History of Immanuel Lutheran Church

On August 31, 1917, a handful of dedicated women gathered at the home of Mrs. Hokan Hokanson and organized a Ladies Aid Society whose aim was to build a new church in Proctor. This meeting was under the leadership of Pastor Christian Swanson who was the pastor of Elim Lutheran Church in West Duluth. The first services were held at the Proctor YMCA on West Second Street.

Evidently the spirit of the first meetings was not as strong as first anticipated.

Seven years later, Dr. Mattson of the Minnesota Conference met with this group of Proctorites to organize the Emanuel Lutheran Church. It had a charter membership of 31 adults and 15 children.

On May 3, 1922, at a meeting of the Ladies Aid, three names were proposed for the church: Emanuel, Hope and Zion. Emanuel received the most votes so it was officially adopted. Later the spelling was changed to Immanuel. It was about 1935-36 when the change was made.

The second phase of church work began on January 27, 1924 when Sunday Worship Services began being held in the homes of the following interested persons/families:

  • Nels Ekstrand
  • Carl Ostman
  • Gust Johnson
  • P.J. Johnson
  • Nels Hansen

The Reverend Carl H. Olson and the Reverend C.O. Swan, pastors of neighboring parishes, conducted the services.

On July 13, 1924, services were conducted in the old West Side School. The Reverend Dr. P.A. Mattson, President of the Minnesota Conference of the Augustana Churches visited Emanuel to observe the progress of work on August 2, 1924. He organized the first Sunday School with sixteen children enrolled. Mrs. Gust Johnson was chosen to serve as Sunday School Superintendent.

He determined the fledgling church was performing its duties of worship and teaching right. The new parish was actively functioning. Thus Dr. Mattson announced a meeting to be held on August 9, 1924 for the purpose of organizing the congregation formally.

The Charter Members were:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Hokan Hokanson
  • Mr. and Mrs. Nels Ekstrand
  • Mr. and Mrs. Frank Rietzloff
  • Mr. and Mrs. Gust Johnson
  • Mr. and Mrs. John Peterson
  • Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Swanson
  • Mr. and Mrs. Gust Linder
  • Mr. and Mrs. Otto Volstad
  • Mr. and Mrs. Richard Carlson
  • Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Lindgren
  • Mr. and Mrs. Carl Bauman
  • Mr. and Mrs. August Pearson
  • Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Anderson
  • Mrs. Anna Swenson
  • Mr. Arvid Johnson
  • Mr. August Pederson
  • Mr. Arthur Eklund
  • Miss Gerda Eklund
  • Mr. Carl Eklund
  • Mrs. A.E. Streed (Strid)

The charter members elected Pastor Carl Olson of Hermantown as vice-pastor and Mr. Axel Berg as student pastor.

Carl Bauman was elected treasurer with Gust Johnson, secretary. The Board of Trustees was made up of August Peterson, Carl Bauman and John Peterson. On the Board of Deacons were Gust Johnson, Gust Linder and Arthur Eklund. Mrs. Gust Johnson was elected organist.

Mr. David Ostergren assumed the responsibilities of Emanuel as student pastor.

The young and enthusiastic congregation negotiated with the Proctor Board of Education to buy the old school building on September 7, 1924. The building with four lots cost $1350.00.

Remodeling was done so half of the main floor was the nave while the second floor was the Sunday School room. In the northwest corner was a room designated as a kitchen. That room was so inadequate. It had a sink with a drain but no running water. Water was carried in buckets from the first floor. Can you imagine how tired the workers were after a church supper? Eventually a cold water line was run up to the kitchen. There were no cupboards either but that wasn’t a hardship because there were no dishes. When the Ladies Aid held a supper they had to go to the YMCA, a half a block away, and borrow their dishes.

A monster of a furnace housed in a cellar, which was virtually a hole in the ground just big enough to hold the furnace and a coal bin, heated the building.

During the cold winter months, the men took turns manning the furnace. Even with their hard work the church was uncomfortably cold and one had to wear boots and coat. Up in the Sunday School room, however, it was like a sauna.

The service of dedication was held on January 11, 1925 with the Reverend C. J. Silversten of Duluth delivering the sermon. The Reverend Carl Olson and the Reverend C.O. Swan also participated in the service.

The next phase of Emanuel’s life is the story of a small group of lay people actually establishing a religious community with but little assistance or direction from the established church body. It is a demonstration of the power of the Christian message when it enters the hearts and lives of people.

