Racine County ALHN

Old Muskego Church

As published in
"One Hundredth Anniversary: Old Muskego Church, Waterford, WI", September 5-13, 1943

NOTE: This booklet is 50 pages long. The information posted on this website is just a portion of the information in the booklet. If you would like a copy of the entire booklet, I'd be happy to make a copy for you at cost of the copies. I'm not making anything off of this. The copying cost is .20 per page at the copy center which makes the cost $10. Please include an 8 1/2 by 11 inches self-addressed, stamped envelope with 1.50 in postage on it so that I can mail the copies to you. If you are interested, E-mail me.

Former Pastors

Claus L. Clausen - 1843-1846
H. A. Stub - 1848-1855
H. L. Thalberg - 1856-1860
C. M. Hvistendahl - 1864-1870
M. F. Wiese - 1870-1873
S. T. Guelmuyden - 1873-1875
A. Ronnenberg - 1875-1884
A. L. Huus - 1886-1892
Wm. A. Rasmussen - 1892-1901
O. E. Schmidt - 1901-1907
Th. M. Bakke - 1908-1911
Osmund Johnson - 1912-1914
J. L. Kildahl - 1914-1921
J. M. Hestenes - 1921-1927
H. C. M. Jahren - 1928-

Firsts in the new church

The "new" church was built in 1869.
First Baptism: Michael S. Fries, born Oct. 20, 1869

First Funeral: Capt. Gabriel A. Fries, born Sept. 29, 1820, died April 11, 1870

First Marriage: Esther Thompson and Christian Johnson

First Confirmation Service: Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 1870. Class of 18, (in 1943 when this booklet was written), Gilbert Fries was the only surviving member.

Honor Roll
World War 1

Burton M. Anderson---Army
*Ernest T. Anderson---Army
Orville C. Anderson---Army
Burt O. Christianson---Army
Carl J. Christianson---Army
*Arthur W. Hart---Army
Melvin E. Hart---Navy
Alvin Hanson---Navy
*Carl Edmund Hanson---Army
Melvin A. Hanson---Navy
John S. Iverson---Army
Arthur Jacobs---Army
*Clarence H. Jacobson---Army
John Elmer Jacobson---Army
Lawrence M. Jacobson---Navy
Richard N. Jacobson---Navy
Clarence A. Johnson---Navy
Gerhard V. Johnson---Army
Julius S. Johnson---Navy
Leonard J. Johnson---Army
Linda M. Johnson Ranke---Red Cross Nurse
*Edward Kaebisch---Army
*Clarence Knudtson---Army
Alfred M. Noll---Navy Band
Ole B. Olson---Army
Edmund E. Peterson---Army
Hulbert M. Thompson---Army
James M. Thompson---Navy
Anna Johnson Thronson---Army Nurse
Walter H. Weltzien---Army
Edwin L. Westerdahl---Army
* Deceased. (as of 1943)

From old church records

The following is a translation of a photostatic copy of the first records of the church made from the original by Jeremias F. Fries, Apr. 16, 1894. By courtesy of Dr. and Mrs. T. F. Gullixson, Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.

The first baptisms by an ordained Norwegian pastor in America:

1. Ole - born Sept. 4, 1843, baptized Oct. 21, 1843. Parents -- Halvor Nilson (Lohnar) and Ingeborg Olsdatter

2. Ragna - born Sept. 24, 1843, baptized at home by Bjorn Hatlestad. Parents -- Reier and Kjerstie Guberud (Wind Lake).

3. Gurine - born Oct. 2, 1843, baptized at home by Bjorn Hatlestad. Parents -- Halvor and Signe Thovson (Wind Lake).

4. Thomas - born April, 1842, baptized at home Nov. 12, 1843, by Even H. Heg. Parents -- Halvor and Signe Thovson.

Old Muskego Church

First marriages in Muskego by a Norwegian ordained pastor:

1. Stork Erickson and Ragnild Pederstater (from Vos, Norway), Nov. 16, 1843

2. Jorgen Jorgenson Silgjord and Maren Olsdatter, Dec. 3, 1843

3. Ole Johansen and Ragnild Johnsdatter, Dec. 16, 1843.

First funerals:

Sophie Syversdatter -- died Oct. 14, 1843 -- buried Oct. 19, 1843

Helge, wife of Ole Knudsen -- died Mar. 8, 1844 -- buried Mar. 11, 1844 (Died as a result of accidental shooting by Soren Bache)

First confirmation class in Muskego by a Norwegian ordained pastor, April 14, 1844:

