In the early seventies of the eighteenth century an era of church organization of unequaled magnitude was launched in Wisconsin. Due to the influx of immigrants and also to the unfortunate doctrinal schisms which divided the Lutherans into a number of groups, congregations multiplied in most settlements. At this time the settlement of which Strum is the center was established. A temporary organization called “Immanuel Lutheran,” served irregularly by itinerant preachers, was established. However, it did not attract the bulk of the people. Most of them chose to await developments of the theological tangle. In the meantime consecrated laymen conducted devotional meetings and read meditations from sermon books.
After a period of three or four years it was realized that the Christian nurture available in the settlement was inadequate and that a pastor must be secured. After much deliberation it was seceded to approach Pastor Hoyme, pastor of First Lutheran, Eau Claire, and president of the Lutheran Conference. This was in the fall of 1876. Pastor Hoyme was sympathetic but wanted to look over the field before he could act. But because of his many duties he could not come until after the new year. Later he wrote that he would be in Strum Feb.22, and asked for a guide. On Feb. 20, Syvert Rekstad, mounted on a mule, rode to Eau Claire. The following day they arrived in Strum. Sunday, Feb. 22, the service was held in Even Eevensen’s house, a mile south of Strum. It was a cold day but every room in the house was packed and many stood outside. During the service the first child of the congregation was baptized. It was Edward Kleven, a brother of E N Kleven. After the service it was decided to meet the next day in the home of Andrew Call for the purpose of organizing.
At the business meeting the next day Pastor Hoyme functioned as chairman and Even Eevensen as secretary. It was decided to organize and name the church “St. Paul’s Scandinavian Evangelical Church in town of Sumner (Unity) Trempealeau County, Wisconsin.” Pastor Gjermund Hoyme was called as temporary pastor, which call he accepted. it was also decided to secure grounds for the church and cemetery and to build a church. This building was to be 30 x 40 feet plus the chancel. So great was the enthusiasm that these poor folks who did not have a decent house to live in subscribed the sum of $800.00 at this meeting. The first officers elected were: Chairman, Pastor Hoyme; Secretery, Even Evensen; Treasurer, Ole Thomasgaard; Trustees, Ole J. Romundstad, Andrew Call, and Even Evensen; Deacons Erick Holden, Christopher Svendby, and Berger Semmingson; Presentor, Esten Johnson; Janitor, Ole Nysven. A building committee consisting of Even Evensen, Berger Semmingson, and Syvert Rekstad was elected. A motion to apply for membership in the Lutheran Conference was carried. It should be of interest to know that less than three months after this meeting the church could be used for services.
The first couple married in the church was Sven Holden and Johanna Johnson. The first confirmation class consisted of the following: Lars Langseth, Ole Jensen, Nickolay Paulson, J A Call, J P Hanson, John J Dahl, Josephine Dahl (Josephine Jensen), Mrs. O P Christianson, and Ingeborg Iverson Veum.
The first funeral conducted by Pastor Hoyme was for four children of Hans and Dorthea Hammer, who died in an epidemic of diphtheria. All four were buried the same day.
The church was dedicated Nov. 18, 1883 by Dr. T H Dahl, president of the “Conference.” In the merger of the “Conference” in 1890 with two other church bodies, St. Paul’s Church became a member of the United Lutheran Church. In the larger merger in 1917, St. Paul’s Church became a member of what is today the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
In the fall of 1878 the congregation, on recommendation of Pastor Hoyme, called Pastor C J Helsem, who at the time served congregations in the Chippewa Falls area. He accepted and later the same fall he came with his family to Strum as the first resident pastor. Because the congregation had no parsonage, Pastor Helsem bought 40 acres north of the church property and built his own house. His home became the parsonage for the next 36 years. That house and land now belong to the Palmer Eide family.
