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Icelandic - page 3

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Early Community Life

traditional dress The life and rhythm of the early community was sustained through a number of important and interesting community organizations. Besides schools built at Tindastoll and at Hola, adjacent to Stephan Stephansson's homestead, a literary society was established in 1892, notably sixteen years before a Lutheran Church was built. Beginning in 1898, student ministers from the Manitoba settlement visited and a congregation was formed two years later. To some degree, relationships between the Lutheran Church and so-called free thought philosophies continued to be a part of the community's character. This is not often the case in new settlement communities, where the church is among the earliest, if not the first institution to be established. The literacy society established a library that served the community into the 1930s.

Markerville Choir It is important to note that expression of divergent opinions likely indicated a high degree of cohesiveness in the community, rather than divisiveness. Bound by common experience, language, an appreciation of literary and cultural pursuits, the relative isolation of the small community in the early years of settlement helped it maintain a cultural vitality and confidence. As well, the Icelanders were highly regarded as new immigrants and experienced less pressure to assimilate.

Markerville CreameryVonin ('hope') Ladies' Aid Society was founded by the community's women during their brief sojourn in Calgary on their way to the new settlement. The Society's benevolent work resulted in a range of events that united the community. The Society was connected to the Lutheran congregation and was key in the building of the Fensala Community Hall. The Society still exists and until the late 1970s continued to take its recorded minutes in Icelandic. 

World War I


The early Icelandic community largely functioned outside of the cash economy. With the advent of the creamery and increased grain growing, the beginning of World War I also helped spur commercial production. The 1916 census shows that of the 700 Albertans of Icelandic ancestry, approximately one-third of these had been born in Iceland. Of the 700, Making traditional food some 400 lived in the area of Markerville and adjacent districts. As with other recent immigrant groups, many supported the war effort as an opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to Canada. Significantly, Stephan Stephansson strongly criticized the war effort and produced a suite of poems titled Vigslodi 'The Trail of War.' Stephansson's criticism flew in the face of the heightened patriotism that accompanied the war effort. In a small rural district, Stephansson's position was particularly difficult for those who would lose sons in the trenches and killing fields of Europe.
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