Walsh County, North Dakota
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SAINT PETER HAUGE LUTHERAN CHURCH — Vesta Township, ND

“Walsh Heritage” Vol 2, pg 1025

Overlooking Vesta Valley and Park River stands the Saint Peter Hauge Lutheran Church, built in 1896.  In 1884, when the railroad reached Park River, many settlers came from neighboring states and from the old country to establish their homes on these fertile prairies. The Norwegians were espeially numerous. They did not possess much cash capital, but they possessed physical strength, ambition and a will to work. They built their shanties or log cabins, they cleared the land in the woods and broke up the prairie with oxen or mules, looking not to the government for help but to their neighbors and to their God.

These sturdy pioneers were God-fearing men and women who brought from the home country their Bibles, catechisms and hymn books. They could not live in the new country without the worship that they were accustomed to in the old country; therefore they organized a congregation which met in homes and in the Tallackson schoolhouse, with Pastor G. C. Gjerstad visiting the community occasionally and gathering the people about the work of God. Pastor Gjerstad was followed by Rev. T. L. Kringle, who organized the St. Peter Congregation in February of 1890. The congregation then secured a piece of land for a church and cemetery seven miles east of Adams along what is now County Road 11. The church building was erected in 1896. The weather vane on the top of the church steeple was made by a blacksmith, Edward Setnes, one of the members of the church at that time.

The ministerial records of the first two years are incomplete. The church did not have a settled pastor until the fall of 1891, when Rev. Kringle was called and accepted. St. Peter Church has been served by the following pastors: T. L. Kringle, 1891-1896; A. J. Krogstad, 1896-1904; N. Okerland, 1904-1909; S. Westby, 1909-1915; A. Krogstad, 1915-1921; G. Bretheim, 1921-1926; G. Sather, 1926-1930; P. O. Laurhammer, 1931-1952; A. Bervig, 1952-1955; L. Underbakke, 1955-1961; and T. Steenberg, 1961-1964.

Charter members of St. Peter Church were: Johannes Alstad, Ole Nelson Dyrud, Knute Bolstad, Iver Andreas Lovaason, John P. Qually, Nels Monson, Erik Egg, Thalak Thalakson, Gunder Olson Dahle and Alfred Lindell.

The congregation was affiliated with the Hauge Synod until 1917. Since 1921 it has been served by pastors from the Lutheran Free Church. In 1892 it united with St. Paul Church of Edinburg and Hvideso Church to form one charge served by the same pastors until 1921. In 1930 it joined a new charge consisting of four congregations: Garfield, St. Peter, Aadalen and Hitterdal.

St. Peter organized a Luther League Society in 1922 during the ministry of Pastor G. Bretheim. It met once a month and worked for the support of the church and the missions. The most active and helpful society of the church was the Ladies’ Aid. It began its work two or three years before the congregation was organized. The women gathered large amounts of money which helped with local church work and the aid of missions.

St. Peter Church had many devoted and gifted laymen who took an active part in the local work and were dedicated to the inner-mission activity outside their own community. St. Peter has also had two baptized members become pastors. They are Alford E. Setness, now a pastor in Austin, Minnesota, and Lowell Almen, at the present time (1976) a staff member of the Lutheran Standard (the national magazine of the American Lutheran Church), residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

St. Peter Lutheran Church held its 50th anniversary October 18-20, 1940, in the church where the pioneers of the area had held their first services in 1896. At the75th annual meeting of St. Peter Congregation on December 13, 1965, it was resolved that the congregation disband, freeing its members to join and participate in other Lutheran congregations of their choice.

At that time the St. Peter Lutheran Cemetery Association was organized to manage the affairs relating to church facilities, cemetery grounds, etc. Permanent members of this board (1976) are Robert Dahl, Sr., Willard Setness, Raymond Setnes, George Lindell, and Lennart Almen. St. Peter Lutheran Church still stands where it was erected in 1896 and can be seen for miles away as a gentle reminder of what once was.

Submitted by Mrs. Ted Swenson.

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