A Hospital’s Roots in Pigeon Falls

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 the same month 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.

The Christopherssen home in Pigeon Falls

The Christopherssen home in Pigeon Falls

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.

img_0856Although 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.

This entry was posted in Churches, Emil Borreson, Gina Estensen and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Hospital’s Roots in Pigeon Falls

  1. Carson Taylor says:

    Thanks for the post Glenn. I inherited the Lutheran Hospital book from my parents. Pastor Emanuel Christophersen is my great grandfather on my mother’s side. The picture is at the original parsonage along Christophersen Road and Highway 53, with the new one at the end of Christophersen Road built in 1912. I think the home is still there—there are two homes but I haven’t snooped around to determine which was the parsonage. I think the tallest boy is the future Pastor Einar.

    There is Gunderson Clinic/Lutheran Hospital medical resident apartment building near the hospital building named after Emanuel Christophersen and dedicated in 1982. Attached is a 2010 picture with me, my daughter and two grandkids. The spelling is a mystery: my mother complained about the spelling in the 1980s and I found a photo from 1998 with the correct ‘sen’ spelling, but now it is ‘son.”

    Carson Taylor Portland, Oregon


  2. Rolf Mosbo says:

    My paternal grandmother, Anna, was Emanuel Christopherson’s sister. I can remember attending the fiftieth anniversary celebration of their brother, Einar’s, ordination in Pigeon Falls in c. 1964. I was 13 at the time, so do not recall so much of it.

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