrative district and the highest officer is called Amt-
mand. There are twenty amts. Below the amt is the Fogderi
or district presided over by the foged. It is in a way the
nearest equivalent of the American county, as a political divi-
sion, and there are 50 or 60 fogderier. The Herred is a town-
ship-like subdivision of the Fogderi, and there are some 500
of these rural communes. The cities and towns have a some-
what different system of subdivision and administration.

Norway has a state church, and the ecclesiastical subdivi-
sions are, in order, the Stift or diocese, the Provsti or deanery,
the Prestegjeld or parish, and the Sogn or congregation. The
bounds of a congregation are generally dependent on the ease
or difficulty of communication as determined by natural bar-
riers of the settlements, or bygds. each with its church in its
midst. Two to four congregations are grouped in a parish
with its pastor, who may have an assistant or Kapellan, as
may be determined by the size and importance of his charge.
The congregation within which the pastor resides is styled
Hovedsogn, head congregation, and its church is Hovedkirke.
The other congregations of the parish are called Annexes and
their churches are annex churches.

The same natural features that have served to set off the
parishes as divisions of definite extent, have likewise operated


to fix the boundaries of the administrative districts, so that
the township or herred is almost always coextensive with the
parish. In the cities and larger towns administrative and
ecclesiastic organization is more a matter of artificially con-
venient considerations.

The system of organization for administration and for
local government described above, is not in absolute harmony
with the latest enacted organization and nomenclature in every
detail. But it is substantially that which Americans of Nor-
wegian extraction are or have been accustomed to use, and
should at least be sufficiently correct for such a brief sum-
mary as that here atempted.


THE NAME. From the time of the earliest documentary
records the name of the county Valdris, has naturally been
subject to some variation of form and probably of pronuncia-
tion, and usage is not even at this day strictly uniform in
these regards. The official spelling now seems to be Valdres,
though until toward the close of the nineteenth century it was
Valders, which seems to have been the form used in official
documents and records for a century or more previously. In
this form the d was silent and the pronunciation was Vallers.
Most likely this form, Valders, was due to the tendency of
assimilating Norwegian names to the Danish speech, which
was softer in pronunciation than the vernacular in Norway.
By the Valdrises, and most others, the form Valdres is pro-
nounced Yaldris, a like that in father but shorter in quantity,
and is as this combination is pronounced in History. A re-
sident or native of Valdres, or Valdris, is called a Valdris.
In order to conform to the pronunciation many have in the
past spelled the name of the district with i rather than e, and
some do so still. To the author of this sketch it has seemed
best to use in it the form Valdris, as giving in English a nearer
approximation to the pronunciation than the official spelling.

This matter of nomenclature has been the subject of no






little controversy. In a recent issue of the newspaper "Valdres"
it was stated that the question had by some one been submit-
ted to three of the University professors at Kristiania, who
had given it as their opinion that Valdres is the "most ancient
old-Norse and the best" written form. The late O. A. Alf-
stad, doubtless the best informed 'authority of his day on
\ r aldris history and antiquities, is quoted as follows (Valdris
Helsing March, 1909) : "Valdris, Valdres, Valders. Which
of these names is most correct? I believe the first decidedly;
for according to documents that 1 have at hand, from 1235,
1368, 1412, 1535, 1574, 1595, 1604, 1649, etc., the name of
the fylke is constantly written Valdris. One Michael von
Schoening about 1688 wrote Valders. A judge from Tele-
mark, about 1660, wrote Valdriss. The first who advocated
the writing Valdres was High School Master Bergsgaard.
"Ris" may mean "rise", a large being which lived in the
mountains and valleys. "Res" is used of a tall, thin lout or
of a horse too high for its stoutness."

In documents (quoted by Islandsmoen: S. Aurd. & Etned.)
from 1514, 1650, 1665, 1670, occur the forms, Waldnztes,
Valdriss, Waldres, Walderiis, Walders, Wallders, Vallars,

It may be pertinent to remark, that W in Norwegian has
the same phonetic value as V, and is in the Norwegian al-
phabet a redundant letter, serving only to preserve the written
form of names and words borrowed from languages in which
w is in fact a distinct letter. In written Norwegian documents
the use of either letter seems to have been contingent on the
taste and fancy of the penman.

