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The history of the Church is not a romantic history. It may well have been adventurous to the founders of this Church of ours, but their delights, sorrows, trials and triumphs are bulk of history. We in this day, know only the bare framework. Aside from the somewhat plainess of the history, we find the all important ingredient, the Hand of God, moving and building in this community a portion of His Kingdom.
The decisions of men are many. The work of man is much. His triumphs are few. But it is the Spirit of God that gives birth, success and continuity to the Bethel Lutheran Church.
The first Finnish family to move to the area, was that of Erick Frantsi. He moved with his family in 1898 from Eveleth. Coming here to carve out of a wilderness a living and life. Following him came the families of Andrew Santi, Matt Hautala, Thomas Hautala, John Takala, (Eveleth, 1901), Alexander Mutru, (New York, 1901), Ole Tarvas, John Tarvas, (1903, Virginia), Matt Pajala, (1904, Mt. Iron), Matt Tusa, (1904, Ely), Andrew Juutunen, August Kuuhala, Henry Naapila, (1904, Eveleth), Elias Hendrickson, (1905, Eveleth), Paul Waltanen, (1906, Mt. Iron), John Sande, Henry Sande, (1906, Virginia), and many others.
These pioneers moved into this wilderness to start from the ground to make their living. They lived in a somewhat remote area. Iron Junction being the nearest commercial contact, and this was often impossible to get to because of high water conditions. Their livelihood was primarily taken from the timber they could cut and sell. Some of the men worked in the nearby mines, but travel was difficult and impractical. Together these families worked and lived, all realizing the need for spiritual guidance.
With the advent of more families, such as, August Tamminen, Matt Halberg, Elias Katka, Matt Palmas, Andrew Mattson, Victor Latvala, Victor Erickson, John Andersron, John Resula, Matt Koivula, John Hallila, and others, the building of the community progressed. Timber was cut, buildings built, roads leveled, busineses and churches and schools made ready. The wilderness became a thriving community.
The need for a closer spiritual guidance was felt and on May 14th, 1906 at the Matt Pajala farm people gathered to attend a Worship conducted by Pastor Kaarle Salovaara. After the service a meeting was held to organize the Congregation. Since many present were from Alavus Vaasanlaani Finland, the Congregation was named "Alavus Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church." Charter members at this meeting were, Matt Hautala and wife, Thomas Hautala and wife, Elias Hendrickson and wife, Matt Tusa and wife, Elisa Tusa, Paul Waltanen and wife, Matt Pajala and wife, Alexander Mutru, and John Hallila and wife. Officers elected at this meeting were, Chairman, Paul Waltanen, Treasurer, Matt Pajala; and Clerk, Alexander Mutru. Sunday School had been active for some time prior to the organization of the Church, a real indication of the spiritual conscienousness of the people. Elected to teach Sunday School were, Paul Waltanen, Elias Hendrickson, and Matt Hautala.
A second meeting of the congregation took place on May 20, 1906, at which time it was decided to join the Suomi Synod. Pastor Salovaara was elected pastor at a salary of $3.00 per month. He was to serve the congregation once a month. The following new members were received, Andrew Santi and wife, Ero Frantsi and wife.
The Congregation felt it necessary to have a cemetery and purchased one acre of land from Matt Pajala in December 1906. Money taken in from the cemetery has been used to improve the grounds and to plat the land.
The Annual meeting of the Congregation, held on January 6, 1907, elected Officers. Deacons and Trustees. Also elected was a "lukari" or singing director, and Sunday School Teachers. The Financial report showed that the income had been $61.52, expenses $54.52, leaving the Church to begin it's second year with $7.02.
The Church was granted a Charter from the State of Minnesota on June 23, 1908. In this same year the people talked of Building a Church. At this time Matt Pajala donated an acre of land to the Church. The Building program did not materialize until in a special meeting of 1912 it was decided to build. The building was finished that year. It was a small insignificant House of God, but it was a start. In the Spring of 1913 the building Fund had taken in $327.36 and expenses had been $324.60.
In the spring of 1915 an organ was purchased. The lot on which the church stood was bought from Matt Pajala for $25.00. The Church had not located on the lot that he had donated.
Summer school was held for 3 weeks during the summer of 1916. It was this year that the Church pews and pulpit were purchased.
On May 22, 1917, the Congregation become a part of the Minnesota Conference. It had organizationally reached the state which it has today.
The Congregation grew and by October of 1920 the acute shortage of space made necessary the decision to build additional space. This was to be done with voluntary labor. Three years later the congregation decided to put a basement under the church. The work was completed in the Fall of 1924. The additional space had come to cost about $4000.00. This Church was then dedicated September 27-28, 1924.
The year 1922, April, brought the first change in the Parish. Alavus had up to this time belonged to the large Parish with the resident Church in Virginia. This Parish was divided and the Alavus Church remained with the Eveleth Parish. Again in 1943, the Parish of Mt. Iron, Cherry, Kinney was established.
Besides the influence the Church has had upon the local situation, it has also participated in work of a larger scope. The first person to be named collector frm Suomi College in 1909 was Matt Hautala. Since the Congregation has supported faithfully the work of the College and the Synod. Of even greater importance is that it has sent men to serve in the Vineyard of the Lord. The Pastors Carl and Alex Tamminen are local men who have answered the call. Still another who is yet in the preporatory stages of the ministery in Mr. Laurie Issacson. The Congregation continues to pray for more to answer the call.
