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IN 1909 there were 1.8 million Danish-Norwegians in North America, speaking the language even to the fourth generation, and there was a strong trend to preserve Scandinavian culture in the United States. The University of Minnesota set up a center of Danish-Norwegian art and literature.
The Autumn Council, meeting at College View, Nebraska, in October, 1909, decided that Seventh-day Adventists should have three foreign-language schools in North America, instead of trying to maintain various foreign-language departments at Union College.
A committee of twenty, appointed to look for a site for the Danish-Norwegian seminary, found a building and farm at Hutchinson, Minnesota, that the Danish Lutherans were offering for sale at an attractively low price. The large four-story building was of pressed brick with rock foundation. Besides classrooms, it contained forty-six students' rooms, a pleasant dining hall, a chapel that seated about 400, and a good gymnasium. It was steam heated, and had electric lights and city water. The farm was 160 acres.
When O. A. Olsen preached the graduation sermon for the eighth grade in the Chicago Scandinavian church school, he told of the purchase of the Lutheran property in Minnesota. One of the graduates, Ida Christensen, turned around and looked at her father—the local elder who had prayed for Annie
Andreasen—asking for permission to attend the new school. He nodded his consent.
When school opened on September 28, 1910, the Andreasens and the other families invited to pioneer at Hutchinson had already moved there and had set up temporary living quarters somewhere in the "one-piece" school. The boys were assigned the top story. Beneath them was the girls' floor. The president's office, classrooms, and library-chapel were on the main floor. The gym, dining room and kitchen, laundry, and furnace room comprised the basement.
The first thing in the morning for some days, farm manager George Axelson or student Nels Nelson, would hitch up the team and go down to the Great Northern railway station to meet the students with their trunks. At length, eighty-two students were enrolled.
Vesta, not yet 14, and Ida Christensen, would go along, having great fun. M. L. used to say that the only time it was quiet around the school was when Vesta and Ida were mad at each other and wouldn't speak. Eunice was the charming little girl who would go to meet Axelson after work and ride home on one of the horses.
The teachers and their families ate in the student dining room at tables for eight. The seating arrangement was changed each month. The food was served home style. For supper there would be applesauce, dark, homemade bread, and a jar of sorghum, bought by the barrel, plus foamy skim milk.
There were no paid workers. Each weekday as soon as classes were over teachers and students would put on work clothes. There were teachers' cottages to build, ditches to dig, coal to unload, and wood to chop. Even if it was cleaning out the cesspools, M. L. was right there at work, "father" of the big family. Although the school taught only seventh, eighth, and ninth grades that first year, the students
were more nearly of college age. The only certified teacher was Dr. J. M. Petersen from Heidelberg, a new Adventist, devoted to raising the church's educational standards. To start out, the eighth-grade arithmetic teacher was studying algebra, and the algebra teacher was taking geometry.
During his eight years at the school, M. L. was business manager as well as principal and president. Annie acted as bookkeeper and nurse—"going back and forth, helping as needed." The first year there was a deficit of $550; the second, a gain of $370. By the third year, the enrollment had reached 104. By M. L.'s eighth year, the school was teaching college classes, lacking only three semesters of granting a degree.
All Danish-Norwegian Adventist youth were supposed to be at this school, and receive all their instruction in that language. A few, such as Ida Christensen, who had only the Danish vocabulary learned in church, were unable to get the good grades they were accustomed to. It helped when M. L. agreed to teach general history in English.
Anna Paulson, who became a student at Hutchinson in 1912, reminisces: "Prof had the habit of coming up into the girls' floor to see whether everything was quiet. Sometimes he'd come in and visit with us. I was rooming with Anna Sorensen at the time, and Prof's wife's name was Annie. 'Nobody's any good unless her name is Anna,' Prof said. Then he gave me a look and said, 'You'll never amount to anything until you get to studying algebra better.' I was having so much fun I didn't care whether I got algebra or not. In after years I enjoyed twitting him about flunking me in algebra. He answered just as happily, 'One thing I know about it: if I flunked you, you deserved it.' I didn't flunk in anything else." Another Anna, an older student who was also teaching sewing, somehow got a poor grade in algebra
and was in a flood of tears one day in class. Prof didn't know what to do about her, but bravely went on through the class. The next day he brought a post card and put it on her desk. It was a picture of a little boy and girl, her stocking halfway down one leg, dejected and crying. The printed legend read, 'You know I love you, but I can't keep telling you all the time.' We all had a good laugh.
