Marshall church celebrates 125th year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2001

MARSHALL – Marshall Lutheran Church is a picture-postcard-perfect country church.

Wednesday, June 20, 2001

MARSHALL – Marshall Lutheran Church is a picture-postcard-perfect country church.

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The sight of the church in the middle of farm fields northeast of Adams has been inspiration to generations of families who worshiped there.

By day or by night, when an illuminated cross glows, the church and its loyal members are survivors.

On Sunday, Marshall Lutheran Church will observe its 125th anniversary.

After the 10 a.m. worship service, the entire congregation will pose for a picture on the church lawn.

Then, a pork barbecue dinner will be served at noon followed by a dedication service and program at 1:30 p.m.

Former pastors and Sunday school teachers will be taking part in the service.

According to church historian Judy Hanson, former pastors who are expected to attend include Mike Witte, T. Mohn, W. Quibell, Allen Gunderson, Nancy Wigdahl.

Bishop Glenn Nycklemoe of the Southeast Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, will be another special guest.

The Rev. Richard Kastner serves the church as interim pastor and holds a similar position at Little Cedar Lutheran Church in Adams.

The Rev. Donna Joseph served the church from 1988 to 2000 and the Rev. Nancy Wigdahl from 1979 to 1988.

The Rev. Allen Gunderson watched over church operations from 1977 to 2000, when he was senior pastor at Little Cedar Lutheran Church.

Quoting Psalm 126, Ruby Underdahl says, "God has blessed Marshall Lutheran congregation as we move forward step by step, year after year. We rely upon him who said ‘My grace is sufficient for thee. The Lord has done great things for us whereof we are glad.’"

Through the church history, there have been 630 baptisms, 476 confirmations, 132 weddings and 236 funerals at the church.

Also during the last 125 years, the church’s baptized and confirmed membership was 182 at the 50-year mark, 200 at the 75-year mark, 190 at the 85-year mark, 166 at 100 years and is currently 187.

The church’s rich history is being chronicled for the 125th anniversary.

According to church historian Hanson, the first Norwegian settlers came to Adams Township in 1855.

In June 1856, the Rev. C.L. Clausen, the legendary Lutheran minister who helped form so many churches on the Iowa and Minnesota prairie more than a century ago, held services in the home of one of the settlers.

Sister church Little Cedar was organized in 1859 by Rev. C.L. Clausen of St. Ansgar, Iowa.

The Rev. E. Wulfsberg of Albert Lea came in October 1876 and the Marshall Lutheran congregation was organized.

The first seven families were Erik E. Boe, Johans Njos, Ole K Hegge, Nils O. Viste, Erik Njos, Olaus Kirkevold and Knud Snortum.

"In the early years, services were held once or twice a month," she said. "Pastors usually traveled by train and stayed in homes of parishioners."

"The bell was very important in the early years;" according to Hanson’s research. "It was rung in the morning to remind everyone there would be services held that Sunday."

On May 17, 1890, the Rev. L.P. Jensen laid the cornerstone for the first building. Lizzie Boe’s father, Peter Anderson, hauled one of the first loads of lumber for building the church from Taopi’s lumber yard.

A basement was placed under the church. When the church was raised, it almost blew over. It had to be braced on the north by long timbers. When the basement was dug under the church, an old Norwegian trapper was brought in to trap all the skunks that were living under it.

The large stained glass window of "Christ in Gethsemane" was placed in the wall behind the altar also at this time. An Esty organ was purchased for $130.

In the early years, pastors’ and organists’ salaries were paid from the offering taken at Easter, Pentecost and Christmas.

In 1919, a parish realignment took place, causing Little Cedar and Marshall congregations to become a parish.

The transition was made in 1928 from the use of Norwegian to English.

Women were first given "talking rights" at annual meetings in 1932 and didn’t get the right to vote until 1956.

In 1976, the church celebrated its centennial. Since that time, the basement was paneled and carpeted, added a coat room upstairs, widened the stairway and entrance going to the basement.

New evergreens were planted around the cemetery replacing the old ones. New fence all around the grounds and entrance pillars was done. A lighted cross was put on the front of the church and a new church sign erected.

On July 27, 1995, a tornado took the "new" side door and ruined ceiling tiles. In October and November 1996, new tiles were installed, the old ceiling was repaired, a new paint job was done, carpeting installed and the roof was reshingled.

Henry Himebaugh and his wife Ella were custodians for 47 years, serving from 1945 to 1992. Their son, Dale, and wife Thelma succeeded them and are still serving in that capacity.

In 2000, a chairlift was installed going up to the main church and to the basement.

For more information about Sunday’s 125th Marshall Lutheran Church anniversary, call the historian at (507) 582-3310.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at