“Snapshots of Church History” written by Joann Landeen

Many thanks to Joann Landeen for putting these together.

During the 1870's the Swedish pioneers met at homes to worship God. They sang their Swedish songs and read their Swedish Bibles and sometimes a visiting preacher would come. On April 18, 1882, eight men: C. Branch (chairman), L.P. Eggerstrom (trustee), N.J. Larson (trustee), John Sundstrom (trustee), John Holm, Gus Johnson, Oscar Holmes, C.H. Lundin met to form a corporation. The corporation was named the "First Swedish Christian Congregation of Brooklyn Township". The corporation papers were taken to the territorial capitol, Yankton. The papers were recorded May 25th, 1882.

C.H. Lundin was one of the early preachers when they met in homes. He was a Swedish homesteader in section five, Brooklyn Township. He had lived in Brooklyn, New York, for a while, thus naming the township and the church Brooklyn. The Lundins suffered the loss of five children from diphtheria within the time of a few weeks. While digging the grave for one of the children, he got the news that another one had died. They all are buried in the southeast corner of the Brooklyn Cemetery. The one son, Ernest, lived and was a Minnesota state senator.

Another lay pastor was Constantine Branch who had immigrated to America in 1869. He homesteaded on the quarter of land where the Brooklyn church was built. Branch donated three acres for the church and cemetery. He would tell the children, "Oh, I would like to take you all in my arms and bring you all to Jesus and lay you all at His feet." Gwen Nielsen and Norman Erickson are great grandchildren of Branch.

The Brooklyn Church members had their services in the Swedish language. In 1914 some of the homesteaders thought the Sunday School should be in English. The motion was voted down 26 to 14. The English-speaking group left and held services at the Brooklyn schoolhouse. On November 14 they settled some of their language differences. A hundred Swedish songbooks, Hemlands Klochen, (Homelands Bell) were ordered in 1909. The business meetings were recorded in the Swedish language until 1925. During the 1930's and 40's a Swedish Sunday morning service was held once a month. The last year the Swedish services were held in the basement and English services upstairs.

The first recorded mention of building a church was Nov. 15, 1890. The building committee was C. Branch, N.J. Larson, Z. Strom, O. Holmes and P.J. Norman. The committee decided on a building 36'x26'x14' with a pitched roof. A 16'x12'x12' was built on the South. The church was painted white and had green window shutters.

In 1917 the wooden church was moved so the brick church could be built on the same place. Carl Linder, a long time janitor of the church, purchased the building and moved it to his farm one-half mile East. He was never able to put the building to use because a windstorm blew it down soon after it was moved.

The need to build a parsonage was first discussed at a business meeting, Sept 29, 1904. It had been 14 years since the wooden church was built. Eric Soderstrom would give $150.00 to the parsonage fund, three acres of land and an agreement to build the house for less than $1700.00. The members had one week to accept Mr. Soderstrom's offer.

The church members met a week later and accepted the offer. Nels Larson at that time offered an acre of adjoining land. The parsonage was built on the donated four acres a quarter of a mile east of the church. The parsonage was home to the pastors and their families until 1945. The house was sold and moved to Centerville and is still used as a home.

In 1915 women were allowed to vote at business meetings. National suffrage began in 1918. The first listing of Deaconesses was in 1914. They were Mrs. Carl Edblom, great grandmother of John Edblom, and Mrs. August Soderstrom, great grandmother of Joann Ladeen. The first mention of Ladies Aid was in 1891 when the wooden church building was short $230.61. The Ladies Aid paid the debt.

Women wore hats to church. Slacks were not considered church wear. Makeup and bobbed hair were considered sinful by some. There was a mother’s room to take hungry babies but no nursery. Most of the men sat on the East side of the church and the women sat on the west side.

Until 1901, the church had visiting pastors or laymen filling the pulpit. The first full time pastor was Fred Nelson (1901-1905). Rev. Nelson was a great uncle to Gladys Twedt.

The next pastor called was C.H. Hedlin (1903-1905). Irving Halleen served from 1905-1908. Halleen organized Sunday School offerings and the birthday offerings that went to missionaries. The pennies, one penny for each year of their age, were put in a small cast iron church and Happy Birthday was sung.

Other pastors who ministered in the first church building were Andrew Anderson (1908-1913) and J. Fjeilistedt (1913-1916).

A committee to make plans to build a larger church was appointed in 1907 when Halleen was pastor. Due to a national depression the matter was dropped. Next attempt to build the brick church was April 18, 1917. The building committee was finance: Pastor Kalberg(1917-1920), A.G. Anderson and Nels Edman, materials: Eric Soderstrom, N.J. Sundstrom and Oscar Holmes, hardware and lights: J.A. Norman, Alfred Volin and Charles Reynolds.

