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First Lutheran Church turns 125

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First Lutheran Church turns 125
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

It was on July 23, 1888, that a group of Norwegian Lutherans met together in John Reirson's store and organized the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mitchell. They hired the Rev. A.J. Lee, who lived in Mitchell, to preach once a month.

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The group took up subscriptions for money, work or materials from members and townspeople and also made a mortgage. With the members doing most of the work, they had their little white church on South Wisconsin Street. It stood almost all alone on the prairie.

Soon people read this item in the Evening Republican: "A Sunday School was established recently by the Norwegian Church on South Side with 20 pupils in attendance. John Pederson is the Superintendent and Mr. Huseby is the teacher."

The women organized their Norwegian Aid in the spring of 1891 with Mrs. Halstad as president. The eight members paid 10 cents whenever they met. Times were hard.

Many of our early members came from other congregations in the Mitchell area. Rock Creek Lutheran Church, Blandina Lutheran Church and Betania Lutheran Church are some of those.

In 1922, the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church became First English Lutheran and relocated at Third Avenue and Duff Street. Plans were to have a modern brick church. Many problems including the Depression, basement rebuilding problems, dust storms and debts hindered completion of their original plans. There was always the problem of a leaky roof or the old furnace.

It was decided in 1948 to build a larger church on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Duff Street. On a May morning, Knute Strand, eldest son of charter members Knudt and Margaret Strand, took the first shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking.

Moving day was on Nov. 11, 1949. The congregation worshipped in the new basement until spring of 1950. The new church was dedicated on May 7, 1950. There were no stained glass windows or fine furnishings, just old pews and non-descript folding chairs to hold the 1,000 who packed the building for the dedication.

First Lutheran Church has seen steady continuous growth throughout the years. In 1957, all of the early churches of the Mitchell parish were finally united as Rock Creek congregation merged with First Lutheran. As the congregation grew, Sunday School space was needed, and the education wing was dedicated in 1965. Presently, that areas holds the First Lutheran Child Learning Center, where nearly 60 children attend daycare and preschool every day.

In April 2007, a three-phase capital campaign was launched to raise funds for the new Family Life Center addition, as well as other projects within the church. A groundbreaking was held in November 2007, and the new addition was dedicated in February 2009. More education space and classrooms in the lower level were finalized in March 2011.

-- Source: Tracy Burggraff

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