Palo Alto Co, Iowa USGenWeb Project

From Atlas of Palo Alto County
Compiled 1969 by Title Atlas Company; Minneapolis, Minnesota


     In the years between 1868 and 1890, a number of families of the Apostolic Christian faith came to this community of pioneers where some of them received Patent Land Grants from the U.S. Government on unbroken prairie land. Some came by covered wagon drawn by oxen and horses from Elgin, Iowa. Others came from various places including Ohio, Illinois and some from Switzerland.
     No trees grew except along rivers and streams, but prairie grass was everywhere, some as tall as a boy on horseback. Some of the families lived in log cabins, others in sod houses made by stacking squares of sod for walls. The roofs were made of small willow limbs tied together with prairie grass, until they were about a foot in thickness. The floors were dirt, perhaps in very rare instances an animal skin for a rug, and open fireplaces were used for cooking and also provided warmth.
     Trips to town were not frequent as "town" was Fort Dodge, 45 miles away. These trips were made by a group of men and took several days. They brought mail, sugar, and flour made from wheat which they had taken with them. Indians were numerous, but most of them were friendly if not disturbed when helping themselves to corn from the white men's supply or crossing open prairie.
     No doctors being available, some of these sturdy pioneers out of love and care for each other took the responsibility of administering first aid, and caring for the sick and dying with the simple medicines which they had on hand. Another of the many labors of love was preparing bodies of their own loved ones for burial. Some were buried in plots near their homes, and some in the cemetery in Section 8, Garfield Township, before 1896, when the private cemetery was used.
     These people met in their homes for worship until about 1878 when a small frame church was built on the present site (SE 1/4 SE 1/4 Sec. 7, Garfield Twp.) at a cost of about $600. About 1896, a 40'x40' addition was built; in 1919 a 10'x40' addition built and in 1947, a major remodeling and expansion was undertaken. In 1954, a 28'x50' addition was built for the Sunday School, and in the fall of 1964, it was decided to undertake building a new church. The first Service was held at the new church April 17, 1966. Total floor space is 14,000 square feet.
     (The above history was submitted by Paul Banwart, Sr., Pastor.)


     In the spring of 1957, the Rev. B.A. Rust, D.D., of Britt, Iowa, came to Emmetsburg looking over the field with the idea of seeking out the possibilities of establishing a Baptist Church. No Baptist work had ever been attempted and the City was approaching its 100th Anniversary Celebration.
     For a time, services were held in private homes. In June of this year, the first meeting was held in a private meeting place. Through the kindness of Martin Jacobson, the closed creamery building was rented and prepared for Church Services. On Oct. 15, the Church was legally organized with the setup of a Membership list, Officers, and By-laws, and Regular Services.
     In Sept., 1958, the Church received as a gift from Mrs. Glendora Phelps and Mr. Loren Phelps, one block of ground located on South Call Street. Also the Church voted to become affiliated with the Conservative Baptist Association of America.
    On January 14, 1959, a plan for a building was adopted and work was set in motion for the erection of a 32x72 structure. Contractor, Leroy Miller, was engaged in the foundational work and the balance was donated labor by members and friends from everywhere. The first services were held in the new building in Aug., 1959. The Public Dedication was held Nov. 15, with representatives from 25 different communities.
     Pastor B.A. Rust has maintained a Sunday Broadcast over KLGA besides the regular services in the church through 1968.


     The Emmetsburg Seventh Day Adventist Church was organized on Aug. 20, 1876, at a meeting in the Thomas Peterson home, Lost Island Township, with Pastor John Hanson officiating. In 1878, the church was admitted to the Iowa Conference and, in 1882, the name was changed to the Ruthven Seventh Day Adventist Church, where meetings were held in a new building just east of the now Lutheran Church, across the track on the south side of the road.
     Records show the membership to be 98 in 1898. In 1906, lightning struck and everything was completely destroyed by fire. A lot was purchased across from the Ruthven school and an new church constructed in 1907; with a little remodeling and much upkeep, services are still held there.
     In 1939, a church school was erected several blocks north of the church and, for 25 years, most of the children were educated there up thru the 10th grade. A number of these are nurses, teachers, ministers and missionaries.
     The names Larsen, Jensen, Anderson, Nelson, Rasmusson, Adamson, Knutson, Johnson, Peterson, Hansen, and Oleson are common on the records. Until 1896, all services were held and kept in the Danish-Norwegian language.
     Some local leaders were: John Hanson, P.A. Hanson, J.P. Frederickson, John Anderson, Julius Johnson, Ole Nelson, O.B. Nelson, as well as Clare Betts, Dr. A.G. Larsen, and Howard Hansen.
    Pastors residing over the Ruthven and Spencer Churches have been J.A. Nordstrom; L. Holley; H.R. Coats; R. Caviness, H. H. White; Adam Rudy; Pastors Bidwell, Davis, and Jones. More recently Pastors Larsen, McLean, Wellman, Miller and Hurst have served.


     At the turn of the century, Rodman was a thriving town not much smaller than the surrounding towns. Because of poor roads, farmers patronized the nearest town.
     There was a small Methodist church just east of Turner's Blacksmith Shop. The Presbyterians organized in 1893, electing a session and purchasing a lot where the Presbyterian Church now stands. They had their worship services with the Methodists, usually being served by Presbyterian or Methodist ministers from other towns by having their services in the afternoon.
In 1918, a group of Presbyterians raised enough money to build the present church complete without debt. They purchased a house for a manse with a small debt which was paid off in a few years. They called Rev. deBest for their first minister.
     About 1927, the bank failed and so many farmers lost their farms, which caused them to move away and, as the roads were improved, the town lost population and business. The church was linked with the West Bend Presbyterian Church, the ministers living at West Bend.
We have one charter member living, Mrs. John Walker, of Rodman, who is 101 years old. We are proud of our church's history and present small church, but the declining population of the town and farming community is being felt.
     (The above history was submitted by Mrs. Walter McCormick.)


     The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with world headquarters in Independence, Missouri, was built in the summer of 1899. The building was dedicated in the fall of 1899. The first pastor was Elder Edmund C. Ford.
     Other pastors who served through the years were: Joseph Fish; C.L. Carmichael; Elder Robert Fish; and Elder B.T. Fish, who served as pastor for 37 years.
     Elder Jack Mann, of Emmetsburg is the present pastor.


     Bethany Lutheran Congregation was organized on Aug. 7, 1886, in the old Congregational Church in Emmetsburg, with 15 persons present. At this meeting Mr. L.O. Gusland was elected secretary and Mrs. J.C. Paulson, Treasurer. Mr. C.C. Gusland and Mrs. J.C. Paulson were the first trustees.
     Meetings were held in the school house south of the Milwaukee Railroad tracks and later in a school house located where the West Side school now stands. In 1895, the congregation decided to build. Members for the building committee were Rev. L.O. Wigdahl; C. Nelson; P.F. Gylling; Miss Katherine Madsen; Mrs. P.F. Gylling; and L.O. Gusland. Mr. Jeppsen, of Emmetsburg, was selected to build the foundation, and Mr. Satter, of Ruthven, to do the building. The cornerstone was laid in Dec., 1895, and the building officially dedicated Sept. 20, 1896, with Rev. G. Hyme, Pres. of the United Lutheran Church, preaching the dedicatory sermon.
     This building served the congregation until 1950, when the present modern brick structure was erected on the same location as the old church. The cornerstone was laid in July, 1949, and the dedication of the completed building July 23, 1950, was conducted by Rev. V.F. Jordhal, Pres., of the Iowa District of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
     Stained glass windows were installed and dedicated in a special service June 10, 1956. In 1920, the H.H. Miller house was purchased for a parsonage; it was remodeled in 1923. In May, 1956, the congregation decided to build a new parsonage on the site of the old one, moving it to the north lot. Excavation was started in July, 1957, and the new parsonage completed in Dec. A dedication service and open house was held April 27, 1958.
     In 1958, Bethany congregation sponsored a loan of $25,000 to the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Des Moines. In 1962, the congregation pledged $50,000 toward the erection of Lakeside Lutheran Home, a joint project of 8 Lutheran congregations (The A.L.C. and Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) of a Nursing-Retirement Home in Emmetsburg. These projects are part of the mission of the congregation, specifically, in American Missions and Social Services.
     Pastors who have served this congregation, a member of The American Lutheran Church, are: Reverends L.O. Wigdahl, 1886-1918; K.G. Nelson, 1918-22; O.A. Tollefson, 1922-24; Verne Giere, 1924-25; Martin C. Thompson, 1925-1948; Clarence H. Johnson, 1949-56; Ingvold B. Sorensen, 1956-61; and the present pastor, Rev. Erling A. Hansen, who took charge in 1961.


