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About Us/History

In 1855 Rev. Nils Brandt, of Oconomowoc, WI, came on foot and was the first pastor to visit settlers in this area. He performed the first baptism and first wedding recorded in Holden's church records. In 1856 Rev. P. A. Rasmussen preached in several locations. The settlers met to organize a congregation on the site of the present Lloyd & Gerry Voxland home, (previously the site of the Gronvold home, the first medical doctor). 73 men and one woman signed the charter at the organizational meeting September 12, 1856. In August, they bought and secured a deed to 100 acres of land. This became the site of the present parsonage and church. Holden Parish consisted of the area that now includes the congregations of Minneola, Dale, Hegre, Lands, Gol, Moland, Valley Grove, Vang and Urland. Prof. Laur. Larson from Rush River, WI, came on foot in 1858 and baptized 157 children in outdoor services. He also dedicated the Holden cemetery and held services and baptisms in September 1859. Many of the first members came from Telemarken in Norway where there was a village called Holden and that is how the name was chosen. Prof. Larson later became the president of Luther College, Decorah, IA.

First Pastor - B. J. Muus 1859 - 1899; helped found Luther College; Principal of Holden Academy 1869 - 1874; Founder of St. Olaf College, 1874.  Rev. B. J. Muus preached his first sermon on November 6, 1859 at Ole Huseth's place (now the home of Greg Piller family) as the first resident pastor. He had been assigned as pastor for all the Norwegians in Minnesota. His travels from the first Sunday in Advent in 1860 to the same day in 1861 totaled about 6900 miles by ox-team, horse and wagon, and on foot. The Civil War of 1861-65 greatly affected the settlers. Next to Red Wing, Holden and Wanamingo townships furnished the greatest number of volunteers, and Goodhue County sent more than any other county in Minnesota.

The first church building was completed in 1871 and served the congregation for 53 years until the present structure replaced it in 1924. Seminarian M. O. Bockman came as an assistant pastor from 1875 - 80. By 1880 all the daughter congregations had become independent. Pastor Muus was stricken with partial paralysis in March. 1899 and returned to Norway with his daughter in May of that year. He passed away in May, 1900. During 40 years of ministry he had made extensive missionary tours to 28 preaching stations over a territory of 15,000 square miles.

Statistics show that this one man performed 9877 baptisms, 5288 confirmations, 1268 marriages, and 3909 funerals during this first period of Holden and its daughter congregations history. He also did a lot of writing of religious publications and books.

The 50th Anniversary was held in September 1906. A large tent was put up near the church accommodating 1500 people, and American and Norwegian flags waved in the breeze. A picnic dinner was enjoyed at noon. No private concessions were allowed but a stand was provided to sell lemonade, ice cream, and cigars. However, the cigars could only be placed outside the church fenced area.

About 1910 Rev. Fjeldstad conducted occasional English services Sunday afternoons or evenings. English songbooks were purchased and the language was used at the Young Peoples meetings except for the pastor's message, which was in Norwegian. However, the use of the English language began to appear more often during this decade. Individual communion glasses were purchased in 1913.

The years of World War I were difficult. Holden had 41 names on the honor roll of war service. Of these, 4 were gold stars and 2 were Red Cross nurses (Jorstad sisters). Those from Holden who died were: Carl Musgjerd, Chester Tongen, Herman Voxland and Alfred Westermo. The flu epidemic also hit the civilian population in 1918. In 1921 the 65th Anniversary was observed and the 60th anniversary of the first service in this building. Prof. O. E. Brandt spoke in English in the afternoon and brought greetings from his 98-year old father. Rev. Nil Brandt, first pastor to visit the settlers.

