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   Newspaper Article Links:

  • A real-life Iceland saga that did not end well (Herald News)

  • Icelandic roots strong in Markland (The Weekly Press)



These articles, a series about the Markland and Lockeport Settlers,

have been previously published in Lögberg-Heimskringla.


News From the East

(This article appeared in Logberg, February 10, 2010)

Happy New Year to everyone from the East Coast! January is almost over and we have only had four snow storms so far. It's been the best winter in a long time and we are told it is supposed to stay this way.

The Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia is entering its 12th year of operations.  We have over 40 memberships (individual and families). Our Annual General Meeting is planned for Sunday, April 11, 2010 (l:30 pm – 3:30 pm) at the Forestry Centre, Middle Musquodoboit. This year Anne Bishop from Falmouth, Nova Scotia, will be our guest speaker.  She will talk about raising Icelandic sheep in Canada and her time as a farm worker in Iceland in 1972.

The Society is working on two main projects at the present time. When the 30 Icelandic families came to Nova Scotia to settle in Markland  (60 km from Halifax) in 1875-1881, the government built houses for the pioneer settlers. These houses are now long gone. Some local trappers worked in the old settlement in the l920s and 30s and they have given us descriptions what the log houses looked like. The Society plans to build a replica of one of these houses on one of the old Icelandic farms (Lot 3 -  Farm Stadartunga) which belonged  to Sigurdur Jonsson and Sigridur Dyrleif Brynjolfsdottir. The Society received a grant of $4,500  from Halifax Regional Municipality  in 2009 to prepare a survey on the one ha of land which is going to be leased from the Crown, the present day landowner of Lot 3. This survey was finished this fall. The lot will now be prepared so that construction can begin this summer.  A local logging company has donated the logs. The Society members will do the construction. Any donations for this project will be greatly appreciated.

On November 13, 2009, a  new book was published by Formac Publishing Limited (Halifax) called “The Young Icelander”. It was written at the turn of the century by Johann Magnus Bjarnasson. He was a young boy nine years old when he moved to Markland and lived with his parents,  Bjarni Andresson and Kristbjorg Magnusdottir  at Farm Hlidarhus (Lot 15). He called his novel “Eirikur Hansson”.  Borga Jakobson, a member of our Society, translated this novel into English. Now we can all read his fictional account of his life in Markland. I really think that most of it is true!  What a wonderful addition to our history of Markland. The Society has a supply of these books which you can order for $20 plus $3 shipping.

Every third Sunday of the each month, the Scandinavian Society of Nova Scotia has movies from the Scandinavian countries.  I was able to get a copy of “Jar City” (Director Balttasar Kormakur) with subtitles from Iceland and the Society showed it on January 17. We had 35 people attend. What a great show by one of the best criminal mystery writers in Iceland. I liked the scene where the detective Erlendur goes through a drive in for his dinner and brings home a sheep’s head. I have experienced eating a sheep’s head so it brought back some mixed memories to me! The local video stores  in Halifax do not stock up in Icelandic movies so it was a lot of work to get this movie.  Perhaps the different INL clubs can get them and circulate them here in North America? Stefan and Marquise Sopher made vinarterta and skyr for the guests to eat. We could not get any sheep’s heads.

Jonas Thor brought 46 senior citizens from Iceland in September 2009. Our Society hosted them for a day at Markland. We hope another group comes next fall. The group went to the South Shore of Nova Scotia (Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Peggys Cove) another day. The third major trip went to the Annapolis Valley (Blomidon, Grand Pre, Acadia University, Gaspereau Valley Vineyards). Jonas, through Uniglobe Geo Travel (1-800-661-2454 ext 869;, has organized a 12-day tour to Iceland June 17 to 28, 2010.  Many people are looking forward to going on this trip.

J. Marshall Burgess, QC

Chair of the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia and the Scandinavian Society of Nova Scotia

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The Markland Icelanders
(This article, the first in a series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in the December 4th, 1998 issue of Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

At the Icelandic Emigration Centre in the village of Hofsófs in northwestern Iceland I stood before a wall size photograph, painted in sepia entitled, "Emigrants bid their land farewell -- Vesturfarar kveđja land sitt." It is a picture of the ship St Patrick of the Allan Ship Lines on its departure from the shores of Iceland to the New World. The passengers are on deck. Bundled up in heavy blankets and woven shawls, the women, some holding infants, appear to be in tears. The men, in top hats, are standing grim-faced; their eyes fixed on what possibly was their last glimpse of home.

I had come to Iceland from Caribou Gold Mines, Nova Scotia to find out more about the people who immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1875.

Caribou Gold Mines is in near proximity to Mooseland Heights, the land given to the Icelanders by the Nova Scotia government. Caribou was at one time a prosperous gold mining community that was supposed to lend support to the Icelanders. As with most Nova Scotia gold mining villages, prosperity was short-lived and people pulled up stakes and moved away. Caribou Gold mines itself has become a ghost town. I am one of the three remaining residents.

In 1932 when I came to teach in Caribou, residents talked about the deserted Iceland farms. The land by then had gone back to the Crown. We would walk down that way to pick berries or to fish in the streams. I was told stories of women and children bringing blueberries, butter, and eggs to the village to sell.

One resident remembered meeting a young Icelander with a pack on his back and a ski type runner with a handle straight up on it. He would push with one foot and stand on the ski with the other and coast down the hills. He was on his way to the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, fifteen miles away, for a load of fish for two cents a pound; it was said he could make it out and back in one day.

My interest piqued in 1983 when a young logger working for a pulp and paper company came to my door. He asked me if I had ever heard of the Iceland Farms. He said they were logging in that area and thought they had run into a grave.

I walked with him to the farms, which was little more than a path through the woods by now. A few apple trees and mounds of rock were all that was left of the homesteads. Upon surveying this rocky and barren land we could only imagine the difficulty of ekeing out a living for what must have been six or seven desperate years.

My interest in these hardy and courageous people is what led me to journey to Hofsós in 1997 to learn more about their origin. My family joined me on the trip to Iceland. The information we gathered from the Emigration Centre firmly convinced us to continue to research.

As a result of the fast-growing interest in the settlement by local residents and descendents of the Icelandic Settlers in Markland, we founded The Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia in July 1998. As a millennium project the society plans to erect a memorial cairn at the entrance to the settlement. With the consent of the present-day landowners we are planning to establish a network of trails through the old sites. At this time nine of the original sites have been located and identified. Anyone having information on Iceland settlers at Markland, Nova Scotia may contact me. The Society invites interested people to inquire about membership.

By Eleanor Belmore, Author of Caribou Gold Mines: 1865-1990  

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The Nova Scotia Icelandic Settlements
(This article, the second in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in the February 26th, 1999 issue of Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

To celebrate 125 years after the first group of Icelandic settlers was brought to Nova Scotia, a group of people in Nova Scotia in July 1998 incorporated the Icelandic Society of Nova Scotia. Dolly Belmore, one of the few residents left in Caribou Mines which is located one hundred miles or so east of Halifax in the interior of the Province, is the Chair of the Society.

The goal of the Society is to promote the memory of the early Icelandic settlers and to assist and encourage the descendants and others to preserve their heritage.

The Society has met four times to date. Plans are underway to erect two memorial cairns to be dedicated in the year 2000. One cairn will be in the mother settlement (forty families) located between Caribou Mines and Mooseland, Halifax Regional Municipality. The second cairn will be located in Lockeport, Shelburne County, at the other end of the Province where eight Icelandic families were located.

The settlements (1875-1883) did not flourish and most of the settlers moved on to better lands in Gimli, North Dakota, or Minnesota. The houses that were built for the settlers at Caribou Mines and Mooseland lasted until the 1920s or 1930s, when they crumbled to the ground. To this date, no one lives in that area where the Icelandic settlement was located. The land is heavily forested and logging roads crisscross the countryside.

This past September, the Society had the privilege of having a meeting and a meal at a hunting camp owned by two local residents, Harley and Beverly Redden, which is located in the old Icelandic settlement. The camp is located on Crown grant 15310 granted in the 1880s to Olafur Thorsteinsson, a blacksmith.

