Staying at a resort location in north central Illinois, we were fortunate to wander into a location called The Norway Store. We were unprepared for the experience of walking through a meaningful and vibrant part of history.
The store was full of Norwegian food and souvenirs. We observed biscuits, pancakes, lutefisk and every other delicacy with direct or indirect connections to Norway. By this time, I am thinking that this was merely a fun stop in an otherwise corn and soybean-filled geography.
Toward the end of the journey, we completed our purchases and I asked the lady behind the counter to explain the Norway motif. She was noticeably Nordic and eagerly explained that Norway was originally populated by the nearby rural community of settlers called the Fox River Settlement. These immigrants trace their origins from the 1825 migration from Norway to New York state, then Illinois.
Present day Norway has a population of 100 but has no local government, fire district, school district, police or postal services. The store has been in the same location for one hundred years and has always been owned by the Borschenius family. At the end of the presentation, Ms. Nordic proudly proclaimed, “We are Norway!”
Outside we saw a barn with a large picture and title, “Viking Ship.” Adjacent to the barn/ship was a beautiful church called the Hauge Lutheran Church. Now we had completed the entire tour of Norway.
But what a beautiful, noble and proud history, right in the middle of rural America! Something tells me that if we had similar connections to our respective heritages, we would all be improved and enhanced by those legacies. As for me, I am enriched by spending a fragment of my life in Norway. Never again will I believe that farmland USA is devoid of surprises or joy. Shalom.