The Oldest Lutheran Church In Kittson County
David M. Ingeman
The Red River Evangelical Lutheran Church, mother churchof the Northern Minnesota Synod was organized on October 8, 1881.
Before this organization could come about, a lot of planningand work was done. One of the biggest concerns of the early pioneers wasthat they have a place of worship. Among the first settlers to arrive in1879 are such names as Lars Mattson, Nels Hanson, J. P. Johnson and JohnOlson. Most of the families came directly from Sweden and Goodhue Countyin Southern Kinnesota.
The first pastor to visit this early settlement was Rev.J. C. Cavallin from Moorhead, Minnesota. He had been invited by one ofthe settlers. He came in April of 1881, but because of major floading inthe area could only get as far as Hallock, Minnesota so returned in May. According to records he held two services at Lars Eklunds and J. P. Strandells. These are the first Lutheran services held in Kittson County.
Later in September, 1881, the Minnesota Conference sentPastor Jonac Lagerstrom of St. Peter to work in this area for a month. Ata service held in September it was decided to establish an Augustana congregationand the following notice was published and sent out.
Notice is hereby givin that a meeting will be held forthe organization of a Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church at the residenceof Lars Mattson, in Section 24, Township of Red River, at 10 o'clock, October8, 1881.
At this organizational meeting, Pastor Lagerstrom presided. There were forty four charter members and thirty five children.
For many years this church was served by students and pastorswho stayed only for a short time. When there was no pastor the familieswould worship together anyway with one of the men of the congregation readingthe Bible and everybody joining in discussion and singing of hymns. Theywere determined to keep their congregation going and carrying on the workof God.
In 1882, one of the pastors who visited the newly organizedcongregation wrote about his visit: I stayed at, the Mortenson home andhad two services, one in the Mortenson home and a communion service in aschoolhouse in Red River township. At this service there was one man whotried to lead the singing of Psalm 154 in all the melodies found in thePsalm book. The services were well attended. The schoolhouse was well filledeven though very few of the people had horses at that time. One of theMortenson sons took me back to Kennedy with a pair of two year old calves.
In the spring of 1883, another pastor, Reverend L. A. Hokansonwas called to visit the mission field in the Red River Valley. He toldthis amusing report. "I arrived in Kennedy in the latter part of Aprilbut no one was there to meet me even though I had written of my coming. Finally I found a Swede who lived nine miles southwest of town. He tookme to his home for the night. It took us three hours to get to his homefor the snow was soft and deep. The horses had a hard time getting through. The next day we started out for Mortensons where the service was to beheld. We went by wagon in a heavy downpour of. rain. Just before we gotto Mortensons we had to cross a coulee and we got stuck in a hole. Allof us managed to scramble through the slush to the house except one oldgrandma who sat in the wagon in the rain for two hours. It took severalhorses to pull out the wagon. In spite of the weather and bad roads theservices were well attended and the people eager to hear the word of God."
In 1883, Pastor L. G. Almen came and confirmed the firstclass, which, had been instructed by a student named Brown. There wereseven confirmants in this first class.
From 1882 to 1885, different locations were consideredand plans made for a church building. In June 1885, the present locationwas approved and accepted by the congregation. The site was five acresof land, a gift from Mons Smith. At a meeting in December, it was decidedto build a thirty by fifty church at a cost not to exceed 915 dollars. Funds were solicited and the church was built in 1886, a dream fulfilledfor these early settlers.
The first permanent pastor was Rev. S. G. Swenson who stayedtwo years. The pastor's salary was set at 350 dollars a year and he wasto use one fourth of his time on the Home Mission field at whatever salaryhe could get.
In 1892, Pastor L. P. Lundgren accepted the call to theparish and served faithfully in this field for thirty one years. Now thechurch had regular services, Ladies Aid was organized, church choirs andSunday Schools started. Under his leadership the church prospered, improvementswere made and the congregation enlarged.
From 1892 to 1906, it is recorded Pastor Lundgren baptised897 children. The church together with all his confirmants erected a monumentto his honor in thankful remembrance of his 31 years of faithful servicein the Parish. It was unveiled at the Golden Jubilee in 1931 at the cemeteryadjoining the church.
Before 1925, all the services had been in Swedish, nowit was decided half of the morning and afternoon services should be English.It wasn't long before all services were Engish.
The next pastor, Walford E. Erickson, served 17 years andseveral other ministers have since served this parish. The church has beenmoved to a new spot on the same grounds and put on a full basement.
Extensive remodeling has been done at intervals, alwayskeeping up with the changing times. This little country church still hasan active congregation, sharing a pastor with its sister church in Hallock. Although the trend is to bigger urban churches. The Red River EvangelicalLutheran Church still stands majestically calling the country people toworship.
Diamond Anniversary 1881 - 1956