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Account: Swedish Free Church
of North Crow River

1874:  Birch Lake School, District 92, was established.  District 92 included French Lake Township Sections 25, 27, 28, 33, 34, 35, 36 and the W1/2 of SE1/4; SE1/4; and W1/2 of Section 26, Township 120, Range 28.  The schoolhouse is located six miles north of Cokato on Wright County Road 3. 

1882:  Mrs. Mary Satterquist (1828-1920) and five children emigrated from Sweden and came to an 80-acre farm property in French Lake Township, Section 34.  Their farm was just across the road north of Birch Lake School.

c. 1890:   About 1890 was the estimated time that the church was built on Satterquist property and services began.  The North Crow River Free Church was built on a hill very near Birch Lake School.  Early services were probably held in the Birch Lake schoolhouse.

1894:  The first burial in the cemetery was that of the oldest Satterquist son, Olaf.

1900:  Birch Lake receded enough that the road (present-day County Road 3) was moved west of the church.  The present driveway to the church was constructed.  (The road from Cokato to French Lake had previously gone around the lake just east of the church.)

1909:  Peter and Louis Satterquist legally recorded the transfer of three-fourths acre for church and cemetery property to Swedish Free Church of North Crow River.  System of gas lights was installed.

February 22, 1909:  The Swedish Free Church of North Crow River in the township of French Lake was incorporated on Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1909.  The trustees were Peter Carlson, Peter Satterquist, Louis Satterquist, C. J. Brown, Louis J. Nyholm, Lars Mattson and J.J. Nyholm.

Lighting for the church was by kerosene lamps on the sidewalls until about 1909 when a system of gaslights was installed.  The fuel was gasoline under pressure in a tank in the entry.

1910:  Birch Lake gone; swamp remained.

1930:  Present County Road 3 was rebuilt directly across the former Birch Lake lakebed.

c.1930s: The last regular church services of North Crow River Free Church were sometime in the 1930s.

1940:  No organized group taking care of the church or the cemetery.

1954:  A Sunday school reunion was organized by John L. Nyholm, former Sunday school teacher.

1950s:  Regular services were held by the Crow River Mission Church.

1984:  Elim Mission Church of Cokato agreed to assume responsibility for the cemetery and church property providing a trust fund could be provided to finance such care.  Elim Mission had taken care of the property for some time.

1986:  All necessary legal transactions were completed.  The North Central District Association of the Free Church acquired the title and then turned the property over to the Elim Mission Church of Cokato.

A trust fund of $4,000 was raised through donations by people with ties to Crow River Free Church and Cemetery.

1988:  Elim Mission Church held annual “Old-fashioned Day” worship services and picnics at the former North Crow River Free/Birch Lake Mission church grounds.

2001:  Because of vandalism, deterioration and liability concerns, Elim Mission Church members considered burning the church.  An agreement was made for Dan and Becky Bravinder to move the church to their property east of Cokato. The church was moved in June 2001.  The old plaster and wainscoting were removed.  Since then the church building has been used for many family gatherings, a wedding reception, and several church services. The church is visible from Highway 12.   

2011:  Elim Mission Church of Cokato is once again using the cemetery for interments and has erected a monument inscribed “Elim Birch Lake Cemetery.”  A little less than an acre was purchased from Mr. Janckila to expand the cemetery.

Pastors:  The North Crow River Free congregation probably never had its own pastor.  It is known, however, that they shared pastors with the Free Church at Albion for some years.  A few of the pastors who served the two churches in early years were Rev. Oscar Kallberg, Rev. H.M. Kjenner, and Rev. John Kalson, and in somewhat later years Rev. Paul Cassell.  Several itinerant preachers also ministered to the church from time to time.  Even when no pastor was present, the members faithfully met for worship, led by one of the lay members, who often in the early years was Mr. C. J. Brown.

Sunday Schools were conducted in some years.  One frequent leader of the Sunday School was Mr. John L. Nyholm. 

An early song leader was Louis Satterquist with his good bass voice, and when no player for the organ was available, he would use his guitar.  Lydia Nyholm (Mrs. John L. Nyholm) often played the organ.  When possible, a string band was formed that provided music.

In winter the church was warmed by a wood-burning stove at the rear.  On summer days a pail of cool water stood on a bench in the entry and each worshipper could be refreshed by a drink from the common dipper.

Some of the names of early pioneers engraved on the cemetery markers are Brown, Carlson, Mattson, Satterquist, Nyholm and Johnson.  There are about 46 graves in the cemetery. 

Elim Birch Lake Cemetery                                                                                                               
(Formerly North Crow River Free Cemetery and Crow River Mission Cemetery)

Brown, Carl J.                              1852-1925

Brown, Elizabeth                             1855-1934

Brown, Hannah  L.                          1890-1969

Carlson, C. Philip                             1895-1970

Carlson, Carrie (Nyholm)               1876-1963

Carlson, George N.                         1899-1902

Carlson, Hilma D.                             1897-1901

Carlson, John A.                              1901-1902

Carlson, Mrs. Peter                    1864 - 1901

Carlson, Peter                                  1861-1932

Dahlin, Betty L.                          1935-2009          

Guintire, Anthony                            1876-1929

Guintire, Grace                                 1907-1907

Guintire, Lena C.                           1883-1965

Guintire, Lucille                             1917-1917                                      

Johnson, Arthur Erick                1904-1958

Johnson, Erick                             1862-1955

Johnson, Maria                            1871-1928

Johnson, Mary E.                        1881-1969

Johnson, Ole A.                            1890-1957

Johnson, Verner V.                      1906-1963

Long, Christine                                 1878-1936

Long, Fred                                         1880-1931

Marlin, B & D (Baby)                      1929-1929

Mattson, Baby                                 1902-1902

Mattson, Christine                          1863-1942

Mattson, David  L.                          1888-1963

Mattson, Elvina                                1900-1902

Mattson, Hannah E.                        1892-1938

Mattson, Lars                                   1859-1926

Nyholm, A. Christine                      1887-1942

Nyholm, Christine(Satterquist)     1868-1906

Nyholm, John L.                              1879-1961

Nyholm, John                                   1843-1939

Nyholm, Louis J.                              1845-1931

Nyholm, Lydia D.                             1891-1976

Nyholm, Mary                                  1843-1905

Nyholm, Minnie S.                           1890-1968

Nyholm, Mrs. L. J.                           1845-1915

Nyholm, O. August                          1885-1963

Nyholm, Paul                                    1923-1999

Nyholm, Peter                                  1870-1898

Satterquist, Louis                             1866-1921

Satterquist, Mary                             1828-1920

Satterquist, Olaf                              1862-1894

Satterquist, Peter                            1864-1943


Notes compiled by the Annandale History Club secretary in 2013.