Halvor Amundson
Hans Christian Evenson (Heg)
Anders Anderson
Hans Christian Helgeson
Anders Anderson
Aslak Brynildson
Hagen Anderson
Hans Kittelsen
Gunlik Olsen
Ingebrigt Gundersen
Ole Halvorson
Bjorn Gunderson
Lars Gullixsen
Aad Brynildsen
Eilert Evensen
Svenung Svennungson
Ole Nelson
Soren Sorenson
Knut Anderson
Ole Sveinungsen
Ole Torkelson
Ole Jacobson
Ambros Anderson
Christine Anderdatter
Margett Knutsdatter
Ingrid Olsdatter
Margith Sweinungsdatter
Ingeborg Halvorsdatter
Ingried Rasmusdatter
Aslaug Halvorsdatter
Aslaug Sveinungsdatter
Ronnov Andersdatter

Early History of Old Muskego

To find the causes of the Norwegian immigration to America, we must turn back the pages of history more than a century. The principal reason was the extreme poverty of the common people of Norway, coupled with the overbearing manners of the official aristocracy, who charged large fees for small services, making advancement impossible for the ambitious lower classes. As letters began to arrive, telling of the newfound freedom in America, a few of the more adventuresome set out to seek new homes. One of the passengers in the Sloop Restaurationen returned in 1835 and became a hero as he described, in glowing terms, conditions found in the land across the Atlantic. Many now made plans to come to this "land of promise."

On May 17, 1839, the Luraas party, a group of forty, set sail for Gottenborg, Sweden, where they secured passage on a boat loaded with iron, that took them to Boston. With each person went a huge ironbound chest filled with twilled and homespun clothing, and whatever treasured articles could be found room for. Many also were the casks and boxes filled with food for the crossing, the estimated time of which was ninety days. After spending three weeks in going from Boston to Buffalo, the party secured passage on a boat to Milwaukee, where they landed four months after leaving Norway.

Most of this group stayed in Milwaukee for a time, and scouts were sent out to locate a favorable place for settlement. They chose the Muskego marshes, which they mistook for a prairie. Here they procured land for one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre. What a big disappointment it must have been when the spring rains came, the marshes were flooded, and they were forced to move to higher grounds.

In the fall of 1840 Soren Bache, Johannes Johannesen, and Elling Eielsen came from the Illinois settlement and built a cabin on the banks of Wind Lake. They sent back reports to Norway of the forests here filled with game, and of the beautiful lakes and streams swarming with fish. The present T. H. Cook farm is a part of the old "Ellingland" or land originally owned by Elling Eielson.

In the fall of 1840 Even Heg arrived with a large group that settled around the lakes. Among the early settlers here we find the names of: Syvert Ingebretsen, Helga Thompson, Johannes Skofstad, John Dale, John Larson, Hans Jacobson, Peder Jacobson, Ole Anderson, and Gunder Gustesen. Some of these had come with the Heg party, others at a later date.

The spiritual life of the settler was never dormant and to this we attribute the fact that although this was the fifth Norwegian settlement, yet it was the first to organize a congregaton and call a pastor. At first, services were held by assembling together and appointing someone to read from a book of sermons. Meetings were held in the homes or out of doors, but later a barn built by Even Heg served as a church until the Old Muskego church was erected. The logs from this barn, which played such a vital part in the life of the community, are found today in the barn on the Henry Schubel farm, which was the Even Heg homestead.

Even Heg baptized most of the babies in the settlement and kept a record that was unfortunately destroyed by fire when the parsonage burned May 10, 1916.

The first need of the people was a post office and store, and on the Heg farm an Indian mound was excavated and boarded inside to serve this purpose. It was also used as a hotel. Johannes Johannesen was in charge, and as the Norwegians had much confidence in him and Even Heg, many who were on their way to Iowa or Minnesota stayed for weeks at this place, getting as much information as possible before proceeding to their destination.

Col. Hans Heg, son of Even Heg, became the hero of the settlement, but as so much has been written about him, there is no need of repeating these well known facts. A fine monument and park in our midst perpetuate his memory and symbolize his wonderful courage. As we continually find evidence, however, of the spiritual and material help given others by his father, Even Heg, it would seem that a monument to him, symbolizing faith in God and love to man would also be appropriate. Although here only eleven years before answering the final summons, he helped establish much that was good, and solved many of the problems of the settlers. He gave a gift of land to be used for the church cemetery where, for more than a century, the white man had used the same burial grounds that his red brother, the Pottowatomie Indian, had used before him.

