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First English Lutheran Church History

This page describes the founding and building of First English Lutheran Church. We also have a timeline of historical events and a video from Thanksgiving about the church’s history from Judy Beckman. 

The following information on the founding and building of First English was taken from the 1985 FELC directory. There is another telling of the founding in this 50th Anniversary booklet from 1977. 


Rev. John Walseth began serving local Lutheran families when he moved to Ortonville in 1910. Ortonville was grouped with St. Paul’s congregation of Bellingham, Minnesota and St. John’s congregation of Milbank, South Dakota under Rev. Walseth in 1912. In Ortonville, he organized a Norwegian Ladies’ Aid. 

After 15 years, the Ortonville group decided to start a Lutheran church that would have services in English every Sunday. As a first step, the Ladies’ Aid Society met at the home of Mrs. O.M. Osen on December 2, 1926. Charter members were the Mesdames: S.J. Anderson, John Dobak, Carl Eastvold, L.P. Everson, John Hagevik, Julia Martinson, O.M. Osen, Wm. Randall, A.C. Saeger, Nellie Scholberg, H.J. Shelver, A.H. Sorenson, and John Spanyers.

On January 27, 1927, a business meeting of all prospective church members was held in the basement meeting room of the Ortonville library, at which the constitution was adopted, officers were elected, and trustees were authorized to proceed with incorporation.  


Since this was the first Lutheran church in Ortonville to have all services in the English language, the name “First English Lutheran Church of Ortonville, Minnesota” was formally adopted by the congregation on February 2, 1927. An application was sent to the secretary of the Southern Minnesota District of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. Since 1962, First English has been affiliated with the American Lutheran Church.


The Ortonville State Bank building at 33 Northwest Second Street was purchased to serve as a first church for the new congregation. Services were held there from May 1, 1927 until December 24, 1939. 

The building committee purchased the three corner lots at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Third Street Northwest on April 2, 1939. Architect Thorwald Thorson had drawn up plans for the desired granite structure, and the cornerstone was laid on June 13, 1939 (there seems to be some conflicting information, the cornerstone was laid in August according to Judy Beckman). Six months later the first service was held in the church sanctuary.

Dependent on Thorson to supervise the construction of his first church, the council members also served as the building committee. O.M. Osen was general chairman of the building committee; E.J. Martinson, chairman of the building committee; Mrs. J.C. Sanborn, treasurer; J.M. Dahl, Fred Grosenick, J.A. Jacobson, William Klemp and Caspar Weigand comprised the combined council and buiding committee. They bought a used truck and hired day laborers to haul the granite to the churchsite. Some weeks their progress depended on the size of the Sunday collection. 

This image came from a past directory. The location (33 NW 2nd St) is now being used by Ortonville Mercantile Gallery

On November 26, 1950, the last of the church mortgage notes were burned at a church ceremony, ten years earlier than had been anticipated.

The parish education building was erected in 1956 with Thorson, Thorson, & Madson of Mason City, Iowa the architects, and Hasslen Construction Company of Ortonville the general contractor. With the ground-breaking ceremony in April 1956, the building was ready for use in September of that year. The addition included Sunday school rooms, a library, church offices and pastor’s study. Since then the building has undergone some remodeling, but the basic structure remains the same.

Judy Beckman Speaks on First English's History



  • 12/2/1926 Ladies’ Aid Organized.
  • 1/1/1927 First English Lutheran Church was organized under a constitution.
  • 1/27/1927 The constitution was officially adopted, officers were elected and trustees were authorized to proceed with incorporation.
  • 2/2/1927 The name “First English Lutheran Church of Ortonville, MN” was formally adopted by the congregation. 
  • 3/1/1927 Ortonville State Bank building was purchased to be used as a site for worship.
  • 5/1/1927 The first worship service was held in the bank building.
  • 6/5/1927 Rev. Arling Thompson was installed as pastor.
  • 11/10/1927 Luther League organized


  • Rev. Arling Thompson continued as pastor.
  • 1/13/30 Incorporation proceedings completed.
  • 7/17/1938 Rev. Otto Schmidt was installed as pastor. 
  • 1/11/1939 Congregation votes to build new church.
  • June Excavated for the new church
  • August 13th 1939 The cornerstone was put in place for the new church building.


