Early Pioneers Form a Religious Community

In 1873, religious services in a community of Swedish settlers began when Rev. John F. Wretlof, a 29 year old preacher from Boone, IA, arrived near the Sioux River in Sioux Township, Lyon County, IA. Pastor Wretlof was born Dec. 26, 1843, in Göteborg, Sweden, and had immigrated from Sweden, August 3, 1864. He came to Rock Rapids, IA, on the stage in May 1873, transferred onto a mail wagon to Larchwood, IA. He then set out on foot across the open prairie, in search of Swedish settlers that he had heard lived in this region. After walking most of the day in the tall prairie grass, he heard a dog barking in the distance and followed the sounds of activity to the Jackson dugout along the Big Sioux River, about one and a half miles southwest of Granite, IA. He stayed with the Jacksons for a few days and met with other Swedish pioneers in the area, sharing God’s Word in preaching, song and prayer.

These settlers introduced him to more Swedes, taking him to the North into Dakota Territory (they tied the cow on the wagon and took her along so they’d know where to find her after the trip), where Pastor Wretlof eventually started two more congregations; The Beaver Valley Lutheran Church, of Valley Springs, SD and Swedona Mission (Covenant) Church, north of Brandon, SD. Pastor Wretlof soon brought his bride of one year, the former Augusta Johnson, to the community, and they homesteaded near Valley Springs, SD.

Various traveling missionaries from Dakota Territory/South Dakota also visited the region regularly from the early beginnings of the community. Organized mission meetings were held in the woods for the next 39 years at John and Johanna Longs’ on the IA side of the Sioux River, Peter and Anna Newbergs’ on the Dakota side of the river, and Isaac and Carrie Swansons. Families met in a school house for about 31 years, near John Longs, with Rev. Wretlof coming about every third Sunday to lead the worship service, as well as meeting in other homes near the Sioux River. Mrs. Isaac Swanson usually gave him lodging while he was in the community in the early years.

As years passed, the number of people increased on the land, including more immigrants from Sweden, allowing the religious community to grow. From about 1904 to 1914, the religious meetings were held in the homes and groves of: Axel and Olga Bonander’s northeast of Granite, Charles and Emma Long south of Granite, Martin and Anna Ruud’s southwest of Granite, and Charles and Anna Swanson east of Granite.

The Grand View Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Church - estab. 1912

On August 3, 1912, the Grand View Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Church of Granite, Iowa was organized in the home of Charles and Anna Swanson on section 21 of Sioux township, under the supervision of Rev. Wretlof. Five families were the foundation of this congregation. The first members included: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Long, Cecelia Martin and Willie, Mr. and Mrs. August Swanson, Mr. and Mrs. Charles T. Swanson and Mabel, and Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Swanson and sons Swan, Edward and Anton, a group of 15 members with Rev. Wretlof. Rev. Wretlof was elected chairman, L.C. Meberg, acting secretary; and more families joined the congregation. A subscription list was circulated by the members, for support in the building of a church. Trustees; August Swanson, Charles Swanson and Swan Swanson were commissioned by the congregation to build a church, one and one half miles southwest of Granite, on an acre of ground donated by Swan Swanson.

Children's Christmas programs were held in 1912 and 1913 at the Charles T. Swanson home. The gatherings for these Christmas programs lasted until 3 or 4 a.m., before the wagons and sleighs headed on their way home in the early hours of the day. (There had been several programs in the community in the past as well.) Rev. Wretlof had started instructing the first confirmation class of 7 members, which was confirmed in the new church in 1914.

Anna (Mrs. C.T.) Swanson conceived the idea of forming a Ladies’ Aid society. On March 18, 1913, the ladies of the community were gathered at the Swanson home, under the direction of Rev. Wretlof, to meet every other week with Mrs. Swanson as their first president. The society held large dinners for the community and invited others of the region to their fundraisers. Their income was said to be several hundred dollars a year, used for local and missionary purposes. This group did much sewing, including making a large blue block quilt with a yellow star in each square. People paid to have their names sewn in red on points of the yellow stars. The Ladies' Aid auctioned the quilt off and it was bought by Charlie Long for $60.00, and was lost in a fire at the home. (In 1982, the societies name was changed to Covenant Women.)

A constitution was adopted and the church was given the name of The Grand View Swedish Mission Church of Granite, IA, affiliated with the Swedish Christian Missionary Society of South Dakota. Erected during 1913 - 1914, a stone foundation supported the gothic, stained glass windowed church with the grand staircase leading up to the front doors. The new church building was 26 x 48 ft. in size, comprised of eight rooms with a front arched auditorium with a slanted floor and a furnished basement. It was meant to hold about 200 people. The building was lighted with gas and heated with a hot air furnace. Upstairs, furnishings were procured including the beautiful altar oil painting (for $113.) “Ascension” and a piano, won in a contest by Mabel Swanson for the church. The total cost of the church was $5,094.14, most of which was paid before it’s dedication, on Sunday, May 31, 1914. Before a large gathering of people, this church was dedicated to be a House of God, to worship Him in, and to be a spiritual light, full of warmth and guidance of the people, with the hope that many may find their soul’s salvation. Rev. Wretlof, Rev. O. H. Miller of Stockholm, SD, and Rev. K.O. Axelson, South Dakota traveling missionary, all took part in the dedication services, setting the church aside for its most high and holy mission.

The Sunday School was organized by Pastor Wretlof, on April 26, 1914. Miss Mabel Swanson was the first superintendent and over the years many faithful superintendents, teachers and students have been active in making it a vital part of our church through song, lessons, special programs and summer Bible School.

