Rev. N. J. Lockrem is a well-known resident of Norway, LaSalle county, and although still a young man has laid the foundation for a life of usefulness that will cause his name to be remembered with gratitude by the many who have come under his administration. He is one of the able ministers of the Lutheran church and has charge of three organizations of that denomination in this county, and his services in connection therewith have been attended with marked success. His field of usefulness is also extended to educational lines and he is the founder of a Lutheran college in Ottawa.
Rev. Mr. Lockrem was born in Norway, mentioned above, on the 27th of November, 1863, and is a son of Jorgen Lockrem, a farmer of that locality. He acquired his primary education in the schools of Norway and when quite young emigrated to the United States, where he worked on a farm and engaged in teaching in order to earn the means to continue his studies. He subsequently added to his knowledge by studying in Chicago and at theological seminaries in Minnesota and Chicago, and after being prepared for his chosen life work, was ordained for the ministry in Fox River church, in Illinois, on July 12, 1893. He has shown himself to be a speaker of force and ability and of marked oratorical power. His discourses are eloquent, but he also made his audiences through logical, well expressed thoughts which won for him sympathetic attention. Gradually the thought of the need of Christian education took possession of him and resulted in the establishment of the Lutheran College at Ottawa and was the first one to propose the establishment of a school of this nature in this district. He also had an extensive acquaintance with schools of a higher instruction and is well qualified for leadership in this work. Speaking of the matter to a friend who asked him what circumstances led to the establishment of the school, he said:
"I noticed that the people in this district were enjoying considerable material prosperity; that in the diligent effort of our people to build up their economic fortunes there was danger of negligence to provide for the mental and spiritual fortunes of the rising generations. This negligence did not grow out of carelessness entirely, but arose largely from the force of circumstances. Although our people rapidly became Americanized, yet they are conservative in matters of religious faith and anxious to have their children retain the elements of faith in the form held b)'' the fathers. They are therefore very careful in their selection of schools to which to send their children. This characteristic I consider as one of the best among our people. It is a fact taught by the history of the church that only those who had clearly defined principles and adhered faithfully to them ever did much positive work in building up the walls of Zion and furthering the best elements of civilization and progress. I knew there was a vast amount of pent-up energy in the minds of the multitudes of our young generation that only required emancipation in order to become a large force in advancing their own best interests and those of humanity at large. To accomplish this desirable end the most effective means would be the establishment of a school in some good center of intelligence and culture in our district. I noticed that communities of our people in other states had tried the same experiment and had been very successful. I accordingly made up my mind to make an attempt in this direction. In the latter half of 1892 I communicated my thoughts to some of my friends privately. I will mention among these particularly, the Rev. Mr. Ellestad, who was a pastor formerly in my present charge, and who was at that time superintendent of missions in the United Norwegian Lutheran church of America. Traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast in the performance of his duties, he had excellent opportunities of observation upon the enterprises and successes of our people everywhere, as well as of knowing their needs. He was well acquainted in this district and expressed the opinion that a school of this nature was strongly in demand. He encouraged me to go forward in my plan. Other friends gave similar encouragement. In Stevens' Grove, on the 4th of July, 1893, I made the first expression of my thoughts to a public audience. Some of the leading men present afterward expressed to me their hearty approval of the thought and encouraged a prosecution of the plan. Later in the fall of the same year, at our semi-annual district meeting, the Rev. Mr. Aarrestad, in introducing the question of the proper education and culture of our young people, took occasion to propound quite fully the idea of establishing such a school in our midst. At that meeting was appointed the first committee to investigate the matter and take such preliminary movement as its wisdom might dictate."
Thus the idea of the college took root. It has required earnest, arduous and continuous labor to place it upon a firm foundation, but with unremitting zeal Rev. Mr. Lockrem undertook the task and carried it forward to successful completion. To-day it stands as a monument to his Christian zeal, his enterprise and devotion to the needs of the community. The school is now well organized in its various departments and is under the guidance of careful instructors, who give attention not only to the mental development of the pupils but also to their spiritual growth and welfare.
On the 19th of May, 1893, Rev. Mr. Lockrem led to the marriage altar Miss Caroline Bergslie, who was born in Norway and was educated in Chicago. She is a most estimable lady and an invaluable aid to her husband in his work. Two children, a daughter and a son, have been born to them: Gertie Lydia, born January 1, 1896; and Noble Gerhard, born September 19, 1897.
Rev. Mr. Lockrem has few idle moments, but is never so busy but that he finds time to give willing aid to any who come to him for counsel and guidance. He is a man of broad views and is deservedly a favorite with all who have come in contact with him, his strong personality exerting a powerful influence for good.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 365-367.