On This Date In Twin Cities History - July 15, 1856
On this date in 1856, celebrated Norwegian virtuoso violinist and composer Ole Bull played a benefit concert in the Territorial Capitol building in St. Paul to generate money for his Norwegian comrades. In 1852, Bull had purchased seventeen square miles of land in the remote mountains of Pennsylvania and encouraged fellow Norwegians to immigrate to “New Norway”. Eight-hundred of his countrymen arrived and began building the town of Oleana in the rugged Pennsylvania landscape. Within two years, however, New Norway and Oleana failed due to poor farming soil. Ole Bull weathered the losses, but many of the Norwegians he had encouraged to immigrate suffered severe financial hardships. Many of the refugees of the failed colony were some of the first Norwegians to come to Minnesota in the mid 1850’s, and Ole Bull felt a responsibility to make good with his countrymen by performing in St. Paul. The Norwegians of Minnesota never forgot Ole Bull, even after his passing in August of 1880. On May 17, 1897, a statue of Bull was unveiled in Loring Park in Minneapolis.