Anniversary History of
The Saude Lutheran Church
In the early 1850's, a small group of Norwegian immigrant families, all former members of Rev. H. A. Stub's congregation in Muskego, WI came in ox-drawn prairie schooners to an area located in the northern part of what was then called Obispo township, (now named Utica township) in Chickasaw County, Iowa. Among the first settlers were John Johnson Landsverk, Tollef Olson Haugen, Aslak Torvildson, Kurt Olson Kultane, Kittel Kittelson Stor-dalen, Halvor Eivindson, and Ola Tostenson, all from the Upper Telemarken area of Norway. John Svennungson Bolaaken, and brothers All Olson Vaala and Gregor Olson Vaala from the Lower Telemarken area of Norway, and Knut Tostenson Einang from Slidre, Valders, Norway. The area where they built their log cabin homes was known as the Little Turkey settlement. These early Norwegians were stalwart in the various homes to have church services, with lay persons conducting the services as a Pastor came very infrequently.
The first church word began in the settlement by Pastor C.L. Clausen in June 1854 and he baptized Birgit Thorvildson and Gunild Haugen. Later, an early entry in the journal of Rev. U.V. Koren shows he held a service in the home of Gregor Olson Vaala and it was there that the first baptism of record was performed on Nov. 26, 1856, that of Anton Springer and twenty four people took communion. Rev. Ulrik Vilhelm Koren was an early Norwegian circuit pastor. Rev. Koren had 19 settlements in southern Minnesota and northeast Iowa which he attended to with his Pastoral duties He would arrive either by horseback or driving a horse drawn homemade wagon. When he came to the Little Turkey settlement, in addition to the church service, he would perform baptisms, marriages, the churchying of mothers, and consecrate burials all the same day.
Finally, in 1860, a small parcel of land (one and one quarter acres) was purchased from Andreas and Cornelia Larsen for the sum of ten dollars by the acting trustees of the congregation, who were Henry S. Gilbert, T. Olson, and Swennum Swennumson. A log church was then erected which measured 30 feet long by 20 feet wide. On May 19, 1862, early settlers that were buried in Howard County, were reinterred in the new cemetery north of the large oak tree. The log church served the immigrants until it became too small.It has been said that the early worship services in the log church had only the reading of the epistle and gospel, and not the old testament.
On the Sundays that the pastor would arrive, all the parishioners would stand outside awaiting his arrival. When he arrived the Pastor would go directly into the building, and to the front, followed by the elders, then the men, and lastly women and children. Simple wooden benches with no backs were used for seating. The men all sat on the right and women and children on the left side of the center aisle. At the front of the center aisle there was a table covered with a white cloth and a black wooden cross and a kneeling bench, which served as the altar. A simple lectern was roughly hewn from an oak log. Another smaller oak log topped with a tin pan served as a baptismal font. The pastor often wore a plain black coat and lighting was poor. Very few services had any liturgies, and when a hymn was sung, there was rarely any accompaniment. Occasionally a psalmodikon was used. The services in the log structure were very austere.In the small journal that Rev. Koren carried with him, he recorded these earliest events, and by the dates it shows that his settlement visits were made maybe only 4-6 times a year.
As more immigrants came to the area, the pioneer settlers decided to form a congregation, and in 1857, the "Dale Norske Menighet" (Dale Norwegian Congregation) as they called themselves, was formed.In 1858, a call letter was sent to the Rev. U.V. Koren, of Washington Prairie (near Decorah, IA), bearing the signatures of several of the above named pioneer men asking him to be their official pastor. Rev. Koren accepted the call, also continuing as pastor of the Washington Prairie church. Since there was a parsonage at the Washington Prairie church, he continued to commute to and from the Little Turkey settlement.
Pastor Koren was the first ordained minister from Norway to serve the congregation and he served them from 1858 until he resigned in 1869, due to the demanding workload and also being instrumental in forming the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran synod. All services were held in the Norwegian language.In 1869, Rev. John P. Moses became the first resident pastor. There was now a need for a parsonage. In 1870, the congregation purchased 20 acres of land for $600.00 from Kittle Oleson and a small wooden frame structure was erected to use as a parsonage.
