History of the Grace Lutheran Church 1886 - 2004
Grace Lutheran Church History 1886 – 1986
The First One Hundred Years
The Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lake Benton was organized May 21, 1886, by Candidate Theologian Jens Grevstad, who was born in Norway in 1859 and immigrated to the United States in 1881. After attending seminary, he assisted Rev. K. Bjorgo of Lake Park, Minnesota, the Mission Superintendent. It must have been at this time that he helped organize the Christian Norwegians of Lake Benton, joining the Norwegian Synod. Mrs. Olmem’s account: “They had a few meetings in the Methodist Church and some in the hall over the Nordmeyer Shoe Store.” Interestingly, after being ordained in 1888, Jens Grevstad served parishes in Michigan and Wisconsin, then returned to Norway where he died in 1902.
In 1900, December 27, the congregation was reorganized with a new constitution under the name, Lake Benton Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. The committee decided to support the United Lutheran Church of Minneapolis, MN, from which interim pastors were secured during vacancies between regular pastors.
A wooden frame church was built in 1901 at a cost of $1,509. The picture shows a long frame building with a tall bell tower and wooden steps with railings leading up to the entrance facing the north. There were four arched windows on the east and west sides. In 1919 a full basement was built under the church and a furnace was installed at a cost of $1,150.
A white statue of Christ stood in the raised chancel enclosed by a wooden railing at the south end of the church. The statue was a copy of an original by Thorvaldsen, a famous Danish sculptor from Copenhagen, who has carved the statue for the Church of Our Lady about 1838. The wooden pulpit on the west side was painted white as was the interior of the church itself. The bell in the tower that tolled the Sunday services and funerals was purchased from a company in Ohio and brought here by railroad. The long rope hung inside the entry way, and the clear sweet tones could be heard for miles.
Knute Anderson, in his early church council notes, mentions that he had to go out and collect the pastor’s salary from the parishioners.
Originally, services were preached in the Norwegian language, but as time passed the English language came into more common usage. The switch to English services was made in 1912 upon the insistent suggestion of members who had come to Lake Benton from Iowa and were of Swedish descent, an indication of the gradual change in the nationalities of people settling in the Lake Benton area.
The congregation suffered a tragic setback in January 24, 1943, an extremely cold, windy Sunday morning. An over-heated furnace set the wooden structure on fire during the Sunday School session. Smoke filled the basement and billowed up through the floor registers. Little could be done to save anything other than lives. Even the mellow old church bell, that had called people to worship for over forty years, crashed down from the toppling tower into the flaming basement and was lost. The bell was so damaged that it was hauled to a place behind Ringer’s garage and later sold for scrap in 1957 for $75. Only the concrete walls and steps stood as a reminder of happier days.
For a period in 1943 and 1944, church services were held at St. John’s Episcopal Church on the same block as our English Lutheran Church, but more difficult to reach, climbing steep steps from the east or via a steep alley from the west on Sherman Street (this alley is no longer there.) From the early forties until 1950, church services and Sunday School were held in Miller’s Hall above McCaffery Furniture Store. What a struggle to maintain our identity during the bleak years after the fire! Surely the Lord was with us. Reverend Vordale was an inspiration to all and never let the congregation down.
The New Edifice
The work of building the new stone church began in 1948 and finished in 1950 (pictured above). The structure was built on the same corner lots where the old wooden church had stood.
The church design is fifteenth century Gothic. The church is faced with a soft tan color limestone. The roof was made of slate in a rose shade. The church sanctuary faces north with entrances on the west. Two heavy wooden doors formed the main entrance. The nave has heavy open timbers, and gold trimmed lanterns hanging from above. The open trusses are stained dark brown. A sacristy and a choir room were on each side of the chancel. The choir room was also used for Sunday School.
The blueprints used in building the English Lutheran Church were the same as those used in building the First Lutheran Church of Tyler. The use of these shared blueprints, through the efforts of Rev. Vordale, was a financial saving for our local church. Soren Larsen and Sons of Tyler were the builders. The excavating and concrete work was completed by the men of the church. Materials were supplied by the Tyler Cement, Tile and Silo Works and by the Standard Lumber Company of Lake Benton. The roof tiles came from the Storm Construction Company of Moorhead. Erwin and Fansler of Junction City, Kansas, constructed the limestone facing of the building.
Rev. Vordale, in the Dedication Booklet of 1950, states these interesting facts: “The cost of the church, together with the organ, the piano, altar communion rail, the pulpit, baptismal font, the altar painting, pews, chancel chairs, light fixtures, furnace, water heater, kitchen equipment, twelve folding tables, steel chairs, all furnishings and church equipment, the 2,100 square yards of sod, the 4,151 cubic yards of earth moved and the landscaping came to a cost of $47,000.” This cost was covered largely by a mortgage loan from Lutheran Brotherhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Within the cornerstone was placed a sealed copper box, which contained the Church Constitution, a history of the church, names of the church members, names of former pastors, a list of the presidents of the United States and the governors of Minnesota, a Bible and a Hymnary.
