Translated from Norwegian by Olaf Kringhaug Vernon, BC, Canada
Wild Rice Lutheran Church
Flom Township, Norman County, Minnesota
In the beginning the parish had no church but gathered for services in small log
houses, usually at those of Jens Urdahl or Anders Hanson. In 1874 it was decided
to raise a log church, 20x24 and 10 feet high with a birch bark and soil roof.
Each member was to bring 4 logs, which were to measure 6 inches thick. The
building was not in usable condition until the summer of 1876. It was built on
John Kvidt's land in Section 6 where 2 acres of land was secured for a cemetery.
Within a short time this church became too small and it was enlarged by 16 feet
so it became 20x40. At the same time, the roof was shingled. Even though the
church was now rather large, it soon showed that it was not big enough and it
was agreed in 1885 to start a subscription for a new church, and in 1887 it was
built. The nave was 34x34, 20 feet high, the chancel 18x20 and 16 feet high with
two sacristies and a steeple 14x14 and 100 feet high. In the years 1889-92 it
was completely finished and consecrated in 1892 by Pastor Bjørgo with the
assistance of several ministers.. In 1914, a full basement was built under the
In 1917, the 17th of August, a tragic occurrence occurred to Wild Rice Parish.
Lightning struck the beautiful and magnificent church and the parishioners stood
helpless and watched their church laid in ashes. But He who had helped them to
this point stood by them now in this great loss, and on the 2nd of January 1918,
the first parish meeting was held to plan the erection of a new church. And on
the 6th of October the same year the parish trustees and building committee
turned over a fully completed new church, and on the 19th October it was
consecrated by Pastor J.G.D. Bothne with a very large gathering.
The Parish History
The first settlers came to The Wild Rice Settlement in the summer of 1871, the
3rd of June. Of the 5 Families who came to the settlement on that date were
Søren Bergeson, Gulbrand Hogenson, Martin Johnson, Andrew Johnson and Edvardt
Engen, who came some days later, there was one, namely Søren Bergeson who took
part when Wild Rice Parish was established. On the 24th of June, that year three
more families came, namely Johnas Homlevik, Peter Helle and Peder Valer. Of
these, Johnas Homlevik and P. Helle became members of the parish on its
establishment. In the month of July, Ole Hansen Aastad came. The following year,
even more families came and by 1873, there were so many that they felt it was
necessary to gather for God's word and sacraments.
Pastor Lauritz Carlson from Douglas County had visited these families and shared
Life's word with them in 1872.
Similarly, Pastor Bernhard L. Hagboe of the Norwegian-Danish Conference had also
visited the settlement a couple of times but no parish was formed. In 1873
Pastor K. Bjørgo, who was then the pastor in Lake Park, came to the Wild Rice
Settlement at the invitation of some families who had attended his services held
in Andreas Larson's house in the Town of Goose Creek in Clay County and where he
had founded the Buffalo River Parish. Pastor Bjørgo promised to come and hold
services on the 20th of July and Andreas Larson promised to fetch him at Lake
Park and drive him to Wild Rice. It was decided to hold the services in Andreas
Hansen's home since he had a somewhat roomy house, consisting of three rooms.
His home lay in Section 6 of the Town of Flom. "The 20th of July," said Pastor
Bjørgo, "was a beautiful day with brilliant sunshine and comfortably warm and
the trip over the prairie, which was completely unpopulated, was very uplifting,
and I was totally certain of good results in the day. We arrived at our
destination at 10 o'clock, but nobody had arrived for the service, just a woman
by the name of Kirsti Bergeson." When she saw Pastor Bjørgo, she blurted out,
"So!, is it you? I thought it was Lars Reque that was coming." Pastor Bjørgo
asked if he should leave, the woman answered, "No, I would like to hear how you
are as a preacher."
