Artist's painting of the Norwegian Lutheran Church on Coon Prairie
sometime before the Easter fire.
From the Vernon County Censor, April 14, 1909
During the storm at 9:15 o’clock Easter Sunday evening the Norwegian Lutheran Coon Prairie church was struck by lightning and completely ruined by the conflagration that followed the flash. The walls still remain standing, but the action of fire upon lime rock renders it entirely unfit for use, and in the event of the reconstruction of the church, they must be razed. The few eye-witnesses attest to its being a terrifically hot fire. The stone belfry acted as a chimney up which the flames roared as in a blast furnace. So intense was the heat that the huge bell was melted as though it had been cast from wax. Through a lock of adequate facilities, any effort to successfully combat the flames was rendered impossible. Rev. Halvorson, with the assistance of several others, succeeded in saving the beautiful altar painting, a small organ and a few chairs,—all else being entirely consumed. Hardly a scant half-hour elapsed between the breaking forth of the fire and the complete destruction of the belfry. The heavy roof soon followed in its steps, crashing down into the fiery furnace below it. In but two hours the flaming pile resolved itself into a mass of glowing embers.
The church was constructed in the year 1875, and was dedicated in 1884. The original cost was in the neighborhood of $30,000. Such a structure would cost a third more if built at the present time. Since 1875 a considerable amount of time and money has been expended in materially adding to the interior decorations and in permanent improvements upon the building proper. To place the loss at $40,000 would, indeed, be a conservative estimate. Only $9,000 insurance was carried, thus rendering the loss the more severe. Exteriorly the well known house of worship was impressively imposing, and the interior was a delight to the eye in its surpassing beauty and richness of setting. Only a few years ago a splendid pipe organ was installed at a cost of $1,500. The vandal hand of flame meted out to all of these sacred treasures a common fate.
|Shortly after the fire|
Since 1872, Rev. H. Halvorsen has ministered to the spiritual needs of his charge continually, and watched the congregation grow from a mere handful to one of the largest and richest in the state, now comprising about two hundred and fifty families—the church being known as the largest and richest of any in the state outside of the large cities. The present site is considerably south of the center of population in relation to the church membership, and no doubt a strong effort will be put forth by the four hundred Westby members to have the new edifice erected in that village.