Chapter Four: Churches
St. Francies of Assisi Catholic Church p.64
The Amisk Creek Lutheran Church p.67
The Bardo Lutheran Church p.69
Holy Trinity Anglican Church p.73
Mennonite Brethren Church p.75
History of the Salem Mennonite Church p.77
The Tofield Mennonite Church p.81
The Tofield United Church p.84
United Church Sunday School p.86
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI CATHOLIC CHURCH
Much of the information for this article was obtained from the account “Tofield and the Catholic Church” written by Mr. J.J. McDevitt.
Mr. Augustus Gladue donated a piece of land for the building of a Catholic Church some time prior to 1906. This site was located in the old town and so became unsuitable with the removal of everyone to the new town site. During this period, visiting missionaries said Mass on their infrequent visits. Father Gaboret of Beaumont was one such missionary.
During the winter of 1915 a priest was seen trudging around on foot. This was Fr. Koolen, assistant t Fr. Steinmetz at Viking. He announced that Mass would be said regularly in Tofield. The building used was a former real estate building on the west side of Main street opposite the then Variety theatre (now the site of George Arnett’s garage.) Mass was well attended. There were 4 Letourneaus, 2 Hannans, two or three Yakabuskis, Mrs. Forman and her daughter, Mr. and Mrs.Joe Welch, Charles Kallal, J.J. McDevitt, Steve Sullivan, also two brothers working on the G.T.P. station.
Fr. Koolen was pleased at the turnout and promised to come once a month in the future. Fr. Koolen was also the priest for the Calder area in Edmonton. Train transportation was very convenient and he never failed to be present to hold services. Mass was held in the Variety theatre until 1911. In that year it was held “in the little house, second house east of the Red and White store, which was the residence of Charles J. Kallal who had just been married.”
Shortly after this, the Catholic church obtained the use of the “little blue building” north of the present Bank of Montreal and there they remained until 1920.
During the years of World War I Fr. Koolen continued his loyal and conscientious ministry, often walking
out into the country to see someone who needed him. The influenza epidemic depleted attendance at Church and on one Sunday, Peter Yakabuski was the only parishioner able to be present.
In Feb. 1919 Fr. Cochet arrived to take over Fr. Koolen’s work. Under his guidance the present property for the church was obtained.
This, 1919, was the ill-famed “hard winter.” Snow was heavy and attendance at Mass was low. At one mass, Fr. Cochet informed the two men present that he had purchased a small dwelling in the upper or old town for $350.00 and that he had arranged with Mr. William Bowick to move it down to the church property where it would be made over into a small church. After Mass Fr. Cochet and his parishioners went to see the building even though the snow was so deep that they had to walk single file.
Soon the building was moved to its appointed spot, sitting high on its abutment of old railway ties so that a foundation could be placed under it when the snow melted. Mr. Muskett, a good carpenter who farmed east of town, took a contract for most of the work. Steve Sullivan came in and did the finishing work and also built a nice little altar.
The little church, finished and ready, was the scene of its first Mass on July 19, 1920. After the opening of the church attendance increased. His Grace, Archbishop O’Leary, arrived for his first visit in the fall of 1921, attended by his secretary, Fr. McGuigan (now Cardinal McGuigan) and Fathers Cochet and Gaorst.
Mr. H. Hannan, hotel proprietor, served the banquet for the occasion. He had invited the Mayor, councillors, the school board, the three Protestant ministers, the town and Municipal secretaries, the Alberta Provincial Policeman, as well as members of St.Francis Church. Archbishop O’Leary spoke with wit and humor at the banquet and again that night to an audience in the Variety theatre.
From this time, services were held regularly and in 1927, Fr. Quirk arrived to take charge of the parish. He started plans for a new church. Work on the new building was started in June 1927 and completed in the fall. His Grace, Archbishop O’Leary came in November and blessed the new church, which is still in use.
