Eagle Lake Lutheran Church marks 150 years Sunday
WILLMAR – Eagle Lake Lutheran Church will celebrate its 150th anniversary Sunday.
The Rev. Jon Anderson, bishop of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Church of America, will preach at 9:30 a.m. Sunday and the service will be followed by lunch at 11 a.m. The community is invited to join in the celebration.
According to a history provided by the church, Eagle Lake settlement, with members coming mostly from the Dovre Township area, was served by a circuit riding pastor, Peter Carlson. A church was first organized there in 1859, and prior to the U.S.-Dakota War in 1862, the name was changed to Eagle Lake Church. The war drove most settlers out of the area.
Following the war, a large group of Norwegian homesteaders, who had waited in Carver County for the hostilities to end, returned to the area and settled in the Eagle Lake area. Eagle Lake Lutheran Church was officially organized Oct. 30, 1867, by farmers in the vicinity of Eagle Lake.
The first church was built on a site at the intersection of Kandiyohi County Road 25 and Long Lake Road, which is 15th Street Northeast, north of Willmar. Surrounding the church was the cemetery, with Bethesda Cemetery to the north and the Eagle Lake Cemetery to the south. The site was donated by the railroad.
The early settlers organized the first school district in Kandiyohi County in January of 1870. The school was located across the road from the church.
In the 1900s, the church became associated with the Bethesda Children’s Home and Bethesda Home for the aged, which were both located north of the church on what is now Long Lake Road.
In 1912, right before Christmas, the church burned down. A new church was built the following year and an addition was added in 1979. In 1994 a new church was built across the road to the east, and in 1998 the old building was demolished.
The steeple was saved and is now in the cemetery in the same spot it stood for 85 years. It is currently used for anniversary celebrations and it’s a nice place to sit with your memories and prayers.
As with all small country churches, membership has ebbed and flowed with the times. It is still a relatively small church currently serving around 350 members.
Current Pastor Steve Meier put it this way in the September newsletter: “As we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us in the past 150 years, we will continue to center our future plans around the simple goal of helping others (those within our congregation and outside of it) ... striving together to ‘love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.’ 150 years! Thankfulness for the past with a direction for the future.”