Decorah Lutheran Church was founded in 1863. Luther College’s history was intertwined with that of the church in its first years. The congregation worshiped in the courthouse when the college was located nearby. Laur Larsen, the college president and Professor F.A. Schmidt served as pastors. Pastor Nils Brandt was called to be the pastor in October 1865, also serving nearby Madison and Lincoln congregations. He served as pastor of Decorah Lutheran until 1882.
The first church building was built in 1876 on the corner of Broadway and Mill Street. The Norwegian Synod owned both Luther College and the church building. In 1882 President Laur Larsen again became pastor of the congregation, assisted by Pastor Thore Eggen. Their roles were reversed in 1884. It was a time when the Norwegian Synod was raging in the so-called “election controversy” and the church in Decorah was affected.
In 1888, the congregation voted to divide. The minority retained the church building (owned by the synod) and the took the name First Lutheran Church. The larger faction kept the name of Decorah Lutheran Church and moved four blocks east and purchased two lots and built a new building. This building was dedicated in 1889. Thore Eggen was their pastor.
In 1890, three Norwegian Lutheran Synods merged to form the United Norwegian Lutheran Church. Decorah Lutheran became a significant member of this group. St. Olaf Collegem, in Northfield, Minnesota was one of the colleges that Decorah Lutheran supported with money and students.In 1917, three Norwegian Lutheran Synods came together to form the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. At this time, First Lutheran and Decorah Lutheran were in the same synod again. In 1946 the synod name was changed to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.