|Rev. Claus Lauritz Clausen had been a pastor of the Luther Valley congregation near Beloit,
Wisconsin, for nearly seven years. During that time many Norwegian immigrant families had arrived
to join his congregation and he was greatly concerned over the plight of many of them. The
government land there was nearly exhausted and the people were becoming desperate to find new
homes and earn a livelihood as many of them were very poor. He, therefore, decided to help them
find new homes in the new lands further west.
They noted the vast prairies both to the east and to the west. Here was fertile soil, good drainage pure water, plenty of timber and
building stone for the buildings they would erect. This was the place for their colony. They hurried back to Wisconsin with the good
Early that fall Clausen and five companions returned to the St. Ansgar region where they found the land as attractive as it had
been earlier in the year. They explored the country, located claims and built a log house for Rev. Clausen just southwest of the
town plat. After spending about six weeks in the area, the party went back to Wisconsin for the winter.
During the winter the colonists were very busy making plans, arranging for supplies and equipment for the journey that would take
them far from a railroad or trading center. Rev. Clausen ordered wagons from a Madison, Wisconsin, firm.
By the middle of May preparations were completed and the wagon train was ready to move. It consisted of about 30 wagons drawn
by oxen, 200 cattle and the Clausen carriage drawn by a team of horses. There were approximately 75 people in the party. Soon
after they started, for more efficiency, the caravan was divided into 2 sections, the first section was led by Rev. Clausen and the
second section by Mikkel Tollefson Rust.
During the next several years he visited parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and eastern Iowa, always returning to Luther Valley with a
report on his findings.
In 1852, he, with several companions, crossed the Mississippi again to explore the country along the Iowa-Minnesota border. They
had been as far north as Mankato and came down to Albert Lea Lake, but the land was too wet. They then came upon a small
stream flowing in a southeasterly direction which they named Deer Creek and followed it to its entrance into the Cedar River. They
explored the woods along the river.
|The above history was taken from the First Lutheran Church 150th Anniversary booklet.
A special thanks to Audrey McKinley for her special efforts and time devoted to that publication.
|First Lutheran Church | 212 N Main Street | St. Ansgar, Iowa 50472 | Phone: 641.713.4873
Copyright © 2009-2013 First Lutheran Church
In 1864 work was started on the building of the beautiful stone church which has been the home of the First Lutheran
congregation until the present day. All of the early members took part in the building of the church. The stone was brought by
oxen from quarries south of St. Ansgar. The timbers of native oak, walnut and maple came from nearby woods along the Cedar
River. Enough stone was quarried to make the building two windows longer, but lack of money prevented them from building it
any larger. The first windows were transported from Cedar Falls, the nearest railroad center. The masons were the Rank Bros.
and the Sweidengaard Bros., and the carpenters were the Mikkel Olson and Ole Aarvelti.
The new church was completed and dedicated on September 27, 1868.
In 1882 the first pipe organ was installed and this organ was replaced with a new Kilgen pipe organ in 1933. A stone narthex was
added to the building in 1941, replacing a small wooden entry. Many other improvements have been made through the years but
care has always been made to preserve the original features of the historic building.
In 1917 the congregation purchased the old St. Ansgar Seminary building to use for church activities. This building was
reconditioned and used for 43 years from 1917 to 1960.
The journey was hazardous and hardships were many as they made their way over the trackless wilderness, fording many
streams and crossing sloughs and swamps as this was the rainy season. They crossed the Mississippi at McGregor on a ferry
and turned northwest on the old military road to Calmar and then west across the prairies to their destination. The journey took
three weeks and many of the younger people walked most of the way driving the cattle they had with them. The first contingent
arrived at the campground just north of the present town of St. Ansgar, on June 17, 1853, and the second contingent two or
three days later.
Public church services were held by Rev. Clausen for his little band of pioneers the first Sunday the were here. It has been said
that this service was held beneath a beautiful oak tree.
The St. Ansgar Congregation was organized by Rev. C. L. Calusen on December 4, 1853, with 79 people becoming members.
