THE CHURCHES OF AITKIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA
"But you are holy, You who inhabit the praises of Yisra'el."
Psalm 22:3



Churches Listed With ChurchAngel
Aitkin Churches
Finlayson Churches
Hill City Churches
Jacobson Churches
McGregor 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 e-mail me. 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 full-time ministry.

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 Gabrielson.

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. William Byerla.

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 Frank Reigle.


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 Church."

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.)


JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES


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, 1970.


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 Young.



The current pastor's name is Robert Brauer and the membership now numbers 50.
(This update courtesy of Joey.)

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