On the Porch

Florence was founded in 1888 on the northwest quarter of section 20 in Shelburne Township. When the Willmar and Sioux Falls Railroad (branch of the Great Northern) came through the area, it was announced that the station would be named Florence. It was named after the daughter of the founder, W.H. Sherman, who purchased 80 acres from H.P. Sanden. The site was platted into seven blocks running north and south.

The Opdal Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church was established in 1878 (10 years before the village was founded) and incorporated in 1879 at the Edward A. Berg home. The first church building was built on land donated by H.P. Sanden for a church and cemetery site, located northwest of Florence. A few years later the church was moved to Florence and added on to. The first pastor of the church was the Rev. Martin Shirle. Early members of the church included: Andrew Berg, H.P. Sanden, Carl Anderson, Thomas Ronning, and Evan Blegen.

The first store in Florence was a general store followed by a blacksmith shop. In 1893, the village advanced rapidly to include a second general store, hotel, implement business, grain warehouse, harness shop and shoe store. On June 5, 1908, the State Bank of Florence was incorporated and opened with a capital stock of $10,000. An addition was built in 1918. The bank closed during the Great Depression.

In 1884, school district 47 was organized in the southwest quarter of section 20 of Shelburne Township, just south of Florence. The schoolhouse was built on C.P. Myran’s farm. School district 78 was organized in 1893, and a schoolhouse was built in Florence for $750. In 1912, 45 students were enrolled in the school, and the teacher was Edla C. Johnson.

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