While there I let my mind slip back to the year 1879 when my Great-grandfather, Erlendur Höskuldsson, and Great-grandmother Guđbjörg Steffinsdöttir arrived from Lönd, S-Mulasýsla in eastern Iceland. Their homes were located on hundred-acre Crown grants and were miles apart from each other. There was no electricity. This was very much the same situation back in Iceland. Remember Icelanders are truly independent people. They had to be!

The Society has been lucky to locate a book by Guđbrandur Erlendsson detailing an account of his stay in the Markland settlement. The book was published in Icelandic in Winnipeg in 1916. Friends have translated passages relating to my family.

It appears Erlendur bought a store (Robbshus) located there and stayed for a year or so. He then moved to the Lockeport settlement, which is a fishing community about 125 miles west of Halifax. There he stayed and raised his children. My family (surname Huskilson) is still to be found in that local area.

The Society is fortunate to have the census compiled by Jón Rögnvaldsson in February 1878, listing all of the persons living in each house. This first list was updated in February 1879. The provincial census was taken in 1881 in the two communities.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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The Guđbrandur Erlendsson Family
(This article, the third in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in the August 27th, 1999 issue of Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

In 1875, Nova Scotia was looking for new settlers. An agent, John Anderson, was sent to Iceland to see if there were families there that were prepared to relocate to Nova Scotia. From 1875 to 1882 approximately 40 families (200 persons) moved to two settlements in the Province. The main settlement was located in the Caribou Mines/Mooseland area which is situated about 100 km east of Halifax. The second settlement was located near the Town of Lockeport which is situated about 150 km west of Halifax.

In July 1998, the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia was incorporated as a society under the Nova Scotia Societies Act. As a millennium project, the Society plans to erect a memorial cairn in each of the two communities to remember the Icelandic families who came to Nova Scotia (1875-1882). Only a few of the families remained, including my own (Erlendur Höskuldsson/Guđbjörg Steffansdöttir).

One goal of the Society is to locate the ancestors of each of the 40 families that passed through Nova Scotia. The Society hopes to locate any pictures, diaries, or other accounts of their years spent in Nova Scotia. To date, the Society has lucked out with some accounts relating to the original settlers.

One family that came was Guđbrand Erlendsson and his wife, Sigriđur Ingibjörg Havarđsdottir. They left Vopnafjord in North Mulasýsla, Iceland, in 1875 aboard the ship Hjalmar with three daughters, Anna, Guđný, and Hallifriđur. They arrived in Markland in October 1875. A son, Havarđur, was born here.

Associated with his household in the settlement (Lot 35 – Grćnavatan) was Helga Erlendsdottir, sister to Guđbrand. A daughter, Jónina, was born in Markland.

In July 1882, the family left Markland and moved to Hallson, North Dakota. In 1916, Guđbrand Erlendson published a journal of his stay in Nova Scotia entitled "Markland – Endurninnigar Frá Árunum 1875-1881). Contact has been made with his grandson, William E. Dinusson (Hallifriđur – mother) in Fargo, North Dakota. He has forwarded to the Society an English translation of the journal.

The journal presents a graphic account of the day to day life in the Caribou Mines/Mooseland community from the settlers’ perspective. Life was not easy. The reader can feel the hard work these settlers had to put into their lands just to survive. Houses were erected by the Government of Nova Scotia and food and supplies were provided for a one-year period. The settlers had each other to help them through the difficult times.

A term and condition to obtain a Crown Grant to the 100 acre blocks of land set aside required the settlers to remain on the lands for a period of five years and to clear up to 10 acres of the land.

Owning land meant so much to these settlers. It was not an option back in Iceland. Here it was a reality. Guđbrand received a Crown Grant (No. 13577) to his lands. It cost him $23.00 for 100 acres of land (Crown Petition 15216). In 1882, he was packing his possessions to leave with the rest of the community. Because the settlement was so isolated, it would be difficult to survive on your own without the security and support of having other settlers present.

The journal provides graphic details where the various houses, school and other buildings were located. The Society has a description of what the houses looked like and what furnishings were provided.

Details of day to day life, during the four seasons, are described. Members of the Society, with aerial photos from the 1930s, were able to find the Rider Hill and Greenwater, the name Guđbrand gave to his home. With this information, the journal came alive. There were the stonewalls which he built. There was the foundation where his house and his barn were located. There was the hill where he could look down on some of the other homes in the community.

The journal is written in a very positive tone. Some of the descriptions are absolutely beautiful. For example, his description of spring in Nova Scotia:

One fine day, in the spring of 1878, the roads were in such good condition that one could have used them for a race course for a favourite saddle horse (had one been available) and the trees, which had stood naked all winter, were dressed in their lively summer finery. The trees along the road were filled with the songs of the small birds who inhabited them. The squirrels jumped from limb to limb and branch to branch, screeching in celebration of the beauty of nature. Everything bore witness to the wonder of the world.

When Guđbrand was preparing to leave you can detect his sadness. He writes:

In conclusion, I wish to state that as we reached the top of the hill on our outward journey from Greenwater, I looked back. I saw my house surrounded by a green lawn, the lawn and house which had given me such hard work, work which I no longer regretted having done and I felt like Gunnar Hamundarsson when he spoke these words: "How beautiful is my land". It seemed to me that my home had never been so lovely, as it was now in the bloom of the year. This place, where I had lived for six years was truly beautiful. In this place, I had known great poverty, but in spite of that my wife and children had been happy there. How often, on my return from work, I had heard her lovely voice raised in song in which she was joined by my children. How wonderful it was that all my children had inherited her beautiful singing voice. We had never been visited by disease, not even so much as a cold. Would we always be that lucky. The future held the answer.

Stories on other families will follow.

Please contact the undersigned if your relatives passed through Nova Scotia. The Society wants to collect all the material it can and publish an account of their stay in Nova Scotia.

The Society is grateful to the grants provided by the Halifax Regional Municipality 2000 Committee and the Millennium 125 Commission (Winnipeg) for the projects being undertaken.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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The Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson Family
(This article, the fourth in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in the October 8th, 1999 issue of Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

Recently, a walk was planned through the original Markland settlement to locate and identify the foundations of houses once built there. One of the basements located and identified was that of Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson and family, who had lived in the settlement for six years (1875-1881).

Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson left Skeggstađir in Húnavatnssýsla in 1874, aboard the St. Patrick, bound for America, with his wife, his children, and his mother. The ship (St. Patrick) came to Quebec. From there the passengers were taken to a settlement at Kinmount, Ontario. They spent a desparate winter there. The settlement at Kinmount, expecting only men, had not provided adequate housing or provisions to include women and children. With their health already weakened by this long journey from Iceland, they were susceptible to disease and sickness and many children died.

In the spring of 1875, they heard of the new settlement at Markland, Nova Scotia. Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson and his family were among the first to leave Kinmount. In May 1875, with Brynjólfsson as leader, seventeen families arrived by train at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. From there they traveled by horse and wagon the remaining twenty miles to Markland.

The settlement was not yet developed and the settlers were housed temporarily in one building called "Icelandic House" situated approximately seven miles from proposed settlement. Each family was granted 100 acres of land and was allowed to choose their homestead site. The men found employment building a road to the settlement (The pay was $2.00 per day). The men were unaccustomed to the hardships of the dense forest, dark nights, and hordes of flies. As the road progressed they encountered sand, rocky ground and swamps, not the fertile land they had been promised. The government had houses built on each lot (28 x 20), provided necessities and cleared one acre.

Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson claimed #27 and named his lot "Vatnsdalur" translated to be "Lake Dale" or "Water Dale." He settled there with his wife, ţorunn Ólafsdóttir and children, Ólafur, Jónas, Skapti, Björn, Magnús, Sigriđur and his mother Sigriđur Hendriksdóttir. The settlers came to rely on Brynjólfsson as a leader in the community. He was described as being extremely well educated, although he never went to school, and learned the English language more quickly than others. He had brought many educational books from Iceland including famous works of fiction. He presided over most of the affairs of Markland, leading the worship services each Sunday in the school house and holding council meetings in his own home.

Although they were poor and barely eking out a living from the soil, Brynjólfsson managed to bring his own style to his home, so that it resembled a distinguished Icelandic farm.

