The Bethel Lutheran congregation
is moved by a spirit of gratitude as it celebrates its 75th Anniversary
this year, September 21-24. The 50th and 60th Anniversaries were observed,
but the publishing of an album was left to this Diamond Jubilee.
We are fortunate to have most of
the early church records. They might easily have been lost in the fire
when the parsonage was burned. These early records are written in Swedish,
and therefore look very mysterious and foreign to most of our members today.
We are thankful to Mr. Nels Sandstrom for reading these documents, and
to Mrs. B. E. Leonard for listening hour after hour and transcribing the
interesting items for this album. Mrs. George Johnson and Mrs. W. A. Johnson
have spent many long hours searching the old church Registers in order
to complete the lists of Confirmation classes and to compile a book of
A central committee consisting of
representatives of each organization within the church met to make plans
for this Celebration. They are Clarence Dahl as chairman and Mrs. Allen
Ogren as secretary. Other committees were appointed: PROGRAM -Mrs. Clarence
Dahl, chr., Herbert Johnson, Mrs. Martin Sandstrom, and Mrs. Leslie Larson,
Jr. HISTORICAL - Nels Sandstrom, chr., George Johnson, Mrs. B. E. Leonard,
and Mrs. W. A. Johnson. BOOK SALES- Frank Berg, and James Wangler. CONFIRMATION
REUNION INVITATIONS-Mrs. George Johnson, and Mrs. Minnie Ogren.
We wish to thank our Vice Pastor
Carl Larson of Alta, Ia. for his guiding hand, especially in making out
the program, and Mrs. Clarence Dahl for writing the interesting Historical
May this Album of word pictures
of the past and the present, as well as other items of historical interest
help the present generation to realize its heritage from the struggles
of the past generations and the goal that is set before them.
Thanks be to God for the
Pioneers, those sturdy souls who left the homeland, travelling far
to seek peace for their souls and a livelihood for themselves and their
There was an influx of Swedish Lutherans between the years of 1869-1872. The establishing of homes was fraught by many dangers and hardships. These brave souls knew they could not live "by bread alone". Prompted thus by their faith in God and deeply sensible of the truth of the Christian religion, a few of these Swedish Lutherans met the 28th of July, 1875, at a school house a mile and a half south of where the church now stands, and under the able leadership of the Reverend J. Telleen of Des Moines, organized a congregation. Twentyfive persons signed their names as members.
They were as follows: Nels Anderson, Betty Anderson, J. P. Lund and wife Johanna, August Lindblad and wife Christine, August Lundell and wife Maria, Nicholas Lindblad and wife, Anders Johnson and wife Britta, Swan Sandstrom and wife Maria, Carl John Johnson and wife, Carl Magnus Johnson, John Peterson and wife Anna, Lars Lonberg and wife Margaret, Anders Gust Lagerlof and wife Caroline, John Erickson and wife Anna.
These twenty-five signers formed the nucleus of what is now the Bethel Evangelical Lutheran church located in the southwest corner of Wheeler township, Sac county, Iowa.
A student by the name of Joseph Swenson was secured to preach the :o-cl-cl and to teach Bible School which was all conducted in the Swedish language. Having no church edifice, the meetings were conducted in the various school houses in Sac, Crawford and Ida counties. The ages of the children attending these Bible schools in 1875 ranged from six years to seventeen as heretofore many of them had had no Bible instruction.
At the end of the year of 1875 there were thirty-one communicants and they desired a special place in which to worship. Several more Lutherans moved into this community, coming from Princeton and DeKalb, 111. and from Des Moines, Iowa. They purchased forty acres of land one-half mile north and two miles east of the present location. There was a discussion as to where the church was to be built. At one time the members considered building at what is now the F. E. Lundell home-As God said to Jacob of old, "Arise, go up to Bethel . . . and make there an altar unto God." At this time, the congregation was given an acre of land by John Larson, this acre to be used as a burial ground. They then decided to purchase an additional two acres with a house for the sum of $600.00. This house, after being moved and remodelled, became the parsonage.
One of the oldest organizations of the church is the cemetery association, which was incorporated in 1875.
The first officers of this newly organized congregation were as follows:
Deacons: August Lindblad, Nels Winquist, C. J. Johnson, Nels Anderson, J. F. Lind, John Samuelson.
