Grace Lutheran Church

Grace Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, was established in 1947 when application was made to the district office to establish a mission.  A candidate was called and Pastor Willard C. Laatz was assigned to establish the new parish at Zion, Binford, and the new Cooperstown mission.

Pastor and Mrs. Laatz moved into the parsonage purchased by the Synod Mission Board from the Dr. Carl Brimi family.  It still stands east of the present Grace Lutheran Church.  A year later, ownership was transferred from the district to Grace and Zion congregations.

The first official act of Pastor Laatz was performed August 30, 1947 when Dennis Jay Johnson was baptized.  The first marriage was also performed that year when Richard E. Olson and Norma Radliff were married.

The first service in Cooperstown was held September 14, 1947 at the parsonage with six persons receiving Holy Communion.  September 29, 1947 the first public service was held in the band room of Berg Memorial Gymnasium in Cooperstown and a Sunday School was organized on the same day with Mrs. Henry Winning as the first superintendent.  Mrs. David Krenz is currently serving as superintendent with 25 students enrolled.

After services at Berg gym October 19, 1947, a meeting was called.  Rev. Laatz served as temporary chairman of the meeting attended by 36 souls, and it was voted to form a Lutheran congregation.  Officers elected were:

Carrol Retzlaff president
Glen Johnson secretary
Henry Winning treasurer

May 2, 1948 Grace Lutheran was chosen as the name of the new congregation.  The charter members were:

Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Pittenger, Mr. and Mrs. Carrol Retzlaff, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Winning, Mr. and Mrs. Lester Winning, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Stalvik.

June 28, 1948 a meeting was held of Grace congregation to consider a building program.  At that time the plan was to begin with a basement as the first unit.  The following committees were chosen: Building committee: Pastor Laatz, chairman; Alfred Retzlaff, secretary; Lester Winning, Carrol Retzlaff, and Glenn Johnson, members at large.  Finance committee: Lester Winning, Clifford Pittenger and Carrol Retzlaff.

In August of 1948 the congregation was officially incorporated.  A bid of $525 was made on an old rural school building, and a week later, 21 ' '2 lots were purchased for $100 from William Barr for the purpose of locating a church on the property.

The rural schoolhouse was purchased with the total estimated cost of moving, repair, and basement to be $700.  This schoolhouse was in Greenview Township, Steele County, and the section at right on the picture was built in 1888.  The building was moved in the fall of 1948 and work began immediately to prepare the building for church services.  The project was actually completed for a total of $1,089.90 (including the cost of the building).  At that time there were 28 communicant and 11 voting members.  The project was completed in time for the children's service Christmas Eve, 1948.  All services up to this time, except the first one, were held in the Berg Memorial Gymnasium.  Services continued at the church-school building until Christmas Eve 1952.

During the first months of Pastor Laatz's service he received $35 a month from Grace until the amount was increased to $50 a month in October 1951.

Between 1949 and 1952 there were random discussions about the possibilities of uniting Grace and Zion, Binford into one location and locating in Cooperstown.  At a voters meeting at Zion Monday, April 21, 1952 the decision was made to retain the church building and congregation at Binford.  Some members at Zion asked for their release to join Grace.  They were the families of:

Alfred Retzlaff

Marvin Retzlaff

Reynold Retzlaff

G.L. Rothert

Walter Rothert

Edgar Krenz

Reuben Weber

Art Hegland

Albert Evers

This new growth stimulated the idea of building a new church.  The congregation had to be highly optimistic, since less than $50 was available for a building when the voters first considered the project.  By the time the project was approved, $250 had been built up in the fund.  Members were sure the congregation was to grow and the old church building was already too small for them.  During the week of May 18, 1952, Alfred Retzlaff and Pastor Laatz attended the Church Building Exposition in Chicago to get ideas current in church edifices.  It was on this trip they visited churches in the Chicago area and came back with slides of a church building in Oak Lawn, Illinois that became the prototype for Grace Lutheran Church in its building program.  The building committee was formed June 2, 1952 consisting of Alfred Retz1aff, Norwin Hanson, Walter Rothert, Lester Winning and Reynold Retzlaff.  The real property had already been purchased so the plans went ahead for the new church building.  August 24, 1952, groundbreaking ceremonies were held.

Church members braced for a period of long, hard work.  With nearly all labor on the church being volunteer, work progressed more slowly than they had originally hoped.  The building committee originally had expected to have the building ready for dedication in 1954.  It would, however, be some time after that that the church would be ready for the dedication.

With the church still not ready for the laying of the cornerstone, much less the dedication, in the fall of 1953, chairman, Alfred Retzlaff estimated that more than 7000 hours of volunteer labor had been donated by church members, helpers from the community, and helpers from sister congregations.  The foundation was laid during the middle of October of 1952 with blocks scheduled to be laid the following week.

It was in October of 1952 that the congregation approved selling the old church building.  The transaction was finally completed when the building and property were sold to Mrs. Edna Haukaas May 13, 1953.  As work progressed on the new building, the basement was used for the first service, the children's Christmas Eve program in 1952.  With farm members free to work only in the winter months, the building was ready for cornerstone laying ceremonies November 21, 1954.

After the departure of Rev. Laatz in October of 1955, the voters decided to sell their original parsonage east of the new church and buy the property and house just west of the church.

Even as work on the main floor of the church progressed, services were regularly held in the basement.  Facilities were somewhat makeshift but it served the congregation well.  Julie Nell Retzlaff became the first of many baptized in the church basement.  She was baptized January 11, 1953 and in April of that same year, the first class to be confirmed in the new church basement included: John Evers, Arlen Rothert, Gerhart Simpkins, Ervin Steinwand and Ervin Vogt.  Ingvald Engberg and Marion Flohns were the first couple married in the church basement in December of 1953.

September 16, 1956, Rev. George Schubarth was installed in the first service held in the upstairs nave.  The finishing touches were put on the new church building after the arrival of Pastor Schubarth and it was dedicated April 28, 1957.

The first baptisms in the upstairs nave of the church were Russel Vance and Timothy Reuben Weber, baptized May 5, 1957.  Later that month, Thomas Mason and Betty Hagle became the first couple married there.  The first class to be confirmed in the new church, June 16, 1957, consisted of Darlene Watne, Raymond Savre, and Joanne Rothert.

In the fall of 1958, Pastor Schubarth accepted a call to Nebraska.  From July 26, 1959 to July 8, 1962, Rev. Vernon Knight was pastor at Grace.  Rev. John Alan Krueger was pastor from April 21, 1963 to December 13, 1971 and Rev. Ronald Nichols served as pastor from June 18, 1972 to January 16, 1977.  Currently serving is Rev. R.C. Gauger who was installed October 2, 1977.

Ladies Aid was organized in April of 1948 and the first officers were:

Mrs. Glenn Johnson President
Mrs. Clifford Pittenger Vice-President
Mrs. Lester Winning Treasurer
Mrs. Harry Weitenhagen Secretary

In January of 1949 they joined the Synod Wide Lutheran Women's Missionary League.  Current officers are:

Mrs. Larry White (Joanne) President
Mrs. R.C. Gauger (Janice) Vice-President
Mrs. David Krenz (Bonnie) Secretary
Mrs. Reuben Weber (Ada) Treasurer

Grace Lutheran Church has grown and currently has 130 communicant members and 171 baptized members.  Its present officers are:


Larry White Chairman
Carrol Retzlaff Secretary
Arlen Rothert Treasurer
A.B. Savre Financial Secretary
Reuben Weber Elder
Gary Ramsey   “
Clinton Dahl   “
Gary Monteith Trustee
David Krenz     “

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 154

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