24 June 2019

Religion and the Early Swedes: the Original Jamestown Lutheran Charter

In 1852 the first congregation of Swedes was organized as a class within the structure of the existing Methodist Episcopal (Methodist) church of Jamestown.  That effort was organized by Rev. O.G. Hedstrom after a preliminary meeting a year before. Beginning in 1853, a mission to the Swedish community was added to the local Methodist conference and Olof Hamrin became the first licensed Swedish minister in the Jamestown area.  I believe that Hedstrom reassigned Hamrin from the Bethel ship mission to our area in response to news that B.G.P. Bergenlund had arrived in Jamestown.

Hedstrom had helped Bengt Gustaf Bergenlund1 when he arrived in New York City in January 1853.  Bergenlund had experienced severe seasickness on the voyage and arrived weak and penniless  –  he had also been robbed aboard ship.  Bergenlund stayed free at the Bethel ship until he got healthy, then Hedstrom found him work on a farm thirty miles away.  After a couple of weeks, Bergenlund quit that job, returned to the Bethel ship, borrowed money and left New York City.  Bergenlund likely learned about the Swedish community in Jamestown from his time spent at the mission; his autobiography indicated that Hedstrom had sent him with a letter of recommendation as a teacher.

In Sweden, Bergenlund had wanted to become a minister.  He had several relatives who were priests, but his family could not afford to pay for his further education, so he became a tutor in search of a permanent teaching position.  At age thirty-one he left to establish himself as a minister in America  – that is the profession listed for him on the manifest of the ship that brought him to America, the Enterprise.2

Jamestown Lutheran charter, Reports to Synod 1850-1870, p.1
Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church collection, Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America Archives, Elk Grove, Illinois.

Bergenlund arrived in Jamestown in March and began bible studies in local homes and possibly in the Methodist church - likely in the basement where the Swedes met.  He gave his first sermon the week before Easter, which was on the 27th of March that year.  The Jamestown Swedes decided to offer him a position as a minister with a base salary plus four collections a year. During that Spring, Bergenlund wrote to Rev. Tuve Hasselquist to inquire about establishing a Lutheran congregation.3  Hasselquist visited Jamestown at the end of May or the beginning of June; Bergenlund's autobiography indicated that Hasselquist had  organized the Lutheran congregations in our area during that visit. Hasselquist's sermon on the 1 June 1851 was the first sermon by an ordained Swedish Lutheran minister in Jamestown.  Bergenlund wrote the new congregation's charter and enlisted founding members on 17 July 1853.

Jamestown Lutheran charter, p 2
För wårt eget själagagn och Christi Rikes allmänna framgång, hafve wi wid allmänt sammanträde denna dag, fattat följande beslut: 1:0 Att förena oss till en Christelig Församling härstädes under namn af "Den Svenska Evangeliskt Lutherska Kyrkan i Jamestown Chatauque Co. New York State." 2:0 Att wi antaga och förklara den h. Skrift, som är Guds eget ord, såsom enda regeln för wår tro och lefnad, förklarad i enlig het med den äldsta Christna Församlingen och wår Lutherska Kyr kas bekännelseskrifter, enligt hvilka allena wi vilja hafva ordet för oss forkunnat. 3:0 Att då någon framdeles vill förena sig med oss och ingå som medlem af wår församling, detta allena kan ske såvida en sådan antingen medför attest om christligt förhållande från annan Församling eller inför wår själasörjare eler diakon visor sig vara en lefvande lem i Christi osynliga Kyrka eller åtminstone tillkännagifver en allvarlig åstundan att genom de nådemedel Her ren åt Församlingen anförtrott bliva det, hvarefter han skall i Församlingen upptagas enligt det formulär som nu är eller fram deles kan warda för oss af de Lutherska Församlingarne i Amerika antaget. ...

Jamestown Lutheran charter, p 3
These photos by John Everett Jones
For the benefit of our souls and the general success of Christ's kingdom, we have at a general gathering today made the following decisions: 
1° To unite in a Christian congregation here under the name of: The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New York State. 
2° That we accept and declare the Holy Scripture, which is God's own word, as the only rule for our creed and our lives, explained according to the oldest Christian congregation and the Lutheran Church Confessions, according to which we only want it preached to us. 
3° When somebody [comes] who wants to join us and become a member of our Congregation, this can only be if such a person either brings a testimony about his Christian conduct from another congregation, or in front of our spiritual guide or a deacon, mentions himself as a live member of Christ's invisible Church, or at least will mention a serious desire to so become through the means of grace that the Lord has given the congregation, after this he will be taken into the Congregation according to the blank form, that now or in the future can be accepted by us for the Lutheran congregations in America....

Translation by Elisabeth Thorsell, published in Swedish American Genealogist, Volume 4  (December) 2017, p 6 and 20.

