Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A bit of Norway at a country church in the Sogn Valley November 10, 2021

A simple country church, Eidsvold Norwegian Methodist. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

WHENEVER I HAPPEN upon an aged rural Minnesota church, as I did recently in Leon Township south of Cannon Falls, I wonder about the immigrants who founded it. What are their stories? How did they feel living an ocean apart from their beloved homelands and families? I admire their strength. Their ability to board a ship and sail toward The Land of Opportunity.

A Norwegian name in the Eidsvold Church cemetery. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

Oftentimes, the very names of these country churches and the names of those buried in the churchyard cemeteries reveal roots and heritage.

A brief history of the church. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

The small white clapboard church Randy and I discovered on 70th Street in the Sogn Valley area was clearly founded by Norwegian immigrants. Eidsvold Norwegian Methodist Church banners a sign with a brief history. Founded in 1893. Also known as “Ring Church.” Built by Gulbrand Nilson. Last service in 1949.

My initial view of the Eidsvold Church. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2021)

An online search dates the congregation’s organization to 1860. Perhaps the signage date references building construction. I couldn’t find much other information other than parishioners originally meeting for worship in homes, a common practice.

My own great grandfather, Rudolph Kletscher, who immigrated to the US from Germany in 1885, eventually settling on a farm near my hometown of Vesta in southwestern Minnesota, opened his home for worship. A pastor from the Lutheran church in neighboring Echo led services for 8-9 families and in 1900 those German immigrants built St. John’s Lutheran Church in town.

For those brave souls settling in a new land, I expect their faith provided comfort, strength and hope. And a place to gather, to sing and pray in their mother tongue, to support one another, to socialize. To celebrate. Baptisms. Weddings. Confirmations. Christmas and Easter. And to mourn.

Marthina Ring’s unassuming marker. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

The final service held at Eidsvold, as noted on the church sign, was the funeral of Marthina Ring on April 11, 1949. I determined to find her grave marker and I did. It’s a small, unassuming stone engraved with her birth and death dates. Born March 7, 1865. Died April 6, 1949. Other Ring family stones are larger, more prominent. John Ring, I learned online, was a leading supporter of this church. I have no idea of his connection to Marthina.

Beautiful flowers grace the cemetery. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

This cemetery appears cared for with golden marigolds, red and pink geraniums and other annuals splashing color among the grey and brown tombstones.

Water at the ready… (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

Jugs of water snugged against the church foundation show me that someone comes here regularly to water those plants.

A token of love left for a mother. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

And a painted stone placed atop a marker for Virginia Jacobson reveals how much she is missed. Has been missed since her 2006 passing.

The door into Eidsvold was padlocked. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

That this church and graveyard have not been abandoned here among the fields in the Sogn Valley pleases me. This land, this church building, this cemetery meant something to those long ago Norwegian immigrants. And that is to be valued. Cherished. Honored. Celebrated, even by those of us with no connection to Eidsvoll/Eidsvold, Norway.

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IF YOU KNOW more about the Ring Church, please share. I welcome additional information. As is often the case at rural churches, I found the front door locked.

The Goodhue County Historical Society placed this historical interest sign at the ghost town of Eidsvold. The sign was erected to preserve the history of this former post office site and to recognize its historical contribution to the area. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2010)

The Goodhue County Historical Society marks its ghost towns with road signs. In 2010, I photographed the above sign for Eidsvold, near County Road 30.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

16 Responses to “A bit of Norway at a country church in the Sogn Valley”

  1. Kiandra Judge Says:

    My husband’s grandparents had a farm just on the other side of the “Ring Church”. His uncle still lives on that farm and we lived there for a couple of years so I am familiar with this area! I heard that it is called Ring church because of the last name of the last funeral there (which you may have know). I also heard that the neighbors across the road are the ones who tend the cemetery and keep the grounds.
    My husband’s ancestors are buried in the nearby cemetery at Urland Church. His great great grandparents who immigrated from Norway are buried there. His extended family still attends Urland.
    I love the rich and long family history that I married into that is part of beautiful Sogn Valley.

  2. What a great find and how great that Kiandra shared a little bit more information with you. You. just never know who knows something about one of these off the beaten track places. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Valerie Says:

    Another great find…I’ll have to look for it sometime. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What an interesting post. When my father got into tracing our MN ancestors we have several that are buried in similar countryside churches. These communities are interesting and it is interesting that many continue to care for the churches and graveyards even though many are no longer used for services. It is a cool part of our Minnesota history.

  5. Leann Kispert Says:

    I am part of the Ring family. We care for the cemetery and have a family reunion every other year that begins with a service at the church. It’s packed every year. I’m happy to connect you with those nearby family members who know more about the history than I do.

    • Leann, thank you for reaching out to me with more info about the Ring Church. Please invite your family members to share some of that church history in the comments section here. I’m thankful to hear about the church service held every other year at your family reunion. That’s wonderful. And thank you for your caretaking of the church and cemetery. Know that I appreciate what you do as I value country churches and cemeteries.

  6. Sandra Says:

    This is a story we still pray our country is all about, like the Germany cemetery, tended for centuries. My family was in the Urland Church in Cannon Falls until health issues had them move in town, dates to 1872. Heartwarming piece, nice comments.


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