THE NORTH SAUDE CHURCH
Norwegians began arriving in the Saude area in about the 1850's. In 1853 the overall church body, the Synod for the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church was formed. The objective of this Synod was to continue the form of worship of the State Church of Norway among the Norwegians settling here. Probably the earliest Lutheran pastor in the area was U. V. Koren. He had been born and educated in Norway and here served a very large area of northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota. Soon other pastors came to fill the needs of congregation's further east in Iowa and in Minnesota. Pastor Koren organized two congregations in this area: The Little Turkey (Saude Area) and Crane Creek (Jerico Area): Pastor Koren conducted the first services in the Little Turkey area in 1855.
There is a record of services conducted in the home of Gregor Vaala in November 1856. Twenty-four people attended Communion and one child was baptized. This congregation was organized in 1857 and was called the Dale Congregation; officially the Dale Norsk Evangelisk Lutherske Menighed. The name Dale came from a town on the coast of Norway, north of Sognefjord. The name Dale ceased to be used for the Church about 1870.
The congregation worshipped in homes large enough to hold it. Records show that burials were first made in a plot of ground one and one half miles north of the present church location. There may have been a church building here also. Those interred there were exhumed and reburied in the present cemetery in 1862. Apparently, the congregation was organized before it officially had a pastor. Apparently Pastor U. V. Koren had been serving this congregation on a sort of missionary or circuit rider basis.
On June 1, 1858, a call letter went to U. V. Koren signed by nineteen members of the congregation, including three women who were listed as being widows. I'm guessing that this group consisting of sixteen men, their wives and children plus these three widows probably made up this congregation. The letter of call was signed by: Sivert Olson, Alf Olson, John Swennungson, John Johnson, Tobias Jacobson, Kittil Kittleson, Anders Olson, John Sall, Ole Thorstenson, Knut Olson, Svennungson, Kittil Olson, Aslog Thorvildson, Anders Lars, Gregor Olson, Ole Kittleson, Gregor Olson Vaala, Widow Anna Larsdatter, Widow Ragnild Johnsdatter, Widow Johanna Oldsdatter (Mrs. Johanna Halvorson).
A log church was built on the present church site in the early 1860's. The Church was spartan, as one would expect, homemade benches for seats, but it was their house of worship and that was the important thing. There was no organ. A hymn leader called a "Klokker" conducted the singing. The minister's salary was often partially paid in food from gardens or preserved food, and in food for his horses: oats and hay. Monetary offerings were done using homemade baskets or men's hats. Pastor Koren still served a large area, he lived some thirty miles away, so there would be perhaps one service per month or less. He would catch up on special services while he remained for a few days. Weddings would be planned for these times.
Burials could not be postponed, but memorial services were held. Baptisms would be performed. The first Confirmation was held in the Church in 1862. Previously the confirmands had been taught and confirmed at Washington Prairie Church, where the pastor lived. The following is taken mainly from Craig Ferkmstad's 1975 Luther College Paper.
Life was hard among these settlers. The death rate among them, at a relatively young age, was high. In 1877 there were thirty funerals in the Little Turkey Church - nine percent of its membership. Craig Ferkinstad searched out funeral procedures probably used when there was no minister nearby. A guess is being made here that bodies were not likely embalmed. " For funerals - people had to be invited. There were always two meals: one before they went to the grave yard and one after they got back. Simple black handmade coffins were used with nails driven half way into the lid. The service opened with a hymn. Someone would give a talk in remembrance of the departed and give thanks for his or her life. People would file around the coffin for one last look, the lid would be put on and the nails driven. The coffin was carried out of the Church or the home while the congregation sang a hymn. The coffin was put on a wagon and driven to the graveyard with the mourners walking behind.
The grave was dug by men, taking turns doing so. When finished the spades were laid across the grave and a hymn sung. The service would close with the Lord's Prayer and the coffin would be lowered to its final resting-place. The mourners would depart while men filled the grave." It was a solemn and dignified service that would have been appropriate for almost anyone. The actual funeral sermon was preached by the minister the next time he visited the community. A guess is being made here that words and actions by friends of the deceased were probably more meaningful than the more formal ceremony. The ceremony was, however, necessary for it was performed by a minister of God's word and that was important to the relatives of the departed and to the congregation.
As more Lutheran ministers came into the Midwest, parishes became smaller and pastors were available on a full-time basis. The first resident Lutheran minister in this area was John Moses. He accepted a call to serve the Little Turkey and Crane Creek congregations. This was in 1869. A parsonage was built. As the congregation grew, a real church was desired. The log church building was sold and moved away. The new church was built on the site of the log church, on the present Church property but higher on the hill west of the present Church. The new church faced west. It cost four thousand dollars to erect - a considerable sum. Likely, the congregates scrimped and saved to be able to afford this fine edifice, in comparison to their old house of worship. The new church was dedicated in 1875. U. V. Koren and Stener Svennungsen were present for the dedication. Pastor Svennugsen was from Sauda, Norway and probably knew some of the people in the congregation.
