History of St. Olaf College

By Professor O.G. Felland

The earliest immigration and settlement by Norwegians in Goodhue County of which I have any record, was made in 1854. Henrik and Töge Nilsen Talla, Thorsten Anderson Aaby, and William W. Rönningen arrived on the 11th of June that year, and they were the first white settlers in the vicinity of Holden church. Soon a tide of immigration set in towards Goodhue and Rice Counties, large portions of which were occupied by Norwegians. The first divine services in Norwegian were held by Rev. N. Brandt in June, 1855, and a congregation was organized there on the 12th of September, 1856 through the agency of Rev. H. A. Stub, Messrs. Knut Finseth, Kjöstol G. Näseth, Halvor O. Huset, and Christopher Lockrem being elected trustees. Owing to the scarcity of ministers, regular services were held only at long intervals, till Rev. B. J. Muus arrived from Norway and, in November, 1859, took charge of the Holden congregation. He soon had his hands more than full, for, besides serving the large home congregation, he organized new ones in the adjoining settlements, and he traveled through Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, visiting the new Norwegian settlements and bringing them the message of the Gospel and the sacraments. He had at one time no less than twenty-eight regular stations which he visited twice a year.

In September, 1866, Rev. N. A. Quammen came to Christiania. Dakota County, and relieved Muus of a part of his work.


Rev. Muus was a member of the Norwegian Synod, which has the honor of being the pioneer in the cause of higher Lutheran education among the Norwegians in America. The first step was taken by the Synod assembled on Coon Prairie, Wisconsin, by the appointment of Rev. Laur. Larsen as professor, on the 14th of October, 1859. In this work for higher education Muus took an active interest, and when Luther College was established in Decorah. he and his congregations bore a large share of the burden. Many of the students, too, were furnished by these same congregations, which soon became noted as the most prosperous and well-to-do Norwegian churches in Minnesota. Already in the sixties, after the close of the Civil War, the farmers of Goodhue County began to rival one another in the erection of spacious dwellings and farm buildings.

Their pastor endeavored to make their spiritual welfare keep pace with their material prosperity. He was always very painstaking in the instruction of his catechumens preparing for confirmation. But he also wished to provide for the higher education of the young people in secular knowledge, as the common school seemed inadequate to him. This desire led him to open a school in his parsonage about the middle of September, 1869. Having engaged Mr. Thorsten Jesme as teacher, an academic course was planned, and Latin was taught. But only three pupils were enrolled in the fall term which lasted three months. In the winter term five enrolled, but two of them failed to attend on account of sickness, and so, after a couple weeks, he gave it up. But he did not give up working for the cause, and during the next four years the ground was prepared and the seed sown.


The educational ideal which Muus constantly kept before his people is crystallized in the Theses which he prepared for the annual meeting of the Norwegian Synod which was held in his home church from the 13th to the 21st of June, 1874. These Theses, which formed the basis of a thorough discussion at that meeting, are as follows:

1. “It is the purpose of the school to assist the parents in the education of their children.

2. As it is the purpose of education to care for the children’s temporal and eternal welfare, so it is also the purpose of the school to assist the parents in caring for the temporal and eternal welfare of their children.

3. Since the most important duty of the parents is to care for the eternal welfare of their children, that school which takes an essential part in the education of their children must also look upon the eternal welfare of the children as its highest and most important aim.

4. Since nothing else than the revealed word of God can bring us salvation, it must be one of the chief objects of that school which takes an essential part in the education of our children, to instruct concerning this word, and to help the children to live in accordance with it.

5. Since the present common school makes it an object to take an essential part in the education of children, but will not teach them concerning the revealed word of God, it cannot properly perform its office, as it (a) neglects to employ the only means by which its most important aim can be reached; (b) substitutes other inadequate means, and thereby
draws the children away from the only way of salvation.

6. Since great necessity may justify one in exposing himself and others to great temptations, it cannot be asserted that it is under all circumstances a sin to make use of the common school; but it is the duty of Christians in proportion to their ability to work for the erection of Christian schools for their children.”


It is not, after all, a matter of great surprise that people upon whom these views had been impressed for years, should be willing to sacrifice something for the cause of Christian education.

But this meeting did not consider only the theoretical, but also the practical side of the question. An offer was made by members of the congregation at Red Wing to donate a piece of land and buildings valued at $10,000, if the Synod would locate and operate a normal school there. A resolution to accept this offer was carried, but was not carried into effect, and a year later it was annulled.

For some reason this offer did not meet with the approval of Muus, and one evening during the session be invited Rev. N. A. Quammen, of Christiania, and Harold Thorson, of Northfield, to his study, where, having outlined to them his plans, he said to them, “Why don’t you put in a bid to have a school located at Northfield?” Mr. Thorson disclaims having come to the meeting with any intention of making such an offer, but he at once answered that if this was all that was necessary, that could be done, and both he and Quammen expressed the conviction that Northfield would respond heartily to such a proposition.

The result of their deliberations that evening was that an offer was presented to the Synod the next day, of which the minutes of the meeting give the following report:

“In connection with this matter [the Red Wing proposition] an offer was introduced from H. Thorson of Northfield, of a fifteen acre lot with houses on, worth about $2,000, which he proposed to donate to the Synod, if an academy were erected and the Synod would undertake the control of it. He believed that considerably more would be given by the city, and the only question was, if grounds and buildings were furnished, and the teachers’ salaries were provided for in the vicinity, if then the Synod would appoint teachers for the school and exercise supervision. On motion of Rev. J. A. Ottesen the Synod passed the following resolution in this matter: The Synod expresses its thanks to Mr. H. Thorson, of Northfield, for the munificent contribution which he has offered for an academy in Northfield, and with joy and thanks to God the Synod expresses the wish that such an academy be erected.”