It was noted that $12,000 should be raised before the building was to start. This amount was raised by June 1917. However the cost would be over $18,000. More pledges were needed and secured. The building committee went ahead and the cornerstone was laid September 16, 1917.

The dedication of the brick church was May 23, 1918. Pastor Kalberg introduced the guest speakers: Fred Nelson, E.A. Halleen, Axel Olson, John Kalson and John Merlin. The bell had been donated by the young men’s Bible class. Each of the younger families had designated dates to clean and do maintenance work on the church.

Electricity was furnished by Delco Battery System until Rural Electric Association furnished electricity in 1939.

The first furnace burned coal. In 1948 an oil furnace was installed. In 1955 the gas main passed near the church property and the oil furnace was converted to gas. The basement was finished during the years 1938 to 1941. In 1954 restrooms and running water for the kitchen purposes were installed. The entire basement was remodeled and redecorated in 1954.

In 1957 when Brooklyn Church celebrated its Diamond Jubilee, the church had received many donations and usable gifts. Some of those gifts are still used today with the exception of the organ.

  • Gift of material to lay curbing South and East of the church yard – N.J. Sundstrom
  • Pulpit, chairs and communion table – memorial donations for Rev. Milton G. Nelson
  • Hammond Church Organ – Victor Anderson
  • Lighting fixtures for sanctuary – Ernest and Lillie Johnson
  • 80 Acres of land - Oscar Holmes

Many of those gifts and money donations were given the next 50 years. Some of those gifts will be written about at a later time.

Brooklyn choir was organized in the fall of 1888. The pitch was obtained from a tuning fork since there was no piano. Mr. Youngberg of was the first director. The next director was Alfred Wickstrom, brother of Zacharias Strom. Hans Bodine was the next director and other talented directors were: Dagney Soderstrom Lechler, Wesley Reynolds, Lois Seashore Ryan, Donald Thissell, Alice Mae Larson Kennedy, Rev. Milton Nelson, Rev. Wallace Johnson and Norman Twedt. Patty Twedt and John Fahlberg are the present day choir directors. For many Sundays the choir sang at both the morning and evening services. The first choir robes were purchased in 1957.

The land for Brooklyn Cemetery was donated by Constantine Branch and the first burials were in 1874.

The first cemetery board was organized January 2, 1922. Before this time they didn’t charge for graves. The board decided to sell a single grave for $20. Today the cost is $75. The cemetery fence and brick fence were gifts from the Axel Norman estate in 1944. The cemetery was last enlarged by a two-acre gift from the A.J. Norman family. The shelterbelt of evergreen trees was given by the Kennedy-Soderstrom family.

The annual national conference of the Evangelical Free Church was held at Brooklyn Church June 17-26, 1925. For many years the denomination has been too large for any one church to pay host. Concerning the event, the Beresford Republic wrote: “Brooklyn is a busy place as the visiting ministers are being cared for with the hospitality of the Swedish people. And away from the clanging bells of streetcars, the honks of the auto horn in the congested streets, the blast of the locomotive, the swish of the city. The retirement to the countryside lends a worshipful air and visitors declare they enjoy it.” A large tent had been pitched on the church grounds. When the conference session was in Swedish, the services in the tent would be in English and vice versa. The guests stayed in the homes of the members and meals were cooked and served by the Ladies Aid.

Another lay pastor was Constantine Branch who had immigrated to America in 1869. He homesteaded on the quarter of land where the Brooklyn church was built. Branch donated three acres for the church and cemetery. He would tell the children, "Oh, I would like to take you all in my arms and bring you all to Jesus and lay you all at His feet." Gwen Nielsen and Norman Erickson are great grandchildren of Branch.

The Brooklyn Church members had their services in the Swedish language. In 1914 some of the homesteaders thought the Sunday School should be in English. The motion was voted down 26 to 14. The English-speaking group left and held services at the Brooklyn schoolhouse. On November 14 they settled some of their language differences. A hundred Swedish songbooks, Hemlands Klochen, (Homelands Bell) were ordered in 1909. The business meetings were recorded in the Swedish language until 1925. During the 1930's and 40's a Swedish Sunday morning service was held once a month. The last year the Swedish services were held in the basement and English services upstairs.

Rev. Milton G. Nelson (1946-1950) was the second pastor to produce a Sunday morning radio program. This program was all English and one half hour long. Nelson named this airtime “The Church by the Side of the Road.” This program used church members for musical numbers. Nelson and his wife often sang duets. The program aired over a Sioux Falls station. He and his wife were the first to live in the parsonage in Beresford. Nelson died in 1950. The Rodman brothers, George and Fred, served as interim pastors until June 1951.

