In 1854 and 1855 many Norwegian families from Landsprestjield, Norway, migrated to the United States and settled east and south of what is now Fountain, MN. These immigrants had enjoyed Christian fellowship in Norway, so they gathered to worship God in their homes. As they had no pastor to lead them, one of the men, usually Syvert Peterson or Knut Knutson, would read the Scriptures and a sermon from a Norwegian sermon book. They would pray and sing together.
Missing the ministry of an ordained pastor, this group was able to secure the services of Rev. A.A. Scheie of Newberg, north of Mabel, a pastor with the Norwegian Lutheran Augustana Synod, in approximately 1860. Traveling by horse and buggy was slow, so Rev. Scheie could only come four or five times per year. During his visits, he was busy preaching, teaching, marrying people and administering the sacraments of baptism and communion.
This growing group of Lutherans in time hired fellow Norwegian Peter Volden to teach the children reading, writing, Bible lessons and the Catechism. Most of the teaching went on in the homes with some in a log school house and was conducted exclusively in Norwegian. They also did a lot of singing. Music has long been a special emphasis here.
Also in 1854 another group of Norwegians from Sigdar, Holening and Gulbrandsdalen districts in Norway settled on Root Prairie north and east of present Fountain, MN. This group also chose to meet for Christian fellowship in their homes until in 1856 they were able to secure the services of Rev. F.C. Clausen of Spring Grove, MN, and established Root Prairie Lutheran Church, a member of the Norwegian Synod. In 1887 Root Prairie and North Prairie withdrew from the Norwegian Synod and joined the Antimissourians. In 1890, the Antimissourians, the Konferentsen and the Augustana Synod united to become the Norwegian Lutheran United Church.
As a result of the merger, the group north of Fountain and the group south of Fountain were now members of the same synod. Because the Root Prairie group had a building erected in 1863 and a pastor, Rev. P.R.O. Olson at that time, many of the southern Lutherans attended church at Root Prairie. The Rev. N. Arveson was called to serve Root Prairie in 1894.
But the distance to Root Prairie was quite great for those who lived south of Fountain. Also, some of the members living in Fountain did not have any transportation to reach the church. Conversations began about the possibility of starting a congregation in the village of Fountain.
On January 23, 1904, a group of eight men met at the home of Knut Knutson, two and a half miles southeast of Fountain, later the Maynard Underbakke place, and currently Spruce Pine Farms. With the help of Rev. N. Arveson, pastor at Root Prairie and North Prairie Lutheran Churches, they sang a hymn, read Scripture and had a prayer, and organized Fountain Lutheran Church, adopting an initial constitution. Elected trustees were Syvert Peterson, Ludvig Erickson, and John Solie; secretary was D.J. Danielson; and treasurer was Andrew H. Peterson. Also present at that first meeting were Peter H. Peterson and Knut Knutson, of course.
Fountain Lutheran was formed with 30-35 members, and the original Ladies Aid had 15 charter members. On February 3, 1904, a committee from Fountain Lutheran met with committees from Whalen Lutheran Church of Whalen and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Peterson to form a parish and call a pastor. They called Rev. N. Arveson to be their pastor, but Rev. Arveson had moved to St. Olaf, Iowa, and could not travel to the area often. It was decided to call Rev. J.A. Erickson as assistant pastor to carry on the main burden of the work. But Rev. Erickson was unable to come at once, so Rev. A. Wright of Rushford served as interim pastor for about six months. Rev. Erickson was Fountain’s first resident pastor, but he only stayed about a year, having met his future wife here.
Worshiping in Norwegian, the group started meeting in the Fountain English Methodist Church building until they could acquire their own building. It had been decided to have English services occasionally, but no English was ever preached until some time in the early 1920s. Eventually, English was used for alternating services, and then exclusively.
The first organist and choir director was Clara (Mrs. John) Solie. Land was donated by Syvert Peterson to establish a cemetary. One of his sons, two children of teacher Peter Volden, and others were the first buried there, in the far east end of the present Fountain Lutheran Cemetary.
Rev. Arveson led a congregational meeting on February 7, 1905, at which a new constitution was formally adopted. The name chosen at that time was Fountain Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation.
A building committee was established on February 21, 1905, to plan a building and purchase a lot. On April 3, 1905 architect and contractor John O. Solie was given a $3,200 contract to erect a church building, and on October 25, 1905, the building was dedicated with Dr. M.O. Bockman, professor at the United Church Seminary in St. Paul, officiating.
Rev. T.E. Sweger served the parish from 1905 to 1907. In 1906 a one month summer Parochial School was begun for the children. A half acre of land was purchased from John Peterson to enlarge the cemetary, and on August 11, 1907, the new cemetary was dedicated. Rev. J.A. Hellestevdt of La Crosse, WI, served as interim pastor from 1907 to 1908, and Rev. O.H. Lee served from 1908 to 1910.
