Guthmundur Stephansson was born on October 3, 1853, in Northern
Iceland. He was taught to read and write by his mother and showed
an early interest in words and language, composing poetry in his
When he was nineteen, he made the journey to the United
States of America with his family. He, his mother, father, younger
sister, her husband and two children all moved to Wisconsin. At
the age of 25, Stephansson married Helga Jonsdottir, who was 19
years old. Three years later, Helga gave birth to their first
child in 1879. At
this time the young family lived in Wisconsin in
an Icelandic settlement where they stayed with relatives.
Stephansson decided it was time to move on and begin a new
homestead elsewhere. He moved with his family to North Dakota
where they settled and had three more children, all sons. Life in
Dakota was difficult, punctuated by drought, fires, frosts and,
tragically, the death of his father and his three-year-old son.
Again, Stephansson decided to move, this time to Alberta. This
must have been a difficult decision for Stephan Stephansson,
knowing that the land he was farming was not yielding, yet knowing
also, that to leave was to begin again from the little they could
take with them.
Nonetheless, in 1889, 36 year-old Stephansson left
for Alberta with his three children, his wife, pregnant with a
fourth child and his now widowed mother. Throughout his life,
Stephansson was a pacifist and a political radical. He is probably
the most well-known and well-loved of the Icelandic poets in
Alberta, and Canada. He and his wife settled and farmed in
Markerville, like so many other Icelanders and supported their
eight children. Amazingly, it was during this difficult time that
he produced his prolific poetry.
In 1908, Stephan Stephansson
published his first three volumes of poetry entitles "Wakeful
Nights" or "Andvökur." These were only the first
of six volumes of "Andvökur," the last of which was
published 11 years after his death. Stephan Stephansson died at
the age of 73 on August 10, 1927. He lives on in memory and in his
This digital collection was
produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital
Collections initiative, Industry Canada.