Fr. Quirk left around the end of the year (1927) and was followed by Fr. McLeod. In 1932 Tofield and its missions passed into the charge of the Redemptorist Fathers who looked after it until 1938. Priests who served the area during this period were: Fathers B.W. Malone, Scollion, McElligott, C. Moreau, J. C. Naphin. In 1938 Fr. N. Smeltzer was appointed and was succeeded in 1945 by Fr. B. Gorman who remained until 1948. In 1948 Fr. Gorman was succeeded by Fr. E. F. Purcell, who remained until September, 1961. Fr. E. McCarty was appointed at that time and remained until September 1964 when he was succeeded by Fr. L. Scriven.
The parish of Tofield now consists of the town of Tofield and the surrounding area as well as the mission of Ministik which was opened in 1952 because bad roads leading to the Hastings Lake church caused difficulties.
A new Rectory was built at Tofield in 1954. In 1949 the Catholic church at Ryley was recovered and blessed and officially opened in September of the year.
Approximately two years later the hall at Ryley was opened. Fr. C. Van Acht of Catholic Immigration helped out for about a year. Beginning in 1955 Fr. P. McCorkell was the first full time assistant, remaining about a year; then Fr. E. Crough helped out on weekends for about the same length of time. In 1958 Fr. J. Leszczynsky came to help.
During the past years the Catholic population of Tofield has remained relatively stable so that in 1968 there were 45 families making up the parish of a Catholic church possible in this area.
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THE AMISK CREEK LUTHERAN CHURCH
The following material has been made available by Mrs. Berg, Mrs. Flaaten and Mrs. Conrad Patterson.
In all places where Scandinavian pioneer life endured its bitter struggles, a deep yearning was felt for a house of worship.
This yearning was strong in the hearts of the pioneers of the Amisk Creek district. They lived in the steadfast hope of having a church, no matter how small. With this thought in mind, the Ladies’ Aid worked untiringly for the fund which would provide the House of Worship they longed for.
In the spring of 1914, their hopes became a reality as the decision to build a church was made. That summer, the Pederson brothers of Round Hill were given the contract. With the money the Ladies’ Aid had gathered, the subscriptions from the congregation, and other generous donation, the building fund totalled $1,075. Mr. Alfred Patterson donated the land for the church and the cemetery.
On the completion of the church in the fall, it was incorporated on December 31, 1914, under the name of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of Amisk Creek.
In 1928, through the efforts of the Ladies’ Aid and members of the congregation, a full basement was put under the church. In 19383, a kitchen was added and in 1955, power was installed. The congregation had eight families, a number that remained fairly constant for many years. Fifty-five children and adults received baptism; thirty were confirmed.
Finally in 1964, the congregation, consisting now of five families and a bachelor, could no longer function and the little church, the focal point of the community for so long, closed its doors after a Fiftieth Anniversary service had been held to bid farewell to an era.
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THE BAPTIST CHURCH
The Baptist Church of Tofield was begun in 1942 with meetings at the Ole Sware home under the leadership of Pastor P. Peterson of the Kingman Baptist Church. In December 1942, at a meeting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. Herndon, the congregation was formally organized and plans were made for the building of a church. The present church was built in 1943. (The covered skating rink was purchased from the town; the lumber was used in the construction of the church.) Volunteer labor had the church ready for worship in December 1943.
In 1944, the Rev. D. M. Anderson, Swedish Baptist field missionary, came to dedicate the church. A missionary program has been a chief concern of the church. Young people who have gone out as ministers and missionaries include: Hazel Runs (Winder)to India; Muriel Anderson (Williams) to British Columbia; Mervin Williams to Sweden; Grant Quillams, Berean College, Calgary; Garry Francis, Rosebud, Alberta; Sydney Takema,, Port Moodie, B.C.
The Miquelon Bible Camp is a project of the Baptist Church; it serves young people from eight years through the teens.
After Rev. Peterson came the following ministers: Mr. F. Krup (1945-46); Mr. D. Brotsky (1948-49); Mr. Webber (1949-5O); Mr. H. Montgomery (1951-52); Mr. L. Gardner (1953-55); Mr. Allan Ironside (1955-56); Mr. Merv. Williams (1957); Mr. Duane Norton (1958-60); Mr. Ernest Kennedy (1961-62); Mr. E. Love (1963-64); Mr. D. McLean (1964-65); Mr. L. Smith, at present.
