St. Ansgar celebrates its proud history at 150 years

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 23, 2003

ST. ANSGAR, Iowa -- The seeds that were sown 150 years ago on the Iowa prairie continue to grow.

The Rev. C. L. Clausen and the original members of the Clausen Colony sowed the "bread for the soul," as it was described Sunday in St. Ansgar.

A sesquicentennial of history and ministry was celebrated Sunday at First Lutheran Church.

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On Saturday, the sesquicentennial of the St. Ansgar community was celebrated. Each is intertwined by a Norwegian immigrant preacher, Clausen.

The early service was well-attended Sunday, but the second service set a record with over 300 people jammed into the tiny church.

After a dinner at mid-day, church members and friends returned Sunday afternoon for an afternoon service.

Richard Sherman, chairperson of the congregation, welcomed another large audience and remarked on the significance of the moment.

"It was 150 years ago, when 75 Danish and Norwegian immigrants gathered in Pete Hackbarth's front yard just three blocks down the street from here," Sherman observed.

With them was Clausen, the Norwegian Lutheran minister sent west from Wisconsin to assist immigrants on the Upper Midwest prairies.

His first church was First Lutheran and the colony of immigrants also became a community named after a ninth century missionary, whose name meant "God's spear."

The Rev. Robert P. Porisch, pastor of First Lutheran Church, said, "God's changeless love will be with us forever."

Porisch said First Lutheran Church will never have the problem of other small churches in attracting a pastor.

Paul Larson led the congregation in singing in Norwegian and English languages.

Nels Golberg, chairperson of the anniversary committee, read letters of congratulations from neighboring congregations; many of them started by the prolific prairie preacher, Clausen.

On Saturday night, a huge parade included descendants of the Clausen Colony, plus Strand family descendants of Clausen himself as well as the miniature First Lutheran Church building by Golberg.

The afternoon service's message was a combination of history and ministry delivered by Claire Groth, who along with his sister, Ardella Groth Warrington is one of the true sons of the congregation and can trace his ancestry back tot he original immigrant colony.

Groth told how St. Ansgar became a clearinghouse for thousands of immigrants of the Norwegian and other ethnic backgrounds.

Groth and his sister have benefited by a family of historians, who kept detailed dairies and journals and passed the information on to future generations.

He concluded his emotional remarks, saying, "When people ask me where my roots are, I tell them proudly St. Ansgar, Iowa. May God continue to bless the members of the Clausen Colony."

After the service, refreshments were served in the nearby parish center and more reminiscing took place.

Commemorate souvenirs were sold, including a video of the weekend's events.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail