Notable Norwegians: Hans Nielsen Hauge

Photo: C. Hill / Wikimedia Memorial plate of Hans Nielsen Hauge, by Bredtvet church, Oslo.

Photo: C. Hill / Wikimedia
Memorial plate of Hans Nielsen Hauge, by Bredtvet church, Oslo.

David Moe

Hans Nielsen Hauge, born in Norway in 1771, was a lay preacher who spent most of his life promoting religious revival in Norway and had a profound influence on thousands of Norwegian immigrants to America.

The Norwegian State Church did not have freedom of religious assembly, and it was illegal to hold a religious meeting without a licensed minister present. Norwegian ministers were employees of the state and only they could administer communion, so they had great control over the people.

Although Hauge never departed from Lutheran theology, he was arrested multiple times and spent nine years in jail, where his health failed, resulting in a premature death in 1824. In 1809, the government temporarily released him from prison so he could construct salt factories to alleviate the salt shortage caused by the British Blockade because he had previously discovered a method of converting salt water into salt.

The followers of Hauge had settled in Minnesota and the Dakotas and experienced a revival in the 1890s and early 1900s to form what is now known as the Pentecostal movement. G. Raymond Carlson, for example, came from a Norwegian background in North Dakota and served as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

Followers of Hauge formed the Hauge Synod in America and were also dominant in the Lutheran Free Church. The Lutheran Free Church merged into the American Lutheran Church in the 1960s and the American Lutheran Church later merged with the Lutheran Church of America to form the present ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Hauge led a revival movement that formed a new brand of Christianity that spread across America, and we can see the remnants of it in our society today.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 21, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.