Benrud Little White Chapel
The Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church, known as “The Little White Chapel” was built in 1886 and served the Norwegian immigrant congregation in Sparta, Wisconsin until it was struck by lightening in 1939. It was sold to the Christian Science Society and later became a residence at 503 South Water Street in Sparta, Wisconsin. In 2009 the Benrud Family acquired it from Morrow Homes, in Sparta and moved it to Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center near Coon Valley, Wisconsin. It was restored with funds raised by the Benrud Family and Friends of Norskedalen.
It all started with the following proposal written by Palmer Peterson, Olava Branch and presented to the Benrud Board of Directors August 11, 1990. The chapel is available to view during most Norskedalen events and by appointment. We so appreciate the heritage and legacy established by this gift.
The Benrud Little White Chapel is available for life event celebrations and ceremonies, and for viewing at special events. The chapel seats 50 and can be reserved for 1-4 hour time slots for ceremonies and celebrations.
Plan to Commemorate the Benrud Clan
If there is, or comes a time, when steps should be taken to memorialize our great grandparents and establish for posterity their part in settling and helping to develop the land in Wisconsin - I believe that time has arrived. Many of us are old enough so that we knew our grandparents - that is- the second generation and we would desire to see this accomplished - at least begun so that we can help to establish such a memorial. If we cherish and appreciate our Norwegian heritage, (and we do), then we should proceed with a permanent tribute to the Benrud clan. The fact that we continue to attend these reunions (Palmer is referring to the reunion he is attending in 1990 where he makes this proposal) in such large numbers supports this conclusion. After all, they sacrificed and bravely came to this unsettled land and thereby made it possible for all of us to reap the benefits in much greater measure than they.
Fortunately, there is a very fitting project already established into which our memorial would be most appropriate. Many of you have heard of the Norskedalen (Norwegian valley) that is a nature and heritage center near Coon Valley, Wisconsin, and many of you have visited there. The fact that our great grandparents and grandparents homesteaded their land almost “a stones throw”, so to speak, from Norskedalen, makes this a “natural” for us to establish a tribute in this complex, and especially since they were all native Norwegians…
A committee was formed and opportunities were investigated. Over the last 20 years many possibilities were discussed and many family members proposed various projects, always coming back to the strong religious aspect of our Norwegian immigrant ancestors. In working with Norskedalen, where a pioneer homestead is restored, a chapel would fit with their heritage goal; many church plans were proposed and researched. Fund raising within the family began in 1995, with additional donations from friends of the family and friends of Norskedalen.