vogel 0505.jpg

Faith Lutheran Church in 1904, built on the corner of Northwest Third Street and Northwest Second Avenue.

It’s a story as old as religion itself: Where people are, there will be those that gather to worship and practice their faith together. There are many churches that have a rich history in the area, but two in Forest Lake have a long history that are as deep in the roots of the town, almost as old as the town itself.

Faith Lutheran Church

Olaf J. Hendrickson, a blacksmith, was one of the early organizers of the Faith Lutheran Church congregation. Meetings were held in the Hendrickson home and also at the Alm schoolhouse. Some 15 Swedish families and one Norwegian family organized the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church (Faith Lutheran’s original name) on Aug. 29, 1888.

The first deacons elected were Samuel Peterson, August Alm and Olaf J. Hendrickson. Pastor Stenborg of Marine on St. Croix was the visiting pastor. Because there were no adequate roads around the lake, he arrived by several modes of transportation. He was driven by horse and wagon to Third Lake. He was then met by a church member in a row boat who rowed him across the lake.

The need for a church became apparent. So a central location for a church in the village was chosen. Two lots on the corner of Second Street Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest were donated by A.P. Noyes. A third lot cost $30. The church building was completed in 1899 and the first pastor was newly-ordained pastor A.F. Almer, who served from 1899 to 1906. His yearly salary was $550.

Through the years, the church building underwent many additions and renovations until a disastrous fire on Oct. 13, 1960. All church records, books, choir robes and miscellaneous items were saved. After the fire, for nearly three years, worship services and Sunday School were held at the Forest Lake Elementary School. A new building site at 886 North Shore Drive was chosen on Aug. 11, 1963. The cornerstone was laid following the 8 a.m. service, with the Rev. Frank Johnson and the Rev. Thomas Wersell officiating.

St. Peter’s Catholic Church

The first Catholic settlers in the Forest Lake area attended services in a little frame church in Wyoming, which was organized in the 1860s.

As more settlers arrived, a larger church was needed. In 1903, a decision was made to build a church in Forest Lake. J.W. Houle donated two lots on West Broadway Avenue and Northwest Fifth Street for the building site of the church. The building committee members were John Boehm, Ben Goodine, John Holl, J.W. Houle, George Thurnbeck, Ambrose Sanftner and Joseph Arth. The parish consisted of 25 families at that time.

During this building period, Father R.V. Kennedy celebrated Mass in Forest Lake in the Woodmen’s Hall on the second floor of the Young Hardware Store on Lake Street. The first Mass in St. Peter’s Catholic Church was celebrated in June 1905 by Father R.V. Kennedy. The church was dedicated by Archbishop John Ireland on Nov. 13, 1905.

Forest Lake had no permanent priest, so Rush City priests would infrequently hold mass in Forest Lake depending on weather conditions. It was not until 1912, under the pastorate of Father Thomas Gibbons, that the church would become a parish in its own right, with missions at Taylors Falls and Franconia. Father Gibbons served as pastor in Forest Lake for 43 years. During those years, the parish grew and prospered under his leadership. In 1923, the church was rebuilt and two wings were added. Father Gibbons retired in January 1956.

Once again, the church outgrew its facilities. Father Joseph Streff was faced with the task of building a new church and a parochial school on South Shore Drive, which was dedicated on Nov. 1, 1961, by Auxiliary Bishop Leonard Cowley.

The pastor who took over after was Father Bob Sipe and the associate pastor Stan Sledz.

All Elsie Vogel material is excerpted from her book, “Reflections of Forest Lake.” Vogel was a former columnist at The Forest Lake Times.

Load comments