Church settled by Swedish immigrants continues 133 year history with ‘mortgage burning’

Central Swede Grove Church, as it appeared in 1885, in its first decade of existence.
Central Lutheran Church, on County Road 3 southeast of Pelican Rapids.
This special graphic of Central Lutheran’s mortgage, “Paid in Full” was burned at a special ceremony July 29
Rev. Phil Tobin, ceremonially “burning the mortgage.
Central Lutheran’s pastor, Rev. Phil Tobin
Central Lutheran’s pastor, Rev. Phil Tobin posing with mortgage.

With relief and great joy, members of Central Lutheran Church “torched” the paperwork on a $120,000 mortgage July 29.

The debt dates to 2008, when the church built a new addition that included a fellowship hall, dining area, rest rooms kitchen and office space–all handicapped accessible.

Appropriately, the ceremonial burning of the mortgage was held during Central Lutheran’s popular pork feed.

Retiring the debt in less than ten years was an accomplishment for a mostly rural congregation, numbering about 300.

Founded by immigrant Swedes, the church honored many Swedish traditions in its early years–including the Midsummer Day celebration. As the Swedish connection became less pronounced, the congregation changed its name from Central Swede Grove to Central Lutheran in 1944.

Early immigrants formed church, community that became known as ‘Central Swede Grove’ 

Central Lutheran Church is among the oldest in the area, founded by Swedish immigrants in 1874. It seems the Swedes made their home southeast of Pelican Rapids–the Norwegians, everywhere else around Pelican.

The community, and the church, was long known as “Central Swede Grove.”

The church published a hardbound book in 1927, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the church. This publication is actually a remarkable piece of work, for a small rural church–well written, edited, illustrated and presented–loaded with crucial historic facts on the settlement of the Pelican area.

A few facts and historic notes drawn from the book:
• Sjostrom, Swanson, Sandberg, Fogelberg, Nelson, Ecklund, Lyden and Johnson are among the earlier names associated with Swede Grove.
•The dedication in the 1927 book reads: The founders…whose patient and unceasing efforts have endowed us with the spiritual opportunities which have been so large a factor in making us we are on this 50th Anniversary. To these sturdy God-fearing men and women who so courageously fought wilderness, poverty and want, and through faith in their God conquered them, we dedicate this momento.”
• Rev. L.P. Stenstrom served the parish for 39 years, a long tenure by the standards of ministers.
• “Indians stopped at the Sjostrom cabin often, but were always peaceful, and although they may have caused the settlers some worry, never became troublesome…Indians on several occasions bartered bread for the game and fish they brought with them.”
• “A local store-keeper in Pelican Rapids, brought a large consignment of army uniforms used in our civil war and these were sold to the settlers at a compartively low figure. The result…the settlers went to religious services and it looked as if the Union army was on the march…”
• 31 young men from Swede Grove served in World War I. Some names are still familiar in the area: Sjostrom, Bengtson, Hanson, Sundblad, Erlandson, Swenson, Knutson, Lyden, Carlson, Backstrom and Nelson.
• First children baptized in Swede Grove were John and Emiliea Swanson.
• The pastor’s salary in 1880 was $133.34; and rose to $1,800 annually, by 1923. The organist was paid $50 a year in 1926.