Train Mural in Calmar Iowa

The First Settlers

It is to this scenic spot that Norwegians Thore P. Skotland and his family came one delightful day in the spring of 1850. Perhaps his heart was warmed by a terrain that reminded him of the rugged beauty of Norway. Whatever his reason, he put his roots down in a piece of land two miles north of the town to be know later as Calmar, Iowa on a tract of land called the Rhuben Boe Farm. His descendents still occupy on part of this land. A German settler in the southern part of the township had preceded Skotland, but nothing is known of him.

That summer, Skotland and his wife saw only 6 people, three whites and three Indians. It is difficult to imagine seeing no human beings outside your family for month’s. The three countrymen who broke his drought of companionship were Thorsen Land, Lars Land and Andre P. Sandager. This was made even more interesting by the fact that these three were not just fellow Norwegians, but were also Thore’s brothers.

You might wonder how this could be, since they had different last names. Norwegian custom at that time decreed that the surname belonged to the land, estate or farm a person came from. When you left your home to live elsewhere, you also left behind your name.

Skotland and his family, Calmar’s first recorded settlers, were soon joined by others. In 1851, seven other settlers arrived. In the period of the 1870’s through the 1890’s, Calmar showed a population gain from 700 to almost 1100 people.

While the City of Calmar, continued to grow and flourish, Thore P. Skotland took on many new endeavors. One of those would be to become one of the three incorporators of Luther College in Decorah, IA. He was also a member of it’s first Board of Trustee’s and a member of it’s first building committee. In 1874, he sold out and moved to Otter Tail County, Minnesota, where he died in 1903 at the age of 81.