Bethany Lutheran Church
Completion of the Great Northern Railway and the railroad’s promotion of dryland farming in the American West drew homesteaders to this isolated stretch of Montana’s northern plains. Prominent among these settlers during the homesteading boom of the 1910s were Norwegian immigrants, who brought their Lutheran faith to this far-away place. As early as 1911, a circuit rider from Conrad provided Lutheran services, binding together the small, remote community. Under Reverend H. E. Haugland, the Bethania Evg. Luthersk Menighed was organized the following year. Services were held in private homes and the Grandview schoolhouse. In 1916, Hulda Sjulli donated three acres of land, and the congregation laid plans for a church and cemetery. Crop failures and World War I intervened, delaying construction. The cemetery was plotted, however, and the first interment occurred during an influenza epidemic in 1918. In 1923, Bethany Lutheran’s Ladies Aid purchased a building that was to be moved onto the site and renovated. Fundraising by this highly motivated group paid for construction materials, fencing, and interior furnishings. The organ, collection plates, and labor were donated by local families. Dedicated on September 12, 1926, services were held until the 1950s. In 1960, the small congregation merged with St. Luke’s parish in Shelby. Today the Bethany Lutheran Church, commemorating many threads of local history, is a fitting place for community gatherings. Its modest “architecture of necessity” is a lasting expression of immigrant settlers, who kept their traditions and values alive in the vast, windswept wheatlands of northcentral Montana.