Rovang Parochial School

Nordness, Iowa (1879)

This log school house, erected in 1879 several miles southeast of Decorah, was used mainly for religious instruction conducted in two-week sessions during the regular public school term. Students were allowed to take that time off from public school. The “common school controversy” regarding the effect of public school on the cultural assimilation of immigrant children was a widely waged debate in the mid-1800s. Part-time religious education in the Norwegian language became an acceptable compromise between the American public school system and a separate Norwegian-American school system based on what the immigrants had been used to in Norway. The day began and ended with devotions. Instruction was in Norwegian and included the Norwegian ABC’s, Lutheran catechism, Bible history, and hymns. Johan Hagen, born in Norway in 1849, taught parochial school here and at other locations in the area from 1888 until 1918.