Pioneer Lake Lutheran Church

Our History

The Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Congregation of Conover, Vilas County, Wisconsin, was organized October 26, 1903 at the August Osterberg home. Reverend N. Gibson of Ironwood, Michigan was guest Pastor. The first members were Mr. and Mrs. August Staffen, Mr. & Mrs. Mike Lillund, Mr. & Mrs. August Osterberg, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Osterberg and Richard Dahl. The first officers were August Osterberg as deacon and trustee: Mike Lillund as secretary, trustee and deacon; August Staffen as deacon and trustee. The church services were held in the homes. A constitution was also adopted at this meeting and the Rev. Gibson retained as the pastor.

On November 10, 1903 the first regular services were held and the name Gustaf Adolph Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation was chosen. In 1904 the congregation applied for admission to the Augustana Synod and was accepted. Rev. J. W. Johnson of Ironwood, Michigan was called as pastor and served until 1907. All services and business protocol was conducted in Swedish.

In 1906 the Blue Grass Land Company donated forty acres of land to the congregation to be used as a cemetery. Also in 1906 church services were held in the newly built Monheim School. A meeting was called at the Hans Hanson home to organize the Ladies Aid. The first president was Mrs. Hans Hanson.

Church records show that the Sunday School was organized in 1907 and was conducted in each of the district schools, Monheim, Reed, and Pioneer, as were the worship services. In 1908 the first confirmation class was conducted by Rev. A. E. Hiller of Prentice with Jennie Johnson Ewald as the first and only confirmand. The death of Hildegard Turnquist in 1908 was the first death in the new congregation and the cemetery was named in her memory.

The first marriage in the congregation was on April 28, 1908 in the Monheim School uniting Anna Hegstrom and Richard Dahl. The Rev. A. C. Landell of Rhinelander served the congregation in 1908. From 1909 to 1911, Rev. W. C. Ekeberg of Bessemer served the congregation.

Also filling in at this time was Rev. G. A. Ekeberg and Rev. C. J. Silfversten.

In 1912 efforts were made to procure lots for a church building and land owned by Matt Anderson on Pioneer Lake was chosen. The land was donated to the congregation and construction began. The building committee consisted of August Staffen, Mike Lillund, John Carlson, Martin Thorsen, Hans Hanson and Peter Hedeen,

Seven years later on May 20, 1919, the first service was held in the new white-framed church. It was a confirmation service. The church was far from finished. White birch boughs filled the window openings and the church was beautifully decorated with leaves and flowers. Rev. F. E. Kastman conducted the service. In 1923 Sunday School was held in the church with Mrs. Peter Hedeen as it’s first superintendent. English was introduced into the services at this time.

Serving the congregation during the building period, from 1912 —1914, were Rev. S. L. Wilson, vice- Pastor and student Theo. Hjerpe. Rev. C. J. Silfversten served from 1915 to 1918. The Rev. F. E. Kastman of Ironwood acted as Vice-Pastor during the years 1918- 1919.

The first organist was Bertha Swanlund. Theological student Walter Lindberg served the congregation as pastor during the Christmas holidays of 1919 and later called as pastor in 1920. When Rev. Walter Lindberg left in 1921, Rev, F. E. Kastman kindly filled in until 1922 when Rev. E. J. Alstadt came and remained until 1926. Student Pastor G. R. Grahn served the congregation during the Christmas Holidays and later was called as pastor serving until 1938.

At the 1924 annual meeting it was decided to increase the number of deacons and trustees from three to six. On November 12, 1932 the first wedding was held in the church uniting Elsie Carlson and Tore Lindberg. In 1932, Rev. Albin Olson of Minneapolis, held the first Christmas Midnight Service (Julotta) and the first Easter Sunrise Service.

The new church was formally dedicated on July 26, 1931 with Dr. C. A. Lund, President of Superior Conference conducting the service.

