Vesturfarinn   -     

   Selection from the 1900 Almanak, pp.28-40

  By Árna Gudmundsen


The Settling of Icelanders on Washington Island

  island map
 Map of Washington Island
See enlarged map

    -  Icelanders Begin to Emigrate.

      In the year 1870, on the 12th of May, three young men left Eyrarbakka for the West. They were Jón Gíslason, Guðmundur Guðmundsson and Árni Guðmundsson; Jón Einarsson joined the group in Reykjavík. The first man was well-prepared, and he loaned ticket money to the two last-named. Guðmundur paid for his own fare....

    -  The Settlement on Washington Island.

      Washington Island (Indians called the island Pottawatomie) lies at 45° 20' latitude and 86° 50' longitude at the northwest end of Lake Michigan, about 7 miles north of the Door County peninsula. The passage that separates the island from the mainland is called "Death's Door" (Port la Mort) and connects Lake Michigan with Green Bay. The lake is to the east, and Green Bay is west and north. The island is about 7 miles in length and 5 miles wide, or nearly. The area is about 28 square miles (sections). Several smaller islands are nearby: Rock Island to the north, and to the south are Detroit, Plum and Pilot. On three of them are lighthouses, and Plum also has a Life Saving Station. Together they are about the size of a full township.

      List of settleers on Washington Island from 1870 until now.  - Those still here [Note: 1900] have no additional notes added.

Jón Gíslason, Guðmundur Guðmundsson and Árni Guðmundsson.

Einar Bjarnason, businessman from Reykjavík, came with his eldest son and eldest daughter, and his wife came two years later with their other two children. He moved to Milwaukee in 1873, and moved back in 1882. He died 3 December 1895, 71 years old. His widow and four children are here on the island.

Same year.
Jóhannes Magnússon from Langekru in Rangárvallasýslu, with his wife. Jóhannes died in Lincoln Co. in Minnesota in 1898, but his widow lives here.

Fourteen people left Eyrarbakka; of them, most came to the island. Three of them are still here: Ólafur Hannesson, son of Hannes Sigurðsson and his wife Guðrún Jónsdóttir of Litluháeyri of Eyrarbakka; Árni Guðmundsen, long time an official in Árnessýslu, and his wife Jóhanna A. Knudsen; and Guðrún Ingvarsdóttir, who married Guðm. Guðmundsson... Others who came here were: séra Hans Thorgrimsen; Dr. Árnabjarni Sveinbjörnsson, Þorkell Árnason from Eiði on Seltjarnanesi; and Ólafur Guðmundsson, from Arnarbæli. These latter people left here after living here for a while.

Pétur Gunnlaugsson; he came came from Jökuldali in N.-Múlasýslu, the son of Gunnlaugur Jónsson and his first wife María Einarsdóttir from Brú in Jökuldal. Pétur and his brothers are twelfth generation descendants of Þorsteini Jökul, who fled from the Black Death up to Dyngja in Arnardal, where he lived for some years; but when he finally dared to come back, the countryside was empty of people. He then took the farm Brú in Jökuldal.

Same year.
Teitur Teitsson, harbor pilot from Eyrarbakka; his father was Teitur Helgason, also harbor pilot there. He left here by 1887, and lives in Manitoba.

Oddur Magnússon, of Jökuldal, son of Magnús Jakobsson, and his mother was Björg Þorsteinsdóttir. He came from Iceland to Milwaukee in 1873.

Jón Gunnlaugsson, brother of Pétur mentioned above. He landed in New Iceland in 1876, lay sick with smallpox for five weeks. From there he went to Pembina County in North Dakota.

Same year.
Björn Verharðsson, of family from Eyrarbakka. Came from Iceland to Milwaukee 1873; was there until he cam to the islands. His brother's son is Björn the businesman, Kristjánsson in Reykjavík. Björn says he is a direct descendant on his mother's side from Þangbrandi the bishop, and on his father's side from Egill Skallagrímsson.

Hannes Jónsson of Eyrarbakka, son of Jón Jónsson of Skúmstöðum in Rangárv.sýslu, and his wife Ragnhildur Verharðsdóttir.

Same year.
Jón Jónsson from Skálabrekku in Þingvallasveit, son of Jón Daníelsson, who lived a long time at Ásbúð in Hafnarfjörð, a good fox shooter. Jón's grandfather was a brother of Ófeig the rich from Fjalli Vigfússon, whom many know about, even if only because of "Heljarslóðarorustu".

Same year.
Sigurður Sigurðsson of Eyrarbakka, family from Skammadal in Mýrdal.

Þórður the doctor Guðmundsen, brother of Árna, who is mentioned above. - Came 13 August that year. He died suddenly 29 January 1899.

Magnús Jónsson Þórhallasonar, from Eyrarbakka, and his mother was Þórunn Gísladóttir from Gröf in V.-Skaftafelssýslu.

Jón Þórhallason, carpenter, father of Magnús, from Eyrarbakka. Jón is of people from Mörk in Síðu, the son of Þórhalla Runólfssonar, who lived there a long time.

Same year.
Kristófer Einarsson, from Steig in Mýrdal.

Same year.
Bárður Nikulásson, Bárðarsonar Jónssonar, from Eyrarbakka, family from Skaftártungu: his mother was Sigríður Sigurðardóttir from Hvammi, Árnasonar from Hrísnesi.

Same year.
Gísli Mattíasson, family from Miðfelli í Hrunam.hrepp in Árnessýslu; left from Litlu Reykjum in Flóa.

Þorgeir Einarsson, of family from Eyrarbakka. Came to Milwaukee 1873, but lived in Racine and Walworth Counties for 15 years. His father, Einar Vigfússon, came with him and is still with him.

Same year.
Sigurður Jónsson, Árnasonar Magnússonar Beinteinssonar, of family from Þórlákshöfn. His mother is Þórunn Sigurðardóttir from Skúmstöðum in Landeyjum, and so his parents are the children of brothers. He came to Minneapolis from Kaupmannahöfn in 1885.

Ólafur Einarsson from Steig in Mýrdal, brother of Kristófer, see above.

        Of the 20 settlers, which are listed above and are still on the island, 14 of them live mostly by farming, two partly by fishing, one is a businessman, one has a boat and does business in the summertime, and two are blacksmiths. Some of them also have worked for the government for many years.

For more information about the years from 1870-1914, please contact us at: Vesturfarinn

Return to the "List of Settlements" page, or continue exploring:
  List of Settlements  
Emigrant Photo Album Iceland in the 19th Century Vesturfarar - Emigrants
Jökuldalsheiði & Its Settlements The Minnesota Settlement Letter from Dagverðagerði