Rush River Lutheran Church was founded in 1855; just seven years after Wisconsin became a state, and was the first organized church in this vast area of northwestern Wisconsin. Before 1850, the area was inhabited primarily by the Chippewa and Sioux Indians, who enjoyed the fertile hunting grounds and scenic beauty of its forests, rivers and prairies. There were very small settlements along the Rush River at this time both at New Centerville and Martell (then a small collection of trappers’ huts called Rising Sun).
In 1854 Rev. Nils Brandt came to the Rush River where he conducted services, administered baptisms and presided over communion. The next year Rev. Brandt was here again and on July 11th, 1855 those in attendance at the service voted to proceed with plans to organize into the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church at Rush River. The following quote from a lengthier “Church History” celebrating our 150th anniversary tells of the site chosen for the church: “There was a wide view to the north and to the west. Northward lay the road to the little store and post office of Centerville. Half a mile to the east ran Rush River, a rushing torrent. To the east and the south were the big forests of oak and maple, with a few clumps of pine.”
Rush River Lutheran Church and its pastors over the next few decades helped to foster the formation of numerous churches in the area from Stillwater, Minnesota and Hudson, Wisconsin eastward to Little Elk Lutheran Church located five miles east of Menomonie.
New church buildings were built at Rush River over the years to meet the needs of a growing congregation. The cornerstone of our present church building reads 1897 and was built to replace a building that was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
Additions to our present facility were completed in 1920 (basement), 1939 (electricity), 1953 (oil furnaces, plumbing and restrooms), 1960 (education addition), 1991 (new front entrance and elevator), 1994 (kitchen remodel and additional restroom) and 2001 (new addition to the south adding offices, meeting rooms and education rooms).
Rush River Lutheran Church is blessed to have a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing and functional building. Thoughtful additions and enhancements make it a fully accessible and comfortable modern day church. The Sanctuary itself remains a beautiful, traditional and spacious testament to its original builders.