St. Paul’s Lutheran Church celebrates its 150th anniversary

Posted July 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

j St Pauls Lutheran Bill Groethe family history.tif

Many returned to their Norwegian roots at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church this past weekend. Photographer Bill Groethe of Rapid City, S.D., (far right) joined several family members including (l-r:) Nils Grossman, Minneapolis, Minn.; Gwendolyn Archer, Tucson, Ariz.; Gundhild Ernsberger, Los Angeles, Calif.; Gustav Allen, Wheat Ridge, Colo.; and Gretchen McSwain, Louisville, Colo.

He photographed the church’s Centennial anniversary celebration, including a similar photograph of the one above.

He documented its Quasquicentennial in film with another pose.

And Bill Groethe of Rapid City, S.D., came back to his ancestral roots to photograph St. Paul’s Lutheran Church’s Sesquicentennial anniversary this past week.

His great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Mons and Kari Groethe, were Norwegian immigrants who settled in the Dakota territory in 1863. They were some of the early homesteaders of Union County.

The first Groethe confirmed at the church was Ole Gerhard Groethe on Sept. 17, 1905.

Bill’s dad, Amos, was raised on one of the Groethe farms near what is called “Peterson Corner,” just east of St. Paul’s church. In 1912, his father moved to Rapid City, S.D., after earning an education degree from St. Olaf College. In 1914, his dad married his mother, Emma of Richland, and they made their home in Rapid City. They had 11 children, of which seven are still living.

In 1935, Bill became an apprentice at Bell Studio in Rapid City, learning photography. Later, Bill and his wife opened their own studio, Rapid Film. For 56 years, they did wholesale and retail photographic printing with 100 employees operating plants in five states.

“It’s all gone,” said Bill, who owns and operates First Photo in Rapid City now, explaining digital photography ended most of the film printing business.

However, at age 90, Bill can still be found in his dark room, developing black and white film. His main business now is selling his own photographs, which historically document such things as Mt. Rushmore and the Indian culture.

He still does film processing by hand and makes prints every week. Commercially, he also has a new laser printer.

This past weekend, he was shooting with film — simply because digital can’t compete in the quality of photograph enlargement, he told The Akron Hometowner, using a Leica camera with a Leitz Super Angulon 21 mm lens.

To young aspiring photographers, Bill advises to “take time to keep (photographs) and not delete.”

Also, take time before taking the photograph — “Shoot just one. My best photographs, I have just one negative,” said Bill.

Digital allows people to take many photographs and use a computer to create what you wanted to see or thought you saw, he said. “I just shoot what’s there and don’t change it.”

“Photography is not a new art form,” said Bill. “It’s an old art form with a new tool — digital.”

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