Looking Back: Pioneer pastor served many congregations

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 26, 2003

Memories were revived for many people when the Lime Creek Lutheran Church building was recently moved from its original location in the center of a cemetery three miles west of Emmons on the State Line Road to the Farming of Yesteryear site further west near Kiester. And for a few folks there was special significance because of their relationship to a former pastor who served at this and so many other churches.

The last worship service in this pioneer church was held on Oct. 9, 1983. Among those attending were descendants of the Rev. Paul G. Ostby who once lived on a nearby farm and was the pastor of this church for 37 years.

Ostby was born on Aug. 12, 1836, in Trysil, Norway, the youngest of nine children. His schooling was sketchy up to the age of 13 when he became an apprentice tailor. At the age of 17 he started working on a farm for his oldest brother, later attended a teacher’s college, and taught school in Vaaler, Norway, plus serving as private tutor, until 1868.

Email newsletter signup

In 1868 Ostby was offered free living and education to attend a seminary in Paxton, Ill. After a year at this school, he switched to a seminary in Marshall, Wis., and was ordained as a Lutheran minister in 1870.

Ostby’s first assignment was to work with the Rev. C. L. Clausen of St. Ansgar, Iowa, one of the region’s first Lutheran clergymen. His assignment was to work with the developing communities of Norwegian immigrants to organize new churches. A family history says Rev. Ostby organized several churches in western Minnesota and what’s now North Dakota. Later in 1870 he organized churches in Hampton, Ackley, Rose Creek of Osage, and Clermont, Iowa. Even later in 1870 he was called to serve the Lutheran churches at Red Oak Grove, Little Cedar at Adams, Blooming Prairie and Austin.

On July 1, 1871, he organized what’s now Trinity Lutheran Church in Mason City, Iowa. And on June 30, 1872, he organized Zion Lutheran church in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Information from a pamphlet on Ostby’s life states, &uot;According to the archives of the ALC (American Lutheran Church), in the year of 1872 he was the only pastor for 11 churches, and still being a visitator pastor, performing baptisms, giving communion and holding prayer meetings wherever he may stop along his way of travels. At this time he was busy organizing more churches and organized several in Wisconsin.&uot;

Another entry in this pamphlet states, &uot;According to data from the ALC archives, he organized or served some 30 churches with a combined service of 220 years.&uot;

Shortly after being ordained in 1870, Ostby married Guro Thornby, also

from the Vaaler region of Norway. They had nine children, three of whom died in infancy.

Raising a family and trying to travel to organize and serve so many church groups resulted in the busy pastor deciding to concentrate on one specific area. In 1878 he accepted the call to serve the Lime Creek and Lake Mills, Iowa, Lutheran congregations, plus organizing the Bethel Lutheran Church in Vinji, Iowa (now spelled as Vinje on most maps). Ostby became the fifth pastor to serve the Lime Creek church on the Iowa line which had been organized in 1864 by the Rev. Clausen. Just when he ceased to serve the Lake Mills church is not known.

The Ostby family settled on the second farm to the west of the Lime Creek church on what’s now the State Line Road.

In 1902 Rev. Ostby helped to organize a Lutheran church in the nearby community of Emmons and served as its first pastor from May 1903 to 1915.

His wife, Guro, died in 1908. Ostby then married Ranvei Gavle who died in 1911. The pioneer pastor died on June 15, 1917, and is buried in the southwest corner of the Lime Creek Cemetery near the site of the church he served for 37 years.

Ostby’s obituary fin the July 4.1917, issue of the Albert Lea Times-Enterprise newspaper said in part:

&uot;From 1878 until his retirement from the ministry in August 1915, he was pastor of the local field, serving the congregations at Emmons, Lime Creek and Bethel (at Vinji or Vinje, Iowa). During those 37 years in which he worked faithfully and untiringly in the interest of the church he had chosen to serve, he was the love of the people of the community, not only as a pastor but also as a friend.

&uot;During his early years as a minister his work as an organizer was a big factor in the pioneer work of the Norwegian Lutheran Church. Ambitious to aid his church, and with splendid physical, mental and moral strength to help him, he labored valiantly and successfully against the obstacles which lay in the path of early religious progress. His ability to organize and build up congregations was the outstanding feature of his life work.

&uot;To the older members of the community his work as a pastor stands out more prominently, because they know the difficulties and trials that beset the church on every side. Often with the roads almost impassible and in the severest weather, he was compelled to ride miles on horseback in order to reach his congregation that was part of the pioneer pastor.

&uot;Often in his organization work he was compelled to swim rivers and streams to reach his destination. All this he diid as part of

his chosen work, cheerfully and without complaint, in order to establish a church wherever need required.

&uot;Both in age and years of service Rev. Ostby was one of the oldest pastors of the Norwegian Lutheran Church. For 17 years he was visitator of the St. Ansgar district, comprising the territory of northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. In this capacity he visited over 60 congregations.&uot;