Muus now began a vigorous campaign, assisted mainly by H. Thorson and Rev. N. A. Quammen. In order to ascertain the attitude of the neighboring clergy and other influential Lutherans, he called a meeting of such to be held in Northfield in the fall of 1874. Although a number met, including some of the leaders of the Norwegian-Danish Conference, yet no material aid could be secured, and the promoters of the school saw that they must look elsewhere.

In the meanwhile Quammen and Thorson had sounded many of the prominent citizens of Northfield in regard to this matter, and here they found willing ears and ready hands. The following clippings from the Rice County Journal of October 7th and 21st speak for themselves

“Pursuant to a very inadequate notice a respectable number of people gathered at Lockwood’s Hall last Thursday, the 1st inst., to confer in relation to the establishment of an educational institution under the auspices of our Scandinavian brethren, and its location in Northfield. The meeting was organized by the choice of A. O. Whipple, Esq., for chairman, and Harold Thorson for secretary. On taking the chair Mr. Whipple invited the Norwegian gentlemen present to make some statements on the subject, when Rev. Muus proceeded to state their plans and wishes in the premises. Rev. Mr. Quammen also spoke in response to the invitation. Of our own citizens, Messrs. Whipple, O. A. Mead, E. Hobbs, H. Thorson, A. H. Bjoraker, and C. A. Wheaton made remarks pertinent to the occasion, all expressing much interest in having the institution located here. A committee consisting of H. Thorson, G. M. Phillips, and A. O. Whipple, was appointed to see what material aid the people of Northfield will afford, and the meeting stands adjourned to the meeting of the 15th of October inst., at Lockwood’s Hall. This is an important enterprise to our town, and should, and we trust, will, receive liberal encouragement. H. Thorson will set a noble example, as he proposes to give to this object in the outset two thousand dollars.”


The report of the meeting the 15th of October, is found in the Rice County journal for October 21st. It reads as follows:

“The adjourned meeting of the friends of the new project for establishing a Norwegian College was held at Wheaton’s Hall on Thursday evening at 7:30 o’clock, A. O. Whipple in the chair and H. Thorson secretary. G. M. Phillips, Esq., of the committee appointed at the former meeting to raise funds, reported that $5,400 had been raised and it was thought that by a little further effort the amount could be raised to $6,000, and Mr. Whipple thought that even more could be raised. There was a good representation of our Norwegian friends present, including most of the Board of Trustees, and Messrs. Muus and Quammen expressed their views which we construed to be favorable to locating their college here, and our people responded with enthusiasm to their sentiment. G. M. Phillips, J. T. Ames, E. Hobbs, H. Scriver, W. H. Mitchel, A. O. Whipple, Charles Taylor, F. A. Noble, C. A. Wheaton, and others spoke encouraging of the prospect, presenting the advantages of this locality for such an enterprise and J. T. Ames offered the following resolution: `That we extend to our Norwegian brethren a cordial invitation to locate their college at Northfield, and that we pledge them our hearty sympathy and support,’ which was unanimously and heartily adopted. Mr. Scriver’s remarks. in which he set forth the local advantages of this place and the support it would receive at this point, of which he judged in connection with his experience in connection with Carleton College from its inception, were received and endorsed with applause. It was an excellent meeting in every respect, all present seeming moved by a common impulse for the attainment of a philanthropic and in every way laudable object. As matters could not be brought to a decisive point at this meeting, Colonel Streeter moved that when the meeting adjourned, it be at a four days’ call of the chairman, A. O. Whipple, who will follow the instruction. That our Norwegian brethren are in earnest, they have submitted a distinct proposition and offer in writing to the Board of Education for the purchase of our school property situate on block No. 24, being the four lots near the Ladies’ Hall, now occupied by our schools, but which are to be vacated when the winter term commences. They want this property for present use till they get more elaborate structures prepared on larger grounds. The Board not wishing to act in a matter of so much importance without consulting their constituents, have called a special school meeting at the old school house on Saturday evening at 7 o’clock the 24th day of October, inst., when the people assembled shall instruct the Board as to their wishes in the premises. Let there be a good attendance.”

Having received the assurances and pledges above referred to, Muus decided to perfect an organization. After carefully investigating the legal aspects of the matter he decided to form a close corporation, and for this purpose he invited a few trusty farmers of his congregations to meet at Northfield on the 6th of November, 1874. Mr. O. F. Perkins, a lawyer of Northfield, was employed to draw up the articles of incorporation in accordance with the instructions of Muus. These articles, including later amendments, read as follows:

This certifies that we, the undersigned. have associated ourselves together for the purpose of establishing an institution of learning, in the village of Northfield, Rice County, Minnesota, under the name and style of “St. Olaf College” in its corporate capacity.

The general purpose of the corporation is for the advancement in education of pupils from fifteen years of age and upwards, as a college, preserve the pupils in the true Christian faith, as taught by the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and nothing taught in contravention with the Symbolum Apostolicum, Nicenum, and Atbanasianum ; the Unaltered Confession, delivered to the Emperor, Charles the Fifth, at Augsburg in Germany, in the year of our Lord 1530; and the Small Catechism of Luther.