During this period the Sunday School, Luther League, Ladies Aid, and Junior Missionary Society began their duties of the new congregation. Emanuel owed much to the faith and work of these men and women who worked so diligently to establish the church.

The third phase of development for Emanuel happened on January 30, 1926. At the annual meeting of the congregation with the Reverend Carl Olson presiding, it was decided that Emanuel should join with Salem Lutheran Church of Hermantown and Augustana Lutheran Church of Midway as a joint parish. The churches called the Reverend Carl Sodergren. He was installed in the parish at Emanuel on October 27, 1926 by Dr. P. A. Mattson, Conference President. Reverend Sodergren served for 2 years.

In 1929, the Reverend Harold Peterson answered the call of the three churches. One Sunday each month, the Reverend Peterson delivered the service in Swedish at Augustana in Midway. On the anniversaries of his ordination, the Reverend Peterson would don a frock coat, the usual garb of early Lutheran ministers, and would follow a different order of service. The congregation enjoyed this very much. After six years, Reverend Peterson accepted a call to another church.

The growth of Emanuel was very encouraging in the early 1930’s. On February 4, 1932 plans were made to secure a parsonage for the pastor of the joint parish. A two-story house was purchased on Meadow Street in 1935 and was made ready for a young seminarian and his bride, Reverend David and Ingrid Davoux, when they arrived.

In 1936 the membership of Immanuel decided to build a church on its present site. Again the congregation returned to the YMCA to hold its services and various meetings.

The men of Immanuel did the razing of the old building. Clifford “Bud” Emberg, Jr. related how he and his brother Kermit would join their dad, Cliff, Sr., after-school and help sort the lumber and window sashes. Several other boys of the congregation also joined the after school crew doing their bit in dismantling this cracker box structure. Much of the lumber was reused in the new building.

Proctor was still reeling from the Great Depression. Many of the men of the congregation who worked for the D. M. & N. Railroad were working only 2 or 3 days a week. Therefore, they had much time to donate to the taking down and putting up of Immanuel. The Ladies Aid did their part by keeping a steady flow of baked goodies to go with the never empty, huge granite coffeepots.

The D. M. & N. was very generous to Immanuel. It lent many needed tools and machines for the men to use during this big project. The railroad also donated all the cement needed for the basement. We must give them credit for our church’s firm foundation.

Under the leadership of the Reverend David Davoux, the new church was begun in 1937 and completed in 1938. A special service and dedication was held on November 20, 1938. We had so much to be thankful for.

The feat of a small congregation building such a tangible and beautiful sanctuary during the uncertain and often hopeless days of the depression years is a dramatic one. This project was made possible almost entirely by volunteers who gave thousands of hours of labor. The sacrifice and devotion of the members of Immanuel in those days was great. They are days well remembered for their challenge and blessing.

During and after the completion of the church, the Ladies Aid and the Men’s Club were busy on projects to pay off the mortgage.

The women did their part by serving many church suppers that were well attended. The cooks were singly and collectively the best in the county. Diners would be waiting at the door thirty minutes before the serving time.

In 1936 the ladies prepared an authentic Scandinavian smorgasbord before smorgasbords became fashionable. It was such a huge success that it became an annual event for many years. It drew crowds from many surrounding towns.

The men of the congregation were not to be outdone in the culinary department. They prepared an oyster stew feed that got raves. A rich beef stew was another pleaser. Then they hit the jackpot by having a Dinty Moore Dinner named for a popular comic strip character whose favorite meal was corned beef and cabbage. And that’s what was served. The men worked Friday evening and Saturday morning for this unique church supper. The tickets had been sold out before this day so more had been printed (and the grocery list enlarged). The dining room was filled, mostly by male diners, and as diners left the tables, their seats were quickly taken by waiting customers. The next morning when the parishioners arrived for Sunday services, the church reeked of boiled cabbage. I do not remember if this successful dinner was ever repeated.

Another unique project done by church members was the Friendship Quilt. Each Ladies Aid member was responsible for at least one square. People of the community and of West Duluth, confirmation classes, and teachers of the Proctor Schools each paid ten cents to have their name on a “spoke” of the wheel. Sixteen “spokes” made one wheel, which made $1.60 collected for each square. There are sixty squares in the quilt. Therefore this quilt added $96.00 to the building fund. Mrs. Nels Frolen did all the writing of the names, but each member of the Ladies Aid shared in the embroidering. Later, the quilt was presented to the Reverend Davoux with love and gratitude from an appreciative congregation.