"A printshop had been set up in the basement. Prof would call two or three of us down to help. Naturally speedy himself, he'd say, 'Well, let's see who can fold the most of these.' He got us working like mad.
"But it wasn't only the fine art of folding. I remember him in the potato bin with me, cutting seed potatoes for planting. He was also with us when we were all out picking up potatoes during harvest. In later years we got too sophisticated for that, and how we missed it."
The second year of school, Delia Jensen came from South Dakota. Soon she was alternating with Vesta in playing the piano for Friday-evening vespers. Delia recalls: "Elder Andreasen looked so majestic coming down the aisle in his long Prince Albert coat. But he could embarrass you if he thought you needed it. He had instructed Vesta and me, 'Sit on the front seat, so that when I call the number of the song, you'll not have to come from way back.' One week I had forgotten I was to play, so when he announced the song, I started down the aisle. When I had come only halfway, he said, 'Let's stand up and sing.'
"One night two young men and two of us girls went for a boat ride. If everything had gone well, we could have been back before lights out, and nobody would have known the difference. But an oar broke, delaying us, and the boat leaked, getting our coattails wet. When we got back to school, the lights were out,
but the doors were open. There we were, dripping wet around the bottom, tiptoeing down the hall. Prof's flashlight followed us all the way, up the stairs, down to our room, with not a word. We felt like mice.
"When I first went to Hutch, the school was new. There was a lot of landscaping to do. We had a horse and a sort of truck. Prof said one day, 'Delia, do you want to go along to get rosebushes? You're from the farm. You sit in the seat and drive, and I'll stand behind.' It was a rainy, muddy day. All of a sudden the horse made a lurch, and Prof fell off the wagon, coattails flying, and there he lay in the mud. 'Oh, I'm so sorry,' I gasped. He never said a word, but got up, got back on the wagon, and we went after the rosebushes."
In the fall of 1912, a young man, F. M. Larsen, later a missionary to China, arrived at the school at four-thirty in the afternoon, after some transportation problems, to find the office closed. It was three days before school started, and there were very few students around. He heard talking in the basement, so he went down and rapped at the door, and Elder Andreasen came out.
"Where did you come from?"
Larsen had a letter of introduction from a friend M. L. knew in Michigan. "You want to work?"
M. L. opened a door, and there was the kitchen. Larsen took his coat off and started unpacking
dishes, less than twenty minutes after he arrived.
There was a fruit room off the kitchen. One year the night watchman began going there at night, picking the lock and taking fruit. M. L. decided to put a stop to it. He was hiding in the kitchen when he heard the watchman approaching, singing, "I've reached the land of corn and wine." The humor of the situation so hit M. L. that he couldn't do a thing about catching the thief. He just went upstairs laughing. He never could sing the song again without remembering that incident.
"I had Elder Andreasen for teacher in two classes," F. M. Larsen relates. "The best one was American history. He had a knack of holding his students spellbound, bringing out each event so vividly that we could almost see it taking place. I can remember how at ten o'clock in the morning we'd all be sitting there waiting. He'd come in quietly, go to the board, and write some questions. We never knew what he'd pop on us. He had a way of picking out some things in the lesson that students ordinarily wouldn't notice. There were generally about ten questions. 'All right; write it out.'
"During my last two years I was an outside student. Late Friday afternoon I would walk to school to practice with a quartet. When suppertime came, Mrs. Andreasen would invariably invite me to supper. She was a wonderful cook. Every Friday night we had the most delicious baked beans.
"In his home the Prof would invite me up to his study, lined with books. In their bedroom there was a little bedside table with books on it. He was a great reader, and he knew how to apply what he read.
"It was always a joy when Prof had the Sabbath service. He always brought out something worthwhile, right to the point, and always stopped at twelve o'clock (some other speakers went over twenty or thirty minutes)."
One particular incident illustrated M. L.'s policy not to ask anyone to do anything he would not do himself if he could.
One summer the boys were painting the trim on the four-story brick building, and had managed to finish the windows, but had no equipment for scaffolding. The eaves remained to be conquered. M. L., true to his policy, knew who would paint them. Athlete that he was, he clung to the eaves day after day, with only a toehold above the windows. He finished the job without a slip. A non-Adventist wrote up the feat in the Atlantic Monthly, identifying neither president nor institution, but clearly it was about M. L.
