Remembrance in Stone

Abraham Lincoln Monument

County: Traill County, North Dakota

Location: Trail County Courthouse Square, downtown Hillsboro

Coordinates: N46°49.730' W096°49.872'

The bust of Abraham Lincoln on the lawn of the Traill County Courthouse in Hillsboro is a replica of a monument created by Paul Fjelde of Valley City and donated to the people of Norway in 1914 by North Dakota Governor Louis Hanna. This impressive statue stands eight feet tall, with a red granite base supporting the bronze bust of Lincoln

Under Nazi occupation during World War II, Norwegians gathered around the statue in their nation’s capital every 4th of July to pay silent tribute to the ideals of Lincoln and their bonds with Norwegian Americans. The monument still stands in Oslo’s Frogner Park, and the July 4th memorial continues to this day.

The Hillsboro bust, also sculpted by Fjelde, has never achieved the same local prominence, but it, too, symbolizes the common ideals of human freedom and national unity that help solidify the ties of ancestry between Norwegian immigrants to North Dakota and their country of origin. At the time the statues were built, Norwegian Americans made up about one-third of the population of North Dakota, as well as a clear majority of Traill County.

Governor Hanna conceived the idea of the Lincoln tribute while attending a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913. He reasoned that a bust of Lincoln would be an ideal gift for Norway’s 100-year anniversary of independence from Denmark. The sixteenth US president is, of course, best known for ending slavery and winning the Civil War, but he was also revered by immigrants for signing the Homestead Act into law in 1862. On July 4, 1914, the governor’s daughter, Dorothy Hanna, unveiled the Lincoln bust in Oslo, stating, “The God of Nations knew that at the time the country needed a strong man, a man of courage and convictions, a man of power and integrity, and Lincoln was certainly the right man in the right place.”

The statue in Hillsboro was dedicated on September 8, 1918. Although the weather was not particularly conducive to the commemoration, several thousand people took part in the ceremony. North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Andrew A. Bruce was the keynote speaker to a crowd braving the blustery weather of the day. Bruce compared the American Civil War to the Great War then raging in Europe. To make the statue possible, North Dakota schoolchildren had raised nearly 10 percent of the Hillsboro statue’s cost of $1,856.89. Fjelde’s Lincoln is both magisterial and humane, representing the unyielding firmness of just convictions rooted in sincere empathy for the common person.--Research by Kurt Easterday, HIST 489, NDSU, Fall 2007

Recommended Reading

Basler, Roy P., ed. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln Association, 1953.

Guelzo, Allen C. Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. Grand Rapids: Erdmans, 1999.

Peterson, Merrill D. Lincoln in American Memory. NY: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Statues Across the Country

Photo Gallery
Photos by Kurt Easterday, 1 November 2007

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Remembrance in Stone / Center for Heritage Renewal