Pastors serving the congregation were: 1938 — 1942 Rev. Albin Oscar Olson of Rhinelander; 1943-1944 Rev. Clarence E. Seberg of Wakefield; and 194’4-1948 Rev. J. William Raymond, Rhinelander with Rev. F. E. Kastman, Ironwood serving during the summer season. In 1945 the name of the congregation was changed to Pioneer Lake Lutheran Church and in 1946 the members of the church committed to having worship services every Sunday. When Rev. Raymond left in 1948. Pastor A. J. Berghult filled in until Rev. Chester Johnson came and served our church from October 1948 until April 1951.

On April 10, 1951 a special meeting of the congregation was held for the purpose of reclassifying the church. Since we had been severed from the Rhinelander Immanuel Lutheran Church, it was decided we serve as a congregation aligned with the American Board of Missions with an intern from Augustana Seminary serve us during the summer months. Since we were without a pastor,
Rev. T. E. Johnstone was elected vice pastor and served until student pastor Sydney Jones arrived in June. Rev. A. J. Berghult served as acting pastor from April of 1951 to 1958.

The Candelabras were donated to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Seifert and were dedicated in memory of their son Harry at the 1942 Christmas midnight service. The baptismal font and cup was donated by the J. E. Ericson family in memory of Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Ericson. Mr. and Mrs. Hilbert Struck donated the Christian Flag and the American Flag in July of 1944. Six hanging lights were installed to replace the center light. An altar cross was presented to the church by Mrs. George Swanland, Mrs. Robert Anderson and Mrs.Gustav Hanson in memory of Mr and Mrs, Hans Hanson and Gustav Hanson Mrs. Frank Anderson donated her piano in memory of Mr. Frank Anderson. In July of 1949 we purchased a Minshall Estey organ.

Mrs. Peter Hedeen crocheted a beautiful altar cloth, the linen of which was from flax gathered, spun and woven by Mrs. Ella Hedeen some 80 years ago.

During the first fifty years, six Golden Wedding Anniversaries have been celebrated at the church: Mr. and Mrs. P. J. H edeen, Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Erieson, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. August Staffen, and Mr. and Mrs C. A Lindberg. Twenty-three young men from the church served in the armed forces in World War II and three in the Korean War.

The Reed Brothers with the help of volunteer labor and material built the parsonage in 1948. Much credit is due them and we thank all that participated in the erection of this cabin. Most of the lumber for the building came from timber taken off the land where the cemetery is Located. Furnishing came through the efforts of the Ladies Aid. Rev. Chester I. Johnson and his family were the first to enjoy the parsonage.

In 1953 the church parlor and kitchen were remodeled and redecorated for the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the church. The vestibule off the dining room was converted to a cloakroom. A new wardrobe for choir robes, and cabinets for Sunday School supplies were built. Lumber for the project was donated by the Dan Jefferson family. The tables were covered with attractive and colorful material donated by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Nortwen. Folding chairs and additional dishes were purchased by the Ladies Aid. Mrs. Milton Meyers presented new drapes and kitchen curtains. Mr. Herbert V. Kohler of Kohler, Wisconsin donated a double compartment sinks complete with fittings.

At the 50th Anniversary Celebration Worship Service a pulpit bible was dedicated and presented to the church in memory of Mrs. Edla Mathilda Anderson by her children, A pulpit chair was dedicated and presented to the church in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Johnson by their daughters, Mrs. Hilder Meyers and Mrs. Esther Kuntz.

Together with these lovely gifts, which add so much to the church, monetary gifts were received from members, confirmands and friends. The 5Oth Anniversary banquet was held on Saturday, September 26 in the Conover Town HaIl. Mr. and Mrs. August Staffen were honored guests. They were the only charter members present. Mr. Ed Hedberg served as master of ceremonies.

Guest speaker Pastor Herbert gave the morning worship service. Pastor’s Rev. Albin Olson, Rev. F. W. Kastman, Rev. James Primley and our own Acting Pastor Berghult were present. Dinner was served by the churchwomen. Afternoon activities included the Luther League and Confirmands reunions. At the evening service guest pastors made comments and recalled incidents that happened while they served us. The history of the congregation was read and a memorial service concluded the celebration.