Trustees: Lars Lonberg, S. N. Sandstrom, A. G. Largerlof, Andrew Johnson, John Erickson, John Peterson.
Due to the fact they had no student or minister, August P. Lindblad (father of Pastor Victor Lindblad) had charge of the services from 1876-1878. During the week this pious soul harvested his crops and on Sunday entered the pulpit to preach the word of God.
Some of the pastors who came to preach and to minister to the needs of this young and growing congregation were: J. Telleen, 0. J. Seljestrom, S. F. Westerdahl, 0. Sundberg, C. J. Damstrom.
March 2, 1878 a decision was reached to build a church 22 x 24 x 12 and in 1879 Nels Anderson offered to build the church for $300.00 which was completed one year later.
On the 22nd of May, 1880 Pastor C. G. Viden was called but declined the call. It was then decided that August Lindblad again serve as leader of the church until such a time as a permanent minister could be called. For this work he was to receive $50.00 but he said he would take only $25.00. Later that year the church decided to call a student and pay him $35.00 a month.
April 15, 1881 P. A. Pihlgren was called and accepted the call. He consequently became the first pastor of the church and served the congregation until 1886.
At the annual meeting in 1883 the congregation decided to sell the forty acres of land purchased shortly after the organization of the church. It was sold to the original owner for $634.25 or about $15.00 an acre.
No mention is made of a musical instrument in the church but there evidently was an organ as Sarah Nojd served as organist in the year 1882. In 1885 Emily Johnson was asked to serve as organist, her salary to be a special offering to be lifted on Palm Sunday.
After Pastor Pihlgren left, Pastor Liljgren was called and served the church from 1886 until 1890. A special meeting was called in July 1888 for the purpose of deciding on the rebuilding of the church. This building was to be 32 x 48 x 14 and be built at a cost of $1200.00.
Pastor A. M. Broleen came in 1890 to serve as the church's third pastor. His salary was to be $450.00 cash per year, hay enough for two cows and one horse, and 150 bushels of corn and free rent. Before Pastor Broleen's arrival, Student Film served the church during the summer months and conducted Swedish school. We note that all through these early years, these first settlers were loath to forget their Swedish manners or their language. It was not until about 1910 or 12 that the Swedish school was finally abandoned.
In September of 1891 at a special meeting it was decided that a bell be purchased for the church, said bell to weigh at least 1200 pounds and that it was to be hung in the belfry within two months. The cost of the bell including installation costs, was $276.56.
A definite salary for the organist was decided upon. It was to be $50.00 a year as was the salary of the sexton.
A petition from the neighboring church at Odebolt (officially organized a year later) was presented at Bethel's annual meeting, asking that Pastor Broleen be permitted to preach in their church as often as convenient. It was decided that Pastor Broleen was to preach in Odebolt every Sunday afternoon if he saw fit to do so. The pastor's salary was raised $50.00 that year and the Odebolt congregation was to pay whatever was satisfactory between themselves and the pastor.
One of the motions passed at the annual meeting was that the church bell was to be rung every Sunday morning at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30, and also every Saturday night at sundown. Another motion on the books was that the church edifice was to be house cleaned twice a year.
A new barn for the pastor's horses was built in 1892. The expenses for this year of 1892 were $1,163.83 and a debt of $526.00, and the books showed a balance of $5.83.
Time marches on and the first mention we have of the Sunday School was in 1893 when August Lindblad, that stalwart pillar of the church, was elected its superintendent. The Sunday school classes were held regularly after the morning services every Sunday.
In 1894 we find mention of the Sewing Society, later "Ladies Aid", being made in the minutes of the church proceedings. Yet in later reports, we read of an offering from this organization being made in 1892 and in 1893. We gather from this that this society evidently was organized in 1881. This society gave generously toward the paying the church debt.
In the fall of 1894, known as the dry year, the Iowa Conference met at Bethel. Two tents had been erected, one right north of the church, close to the windows to allow the overflow crowds to hear the speakers. The other tent was south of the church, near the parsonage, and here meals were served. This conference had an inspiring influence in the community and much good was derived therefrom.
It is interesting to note how prices rose and fell according to the times. The communicant fee in 1895 was voted to be $6.50 for the men and $4.50 for the women. Why a distinction was made is not known.
