Christmas Day marks the centenary of the Garfield Church fire
The second church used for members of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lake Ida as a place of worship. Contribution photo
According to an 1821 article in the Alexandria Citizen News, the Christmas service at the Swedish Lutheran Church began at 6 a.m., with no other services scheduled for the rest of the day except for a program planned for the evening.
Unfortunately, the evening program never took place as a fire of unknown origin destroyed the church some time after the morning service. Several lighted candles were placed in the church tower, but it was not where authorities suspected the fire had started.
All the benches, the organ and some furniture were salvageable.
In October of the following year, the reconstruction of the new church was completed. According to an article in the Alexandria Citizen, the congregation celebrated with dinner.
After the Christmas Day fire of 1921, the rebuilding of St. Luke’s at Garfield was completed in October 1922. Contributing photo.
Today, the Swedish Lutheran Church – now known as St. Luke’s Lutheran Church – has been raised from its ashes and thriving, but it has had quite a few challenges.
In 1988, Pastor David Gran began serving St. Lukes – the name change took place in 1949 – with instruction from ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, to dissolve the church due to the number of congregations falling below 20 per week. There were only 17 members at that time.
“I was serving another church nearby, and when my predecessor in St. Luke’s was no longer able to serve, Bishop Harold Lohr asked me to serve St. Luke’s from September 1988 to January 1, 1989, when the congregation would be dissolved, ”said grandmother.
Grandmother failed in her mission because the church never closed and the number grew.
“As I ministered to the people of St. Luke, there was a lot of healing in the congregation, and the church board of St. Luke asked if I would stay,” said Gran. “I take no credit for the ‘growth’ of the congregation. The growth of the church anywhere is by the work of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God.”
St. Luke’s Church in Garfield is still in use today with a modern addition after it was originally built in 1922 following the Christmas Day fire of 1921. Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press
Gran was officially installed as pastor of St. Luke in 1990. Attendance was about 40 per week, and today it is about 150.
“St. Luke’s is a very caring community of believers – from infants to people in the 90s, founded on God’s inherent divinely inspired word of God and they take seriously its mission to make disciples. Our goal is to be good people. stewards of what God has entrusted to us and to see the needs of others before our own, “said Gran.” The mission willed by God for Saint Luke, which began in 1869, is not finished. Each of us plays a role in the church according to the spiritual gifts God has given us. By combining our strengths, we can more effectively expand the kingdom of God in our world. “
The Alexandria Citizen News ran an article about the Christmas church fire on Thursday, December 29, 1921. Photo provided.
Having no desire to become a pastor, Gran was studying for his doctorate in public school administration when he said the Holy Spirit had changed direction.
“The Holy Spirit placed upon my heart the need to share the love of Jesus as a pastor,” said Gran. “Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ As a follower of Jesus and a shepherd of his flock, this is what I have been empowered to do. “
In honor of the church that burned down on Christmas Day in 1921, a plaque can be found outside the church in use today. Contribution photo.
Another bad fire at Christmas
Another fire during the holidays made headlines in Douglas County almost 70 years ago.
In 1953, the Holmes City Roller Mill burned down on Christmas Eve for an unknown cause.
The Mill, owned by Pete and Andrew Hjelm in partnership with John Bergstrom, operated as a flour and sawmill. Pete sold the mill to his son Perry in 1950. Perry lived with his wife and son in an apartment on the top floor.
The newspaper at the time indicates that the fire destroyed the plant within an hour and a half, causing damage estimated at $ 20,000.
Perry assembled a water pump from a nearby lake with a hose placed in the boiler room to fight any potential fire that might arise.
The mill brooded for five days.
According to reports, the pump ran for about two minutes before finally breaking down. A witness argued that the damage would have been minimal if the pump had continued to operate.
Ironically, the pump survived the fire and was tested the next day; it worked perfectly.