Meeker County is situated in almost the exact center of the southern half of Minnesota. The length of Meeker County from north to south is 30 miles and its greatest width is 24 miles. It is bounded by the following counties: on the north by Stearns, east by Wright, south by McLeod and Renville and west by Kandiyohi. It includes seventeen and one-half congressional townships. The greater portion of the county consisted of rolling prairie covered with brush and light timber, while a considerable area was heavily timbered.
The surface is well watered by numerous lakes and streams. The principal stream is the Crow River with its tributaries which, in pioneer days, furnished a moderate degree of transportation and reliable water power. These streams were followed by the early settlers who established their settlements at chosen points along the Crow River.
From the date of the first settlement in 1856 until the coming of the St. Paul and Pacific railroad (The Great Northern) in 1869 constitutes what may properly be termed the pioneer period in the development of the county. The principal crops during this term of years were small grains, corn and vegetables while most of the settlers gradually acquired sufficient live stock and poultry to meet in part the necessities of life. Wild game and fish were plentiful which was a great boon to the pioneers until they became more firmly established.
Meeker County was created by the seventh territorial legislature February 23, 1856 at which time it embraced all of its present territory except the towns of Cedar Mills and Cosmos which were then a part of Renville County. The county was named in honor of Hon. B. B. Meeker of St. Anthony. The Governor appointed Thomas H. Skinner, John W. Huy, and Dr. Frederick Ripley commissioners. Their first meeting was held at Skinner's home in Forest City, May 5, 1856. Dr. Ripley was not present at this meeting. He was frozen to death in a blizzard March 3, 1856 on the shores of the lake that bears his name. Very little business was transacted at this meeting; M. G. Moore was appointed register of deeds and clerk of the board and Abijah Bemis, sheriff. The county, as a whole, constituted the only election precinct. No further meetings of the board were held until January 5, 1857. At a meeting held January 4, 1858 the school tax collected in 1857 amounting to §102.80 was apportioned as follows: District No. 1, Kingston (32 pupils) received $26.88; District 2, Forest City (55 pupils) $46.20; District 3, Manannah (35 pupils) $29.40; District 4, Acton, made no returns and did not share in this division of funds.
At the meeting held April 5, 1858 the territory of the county was organized into eight towns. The county at this time embraced Townships 118, 119, 120, and 121 of Range 33 west which were at a later period annexed to Kandiyohi County and did not include the towns of Cosmos and Cedar Mills which were included in the boundaries of Renville County.
The territory embraced in the present boundaries of the county was divided as follows: Kingston included Dassel; Forest City embraced Forest Prairie and the east half of Harvey; Manannah included Union Grove, north half of Swede Grove and west half of Harvey; Rice City embraced the towns of Collinwood, Darwin and Ellsworth; Ness was the name given to the towns of Litchfield and Greenleaf and Acton embraced the towns of Danielson, and the south half of Swede Grove. These constituted the political divisions of the county until the influx of settlers following the close of the Civil War and the coming of the railroad when the boundaries of the several towns were subjected to changes in territory and name as they exist at present The assessed valuation of Meeker County in 1858 totaled $181,571 divided as follows: real estate, $131,871; personal property, $49,700. During the years 1856 to 1869 the trading centers of the county in order of importance were Forest City, the county seat and the location until 1862 of the V. S. Land Office; Kingston, the first milling center; Greenleaf; Manannah; and Collinwood. The importance of these centers was largely due to their picturesque location and the fact that they were the flour and feed mill centers that served the settlers of that period and a considerable area of country not included in Meeker County. The coming of the railroad in 1869 was a great event. Numerous surveys were made and all of these above centers of trade were deeply interested and great hopes were entertained by all these townsites that the preferred survey would give them the supremacy. It is the contention of the settlers in all of these centers with the exception of Greenleaf that it was due to the individual settlers owning the desired acreage for right of way and other railroad purposes asking excessive prices for their land that none of these townsites failed to connect and lost their former supremacy. The village of Litchfield had been platted in June 1869 and at the election of November 2 of that year the paramount issue was the proposed removal of the county seat from Forest City to Litchfield. The total vote of the county was 929 and Litchfield won by a majority of 89 votes. A change of 45 votes would have given Forest City the victory. The coming of the iron horse over its established location had wrecked all future hopes for the then existing leadership of the well established townsites of Kingston, Forest City, Collinwood, and Manannah. These townsites have no system of transportation and no postoffices. Kingston is the only inland townsite that retains any part of its former supremacy.
THE FIRST SETTLERS
In the spring of 1855 John Huy, Benjamin Brown and a man named Mackenzie polled their way up Crow River in search of pine timber as employees of a lumber firm. They were unsuccessful in their search and returned to St. Anthony to report their failure. John Huy then organized an exploring party among whom were Rudolph Schultz, D. M. Hanson and Thomas H. Skinner and in the fall reached the junction of Crow River and creeks entering the same and then followed the course of the creek connecting Lake Ripley with the Crow River and constructed a cabin in section 25, town of Harvey, where they planned to establish a townsite which they named Kar-i-shon (the Indian name for crow.) Huy and Skinner spent the winter in their crude shack and in the spring of 1856 -they explored the Crow River and discovered in sections 17 and 20, town of Forest City what they regarded as a more favorable site for a village. They abandoned their cabin and erected a claim shanty and named their changed location Forest City. Upon their chosen claim arose the village of that name which for a period of 12 years was the seat of county government. John Huy lived here until the summer of 1862 when he left the county, having previously preempted the north east quarter of section 19, Forest City town, and in 1888 he was a resident of California. John Huy and Thomas H. Skinner were members of the first board of county commissioners. Skinner died in Milwaukee August 20, 1863 and was buried in St. Albans, Maine, the home of his boyhood. Rudolph Schultz became a permanent resident in section 26, Harvey town.
The Album of History published in 1888 names Sarah Jane Dougherty, daughter of Thomas Dougherty, born in a covered wagon in Forest City, July 15, 1856 as the first white child born in Meeker County. The same history lists the birth of William Cates, son of Mark Cates, of Kingston, to have occurred July 6, 1856. In the biographical section the statement is made that Mark Gates went to Maine for his bride and returned with her to the Kingston home this same year. The biography does not give the date of marriage. The census of 1870, (John Blackwell, enumerator) under date of August 10, 1870, gives Will Cates' age as 12 which would seem to indicate that he was bom July 6, 1858 or two years later than is recorded in the history of 1888.
Walter Salisbury, son of J. B. Salisbury, was born in Kingston town October 26, 1856, which is in harmony with the census record.
Ole Halverson, son of Henry Halverson, was born in Litchfield town December 11, 1856, which is also in harmony with the census record.
The following is a list of the first homesteaders in each of the townships of Meeker County. The first settlers in the county acquired their lands under the preemption law whereby they purchased the land direct from the government at $1.25 per acre. The homestead law did not become effective until January 1, 1863.