In the church records of 1895 we find the Young People's Society being mentioned for the first time, this society having been organized in March of 1894 with a membership well up in the dozens. In 1899 there were 80 members on record and in one of those early years the Luther League treasury showed a balance of $1500.00.
This organization was very active, meeting twice a month for spiritual and social gatherings, working untiringly and unselfishly for their church. We read more of the things they accomplished as time goes on. Another interesting fact that transpired at this some annual meeting was the changing of the time of the Sunday School. Heretofore classes had been held after the regular Sunday services. Now the time was changed and the Sunday School was to meet before regular morning services. Also on the minutes we note the organist was to be excused from paying her church dues, these to be included as part of her salary.
Pastor Broleen resigned the pastorate in May 1898. Students J. P. Kraft and Bergstrom were here during the summer months.
Bethel voted to call their own pastor and not join with Odebolt. We note the communicant fee was lowered in 1899 and the pastor's salary was raised.
Pastor J. Mauritzon was called after Pastor Broleen left but he was here only until 1901 as he received and accepted a call to become an instructor of Swedish in the Augustana Seminary.
The church sponsored several Fourth of July celebrations and people came from far and near to partake of the wholesome fun provided. The greater number of these celebrations were held on the church lawn but several were held at the old August Lundell home, some at the younger August Lundell's and some at the home of P. G. Lundell. Though the church was responsible for many of these festivals, the first one in 1894 was sponsored by the Luther League and the Sunday School.
How little the children of today know of the true meaning of the Fourth of July.
In September of 1900 the Bethel congregation celebrated its 25th anniversary. When the plans were being drawn up, a motion was passed by the board that a good lantern, one with a strong bright light, be hung outside the church door. Dr. Evald, the President of the Synod, was the affluent speaker at this convention.
May 16, 1901 a special meeting was called to discuss the raising of the church and the building of a basement. The cost was to be paid by the Young People's Society, said cost being $1000.
Christ said, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,' We can almost hear Him uttering those words as we gaze upon the beautiful altar painting as we enter the sanctuary. The church is grateful to Mr. Nicholas Lindblad for this great gift and also for the first trees planted around the church yard.
In 1903 faithful Mr. August Lindblad again took charge of the worship services. That same year Pastor J. A. Benander accepted a call to become Bethel's shepherd. He served in that capacity until in 1906. In the call entended Pastor Benander, his salary was set at $600. per year, 150 bushels of corn, 100 bushels of oats, 5 ton of hay, free house rent and free use of the telephone on all local lines from the Kiron Telephone Co. It so happens the Kiron Telephone Co. was organized in the year 1902.
In the year 1904 Bethel suffered a great loss in the passing on of one of its most staunch and faithful members, August P. Lindblad. Work in the Lord's vineyard came first in the life of this sturdy Pioneer. He never tired of serving his Master. His was a labor of love. Thank God for men like August Lindblad.
In August of 1905 one of the sons of Bethel, Victor Lindblad, son of August Lindblad, undertook to instruct the children in Swedish school. Forty-one children were enrolled that year. Victor was studying for the ministry at Augustana Seminary at Rock Island, Illinois and in what better way could he serve in his chosen profession than to bring the Word to the children during his vacation days from the Seminary.
We pause to enlighten the reader as to the meaning and substance of "Swedish School." As was mentioned earlier in this history, the Pioneers wanted their children to remember the Mother tongue. They felt their children needed more instruction than they themselves could give them in the home. Consequently, these Swedish Schools were established. Let us not forget that while the language was one of the reasons for the establishment of these schools, the foremost reason was to bring God's word to the children. Thus, regular classes were conducted in Bible History and the Sacraments.
In the summer of 1906 Oscar Purn served the church as student. Six weeks of Swedish school were conducted by him. Fifty-two children were enrolled. Pastor Jessup was then called and served Bethel one year.
At a special meeting in June 1907 Pastor J. A. Christenson of Maywood, Ill. was called to serve Bethel congregation and his salary was to be $800. per year, feed for a horse and a cow, free rent and free use of the telephone on local lines.
The cemetery association drew up Articles of Incorporation and were henceforth to be known as The Bethel Lutheran Church Cemetery Association of Sac County, Iowa.
