Walsh County, North Dakota



“Walsh Heritage,” Vol 1, pg 44

Wherever the pioneers established their homes in this area – and elsewhere- they also built churches and schools. And the congregation of this little church had its beginnings on December 8, 1881, when the “Landstad Conference Church of Auburn” was organized, led by Rev. J. Lonne.  It joined the Grafton call, the church then located on the site of the present Grafton Lutheran Cemetery.

The first baptism recorded is that of Johan Akran in 1883, and the first wedding is that of Anders Anderson and Siri Anderson, also in 1883 – not in the church.  In 1884 Rev. P.A. Nykreim became the pastor, and in 1885 there was a resolution made to dissolve and join Grafton.

In 1887 separate status was resumed as the Landstad Church of Auburn, and in 1888 the church was built as it now stands. The first child baptized in this church was my cousin, Laura Lykken. Among the first confirmands was Sofie Larson, a sister of Teddy Larson.

I have a photograph of the church which shows an addition built on the south side. It must have been done during the time that Rev. J.A. Ofstedahl was the pastor. He was the pastor of the Grafton Lutheran Church and also of St. John’s in St. Thomas from 1889 to 1911. I recall an amusing incident that occurred one perfect summer day in this church when Rev. Ofstedahl was preaching the sermon. We had a dog named Fido who liked to follow us wherever we drove during those “horse and buggy days.” One of our tasks before we left for church was to lock Fido securely in an old shed, and we were sure we had done this on that particular Sunday. As we sat listening to the sermon, we were suddenly horrified to see Fido strolling down the aisle and then up to the pulpit where the pastor was standing, then all around the altar. Then Fido must have become aware of our presence in a pew near an open window, because he came over to us. My mother, who was equal to any emergency, picked him up and gently threw him out of the open window. Fido, I may add, was too surprised to yelp or make any further disturbance.

Rev. Ofstedahl was a wonderful man who drove with horses from Grafton to Auburn to preach in the church, and then he went on to St. Thomas. During the winter he wore a coonskin coat and cap in when he looked very distinguished. He wore a Van Dyke beard and was really a handsome man. He was also an excellent teacher as I very well know because I was one of his confirmands. There were fourteen boys and girls in my class: *Oscar Anderson, Oscar Helland, Adolph Hove, Alma Lykken, Hazel Lykken, Mabel Lykken, *Lucy Lykken, *Selmer Lykken, *Mary Nelson, Alida Shirley, Olaf Shirley, *Martha Skjulstad, *Agnes Stark, and Linder Swanson.

We studied what was termed an Explanation Book,” which contained the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments, the Articles of Faith – with a summary at the end. We also studied Bible history that included the Old and the New Testaments. At each meeting of the class we sang a verse from a Norwegian hymn, which we had memorized. Rev. Ofstedahl told us that we were the “best singers” he had ever had, and he often said that we studied our lessons well, a fact that pleased him very much. I have starred (*) the best singers as I remember them.

I may add that our mothers always had us recite our lessons to them before we went to the church for our weekly class sessions. They explained the difficult passages and later the pastor would add to the explanation. We learned many scriptural passages that have stayed with us through the years. One day Rev. Ofstedahl told us that he wanted us to remember that wrongdoers have always learned this fact, “Sin always brings its punishment; no one escapes.” As the poet Longfellow stated: “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small. Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.” The pastor pointed out that this is one of the truths of life we should learn well.

We were confirmed on December 12, 1909, which we have always considered an important day in our lives, and we were presented with new hymn books by our parents. In tribute to Rev. Ofstedahl, who influenced us in a wonderfully effective way to appreciate the truths taught in the Bible, I shall quite the following from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales:”

“He lived Christ’s gospel truly every day and taught his flock and preached what Christ had said. And even though his parish was widespread with farms remote and houses far asunder he never stopped for rain or even for thunder; but visited each home where trouble came. The rich or poor to him were all the same. For as their minister, he took his stand, that if gold rust, what shall iron do? He was a Christian both in deed and thought. He lived himself the Golden Rule.”

Rev. H.J. Glenn was the pastor from 1912 until 1917. He and his family lived at 1027 Griggs Avenue, which was the parsonage from 1912 until 1949. Then my brother Luther purchased it because it was decided to build a new parsonage beside the church as a more convenient place for the pastor. The first sermon I heard Rev. Glenn preach was entitled “The Beautiful Life,” which stressed a life of service as being the one to bring satisfaction and happiness to us. I recall that Arthur Torgeson sang the solo parts in the anthem the choir rendered that day, “Behold a Host Arrayed in White,” which they sang in the original Norwegian, “Den Store Hvide Flok Vi Se.”