There are no terms of admission to membership, or contribution required of its members, except such as may be hereafter adopted by the Board of Trustees.
There is no capital stock appertaining to said corporation.

The officers of the corporation during the first year of its existence areas follows: B. J. Muus, of Wanamingo, Goodhue county, President; Harold Thoreson, of Northfield, Rice county. Secretary; O. K. Finseth, of Holden, Goodhue county; K. P. Hougen, of Holden, Goodhue county, and Osmund Osmundson, of Wheeling, Rice county, Trustees.
And there shall be an annual election of the officers of the corporation, held at their institution in the village of Northfield. on the third Thursday in June of each year, who shall have power to sue and be sued under their corporate name, to have a common seal, and establish by-laws, rules, and regulations, deemed expedient, in accordance with law, and not incompatible with an honest purpose.

All deeds, or conveyances, of real estate, or interest therein, for the benefit of said institution, and conveyed by them, shall be executed by the President of the Board of Trustees and the Secretary.

Witness our hands and seals this sixth day of November A. D., 1874.
B. J. MUUS, [Seal.]
K. P. HOUGEN, [Seal.]
O. K. FINSETH, [Seal.]

By the adoption of this charter St. Olaf entered upon its corporate existence as an institution recognized by the state, and the sixth of November has therefore been styled Foundation Day and is annually celebrated by the college. The day was so mild and pleasant that Mrs. H. Thorson, the hostess, served refreshments to the party in the open air.

The institution was originally styled “St. Olaf’s School,” and continued to be called so until 1889, when the articles of incorporation were amended by changing the corporate name to St. Olaf College. That it was the original purpose to make it a college the charter shows, but Muus knew that they were not yet prepared to do the work of a college, and therefore he insisted, contrary to the wish of some of the other members, on the form then adopted.

St. Olaf was now ready for business, and the first business done was the appointment of a principal. On the same day a call was sent to Rev. Thorbjörn N. Mohn, of St. Paul. Muus had previously conferred with Mohn in regard to this matter and secured his consent to accept the position. Mohn was then thirty years old and a bachelor. He had been serving as a minister, first in Chicago, afterwards in St. Paul, for about one and one-half years. He accepted the call and arrived for duty within a month. His salary was originally $650 a year.

Preparations were now made for the opening of the school at an early date. The first necessity was to find accommodations. It was referred to above that overtures had been made to the school board of Northfield for the purchase of the old school buildings, soon to be vacated. On December 17th, 1874 the Trustees secured this property, consisting of four lots, (where the Congregational church now stands) and two school houses for the sum of $2,500. The larger building consisted of two stories and contained besides two smaller rooms, four large classrooms; the other building contained one class-room, which was converted into a dining hall for the resident students. When the school was removed, these buildings were taken down and the materials were used in the erection of the present Ladies’ Hall, in which, however. the interior arrangements and the roof, originally a gable roof, were altered. The Ladies’ Hall is, therefore, essentially the same building in which St. Olaf first began its work.


It had been announced that the school would open on Friday, the 8th of January, 1815, and applications began to come in. On the opening day there were 36 students present, and soon the enrollment reached 50.
The 8th of January, 1875, came with a blustering snow-storm which prevented many of the friends from coming in from the country. At 10 o’clock the students and others present assembled in the school building on the first floor. The opening ceremonies began with the singing of a hymn, followed by the speech of dedication, delivered by Rev. B. J. Muus, in which he shows the necessity of providing for the higher education and the importance of Christian education for our youth.

In the afternoon they met again, and on this occasion Prof. Th. N. Mohn was the principal speaker. He spoke in English, emphasizing the importance of preparing to become good American citizens.
Again in the evening a meeting for Divine service was held, at which Rev. H. G. Stub, of Minneapolis, preached on I. Cor. 3: 11. “For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

These speeches and the sermon were published in a pamphlet shortly afterwards. Other speakers had been called upon, among whom I find the name of Prof. A. A. Veblen, of Iowa State University, then a student of Carleton College, as one of those who expressed their good wishes for the school.


Harold Thorson was born in Norway (Nordre Aurdal parish, Valders) on Dovre farm, the 76th of November, 1841. In 1857 he came to America, settling at Manitowac, Wisconsin. After attending school three years he started a little country store, but soon sold out to Mr. O. Torrison, of Manitowoc, and was employed by him till 1865, when he came to Northfield and started in business with his brother Knute. About a year later the partnership was dissolved, and H. Thorson continued in business alone. He was very successful in mercantile business, but desiring to go into banking business he closed out and moved to Elbow Lake, where he still lives, being president of the Bank of Elbow Lake. He has the distinction of having contributed more money to the building of St. Olaf than any other man.

Mohn was the only teacher present at the opening exercises. But as it was apparent that more teachers would be needed, the trustees had secured the services of L. S. Reque, a graduate of Luther College who had finished a course in law and been admitted to the bar. He arrived a few days later and took up the work.

The students were arranged in three classes, and an academic course was adopted, nearly all studies being optional. Mathematics, English, Geography, Writing and Music were taught through the medium of English; in Norwegian, Universal History, and Religion instruction was given in the Norwegian language. These are all the branches taught during the first year, according to the official report of the principal.
On these general lines the school was carried on during the four years it was located in town; new branches were added the second year, such as Latin, German, United States History, and Algebra.
At the opening of the second school year, Mr. A. K. Teisberg took the place of L. S. Reque as assistant teacher. Mr. Teisberg is also a graduate of Luther College and is well known all over Minnesota, having been Secretary of the Railroad Commission for many years.