     When the early settlers came, no matter from where, they brought their hymn book, books for the instruction of their children, as well as their Bible. Soon after settling in their new homes, they felt the need of fellowship, so they would gather in homes or school houses to hear the word of God and sing the hymns they loved.
     Records show the first business meeting of the congregation of Scandinavian pioneers was held in a school house Oct. 23, 1876. Two trustees and one deacon were elected and Johannes Jenswold was made secretary. Pastor Holseth of Estherville was called at a salary of $30 a year, with no mention of services he was to render. The constitution was very well written. The names chosen for this congregation was Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation by Cylinder Creek in Palo Alto County-commonly known as Cylinder Creek Congregation. This congregation was affiliated with the Synod group of Norwegians in America.
     They built a church in 1894, built by one carpenter and the members, located 1 mile south and one mile east of Depew. In 1900, they bought an acre of land from S.E. Rustebakke to be the Scandinavian Lutheran cemetery-now known as the North  Cemetery of St. John's Congregation.
     In 1914, this church was moved to its present site in Depew. It bogged down in crossing the creek, where it stood for 3 weeks, but on Norway's National Holiday, with the power of 2 steam engines, it was triumphantly pulled on to its present site in Depew.
     This Cylinder Creek Congregation shared a pastor with Seneca, with the pastor residing in Seneca. Pastors serving were: Ole Vereide, 1894-96; Theodore Opsal, 1896-1902; N.I. Berg, 1902-14; Skagen, 1814-17.
     Pastor Skagen made an unusual contribution to his congregation in that he painted "Christ in Gethsemane" for the altar. It is a beautiful work of art we can enjoy in our church today.
     In 1885, seven Scandinavian families moved into the community, followed by more families in 1887.
     The next business meeting recorded was held May 10, 1888. Here, they decided to share a pastor with Lost Island Lutheran, pastor to reside there, and to spend a weekend here every 3 or 4 weeks. The pastor traveled the 25 miles via horse and buggy. Folks came to the services held in school houses in wagons, some equipped with spring seats, some with a board across the wagon box. There were no rubber tires to cushion the rides across the prairie, and it was slow going too. Some preferred to walk and they also felt the horses should rest on Sunday for the heavy tasks of the work days following.
This group was organized in 1888, an chose as their name St. John's Norwegian, Danish Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Palo Alto County. The secretary was J.A. Mathison.
     On Oct. 11, 1890, an acre of land was purchased from J.N. Norland to be used as a cemetery and the potential site for a church. The purchase price was $25. Twenty-five men paid $1 each, entitling them to a lot in the cemetery; this is now known as the South Cemetery of St. John's Church.
     By 1891, there were at least 50 families attending worship services, making school house facilities inadequate, so they decided to build a church. This group was part of the United Lutheran Church body.
     On Jan. 21, 1892, they met with Pastor Svalestuen, of Lost Island Township, acting president, and S.J. Quam, secretary. They decided to build. Ole Norland gave an acre of land of the southeast corner of his farm for a church site for as long a time as the church remained there. More families were living farther north so the cemetery building site was no longer the center of the community. The committee to solicit funds for building were: S.J. Quam, Ole Clevelon, Andrew Saether, Julius Mathison, and B.A. Benson. On Feb. 13, 1892, a meeting was called and the report of the fund committee brought the decision to build. The building committee-B.A. Benson; Ole Norland; S.J. Quam; Thom Haugstuen; Charley Christian; Thomas Nordby; Thomas Dryland; Ole Knudson; and A. Saether-were given authority to hire 5 or 6 carpenters. The building to be 32x72 with a steeple and tower 75' high. On Mar. 4, 1892, there was a committee report, details decided on and carefully recorded. On Mar. 12, 1892,Columbus Larson's bid of $2147 was accepted.
     It took men with a vision to build a church of these dimensions when they were living in 1, 2 or 3-room homes. The church could be seen for miles around and was quite a landmark. all lumber was hauled from Whittemore across the prairie fording the creeks. Carpenters lived with families living nearest the church, sleeping in grainaries and eating all meals with the family. On Sundays, folks would come to see the progress of the building. Carpenters hung ropes from beams for the children to use as swings, great sport for there were no trees from which swings could be hung.
On September 12, 1892, it was decided to pay the contractor in full by Nov. 15 on condition that he repair the steeple which had already been struck by lightning. A very good bell was hung, to be rung at 9:00 A.M. to announce services that day, and again when services started. The bell began to toll as soon as the custodian could see the funeral procession and continued until the service started. The bell was very much a part of the waking in the New Year, ringing out the old, and ringing in the New; it could be heard for miles on the midnight air. When news came of the end of World War I, the bell was rung with gusto, heralding the good tidings to all within hearing distance.
Sam Skartvedt, a member of the congregation, built the altar; it was painted white and, in 1905, a painting of Christ on the Cross was added with large letters in gold beneath "Det er fulbragt", translated, "It is finished."
In 1906, an organ was purchased by the young people; Selma Rustebakke was elected first pianist. Before that S.J. Rustebakke, led the singing. Music has played an important part in the life of the congregation, with a choir usually singing at services thru the year. For many years, there has been both a junior and senior choir-the junior choir singing at the morning service once a month. The two choirs put on a full evening's program before Christmas, a very festive occasion.
     The Sunday School was started and continued intermittently until 1924, when it was reorganized and has continued constantly since, with classes from nursery to adult Bible classes.
     Vacation Bible School has played an important part in training our youth. During the early years, students were employed to teach all summer from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. These students lived in the homes of the parents and were paid by those who had children in school. Now the summer sessions are taught by local residents with no added expense to parents.
     The Young People's organization has been an important factor in our midst all through the years, and many incidents are related that are very interesting, showing their willingness to cope with any problems they encountered.
     Pastors who served St. John's Congregation until 1917 were: Pastor Haug, 1888-1890; J.D. Svalestuen, 1890-1893; A.H. Gjevre, 1903-1907; and L.O. Wigdahl, 1908-1917.
     First salaries were $180 to $200 a year with 3 offerings. In 1908 this was increased to $250 a year and, in 1909, it was $300 a year. By 1914, the pastor was receiving $500 a year.
     Several publications of 1892 are in the cornerstone and are informative and interesting.
     The ladies of the church organized early because they felt the need of fellowship and wanted to do work for the church. They were first known as the Ladies Aid, later the name was changed to Womens Missionary Federation, and was changed again and is now known as the American Lutheran Church Women. We now meet once a month. Occasionally there is a family night wit ha program followed by fellowship hour and lunch.
     Many years ago the men of the church organized a Mission Band, and now the men are known as the Lutheran Church Men, meeting once a month for study and fellowship.
     As years passed, improvements were made. The early kerosene lamps were replaced by gas lights and later a Kohler or Delco electric plant was installed. Coal stoves were replaced by a coal furnace which added much to the comfort of the worshippers. In 1915, the church was raised and a full basement was put under the church; the young people finished the interior and it became the center for the church's social activities.
     The high steeple and the clear ringing bell, no doubt, had a tendency to "draw lightning", as lightning struck it 5 times, the most serious damage being done by a cold bolt during the Twenties. On June 13, 1937, the final blow came when lightning again struck and the church burned to the ground.
     It was decided not to rebuilt on this site but to add to the church in Depew and put in a full basement. This is our present sanctuary for worship.
     In 1957, a new parish unit was built, a fine and useful building consisting of Pastor's study, 8 class rooms, one large assembly room, one smaller assembly room, furnace room, and a very efficient kitchen. A new parsonage was built on property adjoining the church, making it more convenient for the pastor as well as parishioners.
     In 1917 the Cylinder Creek Congregation and St. John's Congregation merged and are known as St. John's Congregation.
     Pastors who have served since the merger are: K.G. Nilsen, 1918-21, with Rev. Monson serving in his place while REv. Nilsen was given a leave of absence for a trip around the world, a trip given him by a friend. Upon his return he resigned. Pastors L.O. Wigdahl, 1921-22; A.K. Gaard, 1922-45; V.G. Gilbertson, 1945-53; Missionary Vorland the summer of 1953; H.L. Norheim, 1953-57. Pastor Sorenson of Emmetsburg, and Pastor Kobtvedt served until the fall of 1958, when Oliver Johnson, and he is still with us, for which we are grateful.
     Sons and daughters of the congregation who have gone to full-time church work are: Pastors Olaf Goving; Norman Nelson; Harold Naig; Dale Mitchell. Anna Marie Mitchell is missionary to Japan. Bertha Solberg Vorland, wife of Gerhard Vorland, missionary to Japan. Lorraine Borkland Foehringer, wife of Pastor Gene Foehringer, in Brazil, S.A. Marie Mitchell Sibrum, wife of Pastor Edw. Sibrum; Rose Marie Naig Otto, wife of Pastor Otto in Springfield, Ill.; Donna Berkland Ismir, wife of Pastor Samih Ismir.
     We are grateful to the members who, as secretaries for the congregation. have left us for posterity accurate records of what has gone on before. All records were written in the Norwegian language until 1932. John Jacobson was secretary for many years and he wrote his parts equally well in English and Norwegian.
          (The above history was submitted by Mrs. Herman Norland, of Cylinder, with editing by Title Atlas Co.)


    Zion Lutheran Congregation was organized at Ruthven on April 22, 1886, with Student L.O. Wigdahl, of Augsburg Seminary, Minn., acting as chairman. This new congregation consisted of 70 members, 31 of these being former members of Our Savior of Lost Island. The first deacons were Engle Nelson, Bertel Garo, and Peter Olson Tronsrud. Trustees: Ole Williamson, Lars Barstrum, and Peter Olson Tronsrud. Trustees: Ole Williamson, Lars Barstrum, Peter Olson; L.H. Sporan, Secy.; L.O. Larson, Treas.; Claus Christopher (Gaard), presenter and leading congregational singing. Student Wigdahl served one Sunday a month until ordained in 1887, when he, with Mrs. Wigdahl, took up residence and became Zion's first pastor.
     In June, 1886, the women of the church organized the Lydia Aid Society and were ready to furnish $400 toward the first parsonage in 1888. This property was valued at $1200 when completed, including $150 paid to Dr. Baldwin for 6 lots. When the first church was finished, they bought the pews for $200 and also the lighting.
     In 1892, after much consideration and prayer, the first Lutheran Church was erected. Before this, the members met in Skevington Hall, later in the Christian Church and Methodist Church for $1 a week. The contract for the new church was let in Sept., 1891, to Peter Sather for $2089. The foundation labor was donated by Mr. Cederholm. The building committee consisted of Bestel Garo, T. Knutson, August Muka, Nils Severson, and O.L. Olson-grading Ole Fosem, Columbus Larson and Nils Severson. The Deacons of this time, were: L.O. Sporan, Inbright Olson, and John Dalbek. Trustees: Ole Helgen, Clause Gaard and Nils Severson; Ole Albertson, Secy. The membership now totaled 175, a gain of 105 souls. Sunday School had early been of great importance in the teaching of God's work, making more space needed. In 1914, a basement was completed under the 22-year old church. For this project, Jens Rasmusson was the mason, L.L. Larson and Rier Rierson the carpenters, with Sporan and Tori Knutson helping them. The building committee members were L. Larson, Oscar Barstrum, and O.C. Gaard. This construction was completed for $2000.
     The Rev. L.O. Wigdahl served Zion Lutheran for 50 years, resigning in 1936; preaching his farewell sermon on July 9 that year. During the pastorate of Rev. Wigdahl, where he served Zion so long and well, several other congregations in the surrounding counties were organized and served by this dedicated servant of God. All these congregations grew as did Rev. and Mrs. Wigdahl's 10 children, all born and educated in Ruthven. Several members of this family are still contributing to the betterment of the community.
     Since 1936 the following pastors have served here: T.G. Wicks, 1936-42; Stanley S. Knutsen, 1942-52; M. Eugene Foehringer, 1952-57; Victor A. Fiskerbeck, 1957-65; and Marlan M. Johnson, since 1965.
     Pastor and Mrs. Wicks and family of 3 were the first to live in the present parsonage, purchased from the Thacher estate for $5000. The congregation increased in membership as it has under the guidance of all the pastors. Pastor Knutsen served during the dark days of the war when he, Mrs. Knutsen and their family of 5 were a great comfort to all in the community. Pastor and Mrs. Foehringer came to Zion shortly after he was ordained. Their family grew to 3, including twin girls.
     Again, the membership was outgrowing the room in the church, making it necessary in Jan., 1854, to elect a building committee: Carl Wichman, Harold Shirk, K.L. Berg, Leslie Sandvig, LaDoma Rierson and Marie Hanson. The members voted to build a new church and educational unit. A finance committee: Erik Erickson, Everett Roland, O.W. Myers, Selmer Wigdahl, Jean Severson, W.A. Salton, Viola Eaton, Florence Simonson Clarence Ruehle, Harold Wichman and Nora Tripp started the successful drive for funds. Of these, 3 were called to their eternal rest, and 3 resigned, making it necessary to add Harold Wigdahl, Alfred Wichman, Leo Sampson, Robert Looft, Joe Helgevold and Louis Wiggen, Jr.
     In Aug., 1959, the congregation authorized their president, Iver Holmgren and the council, to hire James Walsh, architect, to prepare specifications. Bids from contractors were opened May 10, 1960, with Anderson of Emmetsburg having low bid (under $125,000 as ordered), along with other tasks named. The completed and furnished unit was dedicated Sept. 17, 1961, on the 75th Anniversary of Zion Lutheran Church in Ruthven.
     The present pastor is Rev. Marlan M. Johnson.


