Aardahl Lutheran Church

The Aardahl Lutheran Church, which is located in Section 30 of Frohn township, was organized in 1896 at an organizational meeting held in the home of one of the charter members. Iver Ungstad visited the various settlers and aroused their interest in organizing the church. Since few roads existed during those early days, the members had to undergo many hardships in traveling to the meetings, and this condition continued even after the church building itself was completed.

The charter members of the church included: J. B. Hanson, Gundar Aakus, E. J. Langerak, Paul Froirak, Gunstein Froirak, Olaf Larson, John Norbo, G. G. Moi, Paul Kvale, Ole T. Heglund, Even Moe and Iver O. Ungstad. The first officers of the church were Iver Ungstad, secretary; Gundar Aakus, treasurer; J. B. Hanson, Olaf Larson and Ole T. Heglund, trustees.

The early services of this church were held in the homes of the individual members and in the school house. Then in 1900, the congregation decided to erect a suitable place of workshop for their organization and through Mr. Ungstad’s efforts, the site for a building was donated, as was the site for a cemetery, which is just south of the church building. Material and labor for the new building resulted from donations by members, and the first thousand feet of lumber for the church was also a donation by M. Ungstad. The building was erected on top of the ground, and the present basement was not dug until years later.

The Aardahl congregation of the Norwegian Lutheran church of the town of Frohn will celebrate the 17th of May. As the 17th comes on Sunday, services will be held in the forenoon with Rev. A. Amundson officiating. Dinner will be served by the Frohn Ladies Aid society of the church, after which there will be speaking and music. It is expected that a large crowd from Bemidji and other outside points will attend. (May 1908)

“Syttende Mai” fest will be held at Aardahl’s Congregational church in Frohn Sunday. Judge C. W. Stanton, Attorney E. E. McDonald and B. J. Bjornoraa will deliver addresses. Dinner will be served at noon. “Syttende Mai” was observed in Bemidji last evening at the First Scandinavian Lutheran church of
which Rev. Osmund Johnson is pastor. A special program was given. (May, 1916)

The district Lutheran Conference was hosted by Aardahl and the Nymore Lutheran Church on Nov 6-7, 1920.

During the early years, the following pastors served the local congregation: Rev. Lars O. Opsata, Rev. Carl Amundson, Rev. Andrew Hegre, and Harold M. Bueide. Durin Rev. Amundson’s pastorate, the Nymore Lutheran Free Church was organized and became a sister church of the Aardahl church. Rev. Amundson served a split term and during his absence, Rev. Hegre, who was a recent graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary of St. Paul, served the local call, which included the churches at Malvik, Pony Lake, Nymore and Aardahl. Rev. Bueide came to succeed Rev. Amundson, who retired from active church work, and moved to Minneapolis.

Information was gathered from the Vertical Files of the Beltrami County History Center, and from early issues of the Bemidji Daily Pioneer.

Bethel Lutheran Church

Peter Dahlquist, a lay missionary from Warren, Minnesota came to Bemidji in the spring of 1905. He was 61 years old. Bemidji was a rough and tumble town with a mix of respectability as well as the seamier side of town with its many saloons and boarding houses. The town consisted of many crude frame buildings, but it also had the beginnings of a thriving tourist town with its banks, mercantile houses, and several large hotels like the Remore Hotel on the corner of Third and Beltrami.

The April 27, 1905 edition of the Bemidji Pioneer carried the following item: “Reverend Dahlquist of Warren will hold a Swedish Lutheran service in the Norwegian Lutheran Church at 10:30 a.m. Reverend Dahlquist is a District Missionary of the Minnesota Conference, Augustana Synod. He will preach tomorrow evening at the home of Peter Bodin in Mill Park.”

Peter Dahlquist was a farmer and a lay missionary with the title of “Catechist.” He was born in Sweden in 1844, so he understood the longing of his listeners to hear the Word of God in their own language. Many were recent arrivals and still understood Swedish better than English.

He first organized a Swedish Lutheran Ladies Aid which was the forerunner of the Bethel Lutheran Church. Seven ladies were charter members, namely, Mesdames W. D. Klein, J. C. Tennstrom, O. J. Laqua, E. Layon, Christine Hubbard, F. Nelson and Akerberg. Their purpose was to establish a Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, Augustana Synod. The first minutes were dated May 1, 1905.

A meeting was held on January 7, 1908 at the home of Adolph Bodin for the express purpose of organizing a church. Only two of the original ladies’ group became charter members. They were Mrs. J. C. Tennstrom and Mrs. E. Layon.  Mill Park was a neighborhood which lay and between the villages of Nymore and Bemidji. Neither really laid claim to Mill Park, but many mill workers lived in Mill Park because it was close to the big mill.  The neighborhood was also between Lake Irving and Lake Bemidji, and between the railroad tracks of the Great Northern and the M & I.

About thirty people attended the organizational meeting. Student Pastor Gabriel Pearson led the Scripture reading and prayer. Reverald L. W. Gullstrom of Grand Rapids preached a sermon. Once devotions were completed, the business of organizing a church took place. A name was selected which was “Den Svenska Lutherska Bethel Forsamlingen.”

Peter Bodin, John A. Lindgren and Emil Lund were elected as deacons. Trustees were Adolph Bodin, Nels Lindvall, and Emil Lund. John C. Tennstrom was elected as Secretary. Adolph Bodin was elected treasurer among the trustees.

Incorporation papers were drawn up and filed the next day. Thirty-three adults signed the charter. These were: Peter B. Bodin, Martha Bodin, Olaf A. Bodin, Kathrina Bodin; Johanna Bouchard; Alfred Carlson, Edla Carlson; Britha Kristine Edd; John Erickson, Brita Katherina Erickson; Ida Gordhammer; Christina Gustafson; Gust Johnson, Mary Johnson; Elizabeth Layon; Johan Alfred Lindgren, Marie Lindgren; Nels Lindvall, Sophia Lindvall; Emil Lund, Anna Leovisa Lund; John Moberg, Carrie Moberg; Eric Nyman, Amanda Nyman; Peter Olson, Lena Olson; Anna Lisa Parson; Gabriel Pearson; Harry Peterson; Katrina Svenberg; T.C. Tennstrom, Hanna Tennstrom.

The congregation had no church building at the outset. Mrs. John Moberg recalled in later years that “services were held in the Ford Garage at least twice during these early years. The old Catholic Church near the Great Northern Depot, the Odd Fellows Hall, and the old Norwegian Lutheran Church were also used as meeting places. One Sunday when no other place was available, Mr. John Moberg borrowed planks from the Crookston Mill and services were held in Moberg’s garage.”

A building project started in the fall of 1908. Lots were purchased at the corner of Sixth Street and America Avenue. On February 27, 1909, it was decided to build a church 28’ x 40’ and a chancel 8’ x 16’. John Moberg and Peter Bodin made up the building committee. Emil Lund became the head carpenter. The church was completed in 1911. The first service was held on December 17, 1911, and the formal dedication was on July 14, 1912.


Contract Has Been Let for Erection of New Edifice, Corner America and Sixth.
At a meeting of a large number of local citizens of Swedish nationality Friday evening it was settled that Bemidji should have a Swedish Lutheran church, and a contract for
a building was let. Plans had been under way for some time leading in this direction
and one and one-half lots on the corner of America avenue and Sixth street were purchased. A contract for a building 28×40 feet with a cement basement, was let Friday
night to Thomas Johnson, a local contractor. The contract calls for the completion of the new church by August 15.  A board of directors to manage the business affairs of the new Swedish Lutheran church was elected and is composed of the following: Peter Bodeen, Nelson Sillets and Emil Lund. (Bemidji Daily Pioneer, July 20, 1909)

Reverend John Randahl arrived in June 1910, and became pastor of Bethel Lutheran and Zion Lutheran in Hart Lake. He traveled by train, horse and buggy or sleigh, or even on foot to reach his many preaching points.

A Sunday School was organized in 1911 with Mrs. J. C. Tennstrom as Superintendent. Pastor Randahl organized the First Lutheran Church in Hines in 1915. He resigned from Bemidji on January 1, 1917 and left for the Hines parish in April. He was replaced by Reverend Theodore B. Nordale. During 1920 Bethel purchased its first parsonage. This was located directly north across the street from the church.

When the logging operations wound down in the Bemidji area and many people moved west, the church had its first critical period.  Membership dropped and there was concern whether the church could continue. However, this period passed, and the church remained intact. Rev. Gustav Sanstead answered the call and arrived in Bemidji in 1924. In 1924, the old parsonage was sold and a new one purchased at the corner of 13th and Bixby.

The Ladies’ Aid was instrumental in keeping the church financially sound. The men of the congregation erected a permanent building on the fairgrounds. The rear portion was the kitchen. Two dining tables were under cover and serving counters were on three sides. The ladies furnished the food. A good meal could be purchased for about $1.00. Strong competition existed between the Norwegian and the Swedish stands. Many ladies took part but only a few were mentioned in the church history. Ada Swedmark’s mother, Ms. Jacobson, baked 100 pounds of flour each year for Swedish rye bread and buns. Mrs. Alfred Moen and Mrs. John Moberg were the recognized champion lefse makers. Mrs. Herman Fenske, Mrs. George Berglund, Mrs. Charles Blade, Eleanor Erickson and others were always found doing their share. The stand was discontinued in 1940.

The church continued to grow in spite of the Great Depression. On August 19, 1945, a mortgage burning ceremony was held in the church. The parsonage indebtedness had been paid off, and for the first time in 37 years, Bethel was debt free. Recognition was given to Mr. and Ms. Theodore H. Fenske for their substantial gift that enabled the congregation to become debt free.

By 1952, the church building had become too small. The congregation considered expanding at the America Avenue building, but this would have been too costly. Instead, the congregation voted to purchase the Munsingwear building at 502 Irvine Avenue. The new church was formally dedicated on July 20, 1952. A new sanctuary, library and pastor’s offices were added in 1976. The former Munsingwear building became the fellowship hall and Sunday School classrooms.

(Information from the Centennial History of Bethel Lutheran Church, located in the Research room at the Beltrami County History Center, Bemidji, Minnesota).

