Bethesda Lutheran Church

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     The Lutherans started in Jewell in 1887.


After fifty years, Bethesda Lutheran Church of Jewell celebrated.

Those pages telling the history of Jewell's Bethesda Lutheran Church are provided here:

The Histories of Bethesda Lutheran Congregation and its 
Various Auxiliary Organizations Covering the Fifty Year Period from 1887 to 1937

The Congregation

     When the town of Jewell Junction was being built back in the eighties, it had among its inhabitants a small band of sturdy Norwegian pioneer men and women who has immigrated from Norway and who had been raised and reared as Lutherans, who desired to organize and establish a Lutheran Congregation in Jewell.   It was a meager beginning when nine pioneer men jointly issued a call to Pastor N. G. Peterson to serve as their pastor, and to help organize a Norwegian Lutheran congregation in Jewell.   The nine men who had the courage and foresight to start this movement were John Stueland, T. I. Thompson, Halvor E. Westre, Peter O. Sexe, Christian P. Solberg, Jorgen Oppedal, Sven Thompson, Edward Olson and Berthel L. Belleson who affixed their signatures to this letter of call.

     The 9th Sunday after Trinity in the summer of 1887, Pastor N. G. Peterson preached his first sermon, using the old public school building as a meeting house.   This was a great day for the Scandinavian people of Jewell and vicinity who considered it a great privilege to gather about the Word of God and to have a Pastor in their midst to minister to their spiritual needs.

     The first congregational meeting was held at the John Stueland home on August 16, 1887.   At that time a constitution was adopted and the name of the congregation chosen to be Jewell Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation.   At an adjourned meeting on August 31, 1887, the following officers werre chosen; Chairman, Pastor N. G. Peterson, Secretary, John Stueland, Deacons, H. E. Westre, Edward Olson, Trustees, T. I. Thompson and C. P. Soldberg.   At this meeting the question of how much time Pastor N. G. Peterson could give the congregation was discussed and Pastor N. G. Peterson announced that he could not state definitely just how much time he could give the congregation,, but promised to conduct services as often as possible.   In regard to salary no definite sum was fixed but the trustees were delegated to raise whatever they could which would all be given to Pastor N. G. Peterson for his services.

     The first annual meeting was held January 14, 1888.   Some interesting sidelights of this meeting, in view of present conditions, are that it was announced that $40.00 had been gathered for the Pastor's salary for the year 1887, and that $50.00 had been subscribed towards the salary for 1888.   It was also decided that a collection be taken at some future service to pay a small coal bill, and to purchase a record book for the secretary.

     At the second annual meeting held on January 16, 1889, $93.00 were subscribed towards the Pastor's salary for 1889.   At this meeting the question of building a church was also introduced, and at a special meeting on July 15, 1889, it was decided to make an effort to build a church fifty feet long, thirty two feet wide, and eighteen feet in height.   A total of $605.000 was substribed at this meeting and a committee named consisting of Pastor N. G. Peterson, Henry Sexe, and B. L. Belleson to negotiate for the purchaase of the two lots where the church now stands.   It was also decided that as soon as $1200.00 to $1400.00 were subscribed a meeting of the congregation should be called.

     This special meeting was held on January 29, 1890 at which time it was announced that $1208.00 had been subscribed for the building fund.   It was then decided to build a church, and a building committee of six was chosen; namely, S. H. Hagen, Henry Sexe, A. Sexe, T. I. Thompson, Elias Olson and John Stueland.   Several of the members helped by donating labor under the direction of Jacob Berven and Osmond Reisettter, who were engaged to do the carpenter work.

      In the late summer of 1890, the first service was held in the new church building, although it was far from completed.   At a special congregational meeting on September 1st, 1890, a sum of $108.00 was subscribed towards completing the church building.

     At the annual meeting held January 7th, 1891, the congreagation was promised definitely one third of the services of the Pastor and his salary fixed at $200.00   The Ladies' Aid Society came to the aid of the congregation at this time with a donation of $235.00.

     The church was completed in the fall of 1890 and dedicated on the Fifth Sunday after Easter in 1891 by Pastor Chr. O. Brohaugh assisted by Pastors M. G. Hanson, O. Berg, C. C. Holter Missionary H. N. Ronning, I. B. A. Dale, and Lars Harrisville, also the local Pastor N. G. Peterson.   On this day the congregation was free from any debt and had a balance on hand in the treasury of $63.00.

     During the early years of its existence several Danish families joined the congregation and for this reason the congregation changed its name on January 8th, 1890 to Bethesda Norwegian Danish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation.

