The Cooksville Lutheran Church is celebrating its founding 125 years ago in 1891 with an event planned for Sunday, August 14, 2016. Both the establishment of the Lutheran Church in 1891 and the establishment of the nearby Cooksville Cemetery in 1861 will be commemorated.
The day will include a special church service, a luncheon and a history program followed by a tour of the Cooksville Cemetery. The program will begin with a church service at 10 a.m., luncheon at 11:15 a.m., a history program at 12 noon, and a guided tour of the cemetery at 12:30 p.m. Church founders’ graves will be marked, and families of the founders will be available for questions and guidance. A free-will offering for the lunch will be accepted from attendees. All interested persons are invited to attend any or all of the events
The Cooksville Lutheran Church officially began life as the Norwegian Lutheran Church in 1891, a result of the increased number of immigrant from Norway who settled in the Cooksville area and who had been attending the nearby Stoughton Lutheran Church.
On October 5, 1891, at a meeting in the Cooksville Schoolhouse, the Norwegian settlers in the area decided to organize and erect their own Norwegian Lutheran Church in the village. The constitution of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church was adopted, with the first Cooksville congregation consisting of twelve families. The Reverend Theodor H. Dahl from Stoughton agreed to conduct services in Norwegian every third Sunday at an annual salary of $125.00
A campaign for funds to construct a Lutheran church in Cooksville was successful. The new Norwegian Lutheran church was a small, handsome Gothic Revival church with some Shingle Style details in the tall, graceful bell-tower and steeple, and it was dedicated on December 14, 1892, on South Street next to Cooksville’s existing Cemetery.
Unfortunately, the church was struck by lightning and burned to the ground on September 13, 1896. The loss, calculated at $2,339.00, was mostly covered by insurance. The congregation decided to re-build, and a second, similar church building was constructed in the same location in 1897, with more elaborate stained-glass windows.
|Cooksville Lutheran Church today|
The elegant rural Lutheran Church still stands, with several new additions and a restored bell-tower, a significant part of the history of the Village of Cooksville as well as an important part of present-day life.
The adjacent historic Cooksville Cemetery was established 155 years ago. Many of the original Lutheran Church family members as well as founders of the Village of Cooksville are buried there. The two separate historic properties, the church and the cemetery, adjoin each other on Church Street in the historic Village of Cooksville.
|Cooksville Cemetery sign|
The old Cemetery in Cooksville, founded in 1861, was historically named “Waucoma Cemetery” after the Village of Waucoma that had been platted next to Cooksville in 1846. The Cemetery replaced the village’s earliest burying ground used in the 1840s and 1850s and located northwest of Cooksville’s General Store.
|Polly Woodward headstone, 1851|
The Cooksville Cemetery contained 2.5 acres of land purchased from Waucoma’s founder Dr. John Porter for $25. The cemetery expanded to the west in 1947 with about 1.4 acres of land acquired south of the Lutheran Church, and in 1999, it was expanded again with the purchase of two acres of farmland to the east.
The Cooksville Lutheran Church and the Cooksville Cemetery are both located on Church Street at the southeastern corner of the village. Both the Cemetery and the Lutheran Church are part of the Cooksville Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, which includes most of the small Rock County village.
The church will again celebrate its 125th anniversary in November this year when a commemorative “Lutheran Church Memory Book” will be available.
For more information about the August 14 events at the Cooksville Lutheran Church and the Cemetery, contact Ilene Axford at (608) 873-6914.