D. E. after each name and description represents the date of entry.
Acton - Paul Paulson. Lot 3, Sec. 10. D. E. March 10, 1863.
Cedar Mills - Daniel McGraw. SE ¼ SW ¼, NWH SE ¼, S ½ SE ¼ , Sec. 4. D.E. March 10, 1863.
Collinwood - Thomas J. Hutchins. N ½ NW ¼, Sec. 8. D.E. July 7, 1864.
Cosmos - Daniel Hoyt. NW ¼, Sec. 20. D.E. May 9, 1864.
Danielson - Andrew Christopherson. SW ¼, Sec. 2. D.E. Sept 17, 1863. Nils Danielson. NE ¼, Sec. 2. D.E. Nov. 28, 1863.
Darwin - John Pieffer, SE ¼, SW ¼, Sec. 4. D.E. Jan. 1, 1863.
Dassel - William Cunningham. SW ¼ NW ¼, Lot 3, Sec. 2. D.E. Mar. 23, 1865.
Ellsworth - John C. Kruger. NE ¼ NW ¼,S ½, NW ¼ , Sec. 8. D.E. June 1, 1863.
Forest City - Michael Flynn. Lot 2, Sec. 34. D.E. Jan. 1, 1863.
Forest Prairie - Robert K. Beecham. E& ½ NW ¼, SW ¼ NW ¼, Sec. 18. D.E. June 23, 1871.
Greenleaf - Michael Ryan. SE ¼, Sec. 20. D.E. Feb. 23, 1863.
Harvey - Rudolph Schultz. SW ¼ NE ¼ , Sec. 26. D.E. Feb. 26, 1863.
Kingston - Benjamin F. Dorman. W ½., NW ¼, Sec. 20. D.E. Feb. 24, 1863.
Litchfield - Nels Klemenson. Lots 1, 2, Sec. 6. D.E. Jan. 5, 1863.
Manannah - Augustus B. Wood. Lots 11 and 12, Sec. 6. D.E. Dec. 12, 1869.
Swede Grove - Nels Halverson. Lot 3, NE ¼ SE ¼, Sec. 32. D.E. Aug. 3, 1863.
Union Grove - Andrew Hamilton. S ½, SE ¼, SE ¼, SW ¼, and NW ¼ SE ¼ , Sec. 14. D.E. March 23, 1869.
When the pioneer settlers of Meeker county gained title to their land they acquired the same directly or indirectly from the government, either by preemption by which they paid $1.25 per acre to the government direct; by homestead after the passage of the homestead law which took effect January 1, 1863; by purchase of land in the odd numbered sections from the railroad company, or by purchase of school lands in sections 16 and 36 from the state. There were two other ways by which they secured lands in the early days, one by which they surrendered land warrants and the other by what is designated in the county register's office as S.H.B.S.
The population of Meeker County at the time of the first census in 1860 was 928 and 61 per cent of this number were native born Americans. The larger portion of this number were from New York and New England with an almost equal number from Kentucky and Virginia. There was a scattering population of Irish and Scandinavians.
The most populous settlements were found in the towns traversed by the Crow River, Kingston, Forest City, and Manannah. There was a goodly number of settlers in Greenleaf, Ellsworth, Swede Grove, and Acton and scattered settlers in other portions of the county.
The population of the county at the present time is quite cosmopolitan consisting of Americans of Scandinavian, German, Irish, and Finnish descent with a lesser number of the descendants of Colonial ancestry.
When the census of 1885 was taken the population of the county was 17,389 of which 11,588 were native born whose nationality could not be definitely determined but it is safe to say that they were very largely the descendants of those of foreign birth in proportion to the number of foreign born residents of the county at this time. The tide of emigration in 1885 had become nominal. The division of foreign born numbered at this time 5,801 divided as follows: Sweden, 3,311; Germany, 776; Norway, 664; Ireland, 273; Denmark, 268; Canada, 247; Finland, 167; and other countries, 95.
Mixed marriages were very uncommon in pioneer days. The first case of the blending of nationalities was the marriage of William H. Wilcox, a native of Ohio, and Ellen Peterson, a native of Sweden and a sister of Peter E. Hanson, an eminent citizen of Meeker County. This marriage was solemnized November 9, 1867.
The years have rolled by and among those of the third generation of the early settlers there has been an ever increasing mixture of nationalities which has improved the strain of blood that permeates the present generation. This mixture of nationalities produced a Lindberg and others who occupy high places in our country's development. Nationality distinctions have become well nigh obliterated in Meeker County. The English language has come into general use and nothing remains to designate the ancestral origin except the surnames of its citizens and the hyphenated names applied to some of our church organizations. There are a few segregated groups of Americans of foreign birth in the county among which the most numerous is a settlement of Finnish people in the town of Kingston. They have clung rather closely to their language and foreign customs and ways of living but the third generation of this group have adopted American customs and ways of living and have led their classmates in scholarship in many of our high schools and colleges. One of the most interesting of their old country institutions found in all communities of Finnish descent is The Sauna or Finnish steam bath.
EARLY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The pioneer schools of Meeker County were held in the first instance in private homes and small log structures which were succeeded by crude frame buildings. The furnishings were usually made of native lumber by a local carpenter. Sections of the walls were painted coal black to serve as blackboards. A framed bed of sand served in lieu of zinc under the stove and children buried their ink bottles therein to prevent freezing. The first school building in Litchfield is pictured on page 112. This was termed a subscription school in which the patrons and citizens met the ex-pense of its maintenance. This modest structure is in marked contrast to the present grade and high school building constructed in 1930 at an ex-penditure of $225,000 exclusive of grounds and equipment.
The improved conditions of the present day are in marked contrast with the educational facilities of the early years. The school houses are of modern construction, well lighted and ventilated and the furnishings are of the best. The teacher has all essential maps, charts and reference books needed in the teaching of the varied subjects. The schools are well graded and the eighth grade graduates are equipped to enter our state accredited high schools without examination. Many of the school houses have a modern heating system, electric lights, piano and telephone and serve as civic centers for the community.
There are six superior state accredited ungraded elementary schools in Meeker County. An accredited school meets the state required standards in equipment, a nine months' term of instruction, an adequate and well kept building and the teachers' must have had superior training for their work. The schools complying with these requirements that have won the distinction of being rated among the accredited schools of the state are: Districct 1, Kingston townsite; 2, Forest City townsite; 28, Manannah township; 36, Union Grove township and numbers 50 and 72 in Danielson township.
The schools in the following districts have an enrollment requiring the services of more than one teacher: Number 1, 3 teachers and the following schools are served by two teachers to each school. Districts 2, 43, 52, 60 and 93. The rural schools of the county are under the supervision of the County Superintendent of schools, Miss Ruth Peterson.
