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Church Memories

A Ladies Aid program presented in 1981

We bring you greetings from a sister church. We would like to share some of our treasured memories. They are unique to us and yet we are sure they will be similar to the ones you treasure.


St. Pauli Church was organized in 1895 as a congregation of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Ladies Aid had been meeting before that.

[Two women talk about organizing the church. One family is not joining because they are Swedish Lutherans. Each family assessed $3.00 a year to pay the minister’s salary.]

Land for our church was donated in 1899 by Hans Amundson. The church was built by donated labor. The Ladies Aid gave $100 for lumber. A one-story building, 26x44, was finished in 1901.

[Two women discuss the Ladies Aid auction and what they made, embroidered pillow, knitted socks, hand-made quilt, etc.]

An active group in our church’s history was the Young Girl’s Sewing Society. They made, crocheted, knitted and embroidered items to sell at the annual Ladies Aid auction. In 1906, they had enough money, $70, to donate the altar, communion rail, and pulpit to the church. They were hand made and hand carved by Albert Angell and are still there.

There were weddings in the congregation. Kathy Alberg is showing her grandmother’s wedding dress. It is about 75 years old. With it, she is wearing Helen Torkelson’s mother’s wedding veil which is about 90 years old. There aren’t a lot of old wedding dresses around because money was scarce, so many brides were practical and dyed their dresses after the wedding so that they could wear the sober brown or sensible navy blue as a best dress for a long time.


After weddings came babies and babies meant baptisms. This little baptismal dress was worn by Herman Rude about 70 years ago. He is still an active member of our congregation. All twelve of his children and many of his grandchildren also were baptized in this dress. The Sunday School children gave our church the baptismal font in 1911. It cost $9.


Land for the cemetery, which is some distance from our church, was given before the church was built, with the idea that the church would be built on the same property. According to our records, the cemetery was “acknowledged” before a judge in Crookston on April 15, 1895.

However, when it came time to build the church, it was decided that the church would be more accessible it if were built on a section corner rather than in the middle of a section. So that it why our church and cemetery are separated. Just outside the cemetery boundary, there is a single grave. I was told some years ago that the person who is buried there committed suicide and so could not be buried in consecrated ground. You are going to hear a song that was a favorite for funerals, sung by Janet Davidson and Helen Torkelson.


Here comes someone. She is going to the Ladies Aid at Mrs. Johnson’s. She has been out in the field helping with the haying. Oh, oh, she almost forgot to take off her apron. An apron was so useful, use a corner for a potholder, gather eggs in it, wrap it around your shoulders on a chilly day while bidding a visitor goodbye, and as today, wear it to the hayfield to protect the dress you are wearing. She is able to go today because she has ten cents for the lunch. Lots of times, there wasn’t that much cash in the house and then she stayed home. Most ladies carried money for lunch tied in the corner of a handkerchief. It wasn’t easy getting to Ladies Aid. One family had to walk through a swamp or slough, as it was called, so they took off their shoes and socks and waded barefoot through the mud and water. On the other side, they dried themselves and donned shoes and stockings to arrive properly dressed.

[Valarie Torstveit in her dress and apron]

The early Ladies Aids were held in the homes. Two women would serve and they would spend days preparing food – a hot dish, pickles (several kinds), light and dark bread sandwiches, Jell-O or glorified rice, and two kinds of cake. Serving was both afternoon and evening. Husbands and children came, too. Well within the memories of many of us were the Ladies Aids served by two of our ladies who spent one or two days making krumkake, a lacy cookie that is rolled into a cylinder while warm, crumbles when you eat it, and is delicious.

Early price for lunch at Ladies Aid was ten cents, then fifteen cents, and finally twenty-five cents. It took several years of discussion to persuade ourselves that free-will offerings would bring in as much money.


In 1926, our congregation decided to go modern. One Sunday a month, the service was in English. The other three were in Norwegian.

[Two women discussing the problems of having the service in English.]

In 1938, records of all meetings were written in English and from 1939, all worship services were in English.

Harvest festivals were social and money-making events. Foods were homemade and donated. You went and bought your supper back again! Many people made it a practice to go to as many church festival dinners in the area as they could.

[Women discussing what they had made for the dinner.]

By the time this confirmation dress, worn here by Suzanne Johnson, was made, the young people no longer memorized the Catechism in Norwegian, but still in the 1950s, they were questioned by the minister before the congregation. This catechization was usually on a Friday evening with confirmation on the following Sunday.

There was a time in the 1960s when some people were afraid our congregation was going to fade away and be dissolved, as happened to so many of the small rural churches. But, we began to grow again. We would like you to meet Michelle Mathson, who is the fifth generation of one family that is still active in our church. With her is her mother [Shelley Mathson] dressed for today’s church-going and her great-grandmother [Helen Torkelson] dressed for yesterday’s. Grandmother [Dodie Torkelson] is not able to be here. Michelle as a fifth-generation member is not alone. We have a number of families who can count back to the beginning of our congregation.

This is our church and these are our memories. The ladies who have taken part will be glad to answer questions about their costumes after the program. Now Janet Davidson will share with you some of her thoughts on what a country church is.

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