In November 1901, prior to the organization of Chisholm, there were a number of Swedish-speaking people from Finland residing here. In 1902, Mrs. John (Sofia) Strong came here from Kallby, Finland. She was a member of a Baptist Church in Jakobstad, Finland.
Mrs. Strong was very interested in the Lord’s work and since there was no spiritual organization among her people here, she organized a Sunday School in the summer of 1903 with 10 members. She led this Sunday School for two years.
Another immigrant from Finland, H.W. Johnson, accepted Christ and was baptized. Mrs. Strong asked him to take over the Sunday School. The Sunday School grew and became a continued blessing. The ministry evident here today is the fruit of Mrs. Strong’s vision.
The work grew. The first preachers of God’s Word were John J. Bakk, Pastor John J. Fors from Duluth, Missionary John Lindgren, and Pastor A.J. Stormans who was also pastor at Ebenezer in Duluth. From this ministry many came to Christ. Four followers of Jesus were baptized in the very first baptism on June 25, 1905 at Longyear Lake under the ministry of John Lindgren.
It was necessary to rent places for meetings or use homes to worship because the group was small. The membership did grow and they decided to organize a church which took place on November 25, 1906. Representatives who came were Pastor J. E. Petterson from the Eveleth church, Pastor John J. Fors, Ebenezer Baptist, Gust Mattson and Mr. Holmstrom from Bethel Baptist, Duluth. J. E. Petterson acted as chairman and John J. Fors, Secretary.
The charter members were: John J. and Hanna Bakk (great uncle and aunt to Roger Johnson); Nels Rank, John Nylund, Isak Lundberg, Emanuel Erickson (father of Bob Erickson), Sofia Strong, Erik Alfred Johnson and H. W. Johnson (uncles of Roger Johnson) and Felix Esselstrom. Pastor Petterson read from Acts 2 after which all twelve charter members formed a circle and joined hands as he led them in prayer. They joined in singing No. 464 from the Nya Psalmisten Hymnal “May this circle of love that Christ has established here be a foretaste of what will be in Heaven.”
John J. Bakk was chosen as chairman; John Nylund, Vice-Chairman; Nels Rank, Secretary; and Andrew Rank, Treasurer. The church’s first deacons were Isak Lundberg and John Nylund. It was decided that the name of this new assembly would be Bethphage Baptist Church.