The four oldest sons found employment in the nearby gold mines at Caribou. The two youngest children attended school in Markland when it was in session. They were all hard workers and spent what time they could clearing their land. This was a great boon for Brynjólfsson as his property was possibly the most attractive. On leaving Markland he was the only one to get a reasonable price for his land, receiving $300.00 paid in full.

After struggling for six years to eke out a living it became apparent there was no future in Markland. Word had been received of land available in Western Canada and in North Dakota, U.S.A. In 1880, preparations were made to leave Nova Scotia. Deeds were granted and farms were sold.

One can only imagine the heart wrenching decision by Brynjólfsson and family to uproot once more and walk away from what was by now a beautiful homestead. His family was among the fortunate few that had not suffered serious illness or death while in Markland.

In August 1881, the families loaded down the wagons with their belongings and made their way over the rough road that led out of the settlement, through the Musquodoboit valley and on to the railway station at Shubenacadie, NS. From there they left for points west, Brynjólfsson and family went to Duluth, but moved to North Dakota in 1882. The good qualities of his home in Nova Scotia were also true for his home in Dakota.

His family continued to play an important part in the community. Son Skapti was the only Icelander who ever took a seat as a Senator for North Dakota. Son Bjorn was a lawyer and mayor of Grand Forks, ND. Son Magnus, a prosecutor for the state in Pembina County. Brynjólfur Brynjólfsson spent his last years with his family. He passed away in 1917 at the age of eighty-eight years.

Where are the descendants of this remarkable family who provided such leadership to the Markland settlement and continued to assist and help others in North Dakota?

It is the goal of our Icelandic Society of Nova Scotia to locate descendants and to uncover pictures, diaries, and other accounts relating to the courageous pioneers who settled in Nova Scotia, and to preserve their stories.

Our Icelandic Society of Nova Scotia is grateful for grants provided by the Halifax Regional Municipality 2000 Committee and the Millennium Commission (Winnipeg) for projects being undertaken. Please contact the undersigned, if your relatives passed through Nova Scotia.

Eleanor (Dolly) Belmore, Author of Caribou Gold Mines: 1865-1990

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Bjarni Andrésson Family
(This article, the fifth in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in the November, 1999 issue of Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

Bjarni Andrésson (1832-1899) came from Jokulkal in Iceland and lived in Medalnes, N. Mulasýsla. It was at that place in 1866 that Canada's most notable Icelandic author, playwright and poet, Jóhann Magnús Bjarnason, was born. At the age of nine, he left Iceland with his parents from Fljotsbakki in S. Mulasýsla and arrived in Nova Scotia in December 1875.

Bjarni's farm, "Hildarhus" was located near Scraggy or Rocky Lake in an area which the Icelanders called White Birch Hill. Morgan River ran by the property on the east. The Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia (the Society) has recently been able to locate this old homestead.

On July 10, 1876, Bjarni petitioned the Crown for a grant to the 100 acres of land (Petition 15204) and signed an Agreement of Settlement whereby he agreed to live on the land for five years, clear two acres of land annually and not encumber the land with debts or mortgages. His lot was shown as Lot No. 6 on the Crown Survey Plan prepared by James Van Buskirk and Malcolm Logan, Crown Surveyors, in December 1875 (Crown Lands Record Center, Plan 79, Halifax County Portfolio). Crown Grant 13565 was issued to Bjarni Andrésson on July 16, 1881, for a price of $100.00.

In May of 1882, the family moved to Winnipeg. In 1889, the family was located in Gimli, Manitoba, where Jóhann Magnús Bjarnson began his teaching career. Jóhann taught in several Icelandic communities in Manitoba and North Dakota. He resided for a while in Vancouver (1912-1915). He lived with his wife, Gudrun Hjorleifdottir (1866-1945), in Elfros, Saskatchewan and their daughter, Alice Juliet Cooper (Mrs. Stanley Le Messurier) until he died there on September 8, 1945.

During his lifetime Jóhann has been described as an "outstanding" writer of adventure stories, both short and novel length. His novels included Eríkur Hansson (1899-1903), Braziliufaranir (1905-1908) and Í Ráudárdalnum (1913-1922). His work also consists of two volumes of short stories and a collection of fable and fantasy stories.

Eríkur Hansson - A Novel from Nova Scotia (Eríkur Hansson - skálk saga fra nyja skotlandi) is a story about the Icelandic immigration experience in Nova Scotia told through the eyes of a young boy. It is a fictional story based on Jóhann's own life in Markland. His memories of Iceland are vague (he was 9 when he left) so, as Daisy L. Neijman states in her book "The Icelandic Voices in Canadian Letters", (Carleton University Press 1997), his experience was "more coloured by childhood enthusiasm and optimism than that of his old compatriots" (p.146).

Parts of the novel have been translated into English by Laurence Gillespie, a fellow Nova Scotian living in Winnipeg. The novel offers graphic and often moving descriptions of what Ms. Neijman describes as "physical and psychological consequences" of the settlers emigration to America. Many of the settlers tried to forget their "foreign" roots and tried very hard to assimilate into the ways and habits of the society where they now lived.

The novel provides details of Alexander Wilson, the Scottish schoolteacher hired by the government to teach in the settlement. The Icelanders called him "Old Cracknell". He beat the children mercilessly when they could not pronounce or spell an English word. "We came here to learn, and not to let you beat us, Sir" said little Jon who was a benchmate of Eríkur. Both children were whipped for being so brash.

The Andrésson family left Markland in May 1882. It is reported that they were the last family to leave the Markland Settlement. When the pioneer settlers were brought to Mooseland, they had to travel through the fertile, well-established farms situated in the Musquodoboit Valley. They were taken into the hinterland, to the "barren Mooseland Hills", where no one had ever wanted to settle before. Eríkur Hansson sums it up by saying "the settlers lived for seven years in a place they should not have spent six months".

Ms. Neijman (p. 154) quotes one of the many moving passages in the book when Eríkur returns much later on to the old abandoned settlement. Erikur sees a squirrel which becomes the personification of the "ghostly, haunted atmosphere in his mind". The novel reads:

Everybody gone - everybody gone, everybody, everybody, everybody! I thought I heard it say. "and why don't you go - you go - you go?". . . It ran from branch to branch up and down the birch trees and screeched continually. It was like its screeching carried irony. "I can manage" I thought it said, "and I can live here well enough, but they couldn't - they couldn't - they couldn't - ar-r-r-r".

All of Jóhann's works are written in Icelandic. One collection of his stories is contained in a book entitled Vornaltur ŕ Elgsheidem - Sögur ("Spring Nights on Moose Heights - Stories"). Translating these stories has presented a challenge to our Society. If readers have English translations of any of his poems or stories which relate to the Markland Settlement, the Society would appreciate receiving copies. On August 26 (Mooseland) and August 27 (Lockeport), 2000, memorial cairns will be dedicated to the original pioneer settlers who came to Nova Scotia. We hope descendants of these settlers will join us.
The Society is sponsoring these events and would like to thank the Halifax Regional Municipality 2000 Committee and the Millennium Bureau of Canada for their generous support. Donations for the memorial cairn projects would be appreciated.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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Jón Rognvaldsson
(This article, the sixth in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in the February 18, 2000 issue of Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

Without the work of Jón Rognvaldsson, the names of the Icelanders who settled in Markland, Nova Scotia may have been lost in time. In the winter of 1878, he made an outstanding contribution to their history by recording the census in the village. The census included the name, age, birthplace and the last residence in Iceland of the people who settled there. In addition to this, he recorded the name of each farm and a detailed account of the families who lived on them.

Jón Rognvaldsson was born December 4, 1807 at Kleif on the Skagi. He was the son of 'the limping Rognvaldur' from the western part of the Municipality of the Thingeyjarsysla. The remarkable story of his father's life was written in May, 1824 entitled "The Life Story of Rognvaldur Jonsson 1769-1845". Jón's mother's name was Margret, daughter of Petur Gislison from Holi on the Skagi. Jón married Gudrun Jónsdottir in 1839. She was a member of a family from the Skagi on her fathers side, and her mother was from the Gunner family. They had five children, Rognvaldur, Gudrun, Gisli and two of whom died in infancy. His wife Gudrun died from a measles epidemic in 1846. Some time later he married Una (Anna) Gudbrandsdottir, originating from Svarfaoardalur. They had eight children, Jón, Gudbjorg, Petur, Hermann and four of whom died before 1872.