The present program includes Sunday School, two church services, young people’s work, weekly prayer meeting, and the Ladies’ Monthly Mission Circle.
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THE BARDO LUTHERAN CHURCH
The settlement of the Bardo community in central Alberta, Canada, began in 1894, following an investigation by interested parties the previous year.
Most of the original Norse settlers of this community who immigrated here in the mid-nineties came from Crookston, Minnesota or the country near by. However, a few years later, a great number of settlers came direct from Bardo, Norway.
The reasons for settling in Central Alberta were many and varied but the most important was the availability of free land of good quality for a colony.
The first four settlers arrived in May, 1894. They were: Martin Finseth, P.B. Anderson, John Lerbekmo,and Nels Jevning. During the summer and fall, their families arrived and with them came the aged Pastor, Bersvent Anderson, who had been asked to come along and be their minister. Thus, on the first Sunday after his arrival on November 3, 1894, he conducted the first Norwegian Lutheran service in the Canadian Northwest.
During the first winter, services were held from house to house. A regular congregational meeting was called for May 23, 1895, at the Nels Jevning home at which time, all who wished to become members signed a charter forming the Norden Lutheran Church. These charter members were: Bersvend Anderson, Peter B. Anderson and family, Martin Finseth and family, Nels S. Mosland, George Bruass, Nels Jevning and family, Simon P.
Simonson and family, Peter Oas, Johan Jevning, Pedar S. Moen and family, Halver Haugen and family, Olaf M. Jevning, Lars.Johnson and family, Tollef Carlson and family, Pedar Jevning and family, and Johannes Johnson and family. From this group, Martin Finseth was elected as the first chairman and P.B. Anderson as the first secretary.
After the school was built in 1898, it became the centre for all services and other meetings. A site for
the cemetery was chosen diagonally across the road from the old school and therefore lay more than a mile north of where the future church was to be built.
Members of the congregation longed for the time when they could worship in a church of their own. Some wanted to build the church in the north part of the community; others preferred the south. However, when Asbjorn Moen donated a site in the central part of the community, the first church was built there. The men cut and sawed the logs into lumber; finishing lumber was hauled from Camrose. The Ladies’ Aid helped to install the furnace and other fixtures and also made it possible to hire a contractor to help with the building. The Thimble Club provided an organ and Bersvend Anderson made the first altar. The church was dedicated on August 6, 1908.
At the annual meeting in the fall of 1968, the name “Norden” was changed to “Bardo.” At this same meeting missionary Rev. H.N. Ronning of China, who had settled in the Bardo district with his family, joined the congregation. Although he never served as its minister, he often preached in the church and he used his influence for much good.
In 1921, the church was struck by lightning and burned down. No insurance was carried and only the interior furnishings were saved. Now the congregation had to meet in the school house again. With the help of the Ladies’ Aid and personal gifts, the Church Fund reached $2,500.00 within three months. A little over a year after the fire, the first service was held in the new church.
When the church was dedicated in 1926 the men, women, young people, and children rejoiced as they viewed the results of their labor–the completion of the second church in their midst.
The congregation continued to worship and flourish in the little church nestled beside the creek. Various modern conveniences were added to the building and the
people were happy and blessed with the ministry of God’s gospel. Then, with dramatic suddenness, on August 27, 1965, everything came to an end when lightning again struck–the church was burned to the ground. Residents of the area quickly arrived on the scene and saved most of the furnishings. These were brought to the Bardo Community Centre where services were held for some time.
An important decision now faced the congregation as to the site of the new church. Should they rebuild on the former site or in the town of Tofield, a distance of eight miles? On September 14, at a meeting of the congregation, a vote was taken and a clear majority was in favor of rebuilding on the Tofield site. It was felt that, by moving into town, the church would have a greater outreach in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
On May 28, the ground-breaking ceremonies were held and on June 12, the excavation for the basement was begun. In just a little over five months, through the co-operation of building superintendent, Mr. Ed Hoffman, carpenters, Mr. Sam Mostowich and Mr. Olaf Haugen, and the tremendous response of voluntary help, the church was ready to be opened.