The Educational Unit - 1966
As the years passed, the English Lutheran Congregation began to realize that their new building was not large enough to serve the growing attendance, and particularly the Sunday School and confirmation classes. The first written mention regarding an educational unit was found in the council minutes of May 8, 1959. By 1965 the idea had gained momentum and plans were drawn up by a building committee. In January, 1966, the congregation voted in favor of the project and a pledge drive began. Approximate cost was set at $25,000. A loan was secured from Lutheran Brotherhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Work on the foundation begins in June, 1966, and by October the interior work was done so Sunday School could be held in the new rooms.
The cornerstone was laid September 25, 1966 with a special ceremony. In the metal box were placed a copy of the information sheet on the proposed Educational Unit; a copy of the original blueprints; the Sept 18, 1966 Sunday bulletin; a copy of the 1965 Annual Report; the Chrisman Card; a copy of Lesson Twenty of The Restoration from the Old Testament Bethel Series; and the Dedication Booklet of November 20, 1966. The cornerstone was given by the Standard Lumber Company.
The education unit is faced with tan colored brick to match the limestone of the main building. It has two floors. The floor above ground contains a large narthex, a conference room, a pastor’s office and a secretary’s office, which was used for many purposes. The downstairs, which adjoins the dining room, contains five classrooms, restrooms, a storage room under the stairs and a furnace room.
The contractor for the building of the new unit was Darrell Larsen. Materials were purchased from the Standard Lumber Company. Again, local business people furnished materials and labor. Members of the congregation donated time and labor which helped reduce the total cost.
On November 29, 1966, the dedication of the Educational Unit was held. A special service was written by Pastor Foss. The Rev. Gordon Solomonson, the Southwestern Minnesota District education director from Willmar, Minnesota, gave the dedication message. A fellowship dinner for church members and friends followed the service.
Diamond Lake Lutheran Church History 1886 – 1986The First One Hundred Years
On September 19, 1886, a congregation was organized at the Eiler Thomsen home in Diamond Lake township by a few Danish families and young men of the community.
A constitution was read, and those present signed as members of this new congregation. Officers elected were Eiler Thomsen, president; Hans Jensen, treasurer; Hans Ries, secretary; Peter Christensen and John Cornelsen as trustees.
The first services were held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Eiler Thomsen. Their daughter Laura (later Mrs. Henry Black) was baptized at this service, making it the first baptismal rite in the new congregation. J.J. Nylund of Cedar Falls officiated.
Jorgen Jensen of Dwight, IL, had donated three acres of land to the new congregation. P.C. Pedersen, who owned the farm adjoining this land on the east side, donated two more acres, which became part of the cemetery.
The church (pictured above) was built in 1890. There was a potbellied stove that stood in the northwest corner in the church for heat.
For the next two years there were bad hailstorms, so people had all they could do to help themselves, so there was no money for a minister.
In 1888 Rev. H. J. Pedersen came to Tyler, becoming pastor at Danebod and Diamond Lake. Carl Hansen, a teacher at Danebod, also helped with the services.
The first altar was two pillars of plaster or cement with a large box between. The box was covered with black material and red velvet with a cross made of two inch gold braid in the front. A picture hung above.
Later J. Peter Krog (parent of Jens and Johannes Krog and Elizabeth Simonsen) inherited money from Denmark and donated the altar. It was too low, so their youngest son gave $100 to have a platform built to set it on.
The first pastor was Rev. N. C. Strandskov, who lived in a vacant farm just east of the church. He served from 1891 to 1893. Rev. Pedersen from Danebod and Rev. Hellend then served until 1896.
In 1897, the parsonage was built south of the cemetery. In 1902, the parish home or the Diamond Lake halls was built. Rev. E. N. Nielsen came in 1914 and assisted in putting a basement under the church and installing a furnace. During his stay he encouraged the congregation to build an addition to the church, and the chancel was then built on the east end of the church.
Rev. Henrick Plambeck served Diamond Lake from 1918 to 1924, and during that time English spoken services were begun. At first it was used sparingly and later increased until, when Rev. Eilert C. Nielsen become the pastor, all regular services were conducted in English.
The years passed and in 1936 Rev. Harold Ibsen came to be the pastor. The hall needed fixing , so a front entrance was added, the church was redecorated and a large garage was built.
