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ROP 6B Vermillion Plain Talk Heritage 2016, www.plaintalk.net Influx Of Swedish Immigrants Leads To New Churches BY DAVID LIAS david.lias@plaintalk.net The appearance of more than two hundred Swedish families during the period from 1868 to 1872 not only brought into existence the most compact settlement within the state, but also introduced the Swedish Lutheran Church into Clay County. The immigrants located their new homes east of the Vermillion River, occupying the greater part of Garfield and Glenwood townships, the northern part of Prairie Center and portions of Pleasant Valley and Riverside. Herbert S. Schell, in his book “Clay County: Chapters Out of the Past,” notes that the area became known as the Dalesburg settlement, stretching at its greatest extent about 15 miles along the river and eastward for a distance of six to eight miles. Like many other ethnic groups, the Swedes tended to segregate themselves during the settling process, thus becoming a closely knit society. Since so many came from the province of Dalarna, their settlement at first was given the name of Dahlsborg; the spelling, officially, became Dalesburg in 1869. The Swedish community was organized socially and culturally around the churches established within its boundaries. The first and largest of these was the Dalesburg Lutheran congregation, formally organized in January 1871 in accordance with the tenets of the Augustana Synod. Later in the year, the Bloomingdale Baptist society was formed two miles away -- eventually becoming known as the Dalesburg Baptist Church. Two small “free-church” congregations, representing the Swedish Mission organization, made their appearance at Komstad to the north and in the southwestern part of Garfield Township. The first arrivals began to meet as early as July 1868 in different PLAIN TALK FILE PHOTO An ethnic tradition that has played an important part in the history of the Dalesburg Lutheran congregation has been the annual Midsommar Fest. Its observance was introduced into the community by its first settlers from Dalarna in 1868. It represents an ancient festival celebrating the return of summer with its long days -- at the time of the summer solstice on about June 22. homes for Sunday worship, singing Swedish hymns and listening to readings from the Scriptures as well as from published sermons. The first effort to organize a church society in October 1869 failed because of sharp disagreement over church doctrine between those in support of the traditional Lutheran Church and those adhering to more pietistic and Anabaptist views that had found wide acceptance throughout the mother country in opposition to the old established state church. A Lutheran congregation was formed on Jan. 2, 1871 by the Rev. P. A. Lindahl, an Illinois missionary who is said to have walked a distance of about 11 miles from Vermillion to the Swedish community in the Dalesburg area. Holy Communion was observed and five children baptized at the meeting. During the preceding month, he had also organized the Ahlsborg congregation in nearby Union County. In the meantime, the Minnesota Conference of the Augustana Synod had assumed responsibility for looking after the spiritual needs of the Dakota settlers, sending traveling ministers into the community for occasional visitations to preach the Word and administering the Sacraments as well as performing other functions. The first resident pastor was the Rev. Carl S. Beckstrom, who served the congregation from 1871 to 1875. This was followed by an interval of half a dozen years when the congregation was receiving irregular visits from missionary pastors. In 1880 a call was extended to the Reverend C. J. Carlson who was to continue his pastorate until 1887. This marked the beginnings of real stability for the local congregation. By the time of Pastor Carlon’s departure, the congregation included 163 communicants and 157 children, 75 of the latter in regular attendance in the Sunday School organized in 1882. The congregation during the period benefited greatly from the arrival of numerous new families from Sweden. Among the many accomplishments during the Carlson ministry were the organization of sewing societies and the establishment of parochial schools. A Missionary Society, formed during 1892, became the first Women’s Missionary Society to be organized within the Minnesota Conference. The departure of the Rev. Carlson was followed by a succession of pastorates of fairly lengthy tenure, an important factor in the congregation’s growth. During the 35-year period from 1880 to 1910, the organization increased from 300 to 425 baptized members to become the largest Swedish Lutheran congregation within South Dakota. A church structure, made of cottonwood lumber in 1874 at a cost of about $425, was the first Swedish Lutheran church building in the state. A new edifice was built in 1896 to replace the earlier one which had become too small for the needs of the growing congregation. A parsonage, built in 1882, was replaced with a new and larger structure shortly after 1900. Extensive improvements, made to the church building during the early 1920s, included the addition of a full basement to accommodate the rapidly increasing social activities. At the same time, the original tower was removed and replaced with a new front. A new parsonage was built in 1954. By 1932, English services had become the rule with preaching in the Swedish on the first Sunday of each month. The last usage of the Scandinavian language was made during the 1940s in the form of Sunday afternoon services. Although the Lutheran congregation had remained 95 percent Swedish in its ethnic background as late as 1925, the ratio had dropped to 80 percent by 1945 at which time 14 percent of the congregation was of Norwegian ancestry. Moreover, a number of Danish extraction had become members when the Rockfield Lutheran congregation disbanded in 1967. Unlike most rural churches which have suffered declines during recent years, the Dalesburg Lutheran congregation experienced an increase of 32 percent in its membership during the period from 1968 to 1978. An ethnic tradition that has played an important part in the history of the Dalesburg Lutheran congregation has been the annual Midsommar Fest. Its observance was introduced into the community by its first settlers from Dalarna in 1868. It represents an ancient festival celebrating the return of summer with its long days -- at the time of the summer solstice on about June 22 -- with outdoor festivities equalling the observance of the Christmas holidays in their gaity. During the community’s early days the festival, for the greater part, was a large neighborhood picnic with a noon public dinner followed by speeches as well as a baseball game and interspersed with performances by a community chorus, formed in 1874, and the Dalesburg concert band organized in 1886. The Midsummer picnics were directed from the Lutheran parsonage