by JUDY REED
When the old Algoma Baptist Church was torn down in 2004, some may have thought it would be forever forgotten. But the township, in conjunction with the Algoma Township Historical Society, has made sure that won’t happen. On Memorial Day, the township will dedicate a new Memorial Park on the site of the old church on Grange Ave., south of 13 Mile. The park, just under a half-acre, will commemorate veterans with a special monument, and the old church with the bell from the original building.
“We didn’t want to lose the history of the church,” noted Julie Sjogren, president of the Algoma Historical Society.
The Swedish Baptist church was organized in 1903 and first met in a house in Sparta. In 1910, it moved to Algoma Township on Grange, and held services in the church building owned by the United Brethren church. The name was later changed to Algoma Baptist.
In 1968, they purchased 20 acres across the street and built the existing building. In 1999, the old church building and property was donated to Algoma Township with hopes it could be restored.
“We hoped to get a historical designation through the state but couldn’t because it had been added on to so many times,” explained Devin Bigney, with Algoma Township. She said it would have cost $100,000 to bring it back to its original state, and the township didn’t have the funds. So in 2004, with the building unsafe to inhabit, they demolished it. But the current church saved the bell and gave it to the township.
“We came up with the idea to memorialize both the veterans and the church at the same time,’ said Julie.
The street side of the seven-foot monument will memorialize the church with the bell, and veteran brick courtyard side of the monument will memorialize veterans, living or deceased.
They have been selling engraved bricks to help raise money ‘for the project since 2003. Theyve sold about 110 of them at $50 a piece, and there is room for more. The veterans do not have to be from this area. The monument itself costs about $23,000. As of this writing, they are about $8,000 short of meeting their goal. They will take monetary donations in addition to the brick sales. “We hope to start construction soon,” said Devin.
Plans are to have the dedication ceremony at 1 p.m. on Memorial Day, after the ceremonies at area cemeteries are complete. Algoma prisoner of war veterans Harold Teesdale and Russell Powell will be there for the dedication.
If you would like to buy a brick or make a donation, please call Julie Sjogren at 866-1583, or send to Algoma Township Historical Society, 10531 Algoma Ave., Rockford, MI 49341.