In 1918, with old age approaching, Rev. Wretlof, was aided by Rev. Emil Bergren from Swedona Mission church to give pastoral aid. He would motor down from Swedona about every other Sunday to preach an afternoon service. In 1919, a seminary student, Rev. Arvid Carlson from North Park College in Chicago, IL, was called for the summer. He also interchanged with Rev. Bergren in preaching in Swedona and Salem, SD churches. Rev. Wretlof resigned, March 24, 1919, and only months later, on December 1, 1919, our faithful shepherd and minister of 46 years passed away in his home in Brandon, SD. May there always be a Peace of Christian Love over his memory.

A parsonage was conceived by the congregation and about 2 acres of ground (the former Quist place in the NW corner of Granite) owned by C. T. Swanson, was considered a good central location in the community. Rev. Bergren commissioned the trustees; August Swanson, C. T. Swanson, and Ed Swanson to purchase this land and a deed was recorded and improvements on the house were made.

The church got its first resident pastor, Rev. R. A. Larson, from Worthington, MN, who came with his family, June 9, 1921. At this time he brought about the church opening to the English language, with morning Swedish services and evening English services. Rev. Larson also organized the Young People Society in 1921 with Emil Swanson as the first chairman. This group started out meeting weekly for teachings and social time in area Christian homes. After three years Rev. Larson preached his farewell sermon Sunday, July 13, and left Granite, July 22, 1924, for Buffalo, NY.

Successors to the pulpit at Grandview were Rev. Samuel Hogander, The Rev. Charles Carlson and the Rev. Herman Carlson, who resigned in 1930. During the vacancy which followed his resignation the church was visited occasionally by different pastors. Rev. Bergren, at this time fieldsman of the South Dakota District, assisted the church considerably as did Rev. Raymond A. Johnson. Rev. H. R. Jacobson began his ministry in the spring of 1934, and served the Grandview and Swedona churches jointly. In 1946, Rev. France Ericson took charge and in the same year the church joined the Northwest Conference but remained in the South Dakota District.

Rev. David Kline accepted the call as full-time pastor in 1950. In 1952, he was succeeded by Rev. Ralph Powell as supply preacher. In 1953, Robert Fuchs (Fox), a student of the Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls, took over the pastorate. Rev. France Ericson resumed duties as interim pastor in 1955.

A Martha Missionary Circle was organized in 1955, in the home of Mrs. Ethel Palmberg, who was elected the first president. Its activities included projects such as sewing for the mission fields, childrens and retirement centers. They have sponsored various students in foreign countries and after 30 years of faithful service their responsibilities were turned over to the Covenant Women.

Grandview Covenant Church of Larchwood, IA - estab. 1958

Rev. Paul Nelson served Grandview from 1957-1965. During this time a new constitution was adopted in January 1958, establishing the church name as the Grandview Covenant Church of Larchwood, IA. During the next 12 years, the church was served by students of the Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls, they were: David Samf (Sems), Jerry Edinger, Gale O’Neil, David Ehman and David Rushton. From 1977 to 1980, Dr. Ralph Powell returned to Grandview, assisted by John Ziulkowski, another seminary student.

The AWANA Youth Club, was started in 1975. It reached out to all denominations. When this group started, they met once a week during the school year in the Larchwood Gym. Volunteer leaders and helpers prepared a very spiritual and enjoyable evening for the boys and girls of the community. The AWANA club dissolved for a time but has become active again since 2002. The Awana program was reinstituted in an effort to teach community youth about the Bible. Evening meetings are held at the Larchwood Recreation Center.

Terry Lundquist, a graduate of North Park Seminary, served 1980-1981. Dr. Ralph Powell returned in 1981 to serve as our faithful and conscientious pastor, assisted by Baptist Seminary students: Harold Schroeder, Michael Campbell, Scott MacDonald and Tim Friez.

Modernization and improvements have come to the church as the years have passed. New electrical and pluming brought lights, improved kitchen facilities and restrooms. On May 25, 1941, the congregation had electric lights for the first time at our evening services. Pews, replacing the folded theater chairs and a new pulpit were installed in April of 1962. The pews and new pulpit were a memorial gift in honor of Carl J. Johnson. An addition was built onto the back giving room for another classroom and later office. Evergreen trees were planted to surround and protect the church on top of the highest point in Lyon County. In 1983, an addition was built, expanding the sanctuary to provide seating for an additional one hundred people, adding space for a new entry, Sunday school rooms, and a reception area in the fellowship hall in the basement. Dedication services were held November 20, 1983. Carl and Tracy Dieters donated land to the East and ample parking and a garage was added to the church grounds for the growing church.

The church celebrated their 75th anniversary September 12-13, 1987, when there were 32 families having membership. The church was active with Covenant Women, Sunday School, a Young People group, Daily Vacation Bible School, and the Awana Youth Club.

Constitution and By-Laws Revised in 1988

Constitution and By-Laws of the church were revised Sept. 25, 1988. The purpose of this church is to unite believers in fellowship for spiritual edification, for the winning of sinners to Christ, and for the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ through home and world missions.

Following those before, with faithful service to Grandview were, Rev. Jack Brooks, Rev. Heidi Wiebe and Pastor Harriet Shelton. The last two graduates of North Park Covenant Seminary. Pastor Hans Eric Nelson, another North Park Graduate served the congregation from 2002 to 2004 followed by Pastor Penny Nance and Steve Corum. Arriving in February 2015, current Pastor, Richard Gordon is serving members and the faithful attending from South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

We are happy to celebrate history that is past, experience that is present, and hope and assurance that is our future. Praise be to God for our heritage.