A Prayer in Norwegian

The Texas Story Project.

The Old Rock Church built by Norwegian immigrants in 1886.
The Old Rock Church built by Norwegian immigrants in 1886.

“I Jesu Navn aar vi til bord; at spise, drikke paa dit ord, os til gavn, saa faar vi mad, i Jesu Navn, Amen.”

I can still hear my grandfather’s soft, gentle voice asking God’s blessing and giving thanks before and after every meal. I was about three years old when my mom and dad moved to the farm to help Grandfather with the farming and take care of Mom’s parents.

My grandfather’s father, Salve Knudson, had come to Texas from Norway in 1846, leaving Norway in the month of June. The trip on the sail ship, “de Flying Fisk,” was expected to take about six to eight weeks. It was Christmas Eve before his family arrived in Texas. Only one trunk per family was allowed on the ship, and their trunk was stuffed with food, utensils, clothing, and tools for his trade as a wheelwright. Of course, there had to be room for the hymn book and family Bible, printed in Norwegian.

Salve Knudson had many difficulties, as was common at the time, in Bosque County: building shelter, clearing land, and providing for his family. Coping with the death of loved ones was the most difficult, but the hymn book and Bible provided consolation. Several years, later, sitting around the dinner table at his home, the idea to build a church was discussed with the preacher and his older brother, Jacob. In 1886, the Old Rock Church was built with rocks from the nearby hills and the work of many willing hands of other immigrants from Norway living in the area. Today, this recently renovated church stands in its original grandeur on the hill as a monument to the grit, stamina, and strong faith of these early settlers. The sound of the large bell in the bell tower can be heard for miles as it is rung for weddings, funerals, and special services. The music of the original Vocalion reed pump organ still reverberates through the wooden interior, giving chills to those sitting in the old pews, as it did over 120 years ago.

It’s a thrill for me to give the history of the church to visitors, especially during the local Country Christmas Home Tour. At this time, the church is decorated with greenery and red berries; the smell of the wood-burning stove engulfs everyone as they enter the church. Three Christmas Eve Candlelight services are held to accommodate the crowds of people wanting to attend this service. However, there is one greater thrill for me! That is to hear my eleven grandchildren say the table prayer in Norwegian, In Jesu Navn, as my family gathers around the dinner table at the holidays. My immediate family has grown to number almost 30, including spouses and great-grandchildren. Salve Knudson‘s family has grown to number over 3,000 members today and a large number are buried in the cemetery adjacent to the Rock Church. His tombstone was placed there in 1889 and reads, “He is buried in the dust, but his name shall live forever.” He is truly the “Father of Faith” to the community and his descendants.

Geneva Finstad is a descendent of Salve Knudson and is involved in the preserving the history of Norwegian immigration in Bosque County.

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