When Reverend and Ingrid Davoux retired to Arizona, they sent the quilt to Mrs. Frolen. She, in turn, gave it to the church circle who held an annual bazaar.

A silent auction was held at the bazaar. Kenne Jean Peterson, granddaughter of the Frolens, put in the highest bid so was awarded this precious quilt.

On February 2, 1948 the indebtedness of the church had been reduced. At a festive Thanksgiving service with the Reverend John R. Benson, president of the Duluth District, presiding, the mortgage was burned.

Later that year in September, the congregation purchased a home at 623 Third Street for the use as a parsonage. Again, the members of Immanuel joined together to clean, repair and paint in anticipation of a new pastor, the Reverend Arthur L. Anderson who had arrived during later summer 1947. This new parsonage was dedicated on February 8, 1948.

The heart of Immanuel was almost crushed on August 3, 1948 when their beautiful church only ten years old caught fire and burned, causing serious damage to much of the interior of the church. Many important papers, including those containing the history of the church, were lost.

However, under the energetic leadership of Pastor Arthur L. Anderson, repairs were begun immediately so worship services resumed on October 3, 1948.

The rededication of the church was held on February 8, 1949. At this time a new Baldwin Organ and a complete set of altar and pulpit paraments were also dedicated. The Reverend Dr. Emil Swenson, president of Minnesota Conference, presided.

In 1948 Pastor Arthur Anderson met a young family who had returned to Proctor after attending college in Chicago. They were Arthur and Mary Hanson and their two sons, Dennis and Donald. From their conversations Pastor Anderson learned that Art was very interested in music, especially choral music, although he had no formal training in this vocation. The pastor quickly suggested Art to become Immanuel’s choir director. After many days thinking of this challenge, the Hanson family joined the church and Art became the director of our choir; a role he held from 1948 to 1976. In 1949, Art also led the choir from Augustana.

The choir grew and became the pride of Immanuel. In 1949, using the 20 dedicated members of the Immanuel as the nucleus of a 50-member community choir (drawing members from neighboring churches), Art produced annual cantatas. The choir sang Handel’s “Messiah”, Dubois’ “Seven Last Words”, and Stainer’s “The Crucifixion”. Frequent soloists were Beverly Cowan, Pastor Lonnie Lassman, Wayne Hoffman and Curt Hanson.

Carl Erickson accepted the call from Immanuel in 1950. Our former pastors had been newly ordained seminarians. Pastor Erickson who came from California was an experienced, older leader. His family remained in California so Pastor Erickson boarded with the Alvin Wedlund family the four years he served Immanuel and Augustana. His insight, puckish sense of humor and ability to safely ignore stop signs on his weekly trips from Immanuel to Augustana, kept church members breathless.

One day in 1959, an aspiring country western wannabe singer, Chuck Williams, contacted Art Hanson. He had heard Immanuel’s choir and wanted them to be background for his Christmas album. Mr. Williams, who preferred to be called Zoro, had the recording equipment set up in Immanuel. It took two Sunday afternoons to finally complete the recording. On the record the choir was called the “Arrowhead Choraleers.” P.S. It never made the “Hit Parade”.

Another person who wanted the choir to sing for him was John Ylvisaker. Like a troubadour, with his guitar and an armful of his music, he came to Immanuel. This musical experience was really enjoyed by the choir. John had the choir sing his “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry” which has become Immanuel’s favorite baptism hymn. It was an honor to be the first choir to sing this beloved hymn. The choir enjoyed singing his unpublished (at that time) music. Would you say the choir helped to launch his career?

In October 1955, Immanuel and Augustana (of Midway) joined together to build a new parsonage. Mr. and Mrs. Carl Bauman of Immanuel donated the land on the corner of Fourth Street and Ugstad Road. Carl Thudin, also of Immanuel was chosen to be foreman of the project since he had many years experience in construction.

A joint building committee with the leadership of Reverend Robert Lindstrom provided one of the finest parsonage structures in the area. This house at 401 Ugstad Road was dedicated on September 11, 1965 with the Reverend Dr. Emil Swenson officiating.

One year later, the joint boards of Augustana and Immanuel met with regard to the future of the two congregations.

These discussions eventually led to the Immanuel parish seeking dissolution of the joint parish in the spring of 1958. In September of that year, Pastor Lindstrom resigned as pastor of Augustana and became the first full-time pastor at Immanuel since 1926.

