The History of Mandt Lodge 5-314
by Mike Miller
It is no wonder that Mandt Lodge is still around to celebrate its 85th Anniversary. No, the wonder is that the Sons of Norway did not appear in Stoughton sooner. For the answer to that riddle of why it took so long we turn to Stoughton’s unofficial official historian, Ferd Homme, the author of the seminal work on Stoughton, Oak Opening.
While Norwegian immigration to the area had been occurring since around 1840, it was not until Oct. 20, 1926, that the Sons of Norway was organized, in Stoughton. Homme notes that several Norwegian organizations existed before then, including the Scandinavia American Fraternity where, ironically, the Mandt Sons of Norway lodge would be born. More than three decades earlier. On Jan. 16, 1895, 18 people met in Minneapolis to form the Sons of Norway and many towns across the northern part of the United States quickly formed chapters, or lodges as they were called. Homme writes in Oak Opening that Norwegian immigration, fueled by cheap, good farmland and employment in the local wagon works led to arrivals of Norwegians in such heavy numbers in the 1870s, 80s and 90s that by the turn of the century “Stoughton was almost entirely a Norwegian community.” The community became known as “Little Norway,” the “Lutefisk Capital of the world,” and America’s “most Norwegian city.”
Still, there was no Sons of Norway and two attempts at organizing a lodge for the benevolent and cultural organization had failed. Then came Andrew S. Sather, who held the title of Grand Organizer for the national headquarters of the Sons of Norway. He arrived in Stoughton and managed to cajole downtown business owners restaurant operator John L. Stokstad and bakery owner Martin Sandsmark into gathering a bunch of Norwegian immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants to attend an organizational meeting. While Sandsmark and Stokstad remained skeptical, Sather had talked 32 people into attending that meeting, held in the SAF Hall. Sather had arranged for a contingent of members from Madison, Deerfield and Edgerton to attend as well and after they opened the meeting a slate of officers for the new lodge in Stoughton was elected.
• John Stokstad, president.
• Adolph Sannes, vice president.
• Jacob Offerdahl, counselor.
• Margit Stokstad, social director.
• Clarence Quale, marshall.
• Minnie Jacobson, assistant marshall.
• Sivert N. Sivertsen, secretary.
• Ivan Helland, assistant secretary.
• Olav Nundal, financial secretary.
• Evan Strandlie, treasurer.
• Tom Jacobson, inner guard.
• Edval Reinstad, outer guard.
Others who signed on as members at that first meeting made the roster look like a Stoughton telephone book: Anna Gilbertson, Martin Gjertson, Anna and Herman Hansen, Severine Sivertsen, Jacob Lee, Julia Strandlie, Martin Midthun, Gunhild Sundby, Alfred Olson, Christ Larsen, Alexander Lunde, and Ole Sundby.
The roll of original members was kept open until the next meeting, on Nov. 5, and those who signed on as charter members at that time include Russell Thorson, Carl Sundby, Anna and Carl Munson, Sam Robertson, Anfin K. Moen and J. J. Hoveland. The total number of charter members came to 39.
After the officers were elected at the first meeting the group had to choose a name for the lodge, and appointed a committee including Stokstad, Adolph Sannes and Sivert Sivertsen to come up with nominees. “The Greig Chorus from Madison entertained the members while the committee was out considering names,” the minutes of that meeting show. The job was not as controversial as it may seem, and the committee suggested three names: Col. Hans Heg, who led a regiment of mostly Norwegian immigrants in the Civil War and died from wounds suffered at Chickamauga, thus becoming the highest ranking officer from Wisconsin killed in the war; Knut Hamsun, the Norwegian author who had won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1920; and Targe G. Mandt, the immigrant from Norway who founded the Mandt Wagon Works and employed large numbers of newly arrived Norwegians to Stoughton, founded the Stoughton Hub, served as village president, and set a high standard of ethics for industrialists.
The new members selected the name Mandt, a fortunate move for the fledgling lodge. Heg, who before the Civil War became the first Norwegian immigrant to be elected to state-wide office in Wisconsin, would have been a marvelous selection too, but by rejecting Hamsun the lodge probably prevented a hasty and needed post-World War II name change. Hamsun became an apologist for Adolph Hitler and even supported the Nazi invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940, one of Norway’s gloomiest days. He was stripped of most of his possessions following the war.
