The Vikur Lutheran Church was built in 1884 and is the oldest Icelandic Church standing in North America. The Mountain community has splendidly preserved this historic Icelandic church and in 2013 the church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the spring of 1878, the first Icelanders left Canada for Dakota. Later that year, the first Icelandic sermon was delivered by Séra (Pastor) Páll Þorláksson, ‘‘The Father of the Icelandic Settlement in Dakota.’’
By the fall of 1879, about 50 families had moved to the Pembina Hills area. Most of them were destitute. Séra Páll also had moved to Mountain permanently by this time, but he was seriously ill with tuberculosis. Even though he was extremely frail, he continued to conduct services and assist his countrymen in the best ways possible.
In the fall of 1880, Séra Páll and the pioneers made plans for scheduled religious services. Séra Páll writes, ‘‘At last, there appeared to be good reason to believe our settlement would survive the coming winter for several farmers had a fair crop that autumn and our community had been augmented moreover, by the arrival of a number of self-supporting individuals and even men of some means from Lyon County, Minnesota, and Shawano County, Wisconsin. Quite a few of the settlers who had hired out as harvest hands returned to their homes with appreciable sums of money, and we were also joined by people with means of their own who came from Winnipeg and other places in Manitoba.’’
In 1881, he donated land in Mountain for a cemetery and a church. Knowing that his health was failing, he strongly recommended his cousin, Séra Hans Thorgrimsen, be called as the next pastor in Dakota. Séra Páll continued to hold services in his log home and his health continued to decline. The energetic and respected pastor died 12 Mar 1882 of tuberculosis and he was buried in the cemetery later that spring.
Hans was still in St. Louis at Concordia Seminary when Séra Páll died. Séra Hans graduated a few months later. He had requested time to visit Iceland before coming to Dakota. He was from Eyrarbakki. His first service at Mountain was held outside on 05 Aug 1883.
Construction plans were made on 10 Mar 1884 to build the Vikur Church on Séra Páll’s homestead. The oak-beamed church was 46’ x 28’. The construction was completed at the end of the summer under the leadership of Séra Hans. He also led the Icelandic congregations in Canada and the United States to be united in the Icelandic Lutheran Synod, which is a great story in itself.
We respect our Icelandic ancestors and the pastors that achieved so much in the early days of our Icelandic communities. Continuing to preserve these historic churches honors their hard work and dedication. It preserves the story of the Icelandic pioneers for future generations.
The Vikur LCW (Lutheran Church Women) and the Vikur Church Society support and preserve this historic Icelandic church. If you wish to support this project, donations are appreciated.
Vikur Church Society; PO Box 204; Mountain, ND 58262-0204
Vikur LCW; PO Box 146, Mountain, ND 58262