      Bethel Lutheran Church of Graettinger was organized Jan. 22, 1962. But the history of Bethel Lutheran goes back many years before that. Bethel Church is a merger of the former First Lutheran Church and the former St. Paul's Lutheran Church, and so its history must include the histories of these antecedent congregations.
     St. Paul's Lutheran church had its origin about 1880. The Danish settlers of Walnut Township would gather for worship in school houses, private homes and, when the weather was fit, outdoors. The congregation was officially organized July 7, 1884, by 20 men meeting at the farm home of Mr. P.S. Knutsen, the farm now owned by his son, Jorgen. The first church of the congregation was dedicated Aug. 20, 1893. This church, though now unused, still stands 4-1/2 miles southwest of Graettinger. In 1898, a parsonage was built, the records indicate "at a cost of $795.27 which left a deficit in the building fund of $1.27." It was during these early yea4rs also that a cemetery was begun, and later a stable built next to the church to house the horses. During and after the First World War, the services and Christian education began to be held in English rather than in the Danish language.
     In 1911, a Ladies Aid  was organized in the town of Graettinger for the express purpose of getting a church built for this community. With the growth of the town and surrounding area, many Danish Lutherans felt the need for a church more centrally located. Lots were purchased by the Ladies Aid in 1915. In 1926 a vacant church, 7 miles northeast of Spencer, was bought, moved, and placed on its new foundation in Graettinger. In 1941, the town church was enlarged and remodeled. The town church and the country churched remained one congregation until 1957, when they divided into two still served by the same pastor. The parsonage in town was purchased in 1929, and still serves as the home for the Bethel Lutheran pastor. St. Paul's was served by 12 pastors, including the last, Rev. H. Irving Petersen, 1957-62.
The history of First Lutheran Church dates back to Aug. 18, 1889, when Rev. L.J. Hauge came by invitation to Graettinger to hold a church service in the Norwegian language. Rev. Hauge was pastor of the Lost Island Church, 6 1/2 miles southwest of Graettinger. In 1891, a Ladies Aid was organized. May 13, 1892, eight men met to organized First Lutheran congregation. A call was extended to Rev. J.K. Swalestuen, "salary to be $60. per year and three collections." The pastor was asked to preach "at least 12 sermons a year and to start a church record book." A Sunday School was soon started; the first children's Christmas program was held in 1895. In the same year, an urgent appeal was sent to the Ladies Aid to "hold a basket social to help pay the minister's salary." The records show $60.49 was paid for that year.
      In 1897, the cornerstone for a new church was laid; completed, the church seated 200. In 1898, a church cemetery was begun east of town. Gradually as time went on, English instead of Norwegian came to be the language used in worship and Christian instruction.
    In 1929, the Ladies Aid purchased the E.J. Mitchell property south of the Graettinger school; the house on the property then became the parsonage. In 1931, a new church was erected on this property. The records tell us, "On completion of the new church, a deficit of $1,500 was taken over by the Ladies Aid to pay. A young people's society called the 'Gleaners' also contributed to this new church." Through the years, First Lutheran Church was associated with the Lost Island Lutheran Church in a joint parish.
     There were eight pastors who served First Lutheran, including the last, Rev. Casper T. Fjelstul, 1957-62.

* * * * * * *

     Over a period of years there had been suggestions that the Lutheran churches in the Graettinger community unite. Giving impetus to this desire was the merger consummated Jan. 1, 1961, uniting the parent bodies of First Lutheran and St. Paul's Lutheran, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church respectively, into the American Lutheran Church. A poll was taken in 1961 among the members of the Graettinger Lutheran churches showed that a majority were in favor of uniting. Meetings were held together with the District President Dr. H.W. Siefkes and, in a short time, the merger came into being. The first officers of Bethel Lutheran were President, Robert Carter; Vice Pres., William Thomsen, Sr., Secretary, Robert Anderson; Treas., Russell Lastine. July 22, 1962, Otto J. Reitz was installed as the first pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church.
     At the first congregational meeting of Bethel Lutheran, a budget was adopted which included "10% of the total budget for a new building." In 1964- the congregation elected a planning committee to make a study and present proposals toward plans for future building opportunities. The site was later selected, plans approved, and construction began early in 1968. Ground breaking took place April 7; cornerstone laying on Sept. 8. Completion is slated for early 1969.
     The congregation now number 686 baptized members; 495 confirmed members. Sunday School enrollment is 190; there is a young peoples' Luther League of 35 members; the Bethel Lutheran Church Women number about 120. The congregation has both a Youth and a Senior Choir. Christian education is furthered also through such programs as Junior Lutherans, Vacation Church School and Confirmation instruction.


     Our Saviour's Norwegian Danish Evangelical Lutheran congregation was organized May 10, 1872, by Rev. T.H. Dahl.
     One of the early settlers, Peter Funkle, attended a friendly gathering of Emmet County Norwegians and during the conversation religion was mentioned. Mr. Funkle asked them to send a pastor to Lost Island as there were many Lutherans in the community. Shortly word was received that a minister was coming, and a meeting was held at the home of Thore Knutson for the purpose of organizing a mission congregation.
     The list of members included in the cornerstone of the old (burned down) church included: Knute Toreson Norre; Lars Thoreson Hovda; Halvor Rierson Flaate; Halvor Rierson Trondson; Sabjorn Toreson Norre; Peter Halvorson Funkle; Lars Larson Fonnebo; Kittel Larson Solem; Tolef Steinerson Kjammahus; and Thore Olson Kasa.
     Four services were held in 1872, but it seems that Rev. Hallward Hande took charge after the first service. The last service by Rev. Hande was July 14, 1874. He moved to Chicago and became a newspaper editor.
     At the next service, Sept. 5, 1874, Rev. Holseth was installed as pastor. By 1876 there were 74 adults and 72 children in the congregation.
     On July 3, 1879, it was decided to call a minister through the Synod, and build a parsonage. In 1881, Rev. C. Stoltz was called as resident pastor and was installed by Rev. Holseth.
     On Nov. 4, 1888, Rev. L.J. Hauge was installed by H. Engh, of Estherville. In 1889, forty acres of ground adjoining the parsonage were purchased; later sold to O.L. Thorseon.
     At a special meeting Oct. 3, 1890, it was decided to build a church. On Sept. 27, 1891, the cornerstone of the church was laid by Rev. L.H. Hauge.
     On Mar. 15, 1891, Rev. J.D. Swalestuen was installed by Rev. Engh. He served the congregation 12 years, and was largely responsible for getting the church finished. Rev. A.H. Gjevre conducted his first service April 12, 1903, and continued as pastor until Oct. 2, 1907. Rev. Clemitson served as temporary pastor until July 5, 1908.
     Rev. S.O. Sande was installed by Rev. Wigdahl and served the congregation 16-1/2 years. After Rev. Sande's resignation, Rev. Wigdahl served as temporary pastor until Feb. 21, 1926, when Rev. Mandsager was installed.
     On Mar. 27, 1934, the original church edifice burned to the ground. It was largely through the inspiration and unswerving faith of Rev. Mandsager that the congregation found courage to build in the depression years.
     The present building was dedicated Dec. 2, 1934. Rev. Mandsager resigned in July, 1941. The congregation was served  by Rev. Wicks, of Ruthven, as temporary pastor for almost a year.
     Rev. J.F. Masted was installed May 3, 1942, and served the congregation until Oct. 27, 1946, and in 1947, was being served by Rev. S.B. Knutson, of Ruthven. Rev. E.W. Quam was installed by Rev. Astrup Larson July 6, 1947, and served the congregation until Feb. 17, 1952.
     Rev. Paul G. Tolo was installed by Dr. V.T. Jordahl July 6, 1962, and served the congregation until Oct. 8, 1956. Rev. Quam and Rev. Tolo also served First Lutheran Church, Graettinger.
     Ordination of Vance Knutsen, son of Mr. and Mrs. R.S. Knutsen, Estherville, was held May 31, 1953. His first parish was served at Elgin.
     Rev. Harold Norheim, Cylinder, served as interim pastor until Pastor Fjelstul came April 7, 1957. Rev. C.T. Fjelstul was installed by Dr. V.T. Jordahl, and served the congregations of First Lutheran Church, Graettinger, and Lost Island Lutheran also, until Jan. 28, 1962.
     Ordination of Merlin Norris, son of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Norris, Graettinger, was held June 17, 1962. His first parish was served at St. John's Lutheran Church, St. Donatus, Ia. and St. Paul's Lutheran Church, LaMotte.
     After Rev. C.T. Fjelstul left in Jan., 1962, a merger of the American Lutheran Church took place in which our church and Little Sioux Lutheran Church, Milford,voted to share a pastor. Rev. Harald L. Bestul agreed to serve the two congregations.
     An organ dedication recital was held April 16, 1967, in which a Baldwin organ was presented to the congregation by Mrs. Mary Christiansen, her children, friends and relatives, in memory of the husband and father, Clarence (Puse) Christiansen.
     Rev. Harald Bestul announced his retirement in Mar., 1967, but served both congregations until Nov., 1967.
     Rev. Marlin Johnson, Zion Lutheran Church, Ruthven, served the congregations as interim pastor from Dec. 1, 1967, until the new pastor was installed June 9, 1968.
     Rev. Walter Rasmussen Milford, was installed by Rev. Clarence Hanson from Waldorf College, Forest City, on June 9, 1968, and he is presently serving both congregations.
     (The History of the Lost Island Lutheran Church was submitted by Mrs. Harry H. Nelson, with editing by Title Atlas Co.)



     When the present town of West Bend was established with the coming of the railroad in 1881, a number of Lutherans had settled in the area. A group of Lutherans living east of town in the western part of Kossuth County occasionally held services in a schoolhouse east of West Bend. These services were at first conducted by Rev. C.F.W. Maahs of Lotts Creek and later by Rev. William Faulstich of Whittemore.
     In Nov., 1890, an Evangelical congregation, named the German Evangelical Peace Church, was organized in West Bend. The following year, this congregation purchased a house on a large lot to serve as a parsonage. The original lot forms the northern part of the property of the present Peace Lutheran Church. In 1891, the congregation erected a building which served as both a church and school. Seven years later this building was enlarged. Eight pastors served this Evangelical congregation between 1890 and 1907.
     On July 28, 1907, a meeting was held of members of the Evangelical Church and some Lutherans living in the vicinity. In this meeting, the Evangelical Church was dissolved. All the property and rights of the congregation were transferred to the Evangelical Peace Lutheran Church, which was organized in the same meeting.
     The new congregation was composed of members of the former Evangelical Church and of Lutherans living in the area. The first pastor of the Lutheran congregation was the Rev. H.W. Striepe, of the Ohio Synod of the Lutheran Church. He remained until Feb. 1909.
     The group of Lutherans living east of West Bend, who had been served by the Rev. William Faulstich, now joined the congregation, with the understanding that the church would henceforth be served by pastors of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church. The congregation officially became a member of the Missouri Synod in 1921.
     A call was sent to the Missouri Synod for a candidate. Candidate Julius Deckman, a graduate of the seminary, accepted the call and served the congregation from Sept., 1909 until April, 1914. For about 4-1/2 years, the German language was used exclusively in the services and instruction. In 1912, English services were begun. All German was discontinued in 1942. There was some discussion about conducting a parochial school. Such a school was conducted in 1921 but was soon discontinued.
     During the ministry of Rev. Theodore Frese, 1914 to 1920, the parsonage was enlarged and additional property was purchased to the south of the original lot. During World War I, the congregation faithfully supported the government, but experienced some difficulty because of its German background.
     In Dec., 1920, the Rev. Otto C. Kitzmann became pastor of the congregation. During his ministry, a Young People's Society and a Ladies' Aid were organized. Also a Sunday School and a Saturday School for the instruction of the children of the congregation were begun. The present brick church building was erected in 1924.
     Rev. Kitzmann died on Feb. 20, 1926, and was succeeded by his son, the Rev. Immanuel G. Kitzmann. The younger Kitzmann served the congregation for 8-1/2 years, the longest tenure of any of the pastors.
     The Rev. E.J. Otto was installed as pastor in Jan., 1935. He served the congregation until Nov. 1940.
     Candidate Victor A. Mack began his ministry of the congregation in Nov., 1940 and served until Nov., 1943. During this time the parsonage was remodeled.
     The Rev. E.A. Krause served as minister of the congregation from Feb., 1944 to June, 1949. During these years of World War II, twenty-nine young men of the congregation served in the Armed Forces. Three gave their lives for their country. A new Wicks organ was installed in the church in 1947.
     The Rev. William Schuelke became a pastor of the congregation in Feb., 1950. After a short ministry of a little over a year he was called to his eternal home. During his ministry, a remodeling program was begun on the church.
     The Rev. Elmer E. Greene served the congregation from Nov., 1951 to April, 1957. Much progress was made during these years in Christian education and in enlisting members in the work of the church. The remodeling program on the church was completed and a new educational building was added to the church.
     The Rev. Delbert E. Weiss became pastor of the congregation in July, 1957, and served until July, 1962.
     The present pastor, the Rev. Walter C. Ostermeier, was installed on May 5, 1963. Although many changes are taking place in the rural areas, with the population declining, Peace Lutheran Church has maintained its membership at about the same level as former years. The congregation numbers some 377 souls and 261 communicant members.


