Ft. Ridgely and Dale Ministerial Book: 1883-1929
Information regarding Theodora Cormontan’s activity is documented in local newspapers in 1887, and her trial received coverage in some Twin Cities newspapers in 1889. Reports on her activity may also be found in the Morton, Minnesota paper and other newspapers in south central Minnesota starting in 1891.
For the dates between 1888-1891, however, the main source of information we have so far located is in the Ft. Ridgely and Dale Ministerial Book, 1883-1929, currently archived at Central Lutheran church near Franklin, Minnesota. We had the opportunity to look at this document in September, 2011, and scanned pages where we found the name “Cormontan.” A microfilm copy of the book, as well as minutes of meetings from the Ft. Ridgely and Dale Church, are located at the Minnesota Historical Society, microfilm reel M678 53 [ALC 138].
Most of the entries appear to have been made by Reverend Nils P. Xavier, the first resident pastor of Fort Ridgely and Dale church, who served there from 7/31/1876 until 5/12/1891. Born in Kautokeino, Finnmark, Norway in 1839, Reverend Xavier immigrated to the United States with his wife Amanda and their three young children in 1873. After 1891 he served congregations in Iowa and Washington. Reverend Parelius H. Rognlie followed Reverend Xavier and served from 7/22/1891 until the fall of 1928. Rognlie was born near Trondheim, Norway in 1858 and graduated from Luther Theological Seminary in 1891.
The Ministerial Book indicates that C.G.V. Cormontan (Theodora’s brother) joined the church on August 15, 1886. Her father (Provst Even Cormontan), her older sister Eivinda, and Theodora joined on October 27, 1887. This appears to be corroborated by a newspaper article in the Renville News Weekly from November 18, 1887, stating that Provst Cormontan and his two daughters had returned to Sacred Heart (where they were staying temporarily with Theodora’s younger sister Marie) after a week’s visit to Franklin. Marie and Theodora’s brother Hans also joined the church at a later date. (see below)
Fort Ridgely and Dale Ministerial Book
On one of the first pages (see below) we find that C.G.V. served as an officer in the church. The minutes from the Dale Church (Ft. Ridgely and Dale were technically two churches, thought they shared a worship space and pastor) confirm that C.G.V. served as secretary in 1886-1887 as well as several years as treasurer, beginning in 1889.
On several pages we find the names of members of the Cormontan family. In one entry it appears Hans was the godfather for a baptism: “Døbte fadderes.” On another page with the heading “Fordscestede” ("When they were buried") we see Rev. Cormontan’s burial noted.
July 15,1886 : The first mention of Rev. Xavier writing about “Apotheker Cormontan I Franklin” (Pharmacist Cormontan from Franklin).
November 6, 1887: Rev. Xavier mentions 89 year old Provst Cormontan. Xavier discusses the sermon the Provst gave on 11/1/87 at Ft. Ridgely and Dale Church on John 14:27. (This passage of scripture is also mentioned by Rev. Parelius Rognlie in his article about Provst Cormontan’s All Saints Day sermon that Rognlie wrote in 1893). Xavier mentions that Cormontan is from Arendal.
April 3, 1888 (see below): Rev. Xavier calls on the house of old (“gamle”) Provst Cormontan and "Miss Dora" Cormontan. He shares Holy Communion with them. He writes “My wish has been fulfilled—God promises—thanks to God!” (“Gud ske lov!”). April 3 would have been a little over a month after Theodora arrived in Franklin from Sacred Heart (on approximately 3/1/1888).
December 5, 1888: It appears the pastor visited Provst Cormontan and gave Holy Communion to his daughter Theodora and to him.
April 23, 1889 (see below): Rev. Xavier visits Provst Cormontan and daughter Theodora. The adjective before “Datter” appears to be "sygelige," or "sickly" in Danish.
March 6, 1890: Rev. Xavier notes a visit to “almost 92 year old" Provst Cormontan and "Datter Theodora" and gives communion to the whole family. At the end of the entry the pastor writes "Gud velsigne i Jesu Navn"--"God bless in Jesus' Name!"
August 8, 1890: It appears the Reverend visited Provst Cormontan and gave Holy Communion to all the members of the household. At the end of the entry Pastor Xavier writes "May the communion bring God's blessing on the old Provst and on the hearts of his children."
January 6, 1891 (see below): Rev. Xavier notes a women's association or Ladies Aid meeting at the Cormontan residence that the pastor attended. (“Kvindeforeningen”: women’s association).
April 9, 1891: This entry is hard to read. It looks like all the members of the family are present and receive communion. The note ends with "God's blessings!"
April 23, 1892: It appears Reverend Parelius H. Rognlie (who followed Reverend Xavier at Ft. Ridgely and Dale Church) is making a "sick visit" to Provst Cormontan. Reverend Rognlie served from 7/22/1891 until the fall of 1928.