      On November 29, 1894, Pastor N. G. Peterson resighned as Pastor of the congregation, to accept a call from Chicago.   The congregation was unanimous in urging upon Pastor N. G. Peterson to reconsider his resignation, but he refused to do so.   A call was then sent to Pastor N. G. Hanson who refused.

     The congregation then joined with Tabitha Congregation in Rose Grove and extended a call to Pastor C. J. Eastvold who refused.   A call was then sent to Pastor B. B. Haugan who also refused.

     At this time the congregation joined with the Eagle Grove, Zoar, and Rose Grove congregations in again extending a call to Pastor C. J. Eastvold, who this time accepted the call but could not promise to come until the following fall.   In the maentime the congregation was sevrved by Pastor S. O. Heidal and Student Wing.

     Pastor C. J. Eastvold preached his installation sermon on Sunday, October 11, 1896, but had visited the congregation at three different time during the preceding summer to conduct services.

     The congregation during the first twenty five years of its existence had a steady growth, and twice it was found necessary to provide more room for its services.   In 1899 the church was enlarged with a wing built on the north side, and again in 1906 an extension was built on the west end.   After this remodeling and new interior fixtures, a dedication service was held in the fall of 1906.   At this time the young people of the church bought and installed a fine pipe organ valued at $1200.

     Pastor N. G. Peterson served the congregation from it organization in 1887 until 1895 or approximately eight years, and Pastor C. J. Eastvold from 1896 until 1913 or seventeen years.

     The Ninth Sunday after Trinity in 1912 the congregation held a twenty-five years Jubilee festival, at which Berthel L. Belleson, one of the charter members of the congregation, prepared and read a history of the congregation from 1887 to 1912, in which were stated the foregoing facts and also that the congregation during these twenty-five years had been singularly blessed.   It had enjoyed a rapid growth and been saved from internal strife and discord.

Those who have served the congregation as officers during these first twenty-five years include the following: -- Chairman; Pastor N. G. Peterson and Pastor C. J. Eastvold.

Deacons; H. E. Westre, Edward Olson, John Stueland, S. Stenerson, O. Westre, H. Ostrem, Nels Reierson Richard Nelson, Lars Flokketvedt, Thore Johnson, e. E. Rorem, I. S. Knudson, O. J. Jorstad, Henry Hildahl, N. J. Lohre and Knud Knudson.

Trustees; T. I. Thompson, Sven Thompson, C. P. Soldberg, P. O. Sexe, Elias Olson, S. H. Hagen, H. Ferbitz, Chr. Miller, H. J. Maland, J. J. Herem, Gus Thoreson, J. B. Thompson, O. O. Stageberg, John Stueland, H. E. Westre, Knud Knudson, K. P. Espe, H. O. Hanson, R. Matson, Lewis Mayland, Andrew Westre, Sam Johnson, and Richard Nelson.

Secretary; John Brown, B. L. Belleson, O. Ostrem, Henry Ostrem, E. E. Rorem, S. L. Jacobson, O. O. Stageberg, Gilbert Knudson and J. B. Thompson.

Treasurer; John Stueland, Henry Ostrem, H. Ferbitz, Olaf E. Olson, Righard Nelson, A. H. Danielson, and E. W. Knudson.

     While the congregation was making arrangements for its twenty-fifth anniversary festival which was held on August 1th to 4th in the summer of 1912, Pastor C. J. Eastvold announced his resignation as pastor of the congregation on Sunday, Junly 27th, 1912.

     At this time Pastor C. J. Eastvold was serving four congregations, namely Bethesda, Rose Grove, Clear Lake & Ellsworth, and Zion congregations.   A joint meeting of these congregations was held and it was the unanimous desire of everyone present to ask Pastor C. J. Eastvold to reconsider his resignation.  Pastor C. J. Eastvold responded that he felt it was God's Will that he should move to Dawson, Minn., but promised to take the matter under consideration and report his decision in a few days.   After this consideration, he announced on Sunday, August 10, 1912 that he had definitely decided to let his resignation stand.

      At a meeting held on August 14, 1912 when delegates from all the congregations served by Pastor C. J. Eastvold were present, the question of a division of the charge was discussed.   It was announced that efforts were being made to organize a Lutheran congregation at Williams, and that there was a possibility that Rose Grove congregation would join with Williams and another congregation in the country south-east of Williams in the calling of a pastor and thus establish a new charge.   It was therefore decided tht each congregation elect a committee of five members to meet and make definite arrangements concerning this division of the present charge.

     On Setember 9th 1912, Bethesda congregation held a meeting at which time it was definitely announced that Rose Grove congregation had withdrawn from the present change to join with Williams in the calling of a Pastor.

