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Emanuel Lutheran Church, Skandia, MI

History of Emanuel Lutheran Church

Before the organization of Emanuel Lutheran Church in 1894, Swedish Lutherans in the Skandia area gathered for worship and fellowship. They were occasionally served by pastors from Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette. It is known that Rev. Magnus Frykman made special visits in the late 1880’s. Rev. C.P. Edlund followed Rev. Frykman as pastor of Messiah and served the Skandia mission site as well.

In 1892, Rev. Frans A. Johnsson was called to Messiah. Part of the agreement with his call was that he could do mission work in the surrounding areas. He was given the opportunity to be away from Messiah on Sunday each month and also whatever time he wished during the week. Pastor Johnsson did mission work in Little Lake, Carlshend, Limestone, Chatham, Munising, Newberry, Baraga, and Chassell, as well as Skandia.

The organizational meeting of Emanuel was held in Schoolhouse #2 (the Tower School, near the church’s present location) on Saturday, August 25, 1894, followed by a worship service. The meeting was conducted by Rev. Frans Johnsson. Due to their Swedish heritage and the relationship this congregation had with Messiah, Emanuel was affiliated with the Augustana Synod, a national organization of Swedish Lutherans whose headquarters was in Rock Island, Illinois. At this meeting, the recommended constitution for congregations of the Augustana Synod was adopted. Also at this meeting the official name of the congregation was established: The Swedish Evengelical Lutheran Emanuel Congregation of Skandia.

Another item of business at the meeting was to formally call a pastor. The call was extended to Pastor Johnsson, who accepted the honor of becoming Emanuel’s first regularly called pastor.
On December 29, 1894, the church was incorporated.

Worship services were held in Schoolhouse #1 (the Pioneer School in Yalmer) and Schoolhouse #2 (the Tower School), alternating monthly. Services were occasionally held in people’s homes. Music at these worship services was varied. Sometimes a zither was used to accompany hymns. Records indicate that an organ was purchased in 1901 and was probably placed in Schoolhouse #2. A choir was begun in 1900. The organist at that time was paid a salary of $1.00 per service to direct the choir and play organ. Communion services were held only once a year. The Sunday School began almost immediately after Emanuel’s organization. A system of collecting “membership dues” was instituted as a way of paying for operating expenses. A fee of 25 cents was assessed to each member over the age of 18. This was collected monthly.

The foundation for the church building was laid in 1902. Construction of the building then took four years to complete. Lack of finances was a major issue. The Sewing Circle held auctions and basket socials to raise some of the money. People donated timber to be cut into lumber. There were donations of labor and transportation. Finally, on September 12, 1906, a loan of $250.00 was acquired so that the building could be finished.

The first service held in the church building was in the early morning hours of January 1, 1907. Approximately 50 people attended the service led by Rev. Gustaf Ekeberg. In his annual report for that year he said of the service, “…an early morning service with Christmas candles lit so that both the earthly and spiritual light shone in the woods and in the church on this new year’s first morning.”

The building was dedicted on Sunday, August 18, 1907. The dedication was done by Emanuel’s first pastor, Rev. Frans Johnsson. He was assisted by Emanuel’s pastor at the time, Rev. Ekberg, as well as a former student pastor, Rev. Petrus O. Bersell. In addition, two local pastors also assisted, Rev. E.V. Isaccson of Ishpeming and Rev. A. Andre of Marquette.
Rev. Ekeberg was called to Emanuel in November, 1906. He lived in Munising and was called to serve the Lutheran churches in Munising, Limestone, Chatham and Skandia. Rev. Ekeberg served until the spring of 1911 when he was called to serve the parish in Bessemer, Michigan.

Ladies Sewing Circle
The Ladies Sewing Circle held its first meeting on August 29, 1898. One of their first projects was to organize a fund-raiser. An auction sale was held on January 21, 1899. Portions of this money went for sewing supplies, a rig for Pastor Johnsson and social expenses. The Sewing Circle gathered regularly for Bible study, singing, sewing, and fellowship.

The Cemeteries
In 1892, when there was need for a burial plot for the stillborn son of Hjalmer Bahrman, Andrew Haglund donated a plot of ground for a cemetery, with the hopes that a Lutheran church might be built there. The cemetery was most likely dedicated by Rev. Magnus Frykman. The land for a cemetery directly behind where the church now stands was purchased for $1.00 from Mrs. Sarah Wetmore in April, 1895. Even though both cemeteries were considered “Lutheran” cemeteries, peope of all faiths have been buried here. These cemeteries served the Skandia community as they do to this day.