History of Fridhem Lutheran Church
as printed in “Footprints along the Stoney: A history of Armena and Baldenstein areas”
© Armena Local History Committee 1982
The first concern of our early settlers was, naturally, to “get a roof over their heads”. Their homes were built of native logs and later additions were made, and finished, with lumber sawed in local sawmills. They were completed with the few vital possessions they brought with them when they emigrated from Minnesota, Iowa, or the Dakotas. These vital possessions, in addition to such obvious necessities as clothing, bedding, and cooking utensils, included their Bibles, hymn books, and devotional books. On Sunday afternoons, they would gather in their homes for worship service followed by a friendly cup of coffee and flatbread. Later, when school houses were built, they would occasionally meet there. One early settler tells of arising at 3:00a.m. to drive four miles by horse and sleigh to “Jul Otta” (very early candlelight Christmas worship) at 5:00a.m. at the Lyseng School.
Some surveying had already been done in this area by men sent out by the Minnesota Conference of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church. These men travelled by train as far as possible, and from there, over unknown paths, by oxen and cart or horses and wagon. In 1900, one such man, student C. W. Yetell, after meeting with discouraging circumstances, wrote back to the Rev. Fleming, “I am tired of this field. In this area, there are scarcely ten persons who are fully devoted to our work as it now stands.” On August 26, 1901, he attempted to organize the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Tabor Congregation in Bittern Lake district of Wetaskiwin, with some of the later Fridhem congregation as charter members, but this did not materialize. By 1902, there had arrived quite a few Swedish settlers who were concerned not only about their own spiritual growth, but that of their children.
On July 21, 1902, the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Fridhem Congregation of Pretty Hill, N. W. T. was organized under the direction of the Rev. Per Almgren, then pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Wetaskiwin. The meeting was officially called to order by Pastor Almgren. He read, in Swedish, from the 40th Chapter of Isaiah, followed by prayer. This meeting was conducted in the Swedish language and the minutes were recorded in Swedish, as were the reports up to, and including, the annual meeting of January 3, 1934. Request was made to belong to the Minnesota Conference.
The Constitution, as a whole, was accepted. Mr. Charlie E. Anderson was elected as secretary for the day, and for one year following. The Council was to consist of three deacons, Carl J. Anderson for a three-year term, Gustaf Anderson for a two-year term, and Peter Monson for a one-year term; and, three trustees, John Flink for a three-year term, Frank Nelson for a two-year term, and Andrew Johnson for a one-year term. Andrew Johnson, Ole Nelson, and Charlie E. Anderson were elected to find a suitable location for the church. Charter members were Mr. and Mrs. Charlie E. Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Gustaf Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Carl J. Anderson, Peter Monson, Alfred Anderson, John Flink, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Nelson, Mr. and Mrs. Ola B. Nelson, Andrew Johnson, and Peter B. Nelson. Other early members were Mr. and Mrs. John Nelson, Mr. and Mrs. OlafSkalin, Mr. and Mrs. P. A. Grundberg, Mr. and Mrs. Axel Selin, and Mr. and Mrs. Gust Bard.
Most of the expenses of the congregation were met by a very efficient “kvinnoforening” (Ladies Aid) which was organized at the same time as the congregation. It was made up of very energetic and resourceful pioneer women. Apparently, by common consent, Mrs. Carl J. Anderson assumed the office of President, which she held for some time. She was succeeded by Mrs. P. A. Grundberg. Meetings were held once a month and were very informal. Incidentally, men also attended these early meetings . Guests were royally treated and were seated around the substantially filled table. At that time, there were no rules regarding the number of varieties of food the hostess could serve.
Throughout the years, the ” kvinder” contributed large sums of money towards the building, furnishing, and later, the upkeep of the church. At their meetings, their knitting needles would be flashing as they knit socks, mittens, and scarves for their fall sale. Other articles on sale would be wool-filled piece-quilts priced at $5.00 (they would bring $150.00 to $200.00 today!). By spring, the ladies had produced another supply of quilts, embroidered pillowcases, tablecloths, and crocheted doilies, so another sale, with a picnic, was held. The highlight of this picnic was a fill of home-made ice cream!
