Herman Haugerud

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Herman Haugerud (1864 - 1937)

Haugerud was one of the early Norwegian-American Unitarian ministers.

As described by Knut A. Berg, he was one of four intellectual leaders of the Unitarian community, the others being Kristofer Janson, Hans Tambs Lyche, and Mary Tambs Lyche. In 1898, when Tambs Lyche died of tuberculosis at the age of 38 and after a disagreement between Janson and his congregation over spiritualism, Janson left. The congregation then brought in Haugerud, who had been trained at the Unitarian divinity school at Meadville (Chicago) and at Harvard.

Haugerud was the leader of the Unitarian Society, as it continued to be called, until it died. Another Unitarian, Hans Østerholt, editor of the Social Democratic satire magazine, the Wasp, expressed it succinctly in his autobiography: "Unfortunately, Haugerud did not have Janson’s warm, captivating ability as a speaker, and furthermore, he lacked the necessary strength of personality to bring people together." Østerholt himself rejoined the state church in 1933 but still considered himself a Unitarian in belief. In the census of 1930, there were a small number of people who called themselves Unitarians, but since then, they have not been counted in the census.
Who were they then? We know less about them than we do about members of other Norwegian Free Thought movements (for instance the Free Thought Association). Because of it was organized as a church; the minister, the daily leader, had the primary responsibility for the public face of the church, and we find no real mention of any names other than the three we have talked about, even though the attendance at Janson’s meetings may have been 400-600.
We do know a little. Haugerud also published a small magazine, the Unitarian, in 1906-07. In it, we can read that the Unitarians acquired permanent quarters in Møllergata 20 in Oslo. A Unitarian youth association was founded, with a board consisting of H. E. Gabrielsen, Miss M. Mathisen and H. Tambs Lyche (apparently the son of the H. Tambs Lyche that we mentioned before). The group also had its own choir, which included, in addition to both Janson and Haugerud, the former chairman of the society, Otto Harsem. We can also find a few other names (Richard Eriksen, Chr. Nilsen) mentioned in the Unitarian, and we can read that there was an interest in starting a society in Skien, south west of Oslo. Whether anything ever became of that idea, we don’t know. This is just one of many unanswered questions about the Unitarian Society.