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Canton Lutheran Normal School

Canton, South Dakota



Memorial History: Lutheran Normal School, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 1889-1918 covers the history of one of the predecessors of Canton Normal.   Augustana University has included the 1923 Saga in its digital Augustana Album.


Lutheran Normal School was an educational arm of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church (Norwegian Synod), created to train teachers for the parochial schools.  Lutheran Normal was dedicated in 1889 in Sioux Falls, SD.   In 1888 Augustana College and Seminary, owned by the United Norwegian Lutheran Church,  moved from Beloit, Iowa to Canton, SD, 25 miles from Sioux Falls. 


In 1917 a reorganization of Lutheran bodies led to a merger of the Norwegian Synod with the Hauge Synod and the United Church.  As a result Lutheran Normal and Augustana were now controlled by the same synod.  Memorial History says that the two schools merged under the name Augustana College and Normal School, located in Sioux Falls.  That school began operations in 1919.


After losing Augustana, Canton supporters were able to acquire a normal school.  The 1920 Annual Report of the Lutheran Church notes, "The Board of Education finds itself under the instructions of the church to open a normal school at Canton this fall."  It lists a $12,000 budget increase to cover the cost of the school.


In 1921 Norwegian Immigrant Contributions to America's Making lists Canton Normal as one of eight institutions owned and controlled by the church.  Aberdeen American described the 1921 commencement as the school's first with 23 total graduates.  The same spring  Aberdeen American noted an increase in enrollment, reaching 172 students.  The newspaper gave numbers for Normal, Piano, Winter Short Course, Commercial,  Special, and Voice divisions.  One hundred percent of students were listed as Protestant, with 85% being Lutheran.  Most students were from South Dakota, but there were two foreign students from Scandinavia.  The Saga shows 183 students--36 "advanced," 94 academy, 25 commercial, and 28 short course.  


The 1922 Lutheran World Almanac listed the following faculty members:  The President taught religion; the Business Manager taught education; the Dean of Women taught English; the Dean of Men taught mathematics; the Registrar taught science. Additional faculty taught English, home economics, history, commercial subjects, violin, voice, and drawing.   Curiously, no piano teacher is listed. 














There were two literary societies--Demosthenian and Adelphic--both co-educational.  The C.L.N. debate team were conference champions.  In addition to the Saga, students published a newspaper--the Normal Clarion.  There were three religious groups on campus--Daughters of the Reformation, Mission Band, and Prayer Circle.


In November of 1925 the major topic for discussion at the annual Lutheran Synod meeting was a proposal to merge the new Canton Normal School with Augustana College, this over the objections of the Canton supporters  who had worked loyally to make Canton Normal a success.  The newspaper reported that Augustana was a full college while Canton Normal was only a two-year school.


But apparently the merger succeeded.  In 1927 the Aberdeen Daily News states that Canton Normal School is now known as Augustana Academy and that it is under the direction of Augustana College.    Later, independent of the College, Augustana Academy remained open until 1971. 

Cabinet of the Daughters of the Reformation.  Image from the 1923 Saga, courtesy of Augustana University.

Bricks and Mortar

Old Main, the first permanent home for Augustana College, was built in 1903.  Built of Sioux Falls Granite and measuring 104 by 60 feet, it contained four stories over a basement.  The upper two floors served as a boy's dormitory.   It remained as the home for Augustana Academy until that school closed in 1971.  Placed on the National Register in 1985, it has been converted to apartments today.


In September 1922 the Grand Forks Herald reported that  a brick gymnasium was being constructed.  It was to have a playing floor measuring 46 by 70 feet with seating for 300, a swimming pool, and locker rooms with showers. The building was dedicated on January 14, 1923.

(left) Old Main. Image by Jake DeGroot <,_South_Dakota#/media/File:Old_Augustana.jpg> accessed 2-14-2017





The Grand Forks Herald reported in the fall of 1922 that football  prospects were good with a strong nucleus of returning players from the 1921 team.  The 1922 team won six of eight games, losing only to Southern State of Springfield and Waldorf College. The highlight of the season was a 7-6 victory over Augustana.    Other victories were over Flandreau Indians and Western Union College. 


With the new gymnasium, Canton Normal had organized both boys and girls basketball teams.  Both team compiled 10-3 records in 1923.

The 1923 boys basketball team.  Image from the 1923 Saga, courtesy of Augustana University.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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