Churches in Cooperstown Area
In 1880 the influx of immigrants of Norwegian nationality settled almost all available homestead land in the Sheyenne Valley. In 1879 Omund Nelson Opheim had arrived in what is now Griggs County, and upon his advice many of his old neighbors in Winnesheik County, Iowa, came and obtained land as near his place as any vacant land could be found.
Nearly all were church-going adherents of the Lutheran Church, divided into two groups, the Norwegian Lutheran Synod and the Norwegian Lutheran Conference. Later these united under the name of United Lutheran Church of America.
The people favoring the Synod settled mostly in what is now Sverdrup and Washburn townships. Rev. Haarstad and Rev. Gronlie from the Goose River locality came to these places to preach the gospel until a permanent organization could be developed. The outgrowth of that pioneer work has been formed into two congregations, the Sheyenne and Ness churches, located on the prairie east of the Sheyenne River and the city of Cooperstown.
In the pioneer years John Qualey and Omund Opheim were active leaders of these organizations. Nearly all Conference people settled in what is now Romness township. From the Goose River settlement Rev. Vaage came into the Sheyenne Valley in the summer of 1880 to visit the flock of his faith and guide them. The first meeting was held at the home of Mrs. Anna Nelson, who had just built a small log house. The sermon preached by him at that place was probably the first religious sermon ever delivered in what is now Griggs County, and it led up to the organization of the Ringsaker Congregation.
The next summer, in 1881, Rev. Vaage preached at Mrs. Nelson's home again. At that time he baptized two children who had been born during the first winter of the settlement. They were Elmer Mathison and Anton Olson.
The next minister to visit the organization was Rev. I. L. Lundeby, as a missionary on his way from Valley City to Devils Lake, at the home of Andrew Knutson. On February 9, 1882, he organized the Ringsaker Congregation. Ole Olson Bjornson, Gilbert Olson, Andrew Nelson, Hans P. Pramhus, Syver Syverson and Carl Flissaram were the charter members.
At a meeting at the home of Andrew Knutson on November 2, 1882, Martin Johnson, John Johnson, Mrs. Anna Nelson and Bent Olson accepted membership. At a later meeting on March 20, 1883, at the home of Andrew Nelson, Erick Western and family joined, and on August 13, of the same year, Andrew Anderson was admitted to membership. During that year Syver Syverson was requested to organize a Sunday school. On December 28th the minister was paid $28.00 which was a year's salary, but at a meeting at Qualey's school house on February 9, 1884, it was ordered that a yearly salary of $100 be paid.
The first confirmation was held on May 25, 1884. Magnus Lynner, Augusta Western and Thea Sletten were the three confirmed. The first couple married were Paul J. Nelson and Helen Western, on May 24, 1884.
The Ringsaker church was built in 1897 at a first cost of $1380.45. In 1899 a bell was installed as a gift from the Young People's Society, and in 1902 the church was completed and dedicated on July 13, 1902 by Rev. Oftedal of Minneapolis. The following ministers have served the congregation: I. L. Lundeby, O. K. Quamme, V. E. Boe, E. C. Tollefson, O. J. Overby, T. E. Sweger, G. R. Estrem.
Presumably the first sermon preached by a Methodist minister in Griggs County was that preached by Rev. Omann at a meeting in the hotel at Mardell on October b, 1882. Rev. Omann was a member of the Norwegian and Danish conference of the Methodist Episcopal and came into the newly formed settlements in Steele and Griggs counties. He came as a missionary to preach and work among the Norwegian and Danish speaking people. He preached in private homes in the new settlements and new converts were added to the old membership. This led to an organization and later erection of a church. The church was located and built in the northwestern part of Cooperstown. The conference assigned the pastorate to Rev. G. Abrahamson who served the congregation one year. During that year his wife, Bolete Abrahamson, died at the home of Steen H. Nelson on October 24, 1884. Rev. Abrahamson was transferred to some other charge and Rev. Westberg was sent to serve for one year.
The first English language church services of Griggs County were held in the farm home of R. C. Cooper in 1880 and conducted by Frank M. Rockwell, a cousin of R. C. Cooper. They called themselves the "Union Church." In the summer of 1881 the services were conducted by Rev. Rockwell in a large tent loaned by Mr. Cooper and set up in the most central location for the first families: R. C. Cooper, M. F. Washburn, J. N. Brown, S. B. Langford. Mr. Rockwell often rode to the meetings upon an ox fitted with a special saddle. William Gimblett, another preacher also rode this ox.
By 1882, about sixty settlers had come from the neighborhood of St. Clair, Michigan, besides others from other states. Services of the winter of 1882 and 83 were held in the dining room of the Merrill House, the first hotel and rooming house (remodeled, this house is the present home of Clara Lunde). Mr. Rockwell also conducted revival services in the summer of 1883 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Brown, then known as the Meadow View Farm. Following the completion of the school house the meetings were held there. Sunday school was organized June 2, 1883.
On June 7, 1884, Mr. Rockwell sent a request to the Congregational ministers of Dakota to organize a Church on June 17, 1884. This call was signed by: George W. Barnard, Mrs. George W. Barnard, Belle Rice, Mrs. Emma Cooper, Mrs. Isabella Brown, Mrs. M. Zimmerman, Jack N. Brown, Cora E. Hagerty, Mrs. E. B. Newell, Minnie C. Barnard, Mrs. T. F. Kerr, Theodore F. Kerr, Geo, Calder, A. N. Adams, John N. Glass, Alex J. Glass, Anna E. Glass, Livia P. Barnard, Maria Rankin, Miss Therze Gimblett Mrs. Martha Newbury, Mr. Edwin Bradley, S. B. Langford, Mrs. S. B. Langford, Laura Langford, Bertie Langford, Olive Langford, Frank M. Rockwell, Mrs. F. M. Rockwell, William Gimblett, Richard A. Horholtz, James Walker, Theodore Nierenberg, William A. Wetherbee, Mrs. S. J. Haskell, Mrs. R. C. Brophy, R. C. Brophy, B. B. Brown, Mrs. B. B. Brown, Mrs. M. A. Baker, Alice M. Jimeson, William C. Jimeson.
The following ministers and laymen responded to the call: Rev. H. C. Simmons, Rev. J. W. Donaldson, Br. David McCullock, Rev. David Wirt, Rev. Joseph Waite, Rev. William Ering, Br. L. W. Starbird.
At the first business meeting the following officers were elected: Deacons: S. B. Langford and A. N. Adams; Clerk: Mrs. Lucy M. Brown; Treasurer, George W. Barnard; Trustees: Jack N. Brown, George Barnard, R. C. Cooper. The Articles of Incorporation of the First Congregational Church were filed to begin May 1, 1885, to run for fifty years. On February 23, 1886, the church bought lots 1 and 2 of Block 81 and the church built shortly after. The pastor's house was built in 1906.
Besides F. M. Rockwell early pastors included Thomas Sims, Horace Payne James, George Frost, Edwin Shaw, Rev. During Charles Evans, and Edward Keedy.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Cooperstown was formed by a group of former Congregational Church attendants. It was incorporated November 12, 1887 with trustees: S. B: Langford, Allen N. Adams, Charles G. Fairbanks, and George Newberry. The church building used by the Methodist was originally built by a group of Scandinavian Methodist, part of whom lives in Romness township. They sold it to the First Methodist Episcopal Church in 1894. At that time it was moved from its first location on the east slope of "Vinegar Hill" to its present location. Among the pastors of the Methodist Church were W. Fisher, William Green, T. D. Collins, B. A. Burns, and W. L. Bennett.
Source: Cooperstown Diamond Jubilee 1882-1957 Page 23