There are four state accredited high schools in the county and pupils in the several schools in the county are conveyed to the high school by buses and all the pupils of the county are provided with equal educational opportunities.
Litchfield High School
The Litchfield school has a staff of forty-six teachers and seven other persons including nurse, secretaries and janitors are carried on the pay roll. Thirty-six school districts and parts of eleven other districts are served by the high school. It compares favorably with the high schools in metropolitan centers. There are more than 1,200 pupils enrolled in the school system.
Grove City High School
The Grove City High School is the pride of the citizens of the village and is a modern structure well equipped to meet the educational needs of the territory it serves. The curriculum includes all the constants outlined by the State Department of Education. The auditorium serves as a civic center for the community and the teachers are active assistants in social and church activities.
Dassel High School
The Dassel High School is a modem structure of an attractive type of architecture and fulfils the needs of the districts served. The curriculum meets all the requirements of the State Department of Education. Their teaching staff is chosen with great care and contribute liberally to the social life of the community and the character building of the youth entrusted to their care.
Eden Valley High School
The present Eden Valley High School building was erected in 1927 but the village high school was.established in 1901. Including the grades seven teachers are carried on the pay roll and a full-time custodian is employed. The enrollment is 200 and the 1939 graduating class numbers 24. The course of study meets all state requirements.
Parochial schools exist in Eden Valley and Watkins. The Eden Valley school is sponsored by the Assumption Catholic Church in the Stearns County section of that village and the Watkins school is connected with the Parish of St. Anthony. These schools are very efficient and the faculty consists of Sisters of Charity especially trained for their work. Their course of study qualifies the pupils for entrance to the high schools of the county.
The Church of St. Philip at Litchfield established in 1934 the Institute of St. Philip's which (fives a free kindergarten course to children of all denominations. Their course in music is open to the public with a moderate tuition charge. The religious course is open to the children of Catholic faith without charge. The Institute is in charge of five Sistsrs of the Order of St. Benedict.
Protestant Episcopal Church
Trinity Church was founded 69 years ago at which time it was an adjunct of the Gethsemane (missionary parish) of Minneapolis. The first service was held February 13, 1870 and was conducted by Reverend D. B. Knickerbocker who later became Bishop of Indiana. In June of the same year Reverend T. G. Crump held services in the Masonic Hall.
Trinity Church was incorporated, April 10, 1871 at a meeting held in the Masonic Hall with Rev. T. G. Crump presiding.
The parish is greatly indebted to the liberality of friends for the beautiful church in which to worship. J. C. Braden gave the lots on which the church is located. Among the donors are numbered, Mrs. Ellen Anchrauty, of New York; Mrs. E. D. Litchfield, of London, England and others. These donations amounted to about $8,000. A parish school and rectory were constructed and Rev. T. G. Crump, affectionately called Parson Crump, conducted the first school which was eagerly patronized by Litchfield parents. Parson Crump was endowed with the missionary spirit and held services at intervals in the villages of Meeker and neighboring counties.
Trinity parish was admitted into union with the church council in 1871 and became self sustaining in 1891. Rev. Crump's rectorship covered a period of nineteen years of faithful service. He was succeeded by Rev. Pinkham who conducted services occasionally in the Swedish language which prompted a number of citizens of Swedish birth to affiliate with Trinity Church and many became active members. Rev. D.A. Trofteen, at a later date, established a Swedish Mission that led to the organization of the Emanuel (Swedish) Episcopal church and the erection of a church building. In 1928 there was a consolidation with Trinity Church.
Rev. Pinkham's pastorate terminated in 1892. The present rectory was built during the rectorship of Rev. W. E. Harmann which covered the period from 1918 to 1937. The parish is indebted to Bishop Keeler in the work leading to the erection of the rectory.
Trinity Parish is justly proud of its sixty-nine years of faithful Christian service and equally proud of two of its sons who entered the ministry; Rev. Elmer Lofstrom (son of Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Lofstrom) who, at the time of his death, was professor of New Testament Languages and Exegesis at the Seabury Divinity School in Faribault, Minnesota.
Rev. Elmer M. Lofstrom (son of Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Lofstrom) was baptized, confirmed, ordained and married in Trinity Church. He is serving at present as Rector of the Episcopal church at Cody, Wyoming.
Rev. Elmer E. Johnson came to Trinity Parish in May 1937 from the Diocese of Duluth where he was in charge of the Crookston field. Mr. Johnson is a native of Minnesota, having been born at Eagle Bend where he graduated from high school and later attended Carleton College and graduated 1930 from Seabury Divinity School. Previous to coming to Litchfield Rev. Johnson had served the missions at Paynesville and Glenwood and the field of International Falls, Warroad and Northome.
The Presbyterian Church at Litchfield is the only existing church of that denomination in Meeker County. A temporary organization was effected January 2, 1870 under the direction of a committee from the St Paul Presbytery.
For several months previous to this meeting citizens of that faith had gathered in the newly erected school house where services were conducted by Rev. D. B. Jackson.
The permanent organization was established March 10, 1870 with the following charter members: A N., Mrs. Eusebia, Rachel A. and Isabella Grenier, Henry and Mrs. Mary L. Hill, Henry Wilson, Miss Martha Gibson and Rev. D. B. Jackson, pastor. The following trustees were elected: Henry Hill, A. N. Grenier and H. A. Runions.
Reverend D. B. Jackson was a concientious, Christian worker and laid the foundation for effective religious service among his members in the Litchfield community.
The present church edifice was erected in 1871 at a cost of $4,000 and a parsonage was subsequently built at an expenditure of $1,400.
Rev. D. B. Jackson was succeeded by Reverends W. C. Harding, Prescot Fay, A. J. Buel who was followed by Rev. J. S. Sherrill whose pastorate extended from 1876 to 1887 during which time the church continued to grow and prosper. He was followed in 1888 by Reverend D. E. Evans at which time the church had a membership of 94 and gave great promise of future growth and usefulness. Rev. H. M. Pressley was his successor who gave way in turn to Reverends G. C. Pollock and Sidney Stone who was succeeded in 1903 by R. C. Mitchell during whose pastorate the church was remodeled and a pipe organ was installed. He was followed in turn by H. G. Lacey, J. F. McLeod and B. M. McCullough, when in 1926 Rev. Barackman was called to the pastorate during whose period of service the manse was erected. P. C. Voris was his successor in 1931 and his ministry was terminated by his death June 14, 1934 and he was followed by the present pastor, Rev. H. H. McLeod.
THE BAPTIST CHURCH
The Baptist Church was organized October 13, 1866 with fifteen charter members. The lot on which the church and cemetery is located covers a ten acre tract of land presented the society February 28, 1868.
A church was erected the same year. The church grew in numbers and in 1880 the present church edifice was erected, remodeled in 1899 and an addition constructed in 1915. There has been no interuption in services during subsequent years.