Bethel Lutheran moved to a new location at 5232 Irvine Avenue in 2000. Facebook

First Baptist Church

The First Baptist Church had its beginning on Sept 22, 1898 when a small group of people met in the chapel car, Glad Tidings, with the objective of organizing. Two officers were elected at this meeting. T. G. Hallowell of Park Rapids was appointed moderator.

In July of 1898, Rev. E. R. Pope, general missionary of the Minnesota Baptist convention, had asked the Rev. C. G. Cressy to become the district missionary of Beltrami county. His salary was to be paid by John D. Rockefeller of New York City.

Rev. Cressy came to Bemidji in November of 1898 over the Great Northern railway by way of Duluth soon after the close of the war between the Bear Island Chippewa near Walker and the U. S. Army.

Bemidji people who are interested in the Baptist church building will be glad to know that a building 30 x 40 feet with stone foundation will be built this fall and will be ready for use about November 1st. (September 14, 1899)

Sixteen members attended another organizational meeting on Oct 16, 1899. William Francis was elected as Chairman and C. L. Knox as clerk. The Articles of Incorporation were filed with Matt Phibbs, County Register of Deeds on October 23, 1899.

The American Baptist Home Mission Society helped out with plans and funds for a small church. The Bemidji Township Company gave a lot to Rev. Cressy, at 8th Street and Beltrami Avenue. The timber was donated by the lumber company and two lumberjacks offered their services to get the lumber to the Swedback mill where it was sawed.

Many people assisted in the building of the first church and the last board was laid just before midnight of Thanksgiving and a union service was held on Thanksgiving Day.

The church was dedicated on the evening of December 10, 1899, the Baptists having assisted the Presbyterians in organizing their dedication service in the morning of the same day.

For a time the church was served by missionaries and visiting evangelists, but early in 1900 it was decided that a resident pastor should be secured. Rev. M. Bailey accepted the call, but only continued for 11 months, resigning on Oct 1, 1900. He was succeeded by Rev. C. H. Steinhoff, who served one year, and then by Rev. Bloomfield in 1902 to 1907.

The church building was enlarged in 1904, and a chancel and a bell tower were erected. The church was wired for electricity during the same year. The church organ was bought in March of 1905.

Rev. H. Robinson McKee came to Bemidji in September 1907. Mr. McKee was born and educated in the North of Ireland, where he had a few successful years in evangelistic work. As a young man he came to the United States in 1902. After working in connection with Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman in the eastern states, he came out to Minnesota to accept a call to the First Baptist church of Parkers Prairie, where he labored for almost four and one-half years, and from there he came to Bemidji in 1907. He ministered at Bemidji until he was called to Brainerd in March 1911.

In 1909, there were about 100 members. They had one of the best all-round Sunday schools in the state. Bemidji could lay claim to the banner “Sunday school of the state of Minnesota”, having won the “State Banner” for three successive years.

The church building was improved again in 1911, and a dedication of the improved church was held Feb 12, 1911.  The music was an important part of the program and Dr. Rood sang two solos which were much appreciated. The Baptists of Bemidji expressed gratitude to all who in any manner contributed money or time to the enlarging of the church edifice.

Rev. Foley served the church from 1911 to 1912; Rev. Chandler from 1912 to 1914; Rev. Alva Alvord from 1914 to 1917;  Rev. Witby from 1917 to 1919; Rev. Kehoe from 1919 to 1924; and Rev. Deake from 1924-to 1932.

At the Baptist Convention held in Bemidji in 1922, Rev. Thos. Frizelle, of the American Baptist Publishing Co., spoke of when he was a resident of Bemidji twenty years earlier, having made his home at that time with his uncle, Rev. Thomas Bloomfield, who was then pastor of the Baptist church in Bemidji, and he preached his first sermon in the Bemidji Baptist church.

Ground breaking for the present church in a beautiful setting in the pines west on Highway 2 took place in October, 1971 and the church was dedicated July 23, 1972.

First Lutheran Church

Rev. Lars O. Opsata held the first public service of this congregation in the home of Syvert Dokken on August 4, 1898. At this service it was decided that another meeting should be held a week later in Sather’s photograph gallery, with the objective of organizing a Norwegian Lutheran congregation. There were nine present at this meeting and the following officers were elected: Secretary, Syvert Dokken; Treasurer, A. E. Sather; and three Trustees, T. N. Rode, A. O. Aubolee and William Blakker.

The next business meeting was held on Sept 20, 1898 and a committee was elected to secure a church site. This committee received a contract for two lots on the corner of Minnesota Avenue and 8th Street on the condition that they erect a church within two years time.

The church was not built within that two years, and property records show that Lots 1, 2, 3 of Block 3 in First Addition were purchased by G. Goodman on Feb 2, 1900 for the Scandinavian Lutheran Church for $75 each, for a total of $225

The original congregation consisted of seven families. The First Lutheran Church was organized on November 14, 1900 with Reverend John Willman as pastor. He was also pastor at Bear Creek. For the first years, the congregation met in private homes and in the old courthouse, which was then located at 4th and Beltrami. For example, this was an early notice: Norwegian Lutheran service will be held in the old school house, near city hall, next Sunday at 10:30 a. m., conducted by Rev. J. Willman. (Nov 15, 1900)

The Norwegian Lutherans met last week and perfected a permanent organization. They will meet Dec. 21, to incorporate and lay plats for the erection of a church building on the lot assigned them by the townsite company, southwest of the school house.(Dec 1900) This is confusing because the Goodmans had purchased the lots on behalf of the church, but the newspaper continues to refer to them as lots donated by the Townsite Company.

At the annual meeting of January 29, 1901, a committee was appointed to work out a plan for a church building and also to make arrangements for financing the cost of construction.

Work has begun on the Lutheran church building on the corner of Minnesota avenue and Eighth Street in October 1901. The Bemidji Pioneer reported: “John Johnson has the contract, and promises to have the building completed by Thanksgiving. The structure at present will be 28×40 feet, and an addition will be added when needed. The Lutheran society is not very strong here, and their effort in going ahead to build a good home is all the more praise worthy. We hope our people who take pride in the moral advancement of Bemidji will assist generously this society in their big undertaking.” (Oct 31, 1901)

During the years of Rev. Opsata’s pastorate, the report shows a total of 11 services and he officiated at two marriages and one funeral during the three years. Meanwhile, Rev. Opsata homesteaded a piece of property and filed on his claim in 1902.

Repairing Church. The Norwegian Lutheran church building at the corner of Eighth street and Minnesota avenue is being remodeled and repaired. The structure will be raised two feet and a new foundation will be placed under it. An addition 16×16 feet is to be built at the rear, considerably increasing the size of the building. Thos. Johnson has taken a contract for the work. (June 5, 1905)

Rev. Pederson disposed of his residence at 922 America Avenue and is now erecting a new building near the Scandinavian Lutheran church at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Eighth street which will be used as a parsonage. (Aug 7, 1905)

A party of twenty of the ladies of the Norwegian Lutheran congregation called on Mrs. Osmond Johnson in a body yesterday afternoon. Rev. and Mrs. Johnson have just moved into their new parsonage, 801 Minnesota Avenue. A social afternoon and a fine lunch passed the afternoon very pleasantly. (July 8, 1920)

Following Rev. Opsata, other early pastors were J. A. Elison, John Willman, Nicolai Holm, Edward M. Pederson, T. S. Kolste, Osmund Johnson, J. L. Jerdee, with Joseph C. Jerdee, Assistant, A. E. Hanson, besides two students, J. Redal and Karl Stromme.

Rev. A. E. Hanson had attended one year at the Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul when he joined the United States Navy at the outbreak of World War I, and after spending six months at the Great Lakes station and one month in New York, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Huntington, where he was stationed for twelve months. His ship made six round trips to Europe acting as a transport for the United States troops. In the fall of 1919 he was mustered out of service and returned to St. Paul and his work in the seminary, from which he graduated in 1921. After engaging in church work in several other locations, Rev. Hanson came to Bemidji in the fall of 1927.

The First Lutheran Church was still located at 723 Minnesota Ave., but in the summer of 1928, the basement of the present first Lutheran Church was completed and services were begun in the new location at 900 Bemidji avenue. The basement was used for worship until 1939, when the main church was built.

The church building at 723 Minnesota was sold in 1929 to the Bemidji Gospel Tabernacle.

First Lutheran celebrated its 50th Anniversary on Aug 18, 1950. The Rev. Leif E. Evans, pastor since 1941, presided at the all day celebration. The church had 500 members, and printed a 32-page anniversary booklet. Rev. Evans lived at 1107 Lake Blvd.

First Lutheran added a new $85,000 Sunday school building in 1954, just east of the church building. The new building had two stories and was built to house a chapel, recreational facilities, classrooms, and a pastor’s study.

Information was gathered from the vertical files of the Beltrami County History Center and from the Bemidji Pioneer (1900-1904), and Bemidji Daily Pioneer (1904-1954).

First Presbyterian Church

The First Presbyterian Church of Bemidji, Minnesota, has the distinction of being the first pioneer church in Bemidji. It had its beginning when a group of pioneer women under the direction of Mrs. Mabel Remore (of the Remore Hotel) met to organize a Sunday School for their children. Irrespective of their individual beliefs, they banded together with the goal of securing religious services for their children. Rev. G. G. Matherson, who was then the Presbyterian Sabbath School Missionary for the Presbytery of Red River, located at Fergus Falls, kept a watchful eye on this little group. A regular Sunday School was formed on June 14, 1896, when Rev. Samuel Blair of Duluth came to Bemidji and directed its organization at a meeting held in the Malzahn building on the corner Third Street and Minnesota Avenue. Rev. Blair also began conducting religious services, and with the assistance of the women, a series of regular services were started about August of the same year.

Rev. G. G. Matherson acted as chairman, while Rev. Blair acted as the clerk for an organizational meeting on August 24, 1896. Articles of Incorporation were filed in February of 1897. Mrs. George McTaggart was elected president of the Ladies Aid. During that first winter, the Ladies Aid secured the services of Rev. Joseph Zoll as the first resident pastor and raised the funds to pay his salary. He boarded at McTaggart’s Great Northern Hotel. The group also began working diligently towards constructing a church building. Through their efforts, plans were made and John Steidl, who owned a sawmill in Bemidji, donated part of the lumber. Members donated labor and donated funds.

At this time, the area was only partly cut and not cleared, and there was only a path past the lots designated for the church, for they were really way out in the woods. But the people had a mission, and the corner stone was laid for the new church in September 1896.  The Bemidji Pioneer reported that Mrs. Sabia Nye offered the prayer.