Rev. Glenn was impressed when he heard the tenor solo because Arthur was really gifted with a marvelous voice. Later he studied for the ministry, but tragically he died shortly before he was to be ordained in March of 1919.

For a short time Rev. H.O. Shurson succeeded Rev. Glenn as the pastor. Then Rev. H.A. Helsem came in 1918 and served until the time of his death, July 1, 1949. During his pastorate the church was remodeled and redecorated in 1942. For various reasons it was restored to its original size. In 1947 women were granted the right to vote at meetings of the congregation. Rev. Helsem, who served the church faithfully and well for over 30 years, had a wonderful baritone voice that was very effective in the musical setting of the service. He often sang solos, and one I shall always remember is the one he sang at my father’s funeral, “Behold a Host Arrayed in White.” He sang it in the original Norwegian. This is a Norwegian folk song, the words of which were written by H.A. Brorson, c. 1760. The music was arranged by Edward Grieg (1843-1907). Since I associate this hymn with Rev. Helsem because I heard him sing it so effectively at different times, I shall quit it in tribute to his memory:

“Behold a host, arrayed in white, like thousand snow-clad mountains bright,

With palms they stand. Who are this band before the throne of light?

Lo, these are they of glorious fame who from the great affliction came.

And in the flood of Jesus’ blood are cleansed from guilt and blame.

Now gathered in the holy place, their voices they in worship raise,

Their anthems swell where God doth dwell “Mid angels’ songs of praise.”

In 1950 Rev. T.H. Megorden and Rev. Fredricks Kramins (Latvia) were the pastors. Rev Megorden had great energy and vision and did good work during his pastorate. In Grafton a new parsonage was built and also a new church. In 1955 the Landstad Church joined St. John’s in a new call. Since the Grafton Congregation had become so large it was decided that one pastor could not adequately car for three parishes, even though he had an assistant. Therefore, on November 18, 1956, the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Landstad Church, Rev. Arlyn Anfinrud was installed as the pastor at a festival and installation service at 2:00 pm. After the service a supper was served by the /auburn Ladies Aid in the Auburn Hall. At 8:00 pm there was a joint fellowship hour and reception for the new pastor at the Parish Hall in Saint Thomas.

During the pastorate of Rev. Anfinrud, a new parsonage was built in Saint Thomas. He left the parish in 1965 and was succeeded by Rev, Sorenson. It was during his pastorate in 1966 that the Landstad Church in Auburn was closed. Some of the members joined the Grafton Lutheran Church and others joined St. John’s in Saint Thomas. The pastor of St. John’s bow is Rev. Thoreson.

Throughout the years there was an active ladies Aid and faithful officers who served the congregation. The organizational meeting of the Ladies Aid was held at the home of Mrs. Ole Larson (Annie Larson) who became the first president. Other charter members were the Mesdames H.G. Lykken, O.H. Gilman, and Albert Johnson. The year it was organized was 1886. During the following year others joined the group; Mesdames Andres Hove, Elling Evanson, Anders Helland, Andrew Todahlen, and Theodore Nelson. Later members are given in a booklet on file with the Walsh County Historical Society. The booklet contains the names of the officers serving the congregation since the year 1881.

There were a number of organists. One of the fist was my cousin, Clara Lloyd, whose husband, Will Lloyd, was the depot agent in Auburn. The organist I know best was my sister-in-law Alma (Mrs. Luther Lykken) who served for over 30 years.

There was a Sunday School too during the summer months and later during the entire year. I recall one Christmas program in the evening that included a Christmas tree with candles. I believe my brother Luther brought gas lights into the church for the occasion, as the R.E.A. had not yet come to our area. I know that the program was good, and a number I appreciated very much was a solo by my niece Virginia Lykken, now Mrs. Leslie Anderson.

My father, my brother Alvin, Mrs. Anderson, and my brother Luther served as janitors. After Luther and his family moved to Grafton the Haugs took over. Otto Haug, in particular, was a faithful worker in the church which without his help would have been closed sooner than it was. The stove that was first used in the church, as I recall, was a low, oblong, cast iron one which, I am sure, would now be an antique. But I don’t know what happened to it. Wood was used, and I remember that my father would tiptoe over to the stove during the service to replenish the fire with an additional thick chunk of wood. Later coal was used, and then, still later, they bought the oil burning heater.

