Our Saviour's Lutheran Church

129 Harris Ave South,  P.O. Box L

  Park River, ND 58270



History of OSLC

Est. 1889

History of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church

     In the later 1880's, as the Dakota Territory was being settled, many of the pioneer families met in homes or other places large enough to accommodate small groups.  Rev. C.A. Flaten, an itinerant pastor from Grafton, conducted occasional services in these facilities.  The need for systematic worship services and adequate building for worship became apparent, resulting in the formation of new congregations, with new churches. 

     In 1889, the Lutherans of Park River decided to band together and form a more permanent congregation and on December 15, of that year an organizational meeting was held at the home of John Oftesdahl.  The meeting was chaired by Pastor M.E. Holseth, who was serving the pleasant Valley Church at this time.  Others present at this organizational meeting were C.L. Finneseth, Carl J. Dahl, C.J. Pederson, Ole E. Hasle, Reier Torgerson, John O Hamre, and Ole Ouverson.  These men, with their families, formed the nucleus of the new church.  Carl J. Dahl, John Oftesdahl, and Ole Hasle were elected the first trustees;  Ole Ouverson, secretary and John O. Hamre, treasurer.  C.L.Finneseth, C.J. Pederson, and Reier Torgerson were appointed as a committee to approach other churches in Park River for permission to hold services in their buildings.

     In 1890, a constitution was drawn up and accepted on April 20.  The name chosen was "Var Frelsers Meninghed," which roughy translated to Our Saviour's Congregation.  Pastor Holseth was called to be the first pastor and he served until 1892.  Pastor Holseth also served the Pleasant Valley and Golden Congregations, at a salary of $100 per year.  At this time, Our Saviour's had a total of 50 members.  The Dakota Territory had also been divided into two states, North and South Dakota, which were admitted to the Union in 1889.

In 1892, Pastor Holseth resigned and Rev. Th.H. Larson was called to serve the congregations.  He stayed until 1897.  During this period, specifically 1895, at a March meeting, the congregation decided to build their own church with whatever funds they had available.  A building committee was comprised of C.L. Finneseth, C. Dahl, and T.T. Thompson.  Sam Holland was elected supervisor for construction of the new church.

     Lots for the new church were purchased from C.H. Honey on what was then the very outskirts of town.  It was a very simple building, with no furnishings, but it was their own.  Prior to this, they had been holding their church services in the Presbyterian and Baptist churches.  The church bell was presented to the church congregation on May 20, 1899, by the Young Ladies Society of Park River.  In 1900, it was decided that the the church bell should be rung 15 times before services, which were to be held at 10:30am and 7:30pm.

    When Pastor Larson resigned in 1897, Rev. M.N. Knutson accepted the call and service until 1900.  In 1900, the Lutheran Free Congregation in Park River was invited to join our Saviour's and they accepted.  On April 5, Articles of Incorporation were drawn up and sent to Bismarck.  A charter was issued and framed for safekeeping.  The minutes of October 20, 1900, indicated that after the merger of Our Saviour's and Park River Free Congregation and all payments were made on loans and everything was ready for incorporation, secretary Ed Herwick made the report of the meeting in this way: "May the congregation, now that the heavy burden of debt is lifted from our shoulders, thrive and go forward.  That the work may be done in peace and united between the members and all small problems be set aside.  The old debt is paid, may also everything else that is old be forgotten dead and buried."

    Rev. Olav Guldseth accepted a call to Our Saviour's in late 1900 and served until 1910, when he resigned to become secretary of Home Missions in our Synod with headquarters in Minneapolis.  In 1901, Pastor Guldseth had received a call from the Garfield congregation.  Our Saviour's gave him permission to accept for one year.