     The first settler moved into Ellington Township May 14, 1868. The following year several families moved into Rush Lake Township. The track of the Des Moines and Fort Dodge Railroad was laid as far as Mallard in Sept. 1882. The depot was built and almost immediately a store and blacksmith shop were built. Church services were held in the depot waiting room for the pioneers as it was the largest room available. Sometime between 1891 and 1893, Pastor J.G. Schliepsiek, of Pomeroy, started coming to Mallard and Emmetsburg, holding services in the homes and country schools. Pastor Schliepsiek was a specialist in organizing churches and in Aug., 1893, the group called their first pastor.
     Rev. Paul Schaller and his bride arrived in Mallard, making their home in the Julius Zech residence. Although we have no records of this time, he also served Ayrshire. Lots 1 and 2 were purchased Nov. 1, 1894 by trustees J.B. Hahn, J.J. Hahan and Theo. Wessar. The church was built shortly after.
     Pastor William Mallon and his large family arrived in the spring of 1896. During his pastorate, Rev. Mallon baptized 56, confirmed 5, buried 9, and married 3 couples. He also served Ayrshire. In the fall of 1898, he accepted a call to Cresco.
     In Sept. 1898, a young bachelor, Pastor Valentine Walther, arrived. He was not a bachelor long as on Nov. 1, 1898, he was married to Miss Dora Eppler at Pomeroy by Pastor Schliepsiek. They lived in Emmetsburg and he also served Lutherans in Ayrshire and Graettinger as well. He left in 1901. Pastor Emmanuel Paul Gesterling of Ayrshire served during 1902-03.
     In the Spring of 1903, the Lutherans in Mallard were happy as Rev. G. Groenow accepted a call. He was not married and his sister, Flora, kept house for him. In 1904, Ayrshire became vacant so he served them for the rest of his term at Mallard. His sister married, and two years later, he took a leave of absence to go to Germany and get his bride. During his pastorate, the confirmands from Ayrshire came to Mallard and stayed all week. They missed one year of public school to attend catechism school. In 1907, the congregation built a new parsonage directly behind the church.
     Pastor Groenow died in the late 40's, after living out many years of retirement in Orange, Calif. Rev. J.H. Schnitker was pastor from 1910-12.
     Mar. 11, 1911, lots 7,8 and 9 were purchased for $400 from Frieda Wessar, a long-time member of the church. The parsonage was moved and a school room was built on the back of the church and an entrance and steeple built on the front. In teh spring of 1912, when Rev. Schnitker left to accept another call, there were 89 communicant members.
     Rev. H.F. Buettner, a bachelor, came to Mallard for his first charge after graduating from Springfield Seminary. After arriving in the summer of 1912, he went back to Readlyn and married Mathilda Deakman. He also served Ayrshire, preaching here at 10 A.M. and at Ayrshire at 7:30 P.M., reversing the next Sunday, with morning services in German and the evening in English. During World War I, German services were discontinued. In 1915 or 1916, the Ladies Aid was organized. Pastor Buettner accepted a call to Hampton in April, 1917.
     Rev. Adolf Cagann became pastor June 1, 1917, bringing his wife and 4 daughters to the parsonage. A new garage was built at a cost of $451.63. The total collection for 1920 was $1513.30. At a July voters meeting, it was decided to drop evening services and give the pastor permission to organize a young peoples group. At an October voters meeting, J.G. Obrecht requested the congregation to make definite plans for the church in Havelock. He said he would deed the building to the church if it was used for church services. It was decided in the annual meeting of 1923 to drop services at Havelock. In Feb., 1926, plans were drawn for a church basement at an estimated cost of $2200. The Ladies Aid had $1320 but the voters did not think this enough to start a building. Later in the year, $330 of this money was used to pay Rev. Cagann's 1924 back salary. New Year's day, 1925, it was voted to raise the pastor's salary to $1500, also to give him permission to conduct services in Emmetsburg Sunday afternoons. On July 4, 1926, Rev. Cagann preached his last sermon. On Oct. 21, he died in the service at Mallard.
     During Rev. Cagann's illness and until a new pastor arrived, Rev. I.G. Kitzman of West Bend was the vacancy pastor. Rev. Louis Wittenburg accepted the call which was extended to him at a meeting Nov. 7, 1926. He was offered a salary of $1200 plus 1/2 of coal, telephone, lights and chicken feed paid. In April, 1927, it was voted to join the Missouri Synod, and a new constitution and by-laws were adopted. July 26, a straw vote was taken to see how much money could be raised for a church basement. The members pledged $815 and it was voted 19 to 6 to build a basement and raise the school room and make the church longer. Claus Johnson Sr.; Otto Schleusener Sr.; and G.J. Grafe were appointed to the building committee. In Sept. the Ladies Aid treasurer turned over $1000 to the committee for their share of the basement; however, due to a bank failure, this money was lost. At the annual meeting of 1927, it was voted to raise the pastor's salary to $110 a month and he pay his own chicken feed. At the annual meeting of 1928, it was reported the cost of the basement would be $3900, with $1200 pledged. The trustees were authorized to borrow $2600 from the AAL. On Feb. 20, 1931, Pastor Wittenburg accepted another call.
     Rev. Kitzman once again served as vacancy pastor until Rev. Carl F. Hinrichs arrived in Sept. At a July meeting it was decided to start Sunday  School and to have the 40th anniversary collection to to the building fund. In 1931, the present parsonage was built to accommodate Rev. and Mrs. Hinrichs and children. During the longest term of any pastor at Mallard, Rev. Hinrichs baptized 178, confirmed 147, buried 53, and married 51 couples. Two of his sons, Marvin and Paul, followed him into the ministry.
     During the voters meeting July, 1936, it was requested to be transferred from the Spencer circuit to the Algona circuit. In 1943, the debt on the basement was still $408. Rev. was to contact all members to see if enough money could be raised to paint and shingle the church. The basement was finally paid off with the Ladies Aid paying a good share of it. In 1949, a new constitution was adopted and a new furnace installed in the church. At the annual meeting of 1950, a President and Vice President were elected for the first time. Pastor Hinrichs died Mar. 22, 1951, with services held in Mallard and the theatre being wired for sound for the overflow crowd.
     Pastor Wm. Schuelke of West Bend was appointed vacancy pastor at a salary of $250 per month. He served until his death on June 1. After his death, Pastor Marvin Hinrichs of Emmetsburg served. On May 1, 1951, Pastor Norris C Crook, founding pastor and teacher of Faith, Council Bluffs, accepted the call and was installed July 1. In 1952, a new boiler was installed at the parsonage. At the 1953 annual meeting, it was decided to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the church the second Sunday in August, with a special building fund offering. The basement of the parsonage was remodeled to accommodate part of the Sunday School classes. At this time, there were 216 communicants and a total of 357 baptized members. In 1955, it was voted to buy the highway property instead of the west school property. The annual meeting of 1956 showed a balance of $16,845 in the building fund. Rev. Crook asked for his release.
    Rev. E.E. Greene of West Bend served in the vacancy at a salary of $300 per month. May 15, 1956, a call was sent to the present pastor. June 1, the call was accepted and on July 1, Rev. James T. Wolfram was installed with his father assisting. A reception for Pastor and Mrs. Wolfram and their 3 children was held at the high school gym following the ceremony.
     At the July voters meeting plans to build a new church were discussed and a financial committee appointed to get pledges. John Froh, Walter Meyer, and Ottoe Tjebben received pledges of $92,000 and at a special voters meeting, Aug. 14, it was voted to build a new church. Julius Skow and Son, of Emmetsburg, were hired as contractors and they built a $185,000 church with much of the labor being donated by members. Ground breaking was held Mar. 31, 1957, with Rev. Wolfram speaking. Dedication services were held Mar. 23, 1958. Sept. 8, 1958, it was voted to have services at 9:30 A.M., and allow Rev. to serve Ayrshire as their vacancy pastor, a position he still holds.
     In 1964, the communicant membership reached an all time high of 297. In 1966, we joined Lakeside Lutheran Home,  donating $10,00 to help build the home.


     Zion Lutheran Church at Ayrshire was organized on Sept. 18, 1892, under the leadership of the Rev. P.G. Mueller, who served the congregation from then until sometime in 1893. Among the early pioneers, the charter members of the congregation were: Messrs. H. Frink; Harm Ricklefs; Ed Reimers; John Reimers; C.F. Brattmiller; and C. Wojahn. While these charter members desired to assemble together and to worship the Lord; they also recognized the importance of Christian education and, within a year after the organization of the congregation, they organized a Sunday School.
    For several years, the congregation was also served by pastors who resided either in Mallard or Emmetsburg. Pastors serving from Mallard included the Rev. Paul Shaller, 1893-95; W. Mallon, 1895-97; A.H. Deletzke, 1897-99. The Rev. Valentine Walther of Emmetsburg served the parish in 1899 and 1900. During 1900, a theological student, the Rev. Rudolph Norden, assisted with the work. The Rev. Gesterling served from 1901 to 1903.
    Pastor G. Gruenow of Mallard served the parish from 1904 to 1910. During his pastorate, a new church was built in the southwest part of Ayrshire, the present location of the Bob Bowman residence. This was in 1906. The farmers, with teams of horses and wagons, hauled large rocks for the foundation of the church. Pastor J.H. Schnittker of Mallard served from 1910 to 1912.
    The Rev. H.F. Buettner, of Mallard, served from 1912-17. A Christian Day School was organized in 1916, and a theological student, Hugo Goering, was the first teacher. In 1917, the congregation took another step forward when it purchased a house at the present church site to be used as the parsonage making it possible for the first time to have a resident pastor.
    The first resident pastor was the Rev. Martin Seltz, who served from 1917 to 1919. He was succeeded by the Rev. W.J. Horn who served the longest pastorate in the congregation's history from 1919 to 1931.
    During Pastor Horn's time, the Ladies Aid was organized in June, 1920; the church was relocated and enlarged on a new basement foundation at the present site in 1927, being dedicated June 17, 1928; and the Young People's Society, now the Walther League, was organized in 1928.
    After Pastor Horn's pastorate, there was a 10-year vacancy. During this time, the congregation was served by the Rev. V.J. Kollman of Royal (1931-42). In 1940, the Sunday School was organized. Theological candidate, A. Rueber, served under Pastor Kollman in 1940-41.
    A new resident pastor came to Ayrshire in the person of the Rev. William Stock who served from 1942 to 1952. During his pastorate, the Golden Jubilee of the congregation was observed on Sept. 20, 1942, and the 60th anniversary in 1952. The parsonage was remodeled at this time, 2 large rooms being added to the upstairs, and a breakfast nook and front porch added to the downstairs. The latter improvement allowed room for an enlarged pastor's office.
    The choir was organized during during Pastor Stock's time of service, and the whole church program was better organized and given new life. The Fellowship Club came into being, the Ladies Aid joined the Lutheran Women's Missionary League, and the young people became affiliated with the International Walther League.
    During this period Concordia Lutheran Church, Webb, was organized by Pastor Stock. He served his second congregation from Ayrshire. After Pastor Stock accepted the call to Coon Rapids, the Webb congregation took upon the advice of the District was joined to the Sioux Rapids congregation to form a new parish, leaving Ayrshire alone again.
    When Pastor Stock left the congregation in Sept. 1952, and until Pastor Chellew came in April, 1953, the congregation was faithfully served by retired Pastor P.E. Ross of Pomeroy.
    Pastor William J. Chellew served the Ayrshire congregation from April 23, 1953, until Nov. 1958. Under Pastor Chellew's guidance and leadership, the Vacation Bible School was continued and expanded; the Sunday School added the kindergarten department; improvements in the church included a new heating system, indoor rest rooms, redecorating the church, and numerous minor improvements.
    The present pastor, Rev. James T. Wolfram, of Mallard, came to Zion Congregation in Nov., 1958. The past years, under the leadership of Pastor Wolfram, have been some of the most fruitful years Zion Congregation has had. During this time, the Nursery department has been added to the growing Sunday School; a new Wurlitzer organ was purchased; new flooring was laid in the nave of the church; a face lifting for the basement; and many minor improvements.
    The 75th Anniversary of Zion Lutheran Church of Ayrshire was celebrated in 1967.