During the building of the new church, Aspelund and Dale congregations kindly permitted Holden to use their churches. The present church was dedicated in 1924 with an estimated crowd of 7000 present. The Ladies Aid served FREE dinner at noon, and ever since has hesitated to serve anything free. The cost of the present church was $56,687.00. The last couple to be married in the old church was Alma Haugen and Olaf Voxland in 1923. The first couple married in the new church was Ida Ullevig and Alfred Tongen in 1924. The pastor's salary was raised to $2,000 per year plus Christmas offerings in 1928. The Sunday School was organized in 1931. The 75th Anniversary and 100th Anniversary of Rev. Muus' birth were observed that year. Rev. S. O. Simundson ordained two of his sons into ministry, Rev. Melvin in 1929 and Rev. Sigurd in 1932. The Muus Memorial was unveiled in 1937. Names of daughter congregations are inscribed on one side and the purpose on the other side which reads: “In gratitude to God who enabled the pioneers to establish His church in this community. And to the pioneers for building upon Jesus Christ and His Word.


The quiet afternoon of December 7, 1941 was shattered by the terrifying news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Of the 64 who were called into service during World War II three of Holden's members gave the supreme sacrifice during those years. They were: Eugene Benson, son of Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Benson; Lt. Harland Teigen, son of Mr. & Mrs. Rudolph Teigen; and Rolf Haugen, son of Mrs. H. A. Haugen. Since World War II, twenty-seven names have been added to the Roll of Honor for service in Korea, Viet Nam, Gulf Storm, Desert Storm and/or Iraq Wars.


Rev. Simundson lived all his years of ministry in this locality except for 5 years in Hanska, MN. He resigned in 1941 and died in 1953. In 1943 the 100th Anniversary of the establishment of the first Norwegian Lutheran churches in America was celebrated at Holden, as it was the oldest congregation in the Goodhue Circuit. In 1946 the 90th Anniversary of the congregation was postponed from September to November because of the polio epidemic. In 1953 the new steel fence was installed to replace the old crumbling stone fence. Some of the trees removed at this time had been planted by Pastor Muus. In 1956 it was decided to hold services every Sunday from May 1 to November 1 instead of every other Sunday. That year special appeals were underwritten for the Kenyon Sunset Home Building program and the Seminary Development fund. Other outreach mission projects are noted over the years with the earliest being in 1890. Because of severe drought and poverty, hay, feed, used clothing and cash were sent to a congregation n North Dakota where a son of the congregation was serving. In 1912 offerings were begun for the Lake Park Orphans Home in Minnesota and the St. Olaf Endowment Fund.


In 1956 women were given the right to vote. That year Holden's Centennial was celebrated with a Pageant "Faith Marches On". In 1960 support of seminary tuition for student members of the congregation was begun. We became a part of the newly merged American Lutheran Church that year. Pastors were no longer the presidents of congregations and lay people were elected.
In 1970 the Depot from Wanamingo was purchased and moved to the Holden Park site next to the parsonage. Countless hours of volunteer labor and donations went into this project. The record quotes: Both Pastor Clifford Schroeder and Howard Flaten (building mover and organizer) seemed to have the same motto: Do the impossible first and the rest comes easy. The Holden Community Park was dedicated in 1971 and is in keeping with the needs of today to preserve our heritage, improve our environment and honor our Creator. In 1971, ten families of Holden, Dale and Wanamingo area took part in a Minnesota Friendship Visits outreach. The purpose was to promote mutual understanding between families of different cultures and backgrounds.


Children from the Inner City came for 10-day visits in which we all shared the opportunity to show Christian love in a rewarding experience. In 1975 a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church visited the Holden community and made a stop with Pastor Schroeder at the Lloyd Voxland farm. In 1976 a unique Harvest Retreat was held with Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, sponsored by the Holden Dale Couples Club. About 20 families spent the weekend of October 22-24 in our parish homes. In March 1977 members made a return visit to worship with Central Lutheran and an afternoon fellowship. The Minneapolis Tribune carried a special feature in a later Sunday edition, picturing the gatherings at the Paul Voxland and John Davidson farms and the Macalaster College bagpipers as guest musicians.


