Did You Know?

Four Mile Lutheran Church is the oldest continuously worshiping ELCA Lutheran Church in Texas.
Four Mile was established in 1848 by Johan Reierson from Norway.
Four Mile Cemetery is adjacent to the church was originally deeded to Four Mile by Wihelm and Elise Warenskold in 1848.

Our Unique History

  • Four Mile is rich in the history of the Norwegian pioneers who immigrated to Texas in the mid 1800’s.
  • The first Norwegian to reach Four Mile Prairie was a Lay Minister, Johan Reierson, from Norway. Johan settled in the east edge of a prairie that was 4 miles square.
  • Two of the most prominent Norwegians followed Johan to this area, were a divorcee named Elise Tvede Foyn, and a bachelor, William Warenskjold (pronounced Vanshaw). They were also Lay Minister leaders.
  • Johan soon organized a town, which he named Prairieville, Texas.
  • 1848 worship services held in the Reierson home
  • 1848 Reierson’s purchased 1250 acres and donated 2 acres for a place of worship and cemetery
  • 1853 a church building was built using notched, split logs, and clay—no nails.
  • 1875 termites destroyed the original church building so a new building was erected
  • 1941 a new church building was built due to the poor condition of the 1875 building
  • 1956 an old Christian Church was purchased in Mabank and moved to Four Mile. The men and women restored it and it is still our sanctuary today.
  • 2002 new Parish Hall is built.
  • 2013 we celebrated 165 years of continuous worship services at Four Mile.
  • 2014 Four Mile renovated the church building. This was made possible by members and others donating to the Building Fund and the generous donation of the “Andy Tuomi Building Improvement Fund.”
  • 2022 we are still a strong congregation


  • 1848 Johan Reierson
  • 1854-58 Fridrichsen (Fredricksen)
  • 1868-78 and 1904-08 Estrem
  • 1878-85 Rystad
  • 1885-1890 Torrison
  • 1891-96 Opsahl (took turns with Solum)
  • 1894-96 Solum
  • 1896-98 Meland
  • 1898-1901 Rikansrud
  • 1909-1915 Bruland
  • 1915-1925 Quill
  • 1924-25 Bentson
  • 1925-33 Jordahl
  • 1933-42 Nelson
  • 1942-44 Sovik
  • 1945-48 Torvik
  • 1948-50 Hamilton (served with Peterson)
  • 1948-53 Peterson
  • 1953-1983 Jenson
  • 1983-1987 Dean DeSelms
  • 1987-1988 Neale Jenson
  • 1989-2000 Vicar C.E. Anderson
  • 1999-2000 Fred Wright
  • 2000-2005 Clayton McCord
  • 2006-2009 Glen Dittmer
  • 2009-2013 Jan Castleberry
  • 2014-2018 Joan Iker
  • 2019-present Supply Pastors

 The Very Beginnings of Four Mile Lutheran Church

“Corn is the most common crop and cornmeal is generally used for baking. It is well-liked by those who are used to it, but I must say that frankly I find it to be a poor type of bread.”

– Elise Wærenskjold, who immigrated to Texas from Norway in 1847, writing in a letter back home to Norway.

Elise was a fascinating, accomplished woman. Per her TSHA entry:

Elise Amalie Tvede Wærenskjold was educated at home by private tutors, and at nineteen she became a teacher, a rare step for a woman at that time. In Norway she is still remembered as a woman leader (foregangskvinne). After teaching in Tønsberg she went to Lillesand and opened a handicraft school for girls which, though denied public funds, remained open until after 1845. In 1839 she married a young sea captain, Svend Foyn, who would later become the founder of Norway’s whaling industry; he was a powerful and wealthy figure in modern Norwegian history. The marriage, which began without the customary reading of banns, ended in an amicable separation in 1842; the couple maintained a friendship throughout their long lives. Elise assumed her maiden name, signing E. Tvede to the articles on temperance she had begun to write. No doubt influenced by her father’s stand for temperance, she became involved in the movement and in 1843 published a pamphlet on the evil effects of the use of brandy.

When Christian and Johan Reinert Reiersen immigrated to Texas, she assumed the editorship of their magazine Norge og Amerika, a position which she held from 1846 until she herself immigrated to Texas in 1847. She joined Reiersen’s colony of Normandy in October 1847 and on September 10, 1848, married Danish-Norwegian Wilhelm Wærenskjold, even though her formal divorce was not granted until January 10, 1849. The Wærenskjolds acquired rights to a square mile of land at Four Mile Prairie, Van Zandt County, where a number of Norwegians had settled, and expected to raise cattle. However, the Civil War ended their plans, and Wilhelm went into milling, farming, and contracting. During the 1850s their three sons were born. The couple took an active part in the life of the Norwegian community, in the affairs of the Lutheran church, and in the temperance movement among the settlers. In January 1866 their youngest son died, and in November of the same year Wilhelm was murdered.

Through the hard years of drought, plagues of insects, and poverty on her farm, Elise Wærenskjold sold magazine subscriptions, books, and garden seeds, and she taught school. Then, at long last, she asked for and received financial aid from her former husband, Foyn. Her numerous letters from the late 1840s through the mid-1890s remain an invaluable source of information on Norwegian immigrant life in Texas. She maintained a lively interest in current European literature, subscribed to Norwegian, German, and English newspapers, and in her letters home constantly requested books. She wrote for Norwegian publications, defended the Norwegian settlements against detractors, and later wrote of the settlers themselves and their descendants. She steadfastly held to her early belief in freedom for women; however, except for her opposition to slavery before the Civil War, she had little interest in American politics. She died on January 22, 1895, at the home of her eldest son, Otto Wærenskjold, in Hamilton, Texas, after having lived at Four Mile Prairie for forty-six years.

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