Placed in the cornerstone of the Church was a document written by Rev. John Moses. What follows is a portion of that document. " Among the first to settle here, who called as their pastor and shepherd of souls the Rev. V. Koren of Washington Prairie, and together with him organized 'this congregation, and who are present here today, are the following: John Johnson Landsverk, Tollef Olsen Haugen, Aslak Torvildson, Knut Olsen Kultan, Kittel Kittelson Stordalen, Halvor Eivindson, Ola Tostenson, all of Upper Telemarken in Norway. Knut Tostenson Einang from Slidre, Valders. The congregation was organized in the Spring of 1857 by the men named above and several others." Trustees at the time were Ole P. Dybevik, Halvor Halvorson and Nils H. Offerdal. Dated August 15th 1875.
The services at the Church were very much as they had been in Norway. Men sat on the right side of the church, women on the left. The minister wore a long black robe and a ruff, a fluted collar that was three inches wide and an inch thick. He also wore a narrow black satin stole. On Festival Sunday's and at other important services he wore a white surplice over the robe. Communicants came to the altar rail, men on the right, women on the left to receive absolution and again later in the service to receive Communion.
In the 1880's a theological dispute began in the entire Norwegian Synod. The furor revolved around: ""Whether sinful man can, in any measure, contribute toward his salvation by his faith or whether Faith itself is a wholly divine gift." One Saude history contributor says the theological dispute began during Civil War times. It began with discussions about slavery and evolved to discussions of predestination and this evolved into the theological argument that split the Church. Acrimonious debates resulted -- real hatreds resulted. Both sides were guilty of spiteful and petty actions. Many stories were still in the local history and folklore as this writer was growing up. These will not be enumerated here since, likely, both sides exaggerated unpleasant incidents.
Early in 1889 this dispute came to a head and seven families left the Church to form the Immanuel Lutheran congregation and built a church in Saude the next year. In 1898, the parsonage was razed and a new one built in the same location. In 1903, The Little Turkey Church was destroyed by fire resulting from a lightning strike. A new church was built down the hill a bit from where the old one stood. It cost six thousand dollars and was dedicated in 1904. Early in the twentieth century there was a movement to unite all Lutherans into one body. Much discussion, pro and con, went on, which is too lengthy and involved to include here. Most congregations in the Synod approved of the merger, but a small minority opposed it. The merger took place in 1917. The minority could not agree with the majority on doctrinal issues. The minority reorganized into the Synod for the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The Little Turkey Church and the Crane Creek Church (now the Jerico Lutheran Church) were a part of the newly organized Synod. The Little Turkey Church now became "The Saude Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Chickasaw and Howard Counties."
From the time of its founding, services were held in the Norwegian language. About 1920 or so some English language services began to be worked into the schedule. The practice of a few services in English continued until about 1945. In 1946, a German pastor was called who could not speak Norwegian so all services were in English. Previously services would be held at the North Saude Church one Sunday and at the Jerico Church the next Sunday. In 1941, the pastor began conducting services in both Churches each Sunday. Although the language in church gradually changed from Norwegian to English and frequency of services increased, other traditions remained virtually the same. There were offerings placed on the altar by each member of the three major Church Festivals, and occasionally at other times. The "Christmas Tree Program" was continued. It was held either Christmas Day evening or the following evening: the "Second Christmas Day". A large Christmas tree, cut from somewhere nearby was placed in the front of the Church, decorated and lighted with candles. Because of the fear of fire there were men standing by with pails of water, just in case. One Saude history contributor remembers the tree catching fire once and men carrying the blazing tree outside. During this program, the children of Saturday School or Christian Day School would present a program. People brought gifts to be given to family members and neighbors. These would be put under the tree and distributed at the end of the program.
A Missions Festival was held every Fall. The regular Church service was held in the morning with a missionary or someone involved in the Churches' Missionary efforts giving the sermon. There would then be a noon meal, prepared by the ladies of the congregation. In the afternoon there would be a less formal service with the guest speaker telling of his experiences in the Mission Fields or the overall work of the Churches' Mission Program. Anna Borlaug remembers Missions Festival as being indeed about missions, but also as a sort of social Harvest Festival. She remembers the noon meal as being absolutely fabulous.
Farmers and their wives, who were hard workers, would revel in the abundance of fantastic food. Most farm wives were great cooks. Another day that was always important was Barnefest. This was held after the school year had ended. There were morning services as usual and a noon meal, at which, the children got to eat first. In the afternoon the children presented a program. The religious instruction of children has always been important in this church; it was as early as 1877 when the congregation discussed the matter of providing such instruction to the children. Pastor Moses was a firm believer in Christian Education and then spoke of the desirability of the congregation having its own school. But these days were hard and people had enough to do keeping their own families, farms, and their Church.
