“Walsh Heritage” Vol 2, pg 742
In 1880 and 1881, the first pioneers came to this area of the rich Red River Valley, coming first from Europe to Iowa, Wisconsin, southern Minnesota, and parts of Illinois. The land in these states was fast being taken, and hearing of the new opportunities in North Dakota, they came by covered wagons. Some were drawn by oxen and some with horses and a few brought along cattle, driving them alongside and whatever else they possessed was in the wagon.
They were young, full of energy and stamina. They put their trust in God, that He would be with them on their long journey to Dakota. Arriving here and looking around, some settled near the Forest River in the shelter of hills and trees which gave them protection from the winds and storms. Others settled on the broad prairies where the land was all tillable.
The pioneers soon made ready log and sod houses together with barns and perhaps a granary, all working together and helping each other in true pioneer spirit. They began to break the virgin soil with a pair of oxen or perhaps one ox and one horse hitched to a walking plow. They harvested the few acres in bundles and stacked it to be threshed later from the stack.
Among the Scandinavians there was plenty of good flat bread, lefse, “spikekjot” (dried beef), “spikeflesk” (cured dried pork) and many other good things that we do not have in our modern way of life. They would have to go to Minto and Grand Forks for provisions the first years on foot, carrying flour and sugar on their backs, always having things stored away for the long winter.
Even though there were hardships and trials, the pioneers were anxious to establish a church and have the Word of God brought to them. Going through history, we find a missionary pastor, Johannes Flaten, who was in the area west of Grafton which is now known as Zion and South Trinity Lutheran. He also continued on to Pleasant Valley, west of what is now Park River, on to the now Whitman, Dahlen, Conway and south to Bachelor’s Grove, having services in the homes.
On Jan. 10, 1882 a meeting was held at the Ole Skattebo home in Eden Township. Rev. Flaten was present and a congregation was formed to be known as the Forest River Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Trustees elected at this meeting were Peder Aafedt, Elling Dahlen and Engebrit Seilstad, with Ole Skattebo as secretary. The first services were held at the homes of the trustees. On Dec. 8, 1882, this congregation together with Pleasant Valley, sent a letter of call to M.C. Holseth, who came in June, 1883, since Mission Pastor Flaten could not cover this entire area.
Pastor Holseth was to receive a salary of $150 a year plus one bushel of wheat and two bushels of oats from each family, three festival offerings and for ministerial acts. Pastor Holseth served this large parish until July of 1885. Pastor Johannes Ringstad came in the fall of 1885.
On Nov. 11, 1885, this large parish, covering much territory, was divided into the West, Middle and East Forest River Congregations. In 1886, the Bachelors Grove Congregation of Grand Forks County, which is now known as Elk Valley, also joined this parish.
Submitted by Gladys Huseby