First Site of Bethel Lutheran Church and Cemetery

Thirty Swedish settlers in Harlan and Phelps counties organized Bethel Lutheran Church on November 12, 1877, at the home and post office of Gustaf Hanson, which was located seven miles south and two miles east of Holdrege in Harlan County.

Their first church, a small sod structure, was built here in Phelps County on a plot of ground in the N.W. quarter of Section 31, Divide Precinct, donated by Mathias Hedlund. A cemetery located south of the church was receiving graves as late as 1932. The native prairie grass serves as a reminder of the past.

Lay pastors serving the congregation were Olof Hedlund and C. J. Johnson. Pastor J. E. Swanborn was the first called pastor. The sod church was replaced in 1884 by a frame church built in Holdrege. In 1892, a frame building was erected at this site to be used during the summer months as a "Swede School" for the children of the congregation. The present congregation recognized with thankfulness the commitment and sacrifice these early pioneers made to affirm their Christian faith.



3 miles east of Holdrege on U.S. 6, 1/2 mile south on R Road