Documentary filmed near Springfield
From the mountains and valleys of Norway to the prairies of Minnesota this was the path of Torgeir Anderson.
Documentary producer Tor Reidar Austrud and Lloyd Gunderson of Aseral, Norway made the journey to the United States to trace the footprints of Torgeir Anderson. Hoping to preserve the history of the village Aseral, a documentary on immigration was commissioned.
After discussion and research at the cultural center Austrud and Gunderson found that Torgeir was the first from his village to immigrate to America. The committee began the search for his descendants by looking through church directory books, eventually using Ancestry.com to find them. Contact was made through a series of e-mails leading up to the meeting in Springfield on August 23.
Over several days Tor and his assistant Lloyd interviewed many of Torgeir’s distant relatives living in the area. They filmed at St. Johns Church cemetery near Leavenworth and various farms in the area. The McCone Sod House was used as a background for filming. Local descendants of Torgeir were used as actors. His wife Grette was played by Sara Anderson Lee (5th generation), and Torgeir’s sons Andrew and Albert were played by Cash Anderson and D.J. Anderson (6th generation).
The story of Torgeir’s journey begins in 1861. Torgeir was 25 years old when he left Norway during a time of hardship. His mother could only send the family bible along as they had no money. He sailed across the Atlantic to North America, traveling through Canada to America’s midwest, later known as Coon Prairie, Wisconsin. It was there Torgeir met his wife and they had two sons, Andrew and Albert. In early fall of 1868 Torgeir, his wife and sons traveled west to Minnesota. They stopped for the night on the north side of the Big Cottonwood River near Boise Lake, 6 miles east of the site that would become Springfield. Torgeir was told of a Norwegian family who settled on the south side of the Big Cottonwood River near the Leavenworth site. Torgeir and family waded across the river to visit the Olsons. By coincidence they had met this family in church, while living in Wisconsin. Torgeir homesteaded the land next to the Olsons in Burnstown township. By 1870 Torgeir was active in starting a community church of 65 members called the Leavenworth Norwegian Lutheran Church. They met in homes and schools. On June 13, 1882, the church was incorporated and adopted the name St. Johanna’s Norwegian Lutheran Church. Later the church purchased land near Leavenworth for a cemetery. Torgeir and his family are buried there. The cemetery remains there today. In 1889 Torgeir was instrumental in building the first actual church building, four miles east of the village of Springfield. A cemetery that surrounded the church still remains. Years later the church became St. Johns Lutheran Church, and relocated in Springfield.
Torgeir’s story will be featured in the documentary to be included in an exhibit at the Minne Kultursenter (cultural center), Ljoslandsvegen, Aseral,Vest-Agder, Norway. It will premier on July 4, 2020.