Norway Mills, Norse Historic District, Bosque County, Texas

Norway Mills-Drone Photography by Zack Morris Media; Video Editing Daniel J. Hale Photography

Norse Historic District

Between 1854 and the turn of the century, thousands of settlers from Norway located in the Clifton Texas area and established the largest Norwegian colony in the US west of the Mississippi River. They settled primarily in a triangular area northwest of Clifton extending 18 miles to the town of Cranfills Gap. This area today is known as the Norse Historic District, created by the Department of the Interior in 1983.

In this region the Norwegian immigrants farmed, married, raised families, worshipped, and were buried. In 1854, the first Norwegians arrived from two failed East Texas settlements, primarily Four Mile Prairie. They were accompanied by Cleng Peerson (1782-1865), “Father of Norwegian Immigration to America.” Bosque County would be Peerson’s final stop after thirty years of the settlement of Norwegian colonies throughout the country. The first Norwegians were drawn to the area because it reminded them of their homeland: natural beauty, abundant water, wildlife, and fertile soil. They were also offered free land by the state as an incentive to settle the area, where Comanches were still very much a threat to their existence on the western frontier.

Norway Mills

After threshing their wheat fields, the Norwegians settlers took their grain to Waco for milling. This trip usually took about five days, and the immigrants traveled in groups for protection from Comanches. In Waco, the part of the wheat was traded for flour, and the rest sold to buy groceries and calico, a simple, cheap equal weft and warp plain weave fabric in white, cream or unbleached cotton.

The flour mill near Clifton, Texas, was built about 1870 under a three-way partnership of Norwegian families. The community once included a schoolhouse, general store, drug store, and several blacksmith shops. A post office was added later. Nothing of this survives but the mill.

Stone Houses

Stone houses weren’t expensive. Rock was more plentiful than wood, and everything needed was right at hand. White rock was dug out of the hills and hauled home white still fresh and soft and could be sawed. After the rock sat out in the air a while it became hard. The same limestone produced mortar to hold the hardened stones together. A hole dug into the hillside was lined with hard blue stone and served as a kiln and wood burned under it. The resulting powder was mixed with sand and water for mortar and also used to plaster the inside walls, after the house was erected. (Source: Waco-Herald Tribune, July 14, 1946)

For another Chambers Architects preservation project in The Norse Historic District:

Norway Mills: Renovation of Main House and 1870s Mill, Addition of Outbuildings, and Site Development. Portion of Interior of Main House-recently renovated

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