The Friendly Fifth

History of Lodges

Valhall 168
Rockford, Illinois

In 1907 a group of Norwegian immigrants organized the society Norge in Rockford, IL. This organization was a social one, "to unite men and women of Norwegian heritage and to uphold all that is good in the Norwegian tradition and to help our fellow countrymen". The society decided to affiliate with the Sons of Norway upon the recommendation of Christian Ludvigsen of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson Lodge in Chicago. With the help of District President Finn Moen and others, the charter for Valhall Lodge 168, Sons of Norway, was signed on December 12, 1915.

Up to this time women were not allowed membership but could participate in a sister organization, the Daughters of Norway. At the Fifth District meeting in Ashland, WI in 1916, one of our charter members, Christian O. Danielsen, brought up the possibility of women joining the order. In January 1918 women were admitted as social members.

As an incentive to gaining members, Valhall leased property on the banks of the Kishwaukee River in 1920, built a small cottage, and used the place for "utflykter" (outings). The site at Perryville, however, was not available for renewal or purchase, so the lodge was forced to abandon it. It was not until 1938 that the lodge purchased a four acre tract on the Rock River, part ofthe Joe Peters' farm, where a Norwegian style "hytte" was built. Camp Valhall has been an important asset of our lodge, and the center on which most of our activities are planned.

Valhall Lodge is the' oldest Norwegian fraternity in our city. Through the years it has been the focal point for most Norwegian activities in the community. During the depression we sponsored the first junior lodge, a Dramatic Club, and a dance team. We have participated in many civic and cultural events, such as collaborating with the Mendelssohn Club in sponsoring programs on Grieg and Ibsen. We raised money for the Norwegian flyers at Camp Little Norway in Canada during World War 2 and collected clothing which was sent to Norway after the war under the auspices of Norwegian Relief. Valhall has hosted four district conventions ... 1930, 1946, 1960, and 1980.

In more recent years we have become more visible in the community by bake sales, heritage days, speakers in the schools, participating in the Scandinavian Festival, "Beattie Is ... Festival", and the Holi-Fest at the Metro Centre, as well as contributing a table for the Table Walk at the Rockford Museum Center. Stan Hanson and Ivar "Tuffy" Dahlgren instigated the first district golf tournament, and have traveling trophies named in their honor. Fast becoming one of our most popular functions is the Fish Boil held each October, begun with the help and encouragement, of former District President Clifford Feggestad.

March of 1986 saw the women organizing an auxiliary, the Daughters of Valhall, one purpose to be the philanthropic arm of Sons of Norway. Three successful style show benefits and the sponsorship of a Norwegian play "Kingdom Come" at the local community theater have marked their first three years.

In 1965 Valhall elected its first woman president, Anna Ferling, the daughter of one of the founders. At present Clare Almquist is serving as president of the lodge. Among our members serving on the District Board have been the late Hans Johnsen, Gerry Connell, Conrad Garmager, and Harry "Bill" Christiansen. Others have been Reuben Bahr, Eric Ferling, Margaret Dahlgren, Tom Cullen, and currently Clare Almquist. Both the late Conrad Garmager and Clare served many years as Secretary of the district, and went on to become District President. Conrad served one term as Supreme President.

Valhall Lodge has consistently upheld "all that is good in the Norwegian tradition", and in 1989 will celebrate 50 years in Camp Valhall. Indeed we are proud!

.... Margaret Dahlgren


updated October 12, 2009 

Valhall Lodge History Since 1989

In February 1993 Valhall Lodge received notice from the Rockford Airport Authority indicating the lodge property was needed for expansion of runways. After a long search a former church was purchased. On January 8, 1995 the lodge left "Camp Valhall' as many members affectionately referred to it after 50 years of calling it "home".

The first priority in the new facility was building a commercial kitchen so the lodge could continue the tradition of serving breakfasts and dinners as fundraisers. Taxes on the property rose significantly over the next several years to the point that the membership decided to sell the building rather than relocate. So in 2003, the lodge building was sold and the proceeds invested mainly with Sons of Norway's Lodge Deposit Fund.

Prior to the sale of the building, the lodge undertook a strategic planning process to focus our activities around Sons of Norway's Mission. To do this a special committee worked to develop a Vision and Purpose Statement for our specific lodge. It was this Vision and Purpose that suggested a renewed emphasis on our Norwegian heritage and culture, particularly as a catalyst to reach out to the community through Adopt-A-School programs in public and private schools in the counties representing our lodge membership; and financial and volunteer support for an 1836 Norwegian pioneer cabin and heirloom vegetable garden at the Boone County  Conservation District in Belvidere, Illinois.

Other activities included sponsoring Norwegian cultural music programs, working with the Girl Scouts on badge projects, donating books about Norway to public libraries and schools, supporting sporting events like the Amy Johnson Run benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Rockford, and Norge Ski Club's ski jumping tournaments in Fox River Grove, Illinois. Nordic Walking was introduced to the area by Vicki Rudh-Jones during a yearlong lodge theme on Scandinavian Wellness: Nordic Sports, Fitness and Healthy Lifestyles. Valhall Lodge through the efforts of Karen Drager garnered a great deal of attention, especially for our community outreach programs, through various media sources, including Viking magazine.

Credit for bringing Valhall Lodge into the 21 st century by enlarging the scope of our lodge activities and community outreach goes to Sheryl Hall as President, Vicki Rudh-Jones as Program Chair and Karen Drager as Publicity Chair.

Over the lasl 20 years, the Lodge has consistently supported District Five's Masse Moro Norwegian Heritage Camp by sending volunteers and sponsoring campers; sending volunteers and cookies to Barnebirkie; District Five's sports programs for golf and bowling and Conventions.

In 2002 Valhall Lodge hosted the District Five Convention at the Clock Tower in Rockford, Ilinois. Ray Knutson of Valhall Lodge has served District Five in several capacities; including President and now, Treasurer. Sheryl Hall served one full term and part of a second as District Five Youth Director.