K.O. Eittreim was born June 15, 1870, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Ole O. and Martha Eittreim. On August 24, 1893, he married Anne Maria Digerness at Radcliffe, Iowa. They were the parents of seven children. Eittreim died on September 29, 1942, in Decorah. The funeral was held at First Lutheran Church and burial was in the Lutheran Cemetery in Decorah. Memorial services for him were also held in the C.K. Preus Gymnasium, conducted by Dr. Oscar Olson.
Eittreim attended Red Wing Seminary, 1888-1889, and Beeman’s Business College, Red Wing, MN, 1889-90. He was a bookkeeper in Chicago from1890-1895 and worked for A. Risser & Co., also in Chicago, who were manufacturers and dealers in harness and saddlery. He also worked for John McLock and Co., wholesale dry goods, Butler Bros., department store, and the Western Passenger Association, all of Chicago. He attended the Chicago Theological Seminary, 1895-1900, and was ordained into the Lutheran ministry. He served as a pastor in Creston, IL, from 1900-1911, at the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church. From 1911-1912 Eittreim taught in the commercial department at Jewell College in Jewell, IA, later becoming president of Jewell College from 1912-1918.
In 1918 Eittreim came to Luther to be a teacher of commercial subjects including accounting, bookkeeping, commercial geography, commercial law, commercial arithmetic, shorthand, typewriting, and penmanship. He also taught Religion, Hebrew and plane geometry. From 1920-1932, he acted as treasurer of the college. After the death of Knut Gjerset, Museum Curator, he was appointed Curator serving from 1936-1939. He retired in 1939 and remained in Decorah.
Eittreim was the Co-editor of “The Lutheran Hymnary,” published in Minneapolis by the Augsburg Publishing House in 1913. A statement in the Preface to the book states that the authors hoped it would “prove no small factor in the efforts made to unify various Norwegian Lutheran Church bodies in our land.” He wrote the chapter on “Income” in Luther College Through Sixty Years, 1861-1911. Eittreim also printed the Luther College Campus News, a single sheet five and one-half by eight and one-half inches which was printed on the “Luther College Press”, a small hand-power machine which he personally owned. Twenty numbers were issued during 1921-22, some being four-page issues.
Eittreim was cited in his obituary as being a “great collector” reflecting his many interests. He had a personal library of over 10,000 volumes, mostly focused on theological subjects but also had collected books devoted to literature, history, art and science. His collection of over 600 hymnals, mostly in English but also in Norwegian and German, was well known.
He also collected stamps, old coins, buttons and Norwegian-Americana. (He was an early member of the Norwegian American Historical Association.) He was a gifted carpenter and built the house he lived in at 517 High Street in Decorah in 1925. He was the architect for the house and did much of the actual construction including the rough and finish carpentry as well as pouring cement. The house was located between Sunnyside (now the location of the Center for the Arts) and Sperati House. It was purchased by the College for $7,500 in 1943 and used for music students (called “Melody Manor”), dormitory space and housed a fraternity for several years before it was demolished.
In 1946-47, Mrs. Eittreim donated a selection of books from Eittreim’s personal library to the Luther College Library. These books focused on a variety of subjects. Some were cataloged for the Rare Book Room but the rest of the books are now in the DEPO collection. Items in the collection can be found by searching on the title phrase “Knute Olson Eittreim Collection” in WorldCat Discovery.
Ref: Chips, April 16, 1930; October 17, 1942; Decorah Journal, October 1, 1942; Luther College Through Sixty Years, 1861-1921. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1922; Nelson, David T., Luther College, 1861-1961. Decorah, IA: Luther College Press, 1961; Strand, Algot E., A History of the Norwegians in Illinois. Chicago: J. Anderson Publishing Company, 1905; A Handbook of American Private Schools. Boston: P. Sargent, 1916; Pioneer, 1949; Luther College Campus News, 1921-1922 and Luther College Directory, 1937, Luther College Archives, Publications.