The first church building was finished in 1897. The building cost $1,000 and was a major step forward for this new village. It was basically a small chapel built among the jack pines.

Preparations are being made to have the Presbyterian church more worthy of the distinction of being the only church building in the city. It will be painted on the outside, lathed and plastered internally, and enlarged. The building has been moved ten or fifteen feet to the rear, making room for an attractive lawn in front, the whole lot to be enclosed by a neat fence. Contributions for these improvements haven’t been quite liberally made by some of our citizens, but more money is needed. Rev. Higgins will be thankful to all who will show their public spirit by further contributions to this needed work. (Bemidji Weekly Pioneer, July 13, 1899)

The Ladies’ Guild of the Presbyterian church held their annual meeting at the home of Mrs. Milne with a goodly number present, on Jan, 3, 1901, and elected the following officers for the coming year: President, Mrs. Harman: vice president, Mrs. Grant: secretary, Mrs. Best: treasurer, Mrs. Campbell. The next meeting will be held at the home of Mrs. Higgins, Jan. 17th.  (Bemidji Daily Pioneer, Jan 10, 1901)

The Presbyterians were generous in sharing the building with other denominations who were less fortunate and needed a place to hold their services. In the early accounts, the older congregations shared facilities with other groups who were struggling to establish churches in Bemidji. On Feb. 3, 1902, for example, the German Evangelical Lutherans held their service on a Sunday afternoon with Pastor A.T. Parge as their preacher at the Presbyterian Church. Union Evangelistic service was held in the Presbyterian church by Evangelists Miss Smith and Miss Millard in November 1902.

By 1902, the church was too small, and a major remodeling project was undertaken. During the fall, services were held in an adjoining lecture room while the church was being completed. The Presbyterians rededicated the church in November 1902.

“Last Sunday was an epoch in the history of the Presbyterian church of this city. Some time ago the pastor and members of the church feeling the need of a place more befitting for their worship, began to lay plans whereby they might bring about the desired end and as a result the edifice has been entirely remodeled during the past few months. Last Sunday the Presbyterians and their friends joined in a rededication service of their church. The services consisted of morning and evening sessions, both of which were full of interest and enthusiasm occasioned by the importance of the event.”

During the services a fund was raised for the raising of the church debt, and those present responded generously. The repairs on the church had amounted to between $1200 and $1500. “It is a notable fact that now, but a few days after the church has been completed, the church is free from indebtedness of any kind. The record is one worthy of note coming as it does from a church so young in years.” (Bemidji Daily Pioneer, Nov 13, 1902)

“The Presbyterian church is going to have a new pipe organ, and the Ladies’ Guild are actively canvassing subscriptions for the same. It is better to put your surplus money in the organ than in a bottle of whiskey, for the former is full of music and the latter is full of fight.” (Dec 4, 1902)

The church also was a place for entertainment. The dialect and humorous impersonations of Mr. Fouche are irresistibly funny. Don’t fall to hear him at the Presbyterian church on Saturday evening, April 18 [1904], and enjoy a hearty laugh.  A special price of 25 cents will be made for all students. Benefit of the organ fund.

Years later, the congregation decided that the old church building was inadequate for the growing membership, and arrangements were completed for the construction of a more suitable building. The old church building was torn down and a new brick building of Gothic architecture was erected on the same property.

One of the best known pastors of northern Minnesota was Francis Higgins, the “Sky Pilot of Northern Minnesota.” He became associated with the First Presbyterian Church two years after its organization. It was under his leadership that the first church building was erected and a large part of the actual building of the structure was done by him. Along with the Ladies Aid, he worked hard to secure the materials for building and his appeals to the citizens of Bemidji results in donations of lumber and other necessities.

Besides devoting considerable time to the local church work, Higgins made many trips to the neighboring lumber camps and settlements, holding church services wherever he was able to gather a group to listen to him. He held services in homes, schoolhouses and logging camps, and the first years of his work were extremely trying.

Rev. Frank McCloud served about two years, then was followed by Rev. S.E.P. White, who came to Bemidji in April 1, 1905. He was elated by the success of the first Bemidji Bible Conference held in July of 1905. In fact, the conference was so successful that the executive committee decided to hold it annually in Bemidji. Rev. White served for a number of years, but when his wife died in 1915 after years of suffering from tuberculosis, he went west for a year. Upon his return, he sent in his resignation and accepted a call in Colorado. He died in 1927.

In 1912, the Bemidji Daily Pioneer opened a competition among the church women of Bemidji to see who could sell the most subscriptions. A Christmas Gift of $125 was offered for each 100 subscriptions sold by the members of the church group. . Consequently, a list was published of those who competed. A partial list of the Presbyterian Women’s Band, which was published between Thanksgiving and Christmas, listed Mesdames A. Lord, president; Geo. Rhea, H. Koors, Geo. Cochran, George Markham, A. B. Palmer, Dan Gracie, H. Olson, A. L. Collard, K. McIver, A. Warfield, Battles, J. J. Conger, M. E. Smith, J. J. McLaughlin, Peck, and S.E.P White.

At a meeting of the Presbyterian congregation in the church parlors in February 1916, a call was issued to Rev. Lester P. Warford. The salary was set at $1,500 a year. The use of the Presbyterian manse was designated in the contract for the new pastor. He would also be given a month’s vacation to be taken at a time of his own choosing.

Rev. Warford was born on June 21, 1881 in Brooklyn, N.Y. He graduated from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1908. He first went to North Dakota, and then went to work among the people of the river flats in north Minneapolis. He was married in 1912.

Rev. Warford was very active in local affairs. He was president of the Beltrami County Red Cross chapter during the World War, and was president of the Kiwanis club in 1928. He also belonged to the Civic & Commerce Association and the Philomathian club, which is an organization meeting every two weeks during the winter months for the purpose of studying history. He also helped organized the Boys Athletic club.

With the dedication of the new Presbyterian church on Sept 15, 1929, Rev. Warford saw one of his life’s ambitions realized. He died on April 13, 1949.

First Presbyterian Church honored its 50-year members in a special celebration on May 3, 1964. Of the 32 persons being honored, 11 were still members of the local church while the others have transferred to churches in other localities. The 50-year members still on the Bemidji church membership roll were: Leon Battles, Mrs. Leon Battles (Catherine McGregor) Mrs. G. L. Dodge (Nellie Knott), Mrs. Margaret Edwards (Margaret Condon), Mrs. J. K. Given (Mae McGregor), Nathaniel (Nat) Given, Mrs. Nathaniel Given (Sarah Quayle), Mrs. Harry Peterson (Margaret Lord), Herbert C. Warfield and Mrs. Del Wood (Ruth Essler), all of Bemidji, and Mrs. Lillian Koors, resident of the Minnesota Soldiers Home, Minneapolis. The oldest living members of the church were Mrs. Fred Hanson and Mrs. Stella Pogue, who joined the church in 1902, and Mrs. G. L. Dodge, who became a member in 1906.

(Information from the church interviews located at the Beltrami County History Center, and from the Bemidji Daily Pioneer, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.)

First Spiritualist Church

The first meeting for the winter of the First Spiritualist Church was held at the opera house Sunday evening, November 22, 1902. The Bemidji orchestra furnished a few choice selections, and vocal music was well rendered by a specially selected choir. A large congregation was present to listen to the sermon, which was brilliant and full of golden worth. Mrs. Ted Smith, the chaplain, has achieved much notoriety throughout the state since the annual convention in Minneapolis, where she lectured before the delegates under the spell of inspiration. She is a gifted speaker, and under her guidance the Spiritualist church is becoming firmly entrenched in Bemidji.

Mrs. Ted Smith, formerly Miss Cora Kincannon, who came to Bemidji in the spring of ’94, was the first minister of any denomination to push through the wilderness of Beltrami county and locate at Bemidji. In the winter of ’94-5 Mrs. Guy H. Remore, of the Remore hotel, opened her parlors to the first Spiritualistic meeting held in the village. During the winter private meetings were held every Sunday evening at the hotel, at that time there being only Miss Kincannon and her family believers in that doctrine. Mrs. Remore was greatly interested in the work and was the means of showing many favors to the few settlers that would meet at her home to investigate the teachings.

The first public meetings were held in the fall of ’99 at the hall over the Gillmore drug store. At that time there were only about ten active members. The society increased and the audiences grew so large that it was necessary to procure a larger hall, where the meetings opened in the fall of 1900. The meetings were exceedingly successful during the winter, as seating capacity was out of the question and very often standing room was not to be had. It was thought best, if possible, to hold the first meetings in the city hall this winter so all who wished to learn more about the beautiful teaching would not have to stand during the services.

In the spring of ’99 Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Ceo. Kates, of Philadelphia, came to the rescue of the little society and made them a chartered society of the State of Minnesota with a membership of twenty-three active members. At the present time [Nov 1902] there are about forty-five members and upwards of 150 or 200 actual believers in the religion in and around the city. Last fall Mrs. Ted Smith received her ordination papers and is licensed to preach the gospel of Spiritualism, officiate at funerals and perform marriage ceremonies. (Bemidji Pioneer, Nov 27, 1902)

Northern Bible Chapel

The work at Northern was started in 1928 when Oak Hills Fellowship entered the willow grove area, four miles northwest of Northern. Ten years later, because of shift in population, services were held in the Northern schoolhouse. As Sunday School attendance began to soar in 1940, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Conat gave the land on which the present building is located.

At a meeting in May 1941, plans were made for the actual building and donations included the land by the Conats, gravel and stone by Lee Worth; logs by Earl Moutuon, lumber by Roy Jackson and pledges amounting to $300. The first service was held on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 26, 1942. Vernon Bliss was the first pastor called in 1942 and when he left to become an Army Air Force chaplain in 1943, Robert Page, who had been serving Solway for six years, replaced him. At the conclusion of World War II, Mr. Bliss returned to Northern and the Pages moved to the Carr Lake field. Mr. Bliss gave his farewell sermon June 15, 1952 and Thomas Cairns filled the pulpit until September 1952.

A new 40 x 50 addition was started in 1962 and was dedicated on July 12, 1964.

