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History of Cooksville Lutheran Church



Cooksville Lutheran Church was formally organized in 1891 when a small group of early settlers adopted a constitution as a member of the Norwegian Lutheran Church.

Many earlier settlers of Cooksville were pioneers from Massachusetts but there were some early settlers with Norwegian Lutheran background desiring a spiritual home. They were making the trip to Stoughton Lutheran Church now known as First Lutheran Church as there was no church in Cooksville.

Reverend Theodor H. Dahl was serving the church. As the Stoughton congregation grew there was a need for a new church. The Cooksville settlers who were attending services in Stoughton were expected to give financial help. When Rev. Dahl called at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Amund Julseth for a contribution; Mrs. Julseth asked if it would be possible to begin a congregation in Cooksville. Rev. Dahl favored the suggestion and promised his active support.

On October 15, 1891 a meeting was held in the Cooksville schoolhouse to discuss the organization of a Cooksville congregation. Twenty one of the twenty three present voted in favor of organizing and building a church in Cooksville.

On November 27, 1891 a meeting was held for hearing reports of the finance and site committees. Everyone present agreed to accept and organize. The constitution of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church was adopted. Rev. T. H. Dahl was to conduct services every third Sunday. All services were in Norwegian. His annual salary was $125.00 with festival offerings.

The Cooksville Lutheran Church was built during the spring and summer of 1892. Four years later on September 18, 1896 the church was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

The loss amounted to $2339.00 which was mostly covered by insurance. With $1800.00 in the treasury the congregation and Rev. Dahl decided to rebuild. The new church was completed in 1897. Rev. Dahl stayed on at Cooksville until Easter Sunday 1903 when he gave his farewell sermon. At this time he had great responsibilities as First Lutheran and he also was the Synod President of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church.

Now Rev. M. H. Hegge was Pastor at First Lutheran Stoughton. He came to serve Cooksville with Norwegian services on Sunday afternoons. He was accompanied by Miss Vinnie Anderson who served as our organist as she was also doing at First Lutheran. Pastor Hegge had been a widower for a number of years.

During these rides a romance developed and he and Vinnie were married in 1925. They adopted 2 children, Paul and Adelaide.

During the earlier years the church served as a social time as well as a spiritual time for the area families. Women were not voting members but played an integral part in helping with the church finances.

The Kvinneforening or the Ladies' Aid Society was formed. The women met in their homes for devotions, fellowship, sewing and served delicious lunches. In the evening the menfolks would join them at this same house for fellowship. They were known as the Young Peoples' Society.

When attending church services in the very early years the men were seated on the west side of the church and the women and children sat on the east side.

The church was heated by a large hand stoked stove situated in the rear of the church on the northeast side. At this time a decision was made to install a furnace to heat the church. In 1930 the church basement was built for $3774.00. The church was moved onto the basement foundation. The church formerly stood just east of present location. A Mr. Johnson and J. R. Jenson of Janesville did the work.

The Kvinneforening voted to help defray the cost of this project. Mrs. Franz Holm suggested at their meeting that they should serve a Norwegian Lutefisk dinner and charge for the meal. The advertised menu and the ads read--
"No birth certificate showing Norse ancestry necessary. Foreigners are welcome." Needless to say the first dinner was a great success and the annual Lutefisk dinner continued on for nearly 40 years.

Each year the amount of food served was greatly increased due to huge crowds who came from miles away. in 1964 about 1200 dinners were served using 1400# Lutefisk, 200# meatballs, 1200# lefse, 37 large kettles of potatoes, 135# butter, 38# coffee, 168 pies, 55 dozen dinner rolls and 255# coleslaw.

Serving was from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. until all were served, sometimes 9 or 10 p.m.

The women of the Ladies' Aid Society and a few men spent many many days in preparation for this annual event. The older women realized they could not keep up this pace as the younger women refused to devote the needed time to make it a success. The last Lutefisk dinner was served in October 1973.

In 1936 Pastor M. H. Hegge now up in years realized all his energies were needed at First Lutheran in Stoughton.

A decision came from the Synod office that a Lutheran Mission Church should be established in Evansville, Wisconsin with Cooksville as the parent church.

