This Abandoned Church in Elmdale, MN is a Mystery to Local Historians
I spend my summer driving through the small town of Elmdale. It is my half-way point for getting to the lake from St. Cloud. Even though I have been driving through for years, I just recently made it a point to stop and take a few photos of the abandoned Lutheran church in the town. I stopped by on a sunny Sunday in late August to get more than a passing glance at it.
I learned that the church was constructed in 1919, and that's about it. There is no indication of when this church stopped holding services, and the only other indicator of time was the adjoining cemetery.
Someone has been maintaining the grounds of the cemetery and church, as it was mowed and trimmed when I was there, but I wanted to learn more about it so I reached out to the Morrison County Historical Society.
I heard back from Grace Duxbury, the Museum Assistant, who informed me that the church was a Danish Lutheran Church. But not much else was known about this church that sits in a small town surrounded by fields and farms.
What really stuck out to me was the stone wreaths that sat on top of multiple gravesites in the cemetery. I asked Grace about those as well and she said:
Typically in funeral iconography a wreath symbolizes triumph over death, but these examples are so unlike the typical funeral wreath you see. I tried looking into Danish funeral customs but couldn’t find anything there either. I’ve personally heard of stone wreaths standing in for live ones so that they last, but I couldn’t say for sure if that was the reasoning here.
These wreaths laid at the top of the sites, acting as headstones. I thought they were really cool and interesting, but I just can't seem to find any more information on them.
If you know more about the Elmdale Lutheran Church or the importance of these stone wreaths, please reach out to me! Until then I guess I will just have to stop at the Elmdale Watering Hole and ask the locals.
After posting this story, a comment was spotted on the "All Roads Lead to Upsala" Facebook page from Charlie Gunderson:
My Great Grandfather Knute Hans Gunderson. Came from Denmark to Minnesota in 1867 spent some time in St. Cloud. Came to Elmdale in about 1869-70. The Church that is referenced in is post was started May 1, 1871. The first Church building was built soon after that date. Burned down in 1918 the story is a grass fire got away. The present building was built in 1919. The building cost $8000.00 to build and was dedicated has debt-free house of worship.
Charlie went on to share that services were held there until 1958, and The Cemetery Assn. was started in 1965 was organized for the purpose of caring for cemetery and Church property, of which Charlie is the current president.
If you have even more information, go ahead and email it to me and I will add it to this article. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Abandoned Church in Elmdale is a Mystery to Local Historians
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