We will mention several other men of Old Muskego who led unusual and helpful lives. One was J. D. Reymert, an attorney, who was editor of the newspaper "Nordlyset," first Norwegian newspaper in America. He was instrumental in getting a plank road built from Janesville to Milwaukee. To him belongs the credit of being the first Norwegian in America to be elected assemblyman. He also served as the first secretary of the Muskego congregation. Later in life he became a federal judge. It was to his home that Ole Bull, the famous violinist, came to give a concert for the settlers. When he arrived, the Reymert home had just been destroyed by fire, but beside the smoking ruins this noted musician played, and for years afterwards people talked of Ole Bull and his wonderful music.

Johannesen was a well educated man of fine personality who was closely associated with Even Heg in all his work here. He died during one of the last outbreaks of the cholera.

Soren Bache, who was the son of a rich merchant of Drammen, invested in a large tract of land, selling it to the settlers on terms. One day when he and Pastor Clausen were hunting, they stopped to visit at the Storlie home, but while going through the door Bache's gun accidentally discharged, fatally wounding Mrs. Storlie, who was sitting across the room with a baby in her arms. Remorseful, he made what amends he could and then went back to Norway.

There was much sickness in those early years Malaria and typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and many other diseases took their toll. This is understandable when we think of the undrained swamps and marshes, decaying vegetation in newly plowed soil, the poor water supply, crowded cabins and, worst of all, the lack of medical care. The hardest blow, however, had not yet struck those who already had endured so much. In 1849, when the colony had become quite firmly established, cholera broke out. Can we imagine the grief and terror of these people as they saw their loved ones stricken with this disease that often proved fatal in twenty-four hours? Where should they take the sick to get them out of the crowded cabins? Again we find Even Heg's helpful leadership asserting itself as he turned his new barn into a fifty bed hospital where it is stated that scores died. The death rate was so rapid that those who had the contracts for making the caskets could not construct them fast enough. Here we quote John Evensen Molee who wrote the following in Rasmus Anderson's book, "Norwegian Immigration," p. 321: "When the epidemic struck the settlement there were at one time only seven families all well so they could get away to help their neighbors. From three to four died every day. Hans Tveito and I had all we could do to carry the dead out of the houses and haul them to the graves with our oxen. No ceremony took place. We simply rolled the dead in a white sheet, placed him or her in a plain unpainted box and hauled them to Indian Hill (Indiehaugan). There we laid them to rest. It was the best we could do, God knows. I shudder when I think of how we had to go into those cholera infected homes to carry out the dead day after day. We expected to be struck down by this fatal disease every moment, but we stood our post like true soldiers of peace, live or die."

We are grateful to Dr. Gullixson, who on June 20, 1943, told us much of interest about Tinsmith Hanson, who became nurse. He was a converted criminal who was ordered to leave Norway. Arriving in this country, he came to the home of the Rev. H. A. Stub who did much to help him in his determination to lead a better life, and to help others.

During the cholera days, when the barn of Even Heg was turned into a hospital, it was the converted criminal Hanson who was the attending nurse. After working tirelessly, he himself finally became ill with typhoid. He then, went to the parsonage where Pastor and Mrs. Stub cared for him until he died. He lies buried somewhere in Norway-Muskego cemetery, but the exact location of his grave is not known. From information given us by older members of the congregation we learn that Hanson's tin shop was on the farm now owned by Ben Dahlen.

All their grief brought the people closer together and in sickness the busy women were ever ready to lend a hand as they walked miles through the forest to help some sick neighbor. They were ever ready to share time, food, or, home with others. In every community there were ministering angels - for what other name can be applied to those who with their knowledge of medicinal herbs, their big hearts and gentle hands, went whether it be birth or death, or a long siege of sickness, doing whatever was needed to lighten the burdens of the family, besides caring for the sick.

One fact stands out clearly in the history of the pioneers, and that was their obedience to the great command, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Under God's guiding hand this community that suffered so much at its birth has become the progressive, beautiful and peaceful place in which we live today.

May this same Hand guide us onward and upward as another century unfolds to us in Old Muskego.

Following is a list of the Civil War Veterans buried in Norway-Muskego Cemetery:
Ole Danielson, Gulick Eggleson, Erick Erickson, Hans Fries, Ole Heg, Nels Jacobson, C. L. Johnson, Gunnar Knutson, Jerome Matheson, Fred Miller, Louis Rolfson, Even Skofstad, A. A. Smith, Peter Sodenburg, Peter Stangland, William Colbo. (Not all of the above were members of the congregation, but complete records are not available.)

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