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A brief History of Toten, Norway


(Article from the 1921 Totenlag Yearbook translated by L. Opsahl)

"It has often been said that Toten was the dwelling place of some of the early Norwegian 'small-kings'. Tradition has it that the Alfstad farm was named after King Alf who lived there. Toten has never been a kingdom in itself, but rather a part of the Hadafylke small-kingdom which included Toten, Hadeland, Land and Romerike.

Harald Hvitbein, first of the Yngli line of kings which ruled one large area of Norway, conquered much of Hedemark, Vestfold and Toten, and died a violent death in Toten about the year 700. Haagne, a son of the Oplands King Øistein, later took over Toten and added it to his kingdom. In Halvdan Svarte's time, about the year 950, yet another Øistein was king of Oplands. Halvdan battled him twice and defeated him, the second battle taking place on the island of Helgøy in Mjøsa according to the saga. To show he was still a friend, Halvdan returned to Øistein half of Hedemark, taking for himself Toten and land.

In Toten it was that the young ambitious Harald Haarfagre first met the proud Ragna Adilsdatter who gave him the inspiration to gather all Norway into one kingdom. It is said that she herself owned most of Toten, including Eina where she lived. Harald stayed in Opland much of one year and celebrated Christmas there. Before his death King Harald gave Toten to his sons by Snaefred, one of his several wives. The saga then has nothing to say of Toten until Olav Haraldsøns time. An Opland king who warred against Olav lived then in Toten. Olav, the victor, traveled around the district to Christian-ize it about the year 1020.

The famous King Haakon Haakonson came to Toten about 1226, the saga says, to deal with a group which had set itself up against him. Some sixty years later in 1293 King Haakon Magnussøn the elder gave Toten a charter, which included its appointment as a coach station, the beginning of Toten's coach-house business.

The saga tells that after the death of King Kristoffer in 1488 there were two political groups in the nation, one of which was all for association with Sweden and wanted Karl Knudtsøn Bonde as king. The other group wanted association with Denmark and Kristian I as king. In Oplands the people belonged to the first group, which in time prevailed and in 1449 Karl Knudtsøn was crowned in Nidaros by Archbishop Asalk (Aslak?) Batt. The election document which designated Karl Knudtsøn king was signed by commissioner Peder Bengtson from Toten, among others.

It is told that King Kristian II in 1508 slipped over into Toten after having killed a number of Hedemark farmers. On Kjølsveien in Hadeland-woods there was a battle between him and the big farmers of Toten. The king and his men overwhelmed the farmers and took them prisoners, locking them up in the stone cellar of Hoff church back in Toten.

One man who played a large role in the uprising at that time was the Hamar bishop Karl Jemte who in the 1490's had been head-priest at Toten. His portrait still hangs in Hoff church in Østre Toten. When King Kristian came to Hedemark to put down the insurrection, the bishop retired within his mighty fortress in Hamar, which he felt to be a safe refuge from the young king. But with a fierce attack the king with his troops succeeded in entering the castle and the arrogant prelate was forced to empty humiliation's bags to the bottom".

In the bloody seven-years war of 1563-1570, during which the Swedes burned the cathedral at Hamar, Swedish military units traveled throughout Oplands to induce the people to pledge their loyalty to the Swedish King Erik the 14th. Once the Swedes had withdrawn again to the 'Almathing' on Aker farm near Hamar, the bønder farmers of Toten held their own meeting at which they pledged their allegiance to King Fredrik II of Denmark.

In 1583 a pestilence raced through Toten and took more than 700 lives. It is said that the catastrophic illness first broke out on the Gjerstad farm in the Lena community.

In the 17th century the new king of Denmark and Norway decreed that his entire kingdom should become Protestant, and that all churches and church lands owned by the Roman Catholics must be forfeited to the king. Prior to the Reformation the number of farmers in Norway who owned their farms in perpetuity (odelsbønde) was very low, said to number only about 12. After the Reformation, however, this number began to grow rapidly as the king sold his newly gained landholdings to get money to finance his wars.

It is established that prince Christian August visited Toten, living for that period at the Østre Toten parsonage farm with Pastor Hopstock. Kristian Fredrik also visited, living for the time in the parsonage in January of 1814. Representatives from Toten who attended the constitutional convention at Eidsvoll in that same year, 1814, were Lauritz Weideman, Corporal Peder Balke and Nels Dyhren.

In 1795 Toten's population was 6245 persons, distributed between 180 full farms and 362 husmannsplasser.

At the beginning of the 13th century Stabohagen and Gudrudvolden were military drill fields and maneuver areas. Later Sukkestadsletten, then Fauchaldmoen and, still later, Storumsletten have served that need.

Until 1756 Toten was a part of Akershus amt but thereafter was part of Oplandenes amt until that amt was divided into Kristians amt and Hedemarkens amt, with Toten part of the former. Now, since the new terminology, Toten belongs under Oppland fylke.




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