    In 1902, C.J. Reinartson brought up the subject of a new parsonage.  A committee of two was named to work with Pleasant Valley and Golden to sell the old parsonage.  Christ Reinartson bought the house for $1,050, with the congregation having free rent until November 1, or $1,100 outright. Several houses were for sale and looked at, but it was decided to build.  After the sale of the old parsonage in 1902, plans were made to build a new one the following year.  Lots across the intersection from the church were purchased from Towle and Farup for $200.  T.T. Thompson, E. Herwick, Ole Hasle, C. Bjerdan, T. Ostboe, and Pastor Guldseth served on the parsonage building committee.  At a cost of $2,775, a house and barn were built,  $12.50 for trees planted, and $33.50 for light fixtures (paid by the Ladies Aid), for a total cost of $3,021.30, including the three lots.  With pledges of $958 and paid up money of $886, a debt of $1,519.71 was left on the parsonage.  Since Pastor Guldseth was also serving Pleasant Valley, Golden and East Forest River Congregations as well, and they did not wish to share the expense of building the parsonage, they did agree to pay rent yearly to Our Saviour’s.  The pastor and his family moved into their new home on August 1, 1903.

     That same year, chancel furnishings and pews were installed in the church, the interior was finished and dedication services were held in August, by Rev. Dahl, president of the Synod.  In 1904, electric lights were installed in the church, courtesy of the Ladies Aid.

    With Rev. Guldseth’s resignation in 1910, Rev. George Shurson was called, but he served for only one year, leaving for reasons of ill health.  During his one year, he introduced services in the English language, holding them once a month.  Heretofore, services had been held exclusively in Norwegian.  In July 1910, the pastor’s salary was set at $900 per year, plus free housing and plus special offerings.  It was suggested Our Saviour’s pay $250, Pleasant Valley $250, Golden Valley $250, and East Forest River $150.  Golden decided to pay $225.

     Rev. J.A. Bjerke answered the call in 1911.  During his time of service, the first Lutheran Humnaries were purchased in 1913.  At the annual meeting in January 1913, the pastor reported that during 1912, there had been 14 baptisms, 6 confirmed, 3 marriages, 7 burials, 61 had communed, there had been 66 regular worship services (3 in English).  In October 1915, Pastor Bjerke informed the congregation that he had bought 10 Bibles and given to the confirmands from the congregation.  The congregation decided to pay for them.  In 1916, discussion was held on cleaning and fixing up the church.  It was decided to paint, do some remodeling, and to wash and oil the floor.  A committee of three was appointed, namely Mrs. A Finneseth, Mrs T.T. Thompson, and Mrs. J.J. Marifjeren.  Some discussion had also been held in building a new church, but the Ladies Aid had offered to pay for a basement under the old church and after much discussion, it was decided to build this basement, with the help of of the Ladies Aid, and also do other repair and remodeling work.  Upon completion of the projects, a re-dedication of the church was held in 1919.  During this time, the organist resigned and the pastor and trustees were to find another organist.  In 1917,  Gudrun Thorson was hired.  Rev. Bjerke resigned in 1922.

     In 1922, the Rev. S.J. Strandjord, accepted the call to serve Var Frelsers and remained in that capacity until 1929.  For the next two years, the church was without a pastor, being served occasionally by Rev. Knutson of Fordville, and a Rev. Dordahl, who resided in Park River at the time.

     In June 1931, Rev. L. Nypen, a recent seminary graduate, accepted a call to serve the parish.  At the annual meeting in January of that year, the women were granted the right to vote.  In 1933, a committee composed of Rev. Nypen, Olaf Malde, O.P. Olson, and Thomas Severson was appointed to translate the constitution from Norwegian to English and make such revisions as deemed necessary.

     During the 1930’s, it was difficult for the church to meet expenses.  On one occasion, Pastor Nypen donated $45 of his salary so the church could start the new year of 1934 without a deficit.  The envelope system of collection was tried but few were willing to use it.  It took another 10 years before it came into general use. 

     In 1938, a memorial for Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Walker, long-time members, was received from the Walker children.  It amounted to $500, to be paid at $100 per year with $50 applied to the pastor’s salary and $50 as an outright gift to the pastor.  Another memorial for Mr. & Mrs. Walker and their daughter Rose, was a gift of 20 hymnaries, given by Bertha Walker. 

     Rev. Nypen resigned in August 1942, and a call was issued to Rev. John B. Rockne, who accepted and came on April 18, 1943.  In November 1943, fire damaged the church to the extent of nearly $2,899 and services were held in the vacant Methodist church that winter.  The following year, the church was repaired, adding a choir room on the southwest corner, a coal stoker for the furnace, and painting the whole church.  For the first time the church had met all it’s obligations and had a balance in the budget so a $1,000 war bond was purchased.