Nymore Lutheran Free Church

The Nymore Lutheran Church had its beginning in 1905, when a small group of devout Christians met at the home of Mathew and Marie Larson in Nymore. The meetings were held in the Norwegian language. Worship services, Sunday School and the Ladies Aid meetings were held in their home.

Following a number of meetings in the various homes, the Nymore Lutheran Free church was organized on Dec 6, 1907. The congregation was incorporated under the laws of the State of Minnesota on July 27, 1908.  Among the charter members were Rev. Amundsen, Mathew Larson, O. Risland, Mr. Lukken and a Mr. Peterson or Johnson, and Mr. Akre.

At first, church services were held in the Congregational Church. In 1908, Mathew Larson, who then owned considerable property in Nymore, donated a lot for the church. He also agreed to supply the logs for the lumber needed for the buildings. The logs were hauled out to a sawmill near the brickyards and the finished lumber was in turn hauled back to the church site. Under the supervision of a Mr. Clark, the work went forward with labor donated by the various members of the church. The church was built at the corner of 4th Street and Wood Avenue.

Rev. Carl Amundersen was the first pastor from 1907-1912. Rev. Amundsen was already serving the Aardahl Free Lutheran Church of Frohn township and the Pony Lake Church of Liberty township. Both of those churches had been organized before 1900.

In 1909, the young women of the church organized in a group called the “Willing Workers”.  The land for the Nymore Lutheran Cemetery was donated at this time by Mathew Larson. Julius Larson, father of Mrs. Carl Amundsen, was the first person buried in Nymore Cemetery.  The second person buried here was John Melhus.

The first child baptized in the new church was Earl Akre, the son of the Ed Akre. The first confirmation was held on September 26, 1909 with five members being confirmed.

Pastors that served the early Nymore Lutheran Church were Carl Amundson from 1908 to 1912; George Larson from 1913 to 1916; O. P. Grambo 1915-1922; H. E. Bode, 1922-1923; O. C. Olson 1923 to 1927; Andrew Hegre 1928 to 1930; Carl Amundson 1930 to 1934; and Harold M. Bueide from 1934 to 1939.

In November, 1913, Rev. George Larson received a most pleasant surprise from the Nymore, Aardahl and Trefoldlghed congregations. When coming home from the service in Bemidji, they found the church in Nymore filled to capacity with friends. When Rev. Larson commenced his service, J. A. Olson interrupted and said, “The service will be a little different than usual this evening,” stating that while Rev. Larson had left many friends in Washington, he also had many friends in this locality. At the end of his speech, he presented the minister with a handsome purse of money, on behalf of his congregations with which to buy furniture for the new parsonage which had been built recently for him at 412 Wood Avenue. Rev. Larson had splendid success in his church work the four months he has been in Nymore, and his congregations were exceeding pleased with the progress. Churches had been built and others had been improved and an up-to-date parsonage has just been completed. A new congregation had been organized in Cass Lake and he has also begun his regular services in Bemidji.

On April 8, 1918, the Lutheran parsonage, occupied by Rev. O. P. Grambo, wife and five children, burned to the ground and many of the early records of the church were lost. The fire was caused by the explosion of an air tight stove in the pastor’s study. Everything upstairs, including Rev. Grambo’s $1,000 library, was burned, but the furniture downstairs was saved. The loss of the contents amounted to some over $1,500, and there was no insurance on the furniture and books. Rev. Grambo and family had occupied the residence for two years. (Bemidji Daily Pioneer, Apr 8, 1918)

Rev. Hegre, pastor from 1928-1930, was born in Stavanger, Norway. He attended school in Norway and He entered the Augsburg seminary in Minneapolis in the fall of 1925. Working in a printing plant, as a bookbinder, he made enough money to keep himself in school, and in the spring of 1929, he graduated from the seminary and was ordained a month later. During part of the time that he was attending Augsburg, he made trips to Bemidji every two weeks, and for one year from the spring of 1928 until the spring of 1929, preached at the Nymore church. After being ordained, he came to Bemidji to become the permanent pastor of the Nymore Lutheran Free Church but also the Aardahl Lutheran Free Church and the Trinity Lutheran Free Church at Wilton.

By this time, the church in Nymore alternated Sundays in the use of Norwegian and English sermons. A joint Thanksgiving service between the First Lutheran Church, the Bethel Lutheran and the Nymore church was held.

Rev. Carl Amundsen served the parish from 1930-1934. A parsonage was purchased at 701 South 4th Street in 1930. This parsonage was also destroyed by fire in 1935, and after being rebuilt at the same location, it was used until 1973.

The first church building was replaced in 1963-1964 and the name was changed to the Calvary Lutheran Church. The new church building at 1015 South 4th St. was dedicated on April 26, 1964. The old church building was sold to the Nymore Revival Center about two months later.

Ground was broken Aug 11, 1963 for the new home of the Nymore Lutheran Church, with construction of the $102,295 edifice scheduled to begin this week on Fourth Street South, between McKinley and Grant Avenues. Present for the groundbreaking ceremony were Carol Radi, Luther League president; Arnold Lewer, Sunday School Supt.; Mrs. Adolph Kluver, Dorcas Circle chairman; Al Sletten, building fund treasurer; Mrs. Art Krogseng, Ladies Aid president, Adolph Kluver, Men’s Club president; Mrs. Glenn Skime, Esther Circle chairman; Rev. Vernon Nelson, Bethel Lutheran pastor; Paster T. H. Megorden, First Lutheran Church; Chris Olson, Golden Age Club chairman; Wayland Jones, chairman building committee; John Saltee, president of the congregation; Mrs. C. A. Glassman, secretary of the building committee; Mrs. Wallace Wubbels, Couples club; Pastor Eugene Anderson, Nymore Lutheran Church; Mrs. Hildes Tell and Wallace Wubbels, building committee. Not present were Donald Norum and Wayne Berglund of the building committee. (Bemidji Pioneer, Aug 12, 1963)

Groundbreaking for a new building on Highway No. 71 was held in 1981. In 1982, Palm Sunday services were held at three churches. Services were conducted at the Wood Avenue Church, the 4th and Grant church, and by Pastor Luther Abrahamson at the new Calvary Church.

An extensive history of this church and its membership is online at http://www.calvarybemidji.org/html/about-us/history.html. Other details for this summary were found in the vertical files of the Beltrami County History Center, and in the newspaper accounts of the Bemidji Pioneer at www.chroniclingamerica.org.

Salvation Army

Ensign Miller and Lieutenant Worman organized the local branch in 1899. “The Salvation Army started work here Dec 6, 1899 under Ensign I. G. Miller of Minneapolis and is meeting with much success. Nightly meetings are held in Rolfe Hall, which has been leased to the Army for one year.” (Bemidji Pioneer, Jan 1900) Meetings were probably held even earlier on the streets of the  village, but records of that early presence do not survive. References in the Bemidji Pioneer in 1900 suggest that the Salvation Army had been active for some time in the village.

Ensign Miller and Capt. Simpson went over to Cass Lake to check on the work going on in that village. (March 1900)

Capt. Simpson, who has been here with the Salvation Army since it barracked in Bemidji, has gone to Crookston. A farewell service was given in his honor Sunday night. (April 19, 1900)

The Salvation Army went into quite a heavy expense in fitting up the barracks in Bemidji and the officers’ home. But the hustle of Ensign Miller and others of the army has greatly reduced the original debt and they intend to wipe out the balance from the proceeds of the old fashioned banquet which they give next Wednesday night at the city hall. (April 26, 1900)

Commandant Robert Askins was one of the first Salvation Army workers to have Bemidji as his headquarters.

A party of Salvationists went out to Bass lake yesterday for the purpose of catching a few bass, but they brought home a few little pickerel. While on the road out the lieutenant fell out of the wagon and hurt his back pretty bad, but still they say they enjoyed themselves. (May 31, 1900)

Capt. Cashman arrived from Yankton, N. Dak., last week to assist in the Salvation Army work here. (Aug 23, 1900)

A farewell meeting at the Salvation Army hall was held on Sunday at 8 p. m. Capt. Williams was sent to Duluth and Lieut. Cashman to St. Paul. They are to be superseded by two ladies, Capt. Bunch and Lieut. McFall from Marshall. (Sept 6, 1900)

Captains Snyder and Petts of the Salvation Army will bid farewell to Bemidji Sunday next. (June 20, 1901)

Lieut. Col. Margrets and Staff Captain Wait will conduct meetings in the Salvation Army hall Friday, March 23, and Monday, the 31st. (March 20, 1902)

Staff Capt. Folkner of the Salvation Army will speak in their hall on Friday evening. (March 20, 1902)

Meeting places and headquarters for the Salvation Army changed several times before the Salvation Army acquired permanent quarters at 211 Minnesota Ave.

According to available records, the first meeting place of the local corps, shortly following its organization, was the one-story frame store building at 208 Second Street. Records fail to reveal just how long the army made use of this building, for it seems that various store buildings were used for services through the years.

M. E. Carson will move his stock of flour and feed into the building now occupied by the Salvation Army, and will put in a stock of confectionery. Not sure where this was. (Feb 12, 1903)

Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Smith were taken into the congregation of the Free Baptist church of Bemidji Saturday. The baptism occurred near the Mississippi bridge and was conducted by James Driver. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were formerly members of the Salvation Army corps in this city. (May 8, 1905)

Capt. Rose Bulson who was in command of the Salvation Army work here about three years ago has again taken charge of the Army work and will hold meetings at their newly . opened hall on Fourth street. Sunday meetings at 3 p. m. and y 8 p. m. Children’s meeting at 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon. Everybody is cordially invited to attend these meetings. (Sept 9, 1905)

H.S. Chase, Jr. of Grand Forks leased the Mayo building on Beltrami Ave [possibly 321], formerly the headquarters of the Salvation Army, in December 1906.

207 Minnesota Avenue: Early yesterday morning, the body of Lacy Walsh, an old-time lumberjack, was found in a bed above the Salvation Army barracks in rooms conducted by N. W. Brown. Life had been extinct for some time, and although death had not been expected, demise of Walsh was under natural conditions. (Dec 23, 1908)

The Salvation Army met at 506 Minnesota Avenue in 1911, the residence of Helen Reitz, who was captain in 1912. The Salvation Army Barracks were at 213 Minnesota Ave. in 1912.