     A group of settlers had been asked to meet at the home of Knud Thuesen on July 7, 1884, and this date became one of importance in the history of St. Paul's Lutheran Church of South Walnut Township.
    The Knud Thuesen home was up the hill west of what was Fallow leaving the trail and turning over to the homestead, now owned by Jorgen Knutsen. Twenty men and many of their wives met to see what could be done to build a congregation of Danish Lutheran Church Society. The first officers were Jeppe Skow; Christian Skow; Niels Jensen; Peder F. Gylling, first Secretary; and Christian Henningsen, Treasurer.
    The new congregation wanted to do its share in establishing the Kingdom of God in Palo Alto. Services were held in school houses and homes, barns, and other convenient places. For a time, the group was served by Rev. G.B. Christiansen, who came from Albert Lea about once every 6 weeks. Pastor H. Jensen visited the settlement only a few times and likewise Pastor Johannes Simonsen from Spencer.
    On June 6, 1892, the group met to incorporate the congregation in order that it could legally receive and own property. Jens and Lars Olesen donated 2 acres of land to be used as a cemetery. June 14, 1892, the Articles of Incorporation were recorded. The trustees were Knud Thuesen; Christian Henningsen; and Henry Brown. The building committee collected $800 and built a church, the present church, at a cost of $761.53, leaving a small balance of $37.47 in the building fund. Henry Brown was the architect. The church was finished in 1893 and dedicated Aug. 20, 1893, by Rev. P.C. Trandberg.
    On Aug. 21, 1893, Rev. M.C.J. Engholm was ordained, and was the first resident pastor of the congregation. The next spring, on May 20, 1894, Rev. C.C. Mengers and Rev. John Thoreson, and on the same day, Rev. Engholm was married. Rev. Trandberg served at both ceremonies.
    In 1923, the church was moved from its original site to the present location north of the road.
    The 20 charter members were: Knud N. Thuesen; Jeppe J. Skow; Lars Duhn; Jorgen Petersen; Jens Olesen; Niels Jensen; Christian Skow; Jeppe Nielsen; Paul Paulsen; Jens Pedersen; Christian Henningsen; Christian K Larsen; Mads C. Larsen; Anders Pedersen; Knud M. Paulsen; Rasmus Jensen; Peder F. Gylling; Ole Simonsen; Hans D. Westergaard; and Rev. J. Danielsen.



     The history of Catholicity, in an organized way, came to Emmetsburg, and indeed to all of northwestern Iowa, with the appointment in Dec., 1871, of Father John Smith as pastor of Assumption Parish. With two other priests, Father Smith had charge of all the territory that now forms the diocese of Sioux City, embracing the 24 counties. Today there are about 175 priests in the same territory. There were only 39 Catholic families in Palo Alto County at that time, but Father Smith's parish extended as far east as Mason City and to the west line of the state including, on the north, a part of Minnesota.
     According to the most reliable sources, the first Mass in Palo Alto County was offered by Father John Marsh in 1859, in the home of Martin Laughlin.
     When Father Smith arrived in 1871, he found in the old town a church being built on ground donated by Martin Coonan. The building was only partly lathed, and it was the only church in the parish which then contained 11 counties. In 1872, Father Smith built a rectory and 2 years afterwards a movement was started to located Emmetsburg on a new site in 1874; thus it happened that two years after the parish was provided with a rectory, the town walked off and left it. As time went on and gradually the county became settled, other churches were built. The large parish was divided, other pastors appointed and finally, the territory over which Father Smith had charge was limited to the town of Emmetsburg and vicinity. Even then, his congregation was one of the largest in the whole diocese. Through the efforts of Father Smith, the grounds where the Assumption Church now stands were procured as a gift from John Lawler without cost to the congregation. In good time, he raised the necessary money and began the construction of a large brick building which was completed in 1884, and was one of the finest church buildings in northwest Iowa at that time. It cost over $35,000.
     In 1889, a school building was erected and in Sept. of that year, a Catholic school was opened under the charge of the Sisters of Charity, B.V.M. This institution has kept pace with the times and has grown steadily until today it stands second to no school of its kind. It has a 4-year high school course and is on the state accredited list. The musical department is recognized far and wide for its special superiority. The main credit of all this belongs to Father Smith. It was he who planned and supervised the construction of the buildings and the establishment of the institution. There are few in life who have accomplished so great a work as Father Smith and especially under the trying circumstances and unfavorable conditions with which he was forced to contend. Only the sturdiest type of manhood, both physically and intellectually, could ever have accomplished it. But after all, the story of his life is but a barren description of his deeds; for a man's life is more than the work he does, the duties he performs, more even than the battles he fights or the victory he achieves. There were moral forces, spiritual energies, deep, subtle, intangible elements and powers hidden in the heart of this man's life, which made the real man. He believed in God, and in the Church of God and in the everlasting gospel of the Lord. He believed in the people. He had faith in the American institutions and he loved his fellowmen. He had a big, brave, true, honest heart and was a wise, strong,  loving brother to all men. He stood as a "father" to his people in the performance of his sweet and sacred duties as a priest of God. Many hundreds of men have been steadied and strengthened in life's battle by his wise counsel, tender sympathy, and genuine helpfulness during the 40 years of service, which culminated in his death on Jan. 25, 1912. His remains were laid to rest in St. John's Cemetery among the people for whom he had labored. He had bequeathed a large part of his rather modest means to St. Anthony's Orphanage in Sioux City.
     On the death of Father Smith, the responsibilities of the parish devolved for a time on Rev. C.P. Conway, who had been Father Smith's able assistant. Later in the year, a new pastor was appointed, Rev. P.F. Farrelly, who had been Dean at Carroll. Father Farrelly was one of the outstanding priests of Iowa. In May, 1912, he was made Dean and Irremovable Rector of Assumption Parish, Emmetsburg.
     Father Farrelly immediately undertook the erection of the fine brick rectory which stands today and, in 1920, he caused to be built the splendid Sister's Convent, just south of the rectory.
     Father Farrelly lived to celebrate his golden jubilee in the priesthood, June 2, 1921, and in that year at the request of the Bishop, the Most Rev. Edmond Heelan, D.D., he was appointed by Pope Benedict XV, a Domestic Prelate, with the title of Monsignor. In Sept., 1924, Father Farrelly was taken suddenly ill and passed to his reward.
     The next pastor, Very Rev. Josehp G. Murtagh, soon after the establishment of the Diocese of Sioux City in 1902, was summoned by the new Bishop, the Most Rev. Philip J. Garrigan, D.D., to serve under him as pastor of the Cathedral. Father Murtagh was possessed of a brilliant intellect and great zeal in his work, but throughout his life, he suffered from delicate health, and after a few years was compelled to relinquish his arduous duties at the Cathedral. In 1924, he came to Emmetsburg as Dean, serving devotedly for nearly 7 years, but ill health and the "depression years" compelled him to ask the Bishop to be relieved of his strenuous duties.
     When Father Murtagh left Emmetsburg in Jan., 1932, he was succeeded by the Very Rev. Joseph T. Finnegan. He served until May, 1936, and was followed by  the Very Rev. E.A. Dunn, who was pastor until his sudden death in Nov., 1937.
     On Jan. 3, 1938, the Very Rev. W.F. Mason moved to Emmetsburg as pastor of Assumption Parish. Since that time, the indebtedness was paid off against the church property and a fund was started for a new high school. On Jan. 10, 1952, a contract was let for the erection of a new Emmetsburg Catholic High School to serve both parishes in Emmetsburg and to be operated as a separate unit from both parishes. On Nov. 23, 1952, Emmetsburg Catholic High School, planned and built by both the parishes of Emmetsburg, was dedicated by the Most Rev. Bishop J.M. Mueller.
     In the spring of 1953, a contract was let by Assumption Parish for the erection of a new St. Mary's Grade School. This new St. Mary's School was dedicated by the Most Rev. Bishop J.M. Mueller on April 21, 1954.
     In Sept., 1952, Father Elmer Thom, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Ruthven, was appointed Superintendent of Emmetsburg Catholic High School.
     To meet the demands of modern education, Father Thom and the pastors of the two parishes in Emmetsburg decided, in the spring of 1957, to build Corrigan Hall, which is an auditorium-gymnasium. This building is designed to seat a thousand people for athletic events and has a stage, 80' long and 30' deep, equipped with a loud speaking system and all the stage furnishings which are required to stage any kind of school activities. This building was named Corrigan Hall, so it would be a lasting monument to the memory of Miss Florence Carrigan, whose will contributed over $50,000 towards its erection. On Mar. 16, 1958, Corrigan Hall was dedicated by the Most. Rev. Bishop J.M. Mueller.
     The Catholic educational facilities of Emmetsburg are a tribute to the faith and sacrifices of the Catholic people, and all the people of the community take a just pride in the grounds and buildings which grace South Broadway.
     Emmetsburg Catholic High School is very proud of its contribution to the priesthood, for 14 of its graduates have given their lives to the service of God. Of the 14, thirteen are priests in the dioceses of Sioux City, and one, Father William Steil, C.P., is a member of the Passionist Missionary Order of the church. The following is a list of the priests who graduated from Emmetsburg with their dates of ordination: Rev. Leo McEvoy, 1927; Rev. Edward Lilly, 1929; Rev. Leo Berger, 1931; Rev. Albert Conlon, 1932; Rev. Phillip Dailey, 1932; Rev. Wm. Molloy, 1937; Rev. William Steil, 1942; Rev. Leo Kelm, 1936; Rev. Robert Joynt, 1938; Rev. Thomas Lawless, 1939; Rev. Thomas Molloy, 1941; Rev. Raymond Calkins, 1946; Rev. William Phillips, 1949; Rev. John Eagan, 1949, and Rev. Alfred McCoy, 1954.
     Emmetsburg's contribution to the church through the priesthood tells only a part of the story of her history, for a great many of the former members of Assumption Parish have become members of various religious orders in the church. The following, while not complete, lists the majority of them: Sisters of Charity, B.V.M.; Sister Mary Antonella, McLaughlin; Sister Mary Agnese, Gibbs; Sister Fabian, McNulty; Sister Mary Christine, Rutledge; Sister Mary Hiltrude, McEvoy; Sister Mary Gerald, Duffy; Sister Mary Placentia, Fitzgerald; Sister Mary Eugene, McNulty; Sister Mary Emmeline, Brady; Sister Mary Eugenius, McNulty; Sister Mary Noella, Flynn; Sister Mary Michael, Flynn; Sister Mary Benignus, Walsh (Fitzgerald); Sister Mary Mamerta, Walsh; Sister Mary Evangelita, Duhigg; Sister Mary Edwardetta, McNally; Sister Mary Domina, Higgins; Sister Mary Margaret Agnes, Knoer; Sister Mary Engratia, Mahan; Sister Mary St. Joseph, Dunphy; Sister Mary Agnesia, Kelm; Sister Mary Irenita, Molloy; Sister Mary Bernadine, Millea. Sisters of St. Dominic, Sinsinawa, Wisc.: Sister Mary Camilla, McEvoy; Sister Mary Dermot, McEvoy. Sisters of Mercy-Sister Mary Adorine, Gossman; Sister Mary Bernadette, Mulroney; Sister Mary Mulcrina, Currans; Sister Mary St. Jude, Haywood; Sister Mary Paschal; Sister Mary Hilda, Carroll; Sister Mary Anita, Carroll; Sister Mary Victorine, Neary; Sister Mary Concetta, Neibauer. Franciscan Sisters, Rochester, Minn.: Sister Mary Conna, Conway; Sister Mary Liam, Pettit; Sister Anna Marie, Mart. Franciscan Sisters, LaCrosse, Wisc.: Sister Mary Rosina, Poeppe. Sisters of St. Joseph, LaGrange, Ill.: Mother Mary Thomas, Joynt; Sister Mary Ambrose, Joynt; Sister Mary Josephine, Joynt. Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Paul, Minn.: Sister Mary John Patrick, Aylward.
     (The above history was submitted by Monsignor W.F. Mason.)


