First Evangelical Lutheran Church, McGregor
The merger of two churches in 1936:

Norwegian Lutheran church aka Stavanger church
Swedish Lutheran church aka English Lutheran church aka Swede Ridge church


Stavanger church

Norwegian Lutheran church aka Stavanger church

Stavanger church (Parish House) is located 4 miles south of
McGregor on the Great River Rd.

Swedish Lutheran church on Swede Ridge

First Evangelical Lutheran church aka Swede Ridge church

5 mi. south of McGregor in Sec. 10, Mendon twp.
This serves as the main church building.


First Scandinavian Settlers Came in 1853; Built Church in About 1861

The first Scandinavian settlers came here in 1853 and settled in the hills and valleys south of town (McGregor). On Sundays these settlers would meet in the homes and would take turns reading a sermon from the book of sermons called the "Postill". Then a travelling missionary preacher, Elling Eilson, walked out from McGregor one day, having heard of this Lutheran settlement.

It was said that some of the women "shed tears of joy as now they could hear the sermons preached in their mother tongue." Pastor Eilson came a good many times after that, as did other Lutheran ministers.

It is not definitely known in what year the First Norwegian Lutheran church was built but it is believed to be about 1861. The same little frame church that stands today was built by those pioneers.

The Norwegian language was used altogether until 1900 when the afternoon service would be in the English language. After about 25 years the Norwegian language was dropped altogether.

The charter members in 1863 were: Erick Peterson, John Larson, Thron Peterson, Allen Hansen, Peter Dolfsan, Andrew Erickson, Carl Sjornand, John Lewis and Christopher Johnson.

Later members up to about 1880 were, Arne Long, Christian Oleson, Esten Long, Lars Simpson, Gustav Halverson, Ole Simpson, Haaken Eggen, Bernt Oleson, Ole Eggen, Joseph Hendrickson, Henrick Larson, John Bratsberg and Joseph Swenson.

The Swedish people of the Ridge settlement also wanted a church of their own and the Swedish Lutheran church was built about five years later just a half a mile away from the First Lutheran church. The first service held in this church was the Christian service in 1886. The tower and bell were added later.

The early members of this church included the following, some with families: E.O. Erickson, Charley Peterson, O.A. Long, Mathias Larson, S.J. Johnson, Andrew Anderson, Wm. Lindgrain, Anders Nelson, Olaf Larson, O. Bakman, M. Danielson, Peterson Erickson, O.F. Erickson, Andrew Trygg, G.A. Larson and Peter Peterson.

The English language came into use more and more with the new generations until it was decided to unite these two churches, which was done in 1936. The Swedish Lutheran church had become known as the English Lutheran church.

The North Iowa Times of October 29, 1936, said: "The English Lutheran and the First Lutheran churches have merged and the English Lutheran church has been endowed with a new name, to be known as the First Evangelical Lutheran church of McGregor. The First Lutheran church is to be called the "Parish House."

On Easter Sunday, March 28, 1937, Rev. O.R. Haugstal was installed as pastor of the combined churches and he is still serving in that capacity. The ladies' aid societies and Luther leagues were also merged in 1937.

Both churches are standing and except for interior remodeling and redecorations to meet the changing needs, are the same as they were built by the pioneers. The newer church is used for worship services and the Parish House is the place for meetings and social gatherings of the group.

~The North Iowa Times, Thursday, November 29, 1956 (Centennial Edition)
~transcription by S. Ferrall for Clayton co. IAGenWeb


McGregor Church to Celebrate 150 Years
by Lucy Rodenberg, freelance writer

McGregor-area members of the little Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, rural McGregor, are gearing up to honor the Church's 150th anniversary with an open house, September 24. The event will continue Sunday with a worship service at the present First Lutheran Church, also known as the Swede Ridge Church, a short distance from the Norwegian Church.

The little Norwegian Church was built in 1861. Services were held before that date in various homes after the first Scandinavian settlers arrived in McGregor in the 1840s. The settlers built the little frame church after a traveling missionary preacher walked from McGregor to hold worship several times. Pastor Elling Eilson was the first of the several Lutheran ministers that came to the little settlement.

The Norwegiaan language was used at the little church until about 1900, with the afternoon service in English beginning at that time; soon after, both services were in English.

The church was a member of the Elings Synod from the time of its beginning until 1876 when it became a part of the Hauges Synod. Records show a membership of about 40; three trustees were elected November 6, 1863.

The first recorded baptism was that of Minette Eggen, daughter of Ole and Olive Eggen in 1884 though it's believed earlier baptisms were held but not recorded. The last recorded baptism is that of a McGregor resident, Gerald Henkes, son of Carrol and Irene Hultgren Henkes and a great-grandson of the Eggens.

The first recorded confirmation class was in 1877 with the last class confirmed in 1936.

The wear and tear of Nature's passing throughout the years, and after the 1969 deaths of two lifelong members, Peter Peterson and his son, Tilfred, the congregation decided to restore the building. The Peterson families pledged a substantial amount of funds from the estates of Peter and Tilfred. Memorial letters were sent to those believed would be interested in the project.

In 1970 the building was raised and a new foundation laid with rocks gathered from the roadsides. Floor joists were replaced, new siding placed, pews obtained from other churches, and the interior was painted. Light fixtures were replaced when possible with kerosene lamps.

~Clayton County Register, Wednesday, September 21, 2011
~transcription of selected excerpts from the full article by S. Ferrall for Clayton co. IAGenWeb


1936 Ladies Aid Society

McGregor: The Ladies Aid society of the English Lutheran church met at the home of Mrs. Severn Johnson for the December meeting. Mrs. Anna Tyrgg conducted the devotions, which were followed by the following program:

Song by Miss Clara Davis.
Song by Mrs. Hulda Johnson and Mrs. Albert Halberg.
Recitation by Mary Lou Johnson.
Reading by Miss Marie Davis.
Song by Mrs. Albert Franz.

Election of officers for the new year was also held with the following results:

President - Mrs. Albert Franz
Vice-President - Mrs. Louis Larson
Treasurer-Secretary - Mrs. Ellen Ricketts

The next meeting will be on New Year's day at the home of Mrs. Carl Carlson, with Mrs. Andrew Hultgren and Miss Clara Davis as the program committee.

~Clayton County Register, Wed., 18 Dec. 1935
~contributed by Reid R. Johnson


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