At first it was a trickle, but when the land in Minnesota was sold to the United States in a treaty with the Indians and officially opened to settlers in 1855, the pioneers streamed in. The majority of them were Norwegians.
Reverend Claus Clausen was the first Scandinavian Lutheran minister in America. He became the first editor of the first Norwegian language newspaper in America, Emigranten, published in Wisconsin. It was due in part to the fact that he explored Iowa and southern Minnesota in 1852, then published articles in Emigranten describing the location of good farm land there, that the Norwegians came to Minnesota and Iowa in such large numbers.
The Norwegian immigrants that would eventually form the St. Olaf Churches arrived without much more than their tools and their Bibles. Their most pressing needs were to construct a home, usually a rough log cabin or soddy, and to begin plowing, but it wasn’t long before they sent a rider to St. Ansgar, Iowa, to bring back Reverend Clausen to establish a Lutheran church. He gave the first church service under an oak tree across the street from where East St. Olaf Church stands today.
Though the founding members of East and West St. Olaf arrived in 1856, construction of a church building wasn’t started until 1862. In the meantime, ministers from Wisconsin were hired to hold periodic church services, traveling from Wisconsin on horseback. These services were held in the log cabins. Oftentimes the minister would preach from a window so that the people unable to fit into the cabin could hear the service.
Most log cabins had one room with a loft. John Tverberg owned the largest log cabin in the area, having two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs. Because of its size, many of the early church services took place there. A variety of ministers served the area; one of them recorded that he had personally held 101 services in the Tverberg home.
In 1976 the Tverberg cabin was relocated to beneath the oak tree in the parish park where the very first church service was held and restored to its original appearance. It has been maintained over the years but at this time is in need of considerable repairs.