SITUATION AND DIVISIONS. The fogderi, bailiwic, or county
of Valdris is identical in extent with the provsti or deanery
of the same name. Its area is 2100 square miles, which is not
quite 3 per cent, of southern Norway, or that part lying south
of the Trondhjem fjord. Or it is nearly 1.7 per cent, of the
whole surface of Norway. It is an oblong basin occupying
the geographic center of southern Norway, and beginning in


the southern confines of Jotunheimen it slopes southeastward
some eighty miles in length and has a width of slightly more
than thirty miles. Approximately it lies between 8 and
10 east longitude, and 60 30' and 61 30' north latitude.
It lies about as far north as Mt. St. Elias, or the center
of Hudson's Bay, the north extremity of Labrador, or
the south end of Greenland. Valdris is bounded on the
north and east by Gudbrandsdal and Land, southeast by
Aadal, southwest by Hallingdal, and on the west by Sogn.
Secularly it is subdivided into six herreder (townships), or
ecclesiastically, the provsti, is divided into six parishes, which
agree in extent and in name with the township divisions. The
parishes with their respective congregations are tabulated be-
low. The data are taken from the census of 1900, but are not
far in error for the present time, and are not misleading as
to distribution of the people in the subdivisions or even as
regards actual values.



VANG 620 2083 3.37

0ie 249 375 1.53

Vang (h) 341 1172 3.41

Hurum 30 536 17.86

WEST SLIDRE 180 2679 14.88

Lomen 66 801 12.14

Slidre (h) 59 907 15.37

R0n 55 971 17.66

EAST SLIDRE 336 2228 6.63

Hegge (h) 200 1139 5.70

Volbu 59 241 4.08

Rogne 86 848 9.86

NORTH AURDAL 355 4476 12.61

Skrantvaal 104 938 9.02

Ulnes 52 782 15.04

(h) Head Congregation.


Svenes 72 962 13.36

Aurdal (h) 127 1794 14.13

ETNEDALEN 170 1739 10.23

North Etnedal 45 382 8.48

Bruflat (h) 125 1357 10.86

SOUTH AURDAL 436 3811 8.74

Bagn (h) 143 1690 11.82

Reinli 31 619 19.97

Begndalen 103 648 6.29

Hedalen 159 854 5.31

ALL VALDRIS 2097 17016 8.11

NOTE. The population of the parishes by the 1920 census ap-
pears to be: Vang 1778, W. Slidre 2551, E. Slidre 2413, N. Aurdal
4562, Etnedalea 1885, S. Aurdal *102. Total 17,291.


The dominant physical feature of Yaldris is the Begna
River. (Pronounced Bi-na, i long.) It rises in the small lake
Utrovand at an elevation of 3280 feet and empties into Spir-
ilen Lake which lies 535 feet above sea-level. It therefore
has a fall of 2745 feet in its course of scarcely 100 miles. In
portions of its course it expands into long, narrow lakes, the
largest of which are Vangsmj0sen 13 miles long, Slidre Fjord
10 miles long, and Strande Fjord some ten miles long. The
Aurdal waters, narrower than these, give it another six or
eight miles of level bed, leaving less than sixty miles in which
its total descent takes place. There are mighty falls, such
as the Lo-Foss, Fasle-Foss, and the Great-Foss above Bagn
at the line between North and South Aurdal. It drains eighty
per cent, of Yaldris, and its many tributaries are fed by the
plentiful rains and by masses of snow and ice in the upper
part of its basin. It is therefore a stream of considerable
volume and rapid and boisterous in its great descent. By the
inhabitants it is generally called the great river (Sior-Aa), or
simply The River.

In parts of its course the Begna is bordered by fertile bot-


toms with beautifully situated settlements, as on the shores
of the lakes, but portions of the valley, and particularly in the
lower part, are narrowed into a gorge or canyon with steep
banks rising to heights of a thousand or even two thousand
feet, and for the most part clad in magnificent timber of pine
and fir. So precipitous is the rise of the banks in many
places that the roadway has had to be blasted out of the steep
granite wall, and the road may again lead out into cove-like
expanses of bottom on which are nestled tiny "farms" or
even small clusters of homesteads, to enter again long and
cumbersome windings on the narrow, shelving slope that lies

Vik. A Farm South of Slidrefjord

under the cliffs and borders the rapids of the riotous river.
And great feats of engineering skill and persistence of con-
structive effort have been required to produce the fine roads
that make travel in this giant fairyland a joy and pleasure.
The upper part, including the Vangsmjo's, is above the line
of real timber. There the peaks and fjell, partly gray and
bare and partly flecked with thickets and other vegetation,
either tower in threatening precipices or recede in solemn
grandeur from the mirror of the lake or from the cataract or
torrent of the restless stream. And in all the Begna valley there
is the perpetual orchestra of leaping or pouring cascades with


their gentle notes mingling with the deeper roar of the
mightier cataracts and thundering falls. But the sights and
sounds are not merely those of power and might; for even
in winter the contrast of the soft whiteness of the snow with
the bright and healthy green of the timber charms the eye,
and the gleam of the ice on lake and stream affords a certain
cheerful liveliness. But in the summer of these latitudes, with
its sunshine of all day and most of the night, the verdure has
a veritable carnival time with purest green everywhere, except
where the gray of the rock looks out in restful ease, or ex-
panses and tracery of all the brightest hues of myriads of

Vangsmj0s. Looking up, lower end

flowers and blossoms form masses of delicate color, that rival
the effects of even tropical vegetation.