     Rev. Father P.M. Dobberstein, the creator and builder of the Famous Grottos of West Bend, Iowa, laid down his trowel July 24, 1954, at 7:25 P.M. It was as if God had waited until the last ruddy rays of the setting sun had shed the last warm friendly rays over the twinkling towers of his grottos, and then called the tired artist home from his life work.
    Paul Matthias Dobberstein was born in Rosenfield, Germany, on Sept. 21, 1872. When Paul was 20 years old, he emigrated America. He received part of his early education at the University of Deutsche-Krone in Germany. On coming to America, he entered the Seminary of St. Francis near Milwaukee to prepare for the Priesthood. It was here that he began to show signs of the unusual artistic ability that was to characterize all the waking hours of his earthly existence.
     The story of how the grotto came into being is as moving as the scenes it portrays. It is generally told as a fact that as a young seminarian, Father Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia. As he fought for his life, he prayed to the Blessed Virgin to intercede for him. He promised to build a shrine in her honor if he lived. The illness passed, the student completed his studies and, after his ordination, he came to West Bend as pastor in 1897. For over a decade, he was stockpiling rocks and precious stones. The actual work of giving permanence to his promise began to take shape in 1912.
     As time went on, the work of building the grottos progressed but there were many other projects sandwiched into his building schedule. The cornerstone for the new grade school building was laid in 1899. The new parish church was completed in 1922. The Casino-Restaurant was built in 1928.
     Before 1947, all the work on the grottos was by hand labor, that is, the cement, mortar, rocks, steel, and precious stones were moved to the building site and placed on the building platform or scaffolds by bucket or wheelbarrow. Only in 1947, when perhaps 80% of the gigantic project was completed, was an electrical hoist installed to make the work lighter for the ailing artist. This was done at the urgent suggestion of Father Louis Greving, who came to St. Peter and Paul's as permanent assistant June 21, 1946. After Father Dobberstein was physically unable to continue the work, his general plans were carried out in the minutest detail by Matthew Szerensce. Father Dobberstein often referred to him as "his good right hand" and it was he who worked side by side with the good priest since the first stone was laid in 1912.
     West Bend is located in the center of a vast, lush, level expanse of Iowa farmland. The surrounding area is populated by wise, industrious and fairly prosperous farmers. It is located northwest of Fort Dodge and about midway between the busy state highways; number 18 to the north and number 20 to the south. On most road maps, West Bend is marked as the site of the Grotto of the Redemption.
     It might seem odd that here where scarcely any type of rock is known, not to mention any deposits of precious, geological specimens, that this great collection of unique stones should be found. However, it is merely the play of Divine Providence that determined the setting in this particular place. The site was chosen because the Bishop decided to send Father Dobberstein to that particular parish, located at West Bend.
     As early as 1901, it is known that Father Dobberstein had begun to prepare the setting for the Grotto. First it was necessary to purchase a satisfactory parcel of land. After it was secured, he began excavating the lake. The birch trees with which he first surrounded it have long since lived their lives. As the years went by other trees took their place and the lake front was covered with verdant grass, and became a restful picnic area. When the summer crowds of visitors had grown quite numerous, he constructed a substantial restaurant near the lake. Here, the ladies of the parish undertook the task of providing food for the convenience of the pilgrims to West Bend. Besides the restaurant, there is a little souvenir stand. There, mementos, a small history of the grottos and colored picture cards can be purchased. This, however, never became a commercial venture of any ambitious magnitude. It was through these ventures that much of the untold expense of building the grotto was liquidated.
     It is evident from his work that Father Dobberstein was a great lover of beauty. In fulfilling his vow to erect a shrine to the Mother of Christ, he was determined to make the most of material beauty and to emphasize the spiritual beauty of the Woman he had in mind. We can imagine with what love his heart beat when he found pearls, warm glowing rubies and celestial hued sapphires to incorporate into the shrine. It was a source of great pleasure to him to gather them here that all might see and admire what he had done. It was his purpose that others might see in the beauty of stones, the Beauty of the Creator and by being charmed and attracted by his work learn to imitate the virtues of the Mother of our Savior.
     Although there were never any blueprints of the Grotto, it might be said that all that the artist decided to do in a creative way was crystallized when he finished his course of Sacred Theology. His only plan was to tell the story of the Redemption. That story is the backbone of Theology. Man lost the friendship of God and regained it through the Incarnation, Passion, Death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.
     Actually the whole panoramic outlay of artistry is made up of nine grottos or scenes, from the Life of Christ, each of them portraying a portion of the complete story of the Redemption: (1) Garden of Eden; (2) The Grotto of the Stable of Bethlehem; (3) The Home of Nazareth; (4) The Grotto of the Trinity; (5) The Grotto of the Ten Commandments; (6) Gethsemane; (7) Twelve Stations of the Cross; (8) The Fourteenth Station of the Cross and the Eighth Grotto is placed on a lower level in a beautiful setting. The coffin-like receptacle for the Body of the Redeemer, with its cover open and consisting of shaded inset stone will long arrest the visitor's attention. In it is laid the Savior's sleeping figure, in costly white Carrara marble. (9) The next grotto is that of the Resurreection. It contains the Savior's empty tomb, with the angel sitting upon it to tell the early morning callers that Jesus is no longer there. "He is not here; He is Risen. Behold the place where they laid Him." These words of the angel appear in gold mosaic in front of the empty tomb.
     The Future of the Grotto:- Any one who has approached the Grotto must have been impressed by the spirit of prayer that pervades the whole atmosphere here, giving it the air of a sanctuary. It is for this reason that no rules are laid down for the behavior of the visitor. This is a religious shrine.
     The Christmas Chapel:- Father Dobberstein considered some of the fine mineral specimens which he found on his trips too delicate to be used in the out-of-doors grottos. The elements, the weather and the changing seasons all would conspire to spoil their beauty. He decided, therefore, to incorporate them into an in-door piece of art, which he placed for shelter in St. Peter's and Paul's Church. They represent the birthplace and the Nativity of Our Divine Savior. In other words, this particular piece of art portrays the "Incarnation."
     Since the death of Father Dobberstein in 1954, the Grotto has been expanding under the direction of Father Louis Greving who, for 8 years, was assistant to Father Dobberstein before his death. Under Father Greving's supervision, the mountain of Calvary was completed. At night, Calvary is illuminated with a spot-light.
     Father Greving has added several features to the Grotto which makes it more meaningful. There are free systematic tours through the Grotto every hour on the hour from June 1 to October 15. Soft chimes pealing through the Grottos give an air of reverence to the whole structure. After every hourly tour, a 20 minute geological lecture is given in an air-conditioned Rock Display studio. There is no admission charge for either the tour or the Rock Display lecture.
     Plans have been completed for a museum in which various specimens of rocks, ores, and minerals used in the Grotto will be displayed. The exterior of this 50x30 building will be completely covered with ornamental rock and agates. Father Greving has been continuously cutting and polishing agates from all pars of the world for a period of almost 10 years. These will be set into cement on the exterior of the museum. This display of agates will undoubtedly be the largest display of its kind in the world. Construction of this building was  started in the fall of 1965. Also in the plan is a new souvenir stand, a 60x40 structure. It too will be completely lined with ornamental rock.
     The 125,000 tourists who visit the Grotto annually necessitated the erection of new rest room facilities. In the summer of 1965, these facilities were completed. The exterior is covered completely with over 100 tons of petrified wood which came from Montana.
     Extensive landscaping beautifies the Grotto grounds. Ten huge 1000 watt mercury vapor spot lights illuminate the whole Grotto until 11:15 every evening. Many people stay overnight at West Bend to see the Grotto at night.
     Not least among the new things which make the visit to the Grotto pleasureable is a new cafeteria which features home cooked meals.
     In 1964, new faceted stained glass windows were put into St. Peter and Paul's Church. These windows tell the story of the Redemption in another medium. Already they have gotten international recognition.
     Further plans call for an 8' bronze statue of Father Paul Dobberstein which will be placed on the pedestal in the center of the fountain in front of St. Peter's and Paul's Church. Then, too, a large fountain will be placed in the center of the lake adjacent to the Grotto. The flowing waters will be illuminated with revolving colored spot lights at night.
     When Father Greving was asked when this would be completed, he said, "I don't know. Come next year to see how we are coming. And then come again in ten years. Maybe twenty years will see it completed. But really the life of Christ is never completed. Anything that we can do to embellish it and to make it more beautiful and attractive is our privilege."


