THE CHURCHES OF AITKIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA
"But you are holy, You who inhabit the praises of Yisra'el."
Churches Listed With ChurchAngel
Hill City Churches
Below is a brief history of the Churches of
Aitkin, taken from the Aitkin Centennial Book. At the present
time there are 13 churches within the village serving nine
denominations with a combined membership of about 2000. If you
have additional information or photographs for this page
please contact the Aitkin County Coordinator. See also this site for Minnesota Churches.
AITKIN GOSPEL TABERNACLE
The Aitkin Gospel Tabernacle was incorporated
on September 18, 1931. The newly organized church extended a pastoral call to Rev. and Mrs.
William Espeseth who were at that time conducting services in the community.
During the years that followed , a number of
pastors served the church faithfully. The church is strictly evangelical and places a strong
emphasis upon home and foreign missions. as a result, several of its members have entered the
In 1948 the name of the church was changed to the Aitkin Assembly of God Church.
BETHEL LUTHERAN CHURCH
Bethel Lutheran Church of Aitkin first held
services on 1905 in the Good Temple hall on 3rd Ave. South. Charter members were Martin
Vall, Alec Johnson, Ben Carlson, Peter Osland, Alfred Anderson, Christ Erickson, Alfred
The present attending congregation numbers
approximately 100. The new church building, dedicated in 1955 is located near the village park.
CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH
In 1915 the Mission Church was begun with 55
members, the seed of the present fellowship was sown. Construction of a church building was
begun early in April of 1916 and on July 30, 1916 the church on the present site of Cummings
Brothers show room, was dedicated "free of debt". On July 6, 1921, a meeting of the Mission
Church was called for the purpose of organizing Calvary Baptist Church and all the property was
transferred to the new organization.
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE SOCIETY
Just prior to the turn of the century, a small group
of Aitkin residents interested in Christian Science began meeting regularly in the home of Mrs.
A committee of three, Mr. William Byerla, Mr.
Estie McQuillan and Mr. Dawson, chairman organized and executed the building of the original
structure with lumber donated by Mr. Byerla, and time and skills by all members of the group.
FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
The first religious services held in Aitkin were
conducted in the James Tibbetts homestead cabin by Rev. Joseph Gilfillan, an Episcopal priest
who came about every three months to preach in homes and lumber camps.
Realizing the need of a Protestant Church in
Aitkin, a meeting of the Christian people of Aitkin was held in the school house on April 16,
1883. As the Congregational denomination had been engaged for some time in Christian work
here, 23 persons representing different religious denominations, expressed their purpose of
joining into a Congregational church.
On April 23, 1883 permanent rules were adopted
by the "Congregational Church of Aitkin" and services were held in the school house. Rev. L. J.
Hargrave came form Duluth as their first pastor and was installed August 1, 1883. The action
being recognized by the Northern Pacific Council.
The dedication of the First Congregational
Church of Aitkin was held on February 17, 1901 with Rev. Geo. A. Wickwire as pastor, followed
by Rev. W. E. Griffith, Rev. James L. Jones. Pastors serving from 1916 to 1971 include H. D.
Helwig, L. J. Marsh, Sydney Forster, Wm. Kelts, J. Warkintin, J. L. Leonard, Albert Fenske,
Conrad Landelius, Mina E. Mina, Dennis D. Tooley, Richard Anderson, Stanley Sargeant, and
FIRST LUTHERAN CHURCH
On May 6, 1892, Pastor Collins of Duluth was
organized the church. He opened the organization meeting with a message about the need and
urgency of thinking of the Lord in our land and remembering Jerusalem.
The building of the church began in 1898 with
building to continue as long as funds held out. Mr. Jons Jonson was head contractor. His sons,
Louis and Olaf, continued in later years to maintain and support the church.
In 1929 A motion was made to have half of the sermons in Swedish language and
half in English. the name was changed from "St. Paul Church" to "First Lutheran
Pastors who have served First Lutheran Church; Frederick Peterson, E. H. Sanden,
J. A. Gustafson, E. J. Peterson, J. E. Carlson, J. E. Shipp, John S. Benson,
Gunnard Grahn, S. A. Erling, Vernon Holmberg, J. Edor Larson, and A. Wallace
Carson. (This history was written in connection with the 75th Anniversary of
First Lutheran congregation and distributed August 6, 1967.)
About 1910, early missionaries of the
International Bible Student's association, now known as Jehovah's Witnesses, extended to Aitkin
the message that a System was ending, to be replaced by God's Kingdom (Daniel 2:44).
Their first leader was the late Adam A. Gray, who
rose from being a grocery clerk in the Young Store in his youth, to become a very active
photographer (thousands of post cards with scenes of early day mines, lakes and public buildings
sold extensively in this territory were his product). Later he became a full time missionary in
North Dakota after which he was returned and became a rural mail carrier out of Aitkin.
