History of Church
By Rev. J. Edor Larson
Updated by Mrs. Harris Westad
Pastor J. Magney of Vasa, Minnesota, made an extensive journey through this part of the State in the year of 1870. He writes in part: “About four o’clock in the afternoon I set out (from Alexandria) on a journey some twenty miles to a settlement known by the name of Parkers Prairie. Here I found old friends from Chicago Lake. Had communion with full service on Sunday forenoon, in the afternoon baptism of children and an hour Bible study. Here about twenty claims have been taken by Swedes and there is room for many more. No pastor had visited them before this.”
The following year Pastor Magney was here again and organized not less then eight congregations in this region. In the Minutes from the first meeting we read: “According to the announcement made August 29 the Swedes in and around Parkers Prairie met at the August Veden home (near Horsehead Lake, east of the Harold Peterson home) in order to organize into a congregation. Pastor Jonas Magney was elected chairman pro tempore, and Mr. Gustaf Linquist, Secretary pro-tempore. It was decided that the name of the congregation shall be The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Parkers Prairie, Otter Tail County, Minnesota. The constitution for the congregations of the Augustana Synod, as proposed by the Synod at its meeting at Andover, Illinois in 1870, was adapted with a few amendments.”
At this meeting preparations were also made for the erection of a church edifice. Having considered several proposed sites the congregation agreed upon land donated by Andrew Hanson, and in December 1871 the committee presented plans and the congregation decided to build a church 40 ft in length, 30 ft wide and 14 feet on the studdings.
The building was erected in 1876 and was dedicated by Pastor Magney the same year. The lumber was donated by the members. $88.75 came in in cash.
September 20, 1873, this congregation joined with Fahlun and Lake Ida as a pastorate and called Pastor J. P. Lundblad at a total salary of $500 a year. In 1893 the Esther congregation was organized and the boundary between the two was decided upon as “a line north and south between sections 20 and 21”. The Esther church was to receive pastoral care and was to pay in accordance to the services rendered. In 1896 the First Lutheran and Esther church joined with Eagle Bend and Clarissa as a pastorate. But this arrangement only lasted three years. After 1899 the parish consisted of the First and Esther churches.
On September 22, 1917 a group of 56 men had a meeting with the pastor of the Missouri church and decided to withdraw from that church. The group was served in 1917 to 1920 by pastors of the Minnesota District of the American Lutheran church. Pastor J. P. Haupt of Belle Plain, Minnesota was in charge of the mission which resulted in the organization of the St. John congregation November 3, 1919. At first the meetings were held in the homes, but later the congregation bought the Methodist church across the street from our church. The first ministerial acts performed in this church after the purchase was the baptism of the Ewald Karger twins and the marriage of Mr. & Mrs. Edward Swartz. Pastor Haupt was assisted by pastors Emil Lehne and R. A. Salzwedel, both of St. Paul. J. A. Reuter was the first resident pastor, followed by Pastor E. Dome. Prof. L. W. Moench of Paul also served the congregation. In 1934 the St. John congregation officially merged with the First church.
New Church Build
We have already mentioned that the First church building was erected 1876 about two miles east of the village and the congregation worshiped here for a period of 45 years. As early as 1907 the though of a new church was advanced and in 1911 the girls organization, “The Busy Bee”, gathered $100.00 which was set aside for this special purpose. Not until January 1919 was any direct action taken, but two years later the edifice was ready much to the credit and efforts of Dr. J. F. Ford. The cost of the church including furniture was $28,100. The first service was conducted in the new sanctuary February 13, 1921. The following May 3, in the fiftieth year of its history, the congregation dedicated the church to the service of God and its sacred purpose.
At the Annual Meeting in January, 1954, definite steps were taken to have blueprints made for enlargement of our church building, and ground was broken in September 1954. The dedication of the basement addition was exactly a year later. But completion of the building program continued, with groundbreaking for the new unit (upstairs) in September, 1968. This enlarged and remodeled the chancel, added more classrooms for Sunday School, as well as a Pastor’s study and an office. This unit was dedicated in September, 1969. It was completed at a cost of about $90,000.
The congregation has owned four parsonages. In 1890 the D. S. Lamb farm was bought as a parsonage. In 1899 the house and land were sold and land was bought from Andrew Hanson adjoining the church property. A house was built at a cost of $2,387. In 1922 the parsonage was sold and a house procured in the south part of the village. In 1922 the parsonage was sold and the present parsonage bought from Mrs. Esther Johnson.
This continues to be the parsonage, with extensive remodeling done after Pastor Ericson’s arrival in the fall of 1973.