Captain Myrta Livick, who has spent some seven months in the city in the work of the Salvation Army, will say farewell on Sunday evening. She will go to St. Paul to assist in the work there. The captain goes to her new appointment with the prayers and good wishes of many friends. All are cordially invited to attend her farewell meeting on Sunday evening. (Sept 7, 1912)

Following World War I, the work of the Salvation Army was much more appreciated. Servicemen recalled the service rendered by the Salvation Army during the war years, and local businessmen supported a permanent building for the organization. They also sought ways to work with the Salvation Army through fund drives and cooperation to improve life in Bemidji for those in need. In 1917, the Commercial Club and the Pioneer supported a project suggested by Captain Crusberg.

“In Bemidji there are many children and mothers, as well, who have not had an afternoon’s enjoyment in an outing on the lake and Captain H. Crusberg, the new head of the Salvation Army post, has interested himself in the matter and the Pioneer has volunteered to assist him as well as W Harnwell, president of the Commercial club.
It is a simple idea and one worthy of every co-operation. It is merely to set a day, perhaps a week hence, and take the children and their mothers out to Diamond Point for a day, business men and others donating the use of their autos to take the little ones out, let them have a day on the beach, and serve Ice cream, sandwiches and lemonade for the youngsters. The Pioneer Is going to boost hard for this and so is Mr. Harnwell. Several other business men have been approached and are heartily interested It would be such a little thing to do and the youngsters who haven’t the possible advantages of others would have the time of their lives. Help these children have at least one day of an outing like hundreds of others are enjoying throughout the summer.” (July 1917)

In 1919, the Pioneer praised Captain Orchard for his charity to a woman in Nymore:
Captain Orchard of the Salvation Army post has turned over the barracks in Nymore to Mrs. Mattenson, who was burned out in the recent fire, having no place to take care of her roomers and boarders, on which she depended for her living. Captain Orchard gave her permission to move into the Salvation Army building until another place can be found for her. Mrs. Mattenson’s husband is confined in a local hospital where he has been for some time. Captain Orchard wishes it known that he is at the service of the needy, night or day Kindly call Phone 478. He has considerate clothing, furniture, bedding and other articles which can be given to those in need of them. (Aug 16, 1919)

Ernest Orchard, Salvation Army officer, wife Mary, Dorothy and Ernest, rented a place to live in 1920 at 901 America Avenue. (1920 census); city directory (1920-1921)

116 Third Street: After nine months without a place to meet, the Salvation Army was able to lease space in the old Baker building at 116 Third Street. (Dec 1921)

The Army then purchased a building and lot from Charles Nangle. This building was an old store building, built of frame and having two stories and a partial basement. Some repairs were made and the entire building was redecorated, providing a fairly presentable quarters, and the Army used this home until the erection of the new building at 211 Minnesota, which served as a meeting place and Captain’s residence for many years.

211 Minnesota Avenue: In 1922, the local group tore down the old building and erected a more suitable chapel and home for the Army, and through the assistance secured from local business men and from the Salvation Army headquarters at Minneapolis, enough funds were secured to begin the work. The brick building was completed in December of 1922, and the first services were held just before Christmas. In it were ample quarters for religious services and smaller rooms for meetings, as well as quarters for regular officers.
Marking the progress of Salvation Army work in Bemidji and vicinity, Col. William Barker, divisional commander of the Salvation Army forces of Minnesota and South Dakota will preside at a cornerstone laying ceremony to be held Sunday afternoon at the new Salvation Army Citadel at 211 Minnesota avenue which is now under construction. The new Salvation Army home is rapidly nearing completion and will give the local corps a real home in which to conduct its work and is expected to add greatly to the efficiency of the unit. (Dec 8, 1922)

Ensign Westbrook of Dallas, Texas will conduct an old fashioned revival this event at the Salvation Army Citadel at 8 o’clock. Capt. Virgil Merchant of Minot, N.D., who is successor to Ensign O. C. Asserude, and who will have charge of all Salvation Army operations in this city, together with his family, will also be present tonight. Capt. Merchant has had many years experience in Christian work and is a very capable man and his entire family are all musicians. The public is invited to all these meetings and especially all Salvationists and Christian friends. Ensign Westbrook of Texas will speak and his singing and banjo playing in his own southern style are very interesting and entertaining. Special attention will be given the children and mothers with babies. They will be given seats at the front where they can best enjoy the music. (July 8, 1925)

The officers stationed here in the late 1920s were Mrs. Mildred Locker and Cadet Freda Edberg, and a large number of volunteer assistants. Mrs. Locker was born in Canada about 1904, but her family moved to Mandan, N.D., where she attended high school. Upon graduation, Mildred Hendrickson entered the Chicago college of the organization. She then held posts at Fergus Falls, Jamestown, Rapid City, Hibbing and Devils Lake. She was stationed at Minneapolis for three years, and then came to Bemidji. She was formerly a lieutenant and later a captain in the service of the Salvation Army. Upon her marriage to Bert Locker in Beltrami County on Jan 23, 1928, she automatically lost her rank, as her husband was not a member of the Salvation Army. She will be restored to a captaincy as soon as her husband completes his training course at the Salvation Army College in Chicago. Chief among the studies at the Salvation Army college were early church history, organization, Bible study, doctrines of the Army and first aid. In 1929, there were 35 senior soldiers and 32 junior soldiers belonging to the Salvation Army in Bemidji. A soldier in the organization is comparable to a member of a church congregation. There was a Home League of 21 members, of which Mrs. Frank Taunt was secretary.

During 1930-1940, there was a surge in membership. The Salvation Army was led by Herbert J. Baker in 1934-1935.

The city and the Salvation Army cooperated during the Depression. For example:
“Transients should be referred to Salvation Army. People who are accosted on the street by panhandlers asking for the price of a meal should refer them to the Salvation Army headquarters. City Council went on record as favoring giving the Salvation Army Headquarters $100 a month for the next three months to feed transients who are without food and a bed for the night. Captain E. Stohler stated that the Salvation Army is being besieged by requests for a meal, too much for their organization to handle alone.” (Dec 11, 1936)

The NYA youth project has six young people repairing toys with material supplied by the Salvation Army. (Dec 1936)

Salvation Army, Geo Dearholt (1946) Captain Dearholt was there for many years. One of the issues he fought for was to enforce the council rule that bars could not be within 200 feet of a church. Nevertheless the Municipal Liquor Store #2 went in at 209 Minnesota. Then while Donald Spicer was Captain in 1956, the City Council granted a license to James Boyer to transfer the license of the Spot Tavern to the former Municipal Liquor #2 location, which was next door to the Salvation Army at 209 Minnesota.

Captain Mrs. Chester Cain replaced Captain Dearholt when he was transferred to Hibbing.

As of 1955, the membership included 64 adults, 47 juniors, and 65 Sunday School members. Summer Bible Schools were conducted annually, and served about sixty children. The Sunbeams, girls from six to ten, had a weekend period. The Girl Guards and Boy Scouts had a week, and the Band members had ten days of summer camp.

Capt and Mrs. Dale Vilen were at home in Bemidji after their marriage at the Salvation Army Citadel in Minneapolis. (Oct 9, 1959)

Capt. Gerald Green presented a tambourine to Mrs, Addie Taunt, an active soldier of the local Salvation Army for many years, who was honored at a recent meeting of the citadel. A bouquet of 36 roses was also given to Mrs. Taunt by Capt. Green, representing 36 years of unbroken service in the Salvation Army. William Scherling also gave a tribute to Mrs. Taunt for her faithfulness to God and the Salvation Army. (Bemidji Sentinel, March 10, 1961)

Lt. William Goodman assumed his duties as the new officer in charge on May 17, 1961. Capt. Gerald Green went to Illinois. William Lyon will continue in Bemidji as an assistant to Lt. Goodman. (May 1961)

For Sale. Bids are being accepted for the sale of the Salvation Army Citadel, 211 Minnesota. (Feb 10, 1965).

Seventh Day Adventists

This local church was organized on May 16, 1925. The first meeting place was at the church built on a corner lot at 824 America Avenue. Forty members belonged to the original congregation. For several years before organization, there were perhaps a dozen believers in this area.

Rev. M. Ruskjer officiated at services for Raymond L. Butts, eight months old son of Mr. and Mrs. Gettie S. Butts on April 5, 1920. The child passed away after an illness with pneumonia brought about by measles. The child was laid to rest following funeral services held at the home of Mrs. John Corcoran at Thirteenth and Dalton.

Rev. M. Ruskjer officiated at the funeral of James Sharples at 909 Mississippi Avenue who died May 1, 1920.

The earliest mention in the Bemidji Pioneer of any building activity by the Seventh-Day Adventists was a clipping on July 1, 1920.

Rev. M. Ruskjer of the Minnesota Conference Association of Seventh Day Adventists, has purchased through T. Baudette, of the Northern Real Estate Exchange, two fine centrally located lots on the corner of Ninth Street and America Avenue. Rev. Ruskjer expects to erect a church on the site in the near future.

A series of lectures were conducted by Evangelists G. L. Budd and M. Ruskjer in the Gospel Tent pitched on the corner of Ninth and America avenue on July 8, 1920. The inspiration of the Bible was the topic of discussion the first night.

In front page coverage of his lecture later in the month, the Bemidji Pioneer quoted Evangelist Preacher Ruskjer on July 23, 1920, when he said that Baptism was the outward sign of an inward change, and that only one mode of baptism could be accepted as right, that of immersion.

Rev M. Ruskjer and family, who had been living at 819 America Avenue, left by auto in June 1921 for Fergus Falls where they planned to make their home. The house they vacated was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. George Sthol, who had lived at the Kaplan flats the previous winter.

The organization was referenced again in December 8, 1921. “A series of meetings have been started in the Kitichi school house by Seventh Day Adventist ministers. Everyone is welcome. They have been holding some excellent and very helpful meetings at White Pine and have done much good. They come here, highly recommended. Mr. and Mrs. Bogart of White Pine brought them out to Kitichi.”

The first church service notice appeared in the paper on March 4, 1922, The Adventists were listed as part of the regular church services offered in Bemidji.

Gospel services will continue at Christianson’s hall at Nymore each Sunday night throughout March by the local pastor of the Seventh-Day Adventist church of Bemidji with assistance from time to time by visiting ministers from St. Paul and elsewhere. Subject for March, 5, at 7:45 p.m. will be, “The New Birth, and The Work of the Holy Ghost.” Special music and song. Come early.  B. O. Engen

The church was built in 1925. A parsonage was purchased at 710 15th Street by the Minnesota Association of Seventh-Day Adventists of St. Paul in 1951. Prior to that time the pastors lived in rented quarters.

