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Vang Lutheran Church

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Jack Dura
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Like many prairies churches of North Dakota, Vang Lutheran Church at Manfred had its start with a group of parishioners worshipping wherever and however they could. Local Norwegian settlers held services in their sod homes and schoolhouses for worship, weddings, baptisms and burials.

In 1894, after a year of meeting, the settlers established a charter and organized Vang Evangelical Lutheran Church. They moved some services into a home built from stones and boulders hauled from nearby creek beds and the James River. They designated a cemetery, adopted a church constitution and founded a Ladies Aid Society. Services also continued in a schoolhouse.

As early as 1896, they considered erecting a church, but it wasn’t until 1904 that the effort became practical. The residents had become more established, and the farms had seen some good years. 1904 also marked the tenth anniversary of the church.

Early fundraising netted about a thousand dollars in pledges and bought land in Manfred for $175. The Ladies Aid helped with fundraising. Their September ice cream social raised $336, an impressive effort for 1905.

Local farmers hauled rocks for the building’s foundation. A South Dakota contractor was awarded the construction bid for the church, at $2,155 which included painting and installing a furnace. The church bell arrived by rail from Minneapolis. It weighed 1,200 pounds and cost $80 including shipping.

This was a busy time for Manfred. The village was absolutely bustling with activity. Farmers’ crops were thriving. Buildings were going up. The elevators were preparing for harvest. Two lumberyards struggled to keep up with demand.

By late summer of 1906, the church’s 35-foot spire went up and was shingled. Painting was done a few weeks later. The church’s first worship was held in September without pews, as none were yet installed. It was a hot day, too, at 102 degrees with no wind. The pews arrived just before Christmas. The Ladies Aid continued raising funds for furnishings, such as a pulpit and baptismal font. Carpeting and other decorations were installed in the spring of 1910. On this date that year, Vang Lutheran Church at Manfred was dedicated with seven pastors participating.

The church saw more improvements over the years, moving to a new foundation that included a basement lunchroom and converting from kerosene to electric lighting. The church is still a mainstay of Manfred, and is listed on the National Register for Historic Places. Vang Lutheran Church has biweekly services from Easter to Christmas.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

Sources:
https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NRHP/01000674_text
http://manfrednd.org/mhp.asp?area=home
75th anniversary of Vang American Lutheran Church. (1970). N.p.

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