On June 21, 1936 Pastor Theodore M. Heimarck of Chicago was called and installed by Synod President J. M. Green to serve the Cooksville-Evansville Parish. Under this new plan Cooksville held a 9:30 service every Sunday. It was voted to dispense with the all Norwegian services.

During Pastor Heimarchk's energetic leadership membership increased. He organized the Alter Guild, Choir and Sunday School. There was a joint venture with St. John's of Evansville for the Luther League and Men's Club. The Ladies' Aid Society had been established for many previous years.

A remodeling project was undertaken when the half circle altar rail was removed and new rail installed. The pulpit was removed and a lectern added, also new lighting, new colored windows in the nave and new pews.

Pastor Heimarck stayed until 1943 when he accepted a call to Red Wing, Minnesota.

Pastor A. M. Romstad was called and installed on May 30, 1942 by Rt. Rev. Martin Anderson, Bishop of the Eastern District.

In the late 1940's more remodeling was done at the church. An entrance on the west side of the church, bathrooms added, new choir room, Pastor's study, new altar and new windows in the church. Lester George was the builder.

During these several months of construction, services were held at the church on the corner. No baptisms were done until we were in the newly remodeled edifice when 6 babies were baptized one Sunday.

Re-Dedication services were on December 3, 1950.

In Pastor Romstad's later years of service and failing health we had three interns to help with Parish duties. Gary Flatgard came in 1959 from Luther Theological seminary, followed by Richard Matson and in 1964 Noel Vold served us.

Pastor Romstad retired in 1964.

In 1964 once again the Synod office stepped in and decided the Cooksville-Evansville was no longer practical as now the Evansville congregation had 800 members. They were now to be on their own.

Evansville St. John called Rev. Orlo Espeland as their pastor. He served Cooksville until District President Myron Austinson asked Cooksville to join with Brooklyn Lutheran as a 2-point parish.

Rev. Cyrl Jandery was called and installed December 6, 1964. During his tenure the Cooksville congregation approved the remodeling of the church entrance on the north end. The $15,000.00 project was started in the spring of 1966. The outside steps were removed and a rise was built on the inside. The steeple was removed and replaced, new electric heating installed and additional seating for 25 people added. Jandrey left in 1978.

In the first 87 years only 5 pastors had served Cooksville.

Pastor Elizabeth Druckery came to the Brooklyn-Cooksville parish serving 1980-1984.

Pastor Elizabeth Zentner served both congregations from 1985-1987. In 1987 a decision was made not to affiliate as a Brooklyn-Cooksville Parish after some bumpy times. The Brooklyn congregation decided no the retain Pastor Zentner. However, she remained at Cooksville until October 1991 when we celebrated our 100th anniversary.

During these next few years we were ably served by interim pastors - Kenneth Tansor, Herbert Lang and Brad Pohlman.

Pastor Richard Horst served as a 3/4 time pastor 1992-1995 when he retired to Florida.

Pastor Rodney Nordby was installed as a full time pastor on September 8, 1996.

Pastor Margo Martens was installed as a full time pastor in November 2003 and remained as pastor until 2011. During her years at Cooksville Lutheran, a commitment was made to pursue making the building barrier-free. Fundraising began, ground-breaking began in 2009.  The beautiful addition that now houses the lift and "light-filled" fellowship area, staff offices, restrooms and sacristy was completed in 2010 and paid off by the following year.


Pastor Katya Ouchakof was called in 2013, following the interim leadership of Pastor John Shep.  Average worship attendance in 1996 had been 64, but had dropped to a weekly average of 46, prompting the congregation to vote to return to part-time ministry. 


In 2016, Pastor Karla Brekke was called to this congregation after serving a year as interim pastor.  It was to be her fifth and final call -- she retired December 31, 2020.

2021 brought Cooksville Lutheran Church to a new call process for a new Pastor, and we enjoyed the pastoral care of our former pastor, Rev. Rod Nordby for most Sundays all year, both in person and virtually while COVID continued to make changes necessary for the safety of the congregation and staff.


In January 2022, new seminary graduate Elizabeth Lippke-Ganzel was called. She was formally ordained in March and was officially installed at Cooksville Lutheran Church as our 2/3 time pastor on May 22, 2022. 

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