The first parochial school was held in 1917 with 16 pupils. It was held in the teacher’s home somewhere near Dalton Avenue and 21st Streets. This was part of the general growth of the parochial school system in the denomination as well as the country.

The presence of a day school for at least eight years before the organization, would indicate that a Sabbath School was in operation at least at that time. Seventh-Day Adventist Sabbath Schools are attended by all the members of the church and include the children right down to the cradle level. These schools are designed to provide an opportunity for daily Bible study for all age groups.

An update on leadership of the church for 1971 is as follows:

New officers have been elected to guide the programs and organizations of the Bemidji Seventh-day Adventist church for 1971. They begin their term of service on Jan. 1. Charged with assisting the pastor and leading when he is gone is John Smedberg, Guthrie, appointed first elder. He will have a board of four elders working with him. They are Dr. D. Wohlfeil. Ronald Lang, Everett Marsh, and Donald Larsen. Marvin Frishman has been named head deacon, and Elvera Hall as head deaconess. Five deacons and three deaconesses will assist them in general services to the church. Keeping tabs on records and reports will be Arlene Frishman, church clerk. The church membership also approved leadership for their Sabbath School and young people’s organization. General superintendent for 1971 is Dorothy Coyle. Leading in religious and social activities for the church’s teens and youth is Dennis Ras. Everett Marsh will direct lay activities which encompass home missions, health and welfare services, and evangelistic projects by laymen. Seventh-day Adventists operate on a representative form of church government. Authority in the church rests with the church membership, who delegate responsibility to elected leadership.

SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST Ninth and America Ave. D.E. Klam, Pastor Saturday— 10 a.m. Sabbath school 11:15 a.m. Morning worship Wednesday— 8 p.m. Prayer meeting Sunday— 9:30 a.m. “The Voice Prophecy” over KBUN radio.

The church building was sold in the 1980s to the Church of the Nazarene. It is owned currently by the Peoples Church of Bemidji.

Information for this article came from Genevieve Berry’s “A Brief History of the Church of Bemidji” (Feb. 28, 1955) and from articles in the Bemidji Daily Pioneer.

Seventh Day Adventist Church

The First Seventh Day Adventist Church Bemidji was organized in 1918 as an associate of the Seventh Day Adventist organization. Elder M. Ruskjer was the first resident pastor. They met each Saturday in a rented hall to worship according to their beliefs and convictions. Some of the early organizers of the congregation were Mrs. Kate Dybvig, A. S. Ruskjer, Rev. B. O. Engen, Miss Jennie Burgeson, Roy Stebe, Mrs. J. E. Bunker, Mrs. E. A. Tolles of Becida, and Mrs. Vera Wilson.

After a few years, the membership increased in such proportions that it was decided to erect a permanent church building, and in 1925, the needed funds were secured to warrant carrying out the project. Two lots were purchased on the corner of Ninth Street and America Avenue, and actual construction began. Most of the labor was donated by members, as were a large portion of the necessary materials and fixtures. The building was dedicated in May of 1925. The address was 824 America Avenue. Concrete blocks used in the building were manufactured by the Bemidji Brick Concrete Company. The building had a large main auditorium and two class rooms on the main floor, while the basement was left unfinished, but was large enough to expand services.

In 1936, the entire interior of the building was painted and re-decorated and some changes were made to provide a larger auditorium, while the basement was finished and provided space for the church school class rooms. A parochial school was conducted in this space during the winter and spring months.

Elder M. Ruskjer served three years and was succeeded by B. O. Engen, M. E. Anderson, E. L. Sheldon, Henry Grundset, Lawrence Burgeson, W. B. Pontynen, and E. A. Piper.

The Dorcas Society of the Seventh Day Adventist church celebrated the 40th anniversary of its organization in Bemidji in Oct 1967.  The work was started by Pastor and Mrs. K. L Sheldon in 1927. In 1959, the Dorcas Society dedicated a building right behind the church on 9th and America. The building was known as the Dorcas Health and Welfare Center with Mrs. Delbert Hall in charge and Mrs. Jack Price, assistant. Mrs. Dorothy Coyle was the leader of the Dorcas Society in 1967. Three charter members of the Society were still living in 1967, namely Mmes. Lena Back, A.L Davis and William Klinger.

In 1974, members George Larson, Don Cooper, Don Larsen, Mrs. Duane Wohlfeil, Pastor E.W. Brown and B.J. Furst of the Seventh-Day Adventist church got together for groundbreaking ceremonies for their new church to be located west of Bemidji on Highway 2.  Construction began in July 1974 of the new church building. Board members considered plans for nearly a year for the new structure. It was erected west of the city, on Highway 2, on land donated to the congregation by pioneer member, George Larson.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church traditionally gathered good used clothing for distribution. In 1974, they processed and distributed over 25,000 such items. Their operation was housed in a small structure at the back of the church lot until they moved to a new location in February 1975 at 810 15th Street, under the direction of Mrs. Eldon Johnson. Anyone facing hard times or disaster could come to the center for help. The ladies and men of the Adventist Church completed a project of making quilts for distribution at the center, with 49 quilts finished during the first six weeks of 1975.

In Nov 1977, the “Pathfinders” and younger children of the Seventh Day Adventist Church collected over 700 cans of food and other items to distribute at Thanksgiving time to the needy, shut-ins, handicapped and persons who have lost their homes by fire.

St. Philip’s Catholic Church

Father Philip Murphy was the first priest to hold services in Bemidji. He was educated in Brooklyn, New York, and completed his studies at St. Paul Seminary and was admitted to the priesthood. . This priest was one of the pioneers of Northern Minnesota. Before coming to Bemidji, he was stationed at Crookston, and from there he visited the outlying missions.

In the fall of 1898, Father Murphy came to Bemidji to “size up” the territory. He found a few Catholic families here and immediately made arrangements to hold services, at least once during each month. Services were held in private homes at first, but later the “old City Hall” or Court house was rented for that purpose. Services were held here until the fall of 1899. The old city hall was on the corner of Fourth and Beltrami. During the winter, services were held upstairs in what was the shop of Peter M. Dicaire and Wm. Ross, Tinsmiths. This was at 320 Beltrami Avenue, which later became the Earl W. Bucklen, plumbing shop.

The Bemidji congregation quickly grew to 125 families or approximately 700 people. While he served as Bemidji’s pastor, he was also in charge of other churches at Cass Lake, Solway, Bagley, Felton, Ada and Euclid.

Cora Carson sold Lots 1-4 in block 10 of Carson’s Addition to the Catholic Church for $1.00 in April 1899. This lot was on Third and Park Avenue and the church was built at 604 Third Street. The Bemidji Welding and Machine Company, under the management and ownership of C. F. Olson, opened quarters in the old Catholic church on Park avenue in October 1914. The lot then went to the Soo Line railway when that line came into Bemidji.

The first church was built during the summer of 1900. Soon after this, the Rectory was built on the corner of Fourth Street and America Avenue (321 America), which was later owned by Mr. and Mrs. William McDermid.

Yesterday morning occurred a wedding at the Catholic parsonage to which the contracting parties were Cass Lake people. Cora Begin and J. Hillin. Lillie Finegan and Carrol McKinney stood up with them. The groom is head sawyer at Scanlon & Gibson’s sawmill. Father Murphy performed the ceremony. (May 2, 1901)

At the Catholic parsonage Tuesday morning occurred a little ceremony which made C. C. Miller and Miss Katherine Garry man and wife. Rev. Father Murphy performed the ceremony, and Mrs. Fred Sprague and Robert Clark “stood up” for them. Mr. Miller is connected with the Leland cafe, and the bride is a sister to Mrs. Sprague. The happy couple left on the afternoon train for Lisbon, N. D., and will soon return to make this
their home. (Oct10, 1901)

The congregation experienced many difficulties and St. Philip’s congregation was no exception. The church was sold to the School District in 1905, no money being available to pay the mortgage. Once there was no church to hold services, Father Murphy left about September 1905.

Father O’Dwyer of Duluth was the next pastor. He first held divine services at St. Anthony’s Hospital at the invitation of the Sisters of St. Benedict. The parishioners re-organized and repaired a building at 120 Beltrami Avenue, known as the “Old Post Office,” which was on the corner of Second Street and Beltrami avenue, south of the Markham Hotel.

A curious incident occurred on a Christmas morning. The building was heated from the Steam Laundry. When the congregation came to attend services, they found that the steam pipe had burst and the little Post Office church had turned into a steam boiler. The new set of vestments and all the furniture was ruined by the steam.

In the fall of 1906, the pastor and the trustees met for the purpose of building a new brick church, the old one being too small to accommodate the congregation. The trustees were Patrick Russell, Thomas McCann, Philip O’Leary, Charles Nangle, Joseph Lahr and Peter Dicaire. One lot was purchased and one was donated by the families of Mayer and Thome, on the northeast corner of Seventh Street and Beltrami Avenue. Work on the first part of the new Catholic church started in 1907 and St. Philip’s was dedicated on August 8, 1908.

Father O’Dwyer remained in Bemidji until the fall of 1911, when he was succeeded by Father John T. Philippe, who held the pastorate until March 1922. Father Philippe bought six more lots on the north side of the church, bought the parsonage, repaired it, and moved it to 710 Beltrami avenue

In 1912, the Bemidji Daily Pioneer had a Christmas promotion. One dollar cash was paid to each Ladies’ Society for every yearly subscription, old or new, secured for the Daily Pioneer. When a set of one hundred was reached, a special premium of $25 was given. Thus for one hundred subscriptions the society securing them each received a cash gift of $ 125. The Catholic Ladies were organized into four bands and went out to secure descriptions. Thus we have the names of those working to secure the Christmas money from the Pioneer.

Band No. 1: Mesdames T. J. Burke, president; J. C. Parker, P. J. O’Leary, Ed Ebert, J. O. Harris, M. LaFontisee, W. N. Bowser, J. E. Black, A. H. Jester, Thos. McCann, L. C. Dempsey, Gougle.