Dedication ceremonies took place from Friday 17 to Wednesday, November 22, 1967. The theme of the dedication services was “Build Temples External” 2Tim. 2: 15-26.
The officers of the Bardo Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tofield at the time of its dedication were:
President: Mr. Lester Severson
Vice President: Mr. Phillip Anderson
Secretary: Mr. Leonard Stauffer
Treasurer: Mrs. Agnes Haukedal
Deacons: Mr. Sam Cinnamon, Mr. Don Litwin, Mr. Andy Heiberg
Trustees: Mr. LeRoy Finseth, Mr. Leif Foshaug, Mr. Eystein Heiberg
Andy Heiberg, Mary Finseth, Sam Cinnamon, Lester Severson, Phillip Anderson, Evelyn Foshaug, Glen Reil, LeRoy Finseth, Olaf Stokkan, and Axel Kindley
Lutheran Church Women
President: Mrs. Bernice Heiberg
Vice-President: Mrs. Borghild Rude
Secretary: Mrs. Olive Foshaug
Treasurer: Mrs. Evelyn Foshaug
Education: Mrs. Mary Finseth
Stewardship: Mrs. Norma Anderson
Memorial: Mrs. Agnes Haukedal
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HOLY TRINITY ANGLICAN CHURCH
Canon Newton who arrived in Edmonton in the fall of 1875 visited the Tofield area occasionally between then and 1890. In 1892, Mr. d’Easum was assigned to this area for three years. In 1892 logs were cut for the construction of a church but were destroyed by fire. A second lot were cut and a church called St. James was built in 1893 on land donated by Robert Logan.
Bishop Pinkham visited the parish in 1894, celebrating comunion both at St. James and in the home of George Cookson, Sr. Late in 1895, Rev. Robert Connell arrived. On January 20, 1896, the parish of St. James the Apostle, Newton-Logan, was formed by Bishop Pinkham of Calgary. The first entry in the parish register, still [in] existence, is dated January 19, 1896. Bishop Pinkham held a confirmation service at St. James on September 11, 1898.
Tofield at that time was a mission of St. James Church. The first resident Anglican minister in Tofield was the Rev. Rainier who came in 1907.
On May 24, 1912, Bishop Pinkham formed the parish of Holy Trinity. 0n July 18, he dedicated the Holy Trinity Church.
A service was held in Deville in December 1912,and in 1913, it was made a separate parish, St. Hilda’s. To it was added North Cooking Lake.
Services were held at Bathgate, Deville, Ardrossan, North and South Cooking Lake, and St. James.
Rev. J.P. Mason ministered from 1912 to 1914; Rev. Leversedge, 1914-1917; Rev. Nugent Wilson, 1917 – 1919. Student ministers served the parish for a number of years, supervised by Archdeacon Hawcroft and Archdeacon Cornish.
From 1931 to 1938., Rev. Albert Wallis (now Canon Wallis) was in charge; he was followed by Rev. T.W. Teape
in 1939. After his departure, student ministers again served the parish until Rev. E.N.P. Orme came in 1946 to be replaced by Rev. V.P. Cole (now Canon) from 1950 to 1957. Rev. Brian Brown was in charge 1957 to 1959, followed by Rev. Mundy. Rev. W.L. Hammett was the minister until he retired in 1967.
A new rectory was built during Rev. Hammett’s tenure, replacing the one purchased in 1946 (the former Dr. Law house.)
Since Rev. Hammett’s retirement, Holy Trinity has been served from St. Matthew’s parish, Viking.
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MENNONITE BRETHREN CHURCH
The following account was written in 1959 by Rev. Peter Warkentin in answer to the request of the Golden Jubilee for a history of the Mennonite Brethren in the Tofield area.
“After the revolution in Russia in 1917, our beloved homeland became foreign to us. Then God, in His mercy, led the Canadian government to open the door to us scattered and homeless Mennonites. In February, 1928, a group of these homeless refugees found their new home in this country, eleven miles northeast of Tofield. How thankful they were to God and the Canadian government for this, their new homeland, and they resolved to stay true to God and the faith of their fathers.
