Martyrs of the Faith

Wilhelm Vatne

Wilhelm Vatne, born in 1890, son of Mr. and Mrs. Tonnes Vatne, was murdered 21 years later in the infamous Sianfu Massacre at the outbreak of the Chinese Revolution.  A year before, on September 10, 1910, young Wilhelm left Cooperstown to go to Sianfu, Shensi, China for the purpose of teaching the children of missionaries serving under the Alliance Mission there.

John Vatne writes, "Perhaps the most interesting factor in Wilhelm's life was the clear-cut pattern of fine character that was so perceptibly evident even at an early age ...  he took great interest in serious discussion on most any subject, including religion.  He was deeply religious at heart, but not bound by narrow-minded ideas that would hold one down to a fixed line of action ...

Obviously, Wilhelm wanted to go where God could use him and when the call came, he went to work in China.  He quickly became aware of the dire need and dedicated himself to the mission there.  It was while living with the Rev. E.R. Beckman family that the homes of missionaries were set afire during an anti-foreign massacre.  Of the ten members of their household, only two survived, Rev. Beckman and his youngest daughter.  Wilhelm was killed while trying to escape.


Ralph Fuglestad

Ralph Fuglestad, born in 1898, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Torkel T. Fuglestad, died 30 years later, in Sudan, Africa, of a fever attributed to Malaria.

God began to "nag" at Ralph when he was only an early teen.  After graduating from high school in Grand Forks, he was attending school in Fargo when he received a letter from his brother, which made him change his plans.  As a result of his brother's testimony of faith, Ralph went back to the Lutheran Bible School in Grand Forks as a seminary student.  Two things happened there, which further changed the course of his life.  He met Esther Huss and read a book called, "Offer from Sudan," by Kaardal.  God's "nagging" was complete.  He married Esther June 23, 1927 and left for Africa less than a month later.

Ralph wrote, a month before he died after a three-day bout with a high fever, that the work and language were both difficult and satisfying.  They were alone on a station far from other Americans and there was nothing for Esther to do but pray, read scripture and sing Ralph's favorite songs while he was dying.  She sent a message of his death to the nearest missionaries, but before they could come, Ralph had to be buried and so young Esther had the funeral and then continued to serve out her term on the mission station.  She returned for one more term and then because she didn't pass a physical for returning to Africa, she stayed home, went to school, taught and eventually joined the Army during World War 11, hoping to be stationed in her beloved Africa.  She ended up in Europe where she was working in General Eisenhower's office when the peace was signed.  After a few more years she married Lars Stalsbroten, had a son, Oliver, and now lives in Woodburn, Oregon.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 149 

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