For the second year tuition was fixed at $40.00, and that may have had something to do with the falling off in attendance. The total enrollment was only forty-four, but the third year it rose to sixty-two, and the fourth year to ninety-nine, tuition having again been reduced to $30.00 per year.

While the school was thus gradually gaining prestige and confidence, its promoters were busily at work trying to place it on a permanent footing. In 1875 Muus bad received an efficient collaborator in Rev. M. O. Bockman who became his assistant for a few years, until the parish was divided and Bockman was placed in charge of Go] and Moland congregations.
The quarters obtained in town were always looked upon as temporary, and the Trustees were looking about for a permanent site. The one which Mr. Thorson had offered to the Synod in 1874, situated north of St. Olaf Ave., and adjoining the railroad tracks on the west, was not found desirable, but there was plenty of land open on the west side at that time. Manitou Heights was then a wild forest tract, but its commanding aspect began to attract attention. One day in the winter of 1875 Prof. Reque and Mr. Thorson, returning from a visit to Rev. Quammen’s, turned away from the road to look at this hill. It was covered with deep snow and thick brush, so that they could not drive up, but they tied the horse and climbed the hill afoot. Having reached the top and surveyed the grounds and taken a view of the surrounding country, they were filled with enthusiasm and decided that no better place could be found for St. Olaf, and from that time onward they worked to secure it for the school. Mr. Thorson began negotiating with Mr. Cutler, the owner, for the purchase of twenty acres, and when satisfactory terms had been agreed upon the Board bought these twenty acres and ten acres lying west of them for the sum of $1250. This was the nucleus around which St. Olaf gradually acquired clear title to seventy-seven acres, as shown on the diagram on the next page. The wisdom of the choice is acknowledged by everybody, the view from the hill is very extensive and exhibits one of the most pleasing panoramas to be found in Minnesota.

The most arduous task that Muus had set himself in this matter was to raise the necessary funds. Having first tried to interest the Norwegian ministers in his scheme and to secure their co-operation in raising funds and failed completely, with the sole exception of Rev. Quammen, he determined to go on and see what could be done by his own and Quammen’s congregations. He estimated that he would need $30,000, to carry through his plans. The pledges of Northfield amounted to between six and seven thousand dollars. Could he raise the balance among his own people? He estimated how much each farmer must give in order to reach the amount, assessing them according to their means, from $500, down to $100, or less. With this estimate be set out, making a personal canvass. The farmers usually stood aghast when he told them what he expected of them. Many of them tried to beat him down, offering onehalf or two-thirds of what he asked for, but he stoutly refused to barter, showing them that if be commenced in that way, he could not succeed in raising the necessary funds. And he generally succeeded in gaining his point, though often not without engendering harsh feelings. Some flatly refused to give anything to Muus, but later on when Bockman came around, his bland and affable ways often secured a rich aftermath. On the 18th of June, 1875, Muus reports subscriptions amounting to $9,000, not counting the Northfield subscription. In the course of another year he and Quammen had raised the subscription to $13,000 in their own parishes, and a little later in the year 1876 Prof. Teisberg reported that the total subscription had reached $22,000.

On the 14th of December, 1876, Messrs., Long and Haglin, of Minneapolis, received the commission to make plans and specifications for the proposed building. Their plans were accepted and the contract for its erection was awarded to Mr. Charles P. Anderson, of Northfield, a Swede. By the terms of the contract he was to furnish the materials, put up the walls, and enclose the building by the 1st of November, 1877, for $13.500. He also agreed to finish the interior of the building, with the exception of the top of the tower, for $5,000, and have the building ready for occupancy at the opening of the fall term.


On the 4th of June, 1877, a building committee was appointed, consisting of Rev. B. J. Muus, Prof. A. K. Teisberg, H. Thorson, A. T. Brandvold and O. K. Finseth, and immediately thereupon work was begun, and by the 4th of July, the date fixed for the laying of the corner-stone, the basement was finished.
For this occasion a speaker’s stand and seats for the audience had been placed under the canopy of the adjoining woods west of the building. A large number of people from the neighboring congregations and many guests from distant parts assembled, and about noon the ceremony opened, the audience singing the first stanza of Luther’s hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God,” after which Rev. Mr. Muus made an address of welcome, followed by another hymn. Rev. H. A. Preus, the President of the Norwegian Synod, delivered the oration of the day, taking for his text the words of the 111th Psalm, 10th verse: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” At the conclusion Muus read and translated the following document, which thereupon, together with a few coins fresh from the mint, a copy of one of the minutes of the Synod, and the latest issues of three Norwegian weeklies, were placed in a tin box in the corner-stone.

