Yesterday as I was perusing a history of Gundersen (Lutheran) Hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I came across a surprise: the meeting for its founding was held in Pigeon Falls!
Pastor Emanuel Christophersen, who married Emil and Gina Borreson in October 1899, was host to a group of Lutheran pastors who met at his home for the specific purpose of founding a hospital. Among the eleven clergy were Pastor Soren Urberg of Blair and North Beaver Creek, as well as Pastor Otto Albert Myhre of French Creek at rural Ettrick. On October 5, 1899, these eleven pastors and five lay persons made up the original corporation of the hospital in La Crosse. The pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran in La Crosse, Andreas Kittelsen Sagen, was the key organizer.
Motivated by Jesus’ love and words “I was sick and you visited me” (Matthew 23:36), these pastors believed that faith always reveals itself in good works. And the care of the body was important as well as the care of the soul. Their action reminds me of all the missionaries of the same era who had success by building hospitals and bringing in doctors and nurses, thereby demonstrating that they truly cared for the whole person.
That same October 5 these men elected officers and trustees as well as forming an executive committee authorized to do whatever it required to build a hospital. That included raising funds, acquiring a site, and hiring an architect. They acquired land on Front Street (later South Avenue) for $8,000 from the C. and J. Michel Brewing Company.
Although all these men were from Norwegian churches, very quickly they realized their work needed a broader base. In January 1900 the first annual meeting of the corporation amended their initial articles so as to include German Lutheran congregations. All their efforts eventually resulted in a new hospital building dedicated November 27, 1902.
I found it fun to read that the beginnings were in Pigeon Falls the same month our grandparents were married by one of the incorporating pastors.