The first pastor was Rev. Anders Ekbom. The present pastor is Rev. William Ault
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
The Church of Christ often called the Christian Church was initiated at Litchfield by L. Y. Bailey (a teacher in the village school) in a series of discourses held in the school house during the summer of 1870. He was later ordained as a minister of the Christian Church.
In 1871 the church society was duly organized with L. Y. Bailey and wife, Chauncy Butler and wife, O. B. Knapp and wife, C. J. Rowley, Mrs. J. V. Branham, Jr., V. H. Harris, G. B. Lyon and others. They rented Asher's Hall where services were held prior to the erection of the church in 1873 at an original cost of $3,000.
Mr. Bailey continued to serve the church without compensation during his entire residence in Meeker County. He was succeeded by Elder Gran; who served the church for about a year. Following his period of service there was no regular pastor for several years until April, 1882 when Elder E. W. Knapp took charge, followed in turn by Elder R. C. Bryant and a brief interval of inactivity when the church was without a pastor.
In March 1884 Rev. Louis A. Pier was installed as pastor and the church took on new life. He was a man of marked ability and greatly endeared himself to the members of the church and the community at large. During his pastorate the parsonage was erected.
Rev. Pier terminated his services as pastor in 1894. During the years that have elapsed the church was served by numerous pastors.
Rev. Marshall, the present pastor, is a graduate of the Minnesota Bible University (class of 1930). He was installed as pastor in January 1927. In addition to serving the congregation of the Litchfield church he serves the Christian Church in Dassel, and holds a two-weeks' meeting' for some church in the brotherhood without a pastor at least once in each year.
At the present time the Litchfield church is entirely free from debt, has a membership of one-hundred and a Sunday school enrollment of seventy-five. It is generally hoped that Rev. Marshall will continue to be the leader for many years to come.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
The oldest church edifice in Dassel village is used at the present time as a house of worship by what is known as the "Church of Christ" This church was erected in 1874 by the Congregationalists and maintained as such until 1885. From 1885 to 1889 it was used as a house Of worship by the Christian denomination and the pulpit was supplied by Rev. Louis A. Pier, pastor of the church at Litchfield. Rev. Pier was a man of fine character and good ability. He was the founder of the Litchfield Saturday Review and later became the first president of th Christian College at Excelsior. He later severed this connection and moved to California.
During subsequent years the church was used at different intervals by the Baptists and Church of God. Since October 17, 1933, there have been regular church services. Rev. E. W. Marshall, pastor of the Litchfield Church of Christ, supplies the pulpit.
CHURCH OF GOD
The Church of God was organized February 16, 1899 with 47 communicants. The elders elected were William Hardy, Jacob Williams; Deacons, Frank Marshall and Alfred Welliver. Lizzie C. Hanscum was chosen clerk. Elder Thorns was called as pastor and delivered his first sermon, April 23, 1899. In 1900 the present church edifice was erected. The present pastor is Rev. Jerry Cooper.
THE TRONDJHEIM CHURCH
The extinct church which was organized in 1861 was one of the oldest church organizations in Meeker County and at the time of its organization had a congregation of 236 men and women. The church building was moved to Atwater in 1885 and the spiritual needs of the Trondjheim community are guided by the Atwater church. The Trondjheim Church tract of ten acres is used as a church cemetery.
NESS NORWEGIAN EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN
The Ness Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran was the first organized church in Meeker County and during its earlier years served the settlers in a territory having an area of 15 to 20 square miles. Among the first interments in the church cemetery were the victims of the Acton Massacre of August 17, 1862. The first Christian service of this denomination was held in the home of O. H. Ness in the fall of 1858.
A church organization was effected October 28, 1867 with 25 charter members. On October 31, 1864 a meeting was held at the home of Iver Jackson and a tract of 40 acres in section 20, Litchfield town was purchased from Henrik Thoen for a consideration of $100. In 1870 a parsonage was built at an expenditure of $700 which was destroyed by fire in 1885. Ten acres of this tract had, previous to purchase, been set aside as a cemetery.
The present church edifice was erected in 1874 at an initial cost of $2,600. In 1917 or 1918 the parish was divided and the Ness Church was without a regular pastor until 1930 when it entered into a joint call with the Zion Church of Litchfield and the Bergen Church near Glencoe, McLeod County and chose Rev. Carl J. Field as their pastor and spiritual guide and he continues to serve these congregations at the present time.
The church organization numbers some twenty-five families and one hundred members of these families are under the spiritual guidance of Rev. Carl J. Field and the church officials.
The Amdahl Norwegian Lutheran Church located in section 33 Acton town was organized at a meeting held at the home of Rasmus Nelson in section 34. The first pastor was Rev. T. H. Dahl (1869-1873).
Reverend J. Trelstad, the present pastor, has served the congregation since 1920. He was educated at the Red Wing (Minnesota) Academy and College and the Luther Seminary from which institution he was graduated in the class of 1920.
The Amdahl church communicants who have entered the ministry are Adolph Dokken, pastor of the church at Carter, Wisconsin; R. L. Falk at Maskel, Nebraska; James Falk at Rosholt, South Dakota and E. A. Evenson at Tioga, North Dakota.
In the cemetery which forms a part of the church grounds rest the mortal remains of the territorial pioneers: N. K., Peter and R. K. Brown. Soren Nelson and Birger Anderson and the Civil War veteran, William Brown.
The three acre site of the present church and cemetery was donated by Rasmus Nelson. The present church edifice was erected in 1874 and John E. Stark and John E. Johnson were awarded the contract and the building was completed the same year. During the pastorate of Rev. Trelstad the church has been modernized by the installation of a reed organ, piano, new pews and electric lights.
Seventy years ago, when Minnesota was a bleak prairie dotted with tangled woods and overrun by redskins, and when Grove City was Swede Grove, a dozen pioneer families gathered at the home of Peter Lund for the purpose of carrying on the work of the Lord in the wilderness. Thus, on October 29, 1868, the Swedish Lutheran Swede Grove Congregation had its beginning.
The new congregation held its first meetings at the homes of the members, but the next year Rev. P. Beckman was called to serve as the first pastor. The services were held one Sunday each month in the section house which belonged to the railroad company. However, in 1873, three acres of land were purchased, and the first Lutheran church in Swede Grove (a small, white frame building) was constructed.
In 1874, the congregations of Atwater, Litchfield, Beckville and Swede Grove decided to combine and call Rev. Peter Dillner as their pastor. However, in 1878 the four were divided into two parishes, and in 1883 Rev. L. J. Lundquist took charge of Swede Grove and Atwater. During his stay, the total membership at Swede Grove grew to two hundred persons, and in 1885, the Sunday school was organized with J. E. Dime as the first superintendent
Numerous changes in pastors and territory served by the church has taken place and many notable improvements made during the period from 1886 to 1929. The present church edifice was erected in 1923 during the pastorate of Rev. M. Levander. Dr. Pearson accepted the call to Grove City in 1929 and is the present pastor.
