Dedication of the Stephan G. Stephansson Homested Site in North Dakota
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentleman:
Welcome to the homestead site of Stephan G. Stephansson, the acclaimed Icelandic poet. Stephan lived here from 1880 to 1889 in what was then known as Dakota Territory. Today we are here to dedicate this stone marker in memory of Stephan in the 150th year of his birth.
My name is John Johnson; it was my grandfather John Johnson the 4th who, along with Hallgrimur Gislason, purchased this land from Stephan in 1889 when he decided to move to Markerville, Alberta, Canada.
Stephan arrived here in 1880 and lay claim to 157 acres of land - an area starting at the top of this hill in the west, running one mile east to the end of this road, and 1/4 mile wide on the north side of the road. The homestead was over there at the foot of the hill. There are several impressions on the ground and signs of a former foundation where we believe the house stood. So you see the bulk of the land was to the east of the home.
Eventually my grandfather Johnson acquired all of this land. At some point, he did sell 25 acres of this land to enable easier access for the neighbours. Actually, the area around this marker is part of this 25 acres that is now owned bv Norma Ruble and John Lawson. We greatly appreciate the fact that they have allowed us to place this marker in the actual location of the farmstead. (Norma - if you are here, I would like to personallv thank you.)
Out in front, where you see a small red flag, stood a beautiful American elm tree. Stephan mentioned this huge tree in several of his writings. Many Icelanders have inquired as to the location of the tree, which stood for many years until it became victim of Dutch elm disease like so many other trees in the area. At some point the elm tree broke in two. In an effort to save it, the tree was cabled together by the Erikson brothers, but finally fell to the ground about 10 years ago.
Today we are fortunate to have with us two of Stephan G. Stephansson's grandchildren - Stefan Benediktson and his sister Iris Bourne. They are the children of Stephan’s youngest daughter Rosa, who came a number of times to visit us in the Gardar area. They have graciously offered to say a few words on this occasion.
We now would like to unveil this stone marker that we are using to commemorate Stephan G. Stephansson's life in this area. This stone was located on the east end of Stephan's land, out in a pasture next to a fence line. Considering its size and location, we can be assured Stephan frequently saw the stone, and could well have been sitting on it when he composed this verse which we have inscribed on the plaque mounted on the stone marker.
Also included on the plaque is a summary of Stephan's life, followed by one of Stephan's verses which is very appropriate as we dedicate this stone marker in his memory.
"Here came Icelandic strength,
that hove from the earth the stone..."
- Stephan G. Stephansson
Stephan G. Stephansson Homestead Site 1880-1889
Stephan G. Stephansson, 1853-1927, was born in Iceland and emmigrated to America in 1873. First settling in Wisconsin, he then moved to this site in Dakota Territory in 1880. In 1889, he and his family moved and settled near Markerville, Alberta, Canada where they lived out their lives farming.
He was a prolific poet and composed some 1800 pages of poetry mostly at night after the day's work was finished. When his first major volume, ANDVOKUR (Wakeful Nights), was published in 1908, he was acclaimed as the greatest Icelandic poet since the 13th century.
To bring things to a close, my daughter Janelle (Johnson) Ekness will recite the complete poem from which that final verse was taken, At Close Of Day, translated by Jakobina Johnson.
AT CLOSE OF DAY
And when the last of all my days is over,
The last page turned-
And, whatsoever shall be deemed in
That I have earned, In such a mood I hope to be composing
My sweetest lay-
And then extend my hand to all the world
And pass away
- Stephan G. Stephansson
John Johnson is a retired farmer who still owns land that once was Stephan G. Stephansson's farm. He is a member of the Icelandic Communities Association - the group that organizes the 2nd of August celebrations annually in Mountain, North Dakota. His parents were John Johnsson and Gudrum Melsted Magnuson.
- The Icelandic Canadian, Summer 2003