Six miles west of Ottertail city is a peninsula between Otter Tail Lake and Walker Lake.
That’s where outdoor worship during the summer months at Camp Nidaros near Walker Lake has been a tradition for 110 years.
This tradition has its roots in the purchase of property back in 1909 by the original founders of Camp Nidaros who were mainly involved with the ministry. They built cabins and formed an association.
“At the time of our centennial, in 2009, we had 16 cottages at Camp Nidaros,” says the Rev. Stan Satre.
His wife Bev’s great-grandfather, Martin Soelberg, was the builder of the first four cabins more than a century ago. Her parents, with help from Stan and Bev’s brother, built their current cabin back in 1956.
Stan and Bev met during their collegiate years at St. Olaf College in Northfield and were married in 1954. Stan, ordained as a minister at Luther Seminary in St. Paul in 1958, served in the ministry at several locations across the United States.
He retired with Bev in Fergus Falls in 2006, serving local churches on an interim basis.
Stan has been the main chaplain at Camp Nidaros since 1982, heading many of the 10 a.m. Sunday worship services himself and also lining up other speakers. He rings the bell at 9:30 a.m. and at 9:55 a.m. as a final reminder for worshipers, prior to the start of the service.
The last 2019 outdoor worship service at Camp Nidaros took place on Sunday, Aug. 4. This was also the last of five summer worships.
“This year was noteworthy with the purchase of new outdoor cedar benches for our place of worship,” Stan said. “If it rains, people come to our cabin and we can accommodate the 40 to 50 worshipers.”
Over the years, in addition to regular Sunday morning worship services, the site has also been used for weddings and baptisms.
“Our open-air services at Camp Nidaros have been very special over the years,” Stan says. “The tradition of outdoor services is passed from generation to generation.”
During the colder months Stan and Bev reside at West Alcott Avenue in Fergus Falls.
They have five daughters, four of who met their husbands at St. Olaf College. Stan and Bev have 18 grandchildren.
Bev recalls the old days at Camp Nidaros, during the 1940s, when kerosene lamps were used in the cabin. Two of those lamps are displayed today at their cabin.
She says that the word camp is really a misnomer since, in reality, Camp Nidaros has always been a spot away from home for pastors and their families, many of them educators.
Of the 16 cottages, 14 are owned by family members of the original owners.
A salute to SWCD based in Fergus Falls
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).
The starting year was 1944, at first including 15 townships in Otter Tail County. Theo Hegseth, one of the first appointed SWCD supervisors, served the SWCD for 34 years.
Today there is both a West and East Soil and Water Conservation District in the county.
The mission of the west and east SWCDs in Otter Tail County, who work jointly on many projects, is to promote the wise and proper use of all natural resources within the districts.
“We strive to achieve this goal for the economic, environmental and aesthetic betterment of all residents,” says West Otter Tail SWCD manager Brad Mergens.
Chris Schuelke, executive director of the Otter Tail County Historical Society, notes that the U.S. Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act in April 1935. This was nine years before the establishment of the West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).
A thanks goes out to current staff members headed by Mergens, board members and past supervisors.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.