On January 21, 1904, a congregational meeting was held, presided over by Pastor Almgren, at which time the location of the church was approved. Three acres of the NWY4 9-48-20 was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Carl J. Anderson. It was decided that all members who had horses should haul one-quarter cord of stone (the amount needed to fill a single box of a wagon) for the foundation of the church. All the stones in Fridhem Church were gathered locally. All work was to be volunteer labor, valued at $0.25 per hour.
At a congregational meeting on March 1, 1905, a Building Committee, consisting of P. A. Grundberg, P. Monson, A. K. Selin, and C. E. Anderson, was elected. With their meager equipment, lots of determination, and ambition inspired by their strong faith in God, the congregation set their minds and hands to building a house of worship. Ground breaking exercises took place May 22, 1905 .
At this time, the Building Committee gave this report:
Size of church to be 28′ x 40′ x 14′ high
Lumber, hardware , windows, doors: $831.45
Fridhem Under Construction
Mrs . Carl J. Anderson and Miss Matilda Grundberg (later Mrs. Thorvald Throndson) were faithful workers in collecting money for the church. They canvassed the neighborhood, travelling by horse and buggy and on horseback.
The first confirmation class of this congregation was confirmed at the Gustaf Anderson home by Pastor Almgren in 1903. The class consisted of Alma, Victor, and Emma Anderson, Emma and Magnus Monson, Edwin Nelson, Hans Busk, and Clara Anderson. In the fall of 1905, a class was confirmed in the unfinished church. This class consisted of Carl Anderson, Sidney Skogman, Emil Grundberg, Nanny Falk, Hilda Monson, Hilma Anderson, and Tina Olson. The first wedding to be held in Fridhem Church was that of Ida Anderson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Carl J. Anderson, and Theodore Throndson, on December 12, 1905.
By this time, Pastor Almgren had organized other congregations in Alberta and now had six congregations and thirty preaching places. He pleaded for help from the Minnesota Conference and finally a student, Axel Eriksson, was sent out. On February 19, 1906, after a round of preaching engagements, Pastor Almgren was travelling through a stretch of woods where homesteaders were felling trees. One of the trees crashed down on his buggy, fatally injuring him. He had preached a sermon at Pigeon Lake on the text “For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”. (2 Cor. 5: 1) The hymn he chose for the congregation was “Hemlandssangen” – “My home I seek and homeward here I journey”. Pastor Almgren was laid to rest outside the walls of Fridhem Church.
At a congregational meeting on September 27, 1906, with student Axel Eriksson presiding, it was decided to plaster the church with cement and that all members should come on October 4th to help lath the church. At a meeting on December 15, 1906, it was decided to haul lumber for the ceiling so it could dry during the winter. It was also decided to haul logs to Knut Lyseng’s sawmill, located on the SW14-13-48-21, so they could be sawed into laths during the winter months. The lumber was planed at Thore Grue’s.
The Rev. Olaf Lindgren became pastor of this congregation in 1906 and served until 1914. The church was dedicated in October, 1907, with sixty-three confirmed members on the roll. Income for 1907 was $439.10. It was decided that the church would be finished by the summer of 1908.
In 1908, a Young People’s Society was organized. Their main project was to purchase an organ for the church. Records show that they held oyster suppers and made a profit of from $30.00 to $40.00 at each supper. In 1909, they purchased a pump organ for $190.00. Mr. Victor Lindgren became the first organist. Mrs. Carl Anderson (Cecelia) was later to become Fridhem’s organist, a position she would hold for forty years. The “Young People” also bought the three-piece silver communion set, costing $32.60, and the candle sticks on the altar, at a price of $7.95. The girls of the Young People’s Society crocheted the yards of lace which bordered the altar cloths.
In 1908, twenty-four confirmed members and thirty-four children left the congregation to organize the Wilhelmina Congregation, southeast of Hay Lakes. They became a parish with Fridhem.