As a boy, M. L.'s ambition had been to stand on his head in front of an audience. Sometimes during the lively Saturday-night marches at Hutch, he'd come into the gym walking on his hands. After he was 60, a former Hutch student asked him whether he still walked on his hands. "Oh, yes. Every day."
M. L. kept on swimming into the last decade of his life. He would join the boys in swimming the mile out to the island in Lake Hook, near the school. Between the school and town was a millrace in which the water was ten feet deep. M. L. used to hold a big stone to keep him under water as he swam through beneath the paddlewheel.
All the students were encouraged to take part in ice-skating. M. L., wearing a short coat, red stocking cap, and mittens, would help the boys clear the snow off the rink on the river. He skated so easily that it was like poetry to watch him. One time, after he had rounded the students up to go home, they asked for a little exhibition of his fancy skating. While performing, he leaned over backward just a trifle too far and fell down. The students all laughed. M. L. regained his feet and soon was laughing harder than the rest.
Even wrestling was not beyond the pale for M. L. Nels Nelson reminisces: "One day at our annual picnic he wanted to see how he could make out in wrestling. So he suggested that the two of us go to a secluded place in the woods and try our hand. He lost in the game. Two of the fellows had peeked, and got a good laugh.
"Prof brought the little hand press he had in Brooklyn with him to Hutch. We outgrew that for a job press that was given to us. It had no inking fountain, so Prof and I rigged up a block plane to feed the ink onto the rollers. We worked all night on that; night was nothing to him when something special was on. We had a new invention. That press served for some time.
"The next move was to buy a pony cylinder press, which we set up in a little basement room. The board decided we were to print the Northern Union Reaper, which came out each week. Prof was away, and the editor was anxious to have the next issue printed at Hutchinson. Moving everything from Minneapolis in that short a time was something that only the ignorant or foolhardy would attempt, but somehow we got the next Reaper out on time. When Prof came back, he shook his head. 'Nels, I never would have dared to do that.'
"In 1914 George Axelson and I were scheduled to go to Denmark. We had already bought our tickets from New York to Europe, which cost twenty-five dollars each. Then the war stopped everything. Prof urged that I come to Hutch to work for the rest of the summer. It was his idea to fix up the bathrooms with ceramic tile on the floor. Neither of us knew anything about laying ceramic, but we went ahead. There was nothing he didn't undertake. He was always there to back it up with his own labor.
"Another time we were putting down sidewalks in front of the main building. The farm manager
would let us use the team and wagon in the morning, but not in the afternoon when the students had work period. We had classes in the morning. Prof always had a way out. 'Nels, you have two vacant periods. You get out and get the team and wagon, and as soon as I get out, we'll go over and get a load of sand.' I don't believe I ever saw two shovels work faster. Then I returned the team, and we went back to class.
"Many people had a hard time understanding him—sometimes even his friends. He was quick to make a decision and too short in answering or explaining why he did as he did. Once after he had administered certain punishment to one of the boys, Prof and I were working together in the printshop. I undertook to tell him I didn't think he was treating Tom right. That brought out his fighting spirit. I can still see him making little spits on the floor as he said, 'I've certainly got my opinion of someone that will criticize me for all the help I've given Tom.' By then I realized that I, as a young boy, was wrong in trying to correct Prof, who was right. Our friendship was never broken. I believe we really understood each other."
Even before the first graduation in 1914, the students who went from Hutchinson Theological Seminary were recognized as first-class burden bearers in their church. To mention only a few: A. W. Johnson, college president and General Conference Religious Liberty secretary; R. P. Rowe, manager of the Pacific Press; Nets Nelson, superintendent of the Southern Publishing Association; Carl Martinson, consecrated physician; Anna Paulson Edwardson, dean of nurses at La Sierra. Especially did Hutch students shine as foreign missionaries:
Chris Sorensen, married to Delia, president of the Far Eastern Division; the Larsens in China; the Dahls in Manchuria; the Gjordings in Manchuria, Shanghai, and Singapore.
"The General Conference liked to get missionaries for foreign fields from Hutchinson because these young people were consecrated; they also had a practical turn of mind. If they needed a house, they built a good one. If they needed something to eat, they would grow it in order to have variety in their diet. The people they went to help took well to these young missionaries."
*H. M. Johnson, personal interview.