On September 29, 1953, with Pastor A. J. Berghult presiding, the Ogema District Annual Meeting was held here at Pioneer Lake Lutheran Church,

The Women’s Missionary Society was organized April 21, 1954 at the home of Rev. and Mrs. Berghult.

A church bell was dedicated and presented to the church on December 5, 1954 by the August Staffen family in memory of Mr. and Mrs. August Staffen. Pastor Mark Wickstrom, District Chairman officiated at this dedication.

In 1955 morning services were held every Sunday with good attendance. Christmas Midnight Services and Easter Sunrise Services were held according to long and well-established custom. During lent special services were held in the evenings with good attendance. Rev. Lindberg of Rhinelander was called to serve as vice-pastor.

A modern pulpit lamp was dedicated and presented to the church on St. Michael’s Day in memory of Mr. John Carlson by the family.

New pews were purchased in 1956. The ceiling was lowered, floors sanded and the interior painted. An altar, communion rail, pulpit and baptismal font were given to the church as a gift from the First English Lutheran Church of Wisconsin Rapids. New investments ‘were made for the altar, pulpit stand and lectern. The Memorial fund was used to purchase new hymnals. The Ladies Aid approved a loan of $1000.00 to the church board for purchasing and installing a new furnace.

Pastor A. J. Berghult served the congregation during the first part of 1958 when it became impossible to do so due to the illness of Mrs. Berghult. Vice-Pastor C. L. Lindberg served during the Easter season and until Dr. Andeen arrived to take charge during the summer months..

In 1959, the family and friends of Hilder Meyers donated the steeple cross. This is the same cross that is on top of the bell tower on our current facility.

In 1960, Frieda Jefferson and family donated ceiling fans, which provided much needed cooling for the summer months.

Prayers for a resident pastor were answered and Rev. Charles Holmgren arrived in July 1961. Extensive building improvements were made on the parsonage in order to make it comfortable for the new Pastor and his family. It was a great time of joy as it was the first time in the history of the church that we had our very own resident pastor. With the presence of student Mr. Anderson, is enabled us to have two services each Sunday at Pioneer and Sayner. These were held at 8:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. from June through August.

Early in 1962 several synods, including Augustana, merged and became a new church — “The Lutheran Church of America” of which we are now a part.

On November 7, 1963, round was broken for a new educational wing on the church. Building staled the following spring. During the year a part of the morning service was broadcast on WERL from 11:00 to ] 1:30 am. Pastor Holmgren also participated in the Chapel of the Air broadcasts.

The 6Oth Anniversary of the church was celebrated at a banquet held on Saturday evening, August 17, 1963, at the Gateway Hotel. Guest Pastor Berghult was present and spoke a few words Dr. Andeen was guest speaker and George Palo was Master of Ceremonies, Pastor Holmgren was called upon for comments, Mrs. Helen Reed, Mrs.. Wendla Ericson and Mrs. Emilie Ekman, our oldest members, were greeted and given a welcome by all. During September we commemorated the founding of our church at the morning worship hour.

The security and convenience of having a resident pastor was short lived. Pastor Holmgren left us in November of 1964. Layman Philiip Lindbloom came to render his services until another pastor could be called. Pastor Wyberg accepted our call in July of 1965.

Dedication of the new addition to the church was held on Sunday, July 3, 1965. A banquet had been held on Saturday night at the Gateway. There were two festive worship communion services on Sunday at 9:00 and 10:45. Pastor Charles Holmgren was guest speaker at both services. A confirmands reunion and coffee hour was held on Sunday evening at 8:OO p.m.

In 1966, a Coffee House ministry was started in June, It served youth and young adults during the summer months. It managed and served by Seminary students.

It was sponsored by several churches in the Eagle River area.

Also at this time, services were held at various campgrounds in the Eagle River area. Average weekly attendance for the summer months was 86.

