Cokato Museum’s church display identifies area churches that have come and gone; features memorabilia from existing churches
By Kristen Miller
St. Ignatius, Sunrise Congregational, and Hy-Way Lighthouse for Christ are just three of the churches in the Cokato area that once were active congregations, but little has been recorded of them.
“When the church closed, so did the records,” commented Cokato Museum Director Mike Worcester. “We don’t know who were members of the congregation, who may have been married there, and who was buried there.”
The Cokato Museum staff is hoping that will soon change as it works to resurrect and expand the museum’s church display.
“By expanding the space for that display, we were able to highlight the lesser-known congregations in the area, and there are quite a few of them,” Worcester said.
Some of the disbanded churches, which folks either have little recollection of or never heard of at all are:
• Rice Lake Lutheran Church of Stockholm Township;
• Sunrise Congregational Church in French Lake Township;
• St. Ignatius Catholic Church of French Lake Township;
• Crow River Mission Covenant Church of Cokato,
• Hy-Way Lighthouse for Christ of Cokato Township, and;
• St. Siegfrid’s Episcopal Church of Cokato Village.
Because there are so few records, the only known date was the closing of St. Siegfrid’s in 1927. This church was located directly across from Elim Mission Church, where the Cokato Corn Carnival memorial is, on Fourth and Broadway.
Some of these churches have cemeteries, which could help determine when members would’ve been buried there.
For example, St. Ignatius Catholic Church’s cemetery is located on Wright County Road 37, about a mile east of French Lake.
The museum has a list of those buried there, with the first burials starting as early as the 1870s. It is believed that the cemetery is still being used by St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Maple Lake.
On that list, one can find many of the original settlers of the French Lake area, “who were most definitely not of Swedish or Finnish descent,” Worcester pointed out.
Names like Chevalier and O’Loughlin indicate the settlers were of French Canadian and Irish descent, as well as Belgian. Other names on the list include Fashant, Maurice, O’Connor, and Rehaume.
What’s really interesting about these lost churches is how fascinating the congregations were and how they reflected the demographic makeup of those early settlers, Worcester explained.
Sunrise Congregational Church was popular among some of the new settlers of New England, Worcester explained, adding that Carlton College in Northfield was founded by the congregational church.
Hy-way Lighthouse for Christ Church was located west of Cokato on Highway 12, where the west side lift station is. The church was run by a husband-and-wife team, Earl and Doris Hayes.
On the church sign on the building it was described as “undenominational.”
Worcester described it as the rural version of the storefront churches that can be seen in larger cities.
The building was removed in the mid-1990s.
Photos of these disbanded churches are on display as part of the revamped church exhibit, along with contrasting past and present photos of the existing area churches.
Also on display are a number of anniversary memorabilia and other items from the museum collection, which will be rotated through.
Photographs of congregations have also been popular. To contrast, there are two photos on display of church congregations one from Stockholm Lutheran Church in 1936, and the other from Grace Lutheran taken in 1998.
Recently donated to the museum is an old-style elevator pulpit. Though it’s not from the area, it is typicalDisbanded churches in the Dassel area
Some of the known, yet obscure churches in the Dassel area in which the Dassel Area Historical Society has little records of are:
• Maynard Lake Swedish Methodist Church of Dassel Township
• Seventh Day Adventist Church, located south of Highway 12 and west of Dassel in Dassel Township.
• South Kingston Mission Church earliest records are from 1887 and the latest records are from 1957
• First Swedish Independent Baptist Church of Collinwood, also known as the Pioneer Church built in 1893, the church remains standing on 190th Street. A committee was formed in 1960 to care for the church premises and cemetery.