Church members are crazy about Looney name
I first learned about the Looney Valley Lutheran Church of rural Houston from my friend Dr. Ed Rosenow.
In about 1850 to 1852, a man named John S. Looney from Tennessee moved to La Crosse, Wis. At a promising site on the north side of the Root River, he established Looneyville.
By the mid-1850s, a post office was built and the village was platted. But, alas, the railroad went on the south side of the river and Looneyville became a memory. However, the name Looney Valley was given to this fertile Root River Valley — and it stuck.
"The name is a constant source of comment from people who hear it," according to a brief church history from the 1993 recipe book. It’s been listed in the "top ten" list of unique names for churches.
The approximately 150 confirmed members enjoy the distinction.
Located northeast of Houston about five or six miles on County 9 is the church, which was built following establishment in 1875 with 58 members. This Norwegian group met in homes and a school house which was built in 1881.
Where worship is conducted today by pastor Jan King, the structure was built in 1898.
The Looney Church Women’s Group really made things happen. From 1889, records of those meetings, or "kvendeforinings," were held in various homes with only Norwegian being spoken.
Later, the Ladies Aid meetings were held in the church basement, and English is now spoken. This was a big social event, drawing folks from far and wide.
Over the years, many additions and renovations have taken place, according to long-time member Richard Sather, former Houston County property appraiser for 13 years. Looney Valley Lutheran Church means a lot to the now-retired Sather and the lives of many of today’s members who are descendents of the original Norwegian families settling there.
"We have a budget of $40,000 to $45,000 annually and support several missions," he says. "Our new church additions include a church kitchen and fellowship hall. Ground level, the church is also handicap accessible."
Richard lives in the same house on the home farm where his grandfather, Joseph Sather, lived. I asked him if the church has some great get-togethers.
"Yes, Looney church members are very actively preparing for our October Harvest Auction and the mid-November Lutefisk meal when more than 250 attend," he says. "On New Year’s Eve, we hold a big pancake and sausage meal for $5. In May the Looney Ladies hold a sit-down tea, and in June, a gigantic barbecue when all area churches are invited."
In late 2010, Looney Valley Lutheran Church switched from ELCA to LCMC. Their church’s fellowship organizations hold the foundation of the church together. As a community of believers,
they look to the future to continued service and devotion to the Lord.
Looney Valley Lutheran Church is six miles north of Houston on County Road 9.
Sunday services are at 10:30 a.m.