In the year 1902, a congregation had been formed some ten miles to the south-east of the Wilhelmina community. This was known as the Fridhem Lutheran Church. In spite of the long distances which had to be covered by oxen and horses, many attended services there occasionally, and a few including the Axel Selin family were members. But these people had a vision of the future, for themselves and their children, that was responsible for the decision that God’s word must be planted in our midst. In the land that they had left behind, the church had played an important part in their daily lives and they felt that here too, there was a great need for a church. So on Saturday, the 7th of November, 1908, a meeting was called at the Erik Victor Erickson home for the purpose of organizing a congregation. Pastor Olaf Lindgren, who had been serving the Fridhem congregation, was elected chairman of the meeting, with Axel Selin as secretary. Elected to the board of administration were the following: Deacons – Nils Lindberg, Harold Person and Magnus Johnson; Trustees – Amandus Pearson, Linus Selin and Magnus Lindberg; Treasurer – Linus Selin. It was agreed to name the church the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Wilhelmina Congregation. Many of the early settlers who homesteaded in this little community had emigrated from Vilhelmina, Västerbotten in the northern part of Sweden, and so in keeping with the memories of home and the place of their birth they decided that it was only fitting to name this new church “Wilhelmina”. It was agreed to join the Minnesota Conference of the Augustana Synod, and the constitution of 1887 was formally adopted.
Charter members were as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Axel Selin and family, Mr. and Mrs. Nils Lindberg and family, Linus Selin, Mr. and Mrs. Erik Hanson and family, Mr. and Mrs. Hans Erik Johnson and family, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Person and family, Mr. and Mrs. Gustaf Edvall Carlson and family, Mr. and Mrs. Jonas Amandus Pearson and family, Mr. and Mrs. Erik P. Nordin and family, Mr. and Mrs. Per Alfred Forsen and family, Erik Oscar Swanlund, Mr. and Mrs. Anton Pearson and family, Mr. and Mrs. Jonas Sandquist and family, Mr. and Mrs. Erik Victor Erickson and family, Mr. and Mrs. Petter Selin and family, Mr. and Mrs. Magnus Lindberg and family, Mr. and Mrs. Nils Magnus Johnson and family, and Per Olof Victor Erickson. This made a total of thirty-three adults and forty-seven children, truly a remarkable beginning.
Scan of an original church blueprint – 1911
Elected as a committee to investigate the possibility of building a church and finding a suitable location were Oscar Swanlund, Anton Pearson and Axel Selin. Services were to be held in Swedish once a month in the various homes throughout the community with Pastor Lindgren officiating.
The question of a suitable location for a church site and cemetery was considered at a special meeting, held at the P.A. Forsen home on March the 4th, 1909. One location being on the Oscar Swanlund farm (SW 12-49-21 W4) and the other on the Magnus Lindberg farm (NW 12-49-21 W4). The trustees were given the authority to close a deal with either party if possible. In the meantime, Mr. Swanlund had decided not to part with any of his land for a church building, and instead of attempting to close a deal with Mr. Lindberg, the committee decided that a better location would be on the P.A. Forsen farm (SE 12-49-21 W4), where the church is now located. Considerable opposition to this move was expressed by the members living in the western part of the community as they felt that this would mean much farther for them to attend church.
This matter was finally settled at a meeting held at the Victor Erickson home on September 24th, 1909. The choice of a location on Magnus Lindberg’s land or on P.A. Forsen’s land was carried by a motion to build a church on the P.A. Forsen’s, by a majority of two votes. The sum of $15.00 was paid to Mr. Forsen for the purchase of four acres of land, with the understanding that the congregation pay for the cost of the transfer of title. However, dissension on this issue resulted in nine families separating from the Wilhelmina congregation to form their own congregation, the Swan Hill Church Society.
The Swan Hills Society purchased land for a cemetery on NE 10-49-21 W4 and met in members’ homes until they decided to work with the Norwegian St. Joseph congregation to “build a church” together in 1915. Pastor Leonard Heiner served both Wilhelmina and the Swan Hill Church Society from 1915 to 1918. In 1949, after selling its share of the building to the St. Joseph congregation, the Swan Hill Church Society disbanded, with some members re-joining Wilhelmina, others moving to Bethel Lutheran Church in Camrose or Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Hay Lakes.
After choosing the location for the Wilhelmina church, a committee of three was then elected to measure out the land for the church-site. They were Harold Person, Hans E. Johnson, and Erik Petter Kristofferson. It was then agreed that work on the church property, such as brushing and fencing be done in the fall by donated labour, Harold Person in charge.
The first annual meeting was held in the Brandland School, on the 11th of January, 1910. Pastor Lindgren stated in his annual report that twelve children had been baptized during the year, eleven of them with parents being members of the congregation. There were four new communicant members, and three couples married. One communicant member and two children passed away during the year. Seven communicant members and fourteen children requested dismissal from the congregation. This left a total of thirty communicant members and forty-three children. The treasurer’s report shows a total income for the year of $44.80 from which $29.70 was paid to the Conference. Elected as trustee was P.A. Forsen, and J.O. Anderson as deacon. Oscar Swanlund was the elected secretary.
