140 Years of History
History of Zion Lutheran Church 1866-2006
Early settlers from Sweden met in the fall of 1866 to consider the organization of a Lutheran congregation in the Buffalo area. Two young women, Maria Moody and Helga Jonsdotter volunteered to walk the fifteen miles through the Big Woods to Gotaholm Lutheran Church of Watertown. They requested that the recently ordained Pastor John S. Nelson come to the Buffalo area to hold services.
The organizational meeting of the new congregation was on November 7, 1866 in the home of Sven Erickson. Pastor Nelson chaired the meeting and preached a sermon based on the First Epistle to Timothy. The church was called Carlslund Evangelical Lutheran Church. There were 27 adult Charter Members and 31 children: The families of Erick Moody, John Johnson, Sven Erickson, Nils Anderson, Corelius Arneson, Anders Johnson, Bengt Peterson, John Carlson, Nils Bengtson, John E Erickson, Jons Stromberg, Nels Pierson, and Per Swenson.
The first annual meeting of the congregation has held New Year’s Day, 1867. Eric Moody was elected secretary, and served eight successive years. The first confirmation class consisted of one member, Mrs. John Hoaglund, who was confirmed by Pastor Nelson in 1867.
Reverend Nelson visited the congregation once a month during these first years. Mr. Nels Bonstrom was elected to lead the singing without the aid of any musical instrument. He received twenty-five cents from each family per year, later increased to fifty cents per year. The first deacons were Nels Bengtson, Eric Moody, Nels Anderson, John Johnson, Corelius Arneson, and Sven Erickson.
The question of erecting a church building was constantly up before the members. Several locations were considered. Christian Ilstrup offered, without remuneration, one quarter acre in the northwest corner of his land, on the highway between Buffalo and Watertown. This offer was accepted on Feb. 11, 1870, by a majority of the members.
In 1871, one half an acre on the east side of the highway, extending south from the church, was obtained from Abraham Ilstrup for a cemetery. For this, each family agreed to donate a day’s work to Abraham Ilstrup. A small log church was built in the early 70’s and the cemetery was dedicated Feb. 11, 1874.
The Swedesburg or Marysville Church was also organized by Pastor John S. Nelson. The organizational meeting of the Swedesburg Evangelical Lutheran Church of Marysville was on February 25, 1873 in the home of J. M. Peterson. There were 29 adult Charter Members and 35 children: The families of J. M. Peterson, J. P. Larson, Carl Olson, A. Mattson, G. Mats Johnson, G. Anders Mattson, K. Anders Kellstrom. S. P. Peterson, and S. Eric Anderson.
In 1874 the Swedesburg congregation decided to build a church of hewn logs. The original building was 32 feet long, 22 feet wide, and 14 feet high.
In 1883 Carlslund and Swedesburg formed a two point parish, and Pastor Eric Norsen became the first resident pastor.
In 1887 the second Carlslund country church was built to replace the small log church, a wood frame building with a steeple and a white exterior.
The current building that we know as the Marysville church was built in 1891-1893 with brick donated by J. M Peterson and Carl Kingsted on a lot given by Andrew Gust Peterson. The original building was sold for $30 and removed in 1893.
Rev. Wenner purchased a lot on Third Street for $25 and donated it to the congregation. A two story wood framed parsonage was built during Rev. Ryden’s pastorate. In 1900, during Reverend C. Rehner’s time, a church building was erected on the property.
In 1921, during Rev. E.J. Nystrom’s pastorate, extensive improvements were made when the town church building was placed on a higher foundation, a basement was dug, and the chapel addition, kitchen, and sacristy were added to the church. For several years, the congregation worshipped both in the town church an in the county church, but it was decided during Pastor Nystrom’s time to have all services in the town church.
Following Pastor Nystrom, the Rev. C.A. Callerstrom became resident pastor of the parish. He had a long and fruitful ministry beginning in 1925 which continued until the time of his retirement in 1938. During these years, several of the church organizations were established and the general program of the church prospered. In 1938 the old country Carlslund Church was sold and razed.
In 1939, Pastor Arthur L. Chell arrived in Buffalo to take up the work of the parish. During his pastorate from 1939 to 1944, the church building was renovated and redecorated. City water and modern facilities were installed. The exterior of the church was repainted; choir robes and an exterior bulletin board were procured. The interior of the parsonage was redecorated and a coal stoker installed. The 75th Anniversary of Carlslund was celebrated on September 12-14, 1941.
After Pastor Chell had resigned as pastor in 1944, to accept a call in St. Cloud, Pastor Philip W. Pearson arrived in August to begin work in his first parish. The need of more adequate church facilities was realized and a Building Fund was established. At the January 9, 1945, annual meeting of the congregation, it was decided to change the name of the church from Carlslund Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church to Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. A new organ was purchased in 1946.
Pastor K. Alvar Persson came to Buffalo from White Plains, New York, on March 1, 1950, to begin work among the members of Zion. The work on the Building Fund was continued and two drives were conducted in which the sum of well over $40,000 was realized. Plans now immediately got underway for the construction of a new church.
In June of 1950, the members of Swedesburg Evangelical Lutheran Church voted to disband and join with the congregation at Buffalo. It was resolved at the January 9, 1951 annual meeting that they recognize that Swedesburg Congregation had been dissolved and its members affiliated with Zion Lutheran Church at Buffalo.
On April 9, 1951, the building and financial plans were accepted. On April 19, the contracts were accepted and signed. On April 22, the last service was held in the old church. The next day, men of the congregation began the task of dismantling the old church structure and the excavating for the new church began at once.