The original cost of the church building amounted to $4,800. Additional expenses for furnishings and other items of $1,200 brought the debt to $6,000. It is no surprise that there was great rejoicing when the debt was retired in under five years! Numerous fund-raising efforts on the part of the Ladies’ Aid helped to accomplish this, including ten cent lunches, necktie and basket socials, bazaars, and piecing quilts which sold for as high as $80. On February 10, 1910, a thanksgiving service, social, and luncheon were held to celebrate the retirement of the debt.
On October 13, 1910, Fountain Lutheran voted to withdraw from the Paterson/Whalan alignment to become a three-point parish with Spring Valley and Root Prairie Lutheran Churches. Services were held every other Sunday at 2 p.m. Early Sunday school classes met at the church or occasionally at the John & Clara Solie home.
Rev. N.A. Giere was called in 1910 and served for twenty-one years, resigning due to poor health in 1931. During his ministry, the three Norwegian synods in the U.S.A., the United Church, The Synod, and the Hauges, merged to form the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, which then became the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Rev. John Ritland served from 1932 to 1942, and on February 6, 1934, the women of the church age 21 and over were granted the vote. In 1936 the furst Lutefisk Supper was held by the Ladies’ Aid, starting an annual tradition which lasted over twenty years. In 1941, 320 people attended.
1942-1973 Dr. C.C.A. Jensen served as interim pastor, and the envelope system was adopted. Rev. Erling A. Nilssen served from 1943 to 1946. During his ministry, the sanctuary was redecorated, a new coal burning furnace was installed, and 585 people attended the Lutefisk Supper.
In 1946 Fountain withdrew from the Spring Valley/Root Prairie alignment and became a two-point parish with Grace Lutheran Church of Presont (then St. Paul’s English Lutheran Church). For a time, pastoral services were covered by Rev. P.J. Nestande of Lanesboro, Rev. N.O. Peterson of Minneapolis, and students from the seminar in St. Paul.
Starting in 1946, for the first time in the congregation’s history, services were held every Sunday. Also in 1946 the one month summer Parochial School was changed to a two week Vacation Bible School with teachers hired from the seminar or college or local folks. At this time Fountain Lutheran Church became a member of the Fillmore Circuit.
1947-1955 saw the services of Rev. Richard J.S. Vordale, who lived in the Grace Lutheran Church parsonage in Preston. During his tenure, about 1000 people attended the annual Lutefisk Supper, the exterior was repainted, the sanctuary nave was redecorated in 1950, a new electronic organ was purchased in 1951, new stained-glass windows were installed in the sanctuary in 1953, and a new constitution was adopted in 1954. The 50th anniversary was celebrated on November 28, 1954, with worship, free dinner, afternoon service, and supper.
Clara (Mrs. John) Solie was the original organist and choir director, serving for 45 years, from 1904 till 1949, before resigning due to poor health. In 1949 Donna (Mrs. Duane) Rustad took over as organist and choir director and served for 50 years until 1999 and again from 2000 till 2008.(?)
Rev. Philip Hansen served the two-point parish of Fountain Lutheran and Grace Lutheran in Preston from 1955 to 1958. In 1956 approximately 900 people attended the Lutefisk Supper, but in 1958 none was held and each family was asked to donate $15 instead.
In 1958, Fountain Lutheran decided to “go it alone,” called Rev. Walter Aamoth who served til 1961, and a contract was given to Ludwig Johnson and John Nelson to build a parsonage. The parsonage committee consisted of six men and two women, and the parsonage was dedicated on June 14, 1959, with Dr. E.C. Reinertson, president of the Southern Minnesota District of the E.L.C., officiating. 1959-60 included the remodeling of the church kitchen with the installation of two restrooms.
The 1961 merger of Lutheran synods saw the formation of the American Lutheran Church of which Fountain Lutheran Church was a member. The Ladies’ Aid became the Fountain Lutheran Church Women, and four Circles were formed.
Rev. M. Kaatrud served from 1961 to 1962, and in 1962 Fountain voted to align with Christ Lutheran in Preston (a congregation formed by the merger of Grace Lutheran and St. Paul’s Lutheran in Preston). Rev. Leander Brakke was called as resident pastor for Fountain and assistant pastor for Christ Lutheran and served from 1962 to 1969.
The sixtieth anniversary was celebrated in 1964, and a new Baldwin piano was purchased for the sanctuary.
In 1966 Fountain Lutheran and Root Prairie Lutheran voted to join and become a two-point. This lasting relationship remains today.
Rev. Gustav B. Odegaard served from 1969 to 1974, and in 1973 the kitchen was remodeled and new appliances purchased. Rev. Paul Nelson served from 1974 to 1978.