     The first Catholic people to come to the Mallard area were immigrants from Germany, who came here in 1870. The family names were: John Namer; John Graff; John Ruppert; George Fries; Gerhart Petermann; Mike Schuller; and Adam Rund. These were joined in 1872 by John Steil; Nic Steil; John Leuer; Peter Grethen; John Wagner; and Wenzel Lodes.
     The first Mass for these families was said in 1873 by Father Smith, Pastor of Assumption Church in Emmetsburg. He and his assistant, Father Scanlan, said Mass in the homes of people once or twice a month for about 15 years. A usual place for Mass was the Namer School House, about 4 miles northwest of the town of Mallard. In 1888, when Father Murphy was assistant to Father Smith, the people of the area requested him to arrange for the building of a a church in Mallard. The building committee, consisting of Mike Schuller, Frank Heideman, John Namer and William Stafford, secured a plot of ground on the east edge of Mallard and had a church built there. The building was 50'x34', cost $3000 and was named St. Mary's Church. This new parish was made a Mission Parish of St. John's Church of Gilmore City, and was in charge of Father Tim Sullivan. In 1890, St. Margaret's Parish of Rolfe received a permanent pastor, and St. Mary's of Mallard became a Mission Parish of the Rolfe Church, with Father Dennis McKeogh in charge.
     Parish records show that by 1899 there were 50 families of Catholic people living within the Mallard area. St. Mary's Parish was able to sustain a resident priest and Father F.X. Roeseler was sent to be the first resident pastor of St. Mary's.
     The original church building was moved to a better location; the Watson addition in the southwest part of town. In 1900, a rectory was built as a residence for the new pastor, and plans were made for the building of a Parochial School. This building was completed in 1901, and opened for school that same fall, with 3 Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee as the first teachers. This building was a 3-story with full basement, costing $3441. The top story consisted of two dormitories, 1 for boys and 1 for girls, so that St. Mary's was actually a boarding school. In 1909, the Franciscan Sisters decided not to return to Mallard, and the school was closed til 1916.
     Father Roeseler died Dec. 27, 1909, and Father Matthias Stork was in charge of St. Mary's for the year 1910. Father H.C. Eckert was appointed pastor in Nov. 1910, remaining one year, and was succeeded by Father John J. Neppel in Nov. 1911. Father Neppel remained at St. Mary's 30 years. He reopened St. Mary's School in 1916, with 3 Sisters of Mary from Cherokee as teachers. They remained only two years. In 1918, three Franciscan Sisters of the Perpetual Adoration from LaCrosse, Wisc., came to St. Mary's to teach 90 pupils in 8 grades. A music teacher was added to the faculty very shortly, and St. Mary's became a noted school of music for many years.
     On Ap[ril 10, 1921, a portion of the rectory was damaged by fire which made it necessary to remodel the rectory. On May 14, 1926, the frame school building was completely destroyed by fire. No classes were possible until a new school was completed in 1927. Under the leadership of Father Neppel, and his building committee, consisting of William Lynch, P.F. Brennan, J.B. Doerning, A.H. Steil, and Henry Schuller, and with the help of the parishioners, a new, modern, brick school building was erected  for just over $40,000. High School grades 9,10 and 11 were taught in this school, until these classes were discontinued in 1939.
     In 1941, Father Neppel was transferred to the Parish at St. Benedict and Father Francis Illg was appointed pastor of St. Mary's. He began plans for the construction of a new church building, but was transferred before the plans materialized. Father Leo Harpenau became pastor in 1953, and immediately set about putting the plans for a new church into action. This new church building was constructed during 1953-54, and was dedicated in 1954. Total cost was $130,000.
    Father Harpenau served St. Mary's parish until Aug., 1858, when he was transferred to Templeton, and Father Ray Pick became the pastor of St. Mary's. He supervised the purchase and development of two acres of ground south of the school for the purpose of providing a playground for the school children. During the month of August, 1961, Father Pick became ill and was forced to resign from his duties as Pastor of St. Mary's. He was succeeded by Father Bernard Montag, the present pastor of St. Mary's.


     In 1905, Most Rev. Philip Garrigan, Bishop of Sioux City, appointed the Rev. Michael McNerney to organize the new St. Thomas parish in Emmetsburg. Mr. Thomas Tobin and his wife, Ellen, had left a bequest for a new church and school in the north part of Emmetsburg. When Father McNerney came to Emmetsburg, in 1905, he lived with the Rev. J.J. Smith, and assisted him in the work of Assumption Parish.
    The construction of St. Thomas Church was begun in the spring of 1905. It was completed in Aug., 1906, at a cost of $35,000. The church was dedicated by Bishop Garrigan. It is brick, Gothic design and seats 450 people. Under the church is a well arranged parish hall. P.R. Wells of Emmetsburg was the contractor.
    A house for a rectory was purchased by Father McNerney for $3200. This house was built by James D. Sturdevent in 1898. Mr. Sturdevent was a prominent building contractor and built this large frame house for his personal residence. It is located one block north of St. Ellen School, and still serves as the rectory for St. Thomas Parish.
    In 1914, a large, substantial brick, 8-grade school building was erected. The cost of this building was $25,000, with Julius Skow as the contractor. The funds for building this school were given by the Tobin estate. Moreover, an endowment for the maintenance was provided by the will of Mr. Tobin. This endowment expired in 1965. The school has a capacity of 175 students. When the school opened in 1914, it was staffed by Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose mother house is in Dubuque.
    A beautiful red brick convent for the Sisters was built in 1925, at a cost of $25,000. The funds for this convent were provided by the people of the parish.
    In 1952, a new brick Catholic High School was built in conjunction with the Assumption Parish; this building cost $180,000. In 1957, Corrigan Hall was built to serve as the gymnasium-auditorium-dining room for the High School. It was named after miss Florence E.M. Corrigan of Illinois, who left a 160-acres farm in Palo Alto county for this purpose. This building cost $237,000. The sale and income from the Corrigan farm amounted to $57,000. The remainder of the cost was paid by the members of the Assumption and St. Thomas Parishes.
    Since the parish was founded, there have been only two pastors, Rev. Michael McNerney, who served faithfully from 1905 to 1944 and Father Clarence E. Farrelly, who has been pastor since 1944.
    Because of the shortage of Sisters, St. Ellen's School and St. Mary's School were consolidated in Sept. 1967. And because of the same reason, the high school was closed in Sept. 1968. The former high school building is now being used by the Catholic Grade School. These buildings are on the grounds of the Assumption Parish. At present, St. Ellen's School and Convent are being used by the Emmetsburg Community School District.


     The first service for an Episcopal congregation in this area was held in the Methodist Church in "old Emmetsburg" in the spring of 1873. A missionary clergyman, the Rev. Richard Mahaus of Philadelphia, officiated at this initial service.
     Five years passed before the next service was held on the 6th Sunday after Trinity, July 28, 1878. This service was again in the Methodist Church, with the Rev. Hale Townsend, an Episcopal missionary priest stationed at Charles City, officiating. A mission church was organized under his direction, and services on a monthly schedule were held in the Methodist Church. The first celebration of the Holy Communion was held Aug. 18, 1878.
     During the first 4 months of 1879, the monthly services were held in the Odd Fellows Hall, and then in the local school building. Then, on April 15, 1879, the parish was organized and incorporated under the laws of the state of Iowa. The name and title: The Rector, Church Wardens, and Vestrymen of the Trinity Church, in the town of Emmetsburg, County of Palo Alto, and State of Iowa. The first vestry included Messrs. T.R. Crawford, E.J. Hartshorn, J.J. Robbins, A.L. Ormsby, and F.C. Burley.
     A subscription list for a church building was opened and, in June, 1879, T.R. Crawford, senior warden, was appointed lay-reader, and services were held in his home during the absence of the Rev. Mr. T. Townsend, and until the opening of the new edifice.
     On July 28, 1879, the cornerstone for the new Trinity Church was laid. The lot on which the church was erected was presented to the congregation by Judge Call of Algona. The property was given with the stipulation that the church building would be erected before the 1st of Jan., 1881. The Rev. Hale Townsend and the Rev. J.S. Teukes of Des Moines officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony. In the cornerstone were placed the names of the vestrymen, some then current coins, copies of the county papers of the preceding week, and a history of Palo Alto County.
     In Dec., 1878, three lots, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 of Block 27 of Corbin and Lawler Addition were purchased, probably for a church site, but a rectory was built there. This continued as a church property until sold to St. Thomas Catholic Church Jan 24, 1955.
     On Oct. 20, 1879, the Rev. Townsend was elected rector of Trinity Parish, and on Dec. 28th of that year, the church was opened for services. A regular weekly worship schedule was now set up. The Rev. Mr. Townsend, who was still assisting congregations in other towns, held one service monthly, while the remaining Sunday services were conducted by lay-readers from the local congregation. The Rt. Rev. William Stevens Perry, well-known historian, and second Bishop of the Diocese of Iowa, made his first official visitation to Trinity Parish in July, 1880. The church school was also organized in 1880.
     It was not, however, until Aug. 7, 1881, that the church was consecrated , and at this time, the property was deeded to the trustees of Dunds and Donations of the Diocese of Iowa. The Rev. Townsend left Emmetsburg in Sept., 1881, and tendered his resignation the following January.
     Lay services were still continued, and the Rev. S.H. Johnston, the missionary at Spencer, held services the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, while the Rev. W.W. Estabrooke, D.D., conducted services on the 4th Sunday of each month.
     The church was closed during July and Aug., 1882, after being damaged rather badly by a tornado on June 24, 1882. The present spire of the church was added at the time these repairs were made.
     In April, 1883, the Rev. S.H. Johnston resigned, but the Rev. Mr. Estabrooke continued his monthly services. During Aug., that year, services were conducted by the Rev. Mr. Bell of Iowa City.
     From 1883, for a period of 10 years, the church was served by a rapid succession of priests. A call was extended to and accepted by the Rev. Archibald Van Antwerp of East Des Moines. He entered upon the charge Sept. 1, 1883, resigning Nov. 10, to be followed by several pastors.
     In 1888, the local congregation joined with the Episcopal Congregation in Spirit Lake in securing the Rev. Robert J. Walker to serve both missions. During the next 5 years, the church was served by two priests: the Rev. Lyman Parker McDonald, who resigned in 1891 due to ill health of his wife; and the Rev. Joseph DeForest. Also, during this period, Mr. T.R. Crawford, senior warden since the organization of the parish, and Mr. J.J. Robbins, also senior warden and member of the initial vestry, as well as superintendent of the church school, died.
     On Dec. 3, 1893, the Rev. W.T. Jackson, Ph.D., of Iowa City, held services here, and in Algona the following week. He was extended a call and accepted the rectorship of the parish. At this time, Trinity Church and St. Thomas Church, Algona, were jointly supporting Dr. Jackson. This practice was discontinued, and Dr. Jackson soon assumed full-time responsibility for the local congregation. On Oct. 7, 1894, Dr. Jackson was ordained priest here in Trinity Church by the Rt. Rev. W.S. Perry. Dr. S.W. Watson presented the candidate and preached the ordination sermon. The Venerable I. McElroy, Archdeacon of Waverly, was also present and assisted in the service. At this time also, the Bishop appointed Dr. Jackson to serve on the Board of Examining Chaplains of the Diocese of Iowa. On Dec. 1, 1909, Dr. Jackson resigned, to be followed by Rev. H.M. Babin and the Rev. Charles Maltas.
     It was in Oct., 1915, that Dr. LeRoy Titus Weeks became rector and served the parish for the next 10 years. He was an outstanding individual, beloved by all the townfolk, as well as by his own parishioners.
     Two Englishmen followed him: The Rev. Joseph Snowden, and the Rev. F. Thorwald Eller; and both of them were called back to serve their family parishes in England.
     Through the depression years, the parish became a mission, aided by the diocese, and a succession of men, living at either Spencer or Estherville acted as priests-in-charge. Most of these men served four cures: Spencer, Estherville, Algona and Emmetsburg. This dropped to 3 when Estherville and Sprit Lake were given a priest of their own.
     The church rectory was again used, having been rented in the meantime, when one priest was put in charge of Spencer, Algona and Emmetsburg. The Rev. Paul J. Davis of Cedar Rapids, just out of seminary and newly married, came to Trinity in the Fall of 1949. Father Davis is now the Executive Secretary of the Diocese of Iowa.
     The church school and church were growing, and plans were made for a parish hall, to be built on to the north wall of the church. This was built by the Jackson Construction Co., newly organized by Wm. and Robins Jackson, grandsons of the Rev. W.T. Jackson.
     Negotiations had been going on for some time over the sale of the old rectory, and when the Rev. Kent Pineo came in July, 1954, an apartment was rented for him and his bride, and the rectory was sold to St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church. The Rev. Mr. Pineo was ordained to the priesthood in Trinity Church Feb. 2, 1955, and in Sept. , 1956, he left to work with young people in Tenn.
     In July, 1957, the Rev. Donald E. Baustian, Deacon, took over services and a new rectory was purchased at 803 State Street. The Rev. Mr. Baustian was then ordained to the Priesthood at St. Thomas Church in Algona in Dec., 1957, and continued to serve both in Algona and Emmetsburg until June, 1964, when he moved to Fairfield.
     Fr. Baustian was succeeded by the Rev. Milo D. Dailey, Deacon, who resided in Algona, but continued the arrangement of serving the congregations in both towns. The Rev. Mr. Dailey was ordained to the priesthood in Trinity Church, by the Rt. Rev. Gordon V. Smith, Bishop of the Diocese of Iowa, in Dec., 1964.
     Father Dailey resigned his position here in June, 1968, and on July 1, 1968, the Rev. Thomas W. Gwinn, Deacon, from Sioux City, arrived to take charge. He and his wife are living in the vicarage at 803 State. Father Gwinn is also serving St. Thomas Church in Algona.
     (The above history was submitted by The Rev. Thomas W. Gwinn, with editing by Title Atlas Co.)


