Bethlehem Lutheran Church: Pierpont, SD

A Brief History


††††††††††† Excerpts taken from church history in 90th anniversary book by Milton Ask and from the Day County History Book by Mrs. Jalmer Tastad.


††††††††††† When the early settlers came in the early 1880ís to homestead in this area they felt a need for spiritual fellowship.Some of them who became charter members at Langford were J.G. Moe, Christ Knutson and Olaf Estwick who lived in Homer and Farmington Townships northwest of Pierpont.It was found that it was quite a distance to travel to Langford by team and as Pierpont had grown in population; the people felt that it was time for the Lutherans to build a Norwegian church in Pierpont.The Presbyterian and the Baptist churches had already been built.

††††††††††† August Lockrem ran the blacksmith shop in town at that time.It was at that shop that the three men from this area who were charter members of the Langford church, J. G. Moe, Christ Knutson and Olaf Estwick, respectfully, along with Ole Sletten and Herman Anderson came to the shop to discuss the organizing of the Lutheran church in Pierpont.A meeting was held at the Lockrem home on March 4, 1894, the men who met and became the charter members were:A. S. Lockrem, J. G. Moe, Christ Knutson, Olaf Estwick, O. J. Sletten, Ole Monson, Herman Anderson, Jorgen Fossum, Herman Hanson, and Andrew Lee.†† They unanimously voted or organize a Norwegian Lutheran Church under the Hauge Synod.

††††††††††† At the next meeting held on March 12, 1894, it was decided to submit names for the congregation.†† The names submitted were Bethlehem, Saren and Bethel.A vote was taken with Bethlehem eight votes, Saren one and Bethel one.It was decided that Christ Knutson, J.G. Moe and O.J. Sletten should write the constitution and by-laws.On March 26 at a meeting, the constitution was accepted by an unanimous ballot.

††††††††††† At the next meeting on May 19, 1894 the decision was made to hire a pastor.A motion was made and seconded to ask Rev. L.L. Nervig, Pastor of the Langford Lutheran Church if he would consider also serving the Pierpont church at the salary of $30.00.He accepted and served both congregations.It was thought that this was the beginning of the Langford-Pierpont Parish which continued until 1945.†† The first services were held in the homes in the winter and the school house during the summer months.

††††††††††† The first yearly meeting was held on March 11, 1985.†† A list was passed around to raise money for the pastorís salary.$75.00 was collected and after paying the pastorís salary of $30.00 there was a balance of $45.00 left.A motion was then made to hire Pastor Nervig for another year for $50.00 a year for Pierpontís share.Another collection was taken for the bread and wine for communion; $1.60 was collected.Christ Knutson was appointed as Cantor for the church.

††††††††††† In 1898, a parochial school was held and conducted for six weeks.In 1900, at a meeting, a decision was made to start Bible school and hire a teacher for six weeks at $25.00.Later in the year J.G. Moe and A. S. Lockrem started the Sunday school.There were three teachers, Mr. Moe, Mr. Lockrem and Laura Ask and 12 pupils.

††††††††††† The first choir was started in 1900 and continued for many years, disbanding in recent years as a senior choir and now the Sunday school as a junior choir and childrenís choir provide special music for Sunday worship service.The first organ was purchased in 1904.†† Before they had an organ, a song leader was elected to lead the singing.

††††††††††† The Ladiesí Aid was organized on December 4, 1902 at the home of Rev. Danielson the pastor serving at that time.

††††††††††† On March 16, 1903, it was decided to erect a church and to purchase three lots from Wm. Lemmon.When they inquired about the lots, Mr. Lemmon donated the lots to Bethlehem.It was decided to build the church 28 x 38 feet and 14 feet high with an addition 8 x 16 for the choir.Mr. Lockrem (the city blacksmith) was asked to make a spire for the tower.The spire may be seen in the yard back of the church where it stands today.The total cost of the church was $1,924.55.

††††††††††† The first service was held on Christmas Eve the same year when a Christmas program was presented.†† At that time the parents brought all of their family gifts to the church and exchanged them under the Christmas tree.†† At the beginning of the organization of the church all services and the parochial school were conducted in the Norwegian language, it gradually phased out till all services are now conducted in the English language.

††††††††††† In 1924 an addition of 20 feet was added to the church proper and a basement added under the entire church.In 1938 the interior was remodeled, in 1944 the entrance was changed and a balcony was added.In 1948 two rooms were added to the south part, rest rooms were added and the kitchen completely remodeled.

††††††††††† In later years the sacristy was remodeled to serve also as a Sunday school room.Bible study leaderís center etc. and the altar area and altar rail were completely remodeled.

††††††††††† In 1917 with the merger of the three Norwegian Synods, the congregation became affiliated with synod which was later called the Evangelical Lutheran Church.Again in 1960 and 1962 Lutheran mergers took place which made the church part of the American Lutheran Church.†† Various auxiliary organizations have been active in the church which include Lutheran Brotherhood, LDR, Luther League, the Christian Youth in Action (CYLA) and Sunday School.

††††††††††† Pastors who served the congregation, 17 in all are as follows:


L.L. Nervig1894-1898
J.S. Halvorson1899-1902
A.M. Danielson1902-1906
P.S. Stenerson1907-1913
O.M.O. Wee1914-1921
Nels Carlson1921-1929
O.B. Nilson1930-1937
A.E. Distad1937-1938
Borgan F. Molstre1938-1942
A.E. Distad1942-1943
Oscar Rud1943-1944
L.S. Gjerde1946-1950
A.R. Sellevold1950-1955
G. E. Undem1955-1961
L.V. Sylte1961-1963
E.M. Mueller1964-1965
H.S. Skilbred1966-1975
Leslie O. Herness1975-1986


††††††††††† Sons of the congregation in the ministry are John Olson, Loren and Orlo Espeland, Oliver Brekke, and Steve Hammer.







ďPierpont Centennial 1887-1987Ē, The Langford Bugle, Langford, South Dakota, 1987, Library of Congress Catalog No. 87-60818, p. 64-66.