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Big Canoe Burial Records

Arnold O. Haugen
Anundsen Publishing Co., Decorah, Iowa 1990

this page was last updated on Monday, 05 April 2021

Big Canoe cover page scan

Arnold O. Haugen died in 2002      View Obit       View Gravestone

Sallie Haugen DeReus Arnold's daughter has given permission to IAGenWeb to reproduce this informative document on the Winneshiek IAGenWeb pages. This version displays Optical Character Recognition (OCR) transcriptions of the original document along with scans of the original document.

I want to thank Tove D. Johansen for all of the help and support that she gave while I worked my way through this transcription. Tove was able to link many of the people to their Norwegian home villages and therefore she was able to resolve inconsistences that we ran into during the transcription process.


Surnames Starting With: _A__B_ C-E _F__G_ H-I J-KL-M N-O P-R_S_ T-Z Cemetery Index

(Mostly infants with names ending in -datter, etc.)

Surnames ending With: datterNo Family Name A-Z

(Most interred at areas lacking churches at the time, and therefore dependent on Big Canoe Pastors.)

Surnames Starting With: _A-G__H-L_M-Z

Title Page


This publication is issued to fulfill a need expressed by surviving descendants of the Pioneer Settlers who came into this "Little Switzerland, or Norway-like" area. They came searching for homesteads and a better way of life for their families. As a result of news printed in the "Decorah Posten" of Decorah, Iowa, and circulated in Norway, the Big Canoe Area became increasingly well known in the "old country."

My personal interest in the Big Canoe Church stems from the fact that my maternal grandmother, Johanna Sandvig, married grandfather Ole O. Talhaug there in 1866. My mother, Karen (Talhaug) Haugen, was baptized and confirmed there.


I wish to thank Mrs. Obed (Sylvia) Lee of Ridgeway, Iowa for encouragement and editorial assistance in preparing this publication. It was she who initiated the idea for, and helped facilitate the publication. She diligently walked the graveyard and collected the tombstone data, and assisted in proofreading the record cards. Thanks are also due Pastor Philip L. Larson of the Big Canoe Church for allowing me to check and copy current burial records for the years 1930-1990.

Special recognition and thanks are due Sallie Haugen DeReus who provided the historic-appearing art work for the cover of the book. It is provided as a heartfelt Thank You to the Norse ancestors who came, provided for our Christian Heritage, and have passed on.

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In the early settlement days of Iowa, the name Big Canoe referred to a lot more than it does today. Big Canoe was the name of a Winnebago Indian Chief whose people had been enticed into leaving their territory in Wisconsin and to settle in this N. E. Iowa area in the early 1840's. The Winnebagos had been promised a living-area known as the 50-mile wide Neutral Territory strip of land starting at the mouth of the Upper Iowa River and extending southwestward. In the late 1840's, however, the U. S. Government decided to again move and resettle the Winnebagos elsewhere, thereby opening the territory for settlement by white people. The term Big Canoe, apparently the name of a local leader amongst local Winnebago Indians, has remained as a local landmark name.

Opening the area for settlement served as a major attraction for Pioneer settlers, especially Norwegian immigrants who learned of the opportunity to acquire lands and settle here where the landscape looked much like parts of Norway.

The first pioneer settler in the Big Canoe area is reported to have come in 1851. The settler and those that followed year by year, obviously were no different than the Norsemen who previously had settled in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois in the 1830's and 1840's. They, in general, were people of little means, Cotters who had worked and struggled for the more prosperous Bonder landowners of Norway. The mid-1800's were difficult times for the working-class people in Norway.

The immigrants came here with determination to find and build a better way of life for their families, and were willing to live frugally in log huts, and in some case in dugouts, in order to get a start. As a previous author has said, they sought, "Ve, Van og Pløie Land" (wood, water and plow land). Here in America, they could get their own land, and get it at a poor man's price, for as little as $1.25 per acre if they got it by homesteading, or for a somewhat higher cost if a speculator previously had applied for the desired parcel of land. The settlers here in the Big Canoe-Highland vicinity hailed mainly from the western bulge area of Norway, namely Voss, Sogn, Hallingdal, Telemark, and Jaren, but with a few from other districts, such as Trondelag and Røros. They came, most of them stayed, and they prayed. May their Souls Rest in Peace.

As soon as it was known that Norwegians had settled in the Big Canoe Area, Lutheran Ministers wandered in and out of the territory. They came by foot, horseback, and/or by ox team. Some of the Pastors were followers of the officially recognized Lutheranism of Norway. Pastor N. Brandt evangelized in the area as early as 1852, only the second year of settlement. Within the first dozen years of settlement, religious leadership was also provided by Pastors U. V. Koren, C. L. Clausen and N. E. Jensen. The first Haugean minister to provide religious services in northeastern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota was Rev. Elling Eielsen, the first Norwegian Lutheran Minister ordained in America. It was he who established the "First Lutheran Church" south of Ossian, Iowa.