Our congregation also celebrated the nation's Bicentennial and 120th Anniversary of the church with a pageant and other events in 1976. The president of the Mekane Jesus Church in Ethiopia was our speaker during his attendance at a World Mission Conference at St. Olaf College. In that year Pastor Schroeder resigned to accept a Call to Blooming Prairie and Pastor Michael Lockerby was called from North Dakota to serve Holden and Dale congregations. The Holden parsonage was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The area congregations had a farewell reception for Intern Jim Shadduck and family and also welcomed intern Steve Goldammer and family, the first interns to serve in the Rural Internship program sponsored by nine congregations of our area. To date 24 persons, 16 men and 8 women have shared in this year of their seminary education and service in our congregations during the past 27 years.


In 1981 the 125th Anniversary was observed with many events throughout the year. In March a delegation visited Shepherd of the Valley, new mission congregation in Apple Valley, MN. In June several of their families visited us in appreciated of our support of their new church. An outdoor park service was held in June with the Schroeder family as special guests and the message given by Pastor Schroeder. 1982 Holden received a plaque as a Select teaching parish for the Seminary Internship program. At present there are nine congregations who participate in the program.


During 1982 Holden was represented at the 150th Anniversary of Rev. Muus' birth observed in Snaasen, Norway, by Lloyd and Gerry Voxland. In 1983 Prof. Odd Gullickson, visiting exchange professor at Luther College, brought greetings from his home church, Holden of Norway. In 1984 a decision was made to hold an outdoor service at the park with Dale congregation, which continues as an annual event the last Sunday of June. In that year, three members attended the SEARCH Bible Study training and continued that offering in the congregation the following year. Pastor Lockerby made mention of the value of our people as mentor for the interns who serve each year.

In 1987 the congregation voted to accept the merger of the ALC, LCA and AELC to form the ELCA. The Holden Dale Fellowship Group was included in the reports to the congregation. In 1989 a minimum of $1,000 was established as a budged item for the Preservation Fund for church building care each year. In 1990 the decision was made to put siding on the parsonage. An offer of a $10,000 contribution was accepted from Alfred Tongen to begin an elevator fund for the church. Work began on up-dating the congregation's constitution to coincide with the Model Constitution suggested by the ELCA. In 1991 several youth attended the summer National Gathering in Dallas, Texas.


In 1992 the new Constitution was approved. In 1993 Evangelism committee members began to offer monthly communion to homebound members. Four congregational meetings were held during 1994 in regards to major roof repairs and refurbishing projects. The Women of the Church have continued a long tradition of study and service, including raising funds for important causes both in the congregation and beyond. The up-dated Articles of Incorporation were approved.


Several youth attended the summer Youth Gathering in Atlanta, GA. Christ Lutheran, a mission congregation in Faribault, was supported by congregations in our conference toward building their first unit. New bylaws of the Cemetery Board were approved. In 1995 other events were held to pay off the Restoration loan, one of which was the humorous magical acts together with a spiritual message by Scott Flom. Holden WELCA also contributed $6,605 toward the loan. Support for member seminary student tuition was continued for Cindy Fisher-Broin.


In 1996 a joint pictorial directory was prepared for Holden and Dale congregations. More frequent celebration of Holy Communion is included during worship at the pastor's discretion. Painting, carpet and pew refinishing was completed in the sanctuary.

1997 - - - All Saints Day suppers have continued with assistance by youth and men of the congregation.


Thanks were also given to many volunteers and committees who helped with many hours of work on the sanctuary refurbishing. Leverne Vangsness explained his proposal for raising $150,000 toward assisting in establishing a new congregation in observance of our congregation's 150th anniversary year. A motion was passed for the property committee to draw up plans with estimate of cost toward an elevator and report to the next annual meeting. It was announced that a major gift is being received from the Ruth Broin estate. Church youth and 4-H clubs did painting and made new curtains with matching funds for the Holden Park.


