Church dedicates monument

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A monument in the West Freeborn Lutheran Church cemetery tells the history of the church buildings. -- Kessa Albright/ Albert Lea Tribune

By Kessa Albright, staff writer

MANCHESTER — West Freeborn Lutheran Church in Manchester Township dedicated a memorial stone Sunday to the location of its first church.

Members of the American Legion Post 56 give a five-gun salute in the West Freeborn Lutheran Church cemetery on Sunday. Pictured in no order are: Bob Indrelie, Bill Goette, Steve Hoelscher, Bill Christenson (squad leader), Bob Miller (bugler) and Les Shaunce.

Following the usual 9 a.m. Sunday morning service, the Rev. Dennis Frank led the congregation 150 feet to the cemetery at 10 a.m. for a special dedication service.

Email newsletter signup

He told the story of the church’s previous site. The congregation organized in 1867 and turns 150 in five years. Eventually, the members built a “sod and logs” building; however, no specific date is available for that structure.

A wooden church built in 1876 on a high point in Freeborn County is considered by most members  to be their first true church building, Frank said. It had a tall steeple that the stone says contained the first church bell in the county. On Independence Day in 1930, the church burned down and the only item that didn’t perish was a melted chunk of the 800-pound bell.

The monument now marks the location of that building.

After he told the story, Frank led the congregation in prayer.

“Let us dedicate this memorial stone to the glory of God,” Frank said.

The American Legion Post 56 raised the flag on one of the six flags in the cemetery. They fired a five-gun salute, and bugler Bob Miller played “Taps.”

The monument was erected on Memorial Day of last year but hadn’t been dedicated. Before, trees had represented where the church once stood.

The stone says the location is the highest point in Freeborn County, at 1,324 feet above sea level, a claim Frank said was based on church records. However, the highest point in Freeborn County is at the northwest quarter of Section 18 of Mansfield Township, at 1,396 feet. The second highest point is in Section 2 of Pickerel Lake Township, at 1,384 feet.

Frank said the church’s proximity to its cemetery allows members of the congregation to visit their deceased loved ones. There is also a spot in a gazebo in the cemetery with all the names of people and where they are buried.

“The people here are very grounded,” Frank said.

Frank has been preaching at West Freeborn Lutheran Church for 20 years. He said that families go to the church all their lives. Parents raise their children with the church, and they raise their children there and so on.

The dedication on Sunday was not only to remember the church that burned, but also the passed members of the congregation. The current congregation said their prayer of dedication for the fallen church while remembering the fallen veterans and their loved ones.

“I’ll never forget this day,” said congregation member Margery Thofson.