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Closed with the Lord's PrayerThe History of Walks Camp Lutheran Church
By Bryan Alvin Anderson
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Bryan Alvin Anderson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWalks Camp Lutheran Church
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; Ephesians 2:19
My Grandfather, Gunder Anderson, was born on May 25, 1889 in a small farming community by the name of Selbu, which is about 40 miles south east of Trondheim, Norway. He was the youngest of three brothers. As he neared adulthood, part of his future was already determined. Norwegian law required Gunder's eldest brother Ole would inherit the farm. The younger sons were on their own and had find jobs. Since local or national economic prospects for the two younger brothers were dim, they would eventually immigrate to the United States. The middle brother Nils, left Norway in 1903 and my Grandfather left in April of 1910, never to see his eldest brother or parents again.
The first leg of Gunder's journey brought him to Hull, England on the Tasso II. He then traveled from Hull to Liverpool where he boarded the S.S. Lake Champlain of the Canadian Pacific Line. Nearly a week later he arrived in Quebec, Canada where he boarded a train that took him across Canada. He crossed the border into Washington State and went through customs in Northport. His lengthy trip ended in LaCrosse, Washington, where many other Selbu emigrants had initially settled.
My grandmother, Gudrun Vik, had a similar experience, but left Bergen, Norway in 1912. She originally planned to sail on the Titanic, but she and a friend delayed their trip for 6 months and sailed on the S.S. Arabic. After arriving in Boston, Massachusetts in October 1912, she traveled by train and initially settled in Canby, Minnesota with her Aunt Synneva. She later married Gunder on October 2, 1919 in Madison, Minnesota.
They settled near a small farming community called Albee, South Dakota, about 20 miles west of Madison, Minnesota. While there, they had 4 children: Signe, Alice, my father Alvin, and George. A daughter Gladys would be born in 1930 in Colorado.
My grandmother suffered from asthma. Because of the perceived health benefits of the high-dry air of Colorado, the family moved there in 1928. Luck would have it Gunder had acquaintances in Colorado, specifically ones from the same community in Norway where he was born. An early employer of Gunder's was former Selbu neighbor, Haldor Thompson.
Gunder and Gudrun initially settled in a small two-room house with their 5 children on the corner of County Roads 109 and 4c in northern Lincoln County, Colorado. In later years, they moved to Limon, and eventually Hugo.
The story of my grandparents is hardly unique to Walks Camp. The early Walks Camp congregation consisted of mainly Norwegian immigrants, many from my grandfather's home town of Selbu. The first of the Selbu families to settle in Walks Camp was Haldor Thompson when he arrived on April 3, 1907 with his wife Olea and three sons Clifford, Harold, and Leonard. They initially purchased a piece of property about 8 miles northwest of Genoa, Colorado, but relocated to Walks Camp in 1914.
Three more Selbu families settled in the Walks Camp area in the fall of 1907: Ole Korsvold with his family, and Christ and John Johnson (Jøsaas) with their families. Peter Kjosness came with his family in 1911. Despite having different last names, Peter Kjosness and Haldor Thompson were brothers. The likely reason for this was one of them changed their last name when they entered the United States, perhaps when the immigration agent had difficulty pronouncing "Kjosnes." My grandfather likely had a similar experience. He too had the last name of Kjosnes, but changed it to Arntson when he arrived in the United States. Eventually, Arntson was changed to Anderson.
Four Selbu families came from LaCrosse, Washington over the years, specifically Haldo Kjosnes and John Walli in 1917, Ole Slind in 1918, and Olaf Norbye in 1922.
Ingebrigt Norbye arrived in 1923 with his family from Devon, Montana. The last of the Selbu families to arrive were Gunder and Gudrun Anderson in 1928.
Other Norwegians came too. There were the Uglestads, Hansens, Ristesunds, Blakstads, Bjorgums, and Grotlands to name a few. As these Norwegians began their lives in their new homes near Walks Camp, Lutheran circuit riders began passing through the area. A circuit rider was a lay figure who traveled from one community to another preaching God's word. These preachers would typically stay with a local family for about a week and deliver sermons in homes provided a church was not nearby.
In notes compiled by Christine (Slind) Klegseth which appeared in the 50th anniversary church bulletin and sent to Luther Seminary in 1981, she wrote, "One day in the summer of 1907, the Reverend J.G. Reini, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Genoa, Colorado, made an inspection tour of the Walks Camp district in northern Lincoln County, Colorado. He came to the Olaves Hansen home and met Mr. Hansen and Mr. Knut Uglestad who gave him the situation of affairs. After inquiring around a bit more, he arranged to hold divine worship at the Hansen Home. Soon afterward, the meetings were shifted to Walks Camp School No. 1. For about a year, Reverend Reini served the people of this district. In the fall of 1908, Reverend Anders Hendrickson took charge as missionary and served until August 1909. Reverend E.O. Skavlan was the next pastor."