With Stokstad as its newly minted president, the organization quickly expanded and grew, eventually overtaking the other Norwegian fraternal organizations and becoming the sole possessor of that title in Stoughton these days. Among the members of the Sons of Norway Mandt Lodge today is Rebecca Stokstad Lunde, the last of the Stokstad children to survive, and the longest tenured current member. “He was a wonderful man,” she says of her father. Indeed, John Stokstad was a Renaissance man, having been at various times a farmer, artist, progressive politican, city alderman, poet, and an extraordinary wood worker.
He wasted little time putting his mark on the Sons of Norway, creating a Viking ship for the lodge’s entry into the Stoughton Fall Festival in 1927, which won first prize in that parade as well as honors in surrounding communities. Later he carved a large sea serpent from Norse mythology for another float, and helped build a float with a large Sons of Norway emblem. He also made a replica of Leif Erikson’s ship as a doorstop, and an aluminum casting of that sold across the United States. As an artist, he favored landscape scenes and his great grandchildren have been able to view a piece of his work in the collection of Luther College.
Stokstad served a total of 15 years as president, and of those other officers elected at the first meeting, several served lengthy terms of office. Secretary Sivert Sivertsen and financial secretary Olav Nundahl both served 16 year terms while Andrew Stolen, elected treasurer in 1931, served in that office for 23 years.
Many of the Stoughton lodge members, along with those from Edgerton and other lodges in the area, went to Madison on May 10, 1929 for a very special occasion: Gov. Walter Koehler was about to sign a bill declaring Oct. 9 as Leif Erickson Day. A running battle had ensued in the legislature and after a bill was signed making Columbus day a special day in the state, Norwegians lobbied hard and heavy to have Leif Erickson honored, since he discovered America roughly 500 years before Columbus. When Kohler signed the bill, he was surrounded by Norwegians, including John Stokstad and a large group from Mandt Lodge. Wisconsin became the first state in the union to recognize Leif's accomplishment, but was quickly followed by eight other states and Saskatchewan. Until Stokstad’s final year as president in 1941, all meetings were conducted in Norwegian, but during that year the meetings were held in English. The next year the switch to English was made permanent.
But the longest term of service belongs to Charlotte Jacobson, who was the lodge’s musician for 40 years when the 75th anniversary was held in 2001, and continued to serve as we moved deeper into the 21st Century. Charlotte Jacobson, has “held every office except president,” she said, while her husband Lester served as president for 12 years. Charlotte joined the lodge in 1948 with a class of 40 new members, believed to be one of the largest ever in this area for the Sons of Norway Lodge.
The spirit of the Sons of Norway – perhaps the spirit of being Norwegian – can be summed up by the efforts of Charlotte and her longtime friend and colleague Pearl Elvekrog. After the pair managed to feed a large contingent of visitors from Stoughton’s sister city of Gjovik, Norway, the pair put a thank you note in the next issue of the Lodge newsletter, thanking those who helped them help others.
Mandt Lodge has held a variety of events in its 85-year history, most with cultural ties to Norway, the homeland of many of its founders and the ancestral homeland of most of its current members. Over the years, numerous dignitaries including several presidents of the international Sons of Norway have visited Stoughton and its Mandt Lodge, but perhaps none had a more exiting a time than E. B. Hauke, who came to Stoughton as Supreme President to swear in 37 new members in December of 1951. “I did not take into consideration that one of the worst snowstorms of several years was awaiting me,” he would write in the January issue of the Sons of Norway newsletter. Hauke was feted at a dinner at the home of Harry Johnson and was greatly surprised to find when they made it to town that all the new members were present for the ceremony, even as the winter blizzard worsened. In the end, although Andrew Sime got stuck in a snow bank trying to make it the short distance home from the Johnsons, the next day dawned as “case” weather and Hauke got a free lesson in the tobacco business of stripping.
As with most lodges, the business and social meetings of the Mandt organization were conducted in a variety of downtown buildings, the lodge having no meeting place of its own. Older members of the lodge recall meetings held in several locations, above several stores, with the most common being in the halls above First National Bank, where the SAF had its rental spaces. In 1966 that location was demolished by a severe fire – one of the largest in the history of Stoughton – as the bank and other businesses went up in flames. By 1970, however, the Mandt Lodge was about to fulfill a wish first expressed by its first president, John Stokstad, who listed lodge ownership among a wish for a continued and prosperous unit.
The Lodge purchased the church building on South Page Street in 1970, which had been home initially by the Norwegian Methodist Church but was owned by the Calvary Free Church at the time Mandt Lodge bought it. The initial purchase price of $16,500 was only the beginning of costs, with a major remodeling to follow in a few short years.
