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Two Elmore churches celebrate milestones

By Staff | Aug 24, 2009

For more than 100 years there has been a Gospel presence in this little corner of the world.

St. John’s Lutheran Church of rural Elmore observed its 125th anniversary on Aug. 9. Elmore’s United Methodist congregation will observe its 120th anniversary, Sunday, Aug. 30.

Hymnals have come and gone as well as members young and old, but fellowship continues to be shared, meetings conducted and worship services held in these rural community churches.

Elmore United Methodist

The United Methodist Church in Elmore will be observing its 120th anniversary celebration, Sunday, Aug. 30 beginning at 10 a.m.

Pastor Wesley Johnson, the last full-time pastor the congregation had before the establishment of the Southern Prairie Parish, will be the guest speaker. During the worship service, special music will be provided by a quartet accompanied by Ann (Walton) Cebulla, who was the church organist for several years.

Following the service, a potluck dinner will be held for all persons interested in attending. Members and friends are asked to pre-register for the meal by contacting Rhonda Lloyd (507) 943-3225 in order to plan for seating for the meal.

A memorabilia table will be set-up and there will be memorial plates and a booklet of the history of the past 120 years available for purchase that day.

Carl Adams, church member, wrote in a previous history of the church, the Elmore Methodist Church started as a result of Rev. J.W. Powell. Powell was appointed the first regular pastor in this area by the Minnesota Conference held in Red Wing in 1856. As settlers poured into this area, he appointed other pastors to the area to get out and try to organize classes that would perhaps later develop into free churches. The Elmore Methodist Church started as such a class and had its beginning as an offshoot of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Blue Earth.

When the settlers first thought of a church for this area, it was suggested they meet in houses of interested families. As the interest increased, people started getting together on a more regular basis. Then, in 1870, they started to have regular services in a log schoolhouse known as the ‘Dobson School.’ This school was located about four miles northwest of present-day Elmore and was west of the railroad tracks (that no longer exist) where a creamery later stood. This was later razed and a feed mill was built. It no longer is in existence either.

One unique historical fact about the church is Rev. J.W. Powell served as the church’s pastor three different times in its history. He was the first pastor from 1856-1860, then served again from 1871-1873 and 1885-1888.

Powell formally organized the church and its first pastor was Rev. George F. Wells who served from 1885-1887.

In 1889, a church building was erected on Henry Street south of the Elmore school site. While Rev. G.W. Powell was pastor (1928-1937), remodeling work was done to the chapel with all native walnut used for the pulpit, the baptismal font and a cross. Extensive repairs and improvements were made to the church building during the years 1935-1939.

Probably one of the most memorable and influential pastors who served the congregation was the Rev. T.S. Mondale (1937-1947). He was the father of the future Vice-President of the United States, Walter F. Mondale. During Rev. Mondale’s tenure, the steeple of the church was removed and the church formally became known as the Elmore First Methodist Church and it would be renamed again in 1955 as the Elmore Methodist Church.

Cary Taylor and Ella Mae Engebritson recall how the people of the congregation took care of the Mondale’s during the Depression and war years. “The Mondale family never went hungry because members of the congregation would always share butchered livestock with them,” say the two longtime church members.

For more of this story, see this week’s Register.