Rev Peter Carlson 1898
Cordelia Lutheran is the oldest Lutheran building in the State of Idaho (established in 1883). The church was home to the first Swedish congregation in Idaho, organized in 1880 by Rev. Peter Carlson. The congregation was known as "The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, Cordelia, Nez Perce County, Idaho Territory" but history has shortened it to Cordelia Lutheran.
The charter member families of the congregation were C.P. Anderson, C.J. Linquist, Isaak Linquist, O. Westendahl, Julius Schumacher, John W. Carlson, Andrew E. Carlson, John Turner, E.G. Peterson, Edwin Peterson, Carl Andrew Hagstrom, and Peter Mortenson.
The basic structure of the church and cemetery remains almost intact in the original state. All but two pews were in the 1883 church. The pulpit was added in 1903. A horse shed and pit toilets were on the property. The cemetery had more graves than the five presently known (four headstones). Several graves were moved when the church stopped holding services in 1918. In 1995, the church was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The first organ was purchased by Rev. Carlson and Carl P. Anderson for $50 and moved from place to place where meetings were held in 1880. It was a reed pump organ, meaning the sound was generated by sucking air through brass reeds. The vacuum was generated by the feet pumping the vacuum bellow and regulated by the knee board, stops, and keyboard. The reed organ was invented in 1835 and was commonly used in homes and small churches from 1860 to 1920. Shortly after the church was disbanded it has been told that part of the organ was sold. It was reported in the Spokane Review on May 30, 1948 that "mice had made shambles of the interior of the little organ, eating the felt padding and ivory keys had been torn away." In 1948 the lid exposing the inside of the organ was made to hinge, but it did not work properly in 1991. Extensive damage to the organ in the summer of 1997 was consistent with someone sitting or falling on it. Structural repairs were made, but damages described in 1948 were extensive and the organ would never play music again. A functional pump organ was donated to Cordelia on April 7, 2007 by John Elwood and Sally Burkhart. The organ was built by Clough and Warren Company of Detroit Michigan in about 1883. The disassembled organ was found in the basement of a Goodwill Store near Bellingham, Washington by their son who restored the instrument. The organ dedication concert was held on September 23, 2007.
The congregation met monthly in member's homes between 1880 and 1883. Rev. Carlson gave Cordelia a new bible at the first service in the new church. Each member brought their bible and a hymnal or a song book with the words to the hymns. We still have the bible and a song book of hymns in Cordelia records. Altar ware included a simple brass cross with a round metal base and two matching candle holders. The base of the cross and candle holders could be detached for easy transport to another location before Cordelia was built. The candle holders continue to be used for Easter Sunrise Services, but the Altar Cross is missing. There should have been a small baptismal bowl and a communion chalice, but these may have been carried by the Pastor. ELCA.org reports "Baptisms were normally private matters 50 years ago in Lutheran Congregations. They were conducted after a Sunday service concluded as a private ceremony for the immediate family and friends of the infant being baptized. Baptisms sometimes even took place in homes instead of the church. Some congregations didn’t even have a baptismal font"- See more at :http://www.elca.org/Living-Lutheran/Seeds/2013/12/131226-Faith-practices-have-changed.
Membership was by subscription where each adult male paid $6.00 and female paid $4.00 annually to attend and cover the pastor's salary. The church took a collection every time they met but it was usually for a special offering like missions or printed material. In 1880, it was common to use collection baskets, but wood plates may have been used. We were missing collection baskets or plates until Rev. David Daugs of Emmanuel Lutheran donated a set of walnut plates in 2014. Worship would have lasted nearly all day on Sunday with hymn singing, scripture readings, preaching, prayers, food, and fellowship. Holy communion was not celebrated at every service and could have been only on Christmas and Easter or irregular intervals when the pastor was available.
The monthly gathering for worship continued after the church was built. Cordelia records indicate members took turns in 3 month blocks preparing the church for worship. Many Lutheran churches of the mid-west had elaborate altars and pulpit furniture by 1890 but Cordelia appears to have remained simple with the addition of a pulpit in 1903. Cordelia's records do not report the purchase of other furniture like a large altar, baptismal font, offering plates, tables or lecterns. It is presumed the lack of additional furniture was due to the small building and budget but the other furniture may not have been reported. Cordelia stopped holding regular services in 1918. The building missed the modern upgrades that occurred in many churches between 1930 and 1950 like carpeting, stain glass windows, and electrification.
Pastors serving Cordelia included Peter Carlson (1880-1892), Carl A. Ramstedt (1892-1894), Carl J. Beckman (1894-1900), N.J.W. Nelson (1900-1909), George A. Johnson (1909-1917), and John Oslund (1917-1918). Pastors serving Cordelia also served Zion Lutheran of Moscow, the old name for First Lutheran now merged into Emmanuel Lutheran.
The church remains open to visitors. We are always looking for historic photos of Cordelia and people involved with Cordelia. Cordelia Lutheran is available for weddings, vow renewals, and family gatherings.