Jan. 1, 2007

A bustling village in Bergen Township

By Jenni Sebora

Many townships had, at one time, bustling settlements or villages that were begun or “discontinued” because of the railroad.

One of those settlements for Bergen Township was Brush Prairie. The center of the township, Brush Prairie was the first settlement in the township.

And current Bergen Township supervisor and lifetime resident of Bergen Township, Albert (Sonny) Teubert believes the little village got its start in about the year 1859.

Brush Prairie was located about three miles south of the present City of Lester Prairie in section 22, (known as the Marvin Huser farm), just north of the Norwegian cemetery, across the road at the intersection of the roads.

As things changed and the railroad went through, Lester Prairie was formed, and that was the end of Brush Prairie as it was, Teubert noted.

And “as it was,” Brush Prairie was a thriving little settlement that consisted of a general store, a blacksmith, a school, the Swedish church, the Town Hall and a post office. The little village even had its own baseball team and field.

The post office, established in 1867, was actually located in the general store with Ole A. Dolven taking the “reigns” as the first post master.

Although the post office in Brush Prairie was the first in Bergen Township, there was a second post office in the township that was established just a few months after the Brush Prairie post office.

Both post offices were discontinued in 1883, but the Bergen post office was reestablished in 1887 and discontinued again about a year later. With a post office up and running in Lester Prairie in 1886 and bridges then built to allow resident to travel across the rivers, settlers could get to Lester Prairie.

Bergen Township has a rolling terrain with two major waterways passing through it, the south branch of the Crow River and the Buffalo Creek. It also has what was known as Brush Lake near Brush Prairie.

Brush Prairie was also the location of the first town hall in the township.

Before the year 1874, supervisors’ meetings were held either at the clerk’s home or another board member’s home or at the site of a project that was being discussed. The annual meetings were held at one of the country school houses.

It was decided at a special meeting in June 1879, by a close margin, that the township purchase the C.P. Lindstrom store building in Brush Prairie to be used as the town hall as the store was discontinuing service.

In 1911, the town board received notice that the lease of the town hall site had expired, and the building must be moved.

At the annual meeting in March, 1911, the motion carried to purchase land from Andrew Anderson and build a new hall. Thus, a new town hall was built using what lumber they could from the old building that was taken down.

In 1913, the township supervisors were permitted to rent out the hall for public speakers and lectures. Still today, the same town hall continues to be used f or township business as well as by other organizations, such as the local 4-H club.

Although Brush Prairie was the first settlement in Bergen Township, the first church in the township did not exist there.

In the 1850s and 1860s, Bergen Township became the new home for many Norwegian settlers, and was even named after the city of Bergen in Norway.

In 1859, these Norwegian settlers formed a religious corporation under the name Bergen Norsk Evangelical Lutheran Church.

From 1873-1877, a church building was constructed by a newly formed congregation. A parsonage as well as a school building was built shortly after. Both the parsonage and church burned down on different occasions, and a new church was built in 1896.

In 1965, members realized with declining membership the congregation could no longer survive. Thus, the congregation decided to relocate to Lester Prairie and build a new church, Bethel American Lutheran Church.

Among other churches in the township, the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in Brush Prairie in 1870.

The church was built in 1873 and is located on a site on the old Lester Prairie-Glencoe road. As there was never a sufficient number of Swedes in this area to assure growth of the church and when members left the community, the congregation dissolved.

In 1960, Oscar Burtman bequeathed money for the maintenance and upkeep of the church and cemetery.

As Brush Prairie no longer exists as a prospering settlement, remnants, buildings and memories of the small settlement continue to stand.

Source: The majority of the information for this article was obtained from the Lester Prairie Community Centennial book, 1886 – 1986.

The book was researched and written by Barbara and Milan Dammann with the help of Stanley, Charlotte and Sheldon Ehrke.

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