The North Bend Eagle


St. Matthew's Christmas Eve
Fifty-five people attended this year's Christmas Eve service at St. Matthew's in Pleasant Valley Township. It is the only service the now-closed church hosts.

St. Matthew's opens for community

by Nathan Arneal
Published 12/28/16

On a frosty hill eight miles north of North Bend on County Road 4 sits a small, one-room church overlooking the Maple Creek valley.

St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, founded in 1891 by German immigrants, closed its doors in 2002, but every year on Dec. 24 the doors are opened once again.

St. Matthew's candleLindsey, Nathan and Caleb Ladehoff sing during the cadlelight portion of the service.

Most of the attendees to the annual Christmas Eve service have no connection to St. Matthew’s as an active church, and Catholics and Presbyterians are now just as likely to fill its pews as Lutherans. Its one service a year has become a regular draw for people that live in the surrounding area.

“Mostly it’s become a lot of community people that live in the area that think it’s a fun activity to come and be a part of,” Fred Ladehoff said.

Ladehoff plays the music for the service and leads several of the readings, but he credits his parents, Harlan and Lavonne, for being the driving force behind the Christmas Eve celebration in Pleasant Valley Township. The Ladehoffs have deep roots with St. Matthew’s.

“We’ve got many Ladehoff’s out there,” Fred said, with a wave of his hand in the direction of the cemetery that sits adjacent to the church.

Fred’s great-grandfather, Frederick, immigrated from Germany and was one of St. Matthew’s earliest members. He married Anna Stoltenberg, whose parents donated the land the church and cemetery were built on. In 1900, Frederick helped haul the lumber from Rogers to build the church. When the church closed in 2002 after weekly attendance dropped into single digits, the descendents of Frederick Ladehoff were determined to keep the spirt of the church alive.

“We decided to keep trying to do Christmas Eve services until we can’t any more,” Fred Ladehoff said. “We’ve been lucky enough to keep it going.”

The church’s furnace is fired up twice a year: for Christmas Eve, and the day the church is cleaned in preparation for Christmas Eve. No one worries about pipes freezing because there are no pipes. Church goers and bible school children used an outhouse when nature called.


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