Walsh County, North Dakota
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OUR SAVIOUR’S LUTHERAN CHURCH — Park River, ND

“Walsh Heritage” pg 673-674

LOCATION: 129 Harris Ave. S., Park River, ND

     Work was begun in Park River in 1881 with Rev. C.A. Flaten of Grafton holding occasional services in the homes and otherwise attending to the spiritual needs of the Lutheran people. In 1883 Rev. M.E. Holseth took over the work as he was pastor of several congregations near Park River.

     The first recorded meeting was held in 1889. It’s purpose was to organize a congregation and to call a pastor. Rev. Holseth acted as chairman of this meeting and he was later called as pastor. Rev. Holseth’s salary was $100 per year. Officers elected were; Ole Ouverson, Secy,; John O. Hamre, Treas.; Trustees, Carl J. Dahl, John Ofstedahl, and Ole E. Hasle. A committee elected to acquire a meeting place in some church in town was C.L. Finneseth, C.J. Pederson, and Reir Torgerson.

     Our Saviour’s was the name chosen for the congregation. Their constitution was drawn up and accepted in 1890. Rev. T.H. Larson became pastor in 1892. In 1895, the congregation decided to build a church and to build as much as their money would allow. Members on the building committee were: C.L. Finneseth, C. Dahl, and T.T. Thompson. Samuel Holland was elected supervisor for the construction of the building. Lots were bought from C.H. Honey which were then on the very outskirts of Park River. Early members tell that the church was very simple with no furnishings, but it was a place where they could worship, and it belonged to them. Prior to this they held their services in the Presbyterian or Baptist churches in the city.

     Rev. M.N. Knutson was pastor from 1897 to 1900. As there was a Lutheran Free Church in town, an invitation was extended them to become members of Our Saviour’s congregation if they wished. They did so in 1900. That year they received their charter and it was framed for safe keeping. Rev. Guldseth was called as pastor in the latter part of 1900. He continued here until 1910, when he resigned to become Secretary of Home Missions in our synod.

     Sunday School is first mentioned in the records of 1901. Ninety children attended. A Board of Education was elected and a term of six weeks of Vacation Bible school was held. Since then the Sunday School has been held regularly. Bible school was held for four to six weeks until 1940 when they changed to a two-week term.

     In 1902 the old parsonage was sold with the idea of building a new one the following year. The site was bought from Towle and Farup. At that time the parish consisted of Our Saviour’s, Pleasant Valley, Golden Valley, and East Forest River congregations. The latter three did not care to help build a new parsonage, but they offered to pay rent yearly if Our Saviour’s built one. T.T. Thompson, E. Herwick, Ole Hasle, C. Sjerden, T. Ostboe and the pastor were on the building committee. Rev. Guldseth and his family moved in 1903. In 1903 the interior of the church was furnished with chancel furnishings and pews and Rev. Dahl, president of the synod, came to dedicate the church.

     A Ladies’ Aid had been organized in 1892. In 1900 it disbanded and, together with the ladies of the Lutheran Free church, which merged with Our Saviour’s they drew up a new constitution and worked together as one. It was mainly through their efforts that the church was completed in time for the dedication. In 1904 they were able to put electric lights in the church and they built a sacristy. Whenever the church needed financial aid and were concerned about the Synodical budget they were able to help. The men of the congregation always sent someone to personally thank the Aid for their assistance.
     Rev. George Shurson became pastor in 1910. While he was pastor English services were held every third Sunday. Norwegian had been used exclusively until that time.

     Rev. J.O. Bjerke came in 1911. In 1912 the church brought the first Lutheran Hymnarys. In 1918 work was begun to put a basement under the church where the Ladies Aid could hold their meetings. Several improvements were made on the church itself and the church was rededicated in 1919.

     Rev. S.J. Strandjord came in 1922 and stayed until 1929. The church was without a pastor until 1931 when Rev. L. Nypen accepted the call.

     At the annual meeting in 1931 the right to vote was given to the women of the congregation. The Constitution of the church was written in Norwegian, so in 1933 a committee composed of Rev. Nypen, O.P. Olson, Olaf Malde and Thomas Severson was asked to revise and rewrite it in English.

     Since the church found it difficult to meet its financial obligations in 1933 the pastor gave a special donation of $45 so the church might start the new year without a deficit. The envelope system of collecting church funds was discussed in 1934 and a few members made use of that method, It came into general use in 1944.

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