Membership on January 7, 1909, was forty-nine. The pastor’s salary in 1910 was $200.00. Each member was to pay $2.50. In 1910, Pastor Lindgren, thirteen confirmed members and six children moved to Czar, Alberta and there organized the Emmanuel Lu
theran Congregation. This left forty-four confirmed members and twenty-two children at Fridhem. From this time, until the Rev. Heiner arrived in 1915, Fridhem parish was served by Pastor Lindgren, commuting from Czar, and by Mr. Carl Gustaf Anderson.
In 1911, eleven acres north of the church were purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Carl J. Anderson for parsonage grounds, at a price of $15.00 per acre. The pastor’s salary was now raised to $250.00. In 1915, the church was finished with plaster inside, but, it still needed a few trimmings. Mr. Olaf Walin painted the altar painting on the wall in the chancel. He made the pulpit, altar, and altar ring at his home in Hughenden, using a hand lathe. When it was all finished, he brought them up, piece by piece, and placed them properly in the church. Amy Williams, his daughter, tells of remembering her helping her father to tum the lathe for this and other
In the fall of 1915, the Fridhem and Wilhelmina congregations met to consider the building of a parsonage at Fridhem. This was accomplished by Wilhelmina supplying part of the lumber, materials, and labor. The parsonage was built in 1916 at a cost of $800.00. Pastor Heiner and his family were its first occupants. He served this parish until his death in 1918, a victim of the influenza epidemic. He was also buried in Fridhem Cemetery. Until the Rev. C. G. Gronberg arrived in 1923, the Rev. Otto Eklund served this parish as Vice-Pastor, with Rev. C. G. Anderson and Rev. Leonard Alexander helping out.
On June 22, 1924, the Women’s Missionary Society was organized by Mrs. Charlie Johnson of Waterglen. This group served faithfully in support of missions, both at home and abroad, until its amalgamation with the Ladies’ Aid on December 4, 1956. The resulting organization retained the name of Women’s Missionary Society.
Pastor Gronberg served as pastor until 1930, when the Rev. Axel Eriksson, the former student helper to Pastor Almgren, accepted the call as pastor. Pastor Eriksson served until his death on October 10, 1937. He was also buried in Fridhem Cemetery.
Fridhem, from the very start, operated a very active Sunday School, organized by Mrs. Carl J. Anderson. We cannot recall the names of the many faithful teachers who planted the seed of the word of God in the lives of many children. We take this opportunity to express our grateful thanks. The Sunday School, in co-operation with the Young People’s Society, sponsored a Christmas concert each year, on the evening of Christmas Day. The church was always filled to capacity. In later years the concert was changed to the third Sunday of December.
During these years, the Young People’s Society continued to thrive. Not only members of Fridhem, but many neighboring church members belonged. Programs of local talent, followed by a fellowshiphour, were held the third Sunday evening of each month. A Sunshine Club, consisting of girls from Fridhem and Scandia, had been organized by Mrs. Jim Erickson and Mrs. Eling Olson in 1915. The initial purpose was to raise money for a children’s home on the territory of the Canada Conference of the Augustana Lutheran Church. Funds were raised by holding a picnic and a sale of handwork, made by the girls and their mothers, on or near May 24th. By this time, the church had altered its plans, from a children’s home to a home for the aged. The money was given to the Lutheran Home for the Aged, in
Wetaskiwin. Mrs. Louisa Lindblom, a member of Fridhem, became the first guest. The Sunshine Club was later replaced by the Lutheran Daughters of the Reformation.
In 1933, the church parlor was built with the help of the Women’s Missionary Society, the Young People’s Society, and the Sunshine Club. In 1938, the Women’s Missionary Society made Mrs. Gustaf Anderson a Pioneer Life Member and Mrs. Carl J. Anderson was memoralized as a lady who loved her church and its activities. The Rev. C. A. Bernhardson, one-time Dean of the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute, served as Vice-Pastor from 1938 until his death in 1947. He was buried at Fridhem. And so, the remains of four pastors await the resurrection at Fridhem.