During the time that the new church was being built, services and Sunday School were conducted in the Swedesburg Church. When the church was completed, the bell from the Swedesburg Church was removed and installed in the new church. That original bell from the Swedesburg (Marysville) Church now hangs in the bell tower at our present site.
On December 2, 1951, the first service was held in the basement of the new church and the dedication of the building was on February 3, 1952. That is the building that still stands across from today’s Discovery and Parkside Elementary Schools, and is home to the Assembly of God Church. The 85th Anniversary of the congregation was celebrated on June 22-29, 1952.
Pastor Carl G Okerbloom was installed as Pastor on July 8, 1954 and served until 1963.
In 1958 the old parsonage was torn down and a new parsonage built at the same location.
The years of 1960-61 were exciting years as plans began to develop for the new parish education unit. On November 12, 1961, Zion Lutheran Church dedicated its two story unit which was 75 feet by 45 feet in size. It included nine classrooms, two offices, a fellowship room, office-study for the pastor, and a large kitchen in addition to wash rooms and storage rooms. Also, the building was provided with a new narthex, new furnace, hot water heat and ventilation. On Sunday, Nov. 12, 1961, the Congregation celebrated its 95th anniversary and dedicated the new unit worth $89,819.
A great change came about in the Lutheran Church as a whole in 1962. This affected our Zion Lutheran Church directly in that the Augustana Synod, of which we were formerly a part, together with the United Lutheran Church in America, the Suomi Synod, and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, became members of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), and of the Minnesota Synod. Thus it became necessary for our Zion Lutheran Church to conform in practice to the other three bodies of the Lutheran Church. A new constitution was adopted by our church which in main changed the deacons and trustees into a Church Council with seven committees, each with duties pertaining to the welfare of the local church. For the first time in the church history, two women were elected to serve on the Church Board.
In September of 1963, Pastor Andrew Cornell took over his duties as Pastor of Zion. Under Pastor Cornell’s leadership, the congregation continued to exhibit faith which accomplished many things. The Victor Benson property was purchased for future parking. Improvements to the property and the painting of the interior of the church were undertaken.
At the time of Zion’s 100th Anniversary in 1966 – Services were at 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. with an average attendance of 398. Sunday School enrollment for Nursery to 9th grade was 239. Luther League, The Brotherhood, Golden Age Fellowship and Zion Lutheran Church Women (LCW) were some of the active ministries.
Pastor Cornell died very suddenly while serving as Pastor in 1969. His wife, Mrs. Ruth Cornell, continues to live in Buffalo and is an active member of the congregation; she has served in many leadership capacities, including being a Stephen Minister leader.
Dr. Elmer Flack, professor at Northwestern Seminary in St. Paul served as interim pastor until July of 1970 when Pastor Edward Blair was called to serve as Pastor of Zion.
In 1973 the Marysville Church was restored for the Centennial of the Swedesburg congregation. Since that time, during June, July and August, worship services are held on Monday evenings in this historic and beautiful setting.
The congregation continued to grow and the pastoral staff was expanded in July of 1974 with the calling of Pastor John Folkerds of Anoka to serve as Co-Pastor with Pastor Blair.
A need for additional worship and education space let to a remodeling and expansion of the church building in 1975. The sanctuary was enlarged to permit overflow seating, new pews were installed and the altar area expanded. A choir room, Sunday School rooms and chapel were also added. In 1978 pastor Blair and his family purchased their own home, and the parsonage was then used for Sunday School, youth meeting rooms, and housing for refugee families sponsored by the congregation.
In 1979 the position of Youth and Education Director was added to the church staff, and the position was split into two positions, Youth Director and Education Director.
In 1983 a Long Range Planning Committee completed a study which resulted in the formation of a Building Committee in May 1984, and in 1985 the congregation voted to relocate to the present 15 acre site south of Buffalo on Highway 25. In 1988 the congregation voted to sell the existing facility on 2nd Avenue NE to the Buffalo Assembly of God congregation. The last worship service in that building was on August 28, 1988, and we began a period of 14 months of worship in the auditorium of the Buffalo Junior High School (now Discover Center). The staff was housed in a mobile home in the parking lot of our former building.
Groundbreaking for the new building was on September 18, 1988 with over 500 members turning the soil.
Also in 1988, Zion became part of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) when the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC), and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches joined together.
The new (current) building was dedicated on April 19, 1990 with Bishop David Olson of the Minneapolis Area Synod preaching at both services.
After an extraordinary 25 year co-pastorate, Pastor John Folkerds took on the role of Senior Pastor in 2000 and Pastor Edward Blair continued on part-time until his retirement in 2001. Pastor Rebecca Sogge came to Buffalo from Brooten MN to begin her ministry at Zion in February of 2000.
Pastor Scott Geister-Jones served Zion from April 2002 until 2003.
Pr Ron Koch served as part-time Interim Pastor from 2003-2004.
On April, 4, 2004, Palm Sunday, Zion members again broke ground on the same site, but this time for a major addition project. The new addition included an activity center, new Sunday school rooms, more office space, lots of room for fellowship and other activities and was dedicated on Psalm Sunday of 2005.
Pastor Steve Svoboda came to us in November 2004 to complete the  team of Senior Pastor John Folkerds (*) and Associate Pastors Rebecca Sogge (**) & Steve Svoboda (***).
In 2006, Zion is a congregation of over 3400 members with a wide reaching program for all ages. The Gospel message of Jesus Christ has been heard by countless people throughout the years.
*Pastor John Folkerds retired in 2007.
**Pastor Rebecca Sogge left the staff of Zion in 2009.
***Pastor Steve Svoboda left the staff of Zion to take a position at Grace Lutheran Church in 2008.
Current staff are listed here.