The first meeting in the new Lodge building was held on May 7, 1970. Mandt is one of only five lodges in the Midwest District 5 to have its own building. The old church is still home to the Lodge, and each year it brings praises for its interior design and stained-glass windows from visitors from across the state and nation, especially on Syttende Mai weekend.
The Lodge has received numerous visitors from Norway, including both political and royal dignitaries, as well as a host of performers. Norwegian Ambassador to the United State Soren Sommerfelt visited the Lodge as part of his trip to Wisconsin and said: “I have come to Stoughton to get some true Norwegian food.” Norwegian Princess Marta Louise was a luncheon guest of the Lodge when she came to Stoughton as part of her book tour in 2006. Perhaps the biggest honor for the local organization came in 1976 when the Mandt Lodge was selected as the district lodge of the year, and later that summer was picked by the supreme convention as the International Lodge of the Year. By 1979 the Lodge was about to achieve its second big honor involving its new building. The mortgage of $12,500 on the original purchase price of $16,500 had been paid and the Mandt Lodge held a Mortgage Burning ceremony on Sept. 8 of that year. Like many Lodge expenses, the cost of buying and remodeling the Lodge building were financed largely through fund raising events, such as the Syttende Mai meals held on Saturday and Sunday of that weekend. Those and other fund raisers, plus annual dues, fund a myriad of programs currently sponsored by Mandt Lodge, most with some historic or cultural connection with Norway.
Recently the lodge started holding Bingo nights and, as with all events at the Lodge, the public is invited to attend. Other events include fish boils, card parties, St. Hans Dag celebrations, movies, card parties and more. Many monthly meetings of the lodge feature either speakers or other cultural programs with origins in Norway.
Although the Mandt Lodge has always had women members in its history, it was not until 1993 that the milestone of the first woman president came about. Genevieve Wilberg, known to all as Gen, was elected president that year and was followed by Pearl Elvekrog in that office. Since that time Sharonne Harvey served as president and the current president is Darlene Arneson. “I never realized when I joined the Sons of Norway that one day I would become the first woman president of Mandt Lodge,” Wilberg wrote in the Lodge newsletter, adding she considered it a “great honor.”
In more recent times many individuals and groups from Norway have performed at the Lodge, such as musicians Hans Brimi, Jon Faukstad and Mary Barthelemy who performed at the High School Auditorium on April 9, 1980, then at Mandt Lodge, which also held a dance that night. In recent years the Lodge has emphasized such cultural events such as the Barnebirke youth ski race, the Lodge’s Norwegian speaking club, and, of course, Syttende Mai weekend. For those who may not remember, Syttende Mai is the most important patriotic holiday in Norway and celebrates May 17, 1814, when leaders from throughout Norway met at Eidsvoll to pass a democratic constitution and declare Norway an independent nation. While it would take another nine decades to achieve complete freedom from Sweden, the day marks the strong will of the Norwegians to become an independent democracy. Mandt Lodge members annually sponsor a smorgasbord on Saturday and Sunday and the well attended meals generatesa goodly share of the Lodge expenses for the year. Among those are a scholarship fund which helps worthy students attend college.
A smattering of events from the Mandt Lodge past:
• Dec. 6, 1927, box social held at Woodman Hall. Nineteen boxes sold for $60.60.
• May 4, 1927. The Norwegian play “Tante Billa” was presented in the SAF hall and Lodge made $106.23. April 7, 1948, 40 new members initiated, the largest number in the area.
• Dec. 6, 1950. E.B. Hauke, Supreme President, initiates another 37 new members and Stoughton plays host to a large blizzard.
• September, 1966. Large downtown blaze destroys the First National Bank building, including the SAF Hall where Mandt Lodge was founded and the Odd Fellows Hall were the lodge held its meetings. (After the fire and before moving into its new quarters, the Lodge met at the American Legion Clubhouse on Fifth Street.)
• March 1970. In a momentous move, Mandt Lodge buys the Calvary Free Church, previously home to the Norwegian Methodist Church, for $16,500 and has its first real home.
• 1970. Mandt Lodge hosts Fifth District Convention in its new lodge.
• 1974. Mandt Lodge sponsored the formation of the new Janesville Nordland Lodge 544.
• 1975. Norwegian Prime Minister Trygve Bratteli and his wife visit Mandt Lodge.
• 1980, March 28. In one of the Lodge’s strangest events, men dressed in women’s clothing entertained the group.