February 21, 1893: Contains a reference to Provst Cormontan's burial.
Title page of records (see below). This is the title page of the "Ministerial Book for Ft. Ridgely and Dale Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Begyndt (began) Jan. 1, 1883-1929."
The following are selected entries from Dale Church minutes between 1886-1899. These minutes may be found at the Minnesota Historical Society, microfilm reel M67853 [ALC 138]. Each entry below starts with the page number:
P87: May, 1886. Along with another man, G. [Gottfred--C.G.V.] Cormontan is elected to examine the accounting records for the church and to report their findings at a later meeting. In other business that day the committee agreed to accept the offer of Johannes Enger to do interior work on the church provided the church supply the materials needed and give him a contract for his work.
P90: “G. Cormontan valgtes til sekretær . . .” ("G. Cormotnan elected secretary . . ." ) on 10/27/1886.
In a meeting dated March 14, 1887: Ole Quamso and G. Cormontan are elected to review some aspect of church business and report the outcome of their review at a future meeting. G. Cormontan is the secretary of this meeting.7y
P93: A. Norum noted as Secretary in a meeting on 4/14/87.
P100: 5/2/89. G. Cormontan holds the position of "kasserer" (treasurer). The committee voted for two people to attend the Synod meeting and that each man be given 50 cents for traveling expenses.
P106: 10/29/91. The first mention I find of Rev. Parelius Rognlie. C.G.V. Cormontan appears to continue as treasurer.
P108: 10/27/92. C.G.V. Cormontan continues as treasurer. The church appears at this time to typically have two business meetings a year; one in October and one in May.
P109: 5/3/92. The first mention of “Miss Cormontan” named to “spille orgelet” ("play the organ"). She is also referred to as Organist. The Cormontans secured an organ for the church in January of 1892, so it is probable that the church did not have an organ before that, making her the first organist for the church. At this meeting the committee began negotiations regarding what compensation an organist should receive, but they did not finish that day and moved to continue the discussion at the next meeting.
P112: 5/2/93. Hans Cormontan is mentioned in the minutes, as is “Organist Fröken (Miss) Cormontan.” It appears that Hans was unanimously approved to join the congregation. News articles from the period and the 1895 Minnesota Census corroborate that Hans stayed for a time in Sacred Heart after Even, Eivinda, and Theodora joined C.G.V. in Franklin.
P113: 5/1/93 (date unclear). G. Cormontan is no longer treasurer.
P114: still 5/1/93. “Besluttet at menigheden anmodes Theodora Cormontan am atter betjene menighederne sam Orgaananist atter et aar for $25.00.” (The congregation asks Theodora Cormontan to again serve the combined congregations as Organist for an annual salary of $25.00).
The committee also decided to purchase one Lindeman Choral Book and that this piece of church property would be in the possession of the organist.
P116: 10/26/93: G. Cormontan resumes the role of treasurer.
P117: Probably still 10/26/93, but hard to read. Hans Cormontan is mentioned in the minutes. It appears he may have been named as a congregational representative to the synod.
P118: 5/7/95. There appears to be a new treasurer. T. Cormontan continues as organist.
P119: 10/31/95. G. Cormontan is mentioned, perhaps as treasurer, but text is too light to read.
P121: 5/6/96. "Mis. T. Cormontan" is Organist. G. Cormontan is not treasurer.
P122: 11/6/96. G. Cormontan is given some responsibility to the Bandon District . Bandon Township is located just north of Camp Township, where the church is located.
P124: 5/4/97. G. Cormontan is named to some position (“revisener”--I can't read the word) along with L. Engen. Perhaps the word is "revisioner," meaning "revision." Maybe these men were charged with some kind of revision work, perhaps revising the governing documents of the congregation.
P126: 5/3/98. G. Cormontan, L. Enger, and Theodora Cormontan are named to continue in same positions as previous year.
P128: 12/15/98. Hans Cormontan is named as a member of a three-person committee to join with a committee from the Ft. Ridgely church to determine what improvements to the parsonage were necessary. Church meetings appear to have increased to about four times a year.
P129: 2/20/99. It appears Gjetta Havolin becomes the new organist. This seems to be a sudden, mid-year replacement. It corresponds with the date that C.G.V. Cormontan sold his drug store, and seems to indicate that this was a rather sudden decision.
Citing another source with salient information:
The "Ottende ordentlige Synodemøde" ("Report on the 8th special Synod meeting") for the Minnesota District of the Norwegian Evangelical Church in America (published in Decorah, Iowa) noted that G. Cormontan attended as a guest representing the Dale Chruch. The meeting took place in Sacred Heart, MN on May 30-June 5, 1888.