Early Catholic priests covered a lot of ground




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We continue with stories from the Spring Valley History, 1855 to 1980, remembering that this is 38 years later!

Catholic priests served a large area, and mud kept them from meeting often.  A news clipping from 1899 notes that on Christmas Day, Father Gossman said Mass in LeRoy, drove cross country (by horse and buggy?) to Spring Valley, took the train to Grand Meadow to hold three Masses.  D.A. Sullivan was most faithful, wanting to form a parish here, and offering his home as a place of worship.  There were only 27 Catholic families at the turn of the century. 

The first building was done about 1878 at a cost of $1,200.  The place remains standing, now a residence on West Park Street.  Father M.J. Smythe was the first resident pastor.  While Father Gmeinder served the church in 1906 to 1917, the building in the photograph was put up on West Franklin Street.  In September 1966, St. Ignatius announced it had bought lots on Washington Avenue adjacent to the parish house to build a new church.  The new facilities were opened in September 1968. (There have been additions since then.)

We recounted Trinity Lutheran Church in a recent column, but again, organized 1875, first called the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, later changed to Trinity Lutheran in January 1944.  One can see many artifacts from Trinity Lutheran at the Methodist Church Museum.  An interesting story:  When the church was built on West Section Avenue in 1890, they ordered an altar painting from Hjerborn Gausta (1854-1924).  It was titled "The Resurrection" and cost was $135.  The Gausta family came from Norway to settle in Fillmore County in 1867.  Gausta attended Luther College, then studied in Europe, ended up teaching at Luther College and then resided in Minneapolis.  A disastrous fire destroyed all his years of works, and he resorted to making a living doing altar paintings.  He is buried in Harmony under a tall monument.  When the Trinity and Zion Lutherans merged in 1950, the Gausta painting disappeared.  Arnold Molstad found it in the upstairs attic walkway at Our Savior’s Lutheran, and he persuaded Wilbur Brandt to make a frame for it.  It was presented to the Methodist Church Museum to display along with the Norwegian Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments, with countless artifacts from area churches.

Zion Lutheran Church had a modest beginning: A small group of courageous Christian families of German descent organized a brave endeavor, leaving Midway Lutheran, the "Mother Church."  They managed to build their church at 709 South Washington, now a residence.  Only four pastors served this church:  Pastor Haferman, 1902-1909; A. Schoebel, 1909-1927; G. Keim, 1928-1939; and Wm. Uhrich, 1939-1951.  Because both congregations were "feeling the pinch" (lack of space), and being of similar doctrine, Zion and Trinity Lutheran voted to merge in December 1950, to form Our Savior’s Lutheran.  They sold their respective buildings; the last parsonage at 707 South Section Avenue is now a residence.  The two congregations celebrated their anniversaries:  Trinity Church — a big event at the high school auditorium to celebrate its 75th, and a golden (50th) anniversary at Zion.  Our Savior’s Lutheran expanded further in 1976 when it began a $165,000 addition. (Remember, this is written in 1980.)

First English Lutheran: It goes back about 83 years when the Rev. J.A. Stein of Wykoff met with families who were interested in forming a parish. They met at the E.U.B. church on Section Avenue on Nov. 24, 1935, when a Sunday school, choir and Ladies Mission Guild were organized.  In March 1936 a lot was purchased near downtown Spring Valley, and the name First English Lutheran became official.  The first resident pastor, the Rev. Armin Deye, was ordained and installed at the "cottage chapel" on Hudson Avenue, which served the congregation as a place of worship for 16 years.  (I attended kindergarten in 1939 in the basement.)  In the 1855 to 1980 history of Spring Valley, the “basement church” on Grant Street was  dedicated in 1952.  The present church is a handsome edifice, and according to records, the corner stone for First English was laid in 1961.

A note in the aforementioned History of Spring Valley, 1855—1980:  "As the quarter century ended, there were 10 churches in the city limits:  Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, Downtown Church of Christ, Faith United Methodist, First Baptist, First English Lutheran, Jehovah Witnesses, Mennonite Brethren, Our Savior’s Lutheran and St. Ignatius."  Further columns will contain histories of the other churches.