Throw Back Thursday: Our Beginning

"It is always sad to see something that has been useful rendered useless. This is true of a man's life, but it is also true of a building. In this instance it was the High School-College building in Elk Horn which had served a good purpose for a number of years, but now the time had come when its usefulness as a high school was terminated. The building was still there and part of it was not used, and still worse they were not being kept in repair. From time to time some one had remarked that it would be a wonderful thing if it could be converted into an Old People's Home. This had also been the thought in Mrs. Jorgen Miller's mind, and after she had deliberated on the project for a while she finally offered $3,000.00 with which to start an Old People's Home. This was in the year of 1932. At the Iowa District Meeting held in Graettinger, IA. Rev. Anders Hansen brought this proposition to the Iowa Ministerium to find out what their reaction would be toward such a project. There were not very many who expressed any opinion either pro or con. Rev. K. M. Mathiesen, Harlan, spoke in favor of the undertaking, and so did also our Dist. President, Rev. M.G. Christensen, Cedar Falls Shortly after the District Meeting a meeting was called by Rev. Anders Hansen to covenant the college Chapel for the purpose of ascertaining how the sentiment of the community would be in regard to the establishing of an Old People's Home. This meeting was held Sept. 18, 1932. A number of people gathered, and considerable interest was shown both in Elk Horn as well as in the surrounding congregations. At this meeting a committee consisting of Rev. Anders Hansen, Chairman, Rev. K. M. Mathiesen and Mr. C.L. Christensen, Audubon, was elected to draw up a Constitution. Another meeting was called for the purpose of organizing on Oct. 2 1932. At this meeting a Constitution was adopted and afterwards a board of trustees was elected to have  charge of the Home. The following were elected to serve on the first board: Rev. Anders Hansen, Rev K.M. Mathiesen, Mr. Thomas Christensen, Mr. Anton Petersen, Rev. M.C. Hagedorn, Rev. P.L. Thorslev, Mr. C.L. Christensen, Audubon, Mr. Hans P. Petersen, Harlan, Rev. H.L. Jensen, Rev. L Siersbeck, Mr. J.J. Norgaard and Mr. Hans Thuesen, Audubon. At the board meeting it was decided to start the Home in the fall of 1932. A home belonging to Mrs. J.C. Johnson was rented, furniture was installed, and Rev. and Mrs. C.M. Olsen were called to have charge of the Home. Rev. C.M. Olsen took charge Nov. 1, 1932. Mrs. Annan Hansen was the third guest, arriving on of the first days of February, 1933. At the annual meeting of the Danish Lutheran Church of Elk Horn, a request was presented from the Old People's Home in regard to the use of the College building for an Old People's Home. The congregation was favorably disposed toward the proposition of leasing the building to the Home on the following conditions:

  1. That the Home pay one half the cost of the shingles for the entire building;
  2. That the Home assume all the insurance costs on the building;
  3. That the Home pay all costs on the reconditioning of the building, or that part of it which would be used by the Home, including the reconditioning of the hating and water systems;
  4. That the Home share this kitchen and dining room with the congregation whenever the latter had any social activities.

The Association for the Old People's Home met January 15, 1933, to consider the proposition of the church. It was decided to accept the offer of the Church. The work of reconditioning the building was begun at once. Many volunteers helped and most of the wall paper was donated. IT was just the south wing and the center section of the building that was made ready for occupancy. When the work was finished a dedicatory service was held. At the end of the year there were nine guests at the Home. On the first of November, 1933, Rev. C. M. Olsen and wife retired from their work at the Home due to Rev. Olsen's failing health. Rev. Anders Hansen then took over the work of superintendent. Mrs. J. P. Kelsen was employed as cook, and Miss Cathryn Schmidt from Cedar Falls, Iowa, took over the duties of Matron. In the Spring of 1934 the eleven rooms in the north wing of the building were made ready for occupancy. Nearly all of the work as well as the wall paper were donated, partly by Elk Horn people, but also by our neighboring congregations. At the end of 1934 the number of guests had increased to almost twenty. At a board meeting held Nov. 8, 1935, it was decided to lease a house belonging to the congregation (Proffesorbolingen). Said house to be moved over the east end of the south wing of the College building, put on a foundation and equipped with the necessary bath room facilities, heating system and furniture, and to be ready for occupancy as soon as possible. This work was done so new guests could move in the first part of January. The total cost of this work amounted to $1651. 18. by this time there were thirty-three guests at the Home. In the year of 1937 the Old People's Home leased all the land east of the college as far as the alley from the congregation. Improvements have now been made to make this piece of ground into a nice park with fish pool, flower beds, new trees, etc. The Old People's Home is organized as a charitable association. Any one belonging to the Lutheran Church can become a member by paying $1 a year. This association meets annually and elects its trustees which consist of twelve members, each member elected for a period of three years. This board of trustees has charge of the operation of the Home. The question of how to care for the old folks when they became helpless came up for discussion several times. In the year of 1943 a public meeting was held in the chapel where people from the whole elk Horn settlement were invited to express their views in regard to the erection of a building where helpless and invalids could be cared for. Many expressed their views and the consensus of opinion was in favor of going ahead so such a building could become available. At a board meeting held a short time later it was unanimously decided to build a home for helpless and invalids as soon as the necessary funds became available. The Old People's Home association purchased the present College building from the elk Horn Church at the price of $5,000. Originally the building belonged to the Church, the Old People's Home leasing it. A building site for the new Invalid building was also assured. The church decided to sell the lot where the parsonage had sod as well as about four acres of land on the condition that the Old People's Home move the parsonage off the ground to a place to be designated by the Church. This was done. A house south of the parsonage was also purchased and moved to the northeast corner of the lot purchased. This house was remodeled and fixed up to accommodate invalids until the new building could be built. The first patient was admitted on Dec. 28, 1946. When the new Invalid Home was built this house became the residence of the Superintendent. A very intense effort was put forth to gather funds for a new brick structure which would house thirty-five invalid patients. The effort was successful and work was begun on the new building in the Spring of 1947. work was almost completed in the early part of 1948 when an explosion wrecked the one wing. Work was started immediately to rebuild the wrecked part and in the summer of 1946 the building was ready for occupancy. The cost of the building came to $90,000.00. Within a short time it became apparent that the new structure would not take care of the number of patients that were asking to be admitted. Plans were therefore made to add a section on the present building to house twenty more patients. This required the raising of additional funds which were again forthcoming through the concentrated efforts of many of the Homes' friends. The new addition was completed in 1953, giving us a capacity of fifty-nine invalid patients. When the new Elk Horn Lutheran church was completed in 1950, it became possible for the Old People's Home to use the north end of the first floor in that building. At this time the kitchen and the dining room were moved to that part of the building and a beautiful chapel was also built in the north end of the building. rooms were made out of that area which formerly had been dining room and kitchen which gave us a capacity for sixty people in the building. In 1950 the property to the east of the Old People's Home was acquired, which consisted of a house and lot. Because of the pressing need for more room for invalids, this house was remodeled and made ready for occupancy by nine invalids, and is still in use for this purpose. In the summer of 1955, Rev. Anders Hansen passed away. His song, Allan, was asked to take over the duties as Superintendent of the Homes which he has done since that time. In the fall of 1955 the Board of Directors felt the need to call a Chaplain for the Homes. Rev. Henry N. Hansen was called for that purpose and is now serving that capacity. Several other changes have been made in the past year. The original farm buildings were sold and part of the land was given to be used as a park for the town. A small acreage was purchased on the east side of Elk Horn where the Home now has its milk cows and chickens." - Salem's History Binder Pt. 1  

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