Band-No. 2. Mesdames J. Bisiar, president; M. Thome, Burgess, E. Taylor, A. B. Wells, M. A. Downs, U. Reide, Chamberlain, J. .Sullivan, Cameron, J. Funk, Ripple.

Band No. 3. Mesdames James Fullerton president; Joe Moritz, Chas. Nangle, Fred Rhoda, John Ziegler, White, J. W. Murray, H. E. Stevens, E. H. Dea, John Gibbons, John Graham, Dan O’Connor, John McCormick, Joe Hughes, Ed Kaeble, Mrs. Frank McManus, Wm. Clish, Conrad La Jambe.

Band No. 4: Mesdames John Newman, president; Helin, L. F. Johnson, Ganey, Thos. Stewart, Kittelson, Joe Blondo, Bowser, Albert, Halvorson, J. A McDonald, Eures, Winklesky, Sherwood, Fenton, DeRushia, Jas. Cahill, Leo Jewett, Auger, Poulette, Miss Irene Lappin.

In 1915 an addition was built on the east end of the church, costing $1500. The church measured 40 x 140 and was a one of the finest churches in the entire diocese.

In March 1922, Father Fraling came to Bemidji. In 1923 plans were made by C. W. Jackson of Bemidji, architect, for a new school. Work on the basement began in the fall of 1923. The main building was built, but not completed in 1924. The building was constructed of red brick and cream colored Bedford Rock trim.

During 1955, a new rectory was built. The old church has since been replaced by a modern structure, but the school continues in its original building.

(Information was gathered from the vertical files of the Beltrami County History Center, Bemidji and from the Bemidji Daily Pioneer which are available at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

Trinity Lutheran

(Information quoted from A History of the Trinity Lutheran Church, Seventy-Fifth Anniversary by Philip von Rohr Sauer, booklet held in the research room of the Beltrami County History Center, Bemidji, Minnesota.)

The first Missouri Synod Lutheran services in Bemidji were conducted by the Rev. Theodore Buenger in 1907. Buenger, who was pastor of Immanuel Lutheran church, Cass Lake, was also serving Frohn at the time. The services, all in German, were held in the courtroom of the County Court House at two o’clock on Sunday afternoons. The court house then stood on the corner of 4th of Beltrami Avenue.

Services were later conducted in the Baptist church and in the Bethel (Swedish) Lutheran Church. Among those who attended services were the Max Luebeck, Fred Westphal, Henry Schmidt, and August Golz families.

In 1911 and 1912, the Rev. Paul Roehr of Cass Lake serviced Frohn and Bemidji, but in 1912 Frohn had its first resident pastor O. H. Brauer, whose horse and buggy took him not only to Bemidji but also to Tenstrike and as far as Blackduck. He served Bemidji from 1912 to 1918.

The Rev. Louis J. Lemke, who served from 1918 to 1920, might be called the transitional pastor, for he was the last resident pastor in the Frohn parsonage and the first to occupy the parsonage of the parish in Bemidji. He conducted services in the Frohn Church and in the living room of the Bemidji parsonage which stood on the corner of Thirteenth and Beltrami Avenue at 1300 Beltrami Avenue.

Pastor Lemke left the Frohn parsonage to occupy the Bemidji manse sometime during his 1918-1920 pastorate. He left Bemidji to accept the pastorate at Louisville, Minnesota in May 1920.

The pastor who deserves the title “Founder of Trinity” was Rev. E. W. Frenk. In 1920, he accepted the call and was ordained and installed at Frohn in August 1920. One October 5, 1921, he was married and the young couple lived in the large frame parsonage which then stood at 1300 Beltrami Avenue.

About 75 members of the congregation met at the parsonage to welcome the young couple on their return from their travels in the east.

In the fall of 1922, Trinity Lutheran Church was formally organized. The original three families, according to Mrs. Frenk, were those of Oscar W. Olson, Ed Hillert, and Mrs. Caroline “Grandma” Meyer. Among the first members who signed the constitution were H. A. Toensing, John H. Rodekuhr, O. W. Olson, H. H. Maag, Edward Hillert, George M. Heny, Adolph F. Ehrenberg, Adolf Danowsky, and Eugene O. Hensel. Those who signed subsequently were John Golz, Paul Page., George Burr, W. F. Peabody, Charles E. Koenig, S. L. Braaten, August Luedtke, Sr., August Luedtke, Jr., Fred Luedtke, and Max Luebeck.

For a while, Trinity rented the Norwegian Lutheran Church, and later services were held in the Trinity Parsonage. A church was needed. In June, 1922, Pastor Frenk attending a meeting in St. Paul and urged the Mission Board to grant a loan. Thanks to a gentleman who loaned the board $5,000, it was possible to start on the building of a new church. The large parsonage was moved to the rear of the lot on Beltrami and 13th. The members began to excavate for a new church. Paul Pagel directed the excavation; O. W. Olson hauled the dirt away.

Laying of Cornerstone of New Church Sunday

Bemidji is soon to have a new church building. Work on the new Trinity Evangelical Lutheran church Thirteenth Street has been going on for some time and from now on, the construction will be more rapid, at least as far as the erection of the building is concerned.
Arrangements have been completed by Rev. Erdmah Frenk, pastor, for the laying of the cornerstone next Sunday afternoon at 3 o’clock to which the public is invited. Services are being held in the parsonage chapel until the new building is ready for use. The growth of this church is evidenced by the fact that the chapel has proven too small to accommodate the congregation and that a modern new building is required. Rev. Henry Nuoffer of Cass Lake and Rev. Heine Martin of Tenstrike will speak at the cornerstone laying ceremonies Sunday afternoon. In addition to the local charge, Rev. Frenk conducts services in a number of nearby communities, including Frohn and Puposky. (Oct 19, 1922)

In the summer of 1923 the church was completed and dedicated. There were about 125 people present at the dedication. Pastor Frenk left at the end of 1925.

Following Pastor Frenk was the Rev. P.J. Seltz, who served from 1925 to 1937. The Depression years were difficult years for the church and its meager budget. Nevertheless the church continued to grow. Rev. Pal Huchthausen succeeded Pastor Seltz and served about a year and a half. His successor, the Rev. C. A. Joesting served Trinity for twenty years: 1938-1958.

The members constantly repaired the church and parsonage, volunteered free janitor service and even provided free fuel. During World War II, the members held wood-cutting bees. Each fall for several years members cut enough wood on the Riley and Dietrich Wolf farms to heat the church and parsonage.

The church debt was paid off and the mortgage burned in a ceremony in 1957. Pastor Joesting left in 1958. In August 1958, Rev. R. T. Koehler accepted the call to Trinity. The first project was a new parsonage built at 1805 Beltrami Court, as the old 1920 parsonage was converted into a parish house.

Because of crowded conditions, outdoor services were held  at the Timberlane Theater in 1958 in addition to services in the old church. In a special meeting on April 28, 1963, the congregation voted to erect a new church. Ground was broken on July 22, and the cornerstone laid on November 29, 1963. The new Trinity Lutheran church was dedicated in a formal ceremony on May 10, 1964, when a procession moved from the old to the new church.



United Methodist Church

Methodist Episcopal Church/First Methodist Church/United Methodist Church

In 1898, some citizens of the community started working on establishing a new Methodist congregation and appealed to the presiding elder of the Duluth District of the Methodist Episcopal church, Rev. Robert Forbes, D.D. On May 24, 1898, he came with Rev. O. J. Gary who was Methodist pastor at Milaca, Mn. and held a service in the Bemidji Presbyterian church. By June 4, 1898, Lots 13, 14 and 15, Block 9 on the first plat of Bemidji were deeded by the townsite company to the First Methodist Episcopal Church for the purpose of erecting a church building and parsonage.

The little congregation met outdoors on the lake shore during that first summer. Later permission was granted to meet in the early courthouse on the northwest corner of Beltrami Avenue and Fourth Street and services were held there until 1899 when they acquired the use of the Modern Woodman of America Hall on the northwest corner of Minnesota and 3rd Street. In June of 1898, Rev. A. E. Rowson was designated to serve the new congregation, and at the annual conference in October, Rev. George Watson was appointed pastor. While the congregation was still using the borrowed court hosue facilities, the Ladies Aid Society purchased the first organ for $35.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church came into formal existence in December 1898 with eight charter members.: Mr. and Mrs. Maucie J. Lake from Groton, N.D.; Mrs. S. C. Brennon, Forest River, N.D.; Mrs. Lottie Pike, Park Rapids, Mn.; Mr. and Mrs. James Driver, from Crookston, Mn.; Mrs. Avery Smith, from St. James, Mn.; Mrs. Matthew Phibbs from Chardon, Ohio.

In December 1898, the Sunday School was officially organized although Sunday School services had been held in connection with church services since June. On January 15, 1899, the Junior League was organized with 16 members and in 1900 the Epworth League was added.

Work commenced on the wooden church building, and the Bemidji Daily Pioneer reported on March 2, 1899: “Monday morning a crew of men went to the woods to commence the logging of the 40,000 feet of logs donated by T. B. Walker to the M. E. church society. Rev. George P. Watson went out as “push” and it is reported that he makes a first class “lumberjack.”

The first Methodist Episcopal church building in Bemidji was completed in 1901, but the Rev. George Watson constructed the parsonage on Ninth Street, next to where the church was to be erected, in 1899.

Bishop Morrison of the Episcopal Diocese of Duluth, will hold services in the city hall, in this city, on Sunday next, May, 5th. Arch-Deacon Appleby will also be present. The bishop will hold confirmation services and a celebration of holy communion will be had. (May 2, 1901)

The members of the M. E. church are pleased to announce to the public that their pulpit will be filled beginning with next Sunday, May 5. Mr. George Swinnerton of St. Vincent having been appointed to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the conference year. Mr. Swinnerton is a fine man and preacher, and we invite the public to come and see for yourselves. (May 2, 1901)

It was 1901 before the church building was fully erected. Its completion was reported at the October 1902 annual conference. It was described as a “commodious building with oak pews and pulpit furnishings, seating 200 in the auditorium and 78 or 80 in the lecture room.”

