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.
Part II – Concerning the organization of the congregation, the building of the first church and the Civil War.
Like all the other communities in new settlements, this one too was considered an unorganized mission congregation, and only at rare intervals enjoyed church services conducted by a visiting pastor. The first clergyman to visit this new settlement and to preach the word of God to the pioneers was the Reverend C. L. Clausen of St. Ansgar, Mitchell County, Iowa. He conducted the first divine services in the summer of June 1856 in the SE ¼ of section 12 in the home of two widows Mrs. Stephen Olsen and Mrs. Stephan Christiansen. The place was later known as the Johannes Olsen Qvale farm. The text of the first sermon was taken from the Epistles for third Sunday after Trinity, First Peter V. 6-14: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” Later the settlement was visited by the Rev. Adolph C. Preus, Pastor of Koshkonong, Dane County, Wisconsin who preached to the settlers here. This second church service was conducted by him in the home of John Olsen Hesjedal, section 31, Clayton Township. The subsequent church services were, as a rule, held in Aaberg’s Grove. As the population increased in numbers, the services were conducted in the open air when the weather permitted, otherwise in Aaberg’s house. It is quite likely that other pastors besides these two mentioned, have visited the congregation previous to its organization, but there is no reliable record of who they were.
Little Cedar congregation was organized by Pastor C. L. Clausen on November 26, 1859, and the first business meeting of this church was held on this occasion in the home of Helge Erickson Floen, who had built the first log house in W ½ SW ¼, section 36.
The original members of the congregation were: the brothers Rognald and John Olsen Holstad, the brothers Tideman and Erick Knutsen Aaberg; the brothers John S. and Harold Irgens; John Osmundsen, John Olsen Hesjedal and sons Ole and John; Simon Knutson Vike; John Olsen Qvale; Hendrik Benson; Helge Erickson Floen; Ole Gulliksen, Tildem and sons Gulik and Tollef; Anders Olsen Alrick; Ole Johnson Holstad; Rasmus Rasmussen Vigness; Nils Finkelson and perhaps others who cannot be listed by name since there is no record of the organizational meeting to be found in the archives of the congregation.
Among the first members elected to the Board of Trustees were Rognald Olsen and John Olsen. Pastor Clausen served the congregation until the spring of 1871.
The first church of the congregation was built in 1863. After a certain amount of disagreement about the most serviceable location on which to erect the sanctuary it was finally agreed to build the church on the site where the present frame church stands*, W ½, SW ¼ section 4. A half-acre plot of land was bought of Rasmus Rasmussen Vigness to use as a location for the church and cemetery.
*NOTE: This history was written in 1909 before the frame church burned down in 1910.
As already mentioned, the first church was built of logs, 30 feet by 40 feet, and 16 feet high. Each member of the congregation was assigned the responsibility of furnishing a certain number of logs. Tideman Knutsen Aaberg, Toris Olsen Flaten of “Six Mile Grove” shaped the timbers and erected the main body of the church, while Ole Thorstad and Arne Johnson Fossen executed the rest of the carpenter work for the interior and so forth.
The first burial in the cemetery number 2 of the congregation was that of Ole Thorstad’s first wife.
Immediately following the organization of the congregation, while the church was still being constructed, the Civil War erupted. This war, among the bloodiest in world history, began in 1861 and did not end until 1865. At every call for men to join the armed forces, proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln, the Norwegians were among the first to respond in great numbers.
Indeed, it has been stated that of all the foreign born immigrants who answered the call in the American Civil War for the preservation of the Union and the liberation of the slaves the Norwegians surpassed all the others in volunteering for service. They fought with distinction on the southern battle fields and with great honor to their group. The population of the United States in 1860 included 43,965 who were born in Norway and 6,005 “first generation” American born parents who were Norwegians, a grand total of some 50,000. There were even so many volunteers of Norwegian extraction that an entire regiment, the 15 Wisconsin regiment of the infantry was composed exclusively of Norwegians and was known as the Scandinavian regiment. When this regiment marched through Chicago to Camp Douglas on their way south to join the Union Army, it numbered about 1100 men, of which practically all, both privates and officers, were Norwegians. Pastor Clausen was called as chaplain and accompanied the regiment through many of its engagements.
In addition to the members of the 15 Wisconsin Regiment there were many Norwegian boys in several other regiments of volunteers from the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and others, besides the numerous Norwegian seamen enrolled in the Navy. They have demonstrated to us that in its hour of need the nation has found the Norwegians patriots and loyal to their adopted land.
Among the Norwegians who volunteered from the town of Adams were the brothers Ole and Eivind Helgesen Floen, Gulik Olsen Tildem, Arne Knutsen Aaberg, John S. Irgens and Ivar Hollerud. All of these were mustered into the 15 Wisconsin regiment. Peder Johansen Fossen, Ole Sjursen Sluppen, Gjert Thompson Funde and Harold Irgens enlisted in the 2 Minnesota cavalry.
As the war progressed in intensity so that the number of volunteers was in doubt to meet the call of the president for men, it became necessary to draft civilians. The first draft of citizens in Adams Township occurred on July 18, 1864. Thirteen men were drafted, of which number eight were Norwegians. Four of them passed the examinations and were found to be fit for military service and were obliged to go or by paying a certain sum of money into a fund for hiring substitutes they could be exempted. The four men who were found to be fit for military service, in the Norwegian group, were John C. Johnson Sr., the brothers Rognald and Johannes Olsen Holstad and Halvor Knutsen Aaberg. Each of these paid $300 for substitutes. Later the township reimbursed them for $100 each. The second draft was held in the autumn of 1864. At this time six of the citizens of the township were drafted. In this number were two Norwegians who passed the examination for military fitness. These were Paul Anderson and Hans Olsen Njos. Like their predecessors mentioned earlier, they too paid for substitutes. It is very likely there were other Norwegians in both the first and the second draft, but we have no precise information about them.
The author and publisher of this history was also hired as a substitute, August 14, 1864, the day after he arrived with his parents, brothers and sisters at Calmar, Iowa, having left Norway, and not quite 18 years of age. This was the third draft that faced the citizens of Calmar Township, and Merchant Landing who had escaped the first two drafts was fairly certain that he would have to go at this third one. Since he did not have any desire to go personally, he had hired a substitute in advance, and thus he was enabled to avoid military service in this third draft also. This was in late fall and the war was nearing its end.
The pastors who served the congregation during Rev. Clausen’s absence as a chaplain were Rev. Tobias Larsen, Bloomfield, Rev. Clausen, Spring Grove and Rev. Wilhelm Koren, Washington Prairie who all preached in the church.
The first custodian of the church was Johan Olsen Hesjedal who received a fee of 15 cents from each confirmed member for furnishing the fuel, keeping the church in good clean order, and maintaining a responsible supervision of the church property.
John H. Johnson Hesjedal was the first pre-canter of the church without any specified compensation. Harold Irgens served as the church’s first secretary. The soldiers were mustered out and sent home. John S. Irgens came home with the rank of Lieutenant. Pastor Clausen, himself, resumed charge of his congregation.
Little Cedar congregation paid a fixed sum of $8.00 for each sermon up to the time when a permanent organization of the congregation was effected October 13, 1867.