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Calvary Lutheran's History

The late 1800's were characterized by masses of people from all parts of Europe immigrating to the United States.  They left their homes and families to come to this country to seek a new life, away from the economic hardships and political or religious persecution encountered in their homeland.  Such was the destiny of a group of Norwegian settlers who arrived, after varying moves in this country, to Knife Lake Township near Mora, Minnesota.  Concurrent with the task of clearing the land and constructing a dwelling and farm buildings, the families longed for a place to continue their Norwegian tradition and heritage of worship.  Thus, on July 22, 1899, seven of these Norwegian settlers met in the District 49, Hamilton Schoolhouse for the purpose of forming a church congregation.  The organizers included the Reverend Bernt B. Reitan, George Amundson, Andrew Ugland, Gunval Gunderson, Arne Storlie, Ole Amundson and Martin Anderson. 

Andrew Ugland was selected to become the first president of the congregation.  George Amundson was selected to be the secretary.  The group decided to name the new congregation after the region of Norway from whence many of the charter members had come.  Thus, the name of the congregation became the Torrisdal Norwegian Lutheran Free Church. 

Mrs. Sigrid Ugland Oien, the most senior member of the congregation, some years ago provided the following personal description of the early days of the congregation as follows: 

Our congregation and Sunday School had their beginnings in the Hamilton Schoolhouse, District 49, about four miles Northeast of Mora.  Seven men, one of them a Lutheran pastor, organized the congregation in the Summer of 1899.  The Lutheran Pastor, Reverend Reitan served the congregation for the first few years. 

The early settlers had come from Norway where religion was taught in the public schools.  In this country, however, church ans state are separate.  These pioneer realized it was very important that the children be taught the fundamental doctrines of the Bible if they were to be kept for the church.  So in 1902, the Sunday School was organized. 

The first Sunday School teachers were George Amundson, Gunnar Strome and Andrew Ugland.  Notice that all of the teachers were men.  I guess there was a reason why.  This was a time long before the automobile and snow plow.  If the family wanted to go somewhere they had to walk or hitch "Old Dobbin" to the buggy or sleigh, depending on the time of year.  Perhaps it was easier for father to take the older children and walk to the school house than for mother to take the small children out.  Later, there were both men and women teachers. 

The Sunday School was in session from early Spring until Christmas.  The high point of the Sunday School year was the Christmas program to which the public was invited.  I can remember one year Mr. Gunderson, Jim Evenson's grandfather, met with my father at our home and planned the Christmas program.  The children were given recitations, dialogues and songs to learn.  I think that was the year my brother and I sang "Thy Little Ones, Dear Lord, Are We" in the Norwegian language.  We had a Christmas tree trimmed with wax candles, popcorn strings and paper chains which we made at home.  After the program, the children all received a bag of candy and everyone was given an apple.  It was a joyous occasion for children and parents! 

Usually, in the Spring after public school was out, we had a month of parochial or Bible school which was taught by a student from Augsburg College. 

The Norwegian language was used at all worship services and Sunday School.  In public school we were learning to read English, and, with the help of our parents and Sunday School teachers we were learning to read Norwegian.  Our first Sunday school book was what we called our "ABC" book.  From it we learned to read fairly well, we were given Luther's Small Catechism.  It had the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and Sacraments with Luther's explanation of each part.  This book we were required to memorize! We also had a Bible history book with stories from the Old and New testaments.  We didn't memorize this book, but we studied it and were expected to answer questions about the lesson. 

When we were 10 or 11 years old, we were given the book that was used for confirmation instruction.  It contained the catechism with many questions and answers and Bible verses about each part.  We also used the Bible and Bible history book for confirmation instruction.  Our class met with the pastor for a year before we were confirmed.  Catechization was at the same service as confirmation.  I was confirmed at the Hamilton schoolhouse by Reverend Ole Hustoft.  The service was in the Norwegian language.  Worship services and Sunday School continued at the schoolhouse until 1918 when a church was built about a half-mile west of the Hamilton school.  The church site was given by Ole Berulson, the father of Melvin Berulson and Mabel Brubakken. 

In the early years of the church, the pastors served more than one parish so we didn't have worship services every Sunday, but we did have Sunday School.  Most of our pastors served three parishes and lived in Mora.  Reverend A.L. Stowell lived in Sandstone and came to Mora every third week, so all meetings were held on Saturdays and Sunday.  There was Ladies Aid Saturday afternoon, Luther League Saturday evening and morning, and evening worship services on Sunday.  The pastor stayed in one of the congregation homes over the weekend.  Before the congregation moved to town, Ladies Aid and Luther League meetings were held in homes.  The Pastor was always present to give a talk.  At Luther League meetings, the young people provided a program of readings and singing.  Usually the whole family attended.

For many years, it was a custom for men to sit on the right side of the church and women on the left side.  Very likely this was a custom that the early pioneers brought with them from Norway.  These are some of the memories I have of the early years of our church and Sunday School.  I thank God for what it has meant to me through the years.  Mrs. Sigrid (Ugland) Oien