Some Christian Education was done within the congregation by the Pastor and some lay people. In the late 1800's, shortly after the organization of the congregation, some Christian instruction would be done by lay men. This instruction was usually held in homes, sometimes in a school building. The instruction was done at times in Spring and Fall when there was a little lull in field work - for the instructors were, of course, farmers. The teacher would sometimes walk five or six miles to teach a cluster of children from that neighborhood. The announcement of the coming religion school would be done by note to one family in the neighborhood and it would be passed on from family to family. The teacher would arrive by foot and stay with the family where the school was being held for the duration of the school. Paper was a fairly scarce commodity. What was used was plain coarse, unruled paper. Usually only the teacher had a copy of Luther's Small Catechism and the Explanation of the Catechism, which he copied from, for the students to copy. Stories from the Bible were also part of the instruction as were hymns from HymnBooks which families usually had.
In the earlier part of the twentieth century, Norwegian School, as it was called, was held in public school buildings during the Summer months. The school curriculum consisted of the Norwegian language, Luther's Catechism, Bible History, and Hymns. Young men studying for the ministry usually served as teachers. During the 1930's this instruction was replaced by Saturday School, held every week during the school year and sometimes all year around. One pastor much concerned about Christian Education was H. M. Tjernagel. Mrs. Tjernagei had passed away in 1925 and a log building had been constructed on the parsonage grounds in her memory. It was called Strandebarm. This was the name of Mrs. Tjernagel's birthplace in Norway.
A Christian Day School was held in the building with theological students as teachers from about 1928 until 1936. When Rev. Tjernagel's own children were no longer of school age and there weren't enough other children living nearby to justify a school, it closed. Pastor H. M. Tjernagel was stricken with a sudden illness and died in 1940. His son Neelak was called as the pastor. Neelak Tjernagel was very interested in having a Church School. A rented public school building was used for one year (1943). Then an unused public school house was purchased and moved to a location south of the Saude Creamery approximately across from the County Maintenance Garage. Teachers at the Christian Day School were generally people who were in students at a Lutheran College or students at a Lutheran Seminary.
The Saude Christian Day School continued until 1979 when children from the entire parish began attending the Jerico School. This operated until 1982 when a lack of interest, transportation problems and other matters brought the Christian Day School in the parish to an end. The following is information from the 125th Anniversary booklet and supplied by Anna Borlaug. The Ladies Aid Society of the congregation began in January of 1889 when the Rev. and Mrs. Moses entertained ladies at the parsonage and organized the Society. During the first few years meetings were held twice a month in the homes of members.
No meetings were held in the Summer months when farm women were very busy in the home and perhaps with field work. The meetings consisted of devotions, a Bible Study, a business meeting, and lunch. Until 1918 meetings were held in the Norwegian language. In 1918 there was a move by the State Government to get foreign language speaking people to speak English. It was mandatory in public meetings and strongly encouraged in meetings of Churches, organizations, etc. The efforts of the Ladies Aid supported the local Church, as well as the Mission work at home and abroad in the larger Church body.Anna Borlaug writes that the Aid in Ladies Aid meant aid to your neighbor. The ladies canned corn and other produce for a Church nursing home. The ladies would gather with picnic baskets in hand to do Spring or Fall cleaning for families or individuals who could not do so for themselves. The Men's Club includes members of both Saude and Jerico congregations. They meet on alternate months in each congregation.
Devotions and Bible Study are conducted at each meeting. The Club has as one of its goals, to give annual scholarships to students of Bethany Lutheran Seminary at Mankato, Minnesota. The Club also has outings and trips to athletic events occasionally. T he Bethany Auxiliary Group is a group of ladies from both Saude and Jerico congregations. Meetings are held four times a year. As indicated by the name, this group supports Bethany Lutheran College and attends some meetings there. The Young Peoples Society is active in the congregation. Devotions and Bible Study are conducted at meetings, as well as other program subject matter presented by the members.
The Young Peoples Society has given support to Christian Education and Missions. Anna Borlaug reported that the Church, the parsonage, and the Strandebarm (the log building used as a school), had electric lights before rural electrification. Carmen Borlaug erected a wind charger and the accompanying batteries and wiring was done. A guess is being made that this was in the late 1930's.
Considering the Church has been in existence for one hundred forty-some years, a relatively few pastors have served the Church. The following is a list of these pastors:
1857-1869 U.V. Koren
1869-1889 John P. Moses
1889-1895 J.G. Ness
1895-1903 Karl Xavier
1903-1909 John Rugland
1909-1922 M. K. Bleken
1923-1940 H.M. Tjernagel
1940-1945 N. S. Tjernagel
1946-1957 M.H. Otto
1958-1971 M. E. Tweit
1972-1979 G.A.R. Gullixson
1979-1982 T.E. Erickson
1982-1983 M. E. Tweit
1983-1988 Glen Obenberger
1988-1995 Mark DeGarmeaux
1995-Kent Detlefson-(2006 editors note)
In 1957 the congregation celebrated 100 years of being a body of worshipers in this community. Some of the information in this portion of this Saude history was taken from the Anniversary Booklet from that time. Twenty-five years later, in 1982, the congregation celebrated that anniversary. As of that time, as nearly as could be determined, there had been 987 baptisms, 826 confirmed, 213 marriages, and 380 funerals since the Church was organized.
Contributed by Rollie Natvig through Steve Natvig; by Kermit Hildahl with permission to reuse before he died.