History of Emmanuel Episcopal Church

Late in the fall of 1859, The Rt. Rev. Henry Benjamin Whipple, the newly consecrated Episcopal Bishop of the Missionary District of Minnesota arrived in Alexandria and began to organize Episcopal congregations in key settlements.

In Alexandria, Bishop Whipple held the first Church services at the Trading Post and Way Station which was located on the Northwest shore of Lake Agnes.  Church services continued there until 1861, when conflict arose between the Indian and White communities, but in 1863, Bishop Whipple again visited Alexandria to conduct services in the Captain’s Quarters of the Stockade, which was built as a shelter for white settlers.

In 1868, the first recorded celebration of the Holy Communion was held in the building then used as a Court House on the site of N. P. Ward’s general store, and Bishop Whipple confirmed one person, James Dicken.  Not until 1874, six years later, were any further confirmations held, for in that year Bishop Whipple confirmed six persons.

During those six years however, much activity was taking place in the Episcopal Church’s congregation.  In 1869, Bishop Whipple appointed a committee to secure funds from local Alexandria churchmen for a church building.  The fund raising committee was successful. Bishop Whipple, who had promised to provide $500.00, if the committee could secure $1,000.00, soon had to appoint a building committee.  In 1869, the building project was underway.

The plans for the new church building were provided by a Mr. Tway of Alexandria, and were based upon designs of old English churches with hand carved beams, Gothic window patterns, and the choir area dividing the nave from sanctuary.  Originally, the exterior consisted of vertical planks, but these were later covered with stucco.  Mrs. W. H. Hicks gave the property for the building and an adjoining rectory was constructed.  Not only were the buildings constructed during the years 1869-1874, but they were paid for – and Bishop Whipple consecrated the church on August 31, 1875.  On that same day, three persons were confirmed and two baptized.

In fifteen years Emmanuel Episcopal Church had grown from a frontier mission to a bustling congregation, serving an actively growing new community.  For the first ten years of that activity, there had been no resident clergyman, and the church had depended upon the leadership of its members with the godly counsel and advice of Bishop Whipple.  As the community grew, so did the need for a priest, and the first resident clergyman, the Rev. George Stewart, arrived in 1869.

Names of these pioneer church families were:    Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Cowing, Mr. & Mrs. J. B. Cowing, Mr. & Mrs. James Bedman, Mr. & Mrs. John Johnson, Mr. & Mrs. J. H. Van Dyke, Mr. & Mrs. John Abercrombie, Mr. & Mrs. William Ball, Dr. & Mrs. Vivian, Mr. & Mrs. Richard Brophy, Mr. & Mrs. T. W. Sprague, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Pennar, Mr. James Dicken.

From the Parish Register:

The first baptism – Caroline Olson, Feb. 24, 1867

The first confirmation – James Dicken 1868

The first wedding – Mr. Frank Lewis and Marie Hicks – Dec. 9, 1875

The first burial – Eugene Stone – Feb. 24, 1867

In addition to the obvious response to the challenge of founding a new church in the Alexandria community, the people of Emmanuel and their priest perceived a neighboring missionary field.  The Rev. Mr. Stewart helped organize missions at Lake Ann, Lake Reno, and Glenwood, and in 1887, Zion Church was built and consecrated at Lake Reno.  As years went by, communities changed, and Zion Church was moved, and its members became part of the St. Paul’s Glenwood which was dedicated by Bishop Whipple on Nov. 19, 1893.

In 1875, Mr. Stewart was succeeded by the Rev. D. T. Osborne, and Emmanuel Church was elevated from a mission to parish status.  After Mr. Osborne’s departure, The Rev. Mr. Allen, The Rev. Mr. Nash, and The Rev. Mr. Jukes came to Alexandria, but each stayed little more than a year.  After Mr. Jukes left, many church families moved and the church reverted to mission status.

In 1895, Emmanuel Church, Alexandria, and St. Paul’s Church, Glenwood became a part of the new Missionary District of Duluth.  Under Bishop Whipple’s leadership, Minnesota became two Dioceses’, and the new Bishop of Duluth was the Rt. Rev. James D. Morrison.

Most settlers in the Alexandria-Glenwood area were Lutheran.  Thus from the 1890’s until 1945, Emmanuel and St. Paul’s were maintained a Mission in the Diocese of Duluth with no resident clergyman.  Visits from bishops helped keep the church going, and the Ministration of missionary minded priests continued to serve the two congregations.

The Rev. L. W. Hallett in particular, was of great assistance, as he would journey from Fergus Falls to conduct services and respond to emergency needs.  He and the Rev. Elmer Lofstron served in this manner from 1931-1945.

Then, in 1944, the Diocese of Minnesota and Duluth were re-united, with the Rt. Rev. Benjamin T. Kemerer becoming Suffragan Bishop, and the Rt. Rev. Stephen E. Keeler continuing as Bishop of Minnesota.  Within a year, Bishop Keeler assigned a priest to the Alexandria-Glenwood churches in the summer of 1945.  Since then Emmanuel has been a parish with a priest serving the congregation.

In 1965 the old church on the corner of 5th and Fillmore was razed and in 1966 a new church was erected at 12th Street and Lake Street.  The following historical items were placed in the cornerstone:  the history of the church, a cross, the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The Right Rev. Phillip F. McNary conducted the service of dedication on December 1, 1966

The beautiful and interesting Memorial Windows made of antique Bohemian glass were removed from the old church and carefully installed in the new building. The large cross above the present altar was built from rafters from the former Church and the old altar brasses and Communion vessels were also retained.

Bishop Whipple


The Original Episcopal Church


One of the Original Stained Glass Windows