The Norwegian Lutheran church of Grove City was organized December 31, 1876 at a meeting held in the Swedish Lutheran church in Grove City as the Manannah church of that denomination. The pastor present at the organization of the meeting was Rev. H. G. Stubbs and the officers chosen were S. 0. Thoen, secretary; Johannes Lyng and Thomas Olson. The meetings prior to the erection of the present church edifice were held in private homes and on one or more occasions in the barn of one of the parishoners.
The congregation numbers 138 communicants which with their families and others affiliating number over two hundred. The present pastor is Rev. Gronlud, the successor of Rev. E. R. Weeks whose pastorate covered a period of 23 years (1915-1938) during which time he endeared himself to the citizens of Grove City, irrespective of church membership.
SWAN LAKE LUTHERAN CHURCH
Dassel town was originally known as Swan Lake township.
The Swan Lake Lutheran Church was organized at the home of Louis Nelson in Section 6, Dassel town, October 14, 1873.
Rev. Fr. Peterson, pastor of the church at Cokato, was chairman and A. E. Boren, secretary. The legal name adopted at this meeting was The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Swan Lake Town, Meeker County, Minnesota- The S.P.&P.R.R. deeded to the church as a free gift the ten acres described as follows: The NE ¼ of the NE ¼ of the NE ¼ in Section 5, Township 119 Range 29. A church building was located on this tract in 1874, a portion of which served as a cemetery. A detailed history of this church and its upward struggle is published in the Jubilee Album of the Lutheran Churches of the Dassel and Swan Lake communities.
The present church edifice was erected in 1899 and numerous improvements have been made in its construction during subsequent years including a full size basement.
The church is now an auxiliary adjunct of the church in Dassel, the pastor being Rev. F. Wm. Hanson of the Dassel church.
FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH
The First Lutheran Church of Dassel was organized February 13, 1873 in a log house owned and occupied by Sven Harling in Section 3, Collinwood town in what was known then and now as the Steelsville community.
The official minutes of this meeting are signed by Rev. J. G. Lagerstrom, Pastor of the Mooer's Prairie church in Wright County, as chairman, and Daniel Johnson as secretary.
A log church was built in Section 11 in Dahlman's woods and a burial ground was established. Rev. Lagerstrom of the Mooer's Prairie church served as the first pastor assisted by Mr. A. Olson, a lay preacher at Mooer's Prairie.
In 1877 the Steelsville congregation united with the Dassel com-munity in church relations. From this time forward there was a strong upward movement in the growth of the church culminating in the erection of the present church edifice in 1886. The present pastor is F. Wm. Hanson, graduate of Augustana College and Seminary at Rock Island, Illinois.
FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH
Rev. A. H. Frazen, Pastor Litchfield, Minn.
As early as 1861 Rev. E. Norelius held services in pioneer homes in the present Litchfield territory. Ten years later Rev. P. Beckman, of Kandiyohi County held services in Litchfield every sixth Sunday. He was followed ten years later by Rev. G. Lagenstrom, pastor of the church in the town of Stockholm, Wright County who made regular visits to Litchfield and organized, August 28, 1873, the first Lutheran church.
The present church edifice was erected in 1884 and the Luther Hall was erected in the form of an addition to the church in 1912.
The church has celebrated three anniversaries: Fortieth, June 23-24, 1913; Fiftieth, August 26-27, 1923 and Sixtieth, July 9, 1933. Rev. J. G. Linner published an historical sketch of the church in 1913 and a Jubilee Album was published by Dr. G. Rast in 1923.
The Ladies Aid was organized in 1875 when thirty ladies were embraced in the organization. Among the leaders were Mrs. Andrew Nelson, Mrs. A. Palmquist and Mrs. J. P. Scarp. The sixtieth anniversary celebration of the Aid was held in 1935 at which time it was disclosed that they had raised $21,364.43 which had been expended for improvements to church property; benevolences and home, conference and synodical missions.
The Luther League had its inception in the organization of a Girl's Sewing Circle in the early nineties. At a later date the young men of the church became interested and the Christian Young Peoples Society was formed March 13, 1903 and the name changed in 1911 to the Luther League. The League has contributed to the needs of the church and in 1933 installed the new electric fixtures.
Other existing organizations are the Woman's Missionary Society, organized in 1919 and its auxiliary, the Junior Missionary Society. The Men's Club was organized in 1916.
The congregation has 371 communicants and 119 children are identified with the church. Since 1905 the Ostmark Lutheran Church in Forest City town has been included in the parish.
During the World War the church roll carried the names of 34 young men inducted into service and two young ladies.
The Zion Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran church of Litchfield village constitutes one of the three churches comprising the Ness parish. It had its inception in 1885 when 30 individuals were under the spiritual guidance of a chosen pastor. This condition continued until 1892. In 1887 a church was built at a cost of $1,000 which was later sold to the German Lutheran Church Society. In 1892, due in part to a change in the residence of the officiating pastor, church services were discontinued until 1907 when services were held at infrequent intervals for some period of time.
The Zion Church was organized in the latter part of May, 1920 at a meeting held in the home of G. A, Jorgenson, now occupied by Lars Roberg. At this meeting those present pledged $325 toward meeting the expense of the organization. A few weeks previous to this gathering Rev. Haatvedt was urged to establish a Sunday School which was deemed by him as an impossible task but a Sunday School was started in 1920 at Greenleaf. Rev. M. 0. Silseth was installed as pastor in June 1920 by Rev. B. K. Bolstad and a Sunday School was organized a few months later.
In June 1921 the Sunday school was reorganized with Mrs. M. O. Silseth as Superintendent.
The church was reorganized at this meeting and the following constituted the official board: Chairman, T. T. Barka; Secretary, Christopher Sather; Treasurer, C. J. Stephenson; Trustees, Ephram Johnson, G. A. Jorgenson and John Tuseth. The church was established in its present home August 17, 1930. The church served twelve families following the adoption of the constitution and for a period of years the services were conducted in the Norwegian language but at present the English language is used almost exclusively.
The present church edifice was constructed in 1890 by an Independent Swedish Lutheran group and was later owned by the Emmanuel Episcopalions from whom it was purchased by the Zion congregation for $2,500. This indebtedness has been paid and the church has no outstanding obligations.
