St. Ansgar, Iowa

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St. Ansgar is a city in Mitchell County, Iowa, United States. The population was 1,031 at the 2000 census.

Contents

History

St. Ansgar is named for the patron saint of Scandinavia, a French Benedictine monk who Christianized much of Denmark, Sweden, and northern Germany between 830 and 865 A.D. The town is the site of a pioneer Norwegian Lutheran Church founded in December 1853 by Rev. Claus Lauritz Clausen, a Dane who was commissioned by the Lutheran Church of Norway to form congregations for Norwegian immigrants in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.

The St. Ansgar church, congregation and town served as a center for the dispersion of Norwegian settlers north across the border into Minnesota and on into western Iowa from the mid-1850s into the late 1870s. Clausen formed 21 additional congregations. St. Ansgar First Lutheran, a graceful building constructed of limestone quarried from the banks of the nearby Cedar River and native hardwoods, is the oldest continuously active Lutheran congregation west of the Mississippi (Booklet published by the First Lutheran Church of St. Ansgar on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the congregation, 1853–2003; available in the Iowa State Historical Society collection, Iowa City, Iowa, and at the church.)

Pastors in the National Church of Norway received university training in census record keeping; the current parish keeps copies of congregation records continuously from founding to the present, making these records a significant genealogical resource.

A fortified stone outbuilding locally called Fort Severson, one half mile west of St. Ansgar (on a gravel side road; signage is only on hard surface state highway 105), was built in 1867 by settlers associated with the Clausen settlement anxious about the continued presence of Sauk and Fox Native Americans traveling through the area along the Deer Creek and the Cedar River. The settlers fears were animated by the killing of settlers at Spirit Lake Iowa in 1857 and in New Ulm, Minnesota in 1862. The distinctively fortified building, which functioned both as a barn and a fort, is the sole surviving example of many that were built. The site is open to the public, albeit requiring of persistence to find. (See St. Ansgar home page.)[1]

Geography

St. Ansgar is located at 43°22′44″N 92°55′10″W / 43.37889°N 92.91944°W / 43.37889; -92.91944 (43.378814, -92.919576)[1].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 0.8 square miles (2.0 km²), all of it land.

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