On March 4, 1928, a congregation of fourteen members joined and named themselves, “The Mennonite Brethren Church” as it had been in the old country. The group’s first minister was Rev. Abram Froese. At first, they had their services in the various farm homes but the congregation soon outgrew this accommodation as more people joined this group as they moved into the districts around Tofield. From 1937 to 1940 they held their services alternately in the Lindbrook and Woodlawn schools. In 1940, they built their own church six miles west of Tofield and two miles south of Lindbrook However, in several years, the building was no longer adequate, so an extension 14′ by 241′ was added. Still the congregation increased as several large families came from southern Alberta to the Tofield area. Again the church was too small so in 1955, a full basement was put under the church and used for Sunday School classes.
Once more the congregation outgrew its building and the necessity of a new church was plain. This time it was decided to build the church in Tofield and in 1963, the large new church was erected in the southeast part of Tofield between Highway 14 and the C.N.R. tracks.
In 1968, the congregation consisted of 93 members served by three ministers, Rev. George Quiring, Rev. P. H. Warkentin and Rev. David Balzer. For the past few years, the congregation has been led by Rev. George Quiring.
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HISTORY OF THE SALEM MENNONITE CHURCH
[N.B. see Corrections following this article]
When farming opportunities in the various states and in Ontario began to close in for many people, they looked to Alberta. The Tofield district was investigated and it was discovered that there were people located here for over 15 years who were happy even though it was real pioneer living for them with no railroads or modern roads or highways. Practically no bridges existed and only trails were evidence of people surviving the hardships and still living. Evidently the prospect that this district had a bright future and would be a drawing card for attracting people, convinced a real estate firm to use its energies in even far away lands. They impressed folks of its benefits and advantages over the older and crowded places in which they were living and that there were better opportunities for them, such as, for instance Sunny Alberta could provide.
Saskatchewan was investigated and some land investment was obtained, but Tofield district was the most favored as is evident by our forefathers locating mainly in this district. The firm that interested the first settlers was Crafts, Lee and Gallinger. This Gallinger, was the late well known Claude Gallinger who throughout the years built up a place with buildings and raised stock second to none which gives ample proof to their claims that Tofield was a desirable place to settle. Local men in Nebraska, (Tom Blackburn and the late O.C. Blackburn., who later made large investments) became agents of this firm and tried to interest people in Alberta as early as 1907. Whole sections of land could be bought in one block though no fences or buildings had been constructed as the land was still prairie and bush.
Daniel Bender and family arrived about the year 1908 and settled in Camrose, but left again. Later the same year Chris Sutter came and was a tenant of T. Blackburn on the land now known as the farm of the late V. L. Roth. Other early settlers here were the Peter Reil, John L. Stauffer came in the spring of 1910. That same
fall, Bishop N.E. Roth with his family as well as the Ben Lauber family moved here in September. In these persons were charter members of the Salem Mennonite Congregation.
The Jacob Swartzendrubers, and Simon Stalters came in late 1910. Benjamin Stauffers, Dave Yoders, William S. Stutzman (who later erected a modern Service Station in Tofield) and Jake Yoder came in 1911.
Jake Yoder and Barbara Stauffer were the first couple of this group of settlers to get married in Alberta.
M.D. Stauffer and family came in August of 1911. The Joseph E. Kauffman, Henry Yoder and Levi Yoder families came in 1912. J.R. Stauffers and Jacob Brennemans arrived in 1913. Also Moses Burkholder and family moved here from Oregon.
Another early settler here was Peter Ginger and his family who attended services at Salem though they were not members. Their attendance was greatly appreciated.
People did not come to church in cars or trucks; they came in democrats, wagons, rode horseback and walked. Gates needed to be opened many times because of lack of roads. It was quite an improvement when the brush was cleared away to be able to get through. One Sunday morning in 1915 this was heard, and the following happened, “But look” – “Sure enough” – “Well what do you know about that” – “Will Stutzman is coming to church with a Ford and a new one too.”