Rev. Carl J. Field, the present pastor is a graduate of the Waldorf Academy and Junior College of Forest City, Iowa and St Olafs College at Northfield, Minnesota and a two-year course at the Lutheran Bible School and Maywood Seminary in Chicago and later graduated (class of 1930) from Luther Theological Seminary in St Paul
ST. PETER'S LUTHERAN CHURCH
Religious services were held as early as 1865 by preachers of the German Lutheran faith. An organization was perfected in 1889 and for three years services were held in the school house in District 66. The present church structure was erected in 1892 and the first pastor was Rev. H. Brown. The present church services are held each Sunday alternating in the use of the English and German languages. The Sunday school has an average attendance of thirty or more and is conducted in the English language. Thirty-five families are represented in the membership. The cemetery, which is located opposite the church, is one of the best maintained in Meeker County and is the final resting place of some very eminent pioneers.
Section 25, Harvey
The church was erected about 48 years ago and was for years served by pastors from Albion in Wright County and Eden Valley. Church and Sunday school services are held on alternate Sundays. There are 22 or more members. The church is served by Rev. Victor Grupe of Maple Lake, Minnesota.
COSMOS LUTHERAN CHURCH
The First Lutheran church of Cosmos was organized May 18, 1893 under the name of Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Salem Congregation. It was in the home of Andrew Gustafson that the organization meeting was held and he was the first Sunday school superintendent and Mr. and Mrs. Gustafson were the donors of the church and cemetery grounds.
During the period 1893-1896 services were held in the Union Church three miles north east of the present location. In 1896, the present build-ing was erected and the same was dedicated in the autumn to the Lord's service at which time the congregation had met the major portion of the church debt. Erick Erickson was the first organist.
Among the pastors of the longest tenure of service were E. 0. Chelgren (1911-1917); A. F. Seastrand (1917-1928) and the present pastor. J. Gottfrid Larson since 1928.
It was the privilege of the writer to have known Rev. Emil Chelgren in his youth when he was enrolled as a pupil in the Collinwood public school of which the writer was the teacher. He was a young lad of exemplary habits and excellent character well fitted in every way for his chosen work.
OSTMARK LUTHERAN CHURCH
Forest City Township
The Ostmark Lutheran Church was organized in 1893 and the church erected in 1911. It was struck by lightning and burned in the spring of 1912 when it was rebuilt. There are regular services each Sunday and the Sunday School has an average attendance of thirty-five. The pastor is Rev. H. Franzen of Litchfield.
ROSENDALE LUTHERAN CHURCH
The Emanuel Lutheran church was originally an annex of the Swedish Lutheran church at Atwater. A chapel was built in 1891 but the desire of the Rosendale community to become an independent organization resulted in a called meeting held March 7, 1892 at which time a distinct and separate unit was established. Rev. J. A. Frost served as chairman. Among the leaders in this movement who continue their work of service to the church are Emanuel Gustaf Lindstrand, Mr. and Mrs. C. A. and Victor Holmgren, Axel Glass and Mr. and Mrs. 0. P. Wilner. C. A. Holmgren for 27 years has given free janitor service. Mrs. Amos Johnson has served as organist 26 years. The little chapel of 1891 is a part of the present church building.
During the passing years the church has met and surmounted many difficulties. For twenty-five years the congregation had no parish connections and the calling of a pastor was necessary at each annual meeting but in 1917 parish connections were established to include the congregations at Beckville and Cosmos. Since that time these congregations have had the same pastoral guidance, Rev. A. F. Seastrand serving from 1917 to 1928 and Rev. J. Gottfrid Larson, the present pastor since that date.
KINGSTON FINNISH APOSTOLIC LUTHERAN CHURCH
This church was organized January 24, 1898. The following directors were chosen: John E. Matsen, Peter Pelto, M. A. Leppa and Matti Leppa, John Heikel and Andrew Kurtti. The first pastor was Rev. Henry Nurmi. Shortly after the organization was perfected they purchased the vacant Swedish Lutheran Church located on the present site of the Town Hall. This building was moved to the location of the present church. A few years thereafter this building was too small to accommodate the congregation and the present church was erected. Services are held each Sunday and the pulpit is supplied at present by Rev. Arvid Hurula, the resident pastor.
The services are in the main held in the Finnish language with occasional services in the English.
FINNISH EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1904 and for a long period of years the Presbyterian church which occupied the site where the creamery now rests was used as their house of worship. In 1925 the present church edifice was erected in Section 10. The pastor is Rev. Tamminen.
The church services are held in the Finnish languages, but the Sunday School classes are conducted in both the English and Finnish languages. Miss Bertha Haapajoki is the efficient Superintendent and the school has continued to grow in interest and attendance.
ST. PAUL LUTHERAN CHURCH
The St. Pauls Lutheran Church was organized June 5, 1911. Rev. M. W. Weseloh was the first pastor who was succeeded in 1912 by Rev. W. Melahn whose pastorate terminated in 1917 and he was followed by M. C. Goetsch. In 1922 he gave place to C. H. Lueker who served until 1925 and Rev. J. H. Klausmeier became his successor. Rev. F. E. Pasche arrived in 1929 and is the present pastor. Rev. Pasche is a German scholar of note, is the author of a number of books published in both the German and English languages and is one of two citizens of Meeker county listed in "Who's Who in America."
PEACE LUTHERAN CHURCH
The Peace Lutheran Church was organized May 15, 1923 with 23 members and was established to serve the Americans of German descent in the Cosmos community. Rev. H. Krull was the first pastor during whose term of service (1823-1926) the present church building was erected. The present pastor is Rev. E. J. Kaiser. The congregation, served, numbers nearly three hundred of which 227 are communicants. Their Sunday school has an enrollment of one hundred.
LAKE JENNIE METHODIST
Lake Jennie Methodist Church was organized in 1878. The present chapel was erected in 1892 and was dedicated by Presiding Elder John Stafford. The pulpit is supplied at present by Rev. Burns of Hutchinson, Minnesota. The pulpit was supplied for a long period of years by Roy Case, a lay preacher of exceptional ability and the surivival of the church during all these years is largely due to the zeal and effort of Rev. Case and his estimable wife. The pulpit was also filled by Rev. McBee, a resident pioneer preacher of the Lake Jennie community.
CROW RIVER M. E. CHURCH
The Crow River Methodist Episcopal Church organization is the outgrowth of a series of Methodist camp meetings held in the early seventies on the Doll farm at the present location of the church edifice. The spiritual life of the community in these early years was fostered by the following families: Fetries, Carpenters, Hoars, Marshalls, Hubbards, Learnings, Hosfords, Flanders, Clarks, Caswells, Wrights, Browns, Swifts, Ryckmans, and Dolls.
The ladies of these families were the real leaders in the activities that led to the organization of the church. The present church grounds were presented by Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Doll and the church was erected in the late seventies.
The church activities have been furthered by a reorganization of the Ladies Aid Society in 1905 and it is largely due to their effort that services have been held during the passing years.
The building was remodeled in 1930 by the construction of a basement and an addition to the front of the church. At present church services are held on alternate Sundays with Reverend Charles Pavey of Paynesville as pastor and Sunday school is held each Sunday, Mrs. Leon McIntyre is the superintendent and the average attendance is forty.
