Online Fundraiser Set up to Restore Gleason's Estonian Church

By: WSAW Staff Email
By: WSAW Staff Email

UPDATE: Thurs 11:13 PM, Jan. 2, 2014

An online fundraiser has now been set up to restore an vacant Lincoln County church.

Organizers Bill and Barbara Rebane hope to raise $40,000 and with the help of volunteers to make necessary repairs.

The Estonian Lutheran church was the very first of it's kind in the United States. It was built in the early 1900s hundreds by a group of Estonian immigrants.

Volunteers have already begun clean up the land around the church.

The goal is to restore the building so it could be used by groups for their events.

To donate, or to learn more about the project, visit and search "Estonian church".

The church is located on Estonian Church Road off Highway J in Gleason.

ORIGINAL STORY: Dec. 12, 2012

The town of Gleason has a hundred year old secret. One that many of the locals don't even know about. But ask the right person and it's amazing what you'll find. An old Estonian Lutheran Church, the very first of it's kind, falling into disrepair.

Bill Dexter is a lifetime resident of Gleason and an avid historian. Follow him around and there's no guessing where you'll wind up, deep in the woods marveling at a centuries old church.

Built by a congregation of Estonians in the early 1900's, the church was actually a result of a feud. Originally, the Estonians and Latvians shared an area church, but after a disagreement the congregation split ways. The result of the split, the first Estonian Lutheran Church in the United States.

Unfortunately, time and vandalism has taken its toll on the building. But Dexter and other local historians feel confident that with a little TLC this church will be back in its original state in no time.

"I think it can be done without too much trouble. A lot of voluntary work and a lot of donations is what it really amounts too," Dexter told NewsChannel 7 about the restoration.

He thinks the old church would be the perfect site for other churches in the community to use as a picnic place and even hold an occasional service.

Although there is currently no time line for the restoration, Dexter would like to see it happen sooner rather than later. He's not sure the building can weather another Wisconsin winter.

While the building has been vacant for over thirty years, the church itself is alive and well boasting over 200,000 members world wide. Their current North American headquarters is in Canada.

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