Jorgensen Music


St. James: 1908-1917

C.G.V. Cormontan was working as a pharmacist at the Chas. Levens drug store in St. James, Minnesota by 1907.  According to the minutes of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church (now known as First Lutheran), Hans Cormontan was recorded as a member in January, 1908.  The rest of the family was noted as "silent" members in those minutes.  This order of membership is confirmed in the List of Church Members below.  The church minutes also indicate that Hans was a church sexton in 1910 and Theodora was one of the organists in 1915.  This likely indicates that she served as a musician there throughout the time the family retained membership in the church.

(above) A scan from the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran/First Lutheran Church in St. James documents that at least three of the four family members joined the church on January 28, 1909, after having visited in 1908 and being designated "silent" members. Hans joined a year earlier. Note that the full names of all four family members are written out here--no "dittoes."  The First Lutheran Church was part of the United Synod, a change from the Norwegian Synod that had been the choice of the Cormontan family when they lived in Franklin.  The Madelia West and Lake Hanska churches were also part of the the United Synod when the Cormontan family were members.

It may be assumed that Theodora resumed teaching music in St. James, though there is no record of her advertising for students as she did in Madelia.  While none of her manuscripts are dated later than 1908, one of them is a setting of a poem that was not published in the U.S. until 1909 while another is dedicated to a bride who married in 1913, so evidence indicates that Theodora continued to compose in St. James.  She certainly continued to try to get her music published--two of her lost piano works were copyrighted with the Library of Congress in 1911.


(above) The Wenstrom Furniture Store in St. James--the town's first furniture store, located opposite the hospital.  This picture was probably taken in 1905.  Note that pianos are prominently featured.  Owning and being able to play the piano was considered essential by many  families at the turn of the century. 


The 9/17/1909 edition of the St. James Journal Gazette noted on page 1 that a program would be offered on Tuesday, September 21 under the auspices of the "Mission Band" at the Norwegian Lutheran Church.  The program included recitations, songs, a speech by Rev. L.P. Thorkveen, a Mission offering, and two piano solos by "Miss Cormontan."


The last two public piano performances by Theodora to receive newspaper coverage took place in St. James early in 1910.  In January she played a piano solo on two consecutive afternoons as part of a State Red Cross series of tuberculosis awareness and education meetings.  The following is the order of the program (Cormontan played just before Dr. Pratt on both days): 

Monday, January 24th [1910]

Afternoon—2:30 o’clock.

Presiding—Supt. H. L. Brown.

            Introductory Remarks.

Chorus                       High School

Instrumental Music  High School

Address         Mr. C. Easton, Executive Sec. of State Red Cross, St. Paul.

                        Subject: “Local Work for Consumptives.”

Piano Solo                Miss Theodora Cormonton [sic]

Address                     Dr. C. C. Pratt, Minneapolis

Later in the article (featured in the 1/22/1910 edition of the St. James Journal Gazette) it stated:

Miss Theodora Cormontan will render a piano solo at the State Board Exhibit both Monday and Tueday afternoons.  This number will be given just previous to Dr. Pratt’s lecture.  Miss Cormontan is a pianist of rare ability.  Her study under the greatest masters of Europe has made of her a player of ability, as well as a composer of piano music.  All lovers of music and especially the ladies are urged to attend all the meetings.


In the 2/5/10 edition the paper noted that Theodora performed a piano solo in the Friday afternoon program at the 1910 Farmer's Institute in St. James.  While the men attended meetings, programs were provided for the women, featuring addresses on "Sanitation in the Home" and "Poultry Raising" as well as performances by Halverson’s Orchestra, a vocal duet team featuring Misses Flora Rasey and Georgine Minder, and the High School Girls' Chorus in addition to Cormontan.


In 1910 Theodora, the youngest of the four unmarried siblings who live together, has turned 70.  The advancing age of the family makes it increasingly difficult for them to stay economically viable.  They also fade from mention in the local section of the paper, though they continue to be featured periodically:


St. James Journal-Gazette, 10/29/10: Theodora Cormontan was a Mankato visitor, yesterday.


St. James JG, 5/23/1912, p. 1: [An article reports that the Levens Drug Store (“operating for many years”) and Hintgen Drug Store merge.  The new firm is known as Hintgen Drug Co.  It is not known if C.G.V. is still employed at the store or if this merger impacted his position.  The Northwestern Druggist reports that Mr. Levens sold his interest in Hintgen Drug Co. in 1919.]


St. James JG, 3/13/1913 (Of Local Interest section): C. G. V. Cormontan was a Madelia visitor, Tuesday.


St. James JG, 4/11/1914 (Of Local Interest): Miss Theodora Cormontan went to Ormsby, yesterday, to organize a new class in music.


By the time this last item appears, Hans Cormontan has passed away.  The First Lutheran Church records his death occurring on April 17, 1913, and this date is corroborated in a brief article in the 4/19/1913 edition of the St. James Plaindealer.  No record of his death exists at the Watonwan County Courthouse.  Theodora is almost 74, and this search for new students in Ornsby, a town about 11 miles from St. James, may reflect severe economic pressures on the remaining three family members.


As early as the 2/19/1909 edition of the St. James Journal Gazette, the Cormontan family is being subsidized by the County Poor Fund.  In 1908 C.G.V. was given ten stipends of $10.00 each, plus the family received some assistance on their fuel bills.  It appears they subsequently received county welfare every year.  The 2/3/1916 edition of the St. James Journal Gazette includes a Financial Statement of Watonwan County, MN for the fiscal year ending Dec. 31st, 1915.  Under the heading "County Poor Disbursements Itemized" followed by the category "Relief" the first name listed is "Cormontan Family." Beneath the name is this list:


S. Hage Lumber Co., fuel              $26.15

P. N. Sterrie Co., merchandise      $45.00

W. G. Manning, fuel                         $5.00

J. J. Schutz, house rent                 $30.00

P. N. Sterrie Co., merchandise      $30.00

S. Hege Lumber Co., fuel              $15.00

J. J. Schutz, house rent                 $30.00

W. G. Manning, fuel                         $3.50

J. J. Schutz, house rent                 $13.00

J. J. Schutz, house rent                 $13.00

P. N. Sterrie Co., merchandise      $60.00

J. J. Schutz, house rent                 $26.00

Manning Fuel Co., fuel                  $25.50

S. Hage Lbr. Co., fuel                    $15.70

P. N. Sterrie Co., merchandise      $75.00

Total                                             $403.55


The Death Certificate for C.G.V. Cormontan states that he died of pneumonia on June 13, 1917.  Both C.G.V. and Hans were buried by the county in unmarked graves in Mt. Hope Cemetery in St. James.  Less than two months after C.G.V.'s death Eivinda and Theodora would make their last move--this time to the Aase Haugen Home near Decorah, Iowa.








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