Deposuit hunc lapidem fundamentalem scholæ Sancti Olavi, A. D., MDCCCLXXVII., IV. die mensis Julii Herman Amberg Preus, Synodi Norvegica Lutheranæ in America Ecclesiæ Præses.
Iustituta est schola Sancti Olavi VI. die Nov. A. D. MDCCCLXXIV., ut juventuti Evang. Luth. confessionis utriusque sexus altiorem quam in scholis domesticis obtinere possit eruditionis gradum petenti, progressum quam maximum in cognitione rerum divinarum et humanarum faciendi occasio præbeatur.
Ceterum precamur fundatores hujus schola Deum, ut sit semper hac in schola Scriptura Sacra Veteris et Novi Testamenti norma et regula fidei ac morum, qua et docentes et discentes in very fidei confessione et vita sanctitate confirmentur et qua tanquam stella clarissima per hujus vita miserias ad beatitudinem aeternam Domini ac Redemptoris nostri perducantur, et quia firmiter credimus confessionem Ecclesiæ Lutheranæ Libris nostris Symbolicis comprehensam doctrinam certam veram firmam Domini nostri Jesu Christi continere, ideo porro obsecramus posteros, ut thesaurum illum pretiosissimum, pro quo certarunt patres nostri fideles, religiose conservent.

Præses schola: Bernt Julius Muus, pastor congregationis Holden et al.

Præses vicarius: Nils A. Quammen, pastor congregationis Christiania et al.

Professores ordinarii: Thorbjorn Nilsen Mohn, Cand. e Sem. Concordiæ, St. Ludov, civ. Mo.
Aslak Knutsen Teisberg, Bace. e Coll. Decorah, civ. Iowa.

Curatores: Thorbjorn Nilsen Mohn, pastor congregationis St. John’s, Northfield, civ. Minn.; Ole Knutsen Finseth, Anders Knutsen Finseth, Kenyon; Knut Pedersen Hougen, Hans Christophersen Westermoe, Holden; Erik Eriksen Sævareide, Wanamingo; Osmund Osmundsen, Syver Aslaksen Vesledal, Wheeling; Ole K. Simmons, Red Wing; Harold Thoresen, Northfield; Anders T. Brandvold, Faribault.

Deus autem Trinunus, in cajus nomine depositus est hie lapis, sit hujus scholæ fundamenturn solidissimum per omnia sæcula sæculorum, Amen.”


After the reading of this document the audience proceeded to the building to lay the corner stone upon which had been carved a cross and the year 1877. It was laid in place by the Trustees, whereupon Rev. H. A. Preus in the name of the triune God, struck it thrice with a hammer, invoking God’s blessing on the building and on the work for which it was being erected. The ceremony closed with an anthem sung by the students.

After dinner, which was served under the trees, Prof. Mohn delivered an oration in English, after which words of congratulation and encouragement were spoken by President Strong, of Carleton College, President Larsen, of Luther College, Mr. P. Langemo, of Norway, and Rev. V. Koren, of Washington Prairie, Ia.

On the 7th of November, 1877, when the Board of Trustees met, the building was enclosed according to contract and Mr. Anderson was directed to proceed and finish the building. When he had nearly finished the building he failed. The total amount paid him for the building was $18,908.12. This did not include the top story of the tower which was not provided for in the original plan and was built by Mr. O’Niel under a separate contract, and was capped with a temporary wooden roof surrounded by battlements. The roof on the tower and the front entrance were not finished until 1884.


The structure thus completed is shown in an engraving on one of the preceding pages. The length of the building is 101 ft.; width, 56 ft. The basement is built of limestone, the first and second stories of brick, with brick walls also bordering the halls. The attic is of frame having a mansard roof of slate. The red brick walls were painted in cream color and finished in sand. The building forms a striking feature in the landscape from whichever side it is approached.

On the fourth anniversary of the foundation, the 6th of November, 1878, this building was dedicated with impressive ceremonies. Rev. H. A. Preus, the venerable president of the Norwegian Synod, who had laid the corner stone the year before, was present and opened the program by reading the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy and offering prayer. The dedicatory address was delivered by Rev. B. J. Muus, who was then president of the Minnesota District of the Norwegian Synod. After dinner, Prof. L. S. Reque, of Luther College, delivered an oration in English. These addresses are given in full in Kirketidende for the 22d of November, 1878.

On the 10th of September, 1878, St. Olaf took possession of its new quarters. The girls occupied rooms on the first floor, while the boys had to climb two stories higher to find their rooms in the attic. The Principal and his family occupied rooms in the southeast corner, on the first floor and in the basement. The recitation rooms were on the second floor.

The school year was divided into the Fall, Winter, and Spring terms of seven, nineteen, and eleven weeks respectively. The reason for the long winter term was that many students could not attend school except in the winter, and this gave them an opportunity to continue their studies without interruption for more than half of the entire school year. This arrangement continued till the fall of 1892 in the academy, though it never was adopted in the college course. In the latter year uniformity was established by extending the fall term till Christmas.

The course of study embraced three years. It became apparent, however, that more time was needed, as more studies had to be taken into the course and the standard of requirements for graduation had to be raised in order to keep up with the standard of other schools. In 1884 the III. class had two sections in arithmetic only; in 1886 two sections in English and in geography were formed, known as III. A and III. B classes, and the following year the division was extended to all the branches. In 1890 the B. class was separated from the III. and called sub-preparatory class, and after a couple of years the `’sub” was dropped, followed by the dropping of “prep.” in 1893, for which IV. class was substituted.

There were two courses, the English and the Classical, differing mainly in the omission of Latin, and the substitution of other studies in the English course. This course was arranged with the view of preparing young men and women for practical life, while the Classical course aimed at preparing students for entering college.

