Henry, Harry and Mary Bakken
Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
The date was April 4, 1951. The wildcat well of the Amerada Petroleum Corporation drilling on land owned by Clarence Iverson south of Tioga finally hit black gold.
In September of the same year, a drilling rig on the property of Mary Bakken and two of her sons, Henry and Harry, also near Tioga, struck oil.
Both discoveries are part of the Bakken Oil Formation, a vast pool of oil and shale underlying much of northwestern North Dakota. This formation, named for the Bakkens by Swedish-American geologist J.W. Nordquist, holds the largest contiguous onshore oil deposit ever surveyed in North America.
This part of the state has been nicknamed the “Norwegian Sea,” due to the tide of emigrants from Norway who homesteaded there. Among them were the ancestors of the Iversons, the Bakkens and thousands of their neighbors. Indeed, Scandinavian roots run deep in North Dakota’s oil country. And today, many Norwegian-American farmers in the Bakken reap a harvest of oil along with their wheat.