Buena Vista County, IA
When that part of the county which lies near Alta was settled in 1870 and the years that followed a great number of the new families that arrived were of Scandinavian birth, and they came from Rockford and Chicago, Illinois. They located in Nokomis and Elk townships, while a few secured homes in Maple Valley. There were also a few who came directly from their native land.
Being a religious people, and many of the Swedish people having been connected with the Lutheran Augustana Synod in Illinois, it is no wonder that they felt the need of a church in their new home, and consequently, on the 14th day of May, 1874, a meeting was held at the home of A. F. A. Rokkan, to consider the organization of a church. Sixteen families were represented. At this meeting C. J. Peterson, a licensed layman, presided and N. O. Nelson acted as secretary. The Norwegian settlers took an active part in the movement, Mr. Rokkan being a Norwegian, and some are yet closely affiliated with their Swedish "cousins."
The constitution by the Augustana Synod was adopted, an application for membership in the Synod was forwarded and soon the organization was an established fact. Among the official board and charter members were A. P. Nelson, O. F. Hultgren, and Simon Ohlson, who were elected deacons, and A. Leander, Olof Anderson and J. O. Sjostrum, trustees. Of the charter members only three families remain here at this time, being A. M. Johnson, O. P. Hultgren and N. H. Peterson. Mr. Johnson withdrew in 1882.
During the same year plans for a church were selected and an edifice twenty by twenty-six feet, in the lot where the present church now stands, was erected. This small building was used for numerous purposes, being at one time occupied as a school. It is now the home of Gust Lund, and stands to the south of the church property. It was the first church erected in Alta.
The congregation soon outgrew the first church building, and in 1881 the present structure was built, at a cost of forty-seven hundred dollars. It was remodeled two years ago, and is yet in a fine state of repair.
During the same year a cemetery lot was secured by the Swedish people. P. G. Peterson represented the railroad land company here and he presented the congregation with five acres. In 1881 it was decided to permit the Norwegians and Danish people to share the cemetery, and the title was changed to that effect. An association was incorporated, a provision of which is that two members of each nationality shall act as trustees.
Mr. A. Kindwall, who still lives four miles northwest of Alta, served as leader for the congregation from 1875 until 1879, when a resident pastor was desired, and a call was extended to Rev. Henning Jacobsen, In 1882 Rev. C. O. Olander accepted a call and served until 1885. He found the congregation heavily in debt for the new church which had been erected in 1881, but proceeded at once to clear off the incumbrance [sic]. This involved many sacrifices by the devoted members, and it is related that at one time a brother mortgaged his farm in order to be surety for the church debt. But by hard effort the church was paid for, and the thanks of the congregation due to Rev. Olander who, is still living at Port Arthur, Ontario, engaged in missionary work among his countrymen. During Rev. Olander's pastorate here he lived in the old church for a time, but in 1884 the present parsonage was built.
Mr. Olander was succeeded by Rev. J. E. Rehnstrom, who remained until 1890 when he removed to Lockport, Illinois, where he died shortly after. The church was strengthened during his stay.
Rev. M. P. Oden came in 1890 and for ten years gave his best efforts to the church, which increased membership steadily. He left in the fall of 1900 and is now living at Kackley, Kansas. Rev. C. G. Lundell was pastor from 1901 until 1908 when he accepted a call to the church at Algona where he is now stationed. After Mr. Lundell's departure students from the Augustana Seminary filled the pulpit until July 3, 1908, when Rev. J. O. Kindstrom arrived and is the present pastor.
A flourishing Ladies Aid society, and a young people's society, under the name of The Luther League, are connected with the church, aiding in a material and social way.
For some years a Swedish school has been conducted during the summer months, which has been well patronized by the children of the church.
It is interesting to note that at the close of 1874 there were twenty adult members and eleven children in the church. At the present time there are two hundred and five adults and eighty children.
The present official board is constituted as follows: Board of deacons: C. A. Bodine, Swan Larson, William Peterson, Peter Lindquist, C. J. Lindberg and John Widen. Trustees: C. J. Larson, Gust Helgerson, Lars Larson, J. P. Hultgren, G. F. Peterson and John Wilson. Mrs. E. W. Johnson is organist.
Extracted from: Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. "Alta." Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 159-61.
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