The dedication of the new M. E. church took place on Sunday, Oct. 27, 1901. The Rev. Robert Forbes, D. D., presiding elder of the Duluth district, was present to preach and dedicate the church. On Monday evening the ladies of the congregation provided a hot supper, tastily served, in the lecture room of the new church. The Rev. Dr. Forbes, Dr. Dodds, Rev. L. M. Hulton of Brainerd, Rev. Father Murphy, Rev. Rupert Swinnerton, Rev. Bailey, Rev. Higgins and others were present to participate in the supper and join in the celebration. Tickets to join in this event were 50¢ for adults, and 35¢ for children, 35 cents.

Although Rev. Watson saw the beginnings of the new church structure, Rev. George Swinnerton was the pastor when the building was completed.

A reception will be given in the M. E. church on Nov 20, 1902, in honor of Dr. Dodds and wife. Supper was served in the lecture room of the church for which each one was requested to pay according to his or her age, a penny for each year. The occasion also celebrated the opening of the new parsonage, as well as the presence of the presiding elder. Several short addresses were made and special music was provided to make the occasion one of enjoyment to all.

At this time, Bemidji was a city of numerous saloons and brothels, catering to the lumberjacks of those early days. The community atmosphere may have had an influence on its citizens, including its clergy, as there were indications of wrongdoing on the part of at least three ministers between 1902 and 1910. The Rev. Ulysses A. Foster, who served the Bemidji church form 1902-1903, transferred to the Holston Conference when he came under investigation in 1905. The Rev. Isaac W. Peart, pastor in Bemidji from 1905-1907, and the Rev. Alfred C. E. White, pastor in 1909-1910, both withdrew from the church and the ministry under complaints or charges.

On Oct 7, 1907, J. H. Deniston, who was then pastor of the Western Avenue Church in Minneapolis, was appointed to serve the Bemidji charge, commencing with his first sermon on Oct 13, 1907.  The Official Board had not met for six months and reorganization was necessary. John Howard Dennison was a native of Wisconsin. As a young man, he was a rancher in Nebraska. He later owned and managed a weekly news sheet and Job office in one of the western towns. Rev. Deniston earned his baccalaureate at Cornell college. Later he took advanced courses in the University of Wisconsin. He was pastor of the Centenary church in Pittsburg, Pa., one of the oldest churches of that city, leaving that congregation with a membership of nearly six hundred. He came to Bemidji from the pastorate of the Western Avenue church in Minneapolis, where he added 100 members there in eighteen months.

Isaac Peart, was summoned before the Committee on Conference Relations to answer a complaint from the Official Board of Bemidji or to stand trial before the Conference for certain alleged immoralities. He elected to withdraw from the church and ministry and was permitted to do so as long as he surrendered his credentials.

Isaac Peart returned to Bemidji and declared himself the pastor of a new “People’s Church” in Bemidji. Services would be conducted in the city opera house each Sunday morning and evening and characteristics of this new group would include “no denominationalism, no creed, no officialism.” The pastor and wife were to be found at either the Markham or Brinkman Hotel. The president of the Ladies Aid Society, a steward, and a few church families followed their pastor.

The new pastor coming into this situation did not hesitate to say that he found the charge badly disorganized and in a degree of ill-repute in the community. Some members were fearful and hesitant, but some doubted their giving to aid in rebuilding and church and its reputation.

The church was struck by lighting and destroyed by fire on July 20, 1909.  It was only through the quick action of some of its members that the parsonage was saved. The original wood frame Methodist Church building was replaced by a brick structure at the same location on the northeast corner of Ninth Street and Beltrami Avenue.

Rev. E. K. Copper, district president, came to the city last evening and consulted with members of the local congregation relative to ways and means for the erection of the proposed new Methodist church building, which the congregation has decided to build to replace the edifice which was recently struck by lightning and destroyed by subsequent fire. (July 29, 1909)

A building committee was appointed, consisting of the following: Dr. E. H. Smith, Dr. A. Shannon, J. M. Richards, A. G. Wedge, S. J, Harvey, Frank Starrett and J. H. Deniston.

In 1912, the Bemidji Daily Pioneer had a Christmas promotion. One dollar cash was paid to each Ladies’ Society for every yearly subscription, old or new, secured for the Daily Pioneer. When a set of one hundred was reached, a special premium of $25 was given. Thus for one hundred subscriptions the society securing them each received a cash gift of $ 125. The ladies were organized into “bands” and sent out to secure subscriptions. Thus we have the names of those working to secure the Christmas money from the Pioneer.

Members of Methodist Women’s Band
Mesdames Charles Flesher. President;  A. Larson, E. C. McGregor, O Minor , T. J. Andrews, C. Alexander, J. B. Minnick, A. W Mitchell , F. R. Bishpam, Emma Bottling, J. W.. Naugle, J. Scarrot, C. W. Shannon, W. J. Coleman, J. C. Courtney, S A. Cutter, Alma L. Smith, H. B. Southworth, Mrs. Dennis, Sr., E. H. Denu, W. P. Dyer, E. F. Stevens, T. Symons, Unruh, B. Getchell, Grinols, J. L. Kemp,, D, Wilcox, P. A Young.

For two years the Methodists worshiped in the Masonic Hall which at that time was on the southwest corner of Fifth Street and Beltrami Avenue. By the fall of 1910, the basement walls of a new church were completed and the rough floor laid. It was two more years before the building was completed. Rev. Charles H. Flesher laid the last brick. The present church was dedicated on September 7, 1913.

One of the most unique organizations in the Church’s history was founded during the early 1920s. It was called the Cracker Jack Club, and the women members made and sold Karmel Korn, giving the proceeds to the church. They spent many hours of hard work but were able to accomplish much and make donations to the Salvation Army, Community Chest and the Red Cross.

The parsonage was purchased about 1926 at 415 Bemidji Avenue. However the cost of heating the large, poorly insulated house in addition to making payments became a burden to the congregation. Mr. French, who held the mortgage on the house, told the church people if they would pay the interest, he would put it in his will that the principal was to be forgiven at the time of his death. Unfortunately, when this kind gentleman died, there was no such provision in his will and the church was faced with a large unexpected debt. The members formed a Debt Fund Committee and the Ladies Aid took an active part in the efforts to raise the money.

A new parsonage was built in 1955 at 1601 Bixby. The old parsonage was sold to Fred Hase and moved to the corner of 8th and Beltrami.

In 1952, it was apparent that there was a need for more space, so the basement area of the present church  building was constructed. Plans were made for a new sanctuary. In 1957, Rev. Lyle Christianson took over as pastor and guided the congregation through the completion and consecration of the new sanctuary with a special service on Oct 5, 1958.

Mrs. W. J. Wilson and Mrs. Dick Skinner co-chaired the annual bazaar held Nov 6, 1965 at the First Methodist Church. Mmes. Al Cooper, Harry Moore, Clarence Ritchie, Dick Sutton, Willard Leaf, and D. D. Whittemore, circle chairpersons, assisted in the many details of the event, entitled “Cranberry Lane”. (Nov 1965)

The name of the place of worship has changed over the years. The words First Methodist Episcopal Church appear in stained glass over the door of the brick 1913 building. In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal and two other major Methodist denominational groups came together to form the Methodist church, and at that time the Bemidji church became the First Methodist Church. Over the years there were other changes and in 1968, the Bemidji church became the United Methodist Church as a result of the merger with the former Evangelical United Brethren.

Former and present pastors and wives celebrated with present members the 75th anniversary of the United Methodist Church Sunday, May 20, 1973. Pictured in the local paper were Mrs. Lyle Christianson, Rev. Edith Grays, Rev. Christianson, Mrs. Clemens Nagel; Mrs. Clarence Richardson, Rev. Richardson and the present pastor and wife, Rev. and Mrs. Clair Siple. Many pictures, articles and letters recalled the early history of the church, displayed in various rooms in the church.

United Methodists packed the church at 9th and Beltrami for services of baptism , confirmation, and observance of 75th Anniversary Day Sunday, May 20 at the 10 a m. service. Cal Larson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Larson presented himself for baptism, sponsored by his parents, and Dean Allen Grillo was brought for infant baptism by his parents Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Grillo. Barbara Britton and Stuart Hazard served as marshals for the confirmation class and each of the three choirs sang for the morning service. A special greeting was extended to Mrs. Belle Rice, who joined the church 72 years ago; members of over 45 years, 35 years, and 25 years were recognized. Three former ministers were present with their wives and families. The Rev. Clarence Richardson, former district superintendent of the Northwest District, now associate minister of Richfield United Methodist Church came to Bemidji in 1952; The Rev. Lyle Christianson, senior pastor of Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville, helped build and consecrate the new church here in 1958 and the Rev. Clemens Nagel who came to Bemidji with Rev. Siple in 1966 as a youth minister is now with the YMCA in Minneapolis. Visitors and congregation filled the Fellowship Hall for a smorgasbord lunch and visiting at noon. The Rev. Edith Grays, whose husband the Rev. Crawford Grays ministered here from 1936 to 1952, joined the group who greeted Bemidji friends and out of town guests in the afternoon. Visitors were present from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Fargo, Moorhead, Gonvick, Blackduck. Milaca, Taylors Falls, Hibbing, Dunnell Park Rapids; Messina, Iowa; Sioux City, Iowa; Comos, Wash.; and Northbrook, Ill. A resume of church history in newspaper form was presented to each one present.

The May 20th celebration was the second in a series of special events scheduled for the year. Future dates include “Looking Ahead” Sunday, Sept. 23, “ Burning the Mortgage,” Nov. 18, and “Charter Day,” Dec. 9, 1973. Dedication of the new sanctuary will be held Jan. 13, 1974 with Bishop Wayne Clymer, the speaker. (Bemidji Daily Pioneer, June 2, 1973)

On November 18, 1973, the morning service included the burning of the mortgage. Marvin Norden, who was chairman of the Board of Trustees took part in the ceremony along with three of the original signers of the mortgage, Albert Erickson, Earnest Paul and Wm. J. “Bill” Wilson.

In 1998, this church held its centennial celebration. Most of the information for this article is quoted from “A Century of Methodism in Bemidji, 1898-1998” which was published on May 24, 1998. The booklet was prepared by Alice V. Collins with help in research from John Herath and editorial assistance from Frances and Dick Spadafore and Verna Norden. Additional material was provided by Dr. Dick Edwards, Henrietta Britton, Roland Baxter, and Barbara Higgins. Additional quotes were taken from the Bemidji Daily Pioneer. This booklet can be found in the Research Room of the Beltrami County History Center, Bemidji.