On March 11, 1908 the Lutheran congregation organized under the name of “Our Savior’s Evangelical Lutheran.” The 22 charter members met with Rev. E.B. Austvold at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew O. Sylten in Riverside (now Milltown). “The original group of Lutherans consisted of 12 families, a total of 54 souls,” according to church records.
“At a meeting of the congregation on March 21, 1909, it was decided to make efforts to collect a fund with which to erect a church on a lot, midway between the villages of Bonner, Riverside and Piltzville, use of which was donated to us by Anaconda Copper Mining Company….The church was dedicated in October, 1910….Much of the credit for gathering the building fund together in such a short time is due the Ladies’ Aid which in addition to having regular meetings once a month at the homes of different members also held various kinds of socials and auctions.”
In the spring of 1913 lightning damaged the church and destroyed the organ. Repairs were made and a new organ purchased. On August 3, 1924, a few members of the former “Temperance Society” offered to transfer their hall to the Lutherans. This was accomplished a few years later and a new lease on the lot located just south of where the church was built was secured from the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. The new church and parish hall were completely destroyed by fire on August 27, 1932. By September 28 a contract was signed to build a new church. The first church services were held in the basement on December 18 and the completed church was dedicated on March 12, 1933.
In June, 1966, a new church was dedicated. The existing church was moved to Clinton where it serves as the Community Center.
Church records reveal interesting insights into the early church: “In the original constitution adopted March 11, 1908, voting power was restricted to male members twenty-one years of age and older. This was amended on January 2, 1930 to read: ‘That the voting membership of our congregation be composed of all confirmed members eighteen years of age and older.’”
“In the early history of our congregation, practically all the sermons were preached in the Norwegian language. This was later changed to fifty percent of the services each month in Norwegian and fifty percent in English. On January 5, 1932, this was again changed to a schedule calling for only the last Sunday in the month in the Norwegian language.”
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church has ministered to its congregation for more than a century. In that time the church has developed two unique ministries. Former Pastor Carl Rohr recalled that Mimi Mallot moved to the area from San Diego and became and enthusiastic member of the congregation. Mimi, noticing that one of the stained glass windows was cracked, offered to have it repaired. This planned repair was scrapped when Mimi decided to donate a new stained glass window. The church council agreed to formulate a plan for ten new stained glass windows with the idea that if Mimi’s window were the only one to be installed, it would be treated as a piece of art.
Based on the theme of church hymns, the windows were dedicated one by one as families and friends embraced the idea. The installation of each window has brought laughter and tears as the congregation remembers the people and stories which tangibly surround them in their worship.
The Prayer Quilts is another ministry begun in 2003 in honor of Sophie Jacobson. The layers of each quilt are stitched together with heavy threads. As each knot is tied, a silent prayer is offered for someone in need and then the quilt is given to that person. More than 70 of Sophie’s Quilts had been given from 2003-2008.
A Grass Roots Tribute: The Story of Bonner, Montana. Bonner Bicentennial Committee.
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church Centennial Memories 1908-2008. Compiled by members, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.