by Carolyn Van Loh
A Danish family, the J.A. Jensens, who had been members of Westbrook’s Immanuel Baptist, moved northeast of Tyler in 1880. Three years later, N.L. Christiansen, appointed state Danish missionary, started his work in Tyler.
Several Danish Baptist families and two Danish pastors moved to the community in 1890. H.P. Andersen, residing with the Jensen family, accepted the ministering offer for the area.
On July 31, 1899, nine people organized a Baptist church; a building was completed in Tyler on September 24, 1899; and the congregation grew to sixteen the first year. Membership increased to twenty-five after families moved into the community the following year. J.P. Nielsen from Union Grove, Wisconsin, became the pastor, but terminated his ministry in 1904 because of illness. His daughter Marion later married Ray Lindstrom from Westbrook.
J.R. Brygger, a young student from Des Moines College, visited the church during Christmas vacation in 1917. The church extended a call, and he began July 12, 1918. Unknown to him that he would be facing a job much more strenuous than the pastorate. A destructive tornado hit Tyler on August 21,1918, and demolished the Danish-Norwegian church building. People shared a chapel built onto another building with the Congregational and English Lutheran churches for more than a year.
The November 1919 Tyler Journal announced dedication of the new Baptist Church building: “This is the first one rebuilt after the tornado and a good substantial building has been erected, which will long stand as credit to the local congregation as well as to their active pastor, J.R. Brygger.”
Pastor Brygger served as pastor 1918-1926 and 1930-1949. He and his wife were hired as caretakers/cooks at the newly organized Shetek Baptist Camp. He lived in Tyler and continued attending First Baptist Church several years. He also conducted camp meetings in country schools of the area.
Several seminary men ministered to the church, but with the arrival of the 21st Century, a handful of adult members faithfully continued as members. Several people had moved and/or no longer attended. One of the members, Roland Johnson, was a third-generation attendee of First Baptist; his grandfather, Andrew Johnson, attended in the early days of the church. Money earned after selling the church building and parsonage, given to Lake Benton’s Baptist Church contributed to the new church building, and helped finance the building funds. Upon the dissolution of the church, Tyler members transferred their membership to First Baptist Church of Lake Benton.
Carolyn Van Loh has published a questionnaire to help share your story of God’s grace in your church family’s history. Submit your questionnaire and read more accounts of Exalting Christ Among the Churches here.