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"Lake Florida Church"

Written by Orlynn Mankell, 1998

Storyteller and historian, Orlynn Mankell

What has to remain as a classic of the old traditional "little white church" is the historic Lake Florida Mission Church of rural Spicer, Minnesota, where it has been standing now for well over a century. While many of these old churches stand today as prominent landmarks, the one at Lake Florida is secluded away at the end of a long driveway. From the highway you have to look twice to notice it.

Swedish immigrants built the church in 1873. They referred to themselves as the Mission Friends and were in disagreement with Sweden's State Church. The Lake Florida church has never achieved any real landmark status but certain facts about it do probably stand out.

These old Mission Friends never liked things too elaborate or showy and it is certainly reflected in their place of worship with its plain, pristine, and yet appealing design. Secondly, throughout its long history it has never been beset by fire, lightning strikes or damaging windstorms.

The interior is all wood boarded and has never known anything like drywall, plaster, paneling or composition tile. The building has always received excellent care and with nothing added to the walls or ceiling, no restoration has ever been needed. The siding on the main section is just the way the builders put it up in 1873 and held in place with the old square nail.

The church can also be considered as an example of 1870s Americana. The sixteen pews are also original and are generally believed to go back to Civil War times. Even the door locks and hinges have that old look about them.

If you could have visited the old Lake Florida Mission a hundred years ago, you would have met men like Gustaf, Anders, Frans, Jonas, and Vilhelm; and a few of the wives: Elize, Terese, Kajsa, Britta, and Lisabet. Most of the members came from Varmland Province, Sweden.

In 1910 the entry was added. The pastor of the time makes note of it, "The elderly church is putting on its festival garments." To some at least the church was even then getting a little old. A steeple was also added which can be described as being modest and unassuming and which sort of describes the Friends themselves. The three distinctive round windows were put in and were described as being Old Swedish. The Lake Florida Church has always been sort of a timeless place - and where the newest sections are 88 years old!

The church is much photographed. A photo from the front in 1910 and today would be identical except for the light fixture above the door with its own distinctive shadow.

Lake Florida Mission Church, 2005, with a portion of the cemetery.
(Note the shadow of the light fixture.)

Visitors visit the church during the summer months. The guest book shows visitors from every state, and includes a few from foreign countries. Now and then visitors make notations after their names. "A beautiful experience" writes one. "A real treasure" says another. Regular services are no longer held, but a homecoming service is held every summer for the descendants of the church.

The church building is sequestered away at the end of a long driveway, with a background of huge ash and cottonwood trees, which line the churchyard. You are away from traffic noise and some days the only sound is the rustle of an afternoon breeze high in the cottonwoods. In this tranquil and immaculate setting stands this church.

The church of Lake Florida played an important role in the lives of it founders. It seemed to be on the mind of the church secretary when he make a brief notation in the old records well over a century ago. "May the Lord water his church at Florida so that it might become more fragrant and blossom like a lily in Zaron."

The historic, old, Lake Florida Mission Church stands today, quiet and serene, just the way it has for the last 125 years - and never with any real fanfare. Chances are it is good for a hundred years more.

Orlynn's articles about Kandiyohi County history:

Lake Florida Church page

Orlynn and Vivian Mankell

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> Last updated: August 22, 2008