     From 1941 to 1946, 72 young men and women answered the call of their country and served in World War II.  Of these, all returned with the exception of Clarence Roterud, who was killed in action.

     By 1946, the church building was no longer adequate for the growing congregation and Sunday School.  Discussions on building a new church began and a building committee was appointed including Clarence Lien, Sam Ebbsen, Gabe Sharpe, P.S. Olafson, and Glen Borg, with Earl Olson as treasurer, as a building fund was also started.  This same year, O.P. Olson retired as church treasurer, after serving for 30 years.

     Because the church was growing, and management was growing more complicated, in 1953 a Board of Deacons was established to helping the running of the worship service, etc.  For many years, applications for membership had usually been voted on at the annual meeting of the congregation.  In 1957, that particular job was turned over to the Board of Directors.

    During the next few years, the building of the new church occupied most of the time of the officers and members, raising funds, interviewing architects, making decisions.  The first specifications called for a wood frame at a cost of $100,000.  In 1951 it was decided to go ahead with the building with funds available and to borrow as necessary.  A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October 1951 and work progressed on the basement throughout the winter.  The church was built in an L shap to the north and west of the old church so services went on uninterrupted in the old church.  Before the actual building began, the specifications were changed to a brick building.  When costs of maintenance were compared for brick against wood, the added $10,000 cost for brick was deemed worth it.

     In 1949, the 60th anniversary of the congregation was observed with special anniversary services on August 21.  At the morning service, Dr. Oscar Hanson was the speaker, while the afternoon service took the form of a confirmands reunion, with Rev. S.J. Strandjord giving the address.  The Ladies Aid served a free dinner at noon to over 300 guest.

    In 1950,  a letter was received from the state showing that the church was not incorporated.  This, apparently, had resulted when the constitution had been translated and revised into English and the name changed to Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church.  A special meeting was held on December 4, 1951 to re-organize and new articles of incorporation were filed.

    In 1952, the old church was put up for sale on bids.  The ELC of Lankin bid $200, but the bid was rejected.  In 1953, a price of $2,000  was set for the building and Lankin did buy it, paying $750 for pews and fixtures.  The bell was kept to be installed in the new church. 

     The congregation moved into the basement of the new church in 1953, and worship services and all activities were held there until completion of the upper half in 1954.  Dedication of the new church was held November 14, 1954.

     Rev. Rockne resigned at the annual meeting in January 1954, but agreed to continue until June.  His farewell address was May 4.  A call committee was appointed, but for three months Rev. R.W. Chelman of Minneapolis served the congregation.  Rev. L.E. Smestad arrived in late July and on August 1, 1954 was installed as the new pastor, with his installation being the first service held in the Nave of the new church.  Records indicate that the Marion Meberg/Merle Onstad wedding was the first one held in the Nave of the new church, and that Lynn Meberg was the first baby baptized. 

     At the dedication service held November 14, 1954, Rev. Rockne spoke at the morning service. At the 3:30pm service, Rev. S.J. Strandjord and Dr. Loyal Tallackson gave addresses, and an 8:00pm service of consecration was given by Rev. L. Nypen.

     In 1956, the Board of Trustees was increased from three to nine members,  with staggered elections for three year periods.  This resulted in a constitutional revision again.  During this year, balcony pews were purchased, a public address system was considered, a choir robe fund was established and EMV (Every member Visit) was instituted.  Also the three parish churches, Our Saviour’s, Pleasant Valley, and Golden combined to shared worship services for the winter months of January, February, and March.  In 1957, the S.T.E.P program replaced the EMV.  The Ladies Aid paid for the public address system that was installed in September.  Fifty hymnals were purchased from Hoople for $50, and they gave another 50 free.

    The city of Park River celebrated it’s Diamond Jubilee in 1959, so the church voted to have a float in the parade.  Problems with pews and a leak in the bell tower occupied the church officials.  Pastor Smestad submitted his resignation in September of 1959.  Rev. Nordmark, retired, came to serve the congregation until a new pastor could be called.

     Because of the growth of the congregation and increased duties of the pastor, discussion of having a parish helper began in September 1957, with the result that over the years various interns were assigned to the parish and lay assistants were hired.

     The lay assistants generally assisted the pastor in the youth work, helping with the confirmands, the Board of Education, and Luther Leagues.  Two of the lay assistants went on to seminary and became pastors.  Larry Cudmore became an ordained pastor in 1979 and Lee Laaveg in 1984.

