First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church

First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1902
First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, circa 1902
Image from Minnesota Historical Society

(From the website of the contemporary First Swedish Lutheran Church, covering the period preceding the Minnesoata Capitol construction through its completion.)

The congregation of First Lutheran Church was established before Minnesota became a state.  In 1854 church services were held in an old school room.  Rev. Eric Norelius became as the first "resident" pastor in 1860.

In 1861, when the lot near Woodward and John was purchased for $525, it was considered to be on the north edge of town.  In 1883 the congregation voted to start a new church.  The old building was removed to build the "Big Church".  The basement of the church was available for services by November 1883.  The baptismal font and altar rail from the Big Church are currently in use in our sanctuary.  Pastor Jonas Auslund (1871-1877) was the first to present a yearly Pastoral report to the congregation.

Pastor Anders Peter Monten became the leading force behind the establishment of Bethesda Hospital, as the Conference accepted the title and continuation of the work only after Monten had gathered the money and paid for the 10 acres of land near Lake Como.  Extension work from our church was begun under Pastor Monten's guidance.  Churches were rented on Dayton's Bluff, in West St. Paul and homes were used in the Rice Street and Arlington Hill areas.

Pastor P. J. Sward, our only pastor ordained in Sweden, came to our congregation at the age of 41.(See a portrait of Pastor Sward below.)

In 1889, 43 First Lutheran Church members were released to organize Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church which was then located at Sims and Weide.  In 1891, the Emmanuel congregation was organized at Mathilda and Hatch.  It became known as North Emanuel Church.  Until the 1890's, sermons were preached in Swedish and only occasionally was English used in other activities.  In 1947 The congregation voted to omit the Julotta service (5 a.m.) for a midnight service.

Pastor L. A. Johnston, who was 39 when he came to First Lutheran, became the first Synodical President born in the United States.  English was still only used occasionally in the early 1900's but the Young People Society grew from 140 in 1900 to 223 by 1907.  Rev. Johnston was loved by the young people and he was recorded as a wonderful teacher with a beautiful speaking and singing voice.  Church activities were bustling when Pastor Peter Peterson came to First Church in 1904.  Activities were many and the attendance was large.

Gloria Dei, the third daughter congregation was established in 1908 in the St. Anthony Hill district.

The year 1916 was a year of decision regarding property for First Church.  The parsonage was sold for $12,500 and the Big Church for $35,000, even before plans for the new church had been formulated.  Dayton's Bluff was considered and the site on 8th and Maria was purchased for $4,200.  Our church was completed by 1917 for a cost of about $40,000.  The move across Swede Hollow separated the church from many of the members.  Therefore, the congregation bought a former Baptist church on Burr Street which remained a center for Sunday School for 40 years.

Information on the current church can be found on its website.

Minnesota Capitol construction laborer August Wedell and Emma Marie Svensdotter were married by Pastor Sward at the church on October 23, 1891. (Marriage certificate below)




First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, interior, circa 1890
First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church, interior, circa 1890
Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society
Pastor P. J. Sward, First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church
Pastor P. J. Sward, First Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church
Portrait courtesy of Lisa Wedell Ueki
Wedell Marraige Certificate, 1891
Wedell-Svensdotter Marraige Certificate, 1891
Document image courtesy of Lisa Wedell Ueki