The History of Bethany Lutheran Church
Many of the Lutheran faith arrived in Ephraim as early as 1855. Peter Peterson (Per Hagen) arrived in 1856. He became a prominent merchant and dock owner in Ephraim. Although he was associated with Andreas Iverson and the Moravians, he cherished a dream of establishing a Lutheran community and, with his contacts, Peterson made it possible for Pastor Biorn to come to Ephraim occasionally to conduct services. Usually services were held in Peterson’s own home or in the homes of either Martin Olson or Thomas Goodletson.
At one of these gatherings on January 24, 1882, a Lutheran congregation was organized. The plan was to consolidate all Scandinavians of the Lutheran faith on the northern end of the Door Peninsula into one fellowship, and to name it the Free Evangelical Lutheran Church. Sixty families indicated their willingness to cooperate, all were originally from parishes in various parts of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Articles of incorporation were filed on April 4, 1882 in Volume 1, Page 20 of Religious Documents at the courthouse in Sturgeon Bay.
The building site was purchased from Mrs. Marie Olson, and construction began immediately. By October 23, 1882 the building was completed at a total cost of $1,569.14. The first official meeting of the congregation took place on October 28, 1882. At this time it was decided to call the Reverend Johan Olson of Chicago to be the pastor. He would be paid an annual salary of $400 plus the Easter and Christmas offerings.
The Reverend Olson was a gifted musician, poet, and writer. During his ten years in Ephraim, he organized congregations in Juddville and Ellison Bay, baptized 245 children, confirmed 80 people, performed 65 weddings, and officiated at 86 funerals. In 1883 the parsonage and lot (with a purchase price of $800) were deeded over to the church by Mr. Peterson, who had by then returned to Norway to live.
On January 4, 1898, the name of the church was changed officially to Bethania Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation.
Today the church, now known as Bethany Lutheran Church, is a seasonal church with services held in the summer. The church has no permanent minister, but rather the congregation invites ministers from across the country to stay and preach for a period of two weeks. Today the congregation is vibrant and growing in numbers.
Please visit the Bethany Lutheran Church website to learn more about their history, mission, and services.