    The Graettinger United Methodist Church had its beginning back in 1891 when there were only about 30 people in the town of Graettinger and only 6 store buildings in the business section. Since there was no church, the first service was held in the depot, conducted by a Methodist pastor. A minister named H. Austin, who had charge of  what was called the Swan Lake Circuit, held service in homes and the school on the hill.
    In 1892, a store building was vacated and was thereafter used as a meeting place until our first church building was erected. In the Fall of 1896, Rev. T.S. Bassett came as our resident pastor. He and his family lived above the George Hardware Store. In 1897, the Methodist Episcopal Church of Graettinger was incorporated and plans were made for erecting a church building. A lot was bought from and partly donated by Dr. Graettinger, founder of the town. That summer found the men and Rev. Bassett busily engaged in digging rock from the land on the east side of the river and south of the road. In one day, the men hauled 65 loads of rock ready for the foundation. On Oct. 17, 1897, the church was completed and dedicated.
    The summer of 1901, the congregation was busy building an 8-room parsonage on a lot donated by Flannery Brothers.
    With some ups and downs over the years, the congregation again made some plans for a church building. With a growing congregation, the women of the church purchased, in 1941, the first bond for a new church. An intensive drive or drives for pledges finally brought fulfillment of our dream for a new church, which was begun on Sept. 27, 1951, and in 1958, this church was dedicated.
    With the building debt completely paid, in 1958, we looked forward to the day when we would again raise funds to add education classrooms to the church. In the fall of 1965, plans were discussed and arrangements made to provide this additional space. In June, 1967, construction of the church addition (which doubled the space) was begun. A ground breaking service was held June 18, 1967 and the building was completed and a consecration service was held on Mar. 17, 1968.
    We are grateful for the past blessings upon our church and for the dedication of our pastors: Reverends H. Austin; F.L.Buckwalter; E.J. Bristow; A.A. Wilcox; T.S. Bassett; C.W. Kennedy; E.G. Clark; Thomas Potter; G.B. Malone; E.L. Stevens; W.G. Bennett; G.F. Fifield; W.A. Winterstein; Clyde Kuhn; F.W. Howlett; A.R. Cuthbert; E.M. Cathcart; H.C. Riley; J.A.E. Cunningham; C.J. Mekkelson; I.C. McNulty; Fremont Faul; Carl Hammer; Arthur Bottom; W.G. Bohi; F.W. Whitford; J.H. Miller; Arthur Rasmussen; R.E. Hodgkin; John Amundsen; George E. Pingle; R.O. Grote; C.F. Curtis; And Ronald Swedberg.


   It seems that there are no definitive records to show when the first religious services were held in the vicinity of Ayrshire.
    Under the direction of the Rev. Frank Moore, the church was built in 1889, and dedicated in 1890. In 1893, Ayrshire became a station rather than a circuit.
    In 1916, an intensive program of remodeling was carried out. The basement was dug and the sanctuary doubled in size.
    At the present time, the Ayrshire Church is together with the Curlew Church.


    The Methodist Episcopal Church of Ruthven had its beginning in what was known as the Harris School House, which was built the summer of 1872, in the southwest corner of the northeast quarter of Sec. 8 of Highland Township, or about 1 -1/2 miles north and 1/2 mile east of the town of Ruthven. This school house, which received its name from its location across the road from the Charles Harris homestead, was in the center of the settlement that existed at that time. With the completion of the school house, there arose a demand for some form of spiritual education along with the work of the public school system, and when autumn came, it found both a thriving school and a growing church housed in this one-room structure. Each worked in harmony for the best interests of the neighborhood.
    Rev. Horace Scott, who took up a homestead on the south shore of Lost Island Lake, is credited with being the organizer of this early church, the first in this part of the county, and while he, at that time, was not an ordained minister, he took much interest in the church work and he often supplied the pulpit when the congregation was in need of a pastor. He was a member of the Baptist Church but was ordained in the Christian Church in 1883. Rev. Scott passed away in May, 1895, and was buried in Crown Hill Cemetery at this place.
    According to church records, Rev. Brenton Webster was pastor in this locality from Oct., 1872 until Oct., 1873. Rev. J.M. Woolery was pastor from Jan., 1875 until Oct., 1877. It is not definitely certain who served the Methodist constituency during the latter part of 1873 and 1874. Rev. Kettlewell, a Baptist minister, and Rev. Hawley, a Christian Church minister were among the ministers who came to hold services in the Harris school in 1874.
    Thomas B. Stokes, who is known as the first postmaster at Ruthven, was also the first Sunday School Superintendent in the Harris School Church. The post office was then located in Mr. Stokes residence on the hill west of town, and it is related that he would stop at the railroad station and get the sack of mail and take it along with him to the Harris School on Sunday mornings. Then he would open the mail sack and hand out the mail to those to whom it was addressed, if they were present. it is likely that his accommodation along the line of being the community's first rural mail carrier, even though he covered his route only once a week, helped increase the church attendance, for we find the Methodists moving to Ruthven the next year for a larger building to accommodate their growing membership.
    Among the early settlers who attended the services regularly at the Harris School House we find the following: Horace Scott and family, and Amos Miller, Sr., and family; George Hamm and family; Charles Harris and family; Joseph Somes and family; T.R. McLaughlin and family; Silas Ryder and family; Edson Curtiss and family; J.K. Oliver and family; John Crookshank and family; John A. Anthony and family; Alman Needham and family; D.A. Goff and family; Alexander Ruthven, Sr. and family; Thomas B. Stokes and family and several other families of the neighborhood attended this church now and then.
    The early church was largely interdenominational with the pastors favoring either the Methodist or Baptist rituals as the case may be, until the pastorate of Rev. A.J. Beebe in 1878. Rev. Beebee was a devout Methodist, and evidently seeing the need of uniting the Harris School Church with some permanent church organization, he linked the congregation with the Methodist conference, and it has continued under this denomination without interruption to this day.
    With the coming of the Milwaukee Railroad in 1878, there developed a sentiment for moving the church to Ruthven where there would be better accommodations and a more central location. Consequently, the next year, we find the Methodists holding their Sunday services in what was known as the Skevington Hall, which was located a short distance east of the present Methodist Church building, and church services came to an end at the Harris School House.
    Rev. A.J. Beebee reported, in 1878, the first time that the Ruthven Methodist Church appears in the conference minutes, that there were 41 members and 9 probitioners in the charge which, at that time, extended as far south as the town of Mallard. The first church trustees were: Horace Scott, Edwin Colton, H.L. Snow, D.G. Greer and Alexander Ruthven. With the building of a one-room school house in Ruthven in the fall of 1881, the Methodist Church headquarters were moved from Skevington Hall to the school house. According to the records, the Methodist Church of Ruthven was incorporated Nov. 8, 1881, under the pastorate of Rev. A.J. Langdell.
    The church continued to grow and in 1884, under the pastorate of Rev. J.M. Woolery, the church board decided to build a church building of their own on the lots where the present Methodist parsonage now stands, just across the corner. The first Methodist church building was a modest structure, about 32 x 50' in dimension, that faced the east. The next few years witnessed a very creditable growth in both the membership and the attendance at the regular Sunday services, until the little church taxed beyond its capacity to accommodate those who came to worship under its roof. More room was needed, so under the pastorage of Rev. O. S. Bryan, this church building was moved back from the street, and a new addition of approximately 50x60' was built onto the front of this first church building.
    In keeping pace with the progress of the community and needs of a continually growing membership, plans were made in the spring of 1914, for building the present brick structure, which stands on the site of the first school building in Ruthven. Donations amounting to $8300 were received for this purpose on the day following Easter Sunday in 1914, and from then on it was not long until enough money had been subscribed to insure its erection. This brick church was completed in 1915, and the old frame church building was torn down and part of the material was used to construct the parsonage which now stands in its place. This new church building was dedicated with impressive ceremonies on Sunday, July 11, 1915, under the pastorate of Rev. W.O. Tompkins.
    A tornado, coming from the west on Tuesday evening, June 19, 1934, at about 10:30, struck this church building and caused considerable damage to the structure. The loss was covered by insurance and this insurance company put a crew of men to work at once to repair the damage, and the church was restored to its original condition and nicely redecorated on the inside. The work was completed in time for the rededication on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1934.
    In 1936, the name of the church was changed to The 1st Methodist Church. In 1959, a new educational unit was added to the present church and dedicated then. In 1968, the name was just changed again, and the church is now called The United Methodist Church.


     Early in 1871, several enthusiastic Congregationalists organized a Sunday School and held church services in the "Old Town" of Emmetsburg, a village on the Des Moines river about 1 -1/2 miles northwest of the present city. On Feb. 12, 1872, at a meeting in the Valley House, Articles of Incorporation were signed by 12 members and trustees were selected. Thus was the organization perfected for the first Protestant Church in Palo Alto county. On Oct. 20, 1872, an Ecclesiastical Council was convened with pastors present from the Congregational Churches at Algona, Humboldt, and Spencer, and the church was duly constructed in an inspiring devotional service.
    In those early days, the church meetings were held in the old schoolhouse near the river, or at the homes of the members. The "Old Town" was moved up to the new site on the hill by the lake in 1874. The first church was built in 1880, a rectangular building 30 by 40 feet with a vestibule and belfry, costing $1500. In 1896, the present brick church building was erected on the same location. It was a time of financial depression, but the devoted members, in their Christian zeal, rose above all obstacles in building a beautiful and commodious structure that has been the church home for all these years.
    The first church parsonage was built in 1884, and the new and larger parsonage on the same site in 1908; and in 1912, the church grounds were enlarged by the purchase of additional lots on the north. In 1950, a remodeling program was undertaken, a large fireside room and kitchen were provided in the basement for social occasions, the Sunday school rooms and the chancel and choir loft of the church remodeled, a pastor's study provided, and the entire church redecorated and improved with modern lighting and other equipment. The church is free from debt.

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