Balder is a local lodge of the Vasa Order of America, a Fraternal Society originally established for the benefit of Swedish immigrants more than a century ago, now dedicated to preserving and sharing Scandinavian culture and heritage.
Some 250 miles north of San Francisco, midway off Humboldt Bay on Highway 101, the city of Eureka is nestled in the heart of California's rugged north coast. It's an area of natural beauty, groves of giant redwood trees and colorful history.
HISTORY: The operation of the gold mines at the headwaters of the Trinity River created a need to find a port to serve as a base of supplies. A Missourian, Josiah Gregg, organized a party of men to find a trail to the coast. On November 5, 1849, they started their search over the mountains. More than a month later they reached the Pacific Ocean just south of Little River. Turning to the south, and with the help of local Indians, they crossed Mad River (named because of Gregg's anger at doing so) and camped on Christmas Day at the head of the bay near where the city of Arcata now stands.
On March 20, 1850, the Laura Virginia sailed from San Francisco. North of Table Bluff the bay was sighted beyond a peninsula of sand dunes. Having found the entrance to the bay, on April 9 Hans Buhne, Danish second officer, took one of the ship's smaller boats through into the bay, and on April 14 the Laura Virginia was piloted in. The bay was named after Alexander von Humboldt, the distinguished German scientist.
In May 1850 members of the Mendocino Exploring Company arrived at the bay and began construction of a new settlement called Eureka. In April 1856 the growing town was chartered as the county seat.
Humboldt County became an area of opportunity for immigrants. Although the first settlers came hoping to carry on trade with the gold mines, they discovered good land for farming. The climate was favorable for dairying and raising stock animals. Herds of cattle and sheep were brought in. Lumbering provided hundreds of jobs. By the early 1860s at least nine mills were operating on the bay. Fishing became a major industry. The leading shipbuilder was a Mr Bendixsen.
In 1916 Edward Anderson arrived and set about organizing a Swedish lodge. Many Scandinavians lived here, working in the mills and logging camps, fishing out of Humboldt Bay and busily engaged in local agriculture.
On July 1, meeting in the Moose Hall, District Master Anderson installed the newly-elected officers of Balder Lodge 343. Ed Peterson was the first chairman, Ivar Aronson the first vice chairman and Oscar Johnson the first secretary. Following the installation, a banquet was held at the Monte Carlo (Western) Hotel. Membership was at first restricted to men.
In February 1918 the men voted to admit women. The first petition was received in April that same year from Miss Anna Dahlgren. Other petitions quickly followed and, on the last Saturday in May 1918, ten young women were welcomed as members. A lively dance followed the initiation.
Members took a big step in 1946 when they voted to conduct their meeting entirely in English. In spite of misgivings from some of the older members, the change was made and resulted in an increased number of younger persons being admitted to the Order.
Balder Lodge normally celebrates its anniversary each year in July. Business meetings and socials are held at the Danish Hall in Ferndale, 20 minutes south of Eureka.
DIRECTIONS: To get to Victorian Ferndale, take the Ferndale/Fernbridge exit off Highway 101. Cross the bridge over the Eel River. It's five miles to Ferndale. As you enter town, the road becomes Main Street. Turn left on Ocean Avenue. The Danish Hall is the second building on the right.