Reverend Skavlan would be the last pastor to serve the Walks Camp community as a circuit rider, because Reverend Skavlan would hold a meeting five months later that would formally create a congregation called Walks Camp Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation on January 17, 1910.
Walks Camp was named after two buffalo hunters, John J. and Martin Van Buren Walk who established their camp where Walks Camp Park is currently located. In the winter of 1872-1873, they averaged about 10 kills a day. During this period, John held the camp record of 36 buffalo killed in a single day. Over the course of the season, they managed to kill over 700 buffalo. They would ship the buffalo hides and meat from Hugo to Orbena Davis, a brother-in-law in Denver, who sold them to the miners to the west and the rail road companies.
The nearest communities to Walks Camp were Genoa, Limon, and Hugo. Limon was established as Limon Station in 1888 when the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad construction occurred. At one point, the railroad accounted for 300 employees in the roundhouse and repair shops in Limon. As Limon and the surrounding area developed, so did the real estate market. Real estate agents included C.M. Immel and Limon founder William S. Pershing. Another real estate agent, W.E. Epperson Land and Investment Company purchased a large advertisement in the State Business Directory. In response to the ad, farmers came from a variety of places including Texas, Kansas, Washington, Minnesota, and even Europe. It was likely these very ads that attracted the Selbu immigrants and other Norwegians to northern Lincoln County.
The brochure at left from St. Louis, Missouri was published around 1906 and is an example of the type of advertizing that lured farmers to Lincoln County. The brochure tells of those who usually suffer from ailments such as pulmonary ills, malaria, and hay fever soon find themselves healthy in the Colorado climate. They go as far as saying there is no need for doctors in Eastern Colorado due to the climate. It also claims, "There are more ills cured and fewer ills bread in Colorado than in any other land in the world." Land values are listed between $5 and $30 per acre, depending on the quality of land and the proximity of water.
In 1914, the Walks Camp Ladies Aid started the process of building a church. Four years later, John Walli, Jacob Ristesund, and Peter Kjosness let a contract to George Wagner of Limon, Colorado. Despite a contractor leading the work, members and acquaintances were given the opportunity to assist with the construction. Dimensions of the church were 24 by 32 feet with a tower and 8-foot basement.
The initial cost of the Walks Camp Church was approximately $3,000, which was raised by the generous contributions by the Ladies Aid, congregational members, and donors from Walks Camp area residents. An article in the Genoa Sentinel from August 27, 1919 was careful to acknowledge the construction of Walks Camp did not conflict with the purchase of War Savings Stamps and Liberty Bonds which supported the American war effort in Europe in World War I.
Coincidentally, my grandfather was severely wounded during this timeframe on September 14, 1918 near Dampvitoux, France when he was hit by machine gun fire and suffered injuries to his arms. Peder Norbye relayed the story to me that my grandfather was standing in a trench aiming a rifle when machine gun fire caught him in each elbow.
Walks Camp was dedicated on September 17, 1919 by Norwegian Lutheran Church District president Nils Boe. The dedication service was in Norwegian, but there was an English service at 2 p.m. in the afternoon which was hosted by G.R. Estrem of Denver, Colorado. Lunch was served by the Ladies Aid at noon and donations were accepted on behalf of the church. As can be seen from photographs, there were about 150 people in attendance.
Many of the initial members of Walks Camp were experiencing a transition period in their lives and had only been in the United States for a few years. Many early members of Walks Camp struggled between their native and adoptive homes. They attempted to embrace both as they moved toward integrating themselves into American society.
In today's America, we frequently hear of hyphenated Americans, such as African-Americans or Mexican-Americans. In the early days of Walks Camp, it was completely different. Teddy Roosevelt had been out of office only months when the Walks Camp Congregation was formed. In a speech he delivered while President, he said:
There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts "native" before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance.
Most immigrants were anxious to integrate into American culture. Walks Camp acted as a bridge to these immigrants from the old world to the new. Congregants spent much of their week on the job, immersing themselves in everyday life. But when Sunday came, they reverted back to the language of their youth. At first Walks Camp services were in Norwegian. But as their children grew, Norwegian gave way to English. Even the church notes were in Norwegian from 1910 through 1932. According to Astrid (Walli) Korsvold, she was in the last confirmation class to be confirmed in Norwegian in 1925. Lula (Korsvold) Landwehr remembers when Pastor Nelson, who arrived at Walks Camp in 1931, would periodically try to have a service in Norwegian, but it didn't last. Apparently, Mrs. Anna Blakstad said to Reverend Nelson, "You better stick to English in your sermons." The church notes were in English from that point forward as well. This change initiated a gradual shift in the makeup of the church. Other ethnic groups, such as Germans, became members. Even the Walks Camp pastors evolved from names like Skavlan, Reini, Rikensrud, and Damgaard to Loeffler, Schmidt, and Wachholz.
