Former Augustana President Authors Book on Norwegian Lutheran Immigrants
SIOUX FALLS – Lloyd Svendsbye, former president of Augustana College, reveals the struggles of the early immigrants as he chronicles his ancestors’ saga from Norway to Western North Dakota in his new book, I Paid All My Debts, published by Lutheran University Press.
The promise of free land in America seemed to open up grand possibilities to Norwegian Lutheran immigrants. The Svendsbye and Birkelo families left the mountains, valleys, and fjords of Norway in search of a better economic life.
They struggled heroically, tilling the flat Dakota prairie land. But the stark homesteading conditions there in the early 1900s, the Dust Bowl years, and then the Great Depression left them reeling. One set of Svendsbye’s grandparents was rendered destitute; his parents worked to the very end to pay off their debts.
In spite of the harsh, spartan times in which he grew up, Lloyd Svendsbye went on to become one of North Dakota’s illustrious sons. He graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, and went on to teach there. Then he became editor-in-chief at Augsburg Publishing House, the dean of the faculty at St. Olaf College, president of Luther Seminary, and president of Augustana College (1987-1992).
While doing research on his family genealogy, Svendsbye became intrigued by the history, events, and contexts from which his ancestors came as well as that to which they came. Svendsbye recalls the events of his childhood, remembers his parents’ stories, and uncovers numerous documents to tell the story of perseverance, integrity, and faith that sustained his family and many other North Dakota immigrant settlers.
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