The foundation for the new church was laid in 1912, with each family being asked to haul three loads of stones for the concrete. After the forms were up an open air service was held within the foundation walls to commemorate the occasion. The construction of the building began in 1913 with Mr. M. Matson engaged as building supervisor. The committee in charge of the work consisted of Harold Person, Erik Hanson and Oscar Swanlund, with Pastor Lindgren as an advisory member. All the hauling of stone, sand, gravel, cement and lumber, as well as the building and construction of the church was done by volunteer labour by members and friends of the congregation. The first meetings in the new building were held late in the fall of 1913, although the church was not yet completed.
The financing of this tremendous project and undertaking is of considerable interest. Pastor Lindgren and Axel Selin were elected as a committee to canvas for pledges and donations. The trustees were authorized to borrow up to $500 dollars if necessary. The treasurer’s report of the building fund for the year 1913 reads as follows:
|Donations from Ladies Aid||$219.60|
|Subscriptions from members||262.75|
|Loan from Pastor Lindgren||250.00|
|Collected for paint||11.40|
|Lumber and building material||$624.60|
|Salary to building supervisor||53.00|
|Board for building supervisor||7.50|
|Collected for paint||11.40|
|Paid to Lindgren on loan||50.00|
|Donated by free labour
at 25 cents per hour:
It is also of interest to note the church budget for the same year:
|Donations from members||$76.55|
|Income from picnic social||8.55|
|Pastors salary for 1913||$44.25|
|On Pastors salary, 1912||6.00|
|Balance on hand||2.60|
These figures tell a remarkable story, a story of dogged determination, perseverance, sacrifice and faith during the days when there was little or no money. However, the people willingly contributed what little they had. It brings to mind the story Jesus told of the poor widow who contributed more with her two small coins than all the others who gave only out of their wealth (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4).
First service within the foundation of Wilhelmina Lutheran Church in 1912.
Pastor Lindgren officiating.
After the church had been erected, it was by no means complete. There still remained the matter of furnishings within the church. For the bare walls were not conducive to an atmosphere for proper worship. Makeshift furnishings were first used and little by little these were replaced to what you see today.
A young girls society, “Små Flickornas Syförening” had saved enough money for an organ by the end of 1914. Mr. Axel Selin purchased the organ in Winnipeg at a cost of $114.30. He also served as the church organist until 1923. In 2005 this organ was sold and the proceeds used to purchase a sound system for the building.
During the years of 1916, 1917 and 1918, a very active Young People’s Society raised enough money to cover the cost of the necessary furnishings. The altar, altar ring, lectern, pulpit and hymn-board were built and assembled by Mr. Olaf Wallin and Mr. John Person. The altar painting was done by Mr. Wallin. The communion vessels were purchased by Pastor Heiner from a congregation near Calmar which had disbanded. Two gasoline lamps were also purchased by the Young People. The pews were purchased in Edmonton at a cost of $200.
A decision was made at the annual meeting on January 12th, 1917 to finish the construction of the church. Mr. John Ness was hired to plaster the inside walls. A contract was assigned for the construction of the steeple at a cost of $130.00 dollars to a Mr. Hornquist and Oscar Selin.
The completion of the belfry and spire in 1919 marked a highlight and historical event of the congregation. The congregation hosted the Alberta District Convention and at this service the church was dedicated to the Service and Glory of God. The Wilhelmina Church became a landmark that was visible near and far, for it was built on the highest point of land along the Inter-provincial Pipe Line from Edmonton to Lake Superior.
A twentieth anniversary celebration was planned for 1928, so a committee comprised of Jonas Anderson, Hans. E. Johnson and Axel Selin, was elected to be in charge for the building of a dining-hall and to raise the money for this. The Ladies Aid donated the greater amount to the project. This addition was built in 1928, and is used as a dining hall, or for Sunday School classes and social functions.
The sound of the church bell over the countryside in the home land had entered deeply into the souls of these early settlers, and they felt that no church was complete without a spire and bell. But to purchase a bell required funds which were sadly lacking, so for the time being the congregation had to do without one. However, at the annual meeting on January 6th, 1930, the Luther League Society was given a free hand to raise funds for the purchase of a bell to which they immediately contributed the sum of $25.00. Adrian Anderson and Einar Lindberg were elected to be in charge of this undertaking. By 1932, enough money was available for the purchase of a bell and it was ordered from the St. Louis Bell Foundry in St. Louis, U.S.A. at a cost of $221.47 complete with the necessary mountings. The bell weighed 579 lbs. and carried with it a fifteen-year guarantee. It was hauled out from the Hay Lakes station on the 17th of August by Gunhard and John Erickson. In the meantime a committee headed by Jonas Anderson and Hans Johnson were making preparations for the installation and with the aid of many willing hands the bell was hoisted into place.
Pastor Otto Eklund was instrumental in establishing this undertaking. On the first Sunday of September, 1932, the bell chimed out its jubilant tones for the first time, announcing to one and all that worship was being held in the house of God. Pastor Axel Eriksson served the congregation at this time.
