History of Little Cedar Settlement and Congregation. Published for the 50th Anniversary Jubilee of the Congregation by Hans Jacob Hanson, Secretary of the Congregation, Adams, Minnesota. Minneapolis. Augsburg Publishing House Press, 1909. Irene Marguerite Hanson McMurchie had this translated from Norwegian by Dr. H. M. Blegen, Augustana College, 1970. Norwegian original is in the SO library at St. Olaf College.
Dear Little Cedar Congregation!
A little more than two years ago I was requested to make research and write the history of the congregation, and I have now done this very willingly according to the opportunities at my disposal during the busiest season of the year, namely the month of August, 1907.
The history was written, read in public, and then deposited together with a selection of the congregation’s books and papers in the Corner Stone of Adams Lutheran Church during the solemnities of the Corner Stone laying ceremonies which were conducted on the first day of September, of the same year 1907. Even though the project was merely a congregational history, limited to a single account, it was no small task to record the most significant and interesting items selected from a period of time so long that is spanned more than half a century.
I had very little time to gather and record in writing the history of the congregation when I composed my first draft. Never the less it was substantially correct according to my best convictions. However, many additions and elaborations could have been made, and now, that I have more time to think and reflect on the matter, I have made a number of changes and additions in order to achieve a clearer and more harmonious synthesis as well as adding material that more fully and explicitly express the details of the congregation’s history from its organization on November 26, 1859 all the way to its golden jubilee.
To write such a long and exhaustive history of a congregation may seem superfluous, but it occurred to me that I owe the congregation this service in order to show it my gratitude for all the confidence it has shown me during all these years that I have been a member. It will let the congregation understand that I love it very much. It is my hope that this account of a congregation will be read with interest by the generation now living and also the generations of the future.
Wishing the congregation God’s richest blessing and protection in unity and peace based on the foundation of Truth.
From your humble and to the Lord devoted, Hans Jacob Hanson Hovland, Adams, Minnesota.
Hans Jacob Hanson was born on one of the southernmost islands of Bergen diocese Bommeld on the “gaard” (farm) Hovland, August 30, 1846 to Baard Hanson and wife Mikoline Hanson, nee Schram. Baptized by F. Holst pastor for Finaas parish, September 6, 1846. Moved with his parents, brothers and sisters to Bergen 1857. Attended Laxevaag common school until he was fourteen years of age and then became an apprentice in Laxevaag’s mechanical shops.
Confirmed in Field’s church, October 6, 1861 by the Parish pastor, P. Lund. Immigrated to America with his family June 5, 1864 and arrived at Calmar, Iowa, August 13, 1864.
After working at his trade in Decorah and Calmar he went to Chicago in the spring of 1865. In the fall of 1867 he came to Adams and filed on a homestead in the spring 1868. Married Miss Ingeborg Pederson, December 27, 1869 in Little Cedar congregation’s log church, C. R. Clausen, pastor. Became a member of Little Cedar congregation in the summer of 1874 and has been a member and officer since 1875. He was recording secretary of Little Cedar congregation for forty years.
Part I - The first settlers and the first pastors to visit the settlement
The history of Little Cedar congregation since its first settlers in 1855 to the fiftieth anniversary as an organized congregation, November 26, 1909.
The congregation derives its name from the small river that flows from the central and eastern part of the south half of the county, "Little Cedar River” which runs south and east until it joins the “Little Iowa River.”
The migration to the eastern and southern parts of Minnesota began in earnest – 1854, 1855, 1856, - but there were already a few settlers there who had arrived shortly before that time.
The very first settlers in Mower County were the Jacob McQuillen parties. Jacob McQuillen, Sr. and his son Jacob Jr., natives of Ohio with their families from Ohio in July of 1852, and settled in section 1, township 103, range 14. This land is now in Racine Township. Accompanying them as the elder gentleman’s son-in-law, Adam Zedygev. Adams Township was among the first townships in the county to be organized. The first settlers in Adams Township were Norwegians, as early as 18??. They left Dane County, Wisconsin, after a stay there, and came west to Adams by ox team.
Among the first settlers was Tideman Knutson Aaberg (Objor) who came with his parents and his brothers Haldor, Erik and Arne, and a sister Marit, in June 1855.
He settled on his “claim” in section 2, S ½ of the NW ¼ and the N ½ of the SW ¼ and here the first log cabin was erected, 18 feet by 18 feet, and 8 feet high. The roof was thatched with hay and sod and the floor was made from poles of red ash.
That same summer, in July, a company consisting of Rognald Olsen, his mother and step-father, Ole Johnson Holstad, and his brothers, John and Stephan Olsen, his sister Britha, John Olsen Hesjedal and sons, John and H. Johnson and Ole Johnson, two daughters having same name, Anna, and Stephan Christiansen arrived in wagons drawn by teams of oxen. Rognald and John settled on SE ¼ of section 12, where Rognald still lives. Ole Johnson Holstad settled on section 12, NW ¼. John Olsen Hesjedal on section 31 in Clayton Township, but he later moved to SE ¼ section? in Adams Township. John H. Johnson settled on SE ¼, section 2 in Adams Township and Stephan Olsen and Stephan Christiansen took up a “claim” on SE ¼ section 12 but they and their families spent the first winter with Rognald and John D. Olsen.
