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A Brief Historical Sketch of Tabor Lutheran Church. 1888-1968. 80 Years

Immigrant Period 1881-1913

The First Tabor - 1890. Cornerstone laid 1889. Burned Feb. 8, 1892.

Thus the first chapter of Tabor had begun. In reading the early history of our congregation there was the great need or desire that was felt for the religious health of the Swedish-speaking people. At that time there were few Lutheran congregations or pastors in the New England area and this made it difficult to inaugurate new congregations. Communication and travel added to the problems and little financial backing was available.

Interior of First Church - 1890.

But of the 15 or 20 people who attended that first service in July, 1883, there was the persistency to continue. By 1884 worship services were held regularly once a month. In June, 1884, Pastor Ahlquist of Portland, Connecticut conducted the first service of Holy Communion. Pastor C. T. Sandstrom of New Haven together with student pastors continued the services and by 1886 as more and more Scandinavians moved into Branford it became apparent that a Lutheran congregation should be organized. At the beginning of 1888, on January 2nd, Pastor Sandstrom helped to organize the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Tabor Congregation with 27 adults and 13 children. In the first pastoral report in 1889 the congregation had grown to 52 communicant members and 16 children.

The Second Tabor - 1918. Cornerstone laid 1892. Dedicated 1893.

On May 5, 1889, a student pastor, Fritz Jacobson, was called to assist in the work of the congregation. Thoughts of a Church building began to excite the young congregation and $500 was secured for the purchase of the land upon which the church was to stand for 65 years. In 1890 another student, Henning Jacobson, took over the leadership of the congregation. He was very instrumental in the building of the first Church Sanctuary. On October 20, 1889, the cornerstone of the first church was laid on Hopson Avenue by Pastor N. G. Johanson of Bridgeport and the Church Sanctuary was completed for the first worship service on April 13, 1890.

Congregation Leaving Worship.     The Sunday School - 1918.

The work of Tabor was carried on by student pastors during 1890 and 1891. September 11, 1891 Pastor Fritz Jacobson was called to be the first pastor. In 1892 Pastor Jacobson reported that services were conducted each Sunday and a young people's group was initiated. At this point tragedy struck the congregation when their newly constructed Church burned to the ground. Those who came to that meeting to call their second pastor instead became witnesses to the fire that destroyed their Church Sanctuary. The last thing that crumbled into the fire was the gold cross that stood atop the tower. But this misfortune did not deter the congregation.

Interior of Second Church.

One week after the fire, February 14, 1892, the members of Tabor began to rebuild their Church. They doubled their gifts, they worked, they forgot all their small problems for the larger task. The Congregational Church opened its doors once again so that the members of Tabor could worship while they rebuilt their Church. A new building committee was elected with Josef Mattson as the Chairman.

Pastor Jacobson remained at Tabor only about a year and in the latter part of 1892 Pastor A. J. Enstam, who served for awhile, assisted in calling Konrad Broberg, who had just been ordained. Pastor Broberg came to Branford June 27, 1893. The new church was just about completed and on July 2, 1893 Pastor Broberg conducted the first service. August 16, 1893, Pastor Gustav Nelsenius, assisted by the pastors of the Hartford District, dedicated the new Church. At that time there were 83 communicant members.

During this time the Congregation grew rapidly. Soon there were 220 Communicant members and 400 baptized members. In 1895 the first Confirmation Class of five was confirmed at Tabor. The first parsonage was purchased January 4, 1897. The Congregation was incorporated. On January 3, 1898, the congregation recognized its 10th Anniversary and at midsummer the Anniversary was continued. In January, 1899 Pastor Broberg completed his six-year ministry. He was really the first pastor who served for a considerable period of time. A tribute to his work was made: "His clear word and truthful preaching has given light in our beautiful sanctuary and he has helped many members to take an active stand, baptized and taught our children to go the right way through life." By March 1, 1899 Pastor Karl Martin began his ministry at Tabor.

The need for a church cemetery was recognized by Pastor Broberg, but not until June 11, 1899, did this become a reality. During Pastor Martin's pastorate three acres of land was purchased from Mr. George Field at a cost of $600. It was divided into 22 lots with 48 burial places in each lot. Pastor A. J. Enstam of New Haven shared the dedication of the cemetery with Pastor Martin. Electric lights were installed in the Church in 1899 and in January, 1900 Mr. Charley Erikson was elected the first lay delegate to represent Tabor at the annual conference meeting. Pastor Martin reported in his annual report of January 7, 1901 that "all debts had been met and there was a balance in the treasury." July 20, 1903 Pastor Martin submitted his resignation to begin a new mission congregation in Schenectady, N.Y. and by August 4, 1903 Pastor Broberg, the former beloved pastor of Tabor, accepted a call to return to continue his ministry.