For many years (late 1930’s-1970’s) carnations were presented to each Mother present at the Sunday morning service. Mothers were asked to stand and the young girls had white or pink carnations to give them. The white carnations were given to those who had a deceased mother. The pink carnation (or sometimes red) were presented to those who had living mothers. The Daughter’s Auxiliary, an adjunct of the WMS, sponsored a Mother-Daughter tea. A program from 1948 had Marilyn Norman as chairman. The theme was “Flowers in the Garden Christians". Program numbers were: Tribute by Elvina Carlson, Toasts by Phyllis Sundstrom and Ruth Fahlberg, short talks by Ida Anderson, Jean Seashore, Lorraine Norman, and Esther Nelson, solos by Leila Soderstrom and Dorthy Heglin, a duet by Betty Fahlberg and Maye Holms, and Gwenneth Erickson played the offertory. After the Daughter Auxiliary disbanded the WMS held a Mother-Daughter Luncheon until the WMS quit their regular monthly meetings.

Some of the church organizations were active for many years but changed due to changes in life style, ease of travel to other events and mothers working outside the home. Attendance became less. Daily Vacation Bible School lasted two weeks and was introduced by Rev. Glen Nelson (1930-35). Bible School continued on until 1973 when Pastor Arlyn and Janice Abrams started Day Camp at Bulow Park Ruth Seashore organized the Mission Band (1935) for children. The children met before Sunday night services. It was time to learn Bible Verses and sign choruses. In 1966, Mrs. Detlov Lindquist started Children’s Church since Mission Band had quit. It was on Sunday night with a similar format. Children’s church quit in 1972.The Ladies Aide (WMS) began in 1880’s and continued for approximately a hundred years. Men’s Fellowship was established in 1952. Vincent Swanson was the first chairman. The men had monthly meetings, donated to missions and held services at Gospel Mission. The Heritage Choir was organized for senior citizens in 1976. The choir sang for Sunday evening services and at retirement homes. They were led by Alice Mae Kennedy, Doreen Fahlberg, and Donald Thissell. Another change was the instruction of 12-13 year olds. Up until the early 50’s, Martin Luther’s Blue Confirmation Book was used and many scriptures memorized. It was replaced by an instruction book printed by the Free Church.

Memberships were accepted after the church had been incorporated in May 1882. There were 48 charter members. Since membership has not been pressed there are more people attending than are members. Membership is granted upon a testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. The church practices adult believers baptism. Brooklyn now has a baptistery in the Youth Building For many years Brooklyn had their baptism services at Dalesburg Baptist and Westside Evangelical Free Church.

Here are some comparisons between then and now for some holidays and occasions.

Christmas Nights, 8 p.m., was always the time for the Christmas program. Now the program is the Sunday night before Christmas. New Year’s Eve was celebrated 9-12 p.m. The night began with a program—next was pie and coffee time and the guys assembled to pray in the New Year.

The Young People’s Bible Camps were at Swan Lake, Lake Poinsett and Camp Judson in the Black Hills Now they go to various places like Boundary Waters, Louisiana, Pine Ridge, and Hidden Acres Camp in Iowa

Fourth of July was the date for the Sunday School picnic. Centerville Beach was the place. The picnic area provided a screened clubhouse, playground equipment, concessions stand, and a slide for those who liked to swim. These favorites are gone. Now the picnic is usually at Bulow Park, Beresford and on the last Sunday in August. Lunch after a funeral was not common at church until the 1940’s. Now lunch is an expected part of the funeral services.

There were parsonage changes throughout the years. The country parsonage needed to be updated and have more space. In 1925, when Mars was pastor, there was discussion on building and it was discussed again in 1928. Pastor Seashore bought a home in Beresford when he came in 1938. When the Seashores left, the church voted to buy Rev. Fred Nelson’s house. That house was the parsonage from 1946-1972. The parsonage was sold and a house was purchased at 201 S. 11th Street. That remains the parsonage, however, it was sold to Pastor Mochel who preferred to own his own home.

Brooklyn Church celebrated its Diamond Jubilee June 2-9, 1957. Phillip Thorn was pastor.

Sunday, June 2 ~Supt. O.W. Johnson spoke at the morning service; Rev. Charles McIlveene (husband of Betty Marie Fahlberg) was the evening speaker. Each night of the Jubilee a certain group was in charge of the program.

~Monday, Men’s Fellowship—Rev. Wallace Johnson, speaker

~Tuesday, Choir might—Rev. Glen Nelson, speaker

~Wednesday, WMS, Homecoming Day—Rev. Clifford Anderson, speaker

~Thursday, FCYF—Rev. Ivan Larson, speaker

~Friday, Swedish Service—Rev. Arne Mars, speaker

Sunday, June 9 ~Anniversary Sunday Services were held morning, afternoon, and evening. Dr. A.T. Olson (Free Church President) was speaker at the three services.

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