Oak Grove Lutheran School

Oak Grove Lutheran School.

Oak Grove Lutheran School.

In the spring of 1906, the annual convention of the Lutheran Free Church of America passed a resolution to found a school to provide an education for young women under the auspices of the church. Their committee purchased the Barnes family estate which included eight acres of ground and a large residence on the banks of the Red River in Fargo, ND. (The "Tyler Castle," pictured above left, the residence was built in 1882 by E. S. Tyler, and sold to G. S. Barnes in 1883.)

The Oak Grove Lutheran Ladies Seminary was opened and dedicated on October 31, 1906, and 24 young women began their studies including domestic science, Norwegian, music and Bible, taught by six teachers. Spacious and elegant as the "castle" was, it was soon too small to be home and school for the growing number of students. The first major building was completed in 1922 (see picture above right). Now called "Jackson Hall", this building contained the dining facilities, classrooms and two upper floors with rooms for students.

The year 1926 was an important one. Oak Grove gained accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. It lost "Lutheran Ladies" from its name and accepted young men as students. In 1952 the school's name was changed to "Oak Grove Lutheran High School". Classes for grades seven and eight started in the fall of 1978, and a sixth grade class was begun in the fall of 1998. In 1999 the school had another name change: it is now known as "Oak Grove Lutheran School".

Challenges have been a part of Oak Grove's history, and the solutions were not always painless. Enrollments rose and declined and rose again. The school weathered the Depression and the years of World War II. Several times spring flooding of the Red River threatened the school, the most damaging being the flood of 1997. The "castle" was razed in 1937. Five buildings are now on the Oak Grove campus: Jackson Hall (built in 1922), Fossum Hall (built in 1947-48), the Classroom-Administration building (1960), the Oak Grove gymnasium (1972), and the Eid Center (1985). The Eid Center is the Foods Services facility, and the "dining room" with its cathedral ceiling makes an appropriate setting for chapel services and other gatherings.

During its years, Oak Grove Lutheran School has graduated 3,464 students. Currently, the student body numbers about 300 each year. Because the school offers dormitory living, students come to the school from foreign countries as well as from all over the United States. However, most of the current student body are local students. The president of the school is Rev. John Andersen who has served in that capacity since 1991.

On April 15, 2002, Darwin Gorder stepped down from the office of school principal, a position he had held since 1971. His forty years of service were honored by Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness who declared Sunday, April 15 as Darwin Gorder Day. George Korsmo, chairman of the school’s board of regents, announced that the board recently voted unanimously to rename the school gymnasium the Darwin Gorder Gymnasium.

A special acknowledgment is due the Oak Grove Archivist who supplied the history above. Thanks Carol. For more information about Oak Grove, please visit their website.