Walsh County, North Dakota
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HITTERDAL EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH — Silvesta Township

“Walsh Heritage,” Vol 2, pg 1000-1001

The early settlers who lived around the Hitterdal Lutheran Church were members in congregations in the surrounding area. Some were charter members at St. Stephen’s and Aadalen churches. On November 15, 1898, a group of neighbors gathered at the church with Christian Olson Haslekaas in charge to make plans for a new congregation. It was on this day that the church was organized, and a constitution was drawn up. It was decided to name the new congregation Hitterdal Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation.

Rev. Martin Iverson was elected president of the congregation and was to serve as the pastor until other arrangements could be made. Ole Haroldson was elected secretary. Three trustees were elected: Ole Ingulsrud for one year; Ole Haroldson for two years: and Knut Axvig for three years. Charter members were Mrs. Nels Berntson, Henrik Ohnstad, Ole H. Lykken, Ole Ingulsrud, Ole Haroldson, Knut Axvig, Ole Christianson, Tollef Axvig, Christian Olson Haslekaas, Ole Anderson, Even Olson, Lars Ingulsrud and Charley Torkelson.

The first baptism after the church was organized was Edward Aune, born October 23, 1898,and baptized December 25, 1898. Parents were John and Antonnette Aune. Sponsors were Knut and Kristine Axvig and Ole Margrette Anderson.

March 11, 1899, another meeting was held at the Christian Olson Haslekaas home. It was decided to give the minister $50 for his salary plus the offerings taken three times a year. Ole Lykken was chairman of the building committee. Deacons elected were Henrik Ohnstad for one year, Ole Anderson for two years, and John Aune, accepted as a member at this meeting, for three years. Christian Olson Haslekaas and his wife Helga gave the deed for the church ground. Helga Olson Haslekaas was riginally from Hitterdal, Norway. The Hitterdal Cemetery is located one mile south of the church. It was obtained from Mrs. Tone Lykken Olson, widow of Edwin Olson (Axvig). Ole Lykken, Christian Haslekaas and Knut Axvig were put in charge of the cemetery.

In 1902 they held religious school for one month, from the middle of March to the middle of April. The teacher was to receive $20. The Sunday School was organized in 1903 with Anders Halvorson as superintendent. Ole Christianson was the first janitor and was to receive $20. In 1905, Rev. Ludvig Pederson was called. He was to receive $200 and three offerings at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. He was to teach Norwegian parochial school and would receive extra pay for this.

The first wedding in the church was Matilda Berntson and Thomas Olson on June 21, 1904. Witnesses were Mary Berntson and Ben Ingulsrud.  In 1918 they had a big remodeling job when they built a basement of the church and installed a furnace. The church was wired in 1923; a 32-volt light plant at the Haslekaas farm furnished the current. The last class to be confirmed in the Norwegian language was the class of 1920, Minnie Axvig, Corina Lykken and Muriel Axvig.

In 1908 it was decided that Hitterdal and Aadalen would build a parsonage in Fairdale. In 1932 it was decided to sell the parsonage in Fairdale as the pastor would reside in Edinburg. At a meeting held in November of 1930, it was decided that Hitterdal and Aadalen would join with two other Lutheran Free Church congregations, St. Peter and Garfield, and would call the former Pastor P. O. Laurhammer of Rockford, Illinois. He arrived in May of 1931. Hitterdal’s share of his salary was to be $350.

In 1934 it was decided to have both Norwegian and English services. The English language was gradually replacing the Norwegian language. Since about 1945 the English language has been used. 1935 was the first year the secretary’s annual meeting minutes were recorded in English.

In 1945 a light plant was installed in the barn. In 1947 the pastor’s salary was raised to $700. In 1948 Hitterdal celebrated their 50th anniversary on November 19, 20, and 21.  Dr. T. O. Burntvedt of Minneapolis, president of the Lutheran Free Church, was present. The golden anniversary of Rev. P. O. Laurhammer, observing 50 years of service in the Lord’s work in the Lutheran Free Church, was held Sunday, July 19, 1951, at the Park River Bible Camp.

