175th Anniversary celebration of Heart Prairie Lutheran Church on Whitewater Lake – evening of June 30th

Heart Prairie Lutheran Church on Whitewater Lake is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2019.  A celebration will be held on the evening of Sunday, June 30th, and the public is invited. Feel free to wear a Norwegian bunad.

6:30 pm – Festivities will begin with a display of Scandinavian crafts and Heart Prairie memorabilia.  Take the opportunity to sample some Norwegian finger foods.

“Heart Prairie” Print by Karolyn Alexander

7:30 pm – Listen to an oral history of Heart Prairie by Pastor Jerry Wendt as well as by Pastor Larry Froemming, who wrote a book on the church for a seminary project in 1974.   Norwegian music will be performed. Siblings Dave Cleven and Cathy Zange will share family memories including excerpts from an 1861 letter that surfaced in 2009 (in Norway). Jørgen Nielsen, a schoolteacher at Heart Prairie, writes, “Sorg og lykke bor side ved side.”  That translates, “Sorrow and happiness live side by side.” He writes of their happiness of eldest son Niels’ wedding to Ingeborg Aslaksdatter at the Heart Prairie church on Friday, November 1, 1861, and their sorrow of youngest son Halvor leaving Whitewater on Saturday, November 2, 1861, to join the 13th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment in Janesville during the Civil War.  Jørgen, Niels, and Ingeborg are all buried in the cemetery surrounding the church. Halvor Nielsen is not.

8:30 pm – The lanterns will be lit and the evening will conclude with an Oil Lamp Service (Høymesse) inside the church.    Please join us.

In 1846, two years after approximately 16 families organized their congregation and before the present building was constructed, bilious fever struck and 22 people (mostly children) died between the months of September and December.  Most of these graves are on a farm near the crossing of Engel and Clover Valley roads near the flowing well.

Heart Prairie Lutheran Church was built around 1857.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1948, the congregation merged with the First English Lutheran Church congregation in Whitewater.  The Heart Prairie church is still used today for services during the summer as well as on Christmas Eve, without any electricity or indoor plumbing. Many artists have sketched or painted Heart Prairie Lutheran Church over the years, including the renowned etcher, Leon Pescheret.  

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