History of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
(Unity, Clark County, Wisconsin)
Written by: Esther (Anderson) Carlson.
Interior of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Surnames: FLINK JENSEN LANDELL OLSON HALLBERG BERGSTROM BOGREEN WILLIAMSON PETTIT LUND LINDER HILLER NORDLING DANIELSON OLANDER JOHNSON COOK JUSTMAN HELLESTAD WIELAND HAFEMAN MEYER ALMQUIST VANDERSTOEP LANGSETH SUTHERLAND PREMLEY MOORE DUSENBERG JAYS CLASEN SAFEMASTER FLATT BURMAN
The roots of this church stretch back to the 1880’s. At that time there was no pastor, no house of worship and no regular time to meet. There were backwoods missionaries who traveled from settlement to settlement where services were held in homes. A Rev. Jensen, carrying a harp, did conduct services in this area. All services were held in different homes in the congregation. It was at the home of Andrew Flink that the Swedish Lutheran Church was organized. He became one of the first board members. The original membership totaled 34, coming from 13 different families. It was known as the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The earliest church records were written in Swedish or Danish starting on November 4, 1900. Rev. C. G. Landell, pastor of the Ogema church, met with the group and a temporary Board was elected. The first Board consisted of A. G. Olson, A. G. Flink, and A. Hallberg, Deacons, and O. Bergstrom, C. Bogreen and J. Williamson, Trustees. Descendants of some of these Board members still belong to our church.
One service per month was held in the homes. Then at a meeting on February 3, 1901, the congregation decided to adopt the Augustana Synod Constitution. It was also decided at this meeting to purchase two lots from A. G. Pettit on which to build a church. The present church stands on the same spot.
Rev. C. A. Rosander became pastor in April of 1901. He was to receive $100 for the remainder of the year from the congregation and $175 from the Illinois conference of the Augustana Synod. Membership dues were set at 30 cents for men and 20 cents for women per month. The decision to build the first church was completed by October of that year and the first organist was Miss Ellen Olson. Men sat on the right and women and children sat on the left.
The first Sunday School was organized in 1903 with Mrs. Andrew Hallberg as superintendent.
On June 4, 1905, a tornado hit Unity, blowing the church over. The congregation hired a company to return the church to its foundation with only minimal damage.
From 1903 to 1920 the following pastors served the congregation – Rev. C. A. Lund, Rev. F. O. Linder, Rev. A. E. Hiller, Rev. O. A. Landell, Rev. J. A. Nordling and Rev. J. G. Danielson. Rev. Danielson resigned; he could not preach in English.
On September 13, 1920 the Scandinavian Lutheran Church adopted English as the official speaking language. At the same time the envelope system of paying dues was adopted and the name became Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. The congregation called G. M. Olander, field secretary, to serve the church until a pastor could be found.
The church had finally become an independent body. Before this it was considered more a “mission church,” depending on other churches or the conference for backing. With the adoption of the English language, many more families, particularly German, joined, and the church had 102 members by the end of 1920.
On September 11, 1920 Pastor Julius Johnson came to serve and was the first resident of the parsonage, a 4 room bungalow which was purchased from Walter Cook. This building was moved by members of the congregation with a steam engine to the south side of the church. Pastor Johnson was asked to speak to A. W. Justman about becoming choir director, a position which he held for over 50 years.
Rev. Johnson left in 1924 and Rev. J. A. Burman came and served until his resignation in 1926. On January 4, 1927 a motion was made, seconded and carried to call student J. A. Olson as pastor after his ordination. Up till now we had shared a pastor with Westboro but it was voted to separate and become a single congregation.
On February 27, 1929, the motion was made to build a church to replace the present one. A. W. Justman, Martin Hellestad, Albert Wieland, Hugo Hafeman and Frank Meyer were appointed to the building committee. Services were held in the old church for the last time on Palm Sunday, March 24, 1929. Until the new church was built, services were held in the I.O.O.F. Hall. On October 20, 1929 the dedication of the new church was held. All groups within the church helped to raise money toward the cost. The stained glass windows were paid for by the Luther League. In spite of being built during the depression years, the church mortgage was burned in November 1944.
Rev. J. A. Olson
On March 8, 1943 Rev. J. A. Olson resigned as our pastor to fill a position in Wadena, MN. Rev. Arthur W. Almquist served as pastor until 1945. At a congregational meeting it was voted to call Rev. J. A. Olson to return to our church. He and his family arrived in Unity on December 27, 1945 where he faithfully served until his sudden death of a heart attack in November of 1949.
It was no easy task to fill the position as there was a shortage of pastors at that time. With the help of good supply pastors the church was able to carry on until 1952 when Pastor Vander Stoep arrived. Since the resignation of Pastor Vander Stoep our congregation has been served by Rev. Robert Langseth, Rev. Robert Sutherland, Rev. James Premley, Rev. Elton Moore, Rev. Timothy Dusenberg, Rev. Brian Jays and our present pastor, Rev. John Clasen.
An addition was built on the back of the church in 1956 which provided more Sunday School rooms, indoor toilets and pastor’s study. The parsonage to the south of the church was sold and a new parsonage was erected on the east side of Unity in the 1970’s.
In 1955 there were 240 communicant members and 110 children – 350 people in all.
In our hundred years of existence our church is very proud to name Ruth Safemaster Flatt as one who has carried God’s message halfway around the world. Ruth began her missionary services when she went to the Augustana Mission in Tanganyika Territory, East Africa in 1929.
In our 100th year, our congregation membership stands at ??? Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is the only church in Unity.
Rev. J. Alfred Olson and family.
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