with its front porch serving as the stage. The revival of the community festival in recent years not only commemorates the Scandinavian heritage but also serves to create a community identity which includes the Dalesburg Baptist and Komstad Covenant churches. The program usually includes a smorgasbord and a program of Scandinavian culture with Maypole dancing as well as music and a softball game. On the Sunday of the weekend, the community’s three congregations worship together. The 100th annual Midsommer Fest was held at Dalesburg Lutheran on June 22, 1979. Missouri-Synod Lutherans Organize Vermillion Church BY DAVID LIAS david.lias@plaintalk.net A German Lutheran congregation made its initial appearance in the county in 1948 when the Missouri Synod effected an organization in Vermillion. Although many of the early settlers were of German heritage, they were generally identified with the Reformed and Congregational denominations. This was especially true of those of colonial stock. Still others, residing mostly in Burbank and Vermillion, as well as Lodi and Star Prairie areas, were members of the United Brethren Church -- a denomination representing an outgrowth of the Anabaptist Movement that had developed in Germany during the early Reformation period. According to Herbert S. Schell’s book “Clay County: Chapters Out of the Past,” most of the early settlers of German descent came from Stephenson County in northern Illinois, many of them of colonial origin out of Pennsylvania. A Lutheran congregation in Alcester is said to PHOTO COURTESY OF CLAY COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY A congregation of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod was formed in Vermillion in 1940. The name Concordia was chosen to signify the doctrinal harmony upon which it was founded. Later on, the church acquired property on the southwest corner of University and Main streets, where the present brick structure was dedicated on April 19, 1952. have been the first Missouri Synod society in South Dakota, formed in 1875 by a group of German Lutherans from northern Iowa. That distinction has, however, been generally accorded to a congregation of GermanRussians formed in 1876 in Hutchinson County several miles southwest of Freeman. The Missouri Synod continued to grow in membership with main strength in the "east-river" area extending from Aberdeen to Yankton. During the 1920s it decided to extend its field of activities to include student work at South Dakota’s state educational institutions. Following an investigation in 1926 by a Yankton minister, plans were made for concentrated work with students of the Lutheran faith at the university. Although a pastor was called in 1928, the operations were shifted to the institution at Brookings. In the meantime, the students identified with the Synod in Vermillion were urged to attend services at Yankton where the congregation agreed to provide free bus transportation. The plan, however, proved unsuccessful as did a subsequent effort to open a mission station at Vermillion with a young ordained New Alliance Church minister in charge of the student work. A move was finally made during the early 1940s to acquire title to the “Lewis House” on the corner of Main and South University streets and have it serve as both parsonage and temporary chapel. War conditions and a shortage of pastors, however, interfered with the plan. In the meantime, services were conducted from time to time by ministers from Yankton and Centerville in whatever quarters were available. In 1948 the Reverend Ralph L. Moellering accepted a call from the synod's South Dakota district to build up a local congregation and keep in contact with university students. The congregation was formally organized in September 1948 and a constitution adopted in April 1949 at which time the membership consisted of 10 families and a few students who were in regular attendance. Nine years later, the organization consisted of 195 members with about 150 Lutheran students participating in its program. In 1950 the state district recommended the replacement of the “Lewis House” with a combination chapel and student center building replete with kitchen, lounges and recreation room. Construction had advanced sufficiently by December 1952 to hold Christmas services. A parsonage was added later. The entire building was completed by August 1956 at a total cost of $110,000. The Rev. Moellering left the community for a new position in Chicago, following the dedication of the new Concordia Lutheran Church and student center in April 19, 1953. After a short interim under the Rev. John Hubertz, the campus pastorate was held by Cari J. Stapf during the formative period from 1955 to 1959. Following the services of the Reverend J. A. Krueger from 1959 to 1963, a call was extended to the Rev. Robert Hackler who was in charge of the program for a period of 14 years. By the early 1980s, Concordia Lutheran had grown in scope to comprise about 200 confirmed members, including some 25 university students. Thank You Douglas James Rasmussen, in his thesis titled “The First Catholic Church in Dakota,” notes that “the church, as a microcosm of society, mirrored the culture in which it existed. As South Dakota entered the 20th century, it changed ...” This special Heritage edition celebrates the history of churches in Vermillion, and the influence they played as settlers went about the challenging task of taming this plot of prairie near the Missouri River that we call home. Our thanks to Wess Pravecek and the Clay County Historical Society, and the resources they maintain in the Austin-Whittemore House. We’re also grateful for local pastors who helped supply information and photos that we are sharing in this special issue. Much of the information in this special section has been “borrowed,” so to speak, from others who have done a good job over the years of keeping a historical record of all aspects of life in the Vermillion community. These individuals include Rasmussen, Herbert S. Schell, author of “Clay County: Chapters Out of the Past,” and Thomas R. Thaden, author of “From the River Valleys to the Rising Bluff – A Pictorial History of Vermillion, South Dakota.” The process of compiling information and gathering old photographs serves as an important reminder of the role that churches will always play in communities like Vermillion. We urge everyone who reads our Heritage Edition to take a moment to thank our colleagues who purchased advertising to make this publication a reality. Their support is greatly appreciated. This photo is from the cover of the program for the dedication service of the New Alliance Church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, located at the corner of Prospect and National streets in Vermillion. The church was dedicated June 3, 1956. Pastor of the church at that time was the Rev. William W. Sibley. The Staff of the Vermillion Plain Talk
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