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Garness Church roots go back to farm in Norway


Mon, Dec 31st, 2001
Posted in Norwegian Ancestry

December 31, 2001



The familiar sounds I grew up with, the unloading of the horses, the snorting and pawing, and the cinching of the saddles were all heard that cold blustery day, January 14, 1996. However, someone very important to me was missing from this gathering of horses and riders. It was my father, Sylvan Nelson, who always went from rider to rider with a big smile, shaking hands and making everyone feel welcome.





That day Star, my father’s horse, would be led riderless by, my nephew, Nathan O’Connor on a tribute ride. Joining them on horseback were six members of the Minnesota Cutting Horse Association (MCHA) who solemnly took their pallbearer positions behind the wagon carrying my father’s casket. Family and friends followed the wagon tracks from the village of Newburg the nearly two miles to the Garness Trinity Lutheran Church in rural Mabel. This was Sylvan’s final journey to Garness.





Garness Church named after Garnås, 1868





In early 1868, the "Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church of Newburg" was organized. It was built on land owned and donated by my father’s Great-Great Grandparents, Bjørn and Sidsel Garnås, later to become known as the "Garness Church." The church was completed in 1869 at a cost of about $1,023.





The Garness Church sits high on top of a hill catching inclement weather. On July 25, 1901 the original church was struck by lightning and burned. A new brick church was completed the following year for over $5,000. Norway pines planted around the cemetery still stand there today.





The early Sunday worship services were in Norwegian and lasted longer than an hour. Separate seating was a custom for many years, with the women and smaller children on one side of the church and the boys with their fathers on the other.





The Garness Church altar, altar rail and pulpit were made in 1902 by L.A. Lund of Mabel at a cost of $130. The altar painting was by H.N. Gausta who came to Harmony from Norway at age thirteen. He studied and taught art at Luther College as well as studied in Europe. Gausta’s paintings are found in churches all over the northwest.





Prior to building the Garness Church, the early Norwegian Pastors traveled by foot and by horse to serve the s .....
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