Bethel congregation suffered a loss in membership that year as about a dozen members moved to other localities. What was Bethel's loss was some other congregation's gain.
Shortly after Pastor Christenson came to Bethel, a hot water heating system was installed in the Parsonage. A Fourth of July celebration was held on the church lawn that year and in this same year the Young People's Society adopted the name "Luther League."
In 1910 the auditorium of the church was beautified by the gift of the altar table from the Honorable Nicholas Lindblad. The new benches, gifts from the Ladies Aid and the Luther League, added to the dignity of the auditorium. In 1911 the Luther League bought a piano for the church. From the financial report of 1911 we gather that the gas lights were evidently installed that year.
The year 1912 a society called the Scissors Guild was organized This organization consisted of young women who sewed beautiful handwork which was later sold at public auction, the proceeds being used in the church for the furtherence of God's kingdom on earth.
Another faithful worker in the church was called home to his eternal rest, John Peterson. The torch of his Christian faith is being carried high by his children and his children's children.
The 20th of October 1913 Pastor and Mrs. J. A. Christenson together with the congregation celebrated twenty five years of their marriage. The Pastors of the District and friends from far and near came to be present at this festive occasion.
The auditorium of the church was redecorated at this time when a steel ceiling and steel walls were put in at a cost of $700. Mortal man craves beauty and it seems that the more beautiful the house of worship is the more hallowed it becomes.
These must have been prosperous times as in addition to the afore mentioned reparations new barns were built for the horses to be housed in during the cold winter months when the members drove to church.
The Fourth of July celebration in 1913 netted the Sunday School $100. New carpets were bought for the church. A new pulpit to match the altar table was given by the Sunday School.
In 1914 a new type organ was installed, one that required some one to hand pump it. The older toys of the Sunday School took turns pumping it every Sunday. This organ was paid for by the Scissors Guild, the Ladies Aid, and the Luther League.
Another addition for the betterment of the material side was the construction of a cave for the gas lights. This eliminated further danger of explosions in the church. (Mentioned in story on "Light.")
The Fort Dodge District Luther League convention was held in Bethel that year. These conventions were held annually in the various congregations of the district and were a great inspiration to the young people.
One of the largest Fourth of July celebrations was held that year and an inspiring Harvest Festival in the fall of the year.
On the 18th of December Bethel congregation was saddened by the resignation of its Pastor, Reverend J. A. Christenson. He and his family had endeared themselves to all whom they met. Pastor Chris enson had been called to Newman Grove, Nebr. and moved there in April 1915.
The new constitution of the Synod was adopted in May of 1915. This was a great turning point in the history of the Augustana Lutheran church as women were given the right to vote. A new era had begun.
Pastor N. E. Glad was called as Bethel's Pastor and came to Kiron in the fall of 1915. Pastor Christenson and family left in April. During the interim Student J. A. Martin occupied the pulpit. As this young man had a wife and family, the members of the congregation ransacked their storerooms for furniture and quickly furnished the parsonage for the summers occupancy. This was a memorable summer in the church. The Martin's endeared themselves to young and old. When Mrs. Martin raised her voice in song, all eyes were dimmed with tears as she sang as the angels in heaven must sing.
That fall a festival was held in the church commemorating the fortieth year of Bethel's establishment.
The next ten years were more or less interrupted by war. Twelve young men namely Oscar Danielson, Edwin Danielson, Martin Lundell, George Carlson, George Baker, Abel Christenson, Arthur Johnson, Thure Linden, Emil Ogren, Robert Swede, Clarence Ander, Wilburt Christenson went out from Bethel in 1917-1918 and all save one returned safely. Robert Swede passed away in a hospital in Europe and his body was later returned to this country for reburial.
Some other events of these years were; the first English Sunday School class in 1916; the entire Sunday School was converted to English in 1917; the building of a garage for the Pastor's car; the 100th year birthday celebration of the old Patriarch Nicholas Lindblad. An occasion of this sort is unusual and will long be remembered by all present, especially the children and grandchildren. His descendants represented three denominations all working in harmony for the saving of souls.
Another memorable occasion in the life of Nicholas Lindblad occurred at the funeral service for Mr. C. F. Berg when grandpa Lindblad as he was called by all, stood beside the grave and in his quavering but unfaltering voice sang an old Swedish hymn, again exemplifying his great faith.
