|The Elstad Church
is located in Amherst Township, Fillmore County Minnesota. The first
Norwegians in the area settled around Newburg directly south of where the
church now stands. This included the Ellertson family, who have the
distinction of being the first farmers in this area, though they later
moved to Highland Prairie.|
In 1854 the first services were held at Elstad and Highland Prairie making these two of the oldest congregations still in existence. Family names such as Ask, Elstad, Nepstad, Blagsvedt, Dammen, Flattum and Gullickson are still active in the church today just as their ancestors were almost 150 years ago.
Though it may be hard to visualize the thoughts, fears and hopes of the pioneers as they left their homes in Norway to seek new opportunities in America, we can take strength from the knowledge that they knew the Lord was there to guide them through whatever trials and hardships they might come across. It is no surprise that one of their first concerns was the need for a place of worship. In those early days gatherings were held in homes and the open areas just east of where the present church stands--weather permitting.
Pastor Vilhelm Koren from Washington Prairie near Decorah, Iowa visited this congregation beginning in 1854 and continued to do so for five years.
By this time the need for a regular pastor became apparent, thus Highland Prairie and Elstad extended a call to Pastor N. E. Jensen.
|In 1865, after the end of the Civil War, the decision was made to build a church. Location was a big issue. The present site was chosen as it had been a popular place for services in the past. Mikkel Larson owned the land and sold the lot to the members of the church upon payment of twenty-five cents from each member. The lumber and shingles were hauled from Winona by horses and oxen. The church was completed in 1866 with the exception of seating and paint.|
Planks were used as seats
until money could be raised to install pews. The first pews were the old
style Norwegian box seats with doors. The old church was named
Richland Prairie Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church as this area in
early pioneer days was known as Richland Prairie. The name was later
changed to Elstad at a church meeting.
|The altar painting is one of the church's most interesting and prized possessions. This painting of Jesus knocking at the door was done by Telemark painter Herbjorn Gausta. When Herbjorn finished this painting, he said, "Now I finally painted Jesus's eyes the way I wanted!" This beautiful masterpiece was purchased in 1894, and was first placed in the old church before being relocated to the present church. It is truly one of the best works by the Norwegian artist.|
|Pastors who have served the
church are Vilhelm Koren, N. E. Jensen, Kristian Magelssen, Nils
Magelssen, I. R. Gronlid, Ralph Livdahl, Gary and Mary Sue Dreier, Lane
Doerring, Stephen Fiksdal, Rodney Nygren, Pastor Wade
Davick and Pastor Dan Watland.|