The people began to arrive and the services began, and Pastor Bjørgo took as his
text the gospel which dealt with God's justice. In the afternoon a meeting was
held and it was suggested that a Lutheran parish be formed and the following
enrolled and signed a provisional constitution: Henry Bensen, Peder Helle, Jens
G. Urdahl, Johnas P. Homelvig, Erik G. Erikson, Lars B. Huseby, Ole T. Rogen,
Nikolaus Overgaard, Søren Bergeson, Andrew Hanson, Lars H. Aamoth, Knut Larson,
John Jensen, Jens Jensen, Christian Olson, Ole Ingebretson, John P. Lien, Peter
H. Lien and John O. Vaaler. Pastor Bjørgo held his next service in September of
the same year and conducted his first wedding in the parish, namely that of John
Gronoien and Amalia Larsen, and his last bridal couple were Tvedstulen and
Of the 19 families who signed the parish' first constitution the following are
still alive: Mr. & Mrs. Henry Benson, Mrs. P. Helle, Mr. Erik Urdahl, Mrs. Ole
T. Rogen, Mrs. Andreas Hansen, Lars Aamoth, Mrs. Knut Larsen, John Jenson, Jens
Jensen Morland, Mrs. Christian Olsen, Mrs. Ole Kvidt, Mr. & Mrs. Johannes Lien,
Mr. Peder Aamoth, Mr. Johannes Vaaler and Mr. & Mrs. John P. Lien.
As early as 1875, the 1st of April the question of joining the Synod was
considered, and at later meetings the same matter came up, without any result,
and not before the year 1896 did the parish join the Synod. When Pastor Bjørgo
retired from his work in 1879, the parish got its own minister in Pastor A.K.
Sagen, who later served St. Petri, North and West Wild Rice together with
Nanstad parish at Faith. In the spring of 1884, he retired from the post, it was
taken up by Pastor H. Johnson until 1895. His successor then was Pastor J.R.
Vaaler, who served Wild Rice Parish until 1919. In the spring of 1889, the Wild
Rice Parish was divided in two sub-parishes and was constituted of Wild Rice
Twin Valley and Aspelund parishes.
In 1893, Aspelund Parish left the combination and Wild Rice and Twin Valley
stayed together until 1919 when they separated from one another and Wild Rice
went into connection with Bethlehem and Immanuel Parishes. In the spring of
1920, the 23rd of January, Aspelund Parish sought union with Wild Rice and annex
parishes and these four make up the Call.
By the spring of 1880, the parish had already bought 80 acres of land in Section
7 of Flom Township for a parsonage, on which a house 16x24 was built and an
addition 16x22 was raised in 1885. In 1890 there were also built the necessary
outbuildings. In 1903, this parish property was sold and a new parcel of land,
consisting of 21 acres, was bought from Hans Erikson, and in 1904 a new
parsonage was built at a cost of almost $5000.
The parish secretaries in these 50 years have been: Henry Benson, Edvart
Evensen, Andrew Hansen. At a parish meeting, Thursday the 3rd February 1881, R.
Grutle was selected parish secretary and has served with much blessing for the
parish, as well he has also been the parish choirmaster and teacher. He retired
from his faithful service in the fall of 1910.
After Grutle retired, N.O. Skauge was elected and still serves as parish
secretary. Much more could and should have been mentioned, but there is little
more room in this little account.
And now a concluding words from the author. For 50 years now, God's word has
been proclaimed at this place.
The parish has sailed between islands and skerries and thrown out the net of
salvation in sunshine and storm.
Now they have brought the boat into harbor for a celebration and to thank God
for what He has done for us as a parish and for our homes. Truly, God's favor
has not been in vain and the sown word has not been in vain. Let us continue to
awaken, pray and work. Our work life reduces day by day. There is, perhaps, not
too much strength to fight against conflict, but there is another danger that
threatens more, danger of being lukewarm and or indifferent to the Lord's word
and sacraments. The old are being plucked away in recent years and in a short
time those who built this parish will lie under ground. May God's grace give our
youth the interest and love that stands in truth in these difficult and
dangerous times we are now up against.
Your humble servant in Christ, B.L. OPDAHL
Translated from Norwegian by Olaf Kringhaug Vernon, BC, Canada
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