The Friendly Fifth

History of Lodges

Wergeland 28
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Wergeland Lodge 28 of La Crosse WI meets at 6:00 pm on the first Thursday of the month at the Radisson Center in La Crosse (corner of 2nd & Jay Streets).  The lodge organized on December 11, 1903 with 17 charter members who met at the I.O.O.F. Hall.  Otto Gilbertson was the first president.

Wergeland celebrated several of its anniversaries, including its 100th, with outstanding celebrations.  Several times we were named District 5 Lodge of the Year, most recently in 2007 with Blyden “Bing” Skogen as president.  Also, we have been honored as Family Lodge of the Year each year since that award’s inception.

Over the years, the lodge has undertaken several projects that serve to create public awareness of our heritage and to make worthwhile contributions to the community.  For 38 years, we have sponsored the Wergeland Dancers, who serve as ambassadors as they perform at various functions and appear in parades in our area.  We share our heritage with schools and a nursing home.  One of our more notable achievements was locating the unmarked grave of a Norwegian immigrant and providing a gravestone at the site in 1988.  Each Syttende Mai members meet with the La Crosse mayor for a Norwegian flag-raising ceremony at City Hall and later visit the grave as a tribute to all Norwegian immigrants.

Various area charitable organizations benefit from the contributions of our lodge members in the forms of time, talent, and funds.  We also cooperate in several ways with Norskedalen, a 443-acre nature and Norwegian heritage center near Coon Valley WI.  We often host visiting groups from Norway, Supporting the Sons of Norway Foundation has always been important to the lodge.

Wergeland has shown support for District activities by providing scholarships for Heritage Camp, supplying volunteers and cookies for the Barnebirkie, hosting the District Convention in 1984 and 2006, and participating in the cultural displays and competitions at the conventions.  Several members have served on the District Board.

We are an active lodge that works to maintain its membership.

History Updated September 2008

Wergeland Lodge 28, La Crosse, WI was organized on December 11, 1903 with 17 charter members. Otto Gilbertson served as the first president in 1903-1904. They met at the I.O.O.F. Hall on 4th Street between Main and Pearl. The meetings were held on the first Thursday ofthe month, as they are today. Successively, the group met at the Eagles Hall, at 1220 Denton Street Senior Activity Center, and then moved to their present location, the Harry J. Olson Center at 1607 North Street.

Wergeland Lodge celebrated both its 50th and 75th anniversaries with outstanding banquets. The lodge was honored by being awarded the Fifth District "Lodge of the Year Award" during the convention held in Chicago in 1978. Borghild Olson was the president at the time. For the past ten years a Wergeland member has represented western Wisconsin on the Fifth District Board.

Wergeland Lodge has undertaken innumerable projects over the years, creating public awareness of our heritage and making contributions to the community. For 18 years we have sponsored the Wergeland Dancers (ages 5-16) who serve as good-will ambassadors in the community and appear on floats in parades. Our heritage has been shared with schools and at Arts and Crafts Shows in the area. One of our more notable achievements was to arrange a flag-raising ceremony at City Hall on 17 de Mai and having a proclamation published for LeifErickson Day.

Time, talent and money have been contributed to numerous charitable organizations within our community and to the S of N Foundation. In the last ten years we have wholeheartedly cooperated as volunteers, donors, program presenters and in other capacities with "Norskedalen", a 350 acre nature and heritage center near Coon Valley.

Support for District activities has been evident by granting scholarships to young people as well as adults for the Heritage Camps, hosting the District Convention in 1984, and taking a leadership role in seminars for officers of area lodges.

For many years we have held an annual Cross-Country Skiing event, inviting neighboring lodges to participate. This has been a time to honor noteworthy members with King, Queen, and Princess awards for their contributions to further the goals of Sons of Norway. This past year we initiated an "outreach project" by publishing a newsletter for Jotunheimen Lodge as a one page insert in our Budstikken, a 6-page newsletter going out to 500 people every month.

Within our own lodge we have organized trips to the International Office, to museums and plays, and to visit other lodges. The Wergeland folkesangere group presents programs at nursing homes and for other lodges, as well as our own. Our Publicity Chairman faithfully contributes articles to the Fifth District for publication in the Viking. Two articles written by Wergeland members have appeared in the Viking.

Ruth Ann Bjerke, one of our members, has written and produced a skit, "Martin Dack", based on facts about an immigrant. Music for the production was written by three members: "Norway Remembered" by Ruth Ann and Kris Ann Bjerke; "Transplanted Hopes" by Jonathan Nowland.

Wergeland Lodge today is very active, and growing. During the bi-ennium 1986-1987 awards were won for increased membership. At the District ConventIon In Eau Claire, Wergeland Lodge was chosen Lodge of the Year, and President Bernice Berg as President ofthe year.

In November 1988, Wergeland celebrated its 85th Anniversary with Fifth District President Clare Almquist as speaker, and a program of music by the Wergeland Singers and a violin presentation of Greig's music.

.... Borghild Olson