      This left Bethesda, Clear Lake and Ellsworth, and Zion congregations to constitute the chage left vacant by the resignation of Pastor C. J. Eastvold.   These congregations met and decided to call Pastor Martin Norstad of Minneapolis who accepted the call.

     On Sunday, January 26, 1913 Pastor C. J. Eastvold preached his farewell sermon, and two weeks later on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1913 Pastor Martin Norstad was installed by Pastor C. J. Eastvold as his successor.

     Pastor Martin Norstad served the congregation for appoximately seven years.   During this period which included the World War many changes took place in several ways.   It was a period of time when economic conditions changed tremendously, in fact so radically that it was difficult to keep pace with the changing conditions.   It was also a transition period of great importance as far as the language problem was concerned.

     During the summer of 1918, Pastor Martin Norstad was granted a leave of absence by the congregations he served to answer a call that had come to him to serve his country as Camp Pastor at Camp Funston, Kansas.   Prof. K. O. Eittreim, then President of Jewell Lutheran College, served Bethesda Congregation as temporary pastor during Pastor Martin Norstad's absence.   On June 6, 1918, Pastor Martin Norstad announced his resignation as pastor of Clear Lake and Ellsworth Congregation.   This left Bethesda and Zion Congregations to constitute the charge, and Bethesda Congregation decided to assume the obligation of Clear Lake and Ellsworth Congregation on the condition it was to receive the services of the pastor previouly given to this congregation.

     On Oct. 19, 1919, Pastor Martin Norstad announced his resignation as pastor of Bethesda and Zion Congregations to accept a call from Red Wing, Minn.    On Oct. 21, 1919, a meeting was held to consider the resignation of Pastor Martin Norstad.   At this meeting a resolution was passed by the Congregation requesting Pastor Martin Norstad to reconsider his resignation.   At this time the women in the congregation had no vote, and therefore in order to voice their sentiment, they presented a petition with 171 signatures which was read at the meeting requesting Pastor Martin Norstad to continue his work here as our pastor.   Pastor Martin Norstad took the matter under consideration and a few days later he announced his decision to accept the call from Red Wing.

     On Dec. 4, 1919, a call was sent to Pastor Lars Harrisville at Chicago who declined the call.   On Jan. 1, 1920, the congregation together with Zion Congregation decided to call Pastor J. M. Wick of Red Wing, Minn, who accepted but could not promise to enter upon his duties here until in September 1920 due partly to his position as President of Red Wing Seminary, and partly to an intended trip to Norway during the coming summer.

     Pastor Martin Norstad preached his farewell sermon on Sunday, April 4, 1920.   During the vacancy, Pastor H. A. Okdale then President of Jewell Lutheran College and the neighboring pastors served the congregations.

     Pastor J. M. Wick was installed as pastor on Sunday, Sept. 5, 1920 by Pastor H. A. Okdale.   Pastor J. M. Wick served the congregations for little over three years announcing his resignation on August 13, 1923 to accept a call fro Eau Claire, Wis. and preached his farewell sermon on Sunday, Nov. 4, 1923.

     During the weeks following Pastor J. M. Wick's resignation, the following were in turn called but declined to accept; Pastor Am M. Mannes, Pastor N. Okerlund, and Pastor Carl B. Ylvisaker.  On Oct. 8, 1923, a call was extended to Pastor P. A. Nordsletten of Irene, So. Dak., who accepted and was installed by Dr. H. C. Holm as pastor of Bethesda and Zion congregations on Sunday May 2, 1924.   During the time intervening when the congregation had no regular pastor, Dr. Iver Iverson served the congregation regularly as temporary pastor in addition to his duties as President of Jewell Lutheran College.

     On Sunday July 28, 1929, Pastor P. A. Norsletten resigned to accept a call from Wallingford, Iowa, and preached his farewell sermon on Sunday, Oct. 31, 1929.   The following pastors were then called to serve the congregation but each in turn declined:  Pastor Alvin A. Snesrud, Pastor S. A. Berge, Pastor H. Hodne, and Pastor M. O. Ensberg.   On Nov. 5, 1919, Pastor Carl Opsahl of Lewistown, Montana, was extended a call to serve Bethesda and Zion Congregations which he accepted and was installed by Dr. H. C. Holm on Sunday, March 16, 1930.   He has served Bethesda Congregation as its pastor since that time and is at the present time its pastor.

     Zion Congregation, who joined in the call to Pastor Carl Opsahl, disbanded in January 1936 which now leaves Bethesda Congregation alone to constitute the charge served by Pastor Carl Opsahl.