Mrs. Glad was instrumental in organizing the Home and Foreign Missionary Society which was done in their home Dec. 16, 1920. The first officers were president, Mrs. Glad; vice president, Mrs. P. A. Peterson; secretary, Mrs. M. A. Sandstrom; treasurer, Mrs. C. W. Nelson. At first only four meetings a year were held but in recent years the society has been meeting once a month. All money that comes in to this society is used for home and foreign missionary work. Since 1927 nearly $8,000 has been sent out from this society alone. The past four years a sewing project has been carried out; the society being divided into three groups meeting at least six times a year. These groups sew for the Home and Foreign Missions, shipping out annually hundreds of pounds of clothing including dresses, layettes, crib quilts, school supplies, toys and medical supplies. The good done by these groups cannot be measured.
On January 9, 1925 the alarm went out that the Parsonage was on fire. Neighbors and friends rallied to the rescue and saved as much of the household goods as was possible. The various organizations as well as friends gave generously to the nearly destitute family. The Ladies Aid gave $200, the Sunday School and the Luther League $40.00 each toward the purchase of clothing as all but what the family was wearing was destroyed.
Several board meetings were called to decide on a home for the Pastor and his family. As Odebolt did not feel obligated to furnish their parsonage for the minister at that time, a home in Kiron was rented for their use.
Mr. Andrew Nelson, a pioneer in this community, and in the work of the church, passed on in 1924 and Bethel lost another member in 1925 when August Lundell passed away. He was among the first Swedish settlers, coming here from Illinois. Besides working hard for the upbuilding of the church, he was a tireless worker for the betterment of the community.
August 21-22-23, 1925 Bethel celebrated its 50th anniversary. Much had occurred in these years of the upbuilding of the church. At this festival the individual communion cups, a gift from the Ladies Aid, were used for the first time. The original set was destroyed by fire.
The next 25 years we find everything progressing smoothly.
Pastor Glad resigned in 1926 and Student Carl A. E. Gustafson took charge of the congregation that summer and over the Holiday period.
One of the outstanding events of this period was the uniting of Bethel and Odebolt churches into one pastorate; the minister here after, to live in the parsonage in Odebolt; and the salary to be shared equally by both congregations.
Another important happening in the church and one of the best improvements was the installing of the 32 volt electric light plant. The old gas lights were discarded. We did dislike seeing the beautiful chandelier, a gift of the S. N. Sandstroms, removed from its familiar place in the center of the ceiling. Some years later, (1936) when the 32 volt plant was taken out and the R.E.A. line brought in this lovely wrought iron fixture was again hung in the church auditorium, having been converted into an electric chandelier.
1928 saw the passing of an old familiar figure, that of John Ogren. He served as a Sunday School teacher for years. He was a true and faithful servant of the Lord.
Pastors who served Bethel the next few years were H. W. Lundberg 1927- 1930. Pastor Linder temporary pastor 1930-1933. Erland Borg called pastor 1933- 1935. G. L. Dagner temporary pastor 1935-1936.
Pastor Herbert Johnson was called in 1936 and took charge of the work that year. He was a most talented man and in his quiet unassuming way won many souls for the Kingdom. He and his family left Bethel in 1942 on a call to New Jersey. Pastor H. Lester Peterson was called in August to fill the vacancy left by Pastor Johnson. Pastor Peterson served the church well through the troublous times of a second world war. He was a dynamic speaker and unafraid to stand up for what is right.
In 1933 a familiar figure was taken away from our midst, the well loved old gentleman, Mr. S. N. Sandstrom. He was the last charter member of the church and was 87 years old at his death.
1934 to 1940 saw the passing of several of Bethel's oldest members, namely, Mrs. Ida Reed, Mrs. Anders Anderson, Mrs. Caroline Berg aged 95, Gust Ogren, Fred Carlson, C. J. Danielson, Mrs. P. G. Lundell, Mrs. Fred Carlson. In 1937 Bethel suffered the loss of three men who did much for their church, namely Frank Ogren, Swan Johnson, C. W. Nelson. Peace to the memories of all these departed friends.
During these years we pause to pay tribute to the boys and a nurse who served their country in World War II: