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Sondre Norheim

Sondre Norheim was born in Morgedal in Telemark country, Norway, on June 10, 1825. He immigrated to the United States in 1884 with his wife and five of their six children. After a brief stay in Oslo, MN, he came to what is now McHenry County and filed on a homestead near Villard Post Office. The land description from the Register of Deeds Office in McHenry Country, Towner, N.D., is S1/2 SW1/4 and W1/2 SE 1/4 of Section 35 – Township 155 – Range 77.

Norheim left Norway with a dream of finding a better living in America. Sondre was a modest man, so even his neighbors in North Dakota did not know that his name was legend in Norway.

Norheim, recognized as the Father of Modern Skiing, invented a new ski binding and introduced the Telemark and Christiania turns. In order to take full advantage of his skis, Norheim decided they had to be firmly attached to his feet, so he took thin shoots from birch roots, soaked them in hot water, and twisted them together so they would fit around his heel. Now he could twist and turn on his skis and fly through the air like a bird. Thus was the humble beginning of ski bindings.

Norheim died in 1897. He went to his grave a virtual unknown. Although his place of burial is recorded in Norway Lutheran Cemetery records, his grave went unmarked for many years. A granite boulder and a plaque were dedicated and placed on his grave in a memorial ceremony June 12, 1966. Norway Lutheran Cemetery is only five miles west of where he homesteaded in North Dakota.

During the week of Norsk Høstfest, an annual wreath-laying ceremony takes place usually on Tuesday morning. Individuals can catch a bus which departs from the Scandinavian Park in Minot, ND, which takes passengers to the burial site and commemorative service.