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The history of the Chisholm Baptist Church goes back to 1902 when Mrs. John Strong came to Chisholm from Finland. She was a member of a Baptist Church in her homeland and carried the evangelical spirit with her to her new home. She felt the burden for the unchurched children so started a Sunday School during the summer of 1903 with 10 children. Two years later Wm. Johnson became superintendent and carried on for some time and ever since that early day the S. S. has continued. The Ladies Aid was also organized before the church when its first recorded meeting was held on July 6, 1906 and it also has had an unbroken ministry.
A baptismal service was held during the summer of 1905 when four persons were baptized in Longyear Lake by missionary John Lindgren. On November 25, 1906 a council of pastors and laymen met to organize. The charter members were: Mr. and Mrs. John Bakk, Isak Lundberg, Fred Erick Johnson, Andrew Rank, Nels Rank, Mr. and Mrs. John Nylund, H. W. Johnson, Sofia Strong, Emanuel Erickson, and Felix Esselstrom. Three of these are still living, Mrs. John Bakk, Felix Esselstrom and Emanuel Erickson. Emanuel Erickson is the only resident living member still active in the church here. This new church was called the Bethphage Baptist Church.
During the first few years the preaching was done mostly by laymen, and students from Bethel Seminary. Pastors from our Duluth Churches shared their time for many years. The following have served during the years: John Bakk, Anders Blomquist, N. A. Fridlund, John Fors, Albert Esselstrom, John Berg, A. J. Stormans, Alfred Ohman, John Hugo, Emil Nylund, J. A. Kallman, Lucas Cook, Harald Bradley, David E. Anderson, Fred Miller, Ellis Eklof, Jr., and present pastor, Orville Johnson.
In the beginning services were held in the homes. In February of 1914 it was decided to build a church and the work was begun in May with Felix Esselstrom in charge. With much willing help on the part of many the church was completed and dedicated on August 16 of the same year. On Jan. 6, 1949 the present parsonage, next to the church, was purchased.
The Young People's Society was organized in September, 1915, after a number of young people had been won to the Lord during the summer ministry of John Berg, a seminary student from Bethel. It has continued since then.
The Brotherhood was organized in October, 1947 and has continued since that time to minister in its special way to men.
The Young Married Couple's organization took place on Dec. 21, 1950 and is continuing its ministry to this day.
On October 20, 1937 the name of the church was changed to First Baptist Church. On March 26, 1947 the church membership voted to affiliate with the Baptist General Conference.
In September of 1948 a garage was built to house the Sunday School bus which had become a necessity in the expanding Sunday School. This bus was used to bring in children from the Balkan area and also from the Pool Location where the Sunday School, which had operated there for some time, closed and the children brought into Chisholm S. S. The growth of the Sunday School and increased church attendance crowded out the old church building, so it was decided on May 12, 1951 to erect a new house of worship. A building committee headed by Emanuel Erickson set to work. The basement was completed; first and used for a while. The superstructure was built a short time later. The Lincoln School was used while the church was in construction. With much donated help from many sources the church was finished and dedicated on Nov. 22, 1953. Much praise to our good God.
Our church was host to the Baptist Mission Union Annual Meetings on four occasions: 1920, 1937, 1946 and 1954. Ordina tion services for Harold Bradley, Ellis Eklof, Jr., and Emmett Johnson were held and were an inspiration to the church. Others have gone out into full time service: Axel Oman as a missionary to the Congo, Mrs. Floyd Ankerberg (Elaine Erickson) and Mrs. Walton Johnson, (Eunice Anderson) as pastor's wives.
The ministry of music and song has always been important and a choir and orchestra have carried on nobly through the years. Since the ministry of David E. Anderson a weekly bulletin has been published.
Since 1954 there has been a decline in employment and hence in population so our S. S. enrollment has gone down from a peak of 297 in 1954 to about 200 at the present time. Our membership has increased each year and now stands at 175; although we have lost many members who have moved away. The latest joy was the baptism of 14 candidates on Nov. 6 and the receiving of two members by letter.
We carry on a full schedule of services and evangelistic meetings. The following organizations meet regularly: Junior and Senior Young People, Hi-Teens, G. M. G., Women's Missionary Guild, Brotherhood, Homebuilders and Boy's Club.
Last year the Jewish synagogue across the street was purchased and torn down and the lumber salvaged and stored for future use in a parsonage to be built on the lot. Construction of this has been set to begin on about May 1, 1961. After the new parsonage is in use the present one will be used for a S. S. annex. Classes are now held in the parsonage basement and kitchen. Long range planning calls for the parsonage to be moved and an addition built there. These plans will come to fruition as the Lord blesses and permits. We look ever and only unto Him.
May God give our churches grace to carry on as members of the Baptist General Conference fellowship in an ever increasing work to His honor and glory. May we be faithful as long as He tarries in His coming again.
Published in Sixty Years of Christian Stewardship 1901-1961. Prepared in commemoration of the Sixtieth anniversary of The Baptist Mission Union of America. 1961, p. 40-43.
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