Zion Lutheran Church

(Lutheran Brethren)

The Zion Lutheran Church had its beginning in 1881 when a group of immigrants from Norway settled along the Sheyenne River and on the prairie in what is now Sverdrup and Bald Hill Townships.  At first they met for worship on Sundays in their sod and log houses.  The preachers were two men from the group, which came that spring, namely, Ola Westley and Andreas Vatne.

In the summer of 1881 Pastor P. Nykreim of the Norwegian Lutheran Conference visited the newcomers.  Encouraged by him, they, together with several others who had recently arrived from Minnesota, organized the "'Thime Norsk Evangeliske Lutherske Menighed" October 16, 1881.  Fourteen settlers were enrolled as members.  Pastor Nykreim was elected chairman.

Early members were the families of:

Ola Westley

Ole Stokka

Betuel Herigstad

Nils Herigstad

Andreas Vatne

Martin Lunde

Sven Lunde

Ole Lima

Peder Wuflestad

Jens Bull

Torkel Fuglestad

Endre Aarestad

Betuel Lunde

Elling Froiland

Tonnes Vatne

Karl Lende

Arnt Njaa

Hans Braasten

Christoffer Ashland

Ingeborg Soma

Sven Loge

Waldemar Klubben

Pastor Lundeby from the Goose River area served the congregation in 1883, and the next year the congregation divided when 13 of the members reorganized into Elim Norwegian Evangelical Congregation and became associated with Hauge Synod with Pastor Jacob Nesheim from Norway serving as minister.

On June 23, 1886 they acquired land for a cemetery and a building site for a church.  The land was donated by Ola Westley.  The first burial in the cemetery was that of an infant and the second burial, which occurred in 1888, was that of Vilhelm Vatne, first husband of Ane Lima Vatne.

In 1896 Elim joined with Hoiland congregation and took the name Ebenezer Norwegian Lutheran Church.  The congregation remained an independent Lutheran Church and was served by pastors from Hauge Synod and the Lutheran Free Church.

On December 19, 1896 the future pastor, O.J. Edwards from Red Wing, Minnesota arrived.  Services were held in the schoolhouse near the Jorgen Soma farm home.  In February of 1897 the congregation numbered more than 30 voting male members over 18 years of age.  Later that same year the congregation purchased 40 acres of land on which they erected buildings for the pastor and his family.

As time went on the schoolhouse became too small for the increased attendance and they began to make plans for building a church.  On December 20, 1901 a meeting of the trustees was held to discuss the matter.  This was followed by a meeting of the entire congregation the next day.  Several plans for an adequate size building were submitted.  The estimated cost was $1,000 or less.  The seating capacity would be approximately 115.

The Ladies Aid had requested that the building of the church be started in the spring.  The Ladies Aid had $600 in its treasury toward this project, and with an additional $300 from the congregation they believed they would have sufficient funds with which to erect a small, attractive and solid church.  In response to the request of the Ladies Aid the congregation resolved to begin the work in the course of the winter by hauling sand and stone, and then after the spring work finish the foundation and make further decisions as they found best.

The building was begun in the spring of 1902 at the site donated earlier, which is located five miles south and two miles east of Cooperstown.  It consisted of a main auditorium and a smaller side-room partitioned off by wood folding doors.  This room had a cookstove in one corner and was used as a kitchen and a place for serving food whenever afternoon services were held in addition to the forenoon service.  It was used on Sunday mornings for the adult Bible class and also provided extra seating space to accommodate overflow crowds.  The Sunday school classes met in various areas in the main auditorium.  The first funeral service conducted in the new church was in December of 1902 for a young man, Baard Nilsen Herigstad.

According to the old records the following served as pastors until the year 1919:

M. Njust

H. Hjertaas

O.J. Edwards

H. Quanbeck

0.  Swenson

E. Aas

L.N. Haugland and P. Eidsaa.

In 1919 the congregation again reorganized, this time as Zion Lutheran, and from that time they have been served by pastors from the Lutheran Brethren Synod.  The congregation joined the Lutheran Brethren Synod in 1957.

In 1928 the church underwent great improvements which consisted of putting in a full basement with furnace, as well as the building of an extension on the west side for the chancel, thus giving more seating space in the main auditorium.  Pews were installed to take the place of individual chairs, which had formerly been used,

In the 1960s it became apparent that a decision must be made in regard to the church building, which now was in need of extensive repair.  As this was discussed it did not seem feasible to make the needed repairs, and neither did it seem advisable to build a new church out in the country.  A decision was made to proceed with a new building in Cooperstown.  The work was begun in 1968 and in January of 1969 the new sanctuary was fully completed.  The first service was held January 19, and the church dedicated in June.  The mortgage was burned in January of 1976.  A new parsonage was built in 1976 and dedicated in November of that year.

The pastors who have served since 1919 are:

M.E. Sletta

Elmer Hagen

Andreas Vatne

Gilbert Stenoien

E.H. Gunhus

Oscar Monson

Olaf Monson

Ole Vettrus

Andrew Monsen

Joel Lunde

Sanford Soma

LeRoy Njaa

Gordon Solheim

Glenn Larsen and Elwin Walvatne.  Silas Bergstad and Irving Standley served as interim pastors for short periods of time.  Prof. C. Christianson served as interim pastor during the summer of 1967, while Roy Johnson served during a portion of 1966 and 1967.  The present pastor is Willmore Gundersen.

The officers are: Elders - Herluf Vigesaa, George Vigesaa and Leslie Ronningen

Trustees - Trygve Thompson, Robert Berge and Everett Vigesaa

Secretary - Ted Vigesaa

Treasurer - Roald Vigesaa

Sunday School Supt.  - Mrs. Robert Berge

Ladies Aid President - Mrs. Edwin Johnson.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 164

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