Icelandic Association of Utah shine light on Spanish Fork past

Did you know that Spanish Fork was the first Icelandic settlement in the United States? It’s true, and one local association seeks to honor that unique part of the town’s history.

The Icelandic Association of Utah seeks to recognize the nearly 400 Icelanders who left their native country and immigrated to the Beehive State between 1854 and 1914. The group claims that Spanish Fork is the oldest continuous Icelandic settlement in North America.

According to the association’s mission statement, the group aims to celebrate Icelandic heritage through activities and education; promote better relationships with those in Iceland; and preserve the memory of the early immigrants.

Officials from the association did not return a request for comment prior to publication.

In 2005, a monument was erected  at the corner of 800 East and Canyon Road to pay tribute to the 410 immigrants. The monument features a lighthouse statue with a viking ship at the top, along with other historic plaques that speak to the history of the Icelandic people in Spanish Fork. There are also benches and a bit of walking space for those to navigate the memorial.The Icelandic Association of Utah works hard to maintain the monument by keeping it clean and manicured for visitors including many from Iceland whom they also host lunches for.

The association also hosts events throughout the year, and recently held a traditional Icelandic Yule breakfast and dinner earlier in December. During the event, traditional Icelandic meals were served, and participants enjoyed various Icelandic Christmas traditions.

Another event that has been long-standing is Iceland Day in June. This event typically takes place in downtown Spanish Fork and is another celebration of the early Icelandic immigrants and their culture. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event ran over a few days and included the Fire and Ice Festival. The association has hosted several other events over the years including the Thorrablot Dinner and a parade. 

The association works hard to connect with members of the community throughout the year and even daily via its Facebook page “Icelandic Association of Utah” where people can find out about Icelandic heritage.In addition to posting on social media, members of the association also work to preserve and add to the Icelandic Family History Collection in the Spanish Fork Family History Library. 

The efforts of the association are not lost on local residents and visitors – many of whom have left positive reviews. Dr. Alexander-Martin Sardina wrote a Google review regarding the Icelandic Memorial, expressing gratitude for the focus on history.

“We came here from Germany to find the geocache that is hidden here but were astonished to learn how thoughtful the locals (were in) honor(ing) their history and past,” Sardinia wrote. “We read all the brass plaques and really have to say thank you for having such a beautiful place in your town and taking good care of it.”

Those interested in joining the group can head over to utahicelanders.org to learn more about the association and become a member.

Josh Martinez
Josh Martinez
Josh Martinez is a graduate of Southern Utah University and Arizona State University where he studied communication and journalism. He has written for numerous publications in both Arizona and Utah on a bevy of topics including sports, city government and education. Martinez is a 2009 graduate of Springville High School and lives in Springville with his high school sweetheart and two kids

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