• 1986, Feb. 23. Box Socials have not gone out of style and this one features the internationally recognized Stoughton High School Norwegian Dancers.
• 1993, Aug. 20. Mandt Lodge joins with other lodges to mark the 150th Anniversary of the immigration from Sogndal, Dane County’s sister country in Norway, at the Dane County Expo center. (This would become the Norwegian American fest which ran for several years.)
• A group of members formed the Mat Klubb to prepare and cook authentic Norwegian meals, including very tasty desserts.
• 2002, Aug. 14 to 17, Mandt and other Dane County Lodges host the Sons of Norway International Convention in Madison.
• 2004, Mandt Lodge Incorporated was formed– a separate entity for the building corporation. John Arneson was elected President.
• 2006, April 24. In one of Mandt Lodge’s proudest moments, Norwegian Princess Marta Louise paid a visit and had lunch in the church. She was in Stoughton as part of a USA tour to promote her book, “Why Kings and Queens Don’t Wear Crowns.” The princess sold hundreds of copies of her children’s book in Stoughton, and gave a reading at the High School after a performance by the Norwegian Dancers and songs by the third graders.
• 2008, Mandt Lodge begins an extensive long-range planning process which includes a focus on membership, programming and financing.
• 2009, Mandt Lodge begins working with the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce to host Chamber Bus Tours and offers meals and cultural demonstrations for visiting groups.
• 2009, The decision was made to discontinue the St. Hans Dag royalty and to have Mandt Lodge Ambassadors who will be part of the officer team.
• 2011, Mandt Lodge hosts the first Stoughton Norwegian Summit which brought together almost 20 Norwegian related groups, organizations and businesses in the greater Stoughton area to discuss how they can work together.
Mandt History from their Golden Anniversary Book
In the fall of 1926, cigar chewing District Organizer S. Sather of the Sons of Norway came to Stoughton, WI and met with two other cigar-chewing Norwegians John Stokstad and Martin Sandsmark. In those depression days, Stokstad kept his restaurant open all night, and Sandsmark often came in before the night baking in his bakery across the street. John and Martin listened to Mr. Sather and decided Stoughton could use another Scandinavian fraternal society, so they helped organize a meeting.
On October 20, 1926 Lodge #314 received its charter, and had thirty members signed up. The group elected John Stokstad president, and chose the name Mandt Lodge.
One of the first activities of the lodge was the building of a Leif Erickson float for the Stoughton Fall Festival in 1927. The following year Stoughton began the traditional Syttende Mai festival, with the Sons of Norway becoming an important part of the celebration.
In March of 1970 the Lodge took a momentous step by voting to purchase its own building. Many money-making events were tackled, as one project after another in the renovation of the building called for more money. By far the most successful has been the annual Syttende Mai Smørgasbord which is attended by people from many miles around.
In 1970 Mandt hosted the Fifth District Convention and Lodge Meeting, with Myron Wilcox, a member of Mandt, being elected to the District Board. Since then, Ansel Severson and Clifford Feggestad also served on the District Board, the latter for twelve years, four of them as District President.
Perhaps the greatest honor to come to our lodge was being chosen Lodge of the Year at the District Convention in 1976, and then to be named the International Lodge of the Year in August of the same year.
There has been a close relationship with our neighboring lodges through the years. In 1929 some of the Mandt members joined with those from Madison and Edgerton to witness Governor Kohler sign the bill to make October 9 Leif Erickson Day. Wisconsin was the first state to have such a law. Thirty-five years later, after much work by Sons of Norway members all over the country, Congress authorized the President to proclaim October 9th annually as Leif Erickson Day.
There is an on-going Euchre tournament among the Madison area lodges, and together we hosted the International Convention in 1980. The last few winters have found us working together on the Southern Wisconsin Ski for Light event.
A lodge over sixty years old, like a well-established family, has in the course of the years established many traditions. Besides our Syttende Mai Smørgasbord we have an annual Fish Boil, a 17th of May party, Juletre Selskap, and in June Saint Hans Dag celebration. This has become a very special event, with flags of all the countries represented in Mandt lodge being presented.
Our ladies' auxiliary performs many services for the lodge, with a fall bazaar and luncheons throughout the year. The singing group "Symra Kor" and the drill team add much to our ceremonies. Snakk Norsk luncheons have added interest in the language. With great pride Mandt Lodge can boast of having the most active Unge Venner group in the district .
... From Golden Anniversary Book, updated by Ardyce Feggestad