From Orsa to Stanchfield

History and Genealogy of the Stanchfield (MN) Baptist Church


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About the Project 

In the fall of 2018 Dave Marshall, former sexton of the Stanchfield Baptist Cemetery, and Lynn (Dahlgren) Fergusson, avid hobby genealogist with connections to Orsa, Sweden, met each other for the first time at Dave’s home. Dave had already spent almost 20 years recreating records lost in two church fires and researching the families buried in the cemetery. As he describes it:

“I grew up in a family whose parents both came from big families. We got together often for holidays and birthdays. I very much enjoyed our large gatherings of relatives. 

When meeting people in church and seeing similar names in the cemetery, I was constantly asking them about their relationships. But they didn’t seem interested, or couldn’t really explain. Once I realized there was not even an alphabetical list, I started to make one despite not even being part of the cemetery committee.  The Pastor was aware of my interest, and he suggested I join the committee when an opening came available. So that’s what I did. 

In 1986, the Isanti County Historical Society (ICHS) had worked through our cemetery, transcribing the stones. I started with their list, adding to that list from the cemetery maps.  Also knowing that the church had had two major fires in 1919 and 1930, I searched for people who were buried there with no markers. Obituaries were a big help to find names of people who were buried in the cemetery with no markers.  I sent mailings to members and former church members throughout the US asking for photocopies of obituaries and memorial folders. I also searched in our church archives as well as the newspaper archives in ICHS and the records of local funeral home.

Dean O’Brien, whose wife was related to members of the cemetery in multiple ways, helped me by photocopying and assembling the obituaries I already had. 

Since then I have worked with many families and some of them have shared their family trees with me.”

Lynn was introduced to Dave by her newly-discovered half cousins. It was through them that she also learned that her grandfather was from a Baptist family in Sweden, and that many Baptists had left Orsa to settle in Stanchfield. The idea of tracing the migration of these families, and their relationship to each other, intrigued her, and so she started building out her family tree to see how many connections she could make. Once she met Dave the project started to take on a life of its own as there were ever more angles to be researched. Dave had the stories, Lynn found the data to fill in the blanks and connect everyone to each other.

With this website it is finally possible to present this joint research project to a wider audience. While it will never be complete or perfect, we hope it will be of use to family historians with ties to Orsa, or those interested in early Minnesota history.

About the Project

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