In 1872, Jón and Gudrun's oldest son Rognvaldur died suddenly of pneumonia. A week later his wife Una died. This loss was so devastating to Jon that he gave up his farm. The prospect of emigration to North America with two of his sons and other community members seemed a brighter future.

On the 4th of September, 1874, the Allan Line Ship, St. Patrick, picked up passengers in Akureyri and four days later arrived at Saudarkrokur where the Icelanders had been waiting for two months to board. On the 11th of September, Jón Rognvaldsson and his sons Petur and Jon were among the 351 passengers bound for America.

Always a record keeper, Jón Rognvaldsson kept a detailed diary of the long and difficult voyage. He wrote of strong winds, heavy fog and snow. Icebergs loomed out of the sea north of them. Many of the passengers were seasick and rations were poor so they were very glad to reach Quebec on September 23rd. They were taken to an Immigration Hall where they were given bread and apples to eat. Most of them had never seen an apple and did not know how to eat it.

While wintering in Kinmount, Ontario, they heard of a better deal in Nova Scotia near the gold mining districts of Caribou, Mooseland and Moose River and they sent a delegation to investigate. Jón Rognvaldsson's son Jón Jónsson was one of the exploring party. It was on this trip that Jón Jónsson began to call himself Jon Hillman (originating from Holi, his farm in Iceland, which means 'hill' in English). Because the snow was too deep to see the land that the Nova Scotia Government was offering to them, the delegation reported back to Kinmount after spending the winter in Halifax. The proposition looked favorable; a grant of one hundred acres of land per family, a log cabin, furniture and provisions for one year. In addition to this, the men were promised work on the roads. So, at 68 years of age, Jón Rognvaldsson found himself homesteading in the deep woods of Markland, Nova Scotia. He was living with his son Jón Hillman on the farm they called 'Engihlid', meaning Meadow Side or Meadow Slope. His son Petur Hillman lived on the next farm which he called 'Laufskogar', meaning Leaf Wood.

This is an excerpt from Jón Rognvaldsson's diary:

"...Between the hills were large stretches of bog with tall blueberry bushes. ...The soil was full of sand and rocks, but this did not come to light until the underbrush had been cleared away. On the whole, it must be said that the soil in this area was full of rocks and stones, it was shallow and poor. But people did not know this until they found out by bitter experience and backbreaking toil."

In February 1878, this man took on the task of preparing a census. Think, if you will, of the work involved. These farms were far apart, covering a distance of ten miles. He walked from farm to farm along wooded paths, as the road had not been completed. The names of the farms themselves attest to the rugged terrain over which he traveled, Icelandic names meaning hills, forests, rivers and small lakes. Historical weather records for 1878 report 53.0 cm of snow in January and 51.1 cm in February as well as freezing rain and extremely cold temperatures. Not only did Jon Rognvaldsson complete this task once, he updated the survey in 1879.

After seven years of hardship and labour, it was apparent that the community of Markland had prospered beyond anyone's expectations. Yet, there was a limit on what could be done with such poor land. When settlers began to look to greener pastures in USA and western Canada in 1881, the exodus from Markland began. Jón Rognvaldsson and his son Jón Hillman were among the last four families to leave. By the night of May 9,1882, not a soul remained.

The Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia is indebted to this remarkable older citizen, Jon Rognvaldsson. He lies in an unmarked grave on a farm in North Dakota where he spent his last years. Both the census and the survey taken by Jon Rognvaldsson in 1878 and updated in 1879 are on our website at

Our Icelandic Society of Nova Scotia is grateful for grants provided by the Halifax Regional Municipality 2000 Committee and the Millennium 125 Commission (Winnipeg) for projects being undertaken.

Eleanor (Dolly) Belmore. Author of Caribou Gold Mines: 1865-1990  

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The Höskuldsson Family
(This article, the seventh in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

In 1987, I visited Iceland for the first time with my father, J. Marshall Burgess II (1911-1996). With a copy of my amma's birth certificate in hand, we decided that it was time to see if we had any relatives left in Iceland. That visit was to open a new chapter in our lives. We met many long lost relatives there.

Amma, Sigriđur Nikolina Erlendsdottir (Mrs James Marshall Burgess I) was born in Iceland on May 21, 1878, at Farm Löndum, on the east coast of Iceland at Breiđdalur near present day Breiđdalsvik. She had not reached her first birthday when her father, Erlendur Höskuldsson (1843-1928), and her mother, Guđlaug Stefánsdóttir (1835-1919) left in 1879 for Nova Scotia. An older sister, Thórunn (Mrs. John Ryan 1874-1904, came with them.

Guđbrand Erlendson in his book "Markland: Endurminnigar Fra Arunum 1875-1881" (Winnipeg 1916) notes that Erlendur bought a store and "fine home" from Hans C. Robb, kaupmađur, in the Markland Settlement which is located between present day Caribou Mines and Mooseland, Halifax Regional Municipality. Robb was an "elderly merchant" (aged 47) and he moved from the Markland Settlement to Halifax, Tangier and later New York.

The store business obviously was not that great in the community of 200 souls, so Erlendur packed once again and moved to the second Icelandic settlement established at East Green Harbour, near the Town of Lockeport, Shelburne County. A son, Lewis Churchill, was born in East Green Harbour (1882-1961).

Thomas Robertson, Deputy Immigration Agent, wrote a letter dated June 16, 1876, to Johann E. Straumfjord, an Icelandic agent hired by Nova Scotia, that land had been bought by the government in the Lockeport area in 1876 to sell to the Icelanders for a settlement there. The lots were to be one or two acres each and were to sell for about $25.00 per acre with five years to pay.

Great-grandfather was a carpenter by trade and it appears he built his own house. The house remained on the land until it was demolished in the early 1990s. He also built a house for his daughter, Thorunn. It is still standing and is probably the only piece of Icelandic architecture built by a pioneer settler remaining in the Province.

Thorunn had one son, Lewis Ryan. Amma had seven children: Francis, Evelyn (Mrs. Walter MacDonald), Marshall, Harry, Louise (Mrs. Everett Hersey), Eleanor (Mrs. Clayton Rogers) and Cecil. Lewis had 11 children: Annie (Mrs. Cecil Barrett), Thelma (Mrs. Robert MacMillan), Bonnie (Mrs. Alan Martin), St-Clair, Lewis Malcolm ("Big Mac" - former Mayor of Lockeport), Harold (MLS 1970-1992), Lloyd, Ralph and Wilfred. Two others died in infancy.

The grandchildren would spend time with their afi and amma at East Green Harbour. Gudlaug did not learn to speak much English. She raised chickens and her grandchildren would walk to Lydgate, outside of Lockeport, to sell her eggs.

Erlendur did carpentry work for the Locke family and others in Lockeport. Five of the Locke family's magnificent homes were designated in 1988 as the first "provincial seascape" in Nova Scotia.

Big Mac tells me that Erlendur could do almost everything with his hands. He could make cart wheels. He could build chimneys. He hand-carved dolls. He could make boots. He could restore old clocks. He also made wooden coffins and that is how the family business, H.M. Huskilson's Funeral Home Limited, was started.

My dad told me stories of his visits with his afi and amma. Erlendur always kept his prayer books and bibles on a stand with a cloth underneath. He would read from these in Icelandic before the family ate. On Sundays, there was to be complete peace and quiet and not a flower could be picked. Their amma was a good cook so they always had a good meal. Erlendur raised sheep and it was reported that his son Lewis could round them up faster than any sheepdog. When Guđlaug died in 1919, Erlendur moved into the Town of Lockeport to live with his son and family until he died 8 years later.

In 1881, most of the Icelandic families decided that a more productive life could be attained by moving to Minnesota and the Dakotas in the USA and the new colony established at Gimli, Manitoba. In 1881, there were 9 Icelandic families permanently located in East Green Harbour. Most were fishermen. In 1881-82, they joined the pioneers from the Markland Settlement and headed west.

This must have been a sad and difficult time for Erlendur and Guđlaug. However, they had a good home and he had work. The Höskuldsson (Huskilson) family was the only family to stay in Nova Scotia in the Iceland Emigration Experiment that took place from 1875-1882.

