A La Follette in Pigeon Falls

The Christopherson pastors, father and then son, served Pigeon Creek Lutheran Church for many decades, and in the course of those years, ministered to three or four generations of Borresons. But I was genuinely surprised by this news clipping dated August 20, 1935 (Winona Repubican Herald).

It’s one thing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ordination into Christian ministry with colleagues, parishioners, and friends; it’s quite another to have the governor of the state show up! But that’s what happened. Governor Philip La Follette spoke at the opening of the afternoon program, apparently to accommodate his schedule. He had spoken at the American Legion convention in Eau Claire, and would be at the Trempealeau County Fair in Galesville later in the afternoon. Nevertheless, how many pastors have the governor speak at their anniversary!

Phil La Follette was Wisconsin’s 27th and 29th governor, serving 1931-1933 and 1935-1939. For his first term, he was a progressive within the Republican Party; for the second and third terms, he was elected as the Progressive Party candidate.  His father Robert M. La Follette, Sr. was a key leader in the state’s progressive movement and its reforms.

The news article is longer than I have shown here, with a listing of many other pastor-colleagues who were present and on the program that day. These included T. H. Megorden and L. S. J. Reque from Gale College where at least five Borreson siblings had been students. The preacher at morning festival services was Prof. O. E. Brandt of Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota (my own alma mater).

I wonder what connection drew the governor to make this stop. Was it that E. B. Christopherson himself was a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin? (I don’t know the years.) Or might it have been that Herman Ekern from Pigeon Falls, and later of Madison, had been such a trusted friend and advisor to Philip La Follette’s father? If I had to guess, I’d assume this latter connection was somehow involved. In any case, it surely must have been the talk of the town that the governor stopped by for their pastor’s celebration.

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