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The roots of Hartington’s Lutheran church date back to 1870

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T he history of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hartington dates back to before the community was even named and platted.

The first Lutheran church was erected in Hartington in 1886 on the northeast corner of what is now the intersection of Oak Avenue and Main Street, on a site donated by the Omaha and Northwest Railroad Company.

However, the roots of the church in the county go back to 1870, when homesteaders Bernard Olson and Martin Bottolfsen walked from their homes near what is now known as Paragon Cemetery to the Missouri River, crossed in a skiff, and waded through six-foot bottom grass to Gayville in what was then the Dakota Territory. There they conferred with the Rev. Emil G.A. Christensen about conducting services in the valley of Bow Creek. He was then serving a dozen congregations in the Dakota Territory.

The Bow Valley Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation was organized in 1883 at Olson’s home, with a nucleus of four families: Olson, Bottolfsen, Erdenberg and Anderson. Services were held from one to four times a year in private homes.

The groups in the Paragon area were soon joined by other Lutherans who settled west of Hartington, and together they established the site of the present Paragon Cemetery, as well as a parochial school, with O.M. Nordby as the first teacher.

Rev. N.G. Tvedt moved from Dakota to the Paragon community in 1879. He conducted Lutheran services in homes and schools over a wide area for 28 years, until 1907. The building of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in 1886 marked the beginning of Lutheran services in the new town of Hartington. From 1894, the congregation was divided into the original Bow Valley Lutheran and a new United Lutheran Church. They shared a church building under different pastors, until they reunited in 1918 to become Trinity Lutheran Church. In 1904, the Paragon church was built northeast of Hartington.

The Paragon members affiliated with Trinity Lutheran later, as did a group of Swedish Lutherans. Their congregation, Immanuel Lutheran of the Augustana Synod, had been established in 1894 at the Otto Johnson home under Rev. H.H. Hartelius. They built a church in 1900 and dissolved the congregation in 1940.

The new Trinity Lutheran building (still in use) and parsonage were completed in 1928. The former building was moved to Crofton, where it is still in use by the Trinity Lutheran congregation there, which shares a pastor with Trinity Lutheran of Hartington. Trinity was served by a succession of pastors in these years, and in 1942 the Rev. O.L. Leverson accepted the call. He served for 19 years, until 1961.

A new parsonage was built in 1963, the sanctuary was updated with a new altar in 1966, and a fellowship hall was added in 1968. Trinity Lutheran had a gala celebration observing its “Century of Grace” in 1973. In 1992, an elevator was added, during the tenure of another long-serving pastor, the Rev. Paul Reimers, who served from 1990 until 2003.

TLC’s current pastor is the Rev. Amanda Jertson Talley, who accepted the call in 2012. She is the first woman to serve in that role, and during her time as pastor she was married at Trinity and welcomed a son.

Trinity’s biggest event of the year is the food stand fundraiser at the Cedar County Fair, which has evolved over many decades from an open-air stand with seating on hay bales, to a restaurant-scale operation in an enclosed, air-conditioned building.

Vacation Bible School is the other large annual event, involving children and leaders from throughout the community. Technology advancements have continued, including live-streaming of worship services since 2019. Our active members of all ages participate in worship, Christian education, fellowship, and service, all centered on our mission to proclaim Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for forgiveness, life, and salvation.