The first Norwegian known to have settled in Texas is Johannes Nordboe, who took a large tract of land in Dallas County in 1858 or 1839. In 1845, however, the first actual Norwegian settlement was founded in Texas, at Brownsboro (“Normandy”), Henderson County; the most outstanding names connected with this enterprise were (Johan) Reiersen and (Wilhelm) Wærenskjold1.
“It’s worth a trip thirty-five miles east to Brownsboro, which is the original Norwegian settlement started by (Johan) Reiersen in 1845 or 46 that he called Normandy. To get there you head back toward Mabank and go east toward Tyler. If I recall correctly the route is RT 6 and just before you get to Tyler you pass through Brownsboro, which is a very small center. At the end of the center you see two Historical Markers that commemorate Normandy and the “Old Norwegian Cemetery.” It’s worth going to the cemetery because it really gives you an idea of what pioneer life was like when you look at the grave markers – many of the markers are just stumps of stones with no names. The last Norwegian descendant, Turgesen, was buried there in the 1970s, and if you go behind the cemetery you will find a nice house where the guy and his wife who take care of the cemetery live. They are not Norwegian descent, but they are very nice people and have a real feel for the cemetery and the people buried there. There whole area around the cemetery was all land owned by the Norwegians, and on Tergesen’s property there was a steam sawmill that was built by Reiersen, Wilhelm, and a partner named Gunderson.”2
Historical Marker about the Old Norwegian Cemetery:
After migrating from Norway in 1845, Ole Reierson (Johan Reierson’s father) bought the land that included this cemetery site (1.1 mi. ESE). He chose the spot for his burial and carved several of the plain brown gravestones before he died in 1852. The cemetery’s 24 marked and 81 unmarked graves are mostly those of Norwegian immigrants. A Lutheran church built nearby in 1889, served as a cemetery chapel until the 1920s. Will Tergerson tended the site for many years. An association formed in 1974 by descendants of early settlers now maintains it.
1 NANA (The Norwegian-American Historical Association) Online, The First Norwegian Migration into Texas, Four “America Letters”, Translated and edited by Lyder L. Unstad (Volume VIII: Page 39), http://www.naha.stolaf.edu/pubs/nas/volume08/vol08_4.htm
Check out the Cemetery census to see if you can find some familiar names.