The Hauge Log Church
 

 

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A Brief History...

The Hauge Log Church was constructed by early Norwegian settlers in western Dane County, Wisconsin. Following several years where services were held on a rotating basis in the congregation's homes, it was decided in 1851 that a dedicated church building was needed. Each settler was called upon to provide oak logs and help in erecting the structure. Logs were cut and drawn during the fall and winter of 1851 and in the early spring of 1852 construction of the 20 foot by 20 foot building was completed on land donated by Anders Sanderson.

The Hauge Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, organized in November 1852, used the log church for regular services. A splinter group, the Perry Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, was organized two years later in 1854. Amid dissension between the two congregations, both shared the log church until December 1858 when the Perry congregation completed their own structure, now the Perry Lutheran Church in nearby Daleyville, Wisconsin. The Hauge congregation remained in the original log church some 35 years until 1887 when a new larger building was constructed approximately two miles east. (The second Hauge Church was located on what is now Dane County Highway A east of Daleyville. That structure was razed during the 1960's and only a cemetery now marks the site.)

Hauge Cingregation in 1887
Congregation at the last regular service held in the Hauge Church, 1887

Following the 1887 departure of the Hauge congregation the old log church and small adjacent cemetery was abandoned and sat neglected for the next 39 years. In 1926 a group of people instituted a campaign to move the log church to the campus of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa where it would become part of a museum. When this proposal became known in the Town of Perry, strong community opposition developed with the result that the idea was dropped and the Church remained on it's original site.

Hauge Church 1915
The Hauge Log Church as it appeared in 1915

The proposal to move the structure, however, became a catalyst to have the building restored and in 1926 a three-person committee consisting of members from the Hauge Church congregation was formed to see what could be done. At that time members of the Perry Congregation were given the opportunity to participate. However, true to the past acrimonious relationship between the two groups the Perry Congregation declined. The Committee proceeded to solicit funds and materials for the project and were very successful. 140 area families (from both congregations) made contributions that resulted in the original Hauge Log Church building being restored in 1927. Following completion of the restoration project, the Hauge congregation again requested that the Perry congregation participate in the ongoing maintenance of the site and this time the Perry congregation accepted.

Over the next 40 years a four-person Hauge Log Church Committee (two members from Hauge and two from Perry), operating independently and without support or interference from their respective churches, successfully continued maintaining the church structure and surrounding grounds. During the 1960's, following dissolution of the second Hauge Church, members of the Perry congregation filled Committee vacancies, however it was recognized that a longer-term solution was needed to ensure the continued maintenance and preservation of the log church site. For several years Committee members searched in vain for a church or related organization that might be willing to provide additional support or accept the responsibility for future care. As a result, in 1966 the Perry Hauge Log Church Preservation Association, Inc., an independent, non-stock, non-profit corporation, was formed for the purpose of providing ongoing maintenance and protection of the Hauge Log Church site.

Hauge Church in 1960
The Hauge Church in the Summer of 1960 (Library of Congress photograph)
Taken for the National Park Service while documenting the church for its Historic American Buildings Survey

The Dane County Historical Society recognized the site in 1964 for its "historical significance to the community of this building and of the people who have cherished it", erecting the marker still seen at the site today.

Historic Marker Dedication
Historic Marker Dedication, October 11, 1964

The Hauge Church site was nominated and accepted for listing on the the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. At that time, the State Historical society of Wisconsin described the church and site as follows:

"The Hauge Log Church is one of three churches still on their original sites constructed in 1852 by members of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America. It was the first Norwegian Lutheran Church built in western Wisconsin, and its restoration in 1927 makes it one of the early-restored structures in the state. In 1852 it was used as the first school in the area until a permanent structure was built."

"Adjacent to the church is a small cemetery where members of the first congregation are buried. The earliest grave dates from 1852 and contains the remains of Arne Ruste who cut the first log used in building the church."

Richard W. E. Perrin includes this church as the only Dane County building in his 1960 booklet Historic Wisconsin Architecture. "It is one of very few known surviving log churches in the state and its form is sufficiently rare to warrant its preservation. The pews, pulpit, altar rail, and balcony are all completely original and in excellent repair."

National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form
State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1974

 

Hauge Church Interior
Hauge Log Church Interior (Zane Williams Photograph)

Today, the Perry Hauge Log Church Preservation Association continues the work of maintaining and preserving the original Hauge Log Church. (Membership Information) This pioneer sanctuary still hosts numerous weddings, baptisms, and other special occasions each year. Open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week year-round, nearly a thousand visitors from around the world stop annually to enjoy the scenic solitude of the location to retreat from the busy modern world for a moment of quiet reflection.

Man sitting in pew
A quiet moment at the Hauge Log Church