The present site of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church was once the home of the First Congregational Church of Iron River. The original building was built in 1893. In the early 1950s, the membership had dropped to very few members. The balance in the treasury was $27.19. The church had no pastor, although Mrs. Charles Buran kept the Sunday School going and also conducted Bible School and a Christmas program. Various people served as temporary pastors including Fred Lambert from Northland College and Pastor Charles Browne from Washburn. In 1955, the young men’s class under the direction of Suzanne Knapp conducted services at the church. They were John Joseph, LeRoy Hanson, Dan Knapp, Roger Anderson and Eddy Jurvelin.
On a cold January evening in 1956, the Charles Burans, the Jim Johnsons, and the Fred Andersons met with Dr. Harry Anderson in Superior to express their desire to affiliate with the Lutheran Church. Some had Norwegian Lutheran background from the old church that was in the area in the early 1900s. Others were German Lutherans who worshipped in various homes. They obtained the services of Reverend Martin Saarinen of our sister congregation in Oulu in February 1956. In 1958, Rev. Saarinen left to accept a position with Suomi College in Michigan. Due to poor attendance, members voted to sever their affiliation with Oulu. On September 11, 1960, members voted to accept an offer from Reverend Wallace Leno of Oulu for $50 per month. Discussion continued through 1961 concerning Lutheran affiliation. In February of 1962, at the annual meeting, a motion was submitted by Jim Johnson and seconded by Fred Anderson that they affiliate with the Lutheran Church in America. The motion carried. Between February and December 1962, many meetings were held, and on December 16 ballots were collected showing seven in favor and three against joining the LCA.
In January 1963, they drew up a constitution and Pastor Leno sent it and a letter of application to Dr. Mattson of the LCA. The congregation owed an old debt to the Synod of the Congregational Church of $725. they could not proceed with the LCA until this debt was resolved, so Charles Buran paid this amount, which severed previous ties to the Congregational Church. On May 12, 1963, the constitution was accepted, and the by-laws were set up. A vote was taken to establish the official name of the congregation as “Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.” At this meeting, they voted to present the constitution to the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Synod of the LCA. Pastor Leno continued to serve the church but asked permission to write for a summer pastor. Pastor Alvin E. Jenkins was called to preach the Sunday sermon. He was the pastor of First Lutheran in Port Wing and Hope Lutheran in Oulu, Wisconsin.
On March 1, 1966, a letter was received from the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Synod of the LCA asking for a list of names of members. Pastor Jenkins negotiated the purchase of an altar and related furnishings from Trinity Lutheran in Superior. Charles Buran and his sons, John and Chuck, along with Fred Anderson, hauled the altar, pulpit, and baptismal font from Superior. Later, $200 was paid for a rug and some pews from Trinity Lutheran. At this time, they also voted to retain the services of Pastor Jenkins. In August 1966, the congregation received a letter from Dr. Mattson saying that the Synod had voted to accept them, and they could join either with Oulu or Lake Nebagamon. In November 1966, a letter was received from the Synod saying they needed 70 adult members by February and a minimum of $3,000 annual budget to be accepted. At the annual meeting in January of 1967, they determined they could not meet the 70-member level or the budget requirements.
In February 1967, an informational meeting was held with Dr. Robert Wilch (Assistant to Dr. Mattson) to try and plan their next steps. In March, Dr. Wilch reported that the best “fit” would be with Lake Nebagamon. Pastor Jenkins was scheduled to resign on June 1, 1968, but he agreed to stay through the summer if they would change the service to 8 a.m. Through the rest of 1967 they struggled with these issues, and in early 1968 it was decided to sell the parsonage. In September of 1968 the council met with Pastor William Stewart of Washburn. A partnership was formed with that congregation and new petitions were submitted to join the LCA. A month later, Pastor Stewart reported hearing from Dr. Mattson that hopefully they might be ready for organizing by January of 1969. the congregation would still need 70 adult members and they had to launch a stewardship program with pledging and set up a budget. A Loyalty Dinner was planned in Washburn as a kick-off to these activities.
In 1969, members met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Callahan with Pastor Robert Wilch to work out the details to join the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan Synod of the LCA. At this time, they could claim 70 members, but they were not sure if they had the required $3,000. Shortly afterward, they met with Pastor Stewart to plan the details of the Special Service of Organization for Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. From 1969-1976, they continued to grow and were served by Pastor William Stewart, Rev. Lloyd Yaggie, and Rev. Frank Maxwell. During 1973 and 1974, the congregation had many discussions concerning the cost of repairing the old church or tearing it down and, finally, in the summer of 1975, the building was razed.
In October of 1976, Dr. Jerome Miller was called from retirement to serve as pastor with the charge of determining if there was potential for a new church facility in Iron River. The congregation had been worshipping at Calvary Presbyterian Church. During the following nine years that Pastor Miller served Our Savior’s, he and his wife, Annabelle, helped organize a choir. On June 18, 1978, ground was broken for a new church building. A building committee consisted of Pastor Miller, Wayne Saker, Howard Fuhrmann and others, with Wayne Smith as Chairman. The first service was held in the sanctuary on Christmas Eve, 1978. In 1979, the construction was completed, and dedication Sunday took place on June 3, 1979. The building, completely furnished, came in at $71,800, with the ladies adding a $5,500 organ. The bell from the old Congregational Church was refurbished and installed in the new bell tower. Then, on June 28, 1982, a mortgage burning was held. After only three years in the new building, the congregation was now debt free. In 1983, a 36×52 classroom and storage addition was built for $34,000. In 1986 the present parsonage was completed.
Historical information provided by Esther Anderson.
We, the members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, will always be grateful to God for the legacy that these early members have left to us.