In the early 1800’s in Norway,
Hans Nielsen Hauge eschewed
the formalism of the state church,
and he led and encouraged home
meetings and lay participation
in church services. During the
1850’s and 60’s, many Norwegians
who had been influenced by Hans
Nielsen Hauge immigrated here
Winneshiek County where —
by necessity as well as inclination —
they continued Hauge’s practices
of home meetings and lay ministry.
A Norwegian of the same spirit
as Hauge, Pastor Elling Eielsen, immigrated to America in 1839, where in 1843 he became the first Norwegian-American ordained in the United States. He traveled extensively as a home missionary, and is said to have walked from Chicago to Western Wisconsin and Northeast Iowa on several occasions. On June 10, 1859, Rev. Eielsen baptized Beret Haugen here, the daughter of Peder L. Haugen, who preached and taught in Rev. Eielsen’s absence, and who hosted visiting pastors in his home. Local residents report hearing John Langaas give account of being a Sunday-school student of Peder Haugen’s (describing him as the father of his congregation and the Hauge church), and of telling how these home meetings were conducted.
Under Rev. Eielsen’s guidance, the Hauge Lutheran Church was formally organized in 1872, and plans made to begin construction on the new church building as soon as the charter was obtained (in 1874).
Land for the church site was purchased from William Putney and his wife for $22.50, and the warranty deed is dated Christmas Eve, 1873. The pastor then was Swedish Rev. Frederick H. Carlson who served from 1872-80, and oversaw the building construction with Peder Haugen. The builder was Paul Verner, and he utilized local help (including Daniel Hanson and Borre Voorhus) to quarry the native limestone just south of the church site, and to construct the stone walls. Pastor Carlson performed the first marriage here on June 29, 1877 — that of Mr. & Mrs. Lars L. Iverson.
From that day to this, loving couples have chosen this beautiful, intimate place to exchange their vows, and to begin their lives together, sanctified by God.
The history of Hauge Lutheran Church reflects the service and giving of generations of dedicated Christians. The list of pastors and teachers after Pastor Carlson includes: Iver Hatlestad, Peter Stenerson, Wilhelm Rasmussen, Mrs. Peter Petersen, Ole Glesne, Christian Heltne, and Hauge’s longest-serving pastor (1926-51) Carl Losen who suffered a fatal heart attack just prior to the congregation’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the building’s dedication.
After Rev. Losen’s passing, Rev. Orville Running of Luther College filled in until Rev. Virgil Hougen arrived — who subsequently left to become superintendent of the Aase Haugen Home here in Decorah. Then came Glen Vanderbilt, Wallace Larson, Dennis Heifner, Dolliver Thogerson, and Gerhard Brase.
In 1921, the Hauge congregation formed a cooperative agreement with St. John’s congregation in Locust to jointly finance a parsonage and to share pastor’s salary. The cooperative agreement with St. John’s continues to this day.