The “våningshus” of the small farm Holmstadengen by Skreia.

Norwegian Layman’s Christianity peaked in this house. The man who lived here for almost 40 years, Magnus Johansen Dahl from Spydeberg, was the son of a “husmann”, which in some aspects was worse than serfdom. Serfs were many places well protected by traditions. In spite of his background, Dahl became the apostel of the Totenåsen Hills.

About 1900 the “husmannsvesen” ended, and the smallholders around and on the Totenåsen Hills were now independent, proud farmers. The forests of the Totenåsen Hills was a commons where they could grass their livestock in summertime, and cut firewood and and timber for their personal needs during wintertime. Some too worked for the sawmills during the winter, and even these were run like cooperatives, like the diaries. By Sagelven River they had a common bathhouse where they gathered to clean their bodies on Saturdays, before they went to their “bedehus” on Sundays. A “bedehus” was a kind of prayer house, but without clerks, because in Norwegian Layman’s Christianity they were all priests.

These former “husmenn”-slaves were now not just proud and independent farmers, they were even priests with their own religion and apostel. This was a religion of the commons, as they organized themselves free from the State, they had their own songbook gathered by Dahl, Pris Herren, and their own music Associations, which formed several talented musicians. Knut Anders Sørum is the last in this chain of musicians going back to M.J. Dahl, a bestselling Norwegian artist.

Almost everything was a commons in these days, their religion, the forests, their businesses, their songs and so on. And in the center of all this was the preacher, shoemaker and farmer M.J. Dahl, the apostel of the Totenåsen Hills. He came from Østfold County, the same county where Hans Nielsen Hauge, too a son of a “husmann”, wandered out from some years earlier. Hauge became the apostel of Norway, as he walked around the whole of Norway spreading his gospel. While Dahl walked around the Totenåsen Hills, connecting the congregations which grew up here in his footsteps.

A child’s shoe most likely made by the shoemaker M.J. Dahl.

These smallholders with their newly won freedom put much pride in being good farmers, with Dahl as their example. Dahl was widely recognized for how he run his small farm Holmstadengen, and even got a diploma for his farming skills from the Norwegian Agricultural Association.

Magnus Johansen Dahl was a commoner, one of Norway’s most important commoners of all times, with his farm Holmstadengen as the nave for these proud commons he represented in every aspect of his life. He was an apostel living in the midst of his followers, being one of them and their example for life, like Jesus. He toiled in the soil, walked on his feet and worked as a craftsman. And the door of his home was always open, so that everyone who needed advice or to be prayed for, could just step inside.

This is why this house represents a peak in the Norwegian commons and culture, and in my regards is Norway’s most important house, as our most valuable values were found here.

The fields where the apostel of the Totenåsen Hills toiled in the soil.

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