Pastors

  • Carl Sodergren (1926-1928)
  • Harold Peterson (1929-1935)
  • David Davoux (1935-1940)
  • John Simonson (1940-1942)
  • Richard Johnson (1942-1945)
  • Arthur L. Anderson (1947-1949)
  • Carl Erickson (1950-1954)
  • Robert Lindstrom (1955-1960)
  • Warren Meyers (1960-1963)
  • Robert Baugh (1963-1967)
  • William Cowan (1967-1974)
  • Ronald Zaudtke (1974-1975)
  • Glenn Oman (1975-1977)
  • Conrad Warner (1978-1980)
  • Thomas Bagel (1981-1988)
  • Judith Walker Wascher (interim)
  • Lonnie Lassman (interim)
  • Brooks Anderson (1990-1995)
  • Mark Osthus (1997-2014)
  • Peter Kowitz (2014-present)

Bud Emberg remembers that after his marriage to Carol, they had an apartment in the house across the alley from the church. The church had a coal hopper-fed furnace. Bud and Carol volunteered to keep the hopper filled. And as coal fires beget clinkers, they had to haul them out to a barrel in the alley. These two jobs had to be done daily during the winter months.

Marvin Brenna helped put in the stained glass windows on the east side of the nave. Joyce Brenna recalls how the wood for the windows had to be soaked in water so it could be bent to mold around the windows. Marvin figured their bathtub would be the best place to soak the wood. Before Joyce could bathe their kids, she would have to remove the soaking wood!

In the old “cracker box” school house church in 1933 the men of the congregation served a Mother’s Day Banquet to the women of the church complete with a program. One of the performers, Kenneth Frolen, 7 years old, sang a parody about the mothers. The last line told it all – “his maw was smart to marry his paw.” The cooks enjoyed that (all men)!

The young women of the church formed an auxiliary that met in the evenings in 1954. They called themselves the “Friendship Ring”. It was really a friendship ring as several of the ladies were from other churches. It was a lively, “up” group of women who worked and prayed together. They held a Spaghetti Dinner (one member was Italian) that was popular with families.

In 1955 this group held an auction that was very successful. Instead of church suppers, this group gave bazaars with something for everybody, from children to adults.

The women of the church produced a cookbook about 1970. Mrs. Diane Jugasek was chairperson and did a fantastic job. The cookbook sold out quickly and it had to have a second printing.

Another group that was active at Immanuel was the Couples Club. This was a purely social club – no church suppers, no bazaars. Two couples would host a monthly get-together in the early 60’s. Young Pastor Warren Meyers was surprised at the energy of this group.

George and Bonnie Erickson were co-chairs of this organization. Some of the activities were square dancing at the Proctor Bank Hall; playing volleyball at the Summit gym and one particular get-together ended up with injuries when the club entered their second childhood by having a skating-sliding party. Some went skating at the rink by the old depot. Others went to the clubhouse hill (across from the skating rink) armed with flying saucers, sleds and toboggans. It was a fun-filled evening. When it was time to go to church for a hot lunch – one toboggan headed down the hill and the driver could not get it on the path. Instead of a safe trip the toboggan crossed a creek and hit a tree. It was a quick stop. The next day we found out May Johnson had broken her ankle and Stanley Stark had a sprained back which required a visit to Dr. Dickson who commented, “Didn’t the Swedes have sense enough to know they were too old for kid games?”

The next month we played it safe by surprising the Meyers with a baby shower including the silly games played at showers. Then we presented Pastor and Mrs. Meyers with a stroller and a layette.

The stories are many and a spirit of love and concern shines through them as they are recalled. More recently, Immanuel has done a lot of work to repair, maintain and improve the church structure literally from top to bottom. First there was a need for re-roofing; then new boilers were needed to heat the church. This was followed by renovation and recarpeting of the narthex, nave, and chancel, fellowship room offices and hallways on the main level. The basement kitchen and Sunday School room were also fixed up. Again, volunteers did as much of the work as possible. All of this was done for the sake of present and future ministry. And so it is with joy and thanksgiving that we celebrate our 75 years, knowing and sharing a history of faith, hope, and love.

Special thanks to Evelyn Peterson for compiling this history. This is the first, limited printing and is a work in progress. If you have any addition or corrections to this history, please leave them in the church office. They will be incorporated into our second printing. Thank you for being a part of Immanuel’s story. (9-10-99)