It was always a spectator event when the “steeplejacks” came to town.
The Pelican Rapids Press carefully enlarged this photo of work being completed on the town’s famous “Church with the Clocktower.” See if you can find the number of “steeplejack” workers on the building in this photo–date unknown, but probably prior to 1920, at Faith Lutheran Church.
The Press has published this unique photo in the past, but with the ordination of Rev. Alexander Ohman, and his first call at Faith Lutheran, we thought it was appropriate to revisit the image. The church’s famous “clocktower” has become a landmark—almost on par with Pelican Pete himself, the “World’s Largest Pelican.”
Originally “Ringsaker Lutheran Church” built in 1886, the structure was later bought by the Faith Lutheran Church, which organized in 1954. Faith is one of many area churches with Scandinavian immigrant heritage, including Trinity Lutheran a few blocks away.
With tongue in cheek, we’ve sometimes referred to Faith Lutheran clocktower church as “The Church of the Immaculate–Often Inaccurate–Time-Keeping Contraption.” It is one of the most distinctive churches in the area, with the handsome clock on the steeple that, on occasion, correctly delivers the time of day.
“It’s a fascinating mechanism…designed in the late 1800s,” said Pastor Ohman, who came to Faith only a month ago—barely out of seminary school. So, he’s just beginning to learn local history. The timekeeping mechanism in the tower is “huge…probably the size of a Gutenberg printing press,” laughed Ohman.
Faith church member, electrician Kevin Dillon, does his best as “point person” with the clock, said Rev. Ohman, but it requires much tender loving care to keep the clock ticking. “It was designed in the late 1800s, and the clock is still the original mechanism…It’s one of the few surviving clocks of its kind,” said Ohman.
As for the “steeplejacks” which are barely visible in this historic photo, they were apparently in town more than a century ago for repair work on the clocktower. A local photographer no doubt had fun with this image, posing the “steeplejacks” around the structure, from top to bottom.
An uncommon term in today’s vocabulary, a steeplejack’s definition includes:
…a person who climbs steeples, towers, or the like, to build or repair them.
…a person whose work is building smokestacks, towers, or steeples or climbing up the outside of them to paint and make repairs.
A steeplejack is a craftsman who scales buildings, chimneys and church steeples to carry out repairs or maintenance.
Steeplejacks erect ladders on church spires, industrial chimneys, cooling towers, bell towers, clock towers, or any other high structure.
––Louis Hoglund, managing editor