Glimpses of Yesteryear: Churches on the move in Spring Valley since 1800s

By : 
Mary Jo Dathe

   How can 50-plus years go by in a flash?  John Halbkat (last of several generations of the Halbkat Store) spent hours and days on the centennial booklet that was published by the Centennial Committee in 1955.  In this column we have touched on many things but we are about to tackle a compilation of articles that appeared in the 40-page booklet.

   For instance, the section on churches is very comprehensive.  Apparently the Methodist-Episcopal church was first organized in 1854 by the Bateman/Lowe family.  The first pastor was Benjamin Crist who had a wide circuit that included all of southeastern Minnesota — Spring Valley, Hamilton, High Forest, Frankford, Kedron, Jordan and Pleasant Grove.  During 1876 to 1890, the Rev. H.C. Jennings worked at building the edifice, done by H.J. Andersen, and completed in 1878.  The parsonage was done in 1890 to 1894; William Strong installed the pipe organ in memory of wife, Phoebe.  But the Rev. Harry Evans (1935 to 1952) was the most involved.  The interior was done in Nu Wood, pews painted and rearranged, the stained glass windows, dating to 1700s, restored and the crucifix windows on the north were added.  In August 1952 remodeling of the church began — new basement windows, a new heating system installed, protective covering of the stained glass windows — all thanks to the supervision of Joseph Mlinar who lived next door.  The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places, a Spring Valley Laura Ingalls Wilder site; open daily to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Memorial Day through August; open Saturday and Sunday in September and October. 

    The First Congregational Church, one of the oldest in Spring Valley, was organized in 1856 with 15 members.  The first church building was erected in 1866, fronting on Broadway.  Then in 1876 the church was remodeled to front on Jefferson Street, but it was soon outgrown.  The new church began in 1937 on the same foundation and a parsonage was built next door.  The First Congregational Church was demolished in 1952 when the church joined the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren to become Faith United Methodist with a new church at 617 North Maple Lane.  The library is now located where the First Congregational Church had been. 

   The first Lutheran church began after the Civil War in 1866 — Dr. Martin Lutheran congregation.  A parochial school was also built, serving as a place of worship, but the church itself was constructed in 1873; later re-constructed in 1902, plus a parsonage in 1890.  In 1955 they had been blessed with 88 years of service, but regretfully the church was disbanded.  Soon the church was removed but the bell and the church cemetery still remain along Highway 16, same site as Duane and Annette Hyland's business.  You may see the beautiful altar and pulpit at the Methodist Church Museum, which houses countless artifacts and memorabilia from area churches.  One of the unique items: a Klingelboutel, a velvet coin bag passed among the congregation for offerings. 

   The First Baptist Church dates to 1863 when the Baptist residents grew with new settlers, and they desired to grow with a church.  In 1869 the Baptists bought the old school building, south of the Molstad school — the Rowe home on East Franklin.  The building soon became inadequate, and when the winter of 1885 kept members from climbing the hill, they soon made other plans.  M.P. Lower was awarded the contract to build the "artistic landmark." You can see a painting of this by George Bly at the church museum.  In February 1953 it was decided to tear down the “old artistic landmark” and create a new building on the same site.  However, floods kept water in the basement and about eight years ago the Baptists constructed a new church with handicapped accessibility on the corner of West Tracy Road and 701 Kasten Drive.  This church has a cherished history!

   This column will continue with other area churches and pictures.

   We look forward to a fantastic book sale the middle of May and opening the doors on Memorial Day weekend.