LITCHFIELD METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The Rev. John Robson preached his first sermon on the Forest City Circuit, of which Litchfield was a part, in January 1857, and in April of the same year the first Sunday school was organized, with W. H. Dart as the first Sunday school superintendent Rev. Thomas Harwood was appointed to the new circuit in the fall of 1857.
August 1, 1860 a Board of Trustees was appointed to hold the property of the organization in Litchfield. The work was much hindered during the next few years, due to the Civil War and the Indian outbreak in Meeker County.
A quarterly conference was held October 24, 1870 and the name of the circuit was changed from Forest City to Litchfield which suggests that during the decade the Litchfield church had become the more prominent J. H. Fasig was appointed pastor. The names of W. H. Dart and Rufus M. Eastman were among the early official members of the church, early members to the organization being Henry Boynton, Ruth Boynton, Eldora Boynton and James Sawter.
A new building was erected in 1872, dedicated in the spring of 1873 on the present site of the church property. Church officers at this time included R. L. Hershey and J. L. Lovitt, stewards; James Austin and W. H. Dart, class leaders.
The church building was improved in the late 90's under the pastorate of Rev. L. Dodds; the lecture room was enlarged during the pastorate of Rev. Crawford Grays about 1918; an extended choir loft during the pastorate of Rev. Burns in 1933. During the present pastorate of Rev. J. S. Kettlewell the church was raised, a new basement put under the entire structure containing recreational room, kitchen, class rooms, lavatories and furnace room, a new heating plant, and the superstructure renovated throughout the interior and the outside of the building repainted. The church has a membership of 375 with a Sunday school enrollment of 175; Ladies Aid Society with 75 members and Missionary Society with 20 members.
THE DANIELSON M. E. CHURCH
The Danielson Methodist church is located in section 18 Danielson town and was organized in 1890 at which time Rev. Parrell, pastor of the Atwater church was the spiritual leader. A two acre tract of ground had been secured of which the larger portion is used as a church cemetery.
The church was built the same year at a contract cost of $780.60 by O. Gunderson. The building was sold in 1902 for $275 and replaced by the present structure in 1902 at an expenditure of $3,000. Rev. Wagner was the pastor during the period of its construction. The church was dedicated May 30, 1902 at which time Bishop Joyce delivered the message.
The church is served at present by Rev. K. A. Stromberg, of Atwater and services are held each Sunday. The Sunday school has an enrollment of about 40 and is under the superintendency of Miss Esther Hanson.
The Evangelical Covenant Mission church of Dassel was organized August 15, 1879 with twenty charter members. Rev. J. G. Sjoquist was the first pastor and served as chairman of the church board. The officers constituting the governing body of the church were the following trustees: John Norgren, Sr., was the secretary and treasurer, E. Sherwick and E. Rundquist The present church edifice was erected in 1909 and dedicated November 21, 1909. The present pastor is Rev. C. Edwin Anderson, a graduate of Concordia college and seminary.
The same year (1879) that the Covenant Church was organized marked the establishment of the present public cemetery. Mr. Norton donated one-half acre of land in the southeast corner of the present cemetery as a burial ground and the first interment was that of his wife, who died the same year. The conveyance was made to the trustees of the Covenant Church. Later another half-acre was purchased through the sale of lots. John Norgren for a period of several years had the management of the cemetery. The acreage was subsequently increased by purchase of about ten acres.
Since 1915 and for several years previous thereto there was a noticeable improvement in the maintenance and beautification of the cemetery and under the present supervision of E. Gust Erickson it has become one of the best maintained and beautiful burial plots in Meeker County.
SOUTH KINGSTON MISSION CHURCH
Fifty or more years have come and gone since religious activities began to take form and shape among the Scandinavian people in Kingston town.
Their first church was built in 1886 near Lake Arvilla at which time it was an annex to the church in Dassel and was served by the resident pastors of that village.
The Kingston Covenant Church was formally organized in 1896 with twenty-eight members.
The cyclone of July 27, 1932 completely destroyed the church and the present chapel was erected the following year on the same site and was dedicated August 6, 1933.
For more than thirty years the church was served by the highly gifted pastor of the Dassel church. Rev. J. B. Sjoquist, but in 1915 a vacancy in the pastorate occurred by his removal to California. Rev. H. M. Olson became his successor and entered upon his duties in January, 1916, and with the exception of a five year period (1921-1925) has remained the resident pastor. He has by his kindly manner and neighborly spirit endeared himself to the entire citizenship of Kingston town.
BETHANY MISSION COVENANT
The Bethany Mission Covenant Church was organized nearly seventy years ago in the town of Greenleaf.
Some time later several of the families belonging there moved to Litchfield. They soon felt the need of organizing a Covenant church here. This was done on March 4, 1912 with a membership of seventeen. The congregation met for services at the Adventist and Swedish Methodist churches until 1923 when they built their own church. The first board members were: Gustaf Anderson, chairman; J. W. Williams, secretary; C. E. Nystrom, Aaron E. Anderson and J. W. Williams, directors; Ferdinand Peterson and C. E. Nystrom, deacons; and Ellen Williams Organist.
At the present time the church has a membership of forty. Walter Anders is the chairman; Lloyd Chellin, secretary; Charles Nystrom. treasurer; Chris Olson, Emil Nystrom, Levi Holmgren, trustees; and Clarice Nystrom, pianist.
The different branches of the church are: the Sunday school, Young People's Society, Ladies Aid and Master's Ten.
Rev. Victor Mars, who has attended the Northwestern Bible School of Minneapolis and Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, is the pastor of the church at the present time.
The only churches of this denomination in Meeker County are located in Litchfield and Corvuso. Services are held each Sunday. The combined membership numbers eighty and eighty or more pupils are enrolled in the Sunday school.
The Church Society was organized by Rev. R. S. Taylor, district Superintendent for Minnesota. The present pastor is Rev. Martin Leih, a native of Holland and the son of a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church of that country. Previous to entering upon his work in the Litchfield District he served as pastor of the church at Glenwood, Minnesota and had spent four years as an evangelist. The members are tithers and contribute one tenth of their income in the furtherance of Christian work. In 1938 a parsonage was built at an expenditure of $4,500.
A Norwegian Methodist Church is numbered among the older churches of Litchfield. Rev. K. A. Stromberg, of Atwater is the present pastor.
The Seventh Day Adventists were in early years an active organization but at the present time have no resident pastor. Services are held at varying intervals at the Litchfield church.
The Evangelical Church, Eden Valley
The present Evangelical Church building was erected in 1886 at Eden Valley.
The Lake Jennie Covenant Mission Church is located in Section 20 and was organized in 1886. The present pastor is Rev. Victor Mars.
Lamson Free Mission Church is located in Section 36. First pastor, Rev. Levi Coleman. Present pastor. Rev. Philip G. Thorn.
