NewsLegacyTraveling Texas with Ann Harder


Traveling Texas: Bosque County's Norwegian history

Posted at 11:53 PM, Jul 20, 2022

CLIFTON, Tx — The beauty of the Texas Hill Country begins just west of Waco in Bosque county. And the landscape of rolling hills, trees, and water once helped entice European settlers to the new world.

This humble log cabin was the childhood home of Jacob Olsen. His father Joseph built it in 1866. It's a tangible reminder of the Norwegian settlers who came to this part of Texas. And Jacob's vast collection of early Texas artifacts helped form the Bosque museum we know today.

“Joseph Olson built the cabin when they came here and five people lived in that cabin, which is amazing because that cabin is like the size of like my family room," said Erin Shields.

Shields is the executive director of the museum and said she loves the way the museum tells the story of the Norwegian settlers.

“It puts tangible history, tangible note on history for people because they can really see it and understand it,” said Shields.

It began in the mid-1800s under the leadership of Cleng Peerson. You can see his chair is in the museum collection.

“He's the one who said, hey, the U.S. is pretty cool. Maybe we should come here. And so he's considered the father of Norwegian immigration to Texas," Shields said. “And the really great thing about Norwegian immigrants is that they bring stuff with them. So we've got a lot of really fantastic artifacts in that room that tell the story of Norwegian immigration.”

Over a thousand of Peerson’s followers settled in southwestern Bosque county. The Norwegian community was able to maintain its unique heritage well into the 20th century.

A special point of pride is the museum’s firearms collection.

“Our firearms collection is fascinating for the technology of it. There's some really interesting pieces there that kind of lend it to some fun technology bits,” Shields said.

But Bosque county is also home to one of the most significant Paleo-Indian sites in North America.

The museum has a special exhibit on the horn shelter, which was discovered in 1966 by Albert Redder and Frank Watt. It’s one of the oldest burial sites in North America— dating back 11 thousand years.

“11,000. It's so so far back in history that it predates any of the tribes that were living here," said Shields. “What Mr. Redder found in 1970 was a burial site with two people in it. So, in the entire U.S., there's only about 15 burial sites from the Paleo-American times. And this one is the only one in North America that has two people buried in it. So, we have the exhibit that that shows that tells people the story of the burial.”

From the ancient to the more modern, the Bosque Museum also highlights local western artists.

“It's such a beautiful place here. You drive on the county roads and it's just it's fantastic. And so, it's a magnet for artists. And we wanted to honor that and the history of the county as being a home for artists," said Shields. "And so, we have a really wonderful collection called the Bosque Seven. It features seven artists of note that all kind of, they have ties to Bosque County. And their art reflects Bosque county, too.”

From prehistoric man to quintessential western art. It's all at the Bosque Museum in Clifton.