Remembering the heritage: a summer celebration at Fish Lake Lutheran

Fish Lake Lutheran Church is located just south of Stark on Cedarcrest Trail. The historical church is picturesque every season of the year, as evident by the photos above and below. Photos by MaryHelen Swanson

By MaryHelen Swanson—

They are planning a “fabulous” day at Fish Lake Lutheran Church near Stark for Saturday, June 30.

Not only will there be a lot of exciting things to do and good food, but participants will enjoy learning about the history of the church and the early settlers who made it possible.

It all started shortly after the Civil War had ended when immigrants Erick Berglund and Peter Lof traveled through the wilderness north from Chisago City and heard the loons calling. There must be a lake, they said, and there was. Today it’s called Fish Lake. Lof settled on the south shore and Berglund on the north shore. They brought their families to live there from Chisago City, and were the only white settlers in the area for the next three years. The Chippewa Indians still roamed this area at the time.

The two men decided it would be a good place to settle, even if it meant an 11-mile trek, on foot, to Sunrise to get supplies.

There were pastors willing to make their way through the wilderness to the area from Chisago Lake Lutheran Church of Center City. So seven years after Berglund and Lof came to the shores of Fish Lake, Rev. C.A. Hedengran organized the Fish Lake church, originally called Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church of Fish Lake.

At first services were held in homes, then in the school house.

In 1870 the congregation was given 40 acres of land by the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railway Co. on which to build their church.

The church was completed in 1975, but in 1886, on the eve of Pentecost, it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

Undaunted, the congregation, led by the fervent prayers of Pastor Brink, rebuilt a new church on that same site.

By 1944, services in Swedish were limited to one a month and in 1946 Swedish was dropped from the official name of the church.

The inside of the church was completely renovated in 1998 and the exterior renovated and painted in 2001. Today, the church looks like a picture postcard all four seasons of the year.

When you go to the celebration, June 30, you will also learn about the Berglund Pioneer Cemetery where there were two Civil War vets buried and about the mysterious five unmarked graves.

And how one of the Civil War vet’s remains were moved to the new Fish Lake cemetery in 1960 by the North Branch American Legion.

The events on June 30

The celebration will take you back to before the turn of the 20th century, as you enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides touring the area around Fish Lake, including the Pioneer cemetery with a stop at the Pioneer Farm.

You’ll get in the pioneer mood with square dancing from 3-5 p.m., complete with a teaching caller. Snacks will be in keeping with the theme of the day and include things like homemade ice cream. At a pancake breakfast starting at 7 a.m., you be able to view historic photos and learn the stories of the people who started the church with some living relatives of those first pioneers still in the congregation.

Also during the breakfast Jon Ekstrom will sing for your enjoyment; at least two songs will be in Swedish, and a large historic picture of immigrants coming over on the ship, on loan from the Swedish Institute, will be displayed.

At 11 a.m. congregation members and friends will compete in a talent show and there will be a softball tournament at the Harris field at 9 a.m. with a traveling trophy at stake. Pete Mindrup will throw out the first ball.

You might like to take the nature path through the nearby woods, maybe even come upon the Pioneer cemetery, thanks to the efforts of an Eagle Scout’s project.

Try your hand at horseshoes or just enjoy looking at some antique cars on display. Everything is freewill donation.

You are promised many fun activities with a lot of great local history. Join the members of Fish Lake Lutheran Church at this summer celebration.

The church is located at 43353 Cedarcrest Trail, just south of Stark off County Road 10.

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