In 1943, the parsonage was in need of repair and was not modern, so the current minister, Rev. Eiler Nielsen, lived in Ruthton as he also served Ruthton and White, SD. The parsonage was rented out and some of the renters helped take care of the grounds.
Evergreens were planted honoring the men and women from the congregation who served in the Armed Forces during 1945-1947.
During the forties, pews were purchased from a Hendricks church, an oil furnace installed and playground equipment built and installed. A Hammond electric organ was purchased in 1944 with memorial money.
During the early 1950s, a mimeograph was purchased together with Ruthton. A new carpet was installed in the chancel, linoleum tile was laid on the rest of the floor of the church and the church was redecorated. A new furnace was installed in 1954.
The cemetery was seeded to grass before the church hosted the district convention in 1952.
In 1966 Diamond Lake aligned with English Lutheran Church in Lake Benton, in the ALC Synod.
During the years that followed, money was donated to Diamond Lake. It was decided to restore and remodel the church. A new front entry was built with a basement. The bell tower was also rebuilt.
The parsonage was removed in 1970. The Diamond Lake Cemetery Association was formed as a separate organization.
In 1971 Diamond Lake merged with English Lutheran in Lake Benton, and the name was changed to Grace Lutheran.
The church and hall are still used for summer church services, family reunions, gatherings and other celebrations.
Grace Lutheran Church Treasures 1986– 2011The Next Twenty Five Years
The following treasures have been added to our church since our 100th anniversary publication in 1986:
The church received new paraments in red, green, blue, purple and white from the memorials for Grace Marti, Clara Peterson, Marie Lee, Bill Lindeman, John Loges, Sam and Mayme Lichtsinn and Rosina Ritter. New white cloths for the altar and communion table were purchased with donations in memory of Martha Mitchell, Christine Knutson, Marie Anderson and Estella Krog. A new silver communion challis and a silver bowl for the Baptismal font were presented in memory of Fritz and Edna Trade.
The church purchased new pew Bibles in 2000 with a grant from the ELCA. New hymnals were also purchased by members and with non-designated memorial money received for Ruth Busch, Leroy Nieman, Connie Stelter, Lara Jordt, Noreen Prosch, and Dorothy Nielsen.
Book racks were installed under the pews as a memorial for Merle Hansen.
A new lectern Bible was given in memory of Carol from the Ernest Bannick family, and new Altar and Pascal candles were purchased with memorials for Palma Eichstadt Larson and Ruth Abdou and from her estate.
Our worship has been enhanced by the addition of a new organ in 1997 with a donation from the estate of Estella Krog along with previous gifts in memory of Herman Ritter, Clara Peterson, Art Redlinger, Irvin Johnsons, Albert Rudebusch, Alma Boll, Fritz Trade, Elly Wellberg, Bernard Moat, Leon Wodtke, Sam and Mayme Lichtsinn, Christine Petersen, Walter Willert and Laurits and Charalotte Johnson. A new piano was added in 2002 in memory of Christine Knutson and Arlene Nelson.
Comfortable pew cushions were installed in 1992 from the family of Kenneth Johnson.
To beautify the front entrance hall, an artificial plant was donated in memory of Phyllis Nordmeyer and a bench from the family of Edna Trade.
Two new stoves were purchased for the kitchen with donations in memory of Helen Nelsen, Fred and Alma Boll, Albert and Mary Johnson and Laurits and Charlotte Johnson.
A fund was started for repair of our church roof in 1995 with the project accomplished in 2000 using donations from Walter Willert, Laurits and Charalotte Johnson, Harold and Lorraine Krog, Francis Nordmeyer Bader, and the family of Marvel Nelsen. This fund was widened in 1999 and 2000 to include a remodeling project that improved handicapped accessibility by converting the secretary's office into two restrooms, along with some storage for quilts and a small sink and coat rack in the hall. We also added 4 fans along the east and west walls of the sanctuary. These additions to our facility were funded by contributions and memorials from the friends and families of Ada Marti Swanson, Dale Lau, Marie Andersen, Norman Berger, Hubert and Metta Johnson, Doug Meyer, Harold Simonson, Floyd Peterson, Minna Tambo, Laurits and Charlotte Johnson, Andrew McIntosh, Martin and Marian Mathison, Tinne Nielsen, Frank Fehrman. Agnes Williams, Doris Larson Cummins. Other purchases made with these donations were new windows on the west side of the church basement in 2001. Landscaping across the west side of our building was done in memory of Lillian Bendickson and Arlene Nelson.
A furnace fund was also started in 1992 and new furnaces were installed in 2000 along with the remodeling project. Contributions to this effort and a fund for improved lighting were made in memory of Christine Bannick, Maren Nielsen, Selma Krog, Trace Lau, Viola Willert, Fern Lau, L.L. Parsons, Ivan Meyer, George Anderson and Larry Fredricks.