The upper end of the Begna valley forms the most ac-
cessible gateway to Jotunheimen and has always been one of
the principal passes for travel and traffic, over the interior
mountain region of Norway, between the east and west
country. The main road through the length of Valdris fol-
lows the bottom of the Begna, crossing the stream several
times, avoiding the sheer rise of cliff, to take advantage of
bottom or slope opposite that may afford room for the road-



The principal, or topographically most important, tributary
of the Begna enters it on its left near the middle of its course.
This watercourse begins with the Raud01a and other streams
coming out of Jotunheimen on the north uplands of Valdris,
and flows southeasterly, parallel to the main river for 30
miles, through the lakes 0iangen, Volbu, and smaller waters,
and joins the Begna at Fagernes. Up through this basin runs
a main highway which forms one of the easiest approaches to
Jotunheimen. The parish of East Slidre occupies most of this

In the main Begna valley is first and uppermost Vang

Fall near Volbufjord

parish. Next is West Slidre, then North Aurdal, and lowest
South Aurdal with the congregations of Bagn and Begndalen
along the river, while Reinli congregation occupies a tributary
valley several hundred feet above and to the right of the
Begna bottom, -and the congregation Hedalen in the extreme
south of Valdris, but outside the Begna basin proper, lies in
the upper part of the basin of the Urula, which empties into
Spirilen near the mouth of the Begna.

The whole of Etnedalen parish lies outside the drainage
basin of the Begna. It embraces the upper portion of the Etne
River basin. This stream, like the Begna, flows southeast-


ward, but empties into the Rands-Fjord, the waters of which
are joined by those of Spirilen in the Randselv, and by the
Tyrifjorcl and Drammen River reach the Kristiania Fjord at

Valdris has become easily accessible by the construction
of the Valdris Railway, which coming around the north end
of the Randsfjord, through Land, enters the valley at Aurdal
and follows the course of the River to the terminal station
Fage.rnes. But the visitor to Valdris who arrives by rail and
then either proceeds up the main, or "west" Valley, or up the
"East Valley", to make the round trip into Jotunheimen and
return down the other valley, or who perhaps goes on over
File f jell to the west country, gets but a partial and inadequate
impression of this celebrated inland region; for he misses the
whole lower half of it. By traversing its whole length be-
tween Spirilen and the wilds where Sogn meets Gudbrands-
dalen, with excursions into the many spots of beauty or gran-
deur on either side, the traveler has the opportunity of seeing
some of the best that is to be found of practically all elements
of scenic attractions that Norway offers the sightseer any-
where, and he will understand why the native of Valdris
thinks his Valley the most beautiful region of all the old

The traveler who wishes to see Valdris as a whole, but
especially the American Valdris who has not seen the home
of his ancestors, and should wish to gain a comprehensive
impression of Valdris as a whole, should enter the valley from
Spirilen, and proceed up along the Begndal, leisurely taking
in the scenes of this lower fairyland portion. After passing
the church at Tollefsrud he should cross the right hand rim
of the valley and descend into quaint, old Hedalen, on the
south, with its ancient church and many examples of old
domestic architecture. Again entering the Begndal, which
might well be named "the Grand Canyon of the Begna," he
will enjoy a ride that for scenic beauty is unsurpassed in all
Norway. When he reaches the Great-Foss he enters a part




of the valley quite different in character, much wider and
open. He must there climb the steep winding road of a few
miles into Reinli. The best preserved of the ancient churches
is well worth the little excursion, but the ruggedly placed little
commlmity will not fail to interest him for its own sake.

Having tarried about Bagn, the great fall and other points
in this region that marks the passing of .the canyon below into
a more open valley above, the traveler will do well to follow
the sinuous road that climbs to Breidablik, and on to Tonsaa-
sen upon the pass where the road and the railway, from the
east, enter the Valdris valley. Now is the time for the trip
he must make up the Etnedal, past Bruflat to the upper settle-
ment of this parish. Returning, the visitor may proceed to
Aurdal, the chief settlement -in wealth and population, which
has been generally considered as the capital of Valdris, for
the reason that it is not only geographically central to the
county, but the chief administrative and church officials, pro-
fessional men, and other important individuals have for the
most part resided in this settlement. The next point of spe-
cial interest is Fagernes, the terminus of the railway, at the
junction of the East Slidre valley with the Begna.

The traveler is here at the parting of the two main high-
ways that lead up and into the mountain wilderness. Suppose
that he decides to follow the main stream along the Strande-
fjord and the Slidrefjord, he passes the bygds and their
churches, which are all built on the left or north and north-
east bottoms or slopes, while the settlements are distributed
on either side of lake or river. When he leaves West Slidre

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Online LibraryAndrew A. (Andrew Anderson) VeblenThe Valdris book; a manual of the Valdris samband → online text (page 1 of 20)