Now the mosquitos were challenged. No more pails hanging on the Democrats with smudges for some relief from the swarm clouds that filled the sky on occasions About the next Sunday Peter Ginger appeared with a car of the same make and model and since there were no styles to choose from. Will’s first advice to Pete was “Don’t be afraid to hit the mudholes. Put her up to 15 miles an hour; they are not made of glass.”
Other families followed during the years and in 1918 the Mayton Mennonite Congregation from Mayton, Alberta, consisting of John Lehman, Will Wideman, Abe Wideman, Sr., and Abe Wideman Jr., Ivy Wideman, Milton Sitler, and their family moved to the Tofield district. Later on the William Boettgers came to live here also. In the fall of 1918 Aaron King moved here.
In 1924 and 1926 a group of Mennonites from Russia came west to Canada to settle after their belongings and land had been confiscated. The Canadian Pacific Railroad brought them to Canada with the promise of payment later. Many came to this district and lived in our homes over the winters of both these years.
Bible School during these years was held during the winter consisting of a six weeks’ course. Thiswas largely attended by our young people and others in the district as well. Later this type of Bible School was discontinued owing to many going away to get this training at longer term Bible schools and Institutes.
Summer Bible Schools have proved a blessing and benefit and earlier were attended by many of the Denominations as well as those from homes who had no interest in spiritual things with up to 226 children attending for two weeks. This work is still carried on with Bible Study and children engaged in singing.
School houses were used as meeting places until April 9, 1911 when the first church was dedicated. The original building was 241 by 481 at a cost of $50 . Again it was enlarged in 1926 to 38′ by 48′ at a cost of $43,000.00, plus an approximately $15,000.00 worth of donated labor. This building was dedicated in August 1954. Sufficient room even for the foreseen future was considered in this building project. A building fund has been established through the years so as not to interfere with the many missionary calls in the needy fields of the world,
During these early years most of the young people stayed on the farm. Later a few were teachers, nurses,
X-Ray technicians, mechanics, secretaries, office workers, salesmen, many teachers, pharmacists, doctors and still others are taking advanced Bible Training.
When a family or group of families suffered a loss by fire or similar disaster, everyone went to help this unfortunate friend or brother. Now with such a diversity of occupations this was more difficult, so it was decided in 1956 to organize a Mennonite Disaster Service in this community. This organization is ready to serve on short notice and in cases of disaster such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and fires. This service reaches much farther than our own immediate community.
As a part of the larger organization of Mennonite Disaster Service(Canada and U.S.A.) we have opportunities in many parts of the world. MDS takes charge of work along with the Red Cross in whatever can be done for others in the Name of Christ.
This article was contributed by Bishop John Stauffer
[pasted into book]:
CORRECTIONS FOR THE ARTICLE, “HISTORY OF THE MENNONITE CHURCH”
In the last paragraph on p. 77, the names of other early settlers here were the Peter Reil, John L. Stauffer and Valentine Roth families. Elmer Mauer, Joe and Sam Stauffer came in the spring of 1910.” Also the last sentence in that paragraph should read: “All these persons were charter members of the Salem Mennonite Congregation.”
The third complete paragraph on p. 78 should begin: “M. D. Stutzman” rather than “M. D. Stauffer.”
The fifth paragraph on p. 79 should read: “School houses were used as meeting places until April 9, 1911 when the first church was dedicated. The original building was 24’x 32′ and was erected at a cost of $800. This was enlarged in 1915 to 24’x 48′ at a cost of $500. Again it was enlarged in 1926 to 38′ x 48′ at a cost of $4,000. This was finally torn down in 1954, after the present building was completed with an overall size of 48’x82′ at a cost of approximately $50,000, plus an approximate $15,000 worth of donated labor. This building was dedicated in August, 1954. Sufficient room even for the foreseeable future was considered in this building project. A building fund has been established through the years so as not to interfere with the many missionary calls in the needy fields in the world.”
In the last paragraph of the article after the word “opportunities” it should read: “to alleviate suffering and to help build communities.”
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THE TOFIELD MENNONITE CHURCH
In 1924, the first immigrants of the General Conference sect arrived in Tofield. They were received by members of the Salem Mennonite Church. However, they did not stay long but left for other parts of Alberta or other provinces of Canada.
