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.
Oftentimes, the very names of these country churches and the names of those buried in the churchyard cemeteries reveal roots and heritage.
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.
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.
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.
This cemetery appears cared for with golden marigolds, red and pink geraniums and other annuals splashing color among the grey and brown tombstones.
Jugs of water snugged against the church foundation show me that someone comes here regularly to water those plants.
And a painted stone placed atop a marker for Virginia Jacobson reveals how much she is missed. Has been missed since her 2006 passing.
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.
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 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
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.
Kiandra, thank you so much for sharing this additional information about the “Ring Church.” Yes, I knew some of this, as noted in my post, but certainly not about the caretakers.
How blessed you are to have lived in the Sogn Valley, an incredibly beautiful area of southeastern Minnesota.
Yes! It was a blessing and we love to drive through there to get back to the farm 😊
So glad you have that Sogn Valley connection and value it.
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.
Thank you. Yes, I appreciate Kiandra’s additional info.
Another great find…I’ll have to look for it sometime. Thanks for sharing.
And I need directions from you to those mill ruins somewhere on a backroad near Northfield.
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.
I so appreciate those who continue with upkeep at these rural churches and cemeteries. I wonder if the next generation will continue with that.
I was surprised at the community churches I have visited that there was a true sense of handing these responsibilities to the younger generations and they seemed enthusiastic. There is hope.
That is really good to hear.
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.
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.
I’m familiar with the Urland church. Love all of these country churches. I’m glad you appreciated this post. Thank you.