A notation in the Peder Larson Haugen family bible shows that Eielsen baptized at that home on Canoe Creek in Canoe Township in 1859. Reverend Arne Boyum, a long-time Haugean Pastor at the Arendahl Lutheran Church in southeastern Minnesota, is also known to have conducted Evangelical meetings and to have performed baptisms in northeast Winneshiek County, as well as in southeastern Minnesota. What information is available indicates that wherever the early-day wandering evangelizing men of the Gospel went, they were welcome. Their efforts built the foundation for the Lutheran Church in the Big Canoe area, first the Big Canoe Congregation and then the smaller churches that the Big Canoe Congregation brought about at Hesper, Waterloo Ridge, Highland, Canoe Ridge, Iowa River, et al.

On April 25, 1863, a dozen years after the first Norwegian settler arrived in the Highland area, the settlers united in forming a Lutheran Congregation and adopted the Big Canoe Lutheran Church Constitution. They also authorized the construction of a small stone church. This church, however, lacked a floor and benches until 1867. An acre of land for the church had been given the Congregation by Harold and Ole Stoen. Additional land for the Church and a parsonage was added later. The first, a small Church, was replaced by the present Church building in 1902.

Pre-1866 Records Lost to Fire

A fire destroyed the Church records for the years previous to 1866. This disaster destroyed the original parsonage. So, burial records for the first dozen years are limited mainly to those found on grave stones, but not all graves have markers. It is known that Reverend Clausen performed 21 burials from 1856-1862. Pastor Jensen and Schmidt officiated 10 committals between 1862-1865. There are no records to show burials by Reverend Koren during his period of services to the congregation from 1854-1857, but there certainly must have been some deaths here in that period, as well as before 1854. Various diseases, accidents and natural causes must certainly have taken some of the settlers in the early 1850's. Some of the earliest burial records available show burial committal dates delayed as long as weeks or months after the recorded dates of death. This seems to indicate that deceased persons probably were buried soon after death, but that ministerial committal was performed the next time a minister came into the area. A total of 2017 burials have been accounted for, 2090 as detailed here, plus the 31 previously attributed to Pastors Clausen, Jensen and Schmidt. However, several of these burials (287, see Section III) were conducted in areas that later became "sister Congregations" spawned from Big Canoe influence during the early pioneer settlement period.

Instructions for Record Users
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An elderly Norwegian author whose task was to write books on the history of Tynset, Norway once cautioned the compiler of this publication that such writing was dangerous work. Dates, etc. are so easily mixed up. On top of that danger comes the extreme difficulty of reading the old Norwegian script lettering, and/or being able to read some of the practically unreadable penmanship of some Pastors. Perhaps, he (they) didn't stop to think that someone else might have to decipher the records after he, the Pastor, was gone? Another difficulty encountered in assuring accuracy in presenting the data arises from the fact that many settlers Americanized the spelling of their names, and in some cases changed their family names. Uff Da!

The Records for Your Ancestors and Loved ones
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In order to make it easier for the reader to use this Big Canoe Church Burial Records Publication, the burial records have been separated into three groups, namely—
            RECORDED. (Mostly infants with names ending in -datter, etc.)
             (Most interred at areas lacking churches at the time, and therefore dependent on Big Canoe Pastors.)

Over 200 of the people for whom grave markers are found at the Big Canoe Cemetery are not listed in the burial record books for the church. Information for these individuals was secured from their grave stones. Some of these older markers are now so eroded that inscriptions are becoming unreadable, or almost so.

In order to keep this publication from becoming excessively large and costly, I have chosen to publish mainly the most important information, such as name, age, date of birth, where from in Norway, if known, date of death, area where buried, parents, and if a marker exists. In some cases additional information may be available from the card file that has been turned over to the Big Canoe Church. An effort was made to bring together recorded information from the Pastors' books, grave

Recorded Causes of deaths

For historical reasons, the Norwegian and English names for many of the diseases involved in the death of settlers in the Big Canoe Area are herewith presented:

Definitions for some Norwegian words for Diseases

Alderdom - Old Age
Kighoste - Whooping Cough
Barsel Feber - Childbirth Fever
Kreft - Cancer
Barne Sygdom - Childrens' disease
Lungebetendelse - Pneumonia
Barne Fødsel - Child birth
Mavebetendelse - Stomach Inflamation
Brystsyge - Consumption
Nervefeber - Nerve Fever
Blodforgifting - Blood Poison
Nyresykdom - Kidney Failure
Difterit - Diphtheria
Sygeforhan - Illness Treatment
Druknet - Drowned
Svaghed - Infirmity
Fallsyke - Epilepsy
Slag - Apoplexy,Stroke
Forkjølelse - Cold
Taering -Consumption, T.B.
Halsesyge - Quincy - Sore throat, Tonsillitis
Tyfus - Typhus
Hjerteslag - Heat failure, heart attack, stroke?
Trangbrystighed - Asthma
Hjertebetendelse - Heart inflammation
Tarmeslung - Intestinal Enteritis
Hjernebetendelse - Brain Fever
Vattersot - Dropsy
Grippe - Snuefeber - Influenza
Smaakopper - Smallpox was not mentioned (my Grandmother was vaccinatedfor this malady before leaving Norwayin 1866).

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this page was last updated on Monday, 05 April 2021