A number of preachers from Norway (and other Scandinavian countries) were among the first settlers in the Norwegian Ridge area. They were making rounds to settlers before congregations were officially organized and a pastor was funded and “called” from Norway to serve them. Among the preachers were Hans Andreas Stub and Ulrik Vilhelm Koren from Bergen, the Danish Reverend C. L. Clausen, Nils Olsen Brandt of Valdres (and several of his sons), Gustav Dietrichson, and a few brothers of the Preus family. Not only do their personal accounts illustrate the arduous 4,000-mile journeys across the ocean and the American continent that every immigrant undertook, but they also detail life in the early settlements.
Pastor Nils Olsen Brandt, the first Norwegian pastor to work west of the Mississippi, offers his recollection of his first time in Decorah:
I had had my first sight of Decorah. Meeting a man, I asked him where Decorah was.
“Didn’t you pass a grist mill and two buildings down the river?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Well, that was Decorah,” said the man.
The main building of the two was the William Day house. It was the only house in Decorah at this time.
Brandt would later serve as a pastor at First Lutheran Church in Decorah, and was also a professor at Luther College and a vice president of the Norwegian Synod.
Are you aware of any other early preachers’ diaries being available? Let us know!
Update 5/21/2012: I just acquired Eunice Stoen’s biography of pastor William T. Hexom who served Highland and Big Canoe from 1939-1965. It provides some church and family history, but focuses mainly on sermons.