On August 27, 2000 (2 p.m.), a memorial cairn will be unveiled on the Lewis Churchill Huskilson property, Lockeport, to remember all of the pioneer settlers who came to the Lockeport area. The ceremonies will be presided over by the Mayor of Lockeport, Sarah Huskilson. It is hoped that descendants of the other pioneer families can be located and will attend.

The Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia would like to express their gratitude to the Millennium Bureau of Canada, the Halifax Regional Municipality 2000 Committee and others who have donated money for this project. Fundraising continues.

If you want more information, contact the undersigned.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.

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Nova Scotia Immigration Agents
(This article, the eighth in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

When the British North America Act was signed in 1867, the Dominion Government was assigned responsibility for immigration. Nova Scotia had already established its Immigration Agency in 1863.

The Dominion Government hosted a number of conferences in the 1870s to discuss immigration matters. After the conference on November 4, 1874, the Minister of Agriculture, who looked after immigration in Ottawa, issued a bulletin entitled "Position of the Dominion Government in Relation to the Provinces with Respect to Immigration". Dominion agents were asked to avoid steps which would favour one province over another.

Back in Nova Scotia, Hebert Croskill (Deputy Provincial Secretary appointed on February 1, 1868) produced a pamphlet on emigration to Nova Scotia. Six hundred copies of this document were sent to Ottawa on November 17, 1874, for distribution.

In 1874, the Dominion Government allocated a $10,000 grant to Nova Scotia to assist in its immigration efforts. William Annand (Anticonfederate, Liberal from Halifax) was Premier and Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia from November 7, 1867, to May 8, 1875. His constituency included the gold mining districts of Caribou, Tangier (Mooseland) and Moose River. Gold mining was a growing industry. Here was a change to find emigrants to come to Nova Scotia and to work in the mines or provide support services.

The Icelandic settlement between Caribou Gold Mines and Mooseland, Halifax County, was created. The settlement was to be named "Markland" by the pioneer settlers. Annand was defeated at the polls in 1875. He went on to become Canada's agent general, and later Nova Scotia's, in London, UK. He continued to be involved in immigration matters in Nova Scotia.

Mather Byles DesBrisay (Liberal - Lunenburg County) was Nova Scotia's Immigration Agent in 1874. In his Immigration Report dated December 3, 1874, he reported that one John Anderson from Iceland, another Icelander, and William Miller from Musquodoboit viewed Crown lands in the interior of the Province to be set aside for the Icelandic settlement.

Philip Carteret Hill (Liberal - Halifax) was Premier and Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia from May 11, 1875 to October 15, 1878. It was during his tenure as Premier that most of the Icelandic emigrants came to Nova Scotia.

Dr. Duncan Campbell (b. 1818 - d. 1886) was the Liberal member from Inverness County. He succeeded DesBrisay as Immigration Agent in 1875. His Immigration Reports of 1875 and 1876 provide detailed descriptions of the settlement efforts made at Markland and later at East Green Harbour, a village just outside of the Town of Lockeport, Shelburne County.

Johannes Arngrimsson (b. 1854 in Akureyri, Iceland) and known locally as "John Anderson" was hired by Nova Scotia as their immigration agent. He played a key role in bringing Icelanders to Nova Scotia. He obtained his naturalization papers to become a Canadian in September 1878.

The first Icelandic settlers were to come from the failed settlement in Kinmount, Ontario. The S.S. "St. Patrick" was expected to land in Halifax and many of the emigrants though they were to settle in Nova Scotia. Sigtryggur Jonasson, Ontario's immigration agent, was in Halifax in September 1874 to greet these emigrants. He immediately proceeded to Quebec City when the ship landed there and encouraged the settlers to proceed to Toronto and then Kinmount, Ontario. Anderson also went to Quebec City. He told the settlers Nova Scotia had much more to offer. A few settlers returned with him. The 1874 Immigration Report indicates that 8 Icelanders were living in Nova Scotia by the end of 1874.

The settlement at Kinmount failed. A number of these Icelanders decided to return to Nova Scotia. On November 2, 1874, an advance team (John Anderson, John Eliasson) came to view the site/accommodations. By May 29, 1975, Jonasson reported 38 Icelanders from Kinmount had left for Nova Scotia. Others moved to Milltown, near Kinmount, to save up enough money and they also came to Nova Scotia.

On May 6, 1875, the Provincial Secretary authorized Anderson to go directly to Iceland and bring 20 more families back to Nova Scotia. They were promised 100 acres of land, log dwellings, and employment on building a new road from Mooseland to Musquodoboit. A wood stove was to be provided, plus tools and food supplies for one year. Anderson went to Iceland, translated the government's pamphlet, distributed 1500 copies of this document and held public meetings. He returned with 3 families (19 emigrants). More settlers came and were settled in Lockeport (13 men, 4 women and 8 children). All told, the 1875 Immigration Report states that 116 Icelanders were located in Nova Scotia.

Jon Eliasson (b. 1840 - d. 1914) was one of the advance crew that came to Nova Scotia from Kinmount in 1874. He was from Straumfjardartunga, Iceland. The family took the name "Straumfjord" when they came to Canada. After he moved back to Iceland in 1875, he became another immigration agent for Nova Scotia.

On March 24, 1876, Straumfjord wrote to the Provincial Secretary that 20 families (130 souls) from Iceland would be returning with him to Nova Scotia. He also reported that Sigtryggur Jonasson was trying also in Iceland to entice people to go to New Iceland. He commented that these people would be "more disappointed there than in Kinmount". In 1876, Straumfjord gave "serious consideration" to settling his own family in Nova Scotia. Instead, he moved his family to Mukley (Hecla), Manitoba.

Thomas Robertson, Nova Scotia's Deputy Immigration Agent, spent a busy time in the summer of 1876 preparing for the coming of the Icelandic settlers. He bought land in Lockeport for $3000 (the Swansburg lot) and $1500 (the James Crowell lot). On June 16, 1876, Robertson told Straumfjord that 7 families could go to Markland as 7 home were still available there. The rest of the families would be sent to Lockeport.

During the summer of 1876, ships full of Icelanders started coming to Canada. Many wanted to go to Nova Scotia. The S.S. "Austrian" arrived on June 22, 1876, in Quebec City with settlers who wished to go to Nova Scotia. William C. Kreigar, General Immigration Agent of Canada for the Scandinavian countries in Reykjavik, wrote to the Nova Scotia Provincial Secretary on June 23, 1876 reminding him that Nova Scotia had promised to receive 20 families and the emigrants trusted that they would be received. Over 1200 to 1500 souls, he said, were ready to leave Iceland that summer.

On July 6, 1876, Fred J. Dore, Dominion Immigration Agent in London, UK, wrote to John Lowe, Secretary to the Department of Agriculture, that 550 Icelanders were sailing on the S.S. "Verona" and many wanted to go to Halifax. On July 22, 1876, the S.S. "Austrian" with 400 Icelandic passengers left Iceland. The S.S. "Phonecian" left Granton, Scotland, in July 1876, with 391 Icelanders.

Robertson was immediately dispatched to Quebec. There, with the assistance of the Dominion Agent in Quebec, L. Stafford, and John Lowe, Secretary to the Department of Agriculture, they were able to convince most of these emigrants to proceed west rather than go to Nova Scotia.

In his Immigration Report dated January 1, 1877, Dr. Campbell wrote:

The experiment of locating small numbers of immigrant together in colonies has, with us, in this instance proved expensive, and while I believe that ultimately they will make this locality a flourishing settlement, I do not recommend any further attempt of this nature.

The $10,000 federal grant turned out not to be permanent. Nova Scotia cut its immigration budget from $5,800 in 1874, 1875, and 1876 to $2,500 in 1877, $1,000 in 1878 and $500 in 1879 and 1880. The opposition parties relentlessly criticized the government for the expenses and costs of running the Immigration Agency. This Agency was abolished by 1877 and their last report filed that year.