In 1925 and 1926 fire, lightning and hail, did considerable damage to the Church. These were slight set-backs, which serve to unite and strenghten the spirit of the Congregation. The real blow fell when the Church was destroyed by fire on May 7, 1936. It was a complete ruin and just $1000.00 of it was covered by insurance. This did not break the will of the people ... it was a challenge. Immediately plans were made to reconstruct the Church. An old school house was purchased for $100.00 at Wolf, Minnesota, to be used as the shell of the new Church. A controversy as to the location of the Church arose and a house to house poll was taken. The poll proved that the majority were in favor of the old site. When this was satisfied the Temperance Society offered to reconstruct the old basement, if the congregation would agree to let them use it periodically. This was accepted and the work began. The basement became a temporary Church for some time and finially in 1940 sufficent funds were raised to complete the church. Dedication took place on December 8, 1940.
During it's 50 years of existance, the Congregation has been served by the following Pastors: Kaarle Salovaaro 1906-7, John Wargelin 1907-9 and 1940-3, Pekka Keranen 1909-14, Victor Kuusisto 1914-18, M. E. Merijarvi 1918-1933, Emil Tervo 1933-40, Onni Kononen, 1943-44, Frank Pelkonen, 1944-47, John Saarinen 1947-54, and Karl N. Aho 1954 to present.
The Past Ten Years
Ten years have elapsed since our 40th Anniversary festival was held in May 1947.
Pastor Frank Pelkonen announced his resignation in October, 1947 and left for Marquette, Michigan, on December 31, Seminarian Eli Lepisto served the parish during the summer of 1948. We are very grateful to Pastors Mathias Ruohoniemi, Herman Matero, and Dr. Kononen for their assistance during the time we were without a regular pastor. Pastor John Saarinen was called and accepted to serve the parish in November of 1948.
On March 18, 1951, the name of the church was changed from Alavus Evangelical to Bethel Evangelical. In May of that same year, a new Hammond Eectric organ was purchased and in January of 1952, an oil conversion unit was installed in the furnace.
The pledge system of financing the church budget was adopted in November 1952.
During the summer of 1954, Pastor Saarinen announced his resignation and in October Pastor Karl Aho was elected as acting pastor. He became our regular pastor in March, 1955.
During the year of 1954-55 some improvements were made to the Church owned Cemetery. The area was generally landscaped and the road was widened.
During this time, Mr. John Wiinanen, one of the church leaders who contributed much of his time and talents in the interest of the church, passed away. His passing left a vacancy which has been hard to fill.
As the ranks of our older Finnish speaking members have thinned, the younger generation have taken over. As a sign of the times, the Finnish language is gradually being replaced by English. Services are conducted every Sunday, but only one service a month is in the Finnish language.
Discussion has been held during the past year on enlarging the church and remodeling the entrance, but no action has been taken although a building fund has been started.
There has also been some discussion on forming a new parish. This is a big step and very little has been done in this directon. With our synod now facing a decision of great historical importance, i.e., with what group of Lutheran Churches it will merge, it is expected that many changes will take place in the coming ten years.
Erik and Anna Frantsi
First Finnish family settling in this community in 1898. One of the original founders and charter members of the church. Erik passed away July 14, 1914. Anna passed away December 17, 1937.
Born April 11, 1895 in Finland. Died December 3, 1954 in Iron, Minnesota. Came to America in 1913. Was married in Hibbing in 1915. Came to Cherry in 1924 where he resided continuously. He was on the Board of Trustees and actively worked in the Church. His wife and children reside at Cherry.
Born Oulun Laanissa Finland, 1866. Came to Duluth, Minnesota in 1889. Died at Iron, Minnesota, 1922 at the age of 54.
Maria Elizabeth Rooning
Born in Revon Lahti Finland in 1873. Came to Duluth in 1892. Died at Iron, September 1949. Mr. and Mrs. Erick Rooning moved to Iron in 1914 and both were members of the Cherry Bethel Lutheran Church.
Victor J. Luoma
Born September 13, 1878, Jurva, Finland. Died May 24, 1955. Cherry resident ─ Charter member 1910.
Sanna Maki Nee Takala Luoma
Born August 30, 1879. Died January 10, 1957. Cherry residen ─ Charter member 1910. Active early Laies' Aid and organization of church.
Elias (Rimmi) Hendrickson
was born in Alavus Varsian Laani, Finland, June 17, 1867. Came to America to Ishpeming in 1886. Move to Cherry in 1905. Lived here 44 years. Died at Iorn on June 17, 1944. He was a Charter member.
Born December 18, 1866. Died June 17, 1936. Father.
Born May 19, 1869. Died June 12, 1949. One of the early settlers in Cherry. Charter members of the church.
Born 1888. Died 1943.
Born 1869. Died 1956. Settled in Cherry the year 1921.
John Gust Tamminen
Born June 15, 1867. Died April 21, 1943.
Anna A. Tamminen
Born December 7, 1872. Died November 13, 1953. Both born in Finland, Piikkiio, Turun Laani. Came to America to Eveleth in 1904 and to Cherry in 1910.
Published in Fiftieth Anniversary Festival. "Continue Ye In My Love". 1907-1957. Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church. Cherry Minnesota, p. 5-10.
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