In 1925, another group arrived who were also welcomed by the Salem Mennonites. Many of these also left but a few found jobs on farms and remained. In 1928, several families bought farms north of Tofield. Among these were H. Schroeder, Sr., John Heidebrecht, John Rempel and Peter Dyck. In October, 1929, D.A. Heidebrecht an ordained minister, arrived from the Old Country. Occasional church services had been held, but now plans were made to hold regular services in the homes of members until a suitable place for worship could be found.
During the drought years of 1933-1934, many more families arrived from the Chinook and Delia areas to rent or buy farms. The first church group was finally organized on January 21, 1934. A house was purchased east of town for $350. Services were held in it until it became inadequate for the congregation. The house which still stands in the churchyard, was later used to house two Sunday School classes and the library.
On June I5, 1936, the church was named the Schoenseer Church. Rev. D.A. Heidebrecht was the leading minister. The pressing need for more rooms soon prompted the building of a new church, 30′ by 5O’, with full basement for classrooms.
On July 25, 1937, the new church was dedicated with Bishop W. Martens of Coaldale officiating. In 1939 the new church was incorporated as a self – sustaining church with other churches in the Alberta Conference. In 1943, Rev. D.A. Heidebrecht was ordained as bishop. Other members were ordained as ministers.
As soon as regular church services started, Sunday School classes were organized. Only two classes were held in the beginning, but as membership increased, more classes were added. The children presented programs for Christmas, Mothers’ Day, Children’s Day, when, weather permitting, a special outdoor program was held
A choir of the young people of the district was also organized. This choir has favored the congregation with several numbers almost every Sunday.
During the years 1940-1945, more families arrived from Peace River and Lacombe to make their homes in Tofield. In 1950, the church again became too small and had to be lengthened by 20′ to take care of the over-growing population.
On February 25, 1957, the congregation was saddened by the passing of its bishop, D.A. Heidebrecht.
In recent years, improvements to the church have included electricity, a gas furnace, running water, piano and public address system.
On January 11, 1960, the name of the church was changed. The original name of “Schoenseer” had commemorated the original site of the church on the Caspian Sea (beautiful sea). Now, however, the difficulty of pronouncing and spelling this German word led to the choice of the name more realistic and more meaningful to the congregation. The church was henceforth to be called “The Tofield Mennonite Church.”
The Rev. John Neufeld was ordained as bishop on August 6, 1961.
In 1969, the church membership stands at 140.
The church officers for 1969 are:
Bishop: Rev. J. Neufeld
Leading minister: A. Baergen
Assistant: Rev. A. Heidebrecht
Secretary: G.J. Baergen
Treasurer: P. Wiens
Groups: Senior Ladies’ Aid
Mrs. D. Regehr
Junior Ladies’ Aid: Mrs. Katie Baergen
Sunday School Leaders
Superintendent: D. Boese
Assistant: 0. Epp
Secretary: G. Schroeder
There are 111 attendants at Sunday School. These are taught by 21 teachers and substitute teachers.
Young people: J.B. Baergen
Wayfarers: Mrs. Anne Ewert
Choir: H. Schroeder
Sunday School: D. Boese
Library: Agnes Rempel
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THE TOFIELD UNITED CHURCH
The growth of the United Church in Tofield parallels that of the community and the province. In 1868, the Methodist missionary, Rev. George McDougall, visited this area to minister to the Indians; by 1895, the area was sufficiently settled to require the services of two student ministers. Mr. Henry Sterling was the Presbyterian student and Mr. Whiteside was the Methodist student. Following these came Mr. Guy McGallop, Mr. Hodge and Mr. Ferguson. The Methodists and Presbyterians held services on alternate Sundays in the log schoolhouse one-half mile north of the present school.
Daniel Francis, assisted by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Cookson, inaugurated the first Sunday School.