Inscribed on the bell is the following verse of Hymn No. 328 in the Swedish hymnal:
“Hit, o Jesus, samlas vi, Att ditt helga ord fä höra.
Vardes sjelf du stä oss bi, Och var hag till andakt röra,
Att han, ifran jorden tagen, Till dig ailtid varder dragen.”
Following is the English translation, hymn No. 302 in the old English hymnal:
“Blessed Jesus, at Thy word. We are gathered all to hear Thee;
Let our hearts and souls be stirred, Now to seek and love and fear Thee;
By Thy teachings, sweet and holy, Drawn from earth to love Thee solely.”
From the early days, the church was heated with a barrel type wood-burning heater which proved to be rather inadequate. So with a donation from the Luther League, a large coal furnace was purchased and installed in 1941. Then in 1975, natural gas was available, so a forced air gas furnace was installed, which was a great improvement. The baptismal font, made by John Person, and the altar Bible are among the gifts from Mr. Axel Selin. In 1947, Mr. Hellquist and Alex Matson were assigned to repair, re-shingle and paint the steeple. In 1948, the Women’s Missionary Society purchased and installed a carpet. In 1980, this carpet was replaced using funds raised by the Willing Workers. In 1953, funds were canvassed for the installation of electricity.
During 1957 and 1958 the church was painted inside and out, ceiling tile put on the ceiling and the walls finished with wall plank. Michael Lee donated his talents in redecorating the Altar painting. The outside was painted in 1976, 1990 and again in 1998. At the annual meeting in 1980, a decision was made to raise funds to re-shingle the roof with cedar shakes. The work was assigned to Mr. Francis Gartner. The kitchen was re-shingled with cedar shakes on April 28, 1984 and again on May 3, 2008. New front doors were donated in memory of their son by the Con Winder Family and installed in 1986. In 1989, Max Lienholt upholstered and then donated seat cushions for the sanctuary pews. Manfred Watterrodt crafted and donated a small table and chair that has been used for signing the register at many weddings in the years hence. The steeple was re-shingled in January of 1987. The replacement of the church foundation commenced October 1, 1989 and was complete shortly thereafter. In December of 1990 a very welcome addition was completed – the new bathroom. After 80 years we finally had indoor plumbing! In 1990 the church was also re-insulated. Kirsten Forsen crocheted and donated a beautiful picture of “The Good Shepherd”. A chain-link fence was installed around the cemetery. Two ceiling fans were put into the church sanctuary (which turned out to be a source of nearly endless debate… On or off…on or off…too hot…too cold…but after 14 years an equilibrium was finally reached – and the item removed from the council agenda!) In 1991, an advent wreath was hand-crafted by Ryan Nordin and donated to the congregation, which has enhanced our advent preparations as we light the advent candles each week before Christmas.
In the summer of 1993 Michael Lee once again shared his great talents with the congregation and undertook a complete restoration and repainting of the Altar Painting. The finished work is beautiful. In the spring of that same year the cross on the steeple was replaced with a new one handcrafted by Algot Person. Arnold Naslund built new tables for the kitchen in 1993. In 1996 a sizable donation was received for new windows, which were purchased and installed that same year. The Willing Workers ladies group raised money for new Easter and Advent paraments, which were sewn by Lillian Nordin in 2002. Ardis Johnson and family donated money toward a new church sign (2002) which now stands in front of the wheelchair ramp that was built the previous year. In 2001 the front steps were also replaced. In 2003 the exterior of church received a big face-lift in the form of vinyl siding, at a cost of $20,000. In 2005, a sound system was purchased and installed at cost thanks to Gordon and Terry Lien. The family of Norman Selin purchased a communion tray in his memory (2006), eliminating the extra step of collecting a communion cup from the top of the piano before receiving the Lord’s Supper. Finally, in preparation for the 100th anniversary celebration, Kimberly Bell did a beautiful job of re-painting the altar, pulpit, altar railing, baptismal font, lectern, plant stands, window frames and floor (summer of 2006). Outside floodlights were also added to the building, brightening up dark nights. Evergreen trees were planted in 1932, 1968, and 1978, which adds much to the appearance of the church grounds. Porcupines and early spring snow storms caused some noticeable damage to the northwest corner of the cemetery evergreens in the mid-2000s, and will need to be replaced.
Over the years there have been many improvements voluntarily done by each and every one involved with the church in one way or another. To mention everyone would take up volumes and so we ask forgiveness if we have not mentioned you by name – remember that our Father sees and remembers everything even if we do not; your contributions go neither unnoticed or unappreciated and we thank you for them.
In more recent years, annual events have included: candlelight Holden Evening Prayer services throughout the season of Lent, a pancake breakfast usually held the Sunday after Easter; a Golf Tournament played at Miquelon Hills Golf Course in June; a cemetery service on the last Sunday of July; a post-Thanksgiving barbecue held the Sunday after Thanksgiving (weather permitting); the Santa Lucia program held in early December; and last, but definitely not least, the Christmas Eve Candlelight service.
Wilhelmina has also been featured as a film location site for two Alberta produced movies. “Heart of the Sun” by Dancing Stone Films (1996) and “Catching the Chameleon” by Ordinary Hero Productions (2004).