April 20, 2018


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Sunday, April 22, 2018
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The History of First Lutheran Church

Algona, Iowa


The First Evangelical Lutheran Church traces its organization history back to the year 1882. In that year two meetings were held resulting in the formation of the congregation. On April 11, 1882, minutes from a meeting reported the first religious service held by the Lutheran group.  A month later, May 29, the same group met to elect officers and draft a constitution. The Rev. S. J. Liljegren presided at the meeting and became the first pastor.


Members signing the charter at the first meeting were: Mr. and Mrs. Swen Peter Johnson; Mr. and Mrs. Lars Anderson; Mr. And Mrs. Anders Nelson; Mr. and Mrs. Anders Ostrum; Mr. and Mrs. Anders Rinquist; Mr. and Mrs. Sven Olson; Mr. and Mrs. Carl Johan Larson; Mr. and Mrs. Pete Svenson; Mr. John Strom; and Mr. Johannes Svanson.


Before the congregation had its own church building, services were held in  “the hall over the Upper Des Moines Republican printing office.” (The quote taken from the second annual business meeting held January 2, 1883). Then for a period, services were held in the Grange Hall that occupied the space where the house now stands a 9 East Call Street.


No stipulation was made regarding the pastor’s salary. It seems that the amount of the salary during the first two years depended up subscriptions taken for that purpose. It was not until the third year of the congregation’s existence that a specific salary was determined. For his visits once a month, (the first Sunday of each month), Rev. Liljegren was to receive an annual stipend of $75. Besides serving Swea City and Algona, he also served as pastor to Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bancroft. The sharing of a pastor by the Algona Church and the Bancroft Church continued until 1945.


With the view of building a place of worship, lots were purchased from A.C. Call in 1884, but three years later, it appeared advisable to look into the matter of a different location for the church than the one the lots offered. They were sold and lots purchased on the southwest corner of the intersection of Wooster and Lucas streets where the first church building was constructed.


At a special meeting of the congregation July 25, 1887, a building committee was elected and given the instruction to have all preparatory work for the building construction completed by January 1, 1888. The size of the building was to be 30’ x 50’. Subsequently, the architect’s drawings were accepted with some minor changes, including the elimination of a proposed balcony. The cost for this first unit was $1,376.47.

The minister serving the congregation during the church construction was the Rev. A. W. P. Elfstrom. He began his services in Algona while yet a theological student at the seminary in Rock Island, Illinois. Upon his ordination he became pastor of the congregation and assumed the duties as such in 1888. Another important step during his pastorate was the building of a parsonage a 326 N. Wooster which served as the residence for all the church’s pastors until 1963. It was sold in that year and a new parsonage purchased closer to the site where a new church was to be built.


As the congregation increased in membership and the financial condition grew stronger, the church property was not only kept in good repair, but extensive improvements were made. One important improvement not demanding a large outlay of money but enhancing the building’s value was the installation of electric lights in the church in 1900 at a total cost of  $99.05. In  1929 stained art glass windows were purchased from the Gowrie Lutheran Church to replace the old frosted windows.

At the annual business meeting January 7, 1935, it was decided to add rooms to the west end of the church and to build a full basement under the church. On August 10, 1935, the work had reached completion and cost amounted to $3,918.02.


The original name of the congregation, The Swedish Lutheran Church, naturally indicated the language used at all services and meetings during the earlier years of the congregation’s existence. In 1920, however, mention was made in a pastoral report of both Swedish and English services. It seems that the two languages had been used at alternating services for at least since 1918 when the First World War did much in urging the use of English in foreign language churches. A change to the use of English for all church records was completed in 1924.


By 1960, consideration was being given to the need for a larger church building and building fund monies were being received. In September of 1962 purchase of the present 3-acre church site from Dave Smith was approved. In 1963, the old parsonage was sold and a new one closer to the new church property was purchased. The new parsonage was farm home of Leona May Smith and was located on the southeast corner of the intersection of State and Main streets. That house, sold by the congregation in 1976 to allow the pastor to buy his own home, was destroyed in the tornado of June 28, 1979.


It was during the pastorate of the Rev. Robert Lorenz that the present church structure was built at a total cost, including furnishings, of approximately $200,000. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on Palm Sunday, March 19, 1967. Two hundred fifty members and friends attended the first worship service in the new building on January 21, 1968, and dedication followed on June 2.


Efforts were made to sell the old church building in town to another congregation, but the attempts to do so were not successful. Reluctantly, the decision was made to sell the property to a builder who, subsequently, razed the building and built a duplex in its place. A number of items were salvaged, however, including the church bell cast in 1912 weighing 1,150 pounds. The bell is currently housed in a tower next to the new church.


An improvement to the church building was the purchase in 1981-82 of a 10 rank Wicks pipe organ. Designated the Centennial Organ, it was the congregation’s gift to itself on its one-hundredth birthday. The need for a new organ was identified as early as the 1970’s and a fund was begun for that purpose. In 1979, a committee began in earnest to select an organ which it would recommend and an ambitious fund raising campaign was begun with the expectation that by April 1982, the organ would be paid for. The organ was dedicated for worship use on November 15, 1981.


A major expansion and remodeling project occurred in 1985 by replacing the flat roofs over the north and south wings and pitched roofs and extending both wings approximately 30 feet.


During the summer of 1999 the church completed  building improvements by enlarging and modernizing the kitchen, recovering and refinishing all pews, completely repainting the church interior, upgrading the sound system and paving both north and south parking lots.


In September of 2002, a Building Improvements Committee with the idea of adding a narthex expansion, handicap accessible restroom, kitchenette, office space, coatroom, and a bell tower, along with shingle replacement and drive-up canopy. Groundbreaking was held in July of 2004 and Dedication was held on May 1, 2005.

First Lutheran Church...Then and Now

  Approximately 1888
























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