In 1904, the Presbyterian congregation built a church,, called St. Andrew’s on the hill overlooking the Amisk Creek valley. This hill was called Mt. Zion. The Methodists then took over the log schoolhouse for their own. In 1908 and 1909, these churches were both moved to Tofield which was then situated north of the site of the present school. Following the arrival of the railway Tofield itself moved to its present location and the churches followed suit. The Presbyterian church, now the Masonic Hall, was moved to its present site and the log church to the lot which is now the site of the Tofield United Church.
During this period, the Presbyterian ministers were Rev. Little, 1901; Rev. Rothnay, 1902; Rev. Pow; 1903; Mr. Thornaloe, Rev. Cameron, Rev. Robinson, Rev. Robert Whillans, a pioneer of the Ketchamoot district; Mr.Beet, Rev. Bradley, 1906-1908; Rev. Gold, 1908-1913;Rev.Stewart, 1913-1918, Rev. Firth, 1918-1921, and Rev. Watt, 1921-1922.
The Methodist ministers of this period were: Rev. Finlay, 1901 who served from Vegreville; Rev. Longley, 1902; Rev. Cox 1903; Rev. Shaw, 1905; Rev. Tough, 1905-1906; Rev. Laidman, 1906-1908; Rev. H. Munton, 1908-1910 Rev. Nicholsin, 1910-1912; Rev. Wiggins, 1912-1916; Rev.
Bowen, 1916-1918; Rev. Simpson, 1918-1921; Rev. Barnes, 1921-1922.
The first Ladies’ Aid was formed in 1904 with Mrs. Jack Cookson as president. The first organist was Mr. A. J. H. McCauley.
The people south of town formed the Ketchamoot congregation and as early as 1895, services were held in the Sears, Mitchell and Owen homes with Rev. Sterling, Rev. Whillans or Rev. Whiteside in charge. Later, these people attended services in Mt. Zion Presbyterian Church. The Ketchamoot Ladies’ Aid was formed in 1903, with Mrs. Hugh Mitchell as its first president. After the building of the Ketchamoot school in 1906, services were held there. The Sunday School was organized with Mrs. L. Carlisle as Superintendent and Mrs. Ellen Sears as organist.
In the Lakeshore district, services were held in the Henry Woods home by the Rev. Laidman in 1907. In 1911, Sunday School was organized with Mr. Kendall as superintendent. The affairs of the congregation were administered from Tofield. In 1924 the Ladies’ Aid was formed with Mrs. Zoe Phillips as its first president. In 1930 a separate Lakeshore congregation was officially organized.
After the formation of the United Church of Canada in 1925, the ministers serving the Tofield- Lakeshore-Ketchamoot, charge were Rev. A.G. Watt, 1922 – 1927; Rev. J.T. Gordon., 1927-1933; Rev. D.K. Allan, 1933-1945; Rev. H.B. Ricker, 1945-1951;Rev.J.Wood, 195l-l953; Rev. K. Iwaasa, 1953-1956; Rev. S. Bell, 1956-1960; Rev. G.B. McNeil,, 1960-1962; Rev. W. McDannold, 1962-1968. Rev. S. Bessey came in 1968.
The present United Church, built under the supervision of J.R. Francis and J.W.Robinson., was opened in May, 1955. Volunteer labor, including that from other congregations, was the means of building the church.
THE UNITED CHURCH SUNDAY SCHOOL
The Sunday School was headed by W.C. Swift as superintendent for 17 years. In 1947, H. Lovell took this office. He was followed by J.R. Francis in 1949 who was in turn succeeded by Mrs. Hazel Patterson and by the present superintendent, Thomas Jacobs.
Superintendents of the Junior Department of the Sunday School have been: Mrs. Firth until 1938; Mrs. Patterson for the next twenty years; Mrs. J. Ingram and, at the present, Mrs. Dorothy Clark.
The church officers in 1968 were:
Clerk of the Session.1 W.A. Swift; Members of the Session, Mrs. J. Richardson., Mrs. G. Allan, G.Abernethy,T.W. Jacobs, R. Rudzcki, C. Sears, R. Whillans. The Board of Stewards consists of: H. Seller., J. Lampitt, J.Francis, W.A. Swift,V.Walker, R. Goeglein, S. Sears, J. Ingram, J. Wall.