As the membership of the church grew and societies and Sunday school came into being, lack of adequate room was keenly felt. At a congregational meeting January 1902, the matter was discussed. Before the close of the meeting it was decided to double the length of the building and to build a basement, also to build a wing on either side. The building was now cut in two and the east half pulled ahead 40 feet. The gap was filled with a building which extended 10 feet beyond the side walls of the old church. Before this was done a basement was excavated and the walls of it built of local shale stone. The church which before measured 30 x 40 feet had now a length of 80 feet and the middle section 50 feet wide. The cost of this project was about $3,800.00. The contractor was Svend Holden, the father of Edward S Holden. The builder did not live to see the building completed. Shortly before that he took sick and died. Mr. Gilbert Dahl finished the work. The church was finished in 1903, and was rededicated the same year. Dr. M O Bockman, president of the UC Seminary, St. Paul, officiated, assisted by the pastors: Holseth, Wik, Lund, and Helsem. After a faithful ministry of 36 years, Pastor Helsem retired in 1914 to become pastor at the Deaconess Home in Chicago for six years. He died in 1921.
When Pastor O J Hylland in 1914 succeeded Pastor Helsem, the problem of parsonage became acute. The new pastor and his family had to live in rented quarters. Early next spring, steps were taken to build. A building committee consisting of J P Hanson, M J Romundstad, Hans Peterson Stai, and Edward S Holden was elected and bids for the construction sought. Edward Holden as the lowest bidder got the contract. The house with a floor space of 26 x 38, with two stories, attic, and basement, and also a barn, 26 x 28, was completed for $3,500.00. However, plumbing and wiring were not included. After a ministry of six years, Pastor Hylland resigned in 1920 to accept a charge in Coon Valley, WI. He died in December 1928.
When Pastor Hjemboe and family arrived in 1920 the work of renovating the church had begun. A ceiling of steel sheeting had been put on. This was followed up net spring by building a new roof and painting and decorating the whole church. A new chancel carpet was laid and altar covering provided. The total cost was $4,000.00. At this time a parcel of land adjoining the parsonage was bought from John E Johnson for $150.00. The parsonage plat is now about one and one-half acres. In 1933 the walls of the church auditorium was covered with nuwood. A neat job was done by George Olson. Shortly afterward art glass windows replaced the plain glass windows. This was done under the auspices of the Luther League and the work done by the La Crosse Art Glass Company.
For a number of years informal discussions had gone on about joining the two Strum churched into one parish. The idea was to maintain the two congregations separately but having a pastor together. The main reason for not planning a complete merger was that neither church was big enough to accommodate the resulting assemblies.
The first attempts were not successful but the idea of a united parish lived on. It became activated in 1951 when the pastors A T Blom and Arthur Olson were the pastors of St. Paul’s and West Beef River respectively. Pastor Olson offered his resignation if certain stipulations which he made to both churches were met. One of these was directed to West Beef River requiring that church to call Pastor Blom as its pastor. The other was directed to St. Paul’s asking that congregation to agree to make the present West Beef River Church a part of the new church building if, at the time of construction it was found feasible. These stipulations were agreed to by both churches and on February 17, 1952 Pastor Blom was officially installed as pastor of West Beef River Church. This was an epoch-making event, the greatest in the history of Strum. it is loaded with promises and possibilities for a better life, spiritually and socially. It unites to one army for Christ two churches who previously stood separately and therefore could not cooperate effectively. Let all look forward to the day when a temple of God large enough to accommodate all shall send out its call to worship.
By the time Pastor Blom and family arrived the parsonage had been thoroughly modernized. The kitchen was made over. It is larger and more convenient. New plumbing fixture installed in the kitchen and bathroom and a first floor lavatory added. Carpets were laid in the living rooms and the walls of all the rooms were refinished. In most of the first floor rooms the old windows were replaced with large thermoglass windows. A garage in the rear of the house also was built. The congregation can be justly proud of its parsonage. The total cost was $4,200.00. Two years later, 1951 – 1952, some construction work had to be done on the church. The State Industrial Commission demanded a fireproof furnace room and adequate toilet facilities. To that end the north classroom was removed and a basement, 20 x 24, excavated on the site to hold the installations demanded by the commission. The superstructure of this addition afforded a much larger classroom than the former. On its second floor was built an organ loft and a Wick pipe organ installed as the old Kilgen organ was worn out. The basement was next to be remodeled. The old stairway in the east end was removed. A grade door on the north side now provided entrance to the basement as well as to the church auditorium. The removal of the furnace and coal room to the new quarters yielded a space about 9 x 30 feet to the assembly room. The kitchen was thoroughly modernized as was the heating system. Much of this work was donated by both men and women. The cost, was estimated at $15,000.00, including the organ.