From the beginning it was the intention of Muus and the corporation to transfer St. Olaf to the Synod, but the Synod repeatedly refused to accept any obligation in respect to this school, and thus action was deferred. When the predestination controversy had been going on for some time, the plan of transfer was dropped, since the great majority of those who had helped build the school were on the side of the opponents of the so-called Missourian faction which gradually gained ascendancy in the Synod. These opponents, who were known as Anti-Missourians, finally found themselves forced to withdraw from the Synod and thus give up their interest in its educational institutions, which they had largely helped to build and support. Neither would they any longer send their children to these institutions. But they must have schools in order to carry on the work. Their attention, therefore, turned to St. Olaf and negotiation with the Board of Trustees led to an agreement by which the Anti-Missourians pledged themselves to pay annually a sum of money to the school, in consideration of which the Board on its part, agreed to establish a college department, Thus the long cherished hope of Muus and of the teachers of St. Olaf became a reality, and in September, 1886, a beginning was made with a Freshman class the members of which had the rare fortune of being in the highest class of the college for four years, only changing name at the commencement of each succeeding year till those who were left of the class received their diplomas and took their place at the head of the list of alumni in 1890.

But a divinity school was even a greater necessity than a college, and one of the first things the Anti-Missourians did was to establish one. Dr. F. A. Schmidt, of Luther Seminary, Madison, Wisconsin. and Rev. M. O. Böckman, of Kenyon, were appointed theological professors, and as there was no other suitable place available, St. Olaf offered accommodations in its already crowded building. Here the Lutheran Divinity School opened with impressive ceremonies on the 15th of September, 1886. A great number of friends from Minnesota and adjoining states were present on this occasion. The Divinity School occupied the chapel for a lecture room during four years, till June, 1890, when the Divinity School became consolidated with Augsburg Seminary.
The Anti-Missourians did a great deal for St. Olaf. They made it possible to change the academy into a college, and they supported it liberally with both money and students.

The Anti-Missourians did not wish to organize a new church-body, but turned their efforts towards diminishing the number already existing. Negotiations had for some time been carried on between the Norwegian-Danish Conference, the Augustana Synod, the Hauge Synod, and the Anti-Missourians, looking towards a union of these bodies. The Hauge Synod finally withdrew, but the remaining bodies formulated through committees, articles of confederation which were adopted by the representatives of the different bodies, assembled simultaneously in Minneapolis, and on the 13th of June, 1890, the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America was organized. The articles of confederation did not provide for St. Olaf College, for the reason that it was an independent corporation, but it was understood that the Anti-Missourians desired its transfer to the United Church, and accordingly it was offered by the Board of Trustees and accepted by the United Church under the following contract:

a. St. Olaf College, at Northfield, Minn., shall be the College of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church.

b. The United Norwegian Lutheran Church at the present meeting shall nominate twenty-five candidates of the former Anti-Missourians, twenty-five of the former Norwegian-Danish Conference, and ten of the former Augustana Synod, and the Board of Trustees of St. Olaf College shall elect of the Anti-Missourian candidates fifteen, of those of the Conference fifteen, and of those of the Augustana Synod five, as members of a new Board of Trustees of St. Olaf College.

c. Seven members of the Board of Trustees shall retire each year, and a new election shall take place. The United Church shall nominate each year fourteen candidates, and the Board of Trustees shall supplement itself by electing new members from these candidates.

d. The United Norwegian Lutheran Church pledges itself to support St. Olaf College in such a manner that it may continue to be a college, which will meet the requirements that the times demand of an institution of this kind.

President Mohn, who had been instrumental in bringing about this result, brought the news Wednesday morning, the 18th of June, just as the commencement exercises of the first graduating class of the college were progressing, and the enthusiasm and joy with which his announcement was greeted, seemed to shake the building for a long time. Everybody saw visions on that day. Visions! Nothing more came of them.

It is true, the United Church paid a sum for carrying on the work of the college department, and the attendance rose quite rapidly. But St. Olaf soon became a thorn in the flesh of the friends of Augsburg Seminary, and they raised a hue and cry against St. Olaf so that the very air seemed laden with “humanism.” St. Olaf, to be sure, had many friends, but the opposition would not cease, and so, after a three years’ struggle, in the hope of restoring harmony in the church, St. Olaf was abandoned by the United Church, and the above resolutions were rescinded at the annual meeting held in Dawson in 1893.

This was a hard blow to St. Olaf. It now stood without “visible means of support.” Would it be able to stand thus, was the question which confronted the Board of Trustees. Some thought it would be useless to continue the hopeless struggle. But Mohn knew that St. Olaf had friends enough to keep it a-going, and he would not give up without giving them a chance to show their friendship. In casting about for the best way to reach the friends, they decided to send out a financial agent to solicit aid for carrying on the college work. The choice fell upon Professor H. T. Ytterboe, who had been engaged as a teacher here since 1882, and the success which he had in his work fully justified the wisdom of the choice. He not only succeeded in raising enough to carry on the work, but even succeeded in diminishing the debt which had accumulated during the previous years. For six long years he continued this arduous task, devoting all his time to it. He had at different times some assistance from others, among whom may be mentioned Rev. J. M. Dahl, Rev. S. Strand, Mr. M. J. Stolee, Mr. A. R. Lavik, Mr. C. K. Solberg, Mr. H. B. Kildahl, Professors Mohn, Possum, Björneby, Lee, and Felland.