A mission project was started in 1985 to provide tape recorded copies of our church services to shut-ins. The program continued over the next years with contributions from and in memory of Marie Heyl, Marie Fink, Pastor Tom Reagan, Arlie Paulson, Hans Andersen, Herman Paulson, Gretchen Johnson and Christine Knutson. The church purchased a new copy machine and supplies to improve our bulletins and print educational materials in 1988 with a donation from Marie Lee, and also new office furniture for the Pastor's office in 2002, with donations in memory of John Worth and Larry Fredricks, and another copier in memory of Ron Thomssen in 2003.
In 1995, Joy Ibsen donated an organ to the Diamond Lake Church in memory of her parents, the Rev. Harold Ibsen, who was a former pastor at Diamond Lake Church.
Our church building was further improved in 2002, with the replacement of our windows using money donated in memory of Fred Knutson, Marvin Meyer, Arlene Nelson, Alta Loges, and several fund raisers. More landscaping was done with donations from the families of Alice Dagel and Emma Galbraith.
Most recently in 2004, the Fellowship room was added on the south side of the education wing. At this time, we also added air conditioning and 2 new furnaces to our church home. These additions were accomplished with memorials from the families of Kermit Olsen and Darlene Johnson and with fundraisers and donations of money, time and the talents of many congregational members. Memorials for Ed Johansen, Sherman & Viola Moen, Allen Ohl, Bradley Paulson and Gunnar Johansen paid for tables and chairs, decorating and landscaping our new addition.
The church replaced the rain gutters and added covers with memorials for Clifton Peterson and David Rochel.
Our congregational mission for education was improved with memorials for Ralph and Weltha Marti, Wayne Johnson, Irene Johnson, Alta Loges, Vernon Williams, Leone Heldt, Ruth Willert, Ron Voelker, Ernie Bannick and Edna Kjergaard. We purchased new tables, TVs, and hymn books for our church services and our Sunday school. In order to share our church services on the local TV cable system, we purchased new sound equipment and a DVD and CD recorder with memorials for Rudy Kruse, Ardis Fehrman, Vernon Fehrman, Frank Thomson and Carol Olsen. In the future, we hope to add additional microphones to enhance the sound quality of our worship services with money from the family of Rosina Ritter.
During the fall of 2005, the Diamond Lake Hall underwent renovations, with the removal of the kitchen area from the north side of the building and the installation of a furnace in the hall. Vern and Mary Paschke, Eleanor Worth, G.E and Evelyn Rudebusch and Howard Krog families have made donations that paid for these renovations, plus repairs to our organ and for fuel, paint and repairs to the Diamond Lake Church and Hall.
Other donations included cross-stitch welcome banners in the front entry from Vivian Paulson. Bev Krog created and donated beautiful roman shades in the design of stained glass for the conference room. The Ralph Nordmeyer family donated a stained glass angel for the fellowship hall window. The guest book stand was made and donated by the Darrell Larsen family and the guest book light was donated in memory of Lavoy Parsons. A floral wreath was donated in memory of Alicia Vos, and a floral wall hanging was donated in memory of Ralph and Phyllis Nordmeyer. A loveseat was donated by Wayne and Darline Johnson.
Joining the Winds of the Prairie Shared Ministry
July 18, 2004
In the fall of 2002, several churches in the Prairie Conference met to discuss the idea of a shared or cooperative ministry. At that time, there were a number of churches who were either without an installed pastor or were utilizing pulpit fill ministers for their Sunday morning services. It was decided to establish a taskforce to study and possibly develop recommendations regarding a shared ministry between area congregations. The study group looked at histories, similarities and differences of each congregation in order to build a strong foundation for the new shared ministry concept.
The group selected a mission statement; “God has planted these congregations in rich prairie soil to nurish the faith, reach out with the Good News of Christ and to serve our neighbors and the world.”
The name of the new organization was “Winds of the Prairie”, referencing our Prairie Conference, the wind which blows in our area and the Holy Spirit.
After many meetings, the Task Force proposed a working model which was sent to the area churches for a congregational vote. A special meeting was held in each church on May 2, 2004. After the congregational voting was tabulated, five of the area churches approved the agreement. On July 18, 2004, there was a final vote in those five churches concerning a new budget and staff configuration. With that vote, Grace became part of the “Winds of the Prairie”.
Now in 2011 we carry on what was started in 2004, along with the other churches in our Winds of the Prairie ministry; Bethany in Arco, Bethany-Elim in Ivanhoe, Peace in Ruthton and St. Paul’s in Minneota.