By Carson Ellis
St. Peter’s Lutheran church is home to one of Stettler’s most unique artifacts. The bell of Saint Peter’s sits atop a rather decorative tower and has a rich history. Not only is it noted as being the first bell to break the silence of the town, but it has looked down upon services for nearly every denomination in town. Starting with its original owners way back in 1906.
The bell of St. Peter’s originally was the bell of St. David’s. St. David’s Swedish Lutheran Church was built in 1906 on the south-west corner of Taylor (51) Street and Prospect (49) Avenue. The building was 28 feet wide, and 40 feet long. Three stain glassed windows adorned each side of the building as well as two windows that sat on another side of the bell tower at the face of the building. The rather simple building had 10-foot high walls and a pitched roof that measured twenty-four feet high. The bell tower was designed to stand above most structures in the community, which when the church was built in 1906, was not difficult. The tower’s overall length came in around sixty feet, and the bell was housed roughly halfway up the eight-foot wide by eight-foot long tower. The three men responsible for the construction of the tower were John Backstrom, his brother Nels Backstrom and John’s brother-in-law who was a plasterer. The three men would be part of the construction of several other well-known buildings in the area, including the Stettler Courthouse, the Ransom schoolhouse, and the Big Valley Roundhouse.
Although the first services were noted as being held in September, the St. David’s Swedish Lutheran Church, wasn’t dedicated until October of 1906 and was estimated to have cost about $4,500.
The Swedish Lutheran Church would not be long for this community, dissolving sometime around 1912. Still. When it first opened, it was also home to the Presbyterian congregation until their building was completed. Afterwards, the Anglican congregation would share the building until their structure was completed around 1910. After the Swedish Lutheran congregation dissolved, the building was sold to the Nazarenes.
In 1925, many of the Methodist and Presbyterian congregations across Canada merged under the United Church of Canada. When the local congregations of those two churches united, the Presbyterians sold their building to the Baptists, and united services were held in the slightly larger Methodist church where the Royal Bank sits today. After brief negotiations, they purchased the slightly larger former St. David’s building from the Nazarene congregation.
Finally, the Emmanuel Lutherans of Botha would purchase the original Swedish Lutheran building from the United Church for $700. Part of the deal was that the building was moved, and on June 23, 1927, it was relocated to its new home on Main Street. It would be rededicated as St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in August of 1927. It would remain there until finally being sold Kay and Bill’s transport. The bell tower was removed, and the little bell was salvaged to sit atop the new building.