Bethlehem Lutheran


Bethlehem Lutheran Church
by Mrs. Edward Noss (1967)

Written in 1967, Mrs.s Noss begins her profile of the church by reflecting that history looks back over more than fifty years of God's grace in Bethlehem Lutheran Church, of Roseglen, North Dakota.

Once, when the Rev. Nels Mehlen, pastor from nearby Raub, came from Ryder, he stopped to rest his horses at the A.R. Reinertson home. He was happy to learn that the Reinertsons were Lutheran people, and they were equally pleased to hear that he was a Lutheran pastor. He informed them of services at his home two miles west of Raub. They attended that service and invited him to come to their home to preach. He came on a warm and beautiful Sunday, July 12, 1913, and conducted the first public worship of the early settlers of the newly opened Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Most of these settlers were of Scandinavian Lutheran stock, and their sincere interest in spiritual things was evident in the large turnout for this first service. Some came afoot, others in horse drawn vehicles of various types and descriptions. Indeed, the barnyard was full of buggies, single seated and double, spring wagons, horses, and one lone ox team among them. Inside the house were men, women and children, seated on chairs as far as chairs reached, on make-shift benches, and on the ground, while the Rev. Mehlen, their fellow homesteader, standing in the entrance of the house, led them in worship.

At the close of the service, a business meeting completed the new Lutheran organization, to which fifteen family units had previously pledged membership. These units were the following: Rev. Mehlen, Andrew R. Reinertson, William K. Dahl, Helmer Selmonson, John T. Haugen, Andrew A. Skaar, George Lund, Ole Johre, Theodore Mortenson and Ole Haugen, with their respective families. Joseph O. Amundson, John B. Nelson, Thomas Stenberg and Gustavus O. Balkan also joined them. Rev. Mehlen accepted the call to serve as temporary pastor.

The first meeting of the Ladies Aid was held at the home of Tom Skaar on October 7, 1913. The following officers were elected: President, Mrs. Reinertson; Vice President, Mrs. Mehlen; Secretary, Hilda Johnson (Mrs. J.O. Amundson); and Treasurer, Mrs. T. Mortenson (Mrs. J.B. Nelson). In these early days, people would think nothing of walking several miles to Ladies Aid meetings if they could not come by horse and buggy or wagon. For these pioneer women, it was a big social event. As to mode of dress, they wore their skirts considerably longer than they do today, and the shoes were the high-topped laced or buttoned variety. There were no "bobbed tresses".

None were rich in dollars and cents for material to work with. The dime for lunch at Ladies Aid meetings helped to buy material which the ladies made into garments that were sold at the annual sale. A dinner was served the day of the sale, and all proceeds went into the treasury. The Aid also had basket socials, pie socials, and apron sales in between the annual sales. For the time being, worship services and Ladies Aid were held in the pioneer homes of the members. The Norwegian language was used in the congregation until 1926 when it was replaced by English.

In February of 1914, the northwest group of members organized separately into the Lucky Mound congregation. This decrease in membership at Bethlehem somewhat complicated the establishment of a permanent church center. As settlers moved in, new members were added to the church. William Dahl donated four acres of his homestead for a church site.

A basement was scraped out, and lumber was hauled from town. These plans, however, were later abandoned. A term of parochial school was conducted during the summer of 1914 in the Henry Admundson homestead shack. On November 29, 1914, the first confirmation took place at the John Hauge farm home. The eight young people confirmed were Rudolph Reinertson, George Hauge, Helen Abrahamson, Esther Peterson, Lillian and Stewart Otterness, Gilford Ring and Elizabeth Hoffman. The Rev. Mehlen returned to Harvey, North Dakota in December, 1914, leaving the congregations without a pastor.

When attempts made to join the Makoti parish failed, Bethlehem and Lucky Mound together sent a call for a pastor through the Inner Mission, and the Rev. Adolph Fjeldsgaard arrived to serve. The two congregations built a house on the Reinertson farmstead where the pastor and his family lived until they moved to their homestead. Roseglen Immanuel joined the Bethlehem-Lucky Mound parish in 1915. It was on the 4th day of Christmas, 1915, that Bethlehem held its first Christmas tree festivities at the Balkan homestead place.

The summer of 1916 was the most outstanding in the church's history. The opening of the government coal land immediately south of Amundsville had, the previous summer, brought a host of new settlers, and some joined Bethlehem Church. Old building plans were abandoned and a new church site was selected. Severt Lunden donated two acres of land on the southwest corner of his homestead. A graveyard plot to the south was bargained for from Morris Christenson. Clear title,  however, was not held until years later, when the lot was purchased from M.O. Almquist.

Plans for erecting a frame building on the new site were made and work started immediately. By November, the church was up and ready for use, with interior finishing being completed later. Records show that Palmer Amundson was the first pianist, Nils Sather was the first janitor, and Andrew Reinertson held the position of Klokker for many years. Mr. Reinertson and Mr. Joseph Amundson were usually the song leaders. G.G. Aune was the first Sunday School superintendent.

Parish rearrangements were attempted in 1918 without success. Makoti and Ryder still formed one parish, leaving five country congregations, St. Peter, St. Olaf, Roseglen Immanuel, Lucky Mound and Bethlehem, in one large parish. The Rev. Fjeldsgaard resigned in 1921, and his work was carried on by Rev. I.A. Johanson. He stayed less than a year and seminary student, Nordmark, served following Johanson's resignation. In the spring of 1924, Bethlehem joined the Makoti parish and the Rev. C.J. Nolstad became pastor. In 1926, Bethlehem remodeled the church, adding a chancel room, tower base, and basement.

1928 brought the resignation of Rev. Nolstad after four years of service. His successor was the Rev. V.J. Eylands, who served for two years. In the spring of 1931, the Rev. G.E. Borreson was installed as pastor. He tactfully guided Bethlehem during the drought and depression. His resignation came in 1941. The Makoti parish was then served by Rev. O.E. Dolven. Work was again done on the church home to make it a more beautiful place of worship. October 24, 1943 will be remembered as "Centennial Day". The Rev. Dolven resigned as pastor in May of 1944, and the congregation was temporarily served by the Rev. J.P. Dragseth of the Ryder parish.

In the summer of 1946, the Rev. C.O. Brecto and his family came to take up the work among the church. In 1950, the congregation decided to add the tower to the church; however, this became quite an undertaking, as it was found that the basement walls, which had been provided in 1926, had begun to crumble. Therefore, a whole new basement, with foundation, was built, and the church was moved. In 1952, the church held a belated church dedication, with the laying of the cornerstone on Sunday, October 12th. The Rev. Brecto resigned in August of 1956, and the Rev. Wiger began serving the congregation in February of 1957.

Effective on January 1, 1958, the Bethlehem congregation separated from the Makoti parish and joined the Roseglen and Emmet congregations, and plans were set in motion to build a parsonage in Roseglen.

Pastor Gerald Dyste of Ryder served for a time until he left to attend school. The Rev. A.H. Belgum served as pastor temporarily. Pastor Dyste returned later, in 1959, to again serve the parish. He served until February of 1962 and, the following summer, Pastor Byron Edwards accepted the call to serve the Lutheran parish. The year 1963 marked the 50th anniversary of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Special services and a confirmation banquet were held July 13th and 14th. Pastor Edwards resigned in 1966, and he and his family left to go to the mission field in New Guinea. Bethlehem became one of his sponsoring congregations. Pastor Paul Jensen, together with his wife and daughter, were serving the congregation in 1967, when the Glenview Golden Jubilee book was published.

We are thankful to those pioneer men and women who had vision and spiritual concern to establish and develop the work of this portion of the Kingdom of God.