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First Lutheran Church of Bismarck


Scandinavians have a long and rich history in North Dakota. It is no surprise then, that one of the oldest churches in Bismarck was started by a group of Swedish immigrants. The First Lutheran Church formed in Dakota Territory in 1883, and the territorial government granted the members a charter on October 18th. The congregation officially became the Swedish Evangelical Church.

At first, they had no pastor, so the resident pastor in Moorhead, the Reverend J.O. Cavallin presided over their first official meeting. Cavallin served the large Lutheran Mission region in Dakota Territory and visited the congregation often. In 1889, the Reverend Magnus Spanberg became the first resident pastor in Bismarck and taught the first confirmation classes in 1890. When the Reverend A.G. Olson took over in 1897, he started the congregation’s first Sunday school classes.

The church’s growth kept steady, and in 1908 they built their first parsonage. In 1910, the Reverend E.F. Alson came in and began a 15-year ministry. It was during this time that the congregation began constructing their very own church. By 1913 they had finished the sanctuary between 6th and 7th street, the same location of the current building.

At this point, the congregation was still rather small, and they only held services every other Sunday. However, during the tenure of the Reverend Emil Benzon, who served from 1929 to 1932, membership practically doubled, perhaps in part because of the Great Depression. But whatever the reason, the growing congregation needed more space, so in 1938 they built a basement addition as the foundation for the present structure.

In 1944, to represent the broader membership, they changed their name from the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church to the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. About five years later on this date in 1949, the new building was officially dedicated, and the church still stands strong today.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas