Foundation of Murdock
The territory of Minnesota was initially acquired through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Napoléon Bonaparte, then First Consul of The French Republic preceding his rise to Emperor, was under pressure to sell the Louisiana Territory due to a revolt underway in Saint-Domingue and fear of renewed war with the United Kingdom. In exchange for fifteen million dollars, or approximately eighteen dollars per square mile, the territory was purchased by President Thomas Jefferson. This effectively doubled the size of the United States at the time. However, very little of the newly bought land had actually been under French control; most of it still lay under Native control. In 1858 Minnesota would become the 32nd state of The United States of America.
Over time settlers arrived and built their new homes. Tentative peace was gained when treaties were struck with the Native population of Dakota Sioux. However, due to the Government’s unwillingness or inability to honor treaty conditions poverty and starvation spread amongst those living on the reservations. In 1862 the Sioux, facing starvation and the onset of a winter they were ill-prepared to survive, took action.
In August the first raid was launched on a white farm by six young Sioux warriors. This left 5 white men dead and began the uprising. Violence spread like fire. This led to a reaction from the U.S. Military, though at the time President Lincoln was far more focused on Robert E. Lee’s forays into Maryland. By November the Uprising had been quashed.
In 1865, when all danger was apparently over, settlers began to return to the area that would eventually be home to our Hof. Scandinavians and Germans made up the majority of those returning to the land, many of whom were honored Veterans of the Civil War. In 1870 Swift County was established, it was named for Henry Adoniram Swift, the third governor of Minnesota (1863–64).
In 1869, one year before the official establishment of Swift County, the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad reached Willmar. The next year it reached Benson. The arrival of the railroad resulted in the establishment of trading centers approximately every 8 miles (Kerkhoven, DeGraff, Benson, Randall). The town of Murdock was platted in 1881 by S.S. Murdock and named for him; It was incorporated in the same year.
Map of Minnesota from the Swift County Atlas of 1931
A Brief History of the Former Church
Fridhem Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized on the 17th day of August in the year of 1903. The place of organization was the Methodist meeting hall where Pastor J.W. Lundgren served as chairmen and Ed Lundberg served as secretary. The constitution recommended by the church became “Svanska Evangelska, Luterska Församling”. The term ‘Fridhem’ means “home of peace”.
Fridhem at its birth was the product of two mother churches, Bethesda north of Murdock and Zion Lutheran Church of Louriston township. An equal number of charter members came from both mother churches. The nearly impassable roads of the early decades of this century served as a strong contributing factor in the establishment of another Lutheran church in Murdock.
In its early days the church was host to the Scandinavian population that had settled the region. Over time English became the dominant language as the settlers began to assimilate into American culture. For 111 years the Calvary Lutheran Church served the community of Murdock until it finally closed it's doors in 2014.
Picture of the men who organized Fridhem Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1903.
The AFA Arrives in Murdock
For years there had been a desire for a Hof in the Midwest. Despite tireless searching by leadership, countless roadblocks seemed to pop up. The Acquisition of Baldrshof was not an easy process. Finally, however, in 2020 the stars seemed to align.
In Murdock Minnesota a building was found that seemed to fit the need. It was affordable, it was in a good location, and it suited the requirements of a Hof. Unfortunately purchasing the building was only the beginning of the work that was to come.
The building that would become Baldrshof was in a bad state. Years of neglect and misuse had left it a shadow of its former self. Anyone who beheld it would have been tempted to disregard the structure as a waste of resources, but for some there was glorious potential. This potential is what drew the leadership of the Asatru Folk Assembly to purchase the ruin and through perseverance, blood, sweat, and sheer strength of will it was transformed into something unlike anything that had existed on that land before.
Folkbuilder Jason Gallagher and Gythia Anna Plourde open the doors of Baldrshof for the first time after its purchase by the AFA on June 30th, 2020.
Reconstruction of the Hof
The Hof had been abandoned for years by the time it was purchased by the AFA. It had seemed someone had been using it as a residence, and had not been doing so in a clean way. The basement was covered in black mold, which had gone as far as to form stalagmites hanging from the ceiling. A pervasive stench of rot permeated the structure. There was food left out on cabinets for years, gallons of milk in the fridge, and filth beyond description. It had all the appearance that someone had thrown a party and then, instead of cleaning up, simply abandoned the building at the conclusion of festivities.
Obviously this made a lot of work for our Folk, but it was nothing they couldn't handle. The mold and refuse were cleaned thoroughly, the trash discarded, and the ruined furniture replaced. The building was made fit to serve as a place of worship once more through many months of hard physical labor. Folk from across the Midwest, and even at times from across the country, came together to see the Hof made worthy of its namesake.
In time new additions were added, such as a wall downstairs to expand the storage room and new wooden stairs for the main entrance. Most exciting of all was the removal of the Cross from the Steeple. The perseverance of our people took this old dilapidated ruin and turned it into something spectacular.
Members come together during a work day to aid the renovation of the Hof on January 16th , 2021
Abandonment and Ascension
Initially, the restoration of the structure and conversion into a Hof had been led by a prominent member of the local community of the AFA and his kindred. Things started off well. Alterations and repairs were quickly begun and completed as Folk across the Midwest and further away came together to build.
Unfortunately, difficulty came as local media had concerns about the AFA; most of which were due to the false controversy being stirred up by outsiders looking for drama. This, among other factors, contributed to the departure of the leader in charge of Hof construction from the AFA, and his kindred followed him. Losing such an important leader would have been devastating had it not been for the immediate efforts of then Folkbuilder Brandy Callahan.
The Callahan family took over leading the efforts to restore the Hof, and also provided much of the labor. The direction provided by Brandy Callahan turned what could have easily been a chaotic leadership vacuum into a focused, and unified, atmosphere of building. Over time their blood, sweat, and tears created what we now treasure so much. Folkbuilder Brandy Callahan would go on to take her Oath as a Gythia, and later as a member of the Witan, atop the very sanctuary she helped build.
Folkbuilder Brandy Callahan takes the Gothic Oath. Baldrshof Dedication March 27th , 2021
Our Murdock Neighbors
Sadly, the work for Baldrshof was not only in the physical, but the spiritual. Some misguided people took it upon themselves to oppose the establishment of the Hof. There were ineffectual protests held by universalists, and threats made by other groups which proved to be empty words in time. Even mainstream media made their attempts to vilify Baldrshof only to ultimately fall flat.
Despite all the controversy it has always been worthy of note that not a single member of the community of Murdock has ever spoken against the Hof. Only ignorant outsiders sought to oppose us and were always quickly disappointed to learn they were wasting their time. The relations between Baldrshof and the people of Murdock have always been good.
On the third Saturday of each month Baldrshof hosts its monthly Food Drive. Baldrshof has an ongoing agreement with supermarkets in a nearby town. Rather than throwing away good product that has received purely cosmetic damages to packaging, it is instead given to the Hof. This, combined with donations, allows the Hof to give a diverse assortment of foodstuffs and drinks to those in need in our community. This is only one example of the positive interaction between Baldrshof and the town of Murdock.
Folkbuilder Ashley McStocker braves the frigid cold of a Minnesotan winter during our Food Drive in Yule of 2021.
It took many months for our Hof to take shape. Blood, sweat, and tears helped lay the foundation and hard labor cemented the great accomplishment of our Folk. The once filthy, abandoned building became something beautiful again.
The task was daunting. Our Folk had not only to contend with the great deal of physical work, but with spiritual challenges as well. Set upon by outside opposition, doubt, and very genuine concerns toward the viability of the endeavor our Leadership never gave up. Their devotion was unwavering in the face of every challenge that presented itself. Finally, in March of 2021, it was time to dedicate the first Hof in the history of the world to Baldr.
Alsherjargothi Matthew Flavel led the dedication to the Shining One. Members from each district of the AFA gathered for this historic event. About 40 of our Folk were honored to be present and Hail Baldr in his own Hof. For those who had sacrificed much to reach this moment it was truly a special time.
As Folk entered the hof, there were declarations of amazement and pride in the beauty of the place. Kindred flags billowed from each side of the sanctuary and light radiated from the newly constructed shrines of the Folkmother Else Christensen and the Ancestors. Shining Baldr and Nanna watched over all from the full mural stretching across the entirety of the alcove of his altar. Children were delighted to find a room packed with toys. Our mothers relaxed and cared for their babies in a room dedicated just to them.
Following the welcoming, the land taking and dedication ceremony began. Alsherjargothi Matthew Flavel, surrounded by his folk and with the assistance of Gythias Catherine Erickson and Anna Plourde, conducted a powerful and emotional ceremony. After receiving individual blessings of Baldr from the Alsherjargothi, men and women alike shed tears of joy as they embraced and congratulated each other.
The Dedication of Baldrshof marked not only the Ascension of Baldr in Midgard once more, but also served as a fine representation of the strength and perseverance of our Folk.
Group photo of those who had attended the Dedication. March 27th, 2021.
FallFest to Freyfaxi
Fallfest had its start as a regional event in the Midwest. From humble origins and a rocky start it would grow into something grander.
The first FallFest took place in 2016. In time these events would draw in Folk from all over the country. Originally having no Hof, FallFest would take place around Minnesota. By the time Baldrshof opened its doors, however, it would become the biggest event in the Hof.
The efforts of the leadership hosting the FallFest events had created an atmosphere not unlike a family reunion. Frithful gathering of Folk would be accompanied by the sounds of joyous children commonly during these gatherings. Powerful Blots would also become central figures, accompanied by emotional Symbels.
Fallfest helped drive the growth of the AFA in the Midwest. Thus, it played an integral role in helping make Baldrshof a reality in Minnesota. Going into the future, Fallfest has taken on an even more important role by converging with Freyfaxi.