The Floating Chapel ministry was first considered in 1968 by Pastor Wyberg. At that time he was Executive Director of Lutheran Recreational Outreach Association for this area. This unique floating ministry on the Eagle River Chain of Lakes served from 5,000 to 6,000 persons every summer. Pioneer Lake Lutheran Church sponsored this ministry which was in operation for nine years.

In October, 1968 Pastor Wyberg resigned to spend a year studying in Germany. Pastor James Primley was called as interim pastor and served until June 1969. Pastor Keith Pederson accepted the call in April. The summer programs were still being carried out.

The first woman to be elected to the Council was Frieda Jefferson on February 4, 1969. She served 12 years as Council Secretary.

A special congregational meeting was held in April to vote on building a new parsonage and a new entrance and front steps to the church. A fund raising project was begun and building of the parsonage commenced June of 1970 and was near completion in December when Pastor Pederson and his family arrived.

Pastor Pederson put much effort into working with the young people. A couple of the youth activities included a camping nip to Canada and a backpacking week on Isle Royal. The youth called “Grubbers” worked and earned most of their money for these outings.

Pastor Pederson left us in November 1974 to serve a church in Marquette, Michigan. Dr. Andeen was interim pastor from December 1974 through December 1975. Pastor Jerome Miller of Boulder Junction served us during January and February until the arrival of Pastor Charles Briggs on March 1, 1976.

New road signs made in the shape of the church were made and put up at various road intersections. The LCW purchased a new range and refrigerator for the kitchen and monetary memorials lent to getting new carpeting and round tables for the dining area.

Under the tutelage of Pastor Briggs a dedicated group met weekly to learn the Bible through the Bethel Series. Pastor Briggs resigned on December 31, 1978.

On January 15, 1979 Pastor Laurence Day was called and accepted as our pastor.

Several improvements were made to the church; new siding , inside stairway, new glass doors at the front entrance, new Allen organ, new table in the dining area, new alter, baptismal font, pulpit and cross. Pastor Day resigned in September of 1985 to accept a call to a church in Amery, Wisconsin.

Fortune Lake Camp, Crystal Falls, Michigan and Waupaca Camp of Waupaca, Wisconsin are now owned by the synod. At the Synod’s suggestion that the camps be taken over by the churches, this church approved financial commitment toward camp ownership.

The first photographs were taken for a Photo- directory with 90% of the membership participating. The Bethel Series was completed. A pancake dinner under the leadership of Harold Johnson in February has become an annual event. A Summer Art Festival was a great success as a variety of artists and craftsmen had their work on display. Calligraphy classes, Bible Study and Family Nights filled the summer activities.

The first Lutefisk-Meatball Dinner in early December was well received and continues to this day under the direction of Peggy Waldren. The Cherub, Teen, and Senior Choirs brought new joy and life to the worship service. Capable and dedicated leadership was provided by Darlis Wilfer and Dave Netznik. An annual canoe trip down the Wisconsin River delighted the youth.

Pastor Kenneth Farb served as interim Pastor until Pastor Grant Quever became our new pastor on March 24, 1986 and was installed April 6, 1986. He resigned on November 1, 1988. During Pastor Quever’s time, several members left the church to form a new mission church in Eagle River, WI.

In 1988 the Lutheran Church of America, which we were a part, and The American Lutheran Church merged and we became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,

Pastor Richard Inglett was installed as the pastor on June 18, 1989. Under Pastor Inglett’s leadership, we expanded our mission to include the Conover Day Care Center, CLASP tutoring program and Headwaters Food Pantry.

After choosing an architect, we began work on our new building February 1, 1992, with soil testing. With the assistance of both contractors and volunteers, the new site was prepared for building. Pastor Inglett resigned on October 1, 1992.

In December 1992, Pastor Michael C. Ashman was called to serve Pioneer Lake Lutheran Church. He began serving on January 1, 1993. Work continued on the building as contractors prepared the shell of our new worship area. Once the shell was complete, volunteer workers from the congregation and the community came together to work on the inside of the building. On December 24, 1993, Christmas Eve Services were held in the partially completed building.

