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Icelanders in Lyon County Part III

The Rev. Jerome Anderson then came to take over the Minneota and Lincoln County parishes. He was not enthusiastic about coming out for services in Lincoln County because we only had nine in church. In spite of this we met our financial obligations, due to some substantial contributors. In 1966 we voted to disband, and the people of our congregation scattered to other parishes.

I helped clean the Lincoln County church, still in very good physical condition, and I prepared a program for services there May 2, 1971. Rollie sent a letter to all former members of the Lincoln County church, inviting them. That morning Holy Communion was held at St. Paul’s at 9:30 and then most of the Minneota congregation went to the Lincoln County church for a second service at 11 a.m. Dr. Larson read the service and Rollie Amundson gave the sermon, quoting journalists on the decline of rural parishes.

The attendance at St. Paul’s that morning was 72, but at the Lincoln County Church it was 108. I was back at my pump organ and we had eight children in the choir gathered in front. Every seat in the church was filled, and there were full chairs crowded into the back and in the aisles. It was again a big day for our little church. A short time later we had a songfest and a picnic out there with Rollie as master of ceremonies. Again the parking lot on the south side of the church was packed with cars, and we all remember a good time.

The Westerheim Icelandic congregation

A congregational meetings was held on May 24, 1889, and on January 11, 1891, plans were made to build a church on section 10 of Westerheim Township on a site donated by Sigmundur Jonatanson. These plans were accepted at the second meeting, and on Sept. 27, 1891, the first services were conducted in the newly built Westerheim Church.

In the late 1880s, after my dad had worked for his uncle Joseph Josephson all those years for little pay, his uncle gave him three steers. He kept them until they were three years old and sold them for $90.00. Then he and his uncle bought the SW ? of sec. 9. The uncle took the north 80 and my dad the south 80. They bought it from the railroad company for $6 per acre, father using the $90.00 he had gotten from the steers as down payment. My dad went out breaking the virgin sod and he ‘struck out’ on the line between the 80s. Thus he plowed a furrow for himself and a furrow for his uncle. He broke 40 acres that summer – 20 acres of each 80.

In 1892, my dad decided to leave the farm and he set out for Tracy to work in the roundhouse of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. He walked to Marshall, where he stayed overnight. That night the roundhouse at Tracy burned. He took that as an omen and bought the quarter where Frank A. Josephson lives now from Snorri Hognason. This is why that place, the NW sec. 4 was called Hognastadir. Later on I bought the SW of sec. 4, which had been owned for many years by A.J. Snidal, a good Icelander and a first class farmer.

On Dec. 28, 1913, the Westerheim church burned to the ground, and on Jan. 11, 1914, plans were made for building a new one. On April 13, 1914 a contract was signed and work on the new building begun. The cost of the finished structure was $3,747. The cornerstone was laid on May 28, 1914, and the Rev. B.B. Jonsson, assisted by the Rev. E.J. Hinderlie, pastor of the Norwegian Church, now Hope Lutheran Church of Minneota, conducted the ceremony. The new church was dedicated May 2, 1915. I was baptized at that service.

I remember hearing my mother tell about that meeting on January 11, 1914, at Westdals. They were taking pledges. She pledged $100 and others pledged the same or lesser amounts as they were able. The pastor, looking down the list, smiled and said ‘the church is built.’ It didn’t take much money in those days.

(Continued next week)

Sources: “Ninety Years at St. Paul’s,” Committee Members, J.A. Josefson, Cecil Hofteig and Haldur G. (Jimmie) Johnson of Icelander Lutheran Church, Minneota, MN., October 1977.

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