Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Why Do We Call It… Norge?

The refurbished Norge Depot where it currently sits next to the James City County Library. (WYDaily File)

NORGE — They do not call this area the Historic Triangle for nothing. With so much to learn and experience at Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and the Yorktown Battlefield, it is easy to overlook the fact that this area is brimming with history outside of those geographic landmarks.

Take for instance the unincorporated section of James City County known as Norge.

Norge sits on U.S. Route 60 (Richmond Road) for a little over three miles. Sandwiched between Lightfoot and Toano, one might not even realize it is there on a day with light traffic.

The town got its start in the late 1800s when Carl Bergh, a land agent for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (C&O) saw potential in the sparsely populated farmland in the western part of James City County (JCC). Farmland that was selling $6 to $10 and acre.

Bergh had emigrated from Norway to Wisconsin as child. As an adult he farmed in several northern and midwestern localities.

Upon experiencing the comparatively temperate climate, good soil and cheap land, Bergh knew the area would be an easy sell for Scandinavians farming in the harsh climates of the Midwest. Bergh began to promote the area that would become Norge to immigrant farmers in the frozen northern states by sending them brochures written in their native language.

According to the Norge Depot Rail Museum, by 1902, more than sixty families moved into the area. Bergh oversaw the creation of a town infrastructure which included homes, a church, a sawmill and general stores.

When it came to naming the hamlet, Foster was the first suggestion. Foster was the name of a house that stood near the railroad tracks. However, that name was dismissed. Norway was another suggestion, but that was vetoed due to that moniker already having been assigned to another post office.

So the town settled on the Norwegian spelling: Norge. Though, bear in mind, the town’s first residents used the Norwegian pronunciation, “Nor’-ga”.

Norge continued to thrive due in large part to the railroad line that connected Richmond and Newport News. This line was established in 1882. In 1907, the Norge Depot was built on Peach Street and became a focal point for the community.

The depot fell into disrepair in 1969 after the passenger trains stopped service to Norge. The County acquired the derelict building in 1999, saving it from being demolished. In 2006, James City County moved the structure as a whole to where it now sits next the the James City County Library.

While Norge might not be the hub that it once was, the town is still brimming with character. Between the renovated Norge Depot, the Norge Community Hall and a growing and vibrant restaurant scene, Norge is not to be missed.

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