There was a time when Jacobsville was the center of much hustle and bustle, when the surrounding sandstone quarries were in full swing and the rumble of blasting and the clang from sledgehammers against wedges filled the air. Back then the town was joined by several other communities with names like Sandstone, Craig, and Red Rock; and between them all the region was home to nearly a thousand people. Today, however, the region is home to only a fraction of those numbers and more closely resembles a summer hamlet then a full-fledged village. Yet for a visitor willing to slow down and take in the view, the old community can still provide a glimpse or two into its more illustrious past. One of those glimpses can be found at the end of this unsuspecting two track heading off into the neighboring cedar forest. This is the path to the old Finnish Lutheran Church.
The old two track takes a rather leisurely stroll through the cool and damp forest before the surrounding trees began to part and a solitary structure finally come into view ahead. The building looks to be remarkable well cared for, especially considering its nearly 125 years old.
It was a Finnish immigrant by the name of Leander Sinko who first erected a simple wood frame and gabled roof church at this spot in 1888. At that time the building’s soaring bell tower and sandstone foundation had yet to be be built, but the simple structure was immediately put into service – hosting Mr. Sinko’s own wedding soon after (the building’s first).
In the years that followed Mr. Sinko’s simple church was expanded and improved, placed atop its sandstone foundation in 1891 and later augmented by a three story bell tower seen above. The tower featured an open belfry on its top level and was built in 1892.
The church was built for the Jacobsville Finnish Lutheran congregation, which had its start in various member’s homes around 1886. Later the congregation became the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church Suomi Synod. The church would continue to house the congregation for several generations, ending regular services around 1952 when it was absorbed by the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church of Hancock who also took control of the building. Today it continues to hold occasional vesper services, but in the summer months only.
While the congregation may have underwent many changes over the past century and a quarter, the church itself has remained relatively unchanged from its earliest incarnations. In fact a visitor to the church today finds a structure almost identical to the one he or she would have encountered back at the turn of the century.
This enduring condition is most easily illustrated by what you find right next door – a double door outhouse with each stall reserved for a specific gender. This outhouse continues to be used still today, an interesting tidbit made necessary by the church’s vintage condition. That’s because the building never received a modern plumbing update. In fact the building hasn’t received any modern update, which includes a nostalgic lack of running water, telephone service, or even electricity. It’s truly a building lost in time.
Such lack of modernity may not be readily apparent while exploring the building’s outside, but it comes to the forefront quite rapidly when one enters the old church and experiences a service much like those early Lutherans would have partook more then a century before. It’s as if I stepped into a time machine and traveled back through time….
To Be Continued…
The Jacobsville Finnish Lutheran Church sits far back from the road just to the west of the town of Jacobsville. From Lake Linden, take Bootjack Road east out of town. Follow this road for 7.5 miles until arriving at the Dreamland Bar, and then turn left onto Upper Dreamland Road. Follow this road an additional 8.5 miles until you arrive at a “T” junction. Turn left here and follow the road for a quarter of a mile. The road to the church will be on the left, marked by a large stone and sign.