Stefan J. Stefanson

page 1 | page 2

Stefanson tribute

The NEW ICELAND HERITAGE MUSEUM pays tribute to Stefan J. Stefanson.



home | back to NIHM website
The Book Of Life
Alphabetical Story Index
Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Stefanson, Stefan J.

During this time my dear wife Olla and my Dad carried on with our large farm operation. Our children were all involved as helpers—no one really had any time to spare. The time eventually came when the operation of the farm became too much for Olla and my Dad, so the cattle herd was sold. I was, by this time, stationed in Winnipeg. Olla and I bought a house in Garden City in the North End of Winnipeg, and decided that if it was necessary we would drive to the farm to attend the fields in the evenings. In 1975, my Dad and I made a big decision—we rented out the grain fields. This was to only be for one year, as Olla was engulfed in making arrangements for billeting visitors arriving from Iceland who were coming to celebrate 100 years of permanent settlement by the Icelanders in Nyja Ísland. However, the rental of the farm carried on until my Dad passed away in 1981.

All through our married years, Olla and I were deeply involved in relating the rich ethnic historic and cultural background of the area known as New Iceland. our children all carry on this desire. We belonged to several chapters of the Icelandic National League. I served as President of the national organization for some years. We were very active in the Icelandic Cultural Corporation Inc., which maintained the Icelandic Museum in Gimli. After the large influx of visitors that had attended our festivities in 1975, Olla, myself, and friends Ted and Marge Arnason, formed a registered travel company, Viking Travel Ltd., and commenced air travel service to Iceland, and later on to anywhere in the world. Olla kept a travel office in Winnipeg until my retirement, and Marge kept one in Gimli. Viking Travel carried on this travel operation for over twenty years.

Some years we would travel more than once to Iceland. We traveled to Iceland in all seasons and explored the country extensively. Our connections with Icelandic organizations and the Icelandic government created a very strong bond with the Icelandic people, wherever they were. We annually escorted or travel guided groups that came to Canada to visit through the Icelandic communities in Manitoba, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Ontario. We became known, through our way of life, to a great number of people in Iceland. As a result, the hospitality that was afforded us when we were in Iceland was overwhelming.



Whenever Olla and I had the opportunity to relate the Saga of New Iceland to strangers, we did not fail to do so. We related the story of the establishment of the first Icelandic colony in North America, all the trials and tribulations that they endured when they settled in the area north of the Province of Manitoba, and all the accomplishments they achieved to their credit in the colony for the roughly twenty-five years of its existence. No other ethnic group coming from Asia or Europe can boast of such progress. The Icelanders displayed courage by commencing a settlement in complete wilderness just as the winter was approaching. They did raise many log huts as there were stoves to heat them. One of the first buildings was a schoolhouse where English was taught to the children during the day and to adults during the long nights of fall and winter.

Lord Dufferin, who had made several visits to Iceland to study their prose and poetry, extended his helping hand to the Icelanders that had wintered at Kinmount Ontario the previous winter. He arranged for a friend of these people, the lay missionary John Taylor, to accompany them into the northwest to find a colony site. With Taylor were his brother and two daughters, one of which was Caroline Taylor, a young lady of 19 who became the settler’s English teacher.

The Icelanders had, within two years of establishing the colony, created a democratic government, fought off a smallpox epidemic and the hardship that the quarantine caused them (the male settlers were prevented from finding employment outside the colony during the summer of 1877)), and published and distributed a newspaper, the first edition appearing in Sept. 1877.

My dear Olla passed away on Jan. 20, 2000. She will be greatly missed in the Icelandic communities in North America as well as in Iceland. I made me very happy that I had the opportunity to create a memorial to her in the New Iceland Heritage Museum’s Stefan and Olla Stefanson Traveling Exhibit. I was in Iceland when it was first shown at the Emigration Museum at Hofsós. There I saw how warmly it was received; it was heartwarming.