Important decisions and changes made by the congregation during the last twenty-five year period since 1912 include the following:
 

Language Question

     Prior to Jan 2, 1915 all the Sunday forenoon services were conducted in the Norwegian language.   At the annual meeting held on Jan. 4, 1915 it was decided to alternate the Sunday forenoon services with English and Norwegian with the exception of the three festival days, Christmas, Easter, and Penticost.   Services on these days were to conducted exclusively in the Norwegian language.   On Jan. 1, 1920 this arrangement was changed to include the special Festival days also in alternating the language to be used at these services.

      On Jan. 5, 1926 an agitation for more services using the English language resulted in a decision to conduct all servies in English, but an opposition developed to such an extent that it was found advisable to reconsider this decision on Feb. 2 of the same year.   On Jan 13, 1931, it was decided to conduct all Sunday forenoon services in the English language with the exception of the first Sunday in each month which was to be in Norwegian, with all special holiday services to be in English.   This arrangement continued until Jan 7, 1936 when it was decided to have all Sunday forenoon services and all special festival services exclusively in the English language.   The Sunday evening services during the last twenty year period since about the year 1917 have been conducted exclusively in the English language.
 

Church Building and Parsonage

     It was at the annual business meeting held Dec. 27, 1912 that the congregation first began to consider the building of a basement under the church.   A committee was named at this meeting to consider plans for such an improvement of the church property.   Whenever this matter came up for consideration at subsequent meetings there followed a discussion whether or not it would be advisable to build an entire new church building.   The discussion of this matter at meetings held during the years from 1913 to 1919 finally resulted in the purchase of a practically new modern house from August Kleaveland to be used as a parsonage, which need became very urgent at that time when the pastor had difficulty in renting a suitable house in which to live.

     At a meeting held on Jan. 14, 1918 the matter of securing more and better room for the steadily growing Sunday school was brought up for consideration.   Due to the divided opinion among the members of the congregation whether this improvement should be a new church building or simply a basement under the old church, no definite decision could be reached and this matter was therefore dicussed and postponed from time to time until at a meeting of the congregation held on June 23, 1932 it was definitely decided to build a basement under the old church building and move it south twelve feet, providing the Mission Society and The Builder's Society would authorize the use of their funds for this purpose which they decided to do.   A building committee was elected and the project started in July 1932 and completed in November of the same year.   The new basement was dedicated by Dr. H. C. Holm, the president of Iowa District, on Sunday, November 27, 1932.

     The Congregation with the aid of the Mission Society and expecially The Builder's Society has from time to time provided new interior decorations and equipment, and the most extensive of these was in the spring of 1937 when considerable money was provided for the interior beautifying of the church building.
 

Women's Suffrage

     At the annual meeting held on Jan. 6, 1919 a resolution was introduced proposing to ament the Constitution so as to permit the women who are members to vote at all business meetings of the congregation.   Final action on this question however was not taken until at the annual meeting on Jan. 1, 1921, when the constitution was amended in this respect.
 

The Honor Roll
Bethesda Lutheran Church

     When our country called in 1917, many of the young men and women of our congregation responded and we treasure a many-starred flag honoring those who served their country in the time of war.   Following is the honor roll of those who were in service; the Gold Stars being those who died or were killed in service.

     Gold Stars: Bertin Charles Knutson,  Swen Olson,  Emil Larson,  Odin Olson,  Nels Thompson.

     Rev. Martin Norstad, chaplain; Lilly Olson, Red Cross; Mabel Schlafke, Red Cross; Emma R. Knudson, Y. W. C. A.

     Peter Sexe, Ole Omundson, George Espeland, Halvor Larson, Carl Queensland, E. Gerhard Larson, Omer Ommundson, Harry Stenberg, Eddie Blegelid, Tom Lund, Earl Egland, Nels Challe, Bent Clarence Bentson, Arthur Stangeland, Henry Larson, Anton Peterson, Peter Knutson, Albert Olson, Harry Anderson, Arthur Christianson, Albert Jacobson, George Knudson, George W. Iverson, Arling Thompson, Ephram Borgen, Ingram Kleaveland, John Anderson, Anton Kallem, Julius Larson, Leonard Hanson, Irving H. Knudson, Edward Ostrem, Oscar Christianson, Olene Jacobson, Clarence Iverson, Clarence Stueland, Oscar Ommundson, George Stueland, Elmer Christianson, Henry Lilland, Ernest Andersen, Nels Quam, Ira Espe, James Olson, Oliver . Eittreim, John Estebo, Perry Thompson, Armyl Jacobson, Carl Ostrem, Howard Larson.
 


50th Anniversary Bethesda Lutheran Church - July 25-26 - Jewell, Iowa

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