To Honor Stephansson At Markerville Labor Day
National Monument To Be Unveiled To Famous Icelandic Poet—Many Visitors Expected—Tributes to Stephanson's Work
By Marjorie Smith
Stephan Gudmundsson Stephansson, famed Icelandic poet of the Markerville district, will be honored by both the province and dominion on Labor Day, Monday, September 4, when a park near his old home will be dedicated in his name and a monument unveiled in his memory.
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada has erected a stone ten feet high bearing a bronze tablet. It is in a small provincial park directly across the river from the village of Markerville. The park will be known as the "Stephan G. Stephansson Memorial Park."
Unveiling the monument will be Dr. M. H. Long, professor of history at the University of Alberta, and of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board. The principal speaker will be Professor Skuli Johnson, head of the department of classics, University of Manitoba. Among friends and neighbors to attend the public ceremony will be O. Sigurdson, life long friend and companion of the poet, and the man who took the lead in raising funds for the present monument marking Mr. Stephansson's grave in the Markerville Cemetery.
Professor Johnson is well qualified to give the address on this occasion. A Canadian Icelander himself, he is also a poet and was personally acquainted with Mr. Stephansson during his life. He has made a study of most of Mr. Stephansson's work.
Acclaimed as one of the greatest Icelandic poets, Mr. Stephansson lived in the Markerville district from 1889 until his death there August 10, 1927. He was born October 3, 1853, in Iceland and emigrated to the Unite d States in 1873, farming in Wisconsin and North Dakota before coming to Canada.
All of Mr. Stephansson's poems are written in the Icelandic tongue, but a goodly portion deal with Canada and life in Canada. Many of the hardships, terrors and proud accomplishments of frontier colonization were captured there in unforgettable word pictures drawn from life. Him-self a pioneer of the Canadian northwest, Mr. Stephansson was, close to the problems and conditions of this time. Western Canada became one of his favorite themes.
Most of his writing was done in the evenings and far into the nights—after he had put in a full day's work on his farm In addition to his prowess in the Icelandic tongue, he was in excellent writer in English. His best known works were called "Andvokur" which ran to five volumes at the time of his death. The title "Andvokur" roughly translated into English means "Wakeful Nights" So highly were these volumes, esteemed that admirers in Iceland, collected funds for his passage and expenses, so that he might return to his native Iceland to spend some months among them. This was about, ten years before he died.
A man of outstanding literary calibre, Mr. Stephansson was one of the great Norse poets and prophets of his generation. He took an active part in the community life of the Markerville district and formed a wide circle of friends throughout the West. He was one of the organizers of the Markerville, school district and was interested in all constructive enterprises.
Tribute to the regard with which he was held was the exceptionally large attendance to his funeral service. Close to 500 persons came to the village on Markerville to show their respects. Four ministers were in attendance, an official from the Icelandic Unitarian church making the trip from Winnipeg to give the address. Mr. Stephansson was laid to rest in the family plot on the Medicine River, where his mother and other relatives also rest.
RED DEER ADVOCATE, AUGUST 1950.