The Dominion Agent in Halifax was Rev. Edwin Clay (b. 1822 - d. 1884). After serving in Nova Scotia, he went on to become a special agent of the Dominion Government in England. In his report of the Dominion Immigration Office dated January 18, 1876, he referred to Anderson as a "intelligent young Icelander" and commented on the good work he had done. Rev. Clay helped to look after the pioneer settlers when they arrived in Nova Scotia. This included making sure the settlers train passage to Markland or steamer passage to Lockeport was looked after by the federal government.

On October 22, 1878, Simon Hugh Holmes (Conservative, Pictou County) became Premier of Nova Scotia. He remained in power until May 23, 1882. A few Icelanders, including my great-grandfather, Erlendur Höskuldsson, came during his tenure as Premier. While in the opposition party, he had denounced the work of the Immigration Agent.

John Anderson on August 23, 1879, made one last pitch to Premier Holmes. He pleaded with the Premier to allow a few more Icelandic settlers to come to Nova Scotia as the settlers already here were dissatisfied their numbers had not increased. Because of this, the community could not grow or prosper. It could not support a preacher which was a source of "much disappointment". No government reply to his letter can be found.

By 1880, the Icelandic immigration experiment in Nova Scotia was over. The settlers worked their lands until July 1881 when they were able to secure Crown grants to their lands. They then sold their lands for what money they could get and they dispersed out west.

On August 26, 2000, the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia will dedicate a memorial cairn at Markland to remember these settlers. On August 27, 2000, another memorial cairn will be dedicated at Lockeport.

The Society wishes to thank the HRM 2000 Committee and the Millennium Bureau of Canada for the financial assistance they have provided. Donations to this cause will be appreciated. Tax receipt for Canadian income tax purposes may be requested.

Please contact the undersigned for more information.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.

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Sigfús Bjarnason's Family
(This article, the ninth in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

Sigfús Bjarnason (November 7, 1835 - 1919) of Staffeli in North Mulasýsla, Iceland, and his wife, Helga Gunnlaugsdóttir (September 9, 1944 - October 6, 1930) set out from Iceland in 1879 for their new life in America. Olof Bjarnadóttir (b. 1825), sister of Sigfús, joined them.

They travelled to Scotland and then landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they were taken to the Icelandic settlement at Markland, Halifax County. They moved into a home provided by the government which they named "Lund". Gudbrandur Erlendsson in his book "Markland, Endurminnigar Fra Árunum 1875-1881", published in 1916, states that Sigfús was a farmer and that he settled on land west of the school.

Helga's brother, Brynjolfur Gunnlaugsson from Flugu in Breiddal, Iceland, settled with his wife, Halldora Sigvaldadóttir, and two children (Sigvaldi/Brunjolfur) on a nearby farm named "Hliđ".

The family lived in Markland until the spring of 1881 when they moved to the second Icelandic community at Lockeport, Shelburne County. They were neighbours of my great-grandfather, Erlendur Höskuldsson. The provincial census was taken in 1881 so the family is listed in both communities.

Sigfús and Helga had 10 children. One child, Thorun Cecelia (b. Mach 20, 1867 - 1869) died in Iceland. The other six children came with their parents to Nova Scotia. Their names were as follows: Bjarni (Feb 16, 1866 - 1898), Benedict Thorarin (Jan 22, 1869 - June 11, 1937 at Elfros), Snjölaug "Lena" (Mrs. Robert Dickie - July 13, 1871 - 1939 at Hamilton, ND), Björg "Bertha" (Mrs. Grimur Olafson - May 28, 1873 - Ross, Minnesota), Ingibjörg "Emma" (Mrs. George Fleming - Hamilton, ND) and Guđlaug "Laura" (June 7, 1878 - Mrs. William Wilson, Flin Flon, Manitoba).

One child was born in Nova Scotia. Sigurđur Jonas was born on December 1880. He married Flora McNal and they lived in Elfros, Saskatchewan. We understand they had three children, Helen (Mrs. Edward Grube), Shirley Thelma (Mrs. Elmer Wilson), and Louise (Mrs. William Thompson).

In the spring of 1882, the family joined the rest of the Icelandic pioneer settlers and headed west. They moved to Dakota Territory and homesteaded near Hensel in Pembina County. This was seven years before the admission of North Dakota as a state in the United States. Two children, Ludvik (March 10, 1884 - married Sophia Arngrimson) and Halldor (June 3, 1898 - married Elinborg Horgdal) were born in Hensel.

In 1905, the family emigrated and homesteaded near Elfros, Saskatchewan. Sigfús resided there until his death in 1919. His wife died there in 1930. Both are buried in Elfros.

On August 27, 2000, a memorial cairn will be dedicated in Lockeport, Shelburne County. This family and their children, who were residing in 1881 in Lockeport, will be named on the cairn. We hope their family will contact the Society and join us for the celebration. Another cairn will be dedicated in Markland, Halifax Regional Municipality on August 26, 2000.

This project is sponsored by the Millennium Bureau of Canada and the HRM 2000 Committee. We thank them and other persons who have provided donations to support the two projects.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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Ólafur and Bjorn Ólafsson
(This article, the tenth in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

Two brothers, Ólafur and Bjorn Ólafsson, lived on adjacent farms in the Markland Settlement in Nova Scotia in the late l870s.

Ólafur Ólafsson (age 32) left Vestra Midfell in Borgarfjardarsyla, Iceland, for Nova Scotia in l876. It appears that he first settled in the Icelandic settlement in Lockeport. He is reported to have been a lobster fisherman.

His wife, Helga Guđmundsdóttir (age 32), left Hvitarvellir, in Borgarfjardarsyla, Iceland, two years later in l878 aboard the vessel "Cumbrae". Their son, Ólafur Ólafsson (age 2), came with his mother. The family relocated to the larger Icelandic settlement at Markland in August l878.

The couple were married on October l3, l879, at the home of Ólafur Thorsteinsson who was the blacksmith in the village. A daughter, Jennie, was born while the family was in Markland. Ólafur's health was not good and he is reported to have spent time in the hospital in Halifax.

Ólafur's property in Markland was named "Ljosavatn". It was located on the eastern part of the settlement towards Tangier. The Icelandic Memorial Society is still trying to locate this homestead.

A provincial census was taken in the year l88l. There is no record of this family in Markland. It appears that they left for Halifax, went by train to Montreal and on June l5, l883, landed in Winnipeg (W.J. Lindal, "The Icelanders in Canada", Ottawa, l967). Ólafur died there around 1900.

The family began to use the surname of "Olsen" in Canada. Other children born to this family included Helgi, Fred, Dan, and Anna. The descendants tell me that Fred was a hockey player. In l903 he played for a team against the Montreal Wanderers. They lost. This was a big match in Canada which preceded the Stanley Cup playoffs. Fred died in l967. The family have a photo of Fred and Ólafur playing hockey.

The Markland Settlement is, and remains, a remote settlement in the interior of the Nova Scotia. Other than a few hunting camps, no one lives there to this day. When the pioneer settlers arrived, there were large stands of virgin forests that had to be cleared to establish the settlement. What a task this must have been for pioneer settlers who were coming from a country that had few trees.

The settlers were required by their Settlement Agreements to clear at least 2 acres a year for 5 years before they could get a Crown grant to their lands. Supplied with saws and tools by the government, they began the arduous task of clearing their lands and putting up buildings.

Helgi Olsen in his memoirs writes about this daunting task:

Father and his brother had adjoining plots of land and went to work at once cutting down trees. To hew the logs into shape and raise them into place in buildings was no light work. The clearing of the land was an extremely strenuous chore, without any previous experience in cutting trees, grubbing around the roots or pulling out stumps by oxen or horses - it was a never ending back-breaking job. The settlers, however, most willingly helped each other (Lindal, W.J., supra, p. 104).

Ólafur's brother, Bjorn (age 29), lived on an adjacent farm. He left Njibaer, in Borgarfjardarsyla, Iceland, with his wife Gudrin Jonsdottir (age 29) and their two children, Godny (age 4) and Torsteinn (1). They arrived in Markland in August l878.

There is no record of Bjorn or his family in the l88l census of Nova Scotia. They may have left with Ólafur and his family when they went to Winnipeg or gone elsewhere.

The Society would like to make contact with the descendants of these two pioneer families. Any pictures, diaries, or stories would be appreciated.

The Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia would like to express their gratitude to the Millennium Bureau of Canada, Halifax Regional Municipality 2000 Millennium Committee, the Republic of Iceland and others who have donated money to the Society's projects. Any donations to the Society will be appreciated to continue our work. Memorial cairns will be dedicated at Markland on Saturday, August 26th (2 p.m.) and in Lockeport on Sunday, August 27th (2 p.m.). Everyone is welcome.

If you want more information, contact the undersigned. 

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C. 

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President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson's Visit

On August 8, 2000, members of the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia had the honour to meet his Excellency Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, at a special ceremony held at Pier 21, Halifax.

Accompanying the President was Her Excellency Siv Fridleifsdóttir, Iceland Minister of Environment; Mr. Hjalmar W. Hanneson, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of foreign Affairs; His excellency Jón B. Hannibalsson, Ambassador of the Republic of Iceland in Canada and Her Excellency Anne-Marie Morin, Ambassador of Canada in Norway and Iceland.

Pier 21, a natural historic site, is now one of the premier tourist attractions in Halifax. Opened in 1998, it honours over a million immigrants who first set foot on Canadian soil through Pier 21.

The Society was represented by Mrs. Eleanor Belmore (Chair), Mrs. Glenda Burrows (Vice-Chair), J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C. (Secretary) and Hans Indridason (Icelandair, Member at Large).

The Society has been trying to locate the descendants of the 35 families who settled from 1875-1882 in Markland and the 9 families who settled in Lockeport.

One family was Guđbrandur Erlendsson (age 33) and his wife Sigriđur Ingibjörg Havarđsdóttir (age 25). Erlendsson was issued Crown Grant 13577 for 100 acres of land in 1881. The price of his land was $23.00. He called his homestead "Grćnavatn" or Greenwater.

After he left Markland; the family moved to Hallson, North Dakota. In the year 1916, he printed an account of his life in Markland. The book was titled Markland-Endeirminnigar fá Árunum 1875-81.

The Society made contact with his descendants, William Erling Dinusson and Ingiborg H. Dinnuson in Fargo, North Dakota and Deane and June Bjornson, in Cavalier, North Dakota. They provided the Society with one of the original copies of the book (100 printed). They also provided an English translation prepared by Anna S. Bjornson. She died on June1, 2000, so the book was dedicated in her memory.

With the descendant's permission, the Society had the book reprinted. At the ceremony, J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C., gave a quick overview, with maps, of the two Icelandic settlements in Nova Scotia and the Erlendsson family. Mr. Hans Indridason presented the President with a copy of the 1916 book. Mrs. Belmore presented the President with the first copy of the English translation, Markland - Remembrance of the Years 1875-1881.

After the ceremony, the President spent some time talking with the Society members. On August 24th he wrote to the Society stating this was a moment to remember, and he "will cherish the two books and find them a suitable place in the Presidential Library at Bessastađur".

The book presents, from a pioneer settler's perspective, a first hand account of the Icelandic immigration to Nova Scotia. It is beautifully written. Readers will be moved by the inspiration it generates about the typical story of an Icelandic immigrant family trying to survive and start a new and better life in America.

Not all the families wanted to leave Nova Scotia. Many, like Erlendsson, had worked very hard to establish their farms and make a very modest living. When the rest decided to leave, he knew he could not survive in Markland on his own. He wrote:

In conclusion, I wish to state that as we reached the top of the hill on our outward journey from Greenwater, I looked back. I saw my house surrounded by a green lawn, the lawn and house which had given me such hard work, work which I no longer regretted having done and I felt like Gunnar Hámundarsson when he spoke these words: "how beautiful is my land." It seemed to me that my home had never been so lovely, as it was now in the bloom of the year. This place, where I had lived for six years was truly beautiful. In this place, I had known great poverty, but in spite of that, my wife and children had been happy there. How often, on my return from work, I had heard her lovely voice raised in song in which she was joined by my children. How wonderful it was that all my children had inherited her beautiful singing voice. We had never been visited by disease, not even so much as a cold. Would we always be that lucky? The future held the answer.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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Sigurđur J. Jóhannesson Family
(This article, the twelfth in the series about the Markland Settlement, was previously published in Lögberg-Heimskringla.)

The winter of 2000 will be one not long forgotten in Nova Scotia. The Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia had it's annual meeting at Caribou Gold Mines on February 4, 2001. I drove down from Halifax and the scenery was truly spectacular. The farmlands in the Musquodobit Valley were covered with snow. All you could see were the fence posts sticking up in the fields. Several barn roofs had collapsed under the weight of the snow.

The dirt road into Caribou Gold Mines was ploughed. The trees were draped with snow. All I could think about were the 200 Icelandic settlers who, from 1875 to 1882, lived further inland beyond Caribou Gold Mines. These settlers had had no snowplows. They had no electricity or telephones, yet somehow they were able to survive and they spoke well of their surroundings.

I was looking through Framfari, which was published between 1877 and 1880 at Lundi (Riverton). On December 8, 1877, one of the Markland pioneer settlers, Sigurđur Jóhannesson, wrote a letter to the editor from his home, Hljéskógar, Markland. The cheerful news that he wrote is worth repeating:

Esteemed Editor:
From here there is little to report, apart from good news. The weather has been fine and pleasant. Actually, this past summer and fall were rather rainy, but there were dry periods now and again so that the hay crop and harvest were good. Right up to this time, the weather could be called summery. Once there was a light snowfall. It was deep enough to retain traces of foot-prints, but it melted the same day. Last month we had some nights with frost, but the pond did not freeze over. Here in Nova Scotia we had a better than average harvest this past summer, except for potatoes. Those planted in land which had been cultivated for a long time rotted to some extent. People attribute that to the wet weather, but such was not the case in a newly cleared land.

It may be said of our colonists here that we are making progress slowly, for we lack financial means, but our livestock is beginning to multiply little by little and we had a very good harvest last summer. Everything we planted grew very well; wheat, oats, buckwheat, barley, potatoes and several varieties of garden vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, squash, pumpkins, beets and others.

Some of our countrymen here went to sea this past summer in fishing boats, but did not meet with success, for this fishing season is said to have been the least produc tive and the catch - the poorest men can recall in many years.

The people here have been and still are enjoying excellent health. It is now two years since there has been a death among our group and, in the two and one-half years we have been living in this colony, only one individual has died. There are now about 100 of us here. At Lockeport and elsewhere in Nova Scotia there must be about 40 people.
Sigurđur Jóhannesson

Based on Jón Rögnvaldsson's census taken in February, 1878, Sigurđur J. Jóhannesson (37) and his wife, Guđrún Guđmundsdóttir (30) were living at Hléskógar ("sheltered woods"), He left Gautsđalur in Húnavatnssýsla, Iceland, in 1873 aboard the ship "Queen", with his wife and two daughters, Ingibjörg (age 16, 1878) and Gróa (age 14, 1878). A third daughter, Elizabet (age 5, 1878) was born in July, 1874 in Washago, Ontario. By November, 1875, they all arrived in Markland.

The 1881 census of Pope's Harbour shows a son, Harold (age 1, 1881), was born in Markland.

The family lived on a 100 acre lot shown on Vanbuskirk and MacLogan's 1875 plan as Lot 29, By Petition Number 15212, Sigurđur applied for a Crown Grant to his land. The grant was issued in 1881 as Crown Grant 13573 for the price of $98.00.
The family is believed to have moved to Winnipeg when all the settlers left Markland in 1881-1882.

Sigurđur is mentioned in Guđbrandur Erlandsson's 1916 book, Markland: Remembrance of the Years 1875-1881, which the Society reprinted in English last year.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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L'Anse aux Meadows and Vinland:
The First Icelanders in N
orth America

On April 18, 2004, Birgitta Wallace, Senior Archaeologist Emeritus, Parks Canada, Atlantic Service Centre, was the special guest speaker at the Annual General Meeting of the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia. The 32 members/guests present were treated to a power point presentation by this internationally recognized archaeologist on her work at L'Anse aux Meadows located in Newfoundland and Labrador. Here is a short summary of the notes I took of her presentation.

The Viking Age is defined as the period from 800 to 1000-50. Norse ships had keels and sails which enabled these courageous people to venture far out on the open sea.

