107-year-old church moved from Bricelyn area to Wells

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 7, 2002

The Prairie River Camp needed some buildings. Norbert Beyer wanted his home church to be used again.

Getting the two together is turning into a win-win situation for both, according to Greg Gudal, director of Albert Lea Youth for Christ, the entity which owns Prairie River Camp near Bricelyn.

The church, St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, located eight miles north of Wells on Faribault County Road 29, was built in 1895. Beyer’s grandfather, Friedrich Beyer, donated the land and furnished the $800 to build the church. Friedrich Thom was the church’s builder.

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Fifteen men, one woman and their families started the new church with the help of the pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Wells.

It was last used on Sept. 30, 1990. Since then, the windows have been shuttered to protect them from the weather and vandals. The name, written in German, still hangs above the door. But more recently, a banner could be seen on the side of the church: “Help move me to Prairie River Camp , 373-1015.”

Norbert Beyer served as president of the congregation for 41 1/2 years. He said he hated to see the church sit empty for the last 12 years.

“I’ve had great respect for this church,” he said. “I was born into the congregation.”

He’s lived his entire 90 years on the family farm three miles west of the church.

It was the church cemetery board that voted 4-1 to donate the church to the camp, Beyer said.

On Thursday, Beyer gathered with some relatives, neighbors and members of the Prairie River Camp board to watch as a crew attempted to take the steeple off the church. Passersby stopped their cars on the side of the road to watch the process.

It’s expected that the building itself will be moved to its new location early next week, Gudal said.

The church building will be used for meetings and as a storm shelter, Gudal said. A new walk-out basement will be put under the church, along with a handicap-accessible restroom.

The camp has acquired a few other buildings to go with its ropes course, Gudal said. A donated trailer has been remodeled into staff quarters. Another trailer with locker rooms and showers was donated by a tennis club in the Twin Cities area. A 30-foot gazebo was donated by Pro Manufacturing and ALAMCO. Another smaller, ornate gazebo was given in memory of a young woman. And a prayer chapel is being built in the woods in memory of Gudal’s aunt.

“There used to be a church on the property before the railroad came through,” Gudal said. “After the railroad came, they pulled the church into town.”

Four hundred trees have been planted on the property. The septic system will be installed in the spring. Other buildings planned for the site include a lodge a sleeping quarters.

“We’ve had quite a few groups use our ropes course, and we plan to be even busier this year,” Gudal said.

The church building is a welcome addition to all that’s going on at the camp, Gudal said.

“The old country church will give a nice look out there,” he added.

Meanwhile, Beyer said he is happy that St. Paul’s Lutheran will be used again.

“If it comes to life again, it’s worth it,” Beyer said.

“If it helps a few kids get on the right path, it’s worth it.”