But it was necessary to economize, nevertheless, wherever practicable. In the first place, no teacher was appointed to fill Prof. Ytterboe’s place, his branches being distributed among the rest of the faculty, and the second year another teacher was sacrificed and the burden of the others proportionately increased for the remaining five years. Then the salaries of the teachers were cut down, and finally the woods on the college grounds were cut down to furnish fuel for the school for three years. Nearly all the fine old trees were thus sacrificed, leaving the younger trees room to develop and thus eventually replace the loss. All but the most necessary improvements on the buildings were suspended, and everything that could be spared was thrown over board to keep the vessel afloat. She did not sink!
In the meanwhile the Augsburg element had not been pacified by sacrificing St. Olaf, and so Augsburg Seminary in turn was dropped “to preserve harmony,” and St. Olaf once more began to hope that it might be re-admitted. Prof. Mohn again bent all energies to bring about this consummation, and the question was discussed at the annual meetings of the United Church for the last three or four years. In 1898 the citizens of Northfield invited the delegates of the United Church to come down and see the College, hiring an excursion train which brought down 600 members who climbed the hill and looked over the grounds and the buildings, and after listening to a few speeches and lunching returned to St. Paul. But the time had not yet come. The “school question” was again left undecided. A committee, however, was appointed to prepare the matter and report to the annual meeting to be held in June, 1899. This committee consisted of the following members: Rev. G. Hoyme, Rev. J. Olsen, Prof. M. O. Böckman, Prof. Th. N. Mohn, Rev. J. N. Kildahl, Mr. W. F. Christianson, and Mr. Carl Raugland. After having met several times they published their report, which was first warmly discussed in the press, and then for a whole week discussed in the annual meeting held in St. Paul from the 21st to the 29th of June, 1899. The result was that the United Church again adopted St. Olaf as its college on the plan drawn up by Messrs. Pattee and Bacon, by an overwhelming majority, and on motion of one of the minority the resolution was made unanimous.

The amended Articles of Incorporation which were adopted read as follows:

1. This certifies that we, the undersigned, have associated ourselves together for the purpose of establishing an institution of learning, in the village of Northfield, Rice county, Minnesota, under the name and style of ST. OLAF COLLEGE in its corporate capacity.

2. The general purpose of the corporation is for the advancement in education of pupils from fifteen years of age and upwards as a college, preserve the pupils in the true Christian faith, as taught by the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and nothing taught in contravention with the Symbolum Apostolicum, Nicenum, and Athanasianum; the Unaltered Confession, delivered to the Emperor, Charles the Fifth, at Augsburg, in Germany, in the year of our Lord 1530; and the Small Catechism of Luther.

3. The members of this corporation shall be annual members and the qualification of persons to be members, are the following

4. Persons to be members of this corporation must either be a minister, or other person delegated by a congregation which is a member of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church, to the annual meeting of said Lutheran Church, or some other person entitled to cast a vote at such meeting; and no person shall be a member of this corporation who is not entitled to such a vote at such meeting of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church.

5. Any and all such persons, upon signifying their consent thereto, shall become such members of this corporation upon the convening of the annual meeting of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church to which they are sent as delegates, aforesaid, and such consent may be signified by taking part in the meeting of members of this corporation, or by filing written consent with the secretary of the corporation, or in any other way that may be designated by the by-laws of this corporation.

6. Such members of this corporation shall remain members thereof until the convening of the next annual meeting of said The United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, when they shall give place to the ministers, delegates, and other persons so entitled to vote, as aforesaid, at such annual meeting of said The United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. and who shall so signify their consent to be members.

7. No contributions shall be required of members as a condition of membership, and there shall be no capital stock of this corporation.

8. The officers of this corporation shall be a Board of Trustees, consisting of five persons who shall be elected by the members of this corporation at their annual meeting, which is hereinafter provided for: a President, who shall be a member of the Board of Trustees; a Secretary, and a Treasurer, which two last named officers may, in the discretion of the Trustees, be members of this corporation, or not; and the said last two offices to-wit: those of Secretary and Treasurer, may, in the discretion of the Trustees, be filled by one person: The Trustees shall hold office for three years and until their successors are elected and qualified.

9. The officers of the corporation during the first year of its existence are as follows: B. J. Muus, of Wanamingo, Goodhue county, President; Harold Thoreson, of Northfield, Rice county, Secretary; O. K. Finseth, of Holden, Goodhue county; K. P. Hougen, of Holden, Goodhue county; and Osmund Osmundson, of Wheeling, Rice county, Trustees.

10. The annual meeting of the members of this corporation shall be held at the same place as the annual meeting of The United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America and on the Tuesday next following the time of convening of said annual meeting of said church.

11. The Trustees shall meet annually forthwith after the annual meeting of members, to elect the President, the Secretary and the Treasurer for the ensuing year. The President, the Secretary and the Treasurer shall hold their office for one year, and until their successors are elected and qualified.

12. The present Trustees shall continue in office until the election of the new Trustees by the members, as herein provided. At the first election, five Trustees shall be elected of whom two shall hold office for one year, two shall hold office for two years, and one shall hold office for three years; and thereafter all Trustees elected shall be chosen for the full term of three years, except in cases of election to fill an unexpired term which has become vacant.

13. All deeds or conveyances of real estate, or interest therein, for the benefit of said institution, and conveyed by the Board of Trustees, shall be executed by the President of the Board of Trustees and the Secretary.