Hitterdal nearly saw its end when a fire started on the furnace wall and ceiling in the basement at the close of morning services on January 27, 1952. But with the quick action of the men they got to the source of the fire and carried shovels full of snow in to douse it. Fire departments were called, but the men had the fire pretty well under conrol when they arrived. There was some smoke damage.

In 1956 Hitterdal had another remodeling. The ceiling was lowered, nuwood was put on the walls, the floor was tiled, and new glass block windows were put in at a cost of $5,092. In 1960 the sewer was dug for a kitchen sink. In 1961 a cloak room to the narthex of the church was added. In 1965 a new fence was set up at the cemetery. In 1967 there was more remodeling. The basement walls were paneled; ceiling was lowered; new lights installed; and red indoor-outdoor carpet was installed. New drapes for dividing the Sunday School classes were made. A new sidewalk across the church yard was laid.

In 1969 the men of the congregation got the painting spirit and painted both the inside and outside of the church. Some of the ladies antiqued the wood trim inside the church. Wall to wall carpeting was installed. In 1973 a well was dug and water and a half bath were installed.

After several years of voting and discussion in regard to merger negotiations, the vote on November 18, 1961, was in favor of merging with the American Lutheran Church. In 1961 the by-laws were changed to lowering the voting age from 21 years to age 18. This motion was adopted at the 1962 annual meeting.

In 1963 a new Wurlitzer piano was purchased from the memorial fund, and in 1964 Mr. and Mrs. Louis Lykken bought a Conn electric organ for the church in memory of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ole Lykken. Dedication service for the organ and new piano was held November 17, 1965.

In 1964, discussions began on parish realignments. In September the Edinburg parish dissolved and Hitterdal joined the Milton parish. Hitterdal’s share for the pastor’s salary was $2,070. Wine was used in place of grape juice for the communion service, and the pastor began wearing clerical clothing again. Services were held every Sunday beginning in October. In 1968 they began using the red hymnals.

In 1965 they began having communion serices the first Sunday of every month. In 1972 an invitation was extended to the young children to come with their parents to the communion service to receive a blessing. In 1973 communion was offered to anyone in fifth grade and over who had been instructed in the meaning of the Lord’s Supper by the pastor.

Since 1964, Hitterdal has provided “The Lutheran Standard,” the official publication of the American Lutheran Church, to every family in the congregation. Going into the Lord’s service from Hitterdal Lutheran as pastors were Gordon and Rudolph Berntson. Mrs. Wallace (Naomi Thrugstad) Danielson served as missionary to the Indians at Dunseith for many years.

As an arm of the church the ladies organization has been active throughout the years. In 1906 they began having meetings every month and have continued to this day. One of the main interests of the Ladies’ Aid has been to give to missionsa and schools and to do their share in the upkeep of the Hitterdal Church. The A.L.C.W. is an arm of the church to help women grow in their Christian life, in their knowledge and understanding of the church, and to become intelligent, dedicated servants of Christ wherever they may serve in the world.

The organization for the young people started back in 1905. In 1918 they began holding meetings once a month, and this continued until about 1957 when the Luther League was changed, with more emphasis on high league in an effort to meet the personal needs of the youth. Their purpose was to bring the young people to closer fellowship with Christ.

Parish education continues to be a big part in the minds of the young people. Since 1970 they have had nine months of Sunday School during the regular school season. Before that it had been held during the summer months.Vacation Bible School is taught each summer for a week. Confirmands receive two years of instruction held once a week during the school year.

Pastors that served Hitterdal Congregation are: Rev. Martin Iverson (1898-1900); Rev. J. O. Arevik (1901-1904); Rev. Ludvig Pederson (1905-1911); Rev. Gustav Nordberg (1911-1914); Rev. P. O. Laurhammer (1915-1925) and (1931-1951); Rev. George Larson (1925-1930); Rev. Arthur L. Bervig (1952-1955); Rev. Leland B. Underbakke (1955-1961); Rev. Thomas A. Steenberg, Jr. (1961-1964); Rev. Robert J. Nilsen (1964-1970); Rev. William J. Duty (1970-1974); and Rev. Lee Woolery (1975- )

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