Early Bella Coola

Early notes on the Norwegian colony at Bella Coola

This information was kindly provided by Peter Solhjell.


June – Rev Christian Saugstad and Andrew Stortroen leave Minnesota to seek land out west for settlement . They travelled to Bella Coola from Victoria on the steamer "Swan" and decided that the valley was good for settlement.

July 5 -They had returned and at a church in Neby Minnesota and Saugstad reported to the audience on their findings and they agreed on Bella Coola.

July - Aug - Phillip Jacobson gets government contract to build 10 miles of road.

Sept11 - Colonists organized and constitution made up and approved.

Oct 17 -Colonists leave Crookston by train for Vancouver B.C.

Oct 21 - Colonists number 80 and arrive in Victoria on the steamer "Charmer ".

Oct 26 - Colonists leave for Bella Coola on the "Princess Louise".   While on Queen Charlotte Strait they gathered into groups of 4 and drew lots for one section of land .(640 acres )to be divided up amongst themselves into 160 acres each .

Oct 30 - At 2:00 in the afternoon the steamer arrived at Bella Coola and the passengers were taken ashore by Nuxalk people in river canoes. They set up a tent city on a clearing settled by Capt Thor Thorson on the north side of the river across from the present townsite.

Nov 4 - Some of the settlers went up valley 12 miles to look at the land.

Dec -The Nuxalks transported supplies up river for the settlers to the Hagensborg area until Christmas time when the river froze over. Another tent town was set up about where the Bay restuarant is now situated where an old fellow by the name of Huwskow was living in a cabin and a small clearing gave them some room to assemble their goods. Each Group of four men constructed a temporary cabin to live in while they located their individual sections and started to clear their land.


Jan 5 - The first public meeting held by the colony took place in Erik Nordschows home .

Mar 1 - Post office opened at river mouth in charge of Thor Thorson.

Mar - $2,000 was promised by the government for roadwork and they were told to start work and that two yoke of oxen would be sent up immediately.

May 8 - Eight men who had left to get their families arrived back.

May Gardens were planted amongst the stumps remaining from the first clearing efforts.

May 6 - Fifty three more colonists arrived on the steamer "Danube, " most of these were the wives and families of the men already there.

June - Work was well under way on the road and bridges from the East end of the Jacobsen trail which was already in place for 6 miles or so up from the Clayton farm at the river mouth. This work gave the colonists some much needed cash to purchase goods at the Clayton store. A tax collector also arrived to take $3.00 from each man on the pay list! Total of $177.00 . Progress ! Population in June was 125.

Aug Hagen Christensen and Barney Brynildson open a general store and post office at "Kristiania" as Hagensborg was called at that time .

Oct 27 - First wedding - Christian Carlsen and Ovidia Barli.

Oct 28 - Clayton brings supplies up for the first anniversary celebration. This was the first wheeled vehicle on the new road. It was a two wheeled cart driven by one horsepower !

Oct 30 -The settlers celebrated their first year anniversary. Rev Saugstad reported, the celebration on that day was the "First easy breath drawn since we landed." The past winter had been spent in the "drudgery of bringing supplies through the heavy forests to our camps . During the spring and summer the work on roads and bridges has absorbed about all our interest." All the songs except for "God Save the Queen," were sun in Norwegian, whereas most of the speeches were delivered in English. The farmers exhibited some wheat they had grown, along with cabbages, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, potatoes beans, parsnips, corn, peas, onions, and the like. One turnip measured thirty one inches in circumference, one cabbage weighed twelve and a half pounds, and the total of potatoes and other vegetables was sufficient for the colonists use.


40 cabins and homes had been built, 16 bridges and 10 miles of trail had been constructed. In the fall of 1895 school was set up in a tent, teacher was Iver Fougnar.   This was used until winter and then a small cabin on the north side of the store branch was used. This cabin is now situated in Victoria B. C. having been purchased and moved there by a resident there.

By Dec 31, the government had expended a total of $20,000.97 on the Bella Coola Colony on surveying, road building, bridges, and wharf construction.

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Comments and corrections always welcome !!

Posted 30 October, 2000  Last updated 30 June, 2002