     In 1960, the prospect of building a new parsonage surfaced and a building fund was established.  The congregation also joined the ALC (The American Lutheran Church). Pastor Arne Carlson answered the call and came to serve the congregation in September of 1960.  Another revision of the constitution was proposed.  In 1961, the congregation joined the Lutheran Sunset Home Corporation and remodeling of the Rena (Farup) Hanson home was undertaken by the corporation.  During the summer, the Gideons requested a Sunday in which they could make their appeal.  It was granted and this became a yearly event.  Plans for the Diamond Jubilee, 75 years, were started and a committee appointed.  Plans had been made to have the mortgage paid off in time for the Jubilee but that failed.  The Jubilee was held June 13-14, 1964.  A confirmands reunion was held the evening of June 13, with Rev. J.B. Rockne giving the address.  The anniversary morning service , June 14, was given by Dr. Frederick Schiotz.  A noon dinner was served by Pleasant Valley and Golden ALCW's.

     A mortgage burning ceremony was held June 20, 1965 (eight years ahead of the target date).  Pastor Rockne was invited and attended.  The prospect of finishing the church and putting on a steeple came up.  Committees were appointed and this was accomplished in 1967.  There was still discussion on a new parsonage.  In 1967, a part-time parish secretary was hired to help the pastor.  Golden Valley closed down in October of that year, making it now a two-point parish.

     Rev. Carlson resigned to accept a call to Fisher, MN.  The call committee was appointed and the Rev. Donald Ronning was called and installed in January 1968.  A new parsonage, the M.S. Bateman home, had been purchased for $35,000 and the old parsonage had been sold to Kenneth Melin for $5,000.  The Fellowship room in the church was remodeled into the pastor's study.  With Pastor Ronning's coming, the congregation voted for radio broadcast of one service weekly and live broadcasting over KNDK, Langdon began.  Monthly newsletters were issued.  The radio broadcasts could be sponsored entirely by an individual, or by memorials given for this purpose.  A special fund was soon set up for funding the broadcasts.

     In 1970, colored windows were installed in the sanctuary and chancel and carpeting was installed.  A new constitution was also adopted, with the second reading in 1971.  Remodeling of the church discussions resurfaced in 1972, but nothing came of it.  Plans for the 90th anniversary celebration were brought up in 1974.  Dial-A-Prayer was instituted and continued for two years before being cancelled.

     Proposals surfaced from time to time on Our Saviour's and Pleasant Valley congregations merging and becoming a one-point parish.  Several proposals were made but never came to full agreement.  Pleasant Valley eventually withdrew in 1976, and each congregation became a one-point parish.  This left each church without a pastor.  Pastor Ronning had received a call from rural Hoople so in order to keep him at Our Saviour's it was necessary to issue another call letter, which he accepted and remained until 1980.

     In 1978, the congregation purchased the Gary Johnson home across the street from the church.  Because of the high cost of renovating it, it was torn down and a parking lot was established.  The building committee was still active, but with the 90th anniversary so near, the committee was extended one year.  The 90th anniversary committee was appointed with Pearl & Eugene Loftsgard as general chairpersons.  Early in 1979, a fire escape was installed on the south side of the church to comply with insurance codes.  On June 17, the 90th anniversary celebration was held.  Featured speakers were Dr. Lloyd Svendsbye for the morning service, and Pastor Arne Carlson in the afternoon.

     In July of 1979, Larry Cudmore was ordained as a Lutheran minister.  In an impressive service on July 8th, Larry was ordained at Our Saviour's Church.  While Larry's was not the first ordination conducted in the church, he was the first confirmed member of Our Saviour's Lutheran congregation to enter the ministry.  Other ordinations held at Our Saviour's were Merle Ronning on July 16, 1962 and Lowell Almen on June 11, 1967.  When Our Saviour's was still in the three-point parish, three members of the parish were ordained:  Floyd Lien, Oscar Laaveg, and Donald Flaten.

     Pastor Ronning retired in 1980.  He presented his resignation in January, but agreed to stay on for six months.  His farewell address was given May 4.  Pastor Corliss Rasmusson served as interim pastor until a new pastor could be called.  The call committee was reactivated and Pastor Reuben Jacobson Jr. accepted the call and was installed September 1980.  Pastor Reuben and Kathy Jacobson celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 1981.