Walks Camp thrived in its early days and would continue to do so until the 1960s when membership declined. Despite the decline, there were nearly 300 people at the 50th Anniversary of Walks Camp. Pastor Ron Hendrickson led the liturgy followed by former Pastor Frederick Damgaard's sermon. A greeting from the South Dakota District President, Dr. Gilbertson, was read. The service included prayer for continued guidance for Walks Camp and special music of Norwegian tunes sung by an octet. There was also a girl's quintet and a vocal solo performance. Letters were read from former pastors and others not able to attend. Festivities were followed by a meal prepared by the Ladies Aid. The day concluded with cake and coffee.
There is little acknowledgement in the church notes about what branch of the Lutheran Church Walks Camp was a member. If it could be said that Walks Camp had a sister church, it might be Selbu Lutheran Church near LaCrosse, Washington where several of the Selbu Walks Camp members passed as they entered the United States. Selbu Lutheran was originally a part of the Hauge Synod of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America, which moved away from formal worship and focused on personal faith. The Hauge Synod, Norwegian Synod, and United Norwegian Lutheran Church merged to form the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America in 1917. This organization was eventually renamed the Evangelical Lutheran Church. This lasted until 1960, when they merged with Iowa, Ohio, Buffalo, and Texas synods to form the American Lutheran Church. Finally, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was formed in 1987 after it merged with other Lutheran groups. So if Walks Camp had never closed, it would likely be a member of the ELCA.
By the 1970s, America's rural population had dramatically diminished. In 1910, Lincoln County, Colorado's population was 5,917. By 1920 it had climbed to 8,273 and remained steady through the 1930s. In 1940, it had declined to 5,882 and continued to decline steadily. By 1970, there were only 4,836 people in Lincoln County. By 1972, many of the early members of Walks Camp had died or moved. Over time, many of them and their offspring, such as my grandfather, father and uncle, took jobs in Hugo, Limon, Denver and Pueblo. Another trend was farms got bigger and required less labor. Because of the reduction in population and greater labor efficiency, Walks Camp suffered. It became increasingly difficult to keep pastors. With declining membership, came declining funding. So with only a few families left in the congregation in the early 1970s, the Walks Camps congregation came to a formal end. It had served its congregation well. It started by providing a place for immigrants to adjust to the new world they inherited. It then moved to an era of caring for the children of the original members. Then, like the children, it grew up. It had served its purpose with distinction and as many Walks Camp secretaries wrote in the church meeting notes it "closed with the Lord's Prayer."
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In an effort to describe life at Walks Camp, I though it was best to get it first hand. The following individuals were kind enough to share their stories from their time in the Walks Camp community.
Lula Korsvold and Pat Phagan
Oh memories of Walks Camp! It makes me feel warm just to think of all the wonderful times we had as a family growing up in the Walks Camp Community. My father, Ole Korsvold left his home in Selbu, Norway in 1882 at the age of seventeen with his older brother, Simon, to come to America. They ended up in Minneapolis area to work on the railroad until he moved to Windom, Minnesota and became a farmer. Here he met and married Gina Velva, whose parents came from the same area in northern Norway as my Dad's family. My father and mother and their four children, Simon, Josie, Orvald, and baby Ana left Windom, Minnesota in 1907 to homestead about 20 miles northeast of Limon. They traveled to Colorado by train, bringing along a few personal items such as Mama's dining room table, the organ, and last but not least, Sport, the family dog. Several other families from the Selbu area also settled in the Walks Camp area. My Aunt Bessie and her husband, John Johnson, had arrived earlier to settle in the Walks Camp area. They were probably the instigators in promoting my parents to go west. The hardships that they must have endured upon arriving in Eastern Colorado, no house, no trees! I can imagine what my mother must have thought when she saw this barren, flat, dry land. Windom, Minnesota, however, had lots of trees and very fertile ground. I couldn't imagine leaving that for Eastern Colorado. I guess the possibility of homesteading and owning free land was a vision that kept my parents' dreams alive and persevering. Neither my mother nor my father ever returned to see their parents in Norway again. My father built a small house and a few buildings on this homestead land. As the family grew my Dad had to add to the house. Pete, Theodore, Lula, Hilbert, and Margie were born after my parents had settled in the Walks Camp area. I, Lula, tell the story as I remember it. I know that church was originally held in homes for some years before my Dad and other Norwegian settlers had time to build a community church. The Walks Camp Church was started in 1918 and completed in September of 1919. I was born on the 19th of September, 1918. Therefore, I was one of the young ones baptized by Reverend Reini in our new church. Church was our life, our socialization, our family. Each and every person that lived in our community is very special and dear to my heart, as they all in some way played an important part of my growing up years.
Excerpted from Closed with the Lord's Prayer by Bryan Alvin Anderson Copyright © 2010 by Bryan Alvin Anderson. Excerpted by permission.
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