Eagle Lake Lutheran Church, ELCA  
1650 60th Ave NE                                                                        320-231-3114
Willmar, Minnesota 56201                                                              ellchurch@msn.com
History of Eagle Lake Lutheran Church
      The first attempt to establish a church in this area was made by Norwegian and Swedish immigrants in 1859 under the name New Sweden.

     The first meeting was held at a pioneer home where they decided to build log church.  The first religious services in the Scandinavian Community were conducted by Rev. Peter Carlson of the Union Settlement in Carver County.  His sermon was based on the text of Johannes Evangelism 14:6  " Jesus seger til ham; Jeg er vien og sandheden og livet; der kommer ingen til farderen uden mig."
 
   At first, this congregation included practically all the Scandinavian settlements in Monongalia County. Afterwords the Norway Lake, Lake Prairie and Nest Lake Congregation were organized leaving the name New Sweden to the Eagle Lake settlement.  Just previous to the Indian uprising , the name was changed to Eagle Lake Church.
  
  A large majority of the settlers of Dovre township were members of this church organization, which was served by Rev. Jackson until they were dispersed by the Indian outbreak.  A large number of these settlers never returned to live on their claims where they had endured the hardship of the frontier for a period of five years and where no less than nine of their numbers that became martyrs for their zeal in founding homes in the wilderness and developing the frontier.  No attempt  was made to revive the old church organization.
   
After the treat of uprisings had subsided and the end of the Civil War, homesteaders were returning to the  area and establishing a new community.  Most of those that settled in the Eagle Lake area, in Dovre Township, came from Carver County where they had lived since coming to America from Norway.
  
  The church was organized on October 30, 1867  by farmers in the vicinity of Eagle Lake.  The present church is located on County Road 25 just west of  US Highway 71.  Shortly after the congregation was organized in 1867, members donated logs and labor to build the firs church.  It measured  16 feet by 22 feet.  It was located where the old Church Steeple is now located at the cemetery SW of the Church.  The Rev. T.H. Dahl of Litchfield was called to serve as the first pastor.  His salary was $1 per year per each communicant member. 

    The early settlers were not only interested in spiritual welfare of the community, but also in educating their children.  They organized the first school district in Kandiyohi County in January of 1870,  The school was located across from the church.
  
    In 1873 Eagle Lake and two other congregation, St. John's and Calvary, formed a joint pastorate and voted to build a parsonage.  Rev. Dahl moved there from Litchfield and served the churches until 1874.  He was succeeded by Rev. Ole Paulson.

    The first Sunday school at Eagle Lake Lutheran was organized in 1877.  Church records at that time showed a total membership of 103.  In 1880, the congregation decided to build a new church.  A 26 foot by 40 foot church was built in 1881 at a total cost of $1,669.74.  Rev. Paulson resigned in 1885.  He was succeeded by Martin Hegge.

   In the early 1900's  the Church became associated with the Bethesda Children's Home and Bethesda home for the aged.  In 1905 Eagle Lake became a separate parish from the St. John's and Willmar congregations.  In 1906 the church was enlarged to accommodate a growing membership.  In 1912  a new parsonage was built.

    Before Christmas of 1912 the church was destroyed by fire.  It was rebuilt in 1913 and was located in between the Bethesda cemetery and the Church cemetery.   The total cost was $6,488.91.  A 28 by 40 add was built on the front of the church in 1979.  The cost was $47,699.85

    Eagle Lake Lutheran Church suffered a decline of membership in teer late 60' and early 70's, as fewer younger families with children were joining and our own young people were leaving to further their education or seeking jobs in larger cities.   At which time, we became dependent on pulpit supply and we're barely able to support that.  Many leader in the community feared the church would have to close, but there were those who had not completely lost hope and faith that we would survive.  New home were starting to be built in the neighborhood.  The Church Council was able to work out a joint internship with Calvary Lutheran Church of Willmar for one year.  Worship attendance grew but no rapidly enough to support a full time pastor in the near future.  The Council approached the District Office for help and learned that the United Mission Appeal had certain funds available to aid rural parishes which had declined over the years, but were showing the possibility to revive.  A grant of $25,000 over a three year period was received through the Department of Services and Mission of America.  The intern, Terry Thomas, was called and was ordained and installed as pastor of Eagle Lake December 1978.

An addition to the church was added to the front with a chair lift to assist worshipers to the sanctuary.  It was 28 feet by 40  feet.  The total cost was $47,699.85.                                     
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If you note the date stamp on the above picture, it is September 9, 1998.  The day before it was demolished, saving the steeple.  The steeple is now in the cemetery in the same spot it stood for 85 years.  1913-1998.

The new church was finished in 1994.  5 acres of land was donated for the church and parking lot northeast of the old church on County Road 25. The cost was over $400,000 with savings coming from reinstalling everything we could from the old church.  Stained glass windows and pews being the largest items.  The alter was saved and restored in memory of departed member by the University of Minnesota.  It is now in the vestibule on display.  In 2009, the landscaping was torn out and completely redone.  All labor and materials were donated.  A new roof was installed in 2009; it is a standard shingle over steel backing.  The parking lot is scheduled to have the second coat of blacktopping applied in the spring of 2010.  

Pastors from the beginning                                             Modern era Pastors
T. H. Dahl                 1857-74                                              Terry Thomas           1977-81
Ole Paulson              1874-85                                              Larry Wohlrabe        1981-84 
Martin Hegge            1886-91                                              John P. Gram           1984-87
E.E. Gynild               1891-1910                                          Joel Njos Interim        1987-88
E.O. Larson              1910-20                                              Doug Knick               1988-94
E.E. Gynild               1921-23                                               Ron Nielsen  Interim      1994-95                            
Sjur Rislov                1923-24                                                 Ron Nichols               1994-2006
O.L.Christansen        1924-33                                               Cheryl Berg Interim    2006-07
t.C. Knudson             1933-34                                                Steve Meier           2007- Present
Ingel Hovland            1934-37
Johan Rodvig            1938-39
Karsten Kristenson    1947-53
P.K. Buide                1954-66
George Lundquist      1967-76

Trivia

First burial in the cemetery was that of Mrs. Erick Person in 1869.
The first child baptized in the congregation was Laura Sophia Olson, daughter of Sivert and Bergetta Olson.
The first wedding held at Eagle Lake in the log church was December 23,1874 when Erick Bergeson and Anna Lina Olson were united in marriage.
The first confirmation class in Eagle Lake congregation was in 1868 when Rev. T.H. Dahl confirmed a class of four.
Note:  This is a page in progress.  If you have any ideas about this page or would like to help develop this page, please contact Roy Pedersen at rap@tds.net  Thanks for your interest!

 

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