     In 1982, reshingling of the church was considered.  It was hoped this would solve the leak in the bell tower which had existed for years and had necessitated much repair work in that area of the church.  Another problem that surfaced often was the scheduling of church services.  With the advent of the radio broadcasting, it was difficult to schedule two services in town, Sunday School, and one service at Pleasant Valley, so over the years there were many re-schedulings for summer and winter months.  When Our Saviour's became a one-point parish, it was decided to have services at 9:00 and 11:00am, with Sunday School from 10:00-10:45am.  This schedule seemed to work very well and became the regular winter schedule, with the summer having only one service at 10:00am.  These revisions of schedules prompted repainting and updating of the highway signs several times.

     As in any active organization there seemed to be a constant revision of the constitutions, or remodeling of the church, or involvement in other activities. 

In 1982, the congregation participated in a PTR (Preaching, Teaching, Reaching) mission.  In 1983, there was another revision to the constitution.  Bi-fold doors were installed in the basement to increase Sunday School space and it was decided to replace windows in the church.  It was first decided to only replace the windows in the bell tower, but interest grew in replacing windows in the whole church with stained glass and arrangements were made with Nelson Window Company of Fargo to replace all the windows with stained glass, symbol design, with the designed done by Randi Wagner.  To pay for them, members could buy one, or a portion of one, for a memorial.  Soon all were sold, with the congregation placing one in memory of John Moan in the choir loft.  These windows were completely installed by Easter 1985.

     In 1980, a special meeting was held to dispense information on a proposed amendment to a national church constitution.  There was a proposal for the formation of a new united church body, joining the American Lutheran church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and the Lutheran Churches of America, making one large Lutheran body, known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  Members of Our Saviour’s, as well as many other rural congregations in the upper Midwest, voted against this merger.  Discussions and meetings went on for years.  The ELCA was formally organized and dame into being January 1, 1988.  Our Saviour’s became a member of this group at that time.

     Plans for the church’s Centennial were started in 1984, but committees weren’t appointed until 1987.  Pearl & Eugene Loftsgard again served as general chairpersons.

     The year 1985 found the congregation forming a governing board to be called the Church Council.  This would include trustees, deacons, officers of all other organizations such as ALCW, Luther League, Board of Education, etc.  Within this framework, committees were set up to deal with various aspects of church business.  During this year, it was voted to purchase Pleasant Valley’s share of the parsonage, giving Our Saviour’s sole ownership.  A LLR (Lutheran Lay Renewal) weekend was proposed for January 1986.  It proved to be very successful, and in March the Oak Grove Choir gave us a beautiful concert.  Also, in early 1986, cushions were installed in the pews.  This was a generous gift in memory of Jim Winther, from his parents, Ben & Lois Winther.  In April, there was a minor fire in the furnace room, causing mostly smoke damage, especially in the third floor Sunday School rooms, necessitating some repair, cleaning, and painting.

     No history would be complete without making a few comparisons.  For instance in 1892, the pastor’s salary was $100 per year, in 1907 it was increased to $260 per year, in 1960 it was $2,400 plus expenses and in 1967, it was raised to $7,000, plus travel, etc.  In 1904, they had a balance in their budget of $113.33, in 1958, the budget was $17,185, in 1964, it was $25,786 and in 1984, it was $121,872.   As previously stated, in 1912, the pastor had performed 14 baptisms, confirmed 6, had 3 marriages, 7 burials, and had conducted 66 regular worship services.  In 1970, the pastor reported 22 baptisms, 11 weddings, 28 confirmands, 15 funerals, 330 hospital calls, and had 268 office calls.  In 1987, there were 21 baptisms, 6 weddings, 16 funerals, and 17 confirmands.  Membership had increased from the first 50 members who organized the church to 1,036 baptized members in December 1987.

     In 1988, the Centennial committees were working diligently to make the 100th anniversary as memorable and successful as the previous celebrations.  Plans of the building committee were moving forward for a new remodeling and addition, which would include an elevator for the convenience of the handicapped.  Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new addition were held on Sunday, June 5, with Bishop Wesley Haugen attending.