  • 5/5/1940 A dedication service was held for the new church.
  • 6/25/1944 Rev. Lavern Hanson was installed as pastor by Dr. Nils Kleven.
  • 1945 Stained glass windows were installed to honor the foremen from this area who died in WWII.
In 1942, First English celebrated it's 15th year


  • 6/10/1951 Rev. Amon Johnson, Jr. was installed as pastor.
  • 12/16/1952 Congregation votes to build Educational Unit.
  • 1952 First English 25th Anniversary
  • 1956 Rev. C.O.B. Ness served as interim pastor.
  • 4/15/1956 Ground was broken for the Educational Unit. 
  • 9/16/1956 Rev. Harold O. Ward was installed as pastor. 
  • 4/28/1957 The Educational Unit was dedicated. 
  • 4/27/1959 Congregation votes to build new parsonage.
  • 12/17/1959 The new parsonage was completed.
In 1952 First English Recognized its 25th Anniversary


  • Rev. Harold O. Ward continued on as Pastor
  • 9/14/1960 Altar Guild Organized.
  • October 1960 Acolytes Organized.
  • 1963 Bells and peal were added to the bell tower. 
  • March 1964 Christeens organized.
  • 1/18/1966 Congregation votes to support a Missionary.
  • 6/7/1966 Congregation votes to purchase property adjacent to church.
  • 1967 Granite Crusaders Cross dedicated to Gerald Fredrickson
  • 1/16/1968 Congregation votes to install a new heating and air conditioning system 
  • June 1968 Parking lot completed. 
  • July 1968 Heating and Airconditioning system completed.
  • 1/21/1969 Congregation gives confirmed 16 year olds voting rights.7


  • 1/27/1972 First English 75th Anniversary 
  • 1972 Rev. Earl Sletten served as interim pastor. 
  • 2/25/1973 Rev. Robert Sorenson was installed.
  • 1/29/1975 First organizational meeting for the Day of Love
  • 2/11/1975 First Day of Love Meeting
  • 1976 Rose Memorial Window was added
  • 1976 Rev. Leonard Smestad installed as associate pastor.
  • July 2, 1977 50th Anniversary Service 


  • 1981 Rev. Earl Sletten served again as interim pastor. 
  • 1/17/1982 Rev. Robert Dahl was installed as pastor. 
  • 9/5/1982 Rev. John Vagts installed as associate pastor. 
  • 1984 Dennis Johnson served a year as an intern.
  • 1987 Barbara L. Thompson served a year as an intern.
Narthex Addition Being Constructed
Narthex Addition Being Constructed


  • 1991 Rand family donates elevator system for the Narthex
  • 1/19/1992 The new narthex addition was dedicated.
  • 1994 Rev. Wilfred Hansen installed as associate pastor. 
  • 1997 Rev. Robert Possehl served as interim pastor.
  • 2/1/1998 Rev. Dan Hermanson installed as pastor.
Taken 2/1/98, 2 minutes before Rev. Dan Hermanson installed as pastor.


  • 11/12/2000 Rev. Dan Hermanson left FELC. 
  • 2000 Kitchen renovation completed.
  • 2001 Pastor Sue Sieffert served as interim pastor. 
  • 7/7/2002 Pastor Marlene Elmstrom installed as pastor.
  • 10/1/2006 David Tonn called as Youth & Family Director
  • 2008 David Tonn called as Youth & Parish Ministry
Pastor Marlene Elmstrom


  • 10/2013 Pastor Marlene Elmstrom left FELC
  • 10/22/2013 David Tonn lead ministry at FELC
  • 2/9/2014 David Tonn was ordained and became FELC Pastor
  • 5/7/2018 Our 1st YouTube video service is uploaded
Pastor David Tonn


Pastor Renee Tecklenburg Preached via Zoom
Pastor Denise Fossen was installed April 25th, 2021