For six weeks during the summer of 1947, the Rev. Bertel Edquist, from Chicago, served this parish. Following this, we depended upon a student, Les Wassberg, and the ever faithful, Pastor Otto Eklund. Before Rev. C. R. Pearson’s arrival as pastor of the congregation, in August, 1949, the parsonage was moved to the comer of 56 Street and 51 Avenue in Camrose. With volunteer labor from Wilhelmina and Fridhem, and Mr. Molvick as foreman, the house was completely re-decorated. It was later sold and a new parsonage was built on the Bethel Church property.
A very active Junior Missionary Society was organized by Mrs. C. R. Pearson who was, at the time, President of the Alberta District Women’s Missionary Society. Children from the community, and neighboring congregations, attended the Junior Missionary Society. Its purpose was to emphasize the need for, and the work of missions, both at home and abroad. They were an ambitious group of boys and girls that made serviette holders for the church parlors and for the dining room at the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute. They also, with the help of their mothers, made a friendship quilt which was given to the Lutheran Home for the Aged, in Wetaskiwin. It wasn’t all work- they had lots of fun too! In winter, they went on sleigh rides and unforgettable tobogganing parties, followed by hot cakes and sausages at the Earle Erickson home. One Christmas , at the Clifford Carlson home, the J. M. S. sponsored a “Crutch and Cane Party” for all the handicapped in the neighborhood. There are many fond recollections of this little group of kids!
In 1952, it became evident that people of our congregation, who had moved to Camrose to retire or seek employment, wished to organize a congregation. At a congregation meeting on January 12, 1952, the motion, to organize a mission congregation in Camrose, was carried.
For many years Fridhem Church was heated by a heating stove that had a pipe that extended the length of the church. This pipe, presumably, helped produce heat; it was later replaced by a gravity furnace. In the spring of 1953, electricity was put into the church. When the Lyseng School was closed, Fridhem congregation got the bell and it was laboriously installed in the church’s belfry. After the church was closed, it mysteriously disappeared.
In 1955, Pastor Pearson accepted the call as Dean of the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute. Pastor John Arvidson, of Wetaskiwin, served as pastor until Rev. Robert Ek came as pastor of the parish; it now consisted of Wilhelmina, Fridhem, and Bethel. In 1960, he accepted a call to Regina and was replaced by the Rev. Paul Swedberg, who served until the closing of the church in 1963. Rev. Swedberg left for a mission field in Africa in 1965.
On June 16th and 17th, 1962, the congregation celebrated its 60th Anniversary with a two-day meeting under the theme , “The Family of God”. Many former members and friends were present. Fridhem congregation continued to function and serve as usual, although, we were becoming few in number. Many of our members were leaving us; some were finding employment elsewhere or were retiring to town, while others had died. At our annual meeting in January, 1963, the crucial decision to disband was made. Closing ceremonies were conducted on February 23, 1963, by Pastor Swedberg. Following the ceremonies was a dinner, served by the ladies.
We cannot recall that any of our men served in World War I but the following members served in World War II: Andrew Erickson, Herman Ericksotl, Stanley Erickson, Verner Bard, Gordy Shold, Wilbur Throndson , Arthur Bard, Arthur Skalin, and Boyd Lindberg. Elsie Shold also participated as a member of the W.R.C.N.S. The Women’s Missionary Society conferred Life Membership of the following members: Mrs. Annie Erickson, Mrs. Carl Anderson, Mrs. Jonas Grundberg, Mrs. Oscar Bard, Mrs. Theo Carlson, Mrs. Robert Rasmussen, Mrs. Guttorm Rosland, and Myrna Carlson.
Besides providing the nucleus for the three congregations, Fridhem has given four men to the ministry, Herbert, Harold, and Paul Eriksson, and Donald Rasmussen; and, one woman, Helen Eriksson, to the diaconate. It should be noted that Harold and Paul were the first two young Canadian to be fully trained in Canada and were ordained on calls to the Canadian field.
So ends the story of Fridhem Congregation. We are indeed grateful to our forefathers, who worked so hard under primitive conditions to leave us this blessed heritage, and our faithful pastors, who struggled, through snowbanks in winter and mud holes in summer, to bring us the word of God. The remains of many of these await the resurrection, outside the walls of the church. May the seeds sown here continue to grow and bear fruit.