A marsh is not the best place to plant a crop.
If not completely underwater, it’s muddy and hard to move through. It was hard enough to cultivate soil on high ground, let alone run a plow through a bog. But that’s just what the early settlers of western Clinton County did.
When they first arrived in the region, settlers found a lot of rich land like what was in the rest of the county, but they also had to contend with a lot of marshes and bogs. While they had to have known that taming the land there wasn’t going to be easy, these men and women loved the area, and choose to try their luck.
It was into this environment that the Norwegians came.
Tall and strong with ice blue eyes, they brought with them an equal determination to tame the land. Many farmed, while others worked at building businesses and towns.
They also brought their culture, customs, and religion with them. Most of them didn’t speak English and had to learn what they could to get along with their neighbors. As a result, many of them gathered together not only because of common experience and background, but also because they could communicate freely with one another, especially at religious gatherings.
Very early on, the Norwegians gathered together in each other’s homes for religious services. Many of them were Lutherans, so the proceedings were carried out along those guidelines. Some of these first services were conducted by a pioneer minister named Rasmussen who travelled through the area on his way to central Iowa from LaSalle, Illinois.
On Dec. 27, 1861, 37 people officially formed themselves as a Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church congregation, named Kvindherred after the region of Norway where a good number of them came from.
Over the next several years, the congregation would meet at a few different places, including a schoolhouse and a local man’s grove. By 1877, they were ready for a church building of their own. By July of the following year they had one.
The dedication service was a grand affair, led by their original leader, Reverend Rasmussen, who was assisted by several other pastors. The congregation first met at the schoolhouse where they had been holding services, and then proceeded over to the new building, named the Kvindherred Evangelical Lutheran Church.
It was a relatively simple building — wood-framed with a single steeple — but it meant so much to the congregation it housed. Over the next several decades, the church would continue to serve the Norwegian families of Olive Township, who updated both the building and themselves.
An organ was installed in 1882, and a basement dug underneath the church in 1912, which came with the addition of a furnace. Women members gained the right to vote on church issues, and the services spoken solely in Norwegian gradually changed to being conducted completely in English.
Two more organs were added, and a parsonage was eventually built next to the church.
141 years later, the Kvindherred Evangelical Lutheran Church still stands south of Calamus as a testament to the rugged pioneers who founded it. While the name was changed to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in 1946, it still serves its original purpose of meeting the spiritual needs of Olive Township today.