Speaking of my brother Luther reminds me of something our mother told us. When he was being taken to church to be baptized he was to be named Harry Elmer. But on the way my father said his name was to be Luther. My mother agreed to this decision. Although I was very young at the time, I recall that my brother Harry, the baby in our family was taken to church dressed in a long, white christening gown trimmed with lace and a long pink cashmere coat trimmed with white braid. He also wore a lined lace cap tied under his chin with a ribboned bow. He was baptized Harry Clair.

The people of Auburn have always been very much interested in this church, which has had many baptisms, confirmations, and funerals, but no weddings. It was the custom for a number of years to have home weddings. Others took place in the parsonage in Grafton.

I know that Jean Archer loved to see the church with its spire from the windows of her home, particularly silhouetted against the sky at sunset. She regretted later on the erection of the utilitarian potato houses, which shut off that view.

Speaking of the spire reminds me that on July 8, 1937, which I Joy Ann Emily Lykken’s birthday, the spire was struck by lightning, a matter of great concern to the people in Auburn. Virginia told me that Herman Fisher brought a ladder, climbed up and removed burning bird’s nests from the interior before the fire department arrived from Grafton. The firemen, with chemicals and a welcome rain shower, put out the fire, which was confined to the spire. It was repaired (or rebuilt), this time without any windows.

In conclusion, I would like to dedicate the following hymn to the memory of the pioneers of all faiths and to their faithful pastors:

“God’s word is our great heritage and shall be ours forever.

To spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor.

Through life it guides our way. Lord grant, while worlds endure,

We keep its teachings pure, Throughout all generations.”



My father, Hans H. Lykken, donated the preset cemetery site a year later in 1886. It is located one mile east of Auburn.  Records show that the first funeral was that of a child named Arvid Cornelius Norum, born April 10, 1886 and died January 8, 1887. His grave is marked by a small, white, marble headstone with a sleeping lamb carved near the top. Beside it is an identical headstone bearing the name Oscar Cornelius Norum, born September 27, 1887, and died March 13, 1889. All I know about the Norums is that they lived on a farm north of ours. Charles Norum, their father, was one of the first secretaries of the congregation. Since those little graves were made quite a number have been buried in the cemetery. 

The first one from our family was my little sister, Hilda Charlotte Lykken, who was born February 16, 1888 and who died on my father’s birthday, January 11, 1892. She had spinal meningitis. Incidentally, my father never mentioned his birthday for years after her death. My mother was more reconciled because of what the doctor had said and also by the fact that on January 14, 1892, Prince Albert Victor, heir-presumptive to the throne of England, died of pneumonia. In spite of all the medical skill available to the son of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII and the Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, he died, and his death was an event that brought a measure of comfort to my mother. She felt that human power was sometimes of no avail – and that it was God’s will.

A perpetual care fund has now been established. This was done in 1963, and gates with brick columns were installed by Harvey Nelson. They were donated by Cora and Mabel Lykken. Trees and shrubs were planted on the north and east sides of the cemetery and some within.

One June day I went to the cemetery, which I sometimes call “The Silent City,” to verify some dates concerning the Norums. I walked over to a beautiful tree in the east part, shading the graves of the Carlsons (the grandparents of the Halleens). The tree has a white trunk and retains its leaves during the winter. In the spring the new leaves push the old ones out. On the Carlson monument I noted the verse engraved on the stone, “A light from our household is gone – a voice we loved is stilled.” On a child’s headstone nearby (Junis Minerva Thompson, born March 12, 1892, and died September 4, 1898) is the following: “A little bud of love to bloom with God above.”

As I wandered through the cemetery that June day, pausing here and there, I recalled the inscription on the stone marking the grave of Mark Twain’s daughter, Olivia Susan, who died August 18, 1896. “Warm summer sun, shine kindly here; warm southern wind, blow softly here; green sod above, lie light, lie light; goodnight dear heart, good night, good night.” One no longer sees inscriptions like these. They belong to an era that is past.

There is a plat of the cemetery made by Mr. L.O. Torblaa, who did beautiful and accurate work. Our friend, Mann Archer, who sometimes stopped to talk with us when we were working in the cemetery, often asked us whether there was a plat, and he expressed great satisfaction when he heard about the proposed plat and also about the plans for the perpetual care fund.

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