The First Norwegian families started coming to this area of Texas as early as 1841. The State of Texas offered major land incentives for settlers to the King of Norway and Sweden. They were lead here largely by Cleng Peerson who helped Norwegian settlements across the United States.
Cleng Peerson found himself in sympathy in Norway with the plight of the Quakers who were being persecuted by the state Lutheran religion and locked into an economic caste system. He started his investigation for settlements to America on a three year journey on the behalf of the Quakers. He encouraged the Quakers but also promoted the economic opportunities and freedom to every Norwegian. The first colony of 53 immigrants was started in 1825 in Kendal, New York. When this one appeared likely to fail he started exploring more territory in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri. [The Norwegian Texans]
John Nordboe was the first settler in Texas in 1841. As a friend of Cleng Peerson and member of his first settlement in New York, his presence here apparently drew Cleng to explore Texas. In 1847 Cleng Peerson was 64 years old and had married a young Swedish woman in a communal settlement in Bishop Hill, Illinois. When the marriage failed he sold everything to bring a few families to Texas. He lived with the Ole Canuteson family, a neighbor to John Nordboe, ten miles south of Dallas for four years. [The Norwegian Texans]
Bosque County was founded in 1854 by the State of Texas and offered 320 acres free to each settler. Cleng Peerson placed an ad in an Illinois newspaper and offered half of his land grant in the State of Texas in exchange for a home in his declining years. One particular method of getting from Illinois was by steamboat to New Orleans, then by ship to Galveston and then by oxcart to Bosque county. He lived with Ovee Colwick family near the Norse community a few miles southeast of Cranfills Gap until he died here in the Norse community, Dec. 16, 1865 where he is buried at the age of 82 in the Norse Cemetery. [Bosque Co. Hist., p35]
The Old Rock Church is situated on a rise overlooking Meridian Creek valley. It was constructed in 1884 on land purchased for $25. The main architect and builder was Andrew Michelson who with the help of his brothers Christian and Ole, as well as, many local farmers quarried the native limestone two miles away. The stone had to be dressed and carted to the site where the church was built in their spare time. The bell for calling worship weighs 3200 pounds. It was lifted into place and the remaining covering for the steeple was constructed around it.
This was a true Scandinavian community where Norwegian was the primary language although there were Danes and Swedes here as well. Even after the new church was constructed in Cranfills Gap 1917 we find that 44 services were held in Norwegian and only 22 in English. Still today it is well known for its Septemberfest and the Lutefisk Dinners that the Lions Club still puts on as an annual event for first Saturday in December. Due the communities strong ties to its original heritage this area was also visited by the King Olav V of Norway on Oct. 10, 1982. He came to commemorate the birth of Cleng Peerson and visited the Lutheran Church in the village of Norse, which is very nearby. Here he placed a wreath on the grave of Cleng Peerson. [Bosque Co. Hist. , p35]
Until about 1920 a parsonage also stood near the church. This photo hangs on the back wall of the church. I would assume that the water for the church and the parsonage would have to come from a hand dug well. I have seen no sign of the parsonage and I assume the well has long been sealed.
the Rock Church.
Since my orginal photos included here on this page were taken about
1995, there has been a major restoration. It has been returned to
its orginal colors which has been somewhat shocking to those of us that
don't remember the 1886 version. The Rededication service of the
church brought 400 guests on June 12, 2010. Wayne Rohne, who was
involved in the work, explains some of the logic around the
" Two or three years ago, a noted
restoration architectural firm made
an extensive study of the Rock Church. Paint samples were taken
identified through a process which is used at Home Depot, or Lowe's or
many paint stores. The colors inside and out at the Rock Church
be close to the original 1886- or whenever the first paint was applied.
Taking off the plaster and getting down to the original rock on the exterior was another effort at getting back to the original. In this process some voids and cracks were filled. A water resistant coating may be applied to the exterior if this has not already been done
The major change in the inside of the Church was installing the pulpit over the altar where it was when the church was built in 1886. In 1912, a new pastor came to serve the congregation. He thought it was presumptuous for a mortal such as he to be over the Sacrament of the Altar-The Lord's Supper. Some thought that the pastor felt that he would be more equal if the pulpit were on a platform where it stayed until May 2010, when it was removed to its original position.
The first Norwegian Lutheran congregation in North America was organized in 1843 in the Muskego community near Racine, WI.A church was built there in 1839 by early pioneers.This church had the pulpit above the altar. In 1904, the Muskego church was removed to the campus of Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Mn where it is an historical landmark today.A large number of churches in Norway have the pulpit above the altar. In this country, the motivation for the location is attributed to the followers of Hans Nielsen Hauge who believed that the authority of the Word of God prevailed over the formal worship service and the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar. I find this interesting. It is probable that in 1912, Pastor Estrem was motivated by Haugean thought as well-equality? In any event , two different outcomes.
Some $228,000 has been spent at the Rock Church in the past two or three years in enlarging the church grounds, for surveying, fencing and the restoration.. I think it was and is a magnificent effort. " [Wayne Rohne, 7/31/10]
Many of the original families
of the region are buried in the cemetery adjacent to this church. Here
you will find Rohne, Christenson, Johnson, Michelson, Bertelson but to
name a few. Andrew Michelson, the church builder and his brother,
returned to Norway after a few years and bought a farm in the Loten
Parish area. His heirs are still there. [Michelson. email]
Cleng Peerson is buried only a
few miles from the Rock Church in the old town of Norse. Here his
fellow expatriates celebrated their good fortune when the King of
Norway visited his grave.
A full list of cemetery records for St Olaf's can be found on the following web site - http://www.mustangtexas.com/St_Olaf_Cemetery.htm
Egeberg/Johnson lineage map || Johnson Family Index
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express permission of Elroy Christenson. Copyright Elroy Christenson