Later, in 1893, a new and larger house was constructed at a cost of $1400, and the old parsonage was torn down. That parsonage is still in use at the present, and has had remodeling and improvements made through the years. In 1874, construction also began on a new frame church on the newly acquired land.
The old log church was sold and moved away to be used for a family dwelling.The new frame church had the masonry work done by Ola Anderson Sjobakken and the carpentry done by Lan Moen of Calmar, IA. The frame church was 60 feet in length and 40 feet wide, and 20 feet high. The steeple was 14 feet square at the base and about 100 feet in height. The chancel was 14 feet long and 20 feet wide. It was dedicated in November 1875.
Twenty eight years later on July 8, 1903 this church was struck by lightening and burned to the ground.It was during the pastorate of Rev. Moses, that the election controversy erupted, and these were many years of strife for the Pastor and congregation. It created such turmoil that several members of the Little Turkey church left and formed another congregation in the town of Saude nearby, and they were then known as being members of the United Norwegian Lutheran persuasion, rather than the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
Finally, in the fall of 1889, the church members came to the conclusion that it would be in the best interest of the congregation that Pastor Moses gives up his work in their midst, and so he resigned.The next Pastor was J.G. Ness. He came under the most trying and difficult conditions, trying to mend the hatred and bitterness caused by the election controversy. Not long after his installation, he was stricken with an incurable disease, but he continued his work as pastor to the best of his ability until his death in February 1895. It was during his years at Saude that the Jerico congregation became a sister congregation and the parish then became known as Saude-Jerico. The interim pastor was Rev. Eivind Brock who served until September 1895, when Rev. Karl Xavier accepted the call to become the permanent resident pastor. Then in the summer of 1903, Rev. Xavier resigned his position to accept a teaching position at a seminary in Sioux Falls. South Dakota.
The second frame church was now under construction to replace the first one that burned. The second frame church construction was started soon after the fire in 1903, and was erected at a cost of over $6000.00 The contractor was Martin Johnson of Cresco, IA and this structure had a furnace for heating, but like the previous church, it also had no basement. This church was built similar in design and capacity as the first church and was dedicated in 1904. Pastor Jacob G. Rugland served next as pastor from 1903 until 1909 when he accepted a call to North Dakota.
Rev. M.K. Bleken then accepted the call to Saude in 1909. This pastor had to guide the congregation through a difficult period once again, when the "merger' days of 1917 and the years that followed to the reorganization of the Synod. Rev. Bleken had worked hard and prepared the congregation for the re-organization, and when he died in December 1922, the Rev. P.C. Forseth, the interim pastor who had been helping Rev. Bleken during his final illness, took over, the congregational duties in January 1923.
In March 1923, The Rev. H.M. Tjernagel assumed the duties of the SaudeJerico parish. Until this time, all church services had always been conducted in the Norwegian language, and under the pastorate of Tjernagel, the transition from Norwegian to English began. There was only one service every Sunday. One Sunday the service was at Jerico and the next Sunday at Saude. One Sunday the service was in Norwegian and the next Sunday in English. There also was an old custom still in effect, of the women and children seated on one side in the sanctuary and the men on the other side. Rev. H.M. Tjernagel also served as Synod President while he was serving the Saude-Jerico parish. This pastor was very much concerned about having a thorough indoctrination of the youth of the parish.
As a memorial to his wife,Anna Brue Tjernagel, who died in 1925, Rev. H.M. Tjernagel, his brother and sons erected a log cabin near the parsonage and named it "Strandebarm" after her childhood home in Norway. It was used as the first Christian Day School, and the Pastor's own children and nearby children of the congregation attended. They were instructed by various seminary students and vicars, some of whom became pastors in the Synod. The school eventually closed when there were no more school age children living close enough to attend.
As early as 1877, the Saude congregation members were talking about how to provide adequate Christian teaching to the youth. The public schools could not provide "The One Thing Needful", and additionally they were taught only English. Pastor Moses, at that time, urgently felt the church should have its own school, but with the building of the parsonage, new church, and the meager incomes of the parishioners, there wasn't much accomplished. It was proposed to have school for ten months a year, but often only amounted to five. Innovative thinking led to having summer "Norwegian School" which was held in the rural public school buildings that were unused in the summertime.
The academic courses were instructed in the Norwegian language as were the Catechism, Bible History and Hymns. This method of using empty school buildings in the summer, eventually was replaced in the 1930's by Saturday school which was held every Saturday instead, only during the school year. Rev. H.M. Tjernagel was a faithful shepherd and for some years also had published a monthly newsletter titled " The Assistant Pastor" which contained much information about the congregation, schools, and a brief sermon.There were always reminders and sometimes admonitions to the members as to what they could and should be doing concerning the Word of God. This pastor was very adament about church attendance and living a true Christian life. The congregation was shocked and saddened by his brief illness and demise in March 1940.
After his father's death, Rev. Neelak S. Tjernagel assumed the pastorate. He eliminated the Norwegian services and only had English services. In 1943, under Neelak's leadership, a full-time Christian Day School was started. This school continued until the 1980's when it finally closed for lack of children to attend. In the early 1940's it was decided to put a basement under the church. The construction work was done by Martin Borlaug and the men of the parish dug out the basement by hand and hauled away the din with horses and wagons. It was a very nice addition to the church when it was completed. Rev. N.S. Tjernagel, after being pastor at Saude for five and a half years, decided to resign from his call. He left the Saude parish in late 1945. After his absence, Rev. Schroeder was the vacancy pastor.
It was August 1946, when Rev. M.H. Otto accepted the call to Saude. During his time at Saude, he eliminated the practice of segregated seating, men on one side of the sanctuary and women and children on the other. Also, electricity replaced the kerosene lighting used up until then. He was pastor until July 1957 when he was given a dismissal so he could accept a call to teach a the Synod's college and seminary in Mankato, MN.
In 1958, Rev. M.E. Tweit became Saude's pastor and served until 1971. during this time, he also served as President of the ELS until 1962. Under his pastorate, the Saude Men's club came into existence in 1968. Rev. Tweit accepted a call to Luverne, MN in 1971 and later retired from the public ministry in June 1981.
From 1972-79 Rev. G.A.R. Gullixson served as the next pastor. His wife was confined for health reasons and she died in December 1977. Pastor Gullixson retired in 1979.
Rev. Timothy Erickson became the next pastor in 1979. He stayed until 1982 when he accepted a call to be a missionary in Peru.
Rev. Glenn Obenberger was ordained into the ELS ministry at the Jerico Lutheran Church in 1983. He immediately became pastor of Saude-Jerico parish and served until 1988, when he then accepted a call to Tacoma, WA.
Rev. Mark DeGarmeaux became the next pastor at Saude-Jerico in 1988. He served until 1995 when he accepted a call to be chaplain at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN
Rev. Kent Dethlefsen served the Saude-Jerico parish from 1995-2006, when he accepted a call to Ukiah, CA.
The current pastor is Rev. Daniel Larson, who accepted the call to SaudeJerico in September 2006.The Saude church has held various titles throughout the years, the first being "Dale Norske Menighet" in 1858. In 1903 the name was changed to "Little Turkey Norsk Evangelisk Lutherske Menighet" Next it had the title of "Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church" and finally in 1922 the title was changed to the "Saude Lutheran Church", after the area of Sauherad in Telemark, Norway, from whence the early settlers had emigrated. The Saude church has the distinction of having the oldest continuous membership in the Synod.
Today, the Saude church has an active Sunday school, Young People's Society, Ladies Aid Society, Bethany Auxiliary and Men's Club.A hearty welcome and thank you to all of you here today! Specials thanks to those of you who traveled long distances to help make this a memorable day. Our Festival today is one of thanks and praise to God, who has kept this small congregation with His grace and blessings spanning three different centuries.
We also remember our early pioneer forefathers, who although faced with adversities and experienced many hardships as they struggled to do God's will in their lives, did indeed leave us a rich heritage.We are the grateful recipients of their steadfastness of faith and their love for God's Word. Let us go forth together in the Lord, remembering the words of the hymn:0 God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home! Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame, From everlasting Thou art God, To endless years the same.
Let us continue to walk in the path of our forefather's and seek always the saving Gospel in the Holy Scriptures that we may all share in eternal glory. We are assured of God's promise in Isaiah 55:11. We thank all of you for participating with us on this special day of historical significance in our church.
TO GOD ALONE THE GLORY
Contributed by Rollie Natvig through Steve Natvig.