The Ringness House Museum
Norwegian roots in Texas
CYNTHIA ELYCE RUBIN
The Norwegian American
In 1854, Jens and Kari Ringness were one of eight Norwegian families who arrived in Bosque County, Texas, settling in the area that came to be known as the Norse Community. Jens filed a claim for a farm along Neils Creek and built a two-room log cabin, bringing his family of three children later in the fall. In 1859, in response to the need for more room for his growing family and for guest quarters for newly arriving Norwegian immigrants, the six-room “dobbelthus” was built.
This house was the site of many worship services held by the early pioneers, who were mostly of Lutheran faith. They gathered in the home to sing hymns, hear a reading from the Huspostel (a book of sermons for each Sunday of the year), and to pray. The Civil War prolonged the period when no church was built, and it was rare that they even had a visiting pastor.
Nonetheless, in January 1867, riders went from house to house to announce a special service to be held at the Ringness House with Pastor S.S. Reque presiding. Afterward, they voted to hire a pastor and organize a church, thus creating the congregation of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Norse, which still operates today.
The blacksmith’s shop on the Ringness property is notable because it is the location where the disk plow was invented. When Jens Ringeness’ son Ole drove a wagon to deliver mail, his experiences in the heavy mud gave him the idea to make a plow shaped like a disk. He constructed the prototype in his father’s blacksmith shop (which still stands on the property) and then traveled to New York City to apply for a patent for his invention.
Later, the family was informed that Ole had died there, although the family never learned how he died. They did, however, learn that the trip had been successful in one way when they received notice from the Patent Office declaring that the disk plow patent had been approved and would be granted after payment of a fee. Unfortunately, the family did not pay the fee, and so the patent was not issued.
By the mid-1930s, the Ringness House had transformed into a barn. When Eddie and Ada Ringness died, the farm left the Ringness family and was sold to Ole Pierson. In the late 1970s, Don and Alice Brandenberger purchased the property. Over time, the roof blew off, and the floors and timbers fell. In 1997, the Rev. John Homerstad, a descendant of the Ringness family, initiated an effort to preserve the derelict house, and with the Brandenberger family’s permission, a community campaign to fully restore the house was in full swing.
The Ringness House Restoration Project fundraising campaign began with a variety of activities, advertisements, and news articles. Today, Don and Alice Brandenberger continue to own the house, however, they have granted the Norwegian Society of Texas a perpetual easement for the house in its restored location on property near the highway.
Betty Tindall, former president and current vice president of the society, wants everyone to know that the Annual Tour of Homes during the Norwegian Country Christmas celebration, held the first weekend in December, is a wonderful time to visit and enjoy that bigger-than-big Norwegian-Texan hospitality.
“It’s a haven of Norwegian heritage. Besides, we always have a lot of fun!” she declares.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.