Holy Week of 1994 was a time of transition as we held our final services in the old church. With the help of several volunteers all of our church furniture was moved to our new worship area. Early Easter morning the congregation celebrated Christ’s resurrection in the new sanctuary.

On June 12, 1994, Phase I of the church building was dedicated. The guest speaker was Bishop Dale Skogman, and assisting pastors were Rev. Michael Ashman, Rev. Laurence Day, Rev, Richard Inglett, Rev. James Primley, Rev. Jonathan Schmidt, and Rev. Kim Beckmann.

Two of the youngest participants in the Dedication Service were Ken Schelper, great-grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Mike Lillund — charter members and Matt Olejniczak, great-great-grandson of charter members Mr. and Mrs. August Staffen.

In 1994, Pastor Michael Ashman left the congregation. Several months later, Rev. Wallace G. Leno became our pastor. His wife, Alice Leno, shared her gifts of music by serving as our Organist and Choir Director.

As the congregation was eager to start Phase II, plans to sell the old church building began and in the fall of 1998 construction began after the old church building was sold and moved off the property. The old church now stands only several hundred yards away on private land and has been convened into a beautiful home.

Through the efforts of faithful contractors and many, many hours of volunteering by the members, the building was completed by the end of the summer in 1999. Dedication of Phase II took place on August 8, 1999 with Bishop Dale Skogman officiating.

In 2000, a carillon system was installed with most of the cost given as memorials. A personal PA system was installed to aid those with hearing disabilities. Many other jobs were completed such as new hymn board, outside water faucets, lighting of the steeple cross and we thank all who worked to make these additions possible.

With strong financial arrangements and faithful cooperation from the congregation the mortgage on the church building was paid in full in January 2001. On February 28th, 2001, Pastor Leno and his wife Alice retired to their home in Ewen, Michigan.

Our call for an evangelistic minister was answered in July and Rev. Douglas Smyth began his ministry with the congregation on August 13, 2001. His wife Terri became very active in the children’s ministry through church school and the children’s choir.

In 2001, Shirley Surges replaced Alice leno as our Organist and later in 2002, Darrell Fliflet joined the musical staff as Choir Director and Organist.

In early 2002, the congregation embarked on a plan for spreading God’s Word. Mission and Outreach Workshops were set up and the Holy Spirit spoke through the congregation, which resulted in the formation of our Mission Statement and Vision Plan. In the ensuing two years, the congregation has grown by 90 new members.

Our Mission Statement and Vision have become the ministry focus of the congregation. Many new programs are now underway to fulfill the needs of the church, the community and the world.

In April of 2003, a Child in Our Hands training was held to explore how the Christian faith can best be shared with and claimed by the various generations. It will be the new way in which we are the church. A task force to fully implement the recommendations and keep the “Child in Our Hands” concept in the lives of the membership and leadership is well underway.

Plans to celebrate “The Centennial” began in September of 2001. The main event was the Centennial Dinner on October 25th, 2003 and the Commemorative Service on October 26th, which was exactly 100 years from the date of organization of this congregation.

Many activities were planned for 2003 and it started with the 21st Annual Lutefisk and Swedish Meatball Dinner on December 8th , 2002. Other events included a Winter Fun Day in January; Cabin Fever Day in February; special Lenten and Easter celebrations, a Mother/Daughter Banquet in May; A Father/Son Banquet and Outdoor Worship in June; Garage Sale, Annual Church Picnic and Outdoor Worship in August; Festival of Music and Pancake breakfast in September; Voices in Praise n October.

This brings our history up to date. it is hard to believe that Pioneer Lake Lutheran Church, which began over 100 years ago with 9 charter members, stands today as a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit. As we look back we find much to be thankful for. May the years that lie ahead be fruitful years and may we continue to grow and serve an even wider circle of true believers in Christ. In Hebrews 13: 8 “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever”. Jesus still teaches by the water. To God be the Glory.