List of congregation [a list of names rather than signatures, written in both pencil and pen]

Af B. G. Berglund
Johannes Reyk ....
Petter Jonsson
Joseph Linquist
Johan Larsson
Carl Fredric Jonsson
Samuel Böng
Anna Larsson Enka
Christin Enka
Petter Magnusson
Anders Andersson
Lovisa Olofsdott.
h. Ana Hellena
h. Soffia
h. Johanna
Per Anderson 3
Oscar Jonsson 1
Ingar Elisab. Larsd.
Carl Lindquist
Maria (Lindquist)
Sv. Nilsson Jon
____ Karlsson
Johanna Lotta Jonsson
La?? Sunansson
Aug Andersson
Gustus C. Fr. Jonsson
Johns Lars Maja Lisa
... J. Samuelsson h.  Stina
Johannes Gustafsson
Elin Grönlund
Anna Lisa Krön
Anders Johansson
Carolina Persdotter
h. Greta
h. Sara
Johan Andersson
Carolina Aberg
Nils Pet. Nilsson 3b
Britta Hellena Persd.
Lars Samuelsson 7b
Stina Lena persd.
Petter Gran 4 barn
Sara Stina
Carl Prosis o. h. 4b.
Anders Hultberg o Lovisa
Lars Gust. o. h. 2 b.
Johan o Stina och b.
Johannes o. h. 3 barn
Sgarius - 1
Johanes - Hedda
Jonsson - h. Ana Lena
Per Jonsson - h. n.
Jakobsson - h n
And. Jansson - h-
G. Jonss. h. Kristin
Gustaf - h. n.
Sjon Prom Fischer
Frank och Johanna
Erik Andersson
h. Lovisa o. Enk. Anna
Anders Swensson e.
h. albertine john Nöjd
Anders o. h. 2. Johes
 o. h. 1 b.
Jon + h. Vid mor -
sin, Klara Kron -
Calle o. h. Maja -
 manga and.
dra - mmullan Arka 2
5 a 6 hushalt bo
 vurksburg [Falconer] cerka 12-18 person
Dito i Askvill [Ashville]
Dito i Bustaj [Busti]
Dito i Frirsburg [Frewsburg]
12-14 bo i Rattsvill [Wrightsville]
  30 personan
16-20 i Jamstown [Jamestown] utan
 unglam 60-80
Sugar Grove 30-40 -
 5-7- och. num
I fran Wurksbury [Falconer] till Rattsville [Wrightsville]
är ungefär 20 eng. mil
by B[engt] G[ustaf] Berg[en]lund
John Wright [1851.194]
Peter Johnson [1849.044  or 1851.027]
Joseph Lindquist [1852.105]
likely John Lawson [1851.055]
Charles F. Johnson [1852.220]
Samuel Berg [1852.086]
widow Anna Lawson [?]
widow Christina [?]
Peter Monson [i1256]
Andrew Anderson [1852.200]
Mrs. Andrew (Louisa) Anderson [1852.201]
Mrs. Anna   possibly mrs. Samuel berg
Mrs. Joseph (Sophia) Lindquist [1852.106]
Mrs. Charles F. (Johanna C.) Johnson [1852.135]
Peter Anderson  [possibly i2993]
Oscar J. Johnson [1851.115]
Mrs. Oscar (Elizabeth) Johnson [1851.116]
Charles F. Londquist [1851.193]
Mrs. Charles F. (Mary) Londquist [1852.150]
Swan Nelson [likely 1852.239]
Johanna Charlotta
Augustus Anderson [1852.044]
Gustus Johnson [possibly 1852.025]
John Lawson ?
Lars and Stina L. Samuelson [1851.074 and .075]
John Augustus  [1852.050]
Mrs. John P. (Annie L.) Peterson [1852.134]
Andrew Johnson [1852.241]
Mrs. John M. (Carolina J.) Anderson [1849.018]
Mrs. Greta…
Mrs. Sarah
John M. Anderson [1849.017]
Mrs. John (Carolina J.) Anderson [1849.018]
N. Peter Nelson [1852.059]
Mrs. Peter (Lena) Nelson [1852.060]
Lars Samuelson [1851.074]
Mrs. Lars (Stina L.) Samuelson [1851.075]
Peter Gron [1851.036]
Catharine? [possibly Mrs. Peter (Carolina) Gron 1851.037]
Alexander?  [possibly Alexander Lawson i3011]
Sara Stina  [possibly Mrs. Alexander (Sarah) Lawson i3012]
Charles Peterson [1852.031]
Andrew J. Hultberg [1852.130]
Lars August Johnson [1852.010]
John and Brita Stina Peterson [i0654 and i0655]
likely [John Lind 1850.036]
possibly [John Johnson 1852.075]
John and Hadda Johnson [1852.146 and 1852.147]
[possibly 1851.028]
Possibly [Peter Johnson 1849.044] or Peter Johnson 1851.027]
Possibly John G. Jacobson [i0879]
Likely Andrew P. Johnson [1848.006]
possibly Gustus Johnson [1852.025]
Possibly John Lake [1850.041] or John Fostorp [i2256]
Frank A. Peterson [1850.002] and Mrs.Frank A. (Johanna Charlotta) Peterson [1848.007]
Eric Anderson [1850.001], Mrs. Eric M. (Lena Louisa) Anderson [1848.008] and Anna Maria Anderson [1851.183]
Andrew Swanson [1851.010], Mrs. Andrew (Albertina) Swanson [1851.011] and Magnus Nöjd [1851.015]
5-6 households live in Worksburg (Falconer), 12-18 people
Ditto in Ashville
Ditto in Busti
Ditto in Frewsburg
12-14 [households] live in Wrightsville, 30 people
16-20 [households] live in Jamestown, 60-80 people
Sugar Grove 30-40
From Falconer (Worksburg) to Wrightsville
is about 20 english miles
A letter4  by Rev. T.N. Hasselquist to the American Home Missionary Society discusses this trip to Jamestown in 1853.  He wrote [in English]:

… In Sugar Grove I formed a congregation of 67 communicants, there was a young man, who had spoken the word of salvation to the people and several days during the week he taught their children.  The congregation had a great confidence in him and wishes to have him for their minister.  They had agreed with him for a certain salary and hope that they would be able to fulfil their promise without foreign aid.  During my stay there they resolved to build a church and they seemed very willing to contribute their possi[?] for the said purpose, although the[y] could not think to finish it without help from other hands.  Their proposed minister, Mr. Bergenlund will probably come to our Synod this fall and seek license from and connection with the Lutheran Synod of Northern Illinois, w[h]ich all Lutheran Swedish ministers in this country have joined.  Here in Galesburg and the other places where I have congregations, my labor is going forth in the same way as before, that hope I in my last report, expressed that the seed sown will render this heart or that a good...

This letter confirms that the document found at the ECLA archives is the original Lutheran “charter.”

Histories about the Jamestown Lutheran Church are sketchy or silent about its beginnings and this is a reflection of criticism by Augustana synod histories of B.G.P. Bergenlund.  After Bergenlund left in 1855 he was replaced by Rev. Jonas Swensson's who reformulated the charter of the congregation  during his two-year leadership.

  1. Bengt Gustaf Bergenlund was known by several variations of his name.  He used both Bergenlund and Berglund and he was known as both Bengt or Gustaf as well as his initials B.G. or B.G.P. (Bengt Gustaf Persson); the most common reference is B.G.P. Bergenlund.  He was baptized Bengt Gustaf, son of Per Månsson (12/6 1787 Åkarp - 1831) and Lovisa Elmlund (14/3 1789 Hälinge) from No. 4-1/4 Bjernum, Norra Åkarp (Swedish Church Records, Norra Åkarp AI:4 (1820-1827) p 22. Digital reference:  https://sok.riksarkivet.se/bildvisning/C0061249_00071.

  2. Immigration aboard the ship Enterprise from Liverpool to New York arriving 10 January 1853; Capt John Davis, 200 passengers, primarily Irish passengers, no other Swedes or Danes.
    Gudman Jesesson 27  M  Priest Denmark
    Gustav Bergland 31 (M) (Priest) (Denmark)
    Manifest of the Enterprise, 10 January 1853, p 1. NARA collection.
    The traditional Danish name Gudmann was out of fashion by 1825; therefore, the identity of his Danish fellow traveler was likely Gudmann Jensen, b. 1 Feb 1825 in Lystrop, Uvelse parish, Frederiksborg, Denmark. Jensen had apprenticed as a blacksmith and is not identified in Danish censuses after 1850; documentation of his emigration has not yet been located.  In America he is possibly identified as Goodman Jansen, a Dane born in February 1825 who married a New York woman in 1855 who was working as a die maker in Essex County, New Jersey in 1900.  He died 25 August 1900 and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth (Queens), New York; see Find A Grave No. 184300374.  Jansen's lifelong work in the blacksmith and machining trade suggests that the the manifest entry "Minister" referred to Bergenlund.  In his autobiography, Bergenlund noted that he was beaten onboard by a Danish blacksmith apprentice who had left ship the night before disembarking in New York because he was thought to be a thief.

  3. This letter has not yet been located.

  4. Letter to the Executive Committee of the American Home Missionary Society dated 25 July 1853 from Galesburg, Illinois (this letter was written in English).  T.N. Hasselquist collection in the archives of Treadway Library, Augustana College.