Rev. J. N. Kildahl, of Chicago, was elected President of St. Olaf College on the 29th of June, 1899. Professor Mohn was elected Vice-President.
St. Olaf College had again won a great victory. President Mohn had arisen from a bed of sickness to lead the cause for which he had worked long and faithfully. Not long after, he was again confined to his bed of sickness from which death released him on the 18th of November, 1899. That was his final victory.
Prof. Mohn is the Protesilaos of St. Olaf College.
The twenty-fifth anniversary of St. Olaf was celebrated on the 6th of November with fitting solemnity.

The founder of St. Olaf College put co-education into the cornerstone on the 4th of July, 1877. The very first name on the roll-book is that of a girl, and her name begins with Aa. That shows how anxious they were to be admitted. And they were admitted. Whether they shall be admitted henceforth will depend upon the wisdom of the United Church.

Mohn, too, believed in co-education. And, as far as I know, all the teachers at St. Olaf have favored it.
It was, however, felt that a separate building was needed for the girls. In 1878-’79 they were admitted on the first floor of the new building. But the next year the present Ladies’ Hall was erected for them through the liberality of Mr. H. Thorson, who at his own expense had the old school-building in town taken down and rebuilt on the present site. It was occupied in the fall of 1879 by Prof. Teisberg and family, for whom the east half of the building was fitted up, while the west side was occupied by the lady students. In 1881 Miss O’Brien, the preceptress, took possession of the rooms vacated by Prof. Teisberg, and two years later Prof. Felland took and still holds possession of these rooms, the Preceptress occupying rooms on the second floor. The building is delightfully situated among the trees which at first stood so near that one could have entered either the second story or climbed upon the roof by means of them, though I am not aware that they were ever used for that purpose. Ladies’ Hall has usually been full, and often could not receive half of the students who sought admission.
While very few have taken only music, a large majority have taken music besides the studies of the English or the classical courses.

As regards the numerical strength and the percentage of this constituency, the following table will give an accurate idea in detail. The total enrollment of girls for the first quarter-century is 386, or 27.22 per cent., the total enrollment of boys being 1032. The average percentage of girls enrolled each year is 23.62 per cent. The total number of graduates in the Academic department is 205, of which 55, or 37.27 per cent. are girls. Of the alumni only two are women.



When the school opened, almost the only equipment it had was the buildings and the necessary furniture. A few maps were soon procured, and that was about all there was until the school moved up on the Manitou Heights.

There was no library. When the writer came, in 1881, there were perhaps twenty or thirty books standing lonesome and neglected in the corner of a large shelf. These had been presented by friends “to fill a deep-felt want,” which, however, they did not fill. It was not until Prof. Kalheim came that the library was organized. He was made librarian in 1885 and began to work vigorously. The students formed a reading circle, membership fee was one dollar a year, and with this and the proceeds of sociables he managed to raise $96.08 the first year, investing the sum raised in books. The second year he was not so successful. Having resigned his position as teacher, Prof. I, F. Grose was chosen librarian in his place in 1887. He worked vigorously and successfully during the next four years and when he left, in 1891, there were about 700 volumes on the shelves. Since then, Prof. Felland bas been librarian. One of the first things needed was a system of cataloguing, the Dewey, decimal system being adopted. The collection gradually increased, and on the first of May, 1899, it numbered 2,640 volumes. When Rev. Muus left for Europe last summer, he presented his library, containing about 700 bound volumes and 500 pamphlets and unbound books and including many rare and valuable works, to the college. They arrived here the 21st of September, 1899.

The Reading Room has been fairly well supplied with periodicals of various kinds.

The present librarian felt the need of funds, and on Thanksgiving day, 1890, in the hope of interesting others, he donated $100 to form the nucleus of a Permanent Library Fund. It has since increased to $160, of which Dr. A. E. Egge contributed $8, Prof. Ytterboe, $20, and the librarian the balance.

A small nucleus of a Museum has been formed. Educational apparatus in the line of charts, maps, and globes, has gradually accumulated, but there are still some urgent wants.

Prof. F. E. Millis organized the scientific department in 1888, and purchased the most necessary apparatus for chemistry and physics, $1000 having been voted by the Anti- Missourians for that purpose. Since then, additions have been made from time to time, but here, too, lack of funds has hampered the progress.
The first piano was purchased by Rev. V. Koren, from Captain Baker, of Decorah, Iowa, for $150. After years of usefulness, it was replaced by two Ivers and Pond pianos some years ago. Later another piano was bought,

In February, 1895, the college received a bequest of $4000, from Mr. Even Brekken, late of Wangs, Goodhue county, Minn., a member of the Board of Trustees. The Brekken Fund is to remain a permanent fund, the interest of which is to be given to needy students of St. Olaf College who intend to study theology.

The men in whose hands lay the destiny of the School, deserve a mention. At first the Board consisted of only five members, and election took place at the regular annual meetings of the Board. At the first election no change was made, but in 1876 the Board was increased to thirteen, and in 1883 to fifteen members. In 1889 the number of Trustees was increased to thirty-five, and the next year, when St. Olaf became the College of the United N. L. Church, the number remained the same, but instead of being elected annually as heretofore they were now elected for a period of five years, seven members retiring each year.

Quarter Centennial Souvenir 1874-1899


Thorbjorn Nelson Mohn:
Twenty-Five Years President of St. Olaf College
History of St. Olaf College
St. Olaf College Alumni Association
College Organizations
The United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America
United Church Seminary
The City of Northfield
Rev. B.J. Muus