The first protestant religious service in Meeker County was conducted by John Robinson (Methodist) in November 1856. In 1857 religious service was held in a room above Whitney's store in Kingston village by Reverend J. C. Whitney. There are a few obsolete church edifices in Meeker County where Sunday school is the only regular service.
It was in the plain cabin home of John Flynn in Forest City town that Rev. Father Alexius said the first mass in Meeker County in 1857 and two years later Father Benedict administered the last rites of the church to that worthy gentleman who had greatly endeared himself to the pioneers, irrespective of religious creed. He has been memorialized by one of the windows in the Church of St. Gertrude.
ST. GERTRUDE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The present church edifice was built in 1867. John Dougherty and others hauled the lumber from St. Cloud. It was located north of the stockade and was moved in 1897 to its present location since which time it has been remodeled and enlarged. The church is at present served by Rev. Father Donovan of Darwin. Services are held each Sunday. The membership embraces about eighty families. The cemetery which is a part of the church grounds is one of the oldest in the county and contains the marked graves of many of the sturdy territorial pioneers. Among the burials in this cemetery is the grave of John Dougherty, who assisted in the interment of the victims of the Acton Massacre. Among the oldest residents of the Forest City townsite is Mrs. Anna Crusoe. She came with her parents from Sherburne County to Forest City town in 1869.
ST. JOHN'S CHURCH
About the year 1867, Rev. Father Burns, a priest of the order of St Benedict, was in charge of the Forest City Parish. He was anxious to found a college and selected Darwin as the location. He persuaded the officials of the St Paul and Pacific Railfay to donate Block 21 as a site for the institution and the deed to this property was recorded November 12, 1869. Two years later the higher authorities of the church saw fit to establish certain boundaries within which the Benedictines were to confine their labors. Darwin was not included in these boundaries and Block 21 was transferred to Bishop Grace and at a later date the tract of land upon which the church and parochial residence is located was given to the parish. This gift prompted the construction of the present church which was completed and the first Mass was celebrated by Father McDermott December 8, 1878 and the church named. The Church of St. John the Baptist.
Father McDermott served the church at Forest City and Darwin and the mission at Manannah for four years. The present pastor is Father Donovan.
Two sons of the parish of Darwin, entered the priesthood. Father Ambrose McNulty (deceased) and Father McRaith. The following daughters entered the holy sisterhood: Sisters Evangelist (Bridget McNulty), Emerantia (Margaret Casey), Josephine (Bridget McRaith), dementia (Ellen Curry) and Agnella (Gertrude Curry.)
ST. PHILIP'S CHURCH
The Saint Philip's Catholic Church of Litchfield was organized as a unit of the Catholic parish at Forest City in 1871 by Rev. Father Arthur Hurley serving as pastor of both churches until 1873. The first church building dedicated for that purpose was a room in the parsonage which was arranged to serve as a chapel in which Mass was celebrated. In 1875 Rev. Father John McDermott became pastor. He was a man of strong convictions on the use of liquor and organized a Father Matthew Temperance Society, the first total abstinence society in Meeker County. It was during his service as pastor that lots were purchased for the erection of a church. In 1882 Father Patrick Kinney became pastor and served until 1885, when he was succeeded by Father H. McDevitt.
In 1886, the universally loved priest, Father Boland was placed in charge of the parish. His pastorate covered a period of nearly titty years during which time the church grew and prospered. He died December 25, 1932. His death was mourned by the citizens of the county irrespective of their church affiliations. He was succeeded by Rev. Father Doran who served until 1938 when the present pastor, Rev. Father Joseph O'Neil became his successor. He served as a chaplain during the World War.
The St. Philip's parish has given to the holy priesthood Father James Ryan (son of James and Mary Ryan); Father Patrick J. Ryan (son of Patrick and Hannah Ryan) and Father Roger Connole (son of John and Agnes Connole).
The parish has established a conservatory where instruction is given in vocal and instrumental music and a kindergarten has been established. The facilities they afford are offered to the community irrespective of religious creed.
The social and fraternal relations of the membership rest in a number of religious societies, among which is the Knights of Columbus whose membership is limited to adult males of the Catholic faith. At present this lodge has a membership of sixty-five and meetings are held semimonthly.
The present church was erected in 1922 at an expenditure of $65, 000. The present parsonage was erected in 1887 at an initial cost of $4,000.
CHURCH OF OUR LADY
The church of "Our Lady" was organized by Rev. Father John McDermott, of Darwin in 1876, at which time a portion of the present edifice was erected. The site was donated by Anthony Kelly of Minneapolis. The church was finished during the pastorate of Father Kinney and was included in the Litchfield parish. The parochial residence was erected in 1885.
The parish of today is an independent parish and is in charge of Reverend James R. Coleman. He serves the St Colurabanus Church in Greenleaf township, one of the oldest organizations in the county. The present church edifice was erected in 1889. The site occupied by the church and cemetery is a twenty acre tract and was donated by Louis Maher and Michael McGraw.
ST. JOHN'S CHURCH
Sec 34, Cedar Mills Township.
The church was organized in 1892 at which time it was served by Pastor H. Braun of the parent church at Acoma, McLeod County who in the early years served all the German Lutheran pongregations of the Wisconsin Synod in Meeker County until they were able to establish self-maintaining societies and have resident pastors.
In 1894 a church school was built and Rev. Ph. Bechtel became their first pastor. The church was erected in 1896 and in 1909 a pipe organ was installed. Rev. Bechtel was succeeded in 1928 by Pastor William Petzke and in 1932 the present pastor. Rev. A. C. Krueger, was called. The church school is taught the present year by Raymond Duhlmeier.
CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION
The Church of the Assumption was organized in 1894 by Rev. Fr. J. Bastian and the present church edifice was erected the same year. It is built of native brick from a yard adjacent to the village. December 4, 1894 the church was dedicated by the pastor of the diocese. Rev Msgr. J. P. Bauer. Rev. Ft. A. Kastigar, of Watkins ministered to the needs of the congregation until the appointment of a resident pastor, the Rev. Fr. N. J. Al Pfeiffer who continued as pastor from 1899 to 1934. He was succeeded by the present pastor. Rev. Fr. Peter Gruenes, a native son of the Eden Valley community. The church has a modern parsonage. The parochial school building was erected in 1901 and blessed by the Bishop, January 1, 1902.
ST. PETER'S CATHOLIC
St. Peter's Catholic Church was built in 1904. The first pastor was Rev. Father McDermoth. In 1912 Father O'Callaghan became pastor and during his pastorate an addition to the church was built and the parish house erected. The present pastor is Reverend Father Cogwin.
[Source: "A Condensed History of Meeker County 1855-1939", Compiled and Published by Frank B. Lamson, 1939 - BZ - Sub by FoFG]
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