Bethania Lutheran Church

Founded: 13/12/1896 Current Use: Other, museum

1896, Ladies Aid formed with primary goal of building a church closer to community. Originally built for the Norwegian farm community of Northwood, ND. 1900, First church burned 1901, present church completed 1903, Østen Pladson (1846-1914) carved altar and railings. A native of Nes, Hallingdal, Norway, he developed an interest in wood prior to emigration. After spending 10 years in Northwood, Iowa, where he arrived in 1868, the family emigrated to the Red River Valley in the Dakota Territory, settling in Traill County, North Dakota where he worked near the communities of Hatton and Northwood. A gifted cabinet maker and church builder, €œover a span of ten years, he constructed the altars, and sometimes the baptismal fonts, pulpits, and railings for six of the Lutheran churches in the area: Goose River in 1894, Little Forks in 1897, Washington Prairie in 1898, Bethany in 1899, West Union in about 1902, and Bethania in 1903.€ He may be responsible for work in 26 more (Teie 2013: 25). Pladson combined acanthus and plant motifs using €œturned work, bandsaw work, moldings and fretwork€ to create what the authors of the 1978 Vesterheim catalog on Norwegian-American woodcarvers describe as €œthe Byzantine opulence of Pladson‘s church interiors€ (Henning et al, 1978, 17). His crowning achievement was the altar frame and railing he built in 1903 for the Norwegian American farming community of Bethania Lutheran Church west of Northwood. 1992, Congregation closed and building/furnishings moved to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. “Much more than just a place of worship, it was the site of activities ranging from church suppers and charity auctions to youth groups and weddings. The church furnishings are original, including the altarpiece and railing by pioneer woodworker Østen Pladson and the altar painting by immigrant August Klagstad. The congregation gave Vesterheim the chancel furnishings by Pladson and Klagstad. Vesterheim purchased the pews, other original furnishings, and the building.” (Vesterheim website)

Historic Name: Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church

Craftspeople/Artists: August Klagstad, altar painting; Østen Pladson, altarpiece and railingAugust Klagstad, altar painting; Østen Pladson, altarpiece and railing

References: Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, Bethania Lutheran Church, Teie, William C., Andrew John Teie, Julie Pladson Stroh, and Judy R. Craig. €œTheir Churches.€ In The Pladsons of Newburgh Township. Deer Valley Press, 2013. Henning, Darrell D., Marion J. Nelson, and Roger L. Welsch. Norwegian-American Wood Carving of the Upper Midwest. An exhibition assembled by Vesterheim, the Norwegian-American Museum, Decorah, Iowa, 1978.

Preservation Group: Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum

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