A new piano was purchased by the young people of the congregation and in April, 1905 it was reported that hot water and electricity was installed in the parsonage. In 1905 the first Confirmation Class was confirmed in English. Sidewalks were built around the Church and the parsonage. In 1907 Pastor Broberg left Tabor and entered the ministry of the Lutheran Church in Sweden. On July 16, 1907 Pastor J. D. Danielson began a ten-year ministry in Branford.

During the early years a Lutheran Chapel was maintained in Stony Creek. The pastors from Tabor conducted services there. Some of the first Swedish speaking people who came to this area worked in the quarry in Stony Creek. After World War I, when the quarry closed, many people moved and there was little need for the chapel. Though the building no longer stands, the foundation remains on Leetes Island Road.

In May, 1908, a 20-year recognition was held of Tabor's beginning. Some new improvements were made on the Church building. Two side doors and steps were added. In 1912 a new pipe organ was added to the Church Sanctuary. In 1913 the congregation recognized its 25th anniversary.

Period of Change 1914-1954

By the 25th year Tabor was entering a second period in its life and work as an organized congregation. The Swedish-speaking period was coming to a close and the English-speaking period was now taking place with increased interest. Once a month the services were conducted in English. The note was added that this step was taken so that no one would have the excuse that they did not hear; that the congregation did not give its children stones, when they cried after bread.

The First Unit - 1958. The Chimney later became a part of the Bell Tower in the completed Church Building.

May 21, 1917, Pastor Danielson concluded his work at Tabor and in June, 1917 Pastor Gustave Carlson began his ministry of eight years. The records of the congregation at its 30th year revealed that 839 had been baptized, 217 confirmed, 230 marriages, and 219 burials during that first score and a half of years as an organized congregation. The total assets of the congregation amounted to $13,271.00.

Processional from the Church on Hopson Ave. to new first Unit on Tabor Drive - September 8, 1957.

In 1925 Pastor Adolph T. Bergquist came as the pastor. He served in Branford for 20 years, the longest ministry any of the 12 pastors conducted at Tabor. A large portion of this time included the depression years and World War II. It was a period of solidification. On October 2, 1938, the congregation recognized its 50th Anniversary. Just recently Pastor Bergquist was remembered by his family and friends at the 50th Anniversary of his ordination. He is living and serving as the Chaplain at the Chisago City Lutheran Home For The Aged in Minnesota. Pastor Carl Bergquist, serving Zion Lutheran Church in Worcester, is the son of Pastor Adolph Bergquist and is recognized as one of the sons of Tabor that entered the ministry of the Church.

Service of Dedication of First Unit - September 8, 1957.

In 1945 Pastor Emil G. Swanson assumed his pastorate here. It was a time when Swedish was little used at the worship services. The responsibility for the unchurched outside of the Scandinavian community became more apparent. During Pastor Olav Jonasson's ministry (1951-1954) a great deal of thought and discussion was given to the relocation and the rebuilding of the Church. The area of the Branford Green was given serious consideration as a site for the new Church. This was not too practical because of the heavy concentration of churches already in the area of the town Green. It would only add to the parking problems on Sunday morning.

The seed had been planted in the minds of many of the members. Many additions and changes made in the old church structure over the years could not make it adaptable for the increased needs and changes in the program. The congregation was beginning to outgrow the facilities. Parking became a real problem on narrow Hopson Avenue. When Pastor Reuben Swanson arrived in 1954 the matter of relocation was once again a matter of much consideration and debate. The congregation was not totally agreed on the matter of any relocation. However, in 1955 the congregation took the first step toward rebuilding and expansion when it conducted a Capital Funds Appeal. A sum of $84,125 in pledges was made for a three-year period. 

Period of Expansion 1955-1965

Tabor had now entered a new phase in its life and history. After long consideration and much debate the decision was made in May, 1955 to relocate from Hopson Avenue where the Church building had stood for 65 years. The new site was located across Little Plain Road from the Lutheran Cemetery. Mr. Douglas Orr, a well-known New Haven architect, was engaged on October 11, 1955 to begin the first unit buildings. This portion of the new Church building was the Fellowship Hall and the Educational Unit. In September, 1956 the plans were ready for the new first unit and groundbreaking was conducted on October 7, 1956. The new building was under way and the step had now been taken which would open the congregation to a greater potential in its ministry to the town of Branford and to other surrounding towns where people lived who desired a Lutheran congregation.