Adams Township was organized in May 1857. The first town meeting was held under open sky on the bare prairie on section 16. Rognald Olsen was elected as one of the first supervisors, and Ole Jacobson Norbo, the first constable. The township of Adams was settled exclusively by foreign born Norwegians, Germans and Irish, and they are still today the population of the township.
To the Irishman, William Madden goes the credit for naming the Township, Adams, after one of his friends in New York State. The town of Adams includes the congressional town No. 101, north of range 16, west of the 5th principal meridian. It is bounded on the north by the town of Marshall, on the east by Lodi, on the south by Mitchell County, Iowa and on the west by Nevada Township, which has an elevation of 1275 feet above sea level.
The first Norwegian settlers here were immigrants from Valders, Sogn, and Voss, and from the island Holsen in the southern Bergen diocese, and from the island, Fin near Stavanger. The first deaths in the township were those of Stephan Olsen and Stephan Christiansen. The first cemetery was established in section 11.
It is not possible for the present generation to fully comprehend what the first settlers had to endure. No houses, no crops to begin with, no railroad, a long way to markets – long sever winters, poor houses, shabby clothing, and virtually no money. What little one had to sell was very cheap, while on the other hand everything one had to buy was very expensive. Yes, indeed, the pioneers, the frontiersmen, the first settlers encountered many hardships, tasks and obstacles in establishing a new settlement in our country, and especially in this northwest area in the early days. Nowadays the conditions are quite otherwise, for in a later period the railroad followed close behind the heels of the migrating settlers.
Let us consider a little the first two deaths that are mentioned earlier, namely Stephan Olsen and Stephan Christiansen. On the morning of December 8 they set out for “Six Mile Grove” in Nevada Township to procure some badly needed food, for they had completely exhausted the provisions that they had brought along. Since they had harvested a tiny crop produced by the first settlers in Nevada who had arrived as early as the summer of 1856, they were unable to buy a few provisions of food stuffs. But on their way home, they were overtaken by an unusually severe blizzard. They lost their way and froze to death. During the course of the night, the team of oxen had somehow managed to find their way home. The hat of one of the men was fastened to the yoke. The following morning when it became light, several men set out to hunt for them. After a three day search their frozen corpses were found on the LeRoy Prairie, now Lodi Township. Each man left a widow and one child. The first coffins were made of oak. They were buried without any commitment ceremonials in a grave in section 11. In addition to these two, another man Torvald Hermundson also froze to death on the 19th of January 1865, when he was caught in a raging blizzard before he could reach his home on his way home from the woods. His body was found two days later on section 5, only five rods or so from Harold Irgen’s house. Buried beside the first two who froze to death was a daughter of Stephan Olsen, who was born a few days after his death. She was the first white child born and baptized in Adams Township. While we are on the subject of the first births in Adams Township, we might say that the first white child born in Marshall Township was Miss Hannah Osmondsen, now Mrs. Anders A. Widste, born E ½, SW ¼ of section 36. In addition to these three burials in section 11, we can mention those of the first wife of Simon Knutsen, and a son, Ole Mikkel Knutsen; a brother of Simon Knutsen, Knut Tideman Aaberg and a child of Anders Froim.
Since the cemetery in section 11 was not centrally located, a new cemetery was dedicated on a plot of ground in section 3. The first grave dug on this new location was for the body of the first wife of Rasmus Rasmussen Vigness. The next day when the burial was to take place the grave was found to be half filled with water. For this reason she too was buried in the cemetery section 11. The cemetery in section 3 was abandoned for all time. The last person to be buried in section 11 was Jens J. Baargaard. Here, then, repose the mortal remains of several of the community’s original pioneers. The cemetery in section 11 was not clerically dedicated as such.
The first Lutheran clergyman to settle in the township was the German Reverend Christian Hildebrand. He came from Illinois to settle on section 30 in Adams Township in 1858. He died December 1864 and was buried on his homestead. He was later reburied in Mona, Iowa.
The first post office in the township was established in 1859 and its first postmaster was Harold Irgens. The post office was in his own “little log cabin” in section 8. Before this first post office was established in the township the settlers received their mail in the three nearest post offices, Leroy, Nevada and Austin.
Although the pioneers in this area had to undergo many hardships and tasks, they did enjoy one fine advantage in that they had an abundance of timber, fertile soil and good water which are the most important advantages for new settlers who live more than one hundred miles from the nearest market.
There was an abundance of timber all along the water courses, and with few exceptions the pioneers built their homes out of logs.
To begin with these homes were not anything elaborate, but as time went by they were transformed into quite warm and comfortable abodes. The first two churches in the township, a Catholic and a Lutheran, were log structures. Both congregations St. Johannes and Little Cedar were organized the same year 1859, at an interval of five months. The Catholic congregation dates from June 8 and the Lutheran one from November 26. These churches were in use until they were replaced by frame structures. The first public schools were also log houses and were in use until frame school houses replaced them.