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History, Page 2

History of Trondhjem Norwegian Lutheran Church
Part 2

Dakota Indians who lived in farming and hunting villages on the shores of Union Lake and Circle Lake originally inhabited the area surrounding Trondhjem. They were the first corn farmers in this area.

The first Europeans to arrive here were Yankees and French fur traders who engaged in trading with the Indians. Norwegians began to arrive in the 1860s and 1870s. They had traveled first by sailboat across the Atlantic in voyages that varied from several weeks to three months depending upon the weather at sea. The first arrivals traveled by river on the Mississippi and St. Croix and then by horse and wagon across the land. After the railroads were built, immigrants arrived at the railroad depot in Northfield and made their way to this community to join their fellow Norwegians.

This Trondhjem area was mostly covered by heavy hardwood timber with some open prairie spaces. They cut the trees and grubbed the massive stumps from the ground with hand tools to create farm fields for their crops of wheat and other grains. The village of Trondhjem grew up on what is now Highway # 19, just below the hill east of the new Trondhjem Lutheran Church. If you imagine that life in those days meant that one day’s travel was as far as you could walk or ride with a horse, then you can understand that the local community was very close-knit and the village was the gathering place for the farmer-settlers. The village had a creamery, blacksmith shop, and three general stores with one of them housing the post office. Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon the mail was brought by horseback from Northfield to Pete Anderson’s house, which contained the store and post office. The farmers would then swarm into town to get their mail and visit with their neighbors.

The downfall of Trondhjem Village began in 1902 when the railroad bypassed it and the railroad company platted and established the city of Lonsdale. Newspaper ads from that time advise interested real estate buyers to pick up information about lots in the new town of Lonsdale at the Trondhjem post office.

The Norwegian settlers brought their Lutheran faith with them and met for worship in one another’s homes or the one-room Knowles schoolhouse. On May 15, 1876,about 90 people met at the home of Jens Nyhus to formally organize “Throndhjem’s Norwegian Lutheran Church.” After resolving to buy two books, one for the minutes and the other for the church register, a constitution was adopted, the name was chosen, trustees were elected and a committee was appointed to “investigate a convenient place for a graveyard.”

The cemetery spot chosen is the one still in use today. One reason noted in the early records for choosing this spot was its location on the township line between Wheatland and Webster Townships–people speculated that a road would be built here in the future. They were correct and the road was soon in place. In 1878 the first church was built where the present church stands, across the road from the cemetery. Twenty years later structural problems developed with the building and they needed more space. After months of controversy among the members over the question of whether to remodel or totally rebuild they finally resolved to build a new church, which was completed for Christmas in 1899. They preserved and incorporated the chancel from the first church and apparently reused many of the original materials in building the church we have today.

The design of this building is inspired by the medieval Norwegian stave church, with a cruciform floor plan and a central steeple at the apex of the roof. The builder was Marcus Holm, a Norwegian immigrant living in Minneapolis, who had friends and ties to this community. His brother, Julius Holm, produced the altar painting. We don’t have documentation, but speculation is that Julius Holm or members of the Holm family did all the interior painting.

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