Fellowship Hall - Set of Worship. 1957-1961.

September 8, 1957 the first unit was dedicated. It was a day to be long remembered by those who were members at that time. Pastor Reuben Swanson lead the congregation and Pastor Adolph Bergquist was present to help as a parade began at the old Church on Hopson Avenue and began to move to the newly constructed building on Tabor Drive. (Name of the street was changed after the relocation of the Church.) It was the first new Church sanctuary to be relocated and erected in almost 50 years within the town of Branford. During the years that the first unit was used, the worship services were conducted in the Fellowship Hall. It was a busy and thrilling time for the people of Tabor.

Laying of the Cornerstone of Church Sanctuary in Spring, 1961.

This relocation continued to help the growth and the vitality of the parish. Following World War II many new people moved into the New Haven area. It was this influx that enabled the congregation to grow and develop. By 1958 the congregation had grown to 450 confirmed members and 200 children in the Church School. This was the year that Pastor Reuben Swanson left Tabor and Pastor Norman Andre came to continue the building program.

Our Chancel Area - Church Dedicated in October, 1961

August 3, 1959 the congregation voted to build a new parsonage and a new Church Sanctuary. The first unit was almost paid for completely. On September 27, 1959 groundbreaking took place for the new parsonage on Tabor Drive and one year later the new Church Sanctuary was under way as ground was broken on October 9, 1960. Dedication of the new parsonage was October 23, 1960, and the festive services of Dedication of the new sanctuary over five Sundays was conducted in October, 1961. A sum of $200,000 was borrowed at 6% interest so that the parsonage and the Sanctuary could be built.

Our Congregation at Worship - 1965.

The congregation was fortunate in that it received several pieces of land to add to the original six acres that had been purchased in 1955. Mr. Daniel Cosgrove gave land along Tabor Drive adjoining the present parking area and the Forsman family gave several acres of land facing Ark Road. By the time the Sanctuary was completed the congregation had acquired almost 12 acres of land. Pastor Kenneth Manfolk, ordained in 1960, is now serving the Salem Lutheran Church in Montevideo, Minnesota. He is the second of the sons of our congregation to enter the ministry of the LCA.

Pastors of Southern Connecticut at Installation Service of Pastor Nordlander. January 26, 1964. Dr. Olander to the right of present pastor conducted the installation.

On January 1, 1963, the Lutheran Church in America became a reality uniting four Lutheran bodies. The Augustana Lutheran Church, our former church body, was now a part of the past. A new hymnal, used by both the LCA and ALC, was in complete use by our congregation in the late 1950's and helped our people to understand the impending merger.

Our Church Staff - 1968. Pastor Nordlander, Bertha Johnson, Sylvia Marsh, George Hovland.

Pastor Norman André resigned from his pastorate at Tabor March 5, 1963, after a ministry of five years. November 1, 1963, Pastor J. R. Nordlander accepted the call to be the pastor of Tabor to begin in January 1964. During the past five years the entire building program was completed when the last wing of the educational unit was finished and the lounge was decorated. Three acres of land was purchased to the west of the parsonage and the land bordering the parsonage was all cleared and grassed. The mortgage of the congregation is now approximately $115,000 and the entire evaluation of the land and buildings is approximately $500,000.

The active membership of Tabor in the fall of 1968 is 550 adults and 260 baptized children. The Confirmation Class of 1968 had 19 members. The annual budget stands at $67,000. The Church allocation has been met in full during the past several years and it is our intention to continue in the same spirit. 

Important Milestones During 85 yrs

JULY 10, 1883

First Lutheran Service in Branford.

JUNE 16, 1884

First Lutheran Service of Holy Communion in Branford.

JANUARY 2, 1888

Organization of Tabor Lutheran Church.

OCTOBER 20, 1888

Cornerstone of first Church laid. Burned to the ground February 8, 1892.

APRIL 15, 1892

Cornerstone of Second Church laid. Dedicated on August 16, 1893.

JUNE 11, 1899

Consecration of Tabor Lutheran Cemetery.


Dedication of first new Unit Building on Tabor Drive.


Dedication of new Church Sanctuary.

JUNE, 1967

Complete Complex Finished.


80th Anniversary.

Our 12 Pastors Through 80 Years

Fritz Jacobson



Adolph Bergquist


A. J. Enstam



Emil Swanson


Konrad Broberg

1893-1899, 1903-1907


Olav Jonasson


Karl Martin



Reuben Swanson


Joseph Danielson



Norman André


Gustave Carlson



J. R. Nordlander


Published in Tabor Lutheran Church. Branford, Connecticut. 80 Years. 1888-1968.

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