Eric the Red established two settlements on the western coast of Greenland in 986. The cemetery at the church built by Eric's wife, Thjodhild, was excavated about forty years ago. The skulls excavated could very well be Eric or his son, Leif.

Mrs. Wallace then discussed the information provided in the two Vinland Sagas, the Greelanders' Saga and Eric's Saga. The Greenlander's Saga describes four expeditions and one which never reached its goal. In Eric's Saga, all four expeditions are combined in one saga under the leadership of Thorfinn Karlsefni and Gudrid, his wife. Their son, Snorri, was the first European born in the new world.

The Greenlanders' Saga describes one settlement Leifsbúdir (Leif's Camp). Eric's Saga talks about two settlements, Hóp (Estuary Lagoon) and Straumfjord (Fjord of Currents). Where are these places?

Mrs. Wallace proceeded to describe what the archaeological evidence at L'Anse aux Meadows sheds on the details in the Sagas. The evidence at L'Anse aux Meadows indicates that the site served as a base for further explorations and it served as a repair site for ships.

Three building complexes have been excavated, each with a large hall and a small hut. Also, a hut to manufacture iron is found nearby. Having three large complexes close to each other is not typical of Viking sites found in Iceland or Greenland.

Radiocarbon dating of these buildings indicate the site was settled between 980 and 1020. Artifacts found on the site are now found in the Museum located on the property. Pictures were shown of a bronze pin used to fasten a cloak and a spindle whorl. The latter presents evidence that women were present in the settlement. The large dwellings were probably chieftain's halls. The firestrikers of jasper found in the large hall present evidence that this building may indeed have been Leif's home.

Mrs. Wallace stated that in her early work she did not believe that L'Anse aux Meadows was not the sites mentioned in the sagas. Based on further research and the archaeological evidence, she now believes L'Anse aux Meadows is too substantial and too complex not to be the sites described in the sagas. These buildings could house between 70 to 90 people. The settlement would take at least two months or the best part of a summer to build. This was not an insignificant site. She believes it is the base in Vinland, Straumfjord.

Where is Hóp (Estuary Lagoon)? The sagas say it was a good distance from Straumfjord. Butternuts (not grown in Newfoundland) have been found at L'Anse aux Meadows. The northern limit of butternut trees is along the St. Lawrence River east of Quebec City and in Northern New Brunswick. Wild grapes also grow in the same area. They are not native to Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia. Mrs. Wallace believes the coastal area around the Gulf of St. Lawrence is the Hóp area. New Brunswick has large rivers, including the Miramichi, with estuary lagoons.

Why did the settlement end? Disputes with the Mi'kmaq are mentioned in the sagas. They far outnumbered the Norse settlers. The distance from Brattahlid to New Brunswick is over 4000 km (sailing a straight line). This is 2000 km longer than the distance from Greenland to Norway. It was a far easier voyage to travel east to Norway.

Greenland still had plenty of pastureland to settle. There was no spare labour to colonize new lands. Communications with Europe was crucial to the survival of the Greenland settlements. Europe provided the wine and lumber which the Norse settlers needed. Mrs. Wallace concluded that Vinland was an exciting new land for the Norse to find. The the time to settle the newly found lands was to come much later.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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Vikings! The Vinland Mystery

On May 24th 2005, the Maritime museum of the Atlantic hosted the opening night of a special exhibition on the Vikings. Members of the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia and the Scandinavian Society of Nova Scotia were among the guests invited to attend.

There was a wonderful turn out for the event. John Hennigar Shuh, Director of the museum, welcomed everyone and presented the background on how the exhibition was brought to the museum. It will be there for the summer.

Mr. Shuh introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Brigitta Wallace, a member of the Scandinavian Society. Dr. Wallace is an internationally known and recognized archeologist. She worked for many years with Parks Canada at the Viking site found at L'Anse aux Meadows NL. In 1978 this site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Dr Wallace gave an interesting presentation about the Vikings. Who they were. Where they came from. Where they settled. Their ships. Their life style. Their clothes. Their beliefs. She spoke about the Norse voyages to Vinland in the year 1000 as told in the Greenlander's Saga and Erik the Red's Saga, which were written down in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The sagas talk about place called Straumfjord (Fjord of the Currents) and the summer camp at Hop (Estuary Lagoon). The Greenlander's Saga refers to both place as Leifsbudir (Leif's camp).

She showed pictures of the excavations at L'Anse aux meadows. The site was discovered in 1960 by Helge and Anne Stein Ingstad and was excavated by them in 1961-68 and by Parks Canada in 1973-76. The site consists of the foot-prints of 8 buildings. She then gave her view where Hop was located. Wild grapes are described in the saga as being found at this spot. She believes Chaleur Bay and the Miramichi region of New Brunswick may be this site as wild grapes grew there.

Vinland and L'Anse aux Meadows were abandoned after a few years. Relations with the local indigenous people were not peaceful.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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Hop in Eirik's Saga

Two of the old Vinland Sagas are tales of exploration and discovery of the New World. "Eirik the Red's Saga" introduces readers to Eirik, his sons Thorstien and Leif, his daughter Freydis and Thorfinn Karlsefni and his wife Gudrid Thorbjarnadottir. "The Saga of Greenlanders" gives another version of events. Eirik's Saga talks about Straumsfjord which today is believed to be located at L'Anse aux Meadows ("LAM"), NL, now a world heritage site. The saga goes on to tell about sailing to another location called Hop.

Chapter 10 of Eirik's Saga reads as follows:

Karlsefni headed south around the coast, with Snorri and Bjarni and the rest of their company. They sailed a long time, until they came to a river which flowed into a lake and from there into the sea. There were wide sandbars stretching out across the mouth of the river and they could only sail into the river at high tide. Karlsefni and his company sailed into the lagoon and called the land Hop (Tidal Pool). There they found fields of self-sown wheat in the low-lying areas and vines growing on the hills. Every stream was teeming with fish, they dug trenches along the high-water mark and when the tide ebbed there were halibut in them. There were a great number of deer of all kinds in the forest. They stayed there for a fortnight, enjoying themselves and finding nothing unusual. They had taken their livestock with them… they remained there that winter. There was no snow at all and the livestock could fend for itself out of doors.

For years, many people have been fascinated to find Straumfjord and Hop. Farley Mowatt in 1965 ("The West Viking") thought that Hop was located at St. Paul's Inlet, which lies next to Gros Morne National Park, NL.  Pall Bergthorsson, in his 2000 book "the Wineland Millennium"; thinks Hop is present day New York City. Peter Martin from Camden, Maine, came to tell his story that he believes Hop is located at St. Paul's Inlet, NL.  Peter is trained in aerial photo/imagery interpretation. He has worked for many years for the US Military in various parts of the world.

After a friend published a book on the Vikings, Peter (also of Scandinavian descent) got interested in locating Hop. He has passionately followed this pursuit for the last 7 years.

His slide presentation showed detailed Viking settlements in Iceland and Greenland. He then showed slides of voyages to the New World where the regions of Helluland, Markland and Vinland were possibly located. Slides of the LAM site were shown and the discoveries made by the Norwegians, Helge Ingstad and Anne Steine Ingstad, in the early 1960's.

Mr. Martin then focused his presentation on St. Paul's Inlet and what evidence he has found to conclude Hop is located there. He took aerial photos of the area with a camera hooked up to a kite. He brought this equipment with him. What appears to be turf walls appear in the infrared photos. Peter believes an old Viking church with graves might be located there. Is this the missing church at Hop which is described in documents, but to date, cannot be found in the Western Settlement of Greenland? An old Inuit site also appears to be located in the same area.

With his brother-in-law, archeologist Dr. Richard Mike Gramly, permission was given to conduct a "one" day excavation at the site in June 2003. A piece of red jasper was located. The Norse used red jasper to start their fires. Mr. Martin demonstrated this to the audience.

Mr. Martin brought with him many books that he has on the Vikings and showed them to the guests. He hopes that more studies/excavations will be done in the future on this site. He dreams that his peers will eventually accept that Hop is located at St. Paul's Inlet.

The Society wished him all the best in his work. We will all be waiting to read more about this in the National Geographic.

J. Marshall Burgess, Q.C.  

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updated May-29-12


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