The first baptisms in 1853 were Anna Oline Lee, daughter of Ole A. Lee and Edward E. Clausen, son of Rev. C. L. Clausen. The
first marriage in the congregation was that of Torgrim Larson and Kari Carlson in 1854. The first confirmation service was held
near the Clausen home on April 15, 1855, when a class of 14 were confirmed.
During the next two years many new immigrants came to join the new settlement. Nearly all were Lutherans and were a very
religious people. Often they gathered at a settler’s home or under an oak by Rev. Clausen’s cabin and prayed for success in
their undertaking and gave thanks to God for bringing them safely to their new home.
In 1856 a log house was built by the congregation for use as a school and church. When the stone schoolhouse was built in St.
Ansgar in 1858, it was used for church services until the stone church was built.
On October 7, 1863, the church was incorporated under the laws of the State of Iowa in St. Ansgar Norwegian Evangelical
Lutheran Church, the following members acting in behalf of the congregation: Gulbrand Gulbrandson, Hans Halvorson, Millel
Tollefson, Peder A. Goldberg, John Helgeson and Assor K. Gulbrandsgaard. The first board of trustees were Halvor Anderson
Braaten, Andrew Hanson, Assor H. Groth, Lars O. Anderson and A. Colbjorn Seaver. The by-laws were adopted on January 5,
1978, with Rev. J. Olsen as chairman and Kund Assorsn as secretary. Charter members are Jacob Asleson, Lars Asleson, Ole
C. Braaten, Peter H. Clausen, Claus L. Clausen, Erick H. Espedokken, Ole T. Fagrebakken, Peter A. Goldberg, Ole Grovo Sr.,
Ole Grovo Jr., Tollef Grovo, Assor K. Gulbrandsgaard, Peter Gunderson, Helge J. Rodningsnad, Asle H. Hageie, Olle H.
Haugerud, Ole O. Hagerud, Ole Haroldsen, Christopher Hsnson, Simon Hanson, John H. Johnson, Sever Johnson, Ole A. Lee,
Tor O. Lee, Levor Lindelien, Thore T. Mork, Elling Meier, Torkel Reierson, Torsten Reierson, Hans O. Rust, Colbjorn Hnson
Rust, Mikkel Tollefson Rust, Halvor T. Sagabraaten, Erick T. Sagabratten, Hans Halvorson Smesrud, Ole E. Sando, Ole
Torgeson, Harold O. Ulen.
In January 1928, the church was re-incorporated with Rev. Olaf Langehough as chairman and C. G. Gunderson, secretary. At
this time the name of the church was changed to First Lutheran Church.
On July 12, 1959, the building of the new First Lutheran Parish Center was officially started with a ground breaking ceremony.
Building continued until 1960 when the cornerstone ceremony was held on May 1st with our former pastor, Rev. Olaf A.
Langenhough of Vancouver, Washington, officiating. On November 6, 1960, the new First Lutheran Parish House was formally
dedicated before a large assembly of members and friends of the congregation and the dream became a reality.
In 1969, a new furnace and air conditioning unit was installed for use in the church and parish center. In 1976 a major
renovation project was completed when the stone work of the church building was completely cleaned, sand blasted and tuck
In 1976, through the efforts of the county historical society the First Lutheran Church was placed on the National Register of
It is remarkable that in 150 years from 1853 to the present day only nine pastors have served the congregation. Rev. C. L.
Larson, the founder served the congregation for 20 years from 1853 to 1872. Rev. Johan Olsen, the second pastor, served
from 1872 to 1902; Rev. Martin E. Waldeland, 1902 to 1927; Rev. Olaf A. Langehough, 1927 to 1956; Rev. Don R. Hamilton,
1957 to 1963; Rev. Donald G. Comnick, 1963 to 1972; Rev. Stephen Engelstad, 1972 to 1982; Rev. Thomas Hughes, 1983 to
1989. Since 1990 the congregation has been served by Rev. Robert Porsch.
The present First Lutheran congregation is made up of 226 households, which consists of 402 confirmed members and 475
Sunday Worship: 9 am
Sunday School/Fellowship hour: 10:15 am