AITKIN METHODIST CHURCH
On July 3, 1885, the Aitkin Methodist Episcopal
Church was organized by Rev. J. B. Higeley, presiding elder of the Fergus Falls District, with
nine charter members. Mr. and Mrs. D. L. Young, Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Young, Mrs. W. E. Way,
Mr. and Mrs. W.O. Cluff and Mrs. James Butt formed the nucleus for the first church. They were
the charter members from which the present church has grown. They held their meetings in what
was then known as the Knights of Honor Hall.
The first minister was Rev. J. J. Edwards, who
was not yet ordained, a condition that was remedied at the next conference. Rev O. N. Holt and
family came next, followed by Rev. Ernest Leadbeter, Rev. and Mrs. Eugene Grover, Rev. W.
Traver and his wife. About 25 ministers have served the church through out the years.
ST. JAMES CATHOLIC CHURCH
Father Joseph Buh, a missionary priest, started
attending to Catholics in Aitkin in 1881. In 1883, Father Grunkle (go to "Surnames and Researchers" page for research information for this name) of Wadena made regular visits
to Aitkin. A frame church was built in 1885. Father Ignatius Tomazin attended here in 1889.
Father James Greene was appointed first resident pastor in 1895.
The old frame church, still in existence, has
traveled considerably during the past 65 years. Replaced by the brick structure, it was eventually
sold to and used by members of St. John's Lutheran Church until replaced by their present
building, when it was moved to the shores of Cedar Lane and used for a period of time as part of
a night club. At present it is owned and used by the Oblate fathers as a chapel in conjunction with
their summer camp.
ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
On April 6, 1895, Pat Casey and wife gave a
contract to Nels Shank, John Swedberg and Nels M. Olson as Trustees of the "Free Evangelical
Emanuel Church of Aitkin".
September 26, 1895 Articles of Incorporation of
"Swedish Free Evangelican Emanuel Church of Aitkin" was recorded, and Trustee E. O.
Forswick, John Swedberg and E. A. Hanson were elected. Among the Incorporated were P. E.
Olin, E. O. Forswick, A. Gabrielson, Hans Erickson, Ole Hansin, E. A. Hanson, E. Kalin, and
Paul Kalander. November 9, 1895 The Swedish Free Evangelical church was deeded to the
Swedish Free Evangelical Emanuel church, subject to the contract held by Pat Casey. January 20,
1896 The Swedish Free Evangelical Emanuel Church was conveyed back to Pat Casey--deeded
January 3, 1897.
On October 6, 1896 an Organization Certificate
was made by the Bishop Co-adjutor of Minnesota declaring said Church organized as a Mission
of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Duluth in accordance with the Canons
thereof--"A Mission of the Church located in the Town of Aitkin--named St. Johanns'."
Some of the descendents of those early pioneers
are still within the community;i.e., Olson, Forswick, Peterson, Robinson, Monson, Morris,
Erickson, I have omitted the first names as some are still living.
ST. JOHN'S LUTHERAN CHURCH
The very first service in Aitkin by a pastor of the
Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, was held on November 23, 1924, conducted by the Rev. H. E.
Klinkenberg. Thirty-five people attended. This was the beginning of the St. John's congregation.
During the past years, St. John's congregation has been served by the following
pastors: Rev. H. E. Klinkenberg, 1925-1929; Rev. H. J. Marth, 1929-37; Rev.
W. C. Hilpert, 1938-41; Rev. Geo. M. Boyer, 1942-50; Rev. Erwin E. Vaudt, 1951-55;
Rev. August Mennike, 1955-63; Rev Wm. Krueger, 1963-70; Rev. James P. Weyland,
SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH
When the Martin Kier family moved to Aitkin
from South Dakota in 1932, they found a group of Seventh Day Adventists who met in homes for
worship. Among them were Mrs. Conrad Liekauf and her mother, Mrs. Christensen, the
Lampheres, Holders, Firths and others.
In 1937 Pastor Carl Sundin held a series of
evangelistic meetings in Aitkin and new members were added to the group. At this time the
group was officially organized into a company and they met in various rented places, among
them the Christian Science Church and later the Congregational Church.
On January 7, 1956 the Aitkin Company of
Seventh Day Adventists was duly organized into a church under the leadership of Pastor Paul
Scofield. At this time the Palisade Church merged with Aitkin. There were 30 charter members.
Pastors who have served the Aitkin Church since
it organization are: Pastor Wick, Pastor James Wolter, Pastor Don Burgeson, and Pastor Phil
The current pastor's name is Robert Brauer and the membership now numbers 50.
(This update courtesy of Joey.)