Viking sword center of fest
ULEN, Minn. - Welcome to Norwegian country ... where you'll find a small town founded by a guy named Ole. Stroll down Main Street and you'll see a new school, a post office and Lena's Lefse. Don't expect a punch line. The town is serious about it...
ULEN, Minn. - Welcome to Norwegian country ... where you'll find a small town founded by a guy named Ole.
Stroll down Main Street and you'll see a new school, a post office and Lena's Lefse.
Don't expect a punch line.
The town is serious about its heritage, and a recent addition - a museum containing the replica of an ancient warrior's weapon with a past shrouded in mystery.
The coveted relic, a Viking sword, was accidentally unearthed by a farmer plowing just west of Ulen in 1911.
Since then, no one seems to have found out how the Scandinavian warrior's precious weapon ended up in a field near the northwestern Minnesota town.
No one seems to know why it was there. And some even debate its origins.
But one thing is for sure: The people of Ulen are quite proud of this valuable icon embodying their deep-rooted heritage.
"Since (the sword discovery) people have centered everything around it," said Mae Forsythe, one of the museum's directors.
That includes this weekend's annual Turkey Barbecue/Viking Sword Days.
Yes, Ulen is known for more than the medieval relic. They claim they also have the world's largest turkey spit - a 250-foot cooking rod to roast 120 turkeys.
Forsythe and the four other museum directors hope the community get-together will introduce more people to the new Norwegian museum.
The museum opened two weeks ago after years of work. The town has raised $57,800 since 2004 through spaghetti dinners and other events, determined to replace an old, moldy museum. They still need $25,000, organizers said.
You can donate to the museum, and see the real sword Saturday afternoon.
The sword actually belongs to Scott Hilde, great-grandson of Hans O'Hansen, the farmer who found it nearly a century ago. The sword has been passed down in the family ever since. And Hilde said it's not likely it will ever end up in Ulen's museum because it's valuable and the facility has minimal security.
"Who knows how valuable this is?" the 46-year-old Frazee builder said. "It's been held in the family all these generations. I wouldn't donate it either. To me, it still means something. I don't want to see it get lost."
He said his great grandfather received confirmation from the Smithsonian Institute that the sword dates to the Viking age. But, "I would love to find more research and find some people to confirm it."
Ulen has found evidence elsewhere of Vikings, including mooring stones and a boat that older generations claim originates from the period.
While the sword's past remains a mystery, Forsythe can tell you the in-depth story behind any other relic in the museum. The artifacts are more than mere remnants of the past. For her, some are symbols of her childhood and life.
The 84-year-old points to an old dentist chair, reminiscing about the dentist who used it and would extract teeth without Novocain.
"It really was a torture chamber," she said. "I don't think he was a Norwegian."
Forsythe has lived in Ulen on and off since 1926. The retired elementary school teacher meticulously organizes each of the museum's exhibits and memorizes the stories behind every artifact.
"She's the mastermind behind this all," said co-director Dale Holman, 60, adding that he's 100 percent Norwegian. "We want to see what our ancestors had. It's our heritage."
If you go
- What: 46th annual Turkey Barbecue/Viking Sword Days
- When: Kids' games and a talent show on Friday. The turkey barbecue and parade is Saturday. The Viking Sword Museum will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
- Where: Ulen, Minn., 15 miles north of Hawley off of Highway 10
- Info: Contact the museum at (218) 596-8884
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 235-7311