In March 1998 Pastor Lockerby left for a 3 month sabbatical at St. Andrew's in Scotland and returned before Confirmation on June 7th. In 1998 congregational approval was given to invest the funds for the 150th Anniversary Mission with ELCA Mission Loan Fund with accrued interest. Following the property committee report at the annual meeting (as directed a year earlier), informational meetings abut the elevator were held with architects drawings and plans in September and October, and in November the congregation voted to proceed with the project. In February 1999 the congregational meeting with architect and bid information was held for the elevator and restroom addition and work began in May. In addition the original stain-glass windows were located and installed in the new front doors, being restored to match the original doors as a memorial gift. The dedication of the elevator/restroom addition with corner stone and the restored front doors was held on Christ the King Sunday, November 21, 1999. The first Advent Family Festival was held for both Holden and Dale in 1999. Donations were received for recording of worship services to share with homebound members, and for the outdoor pipe railing along the sidewalk approach to the church. The DNR is working with the park board on pruning and cutting of walnut trees.


In February 2000 Holden hosted the Cannon River Conference Assembly. Youth worked on an Indian reservation building project in Montana during their July Mission trip. Holden hosted the community Tenebrae service on Good Friday evening, which has been done for several years. High School Baccalaureate services were held at Holden in May. Memorial gifts of 50 folding chairs and two trees beside the Park sign and a plaque were received at the Park in memory of Howard Flaten. Aerial view of the church with the new addition post cards are for sale together with church photo note cards. The time for Sunday worship was adjusted to 9 a.m. and d11 a.m. to allow more time for Pastor Mike and Kalo to lead Sunday School worship between services at both churches.


In 2001 Holden and Dale congregations began designating Lenten offerings as an outreach in helping children in various countries. WELCA memorial money was used to purchase a second chalice and presented during a Sunday worship service in memory of WELCA members who have died in the past few years. Our congregations again took part in the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service in Kenyon.


Several sons and daughters of the congregation have returned to speak at various occasions over the years. Those who have served or are serving in ministry are:
Pastors Harris Hostager, Luverne Jacobson, Paul Jorstad, Donald Swenson, John Thorson, Cindy Fisher-Broin, Jeff Wallager, Lay Associate in Ministry Marion Voxland, Lay Missionaries Jerry & Judy Aaker, Hakon Torjesen & Karen Olness. In 2001 Darrell Gonyea compiled a book of confirmation pictures at no cost to the congregation.


In November 2003 Dale and Holden congregations celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Pastor Lockerby's ministry with our parish. He is the eighth pastor to serve our two-point parish. In 2003 the 60/40 split was approved for Holden/Dale pastoral support. In 2004 the parking lots were blacktopped by use of designated funds and a loan to cover the balance needed. The decision was made to adopt the policy of dividing the years loose offering in half; one half to remain in the local treasury, the second half sent to a mission project chosen by the Council. This year the recipient is ELCA World Hunger. In 2005 the Martin Tongen legacy was invested with Thrivent to be used for preservation funds for the church building as requested by Martin. Through these many decades Holden as been blessed with many major gifts and memorials, which have made possible our continued ministry and outreach. A decision was made to send $1,000 to Kenyon Sunset Home toward the chaplaincy program. 2005 was also a transitional year with Pastor Mike and Kalo moving to their new home in Red Wing. Plans are in place for the celebration of our 150th Anniversary year in 2006, which began with the concert by the St. Olaf College Choir, conducted by Anton Armstrong, Northfield, MN on Sunday, January 15, 2006.


Much more could be reviewed about Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, youth groups, WELCA service projects and Circles, choirs and other musicians, committees and councils who carry out mission and ministry, nurture and outreach as a part of the Body of Christ. In this brief history, and past histories published in 1956 and 1981, we are mindful of God's great blessing, grace and mercy through 150 years in this place and community.