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History of the Bethel Lutheran Church

Carl J. Silfversten


The Finland-Swedes are known comparatively little in this city as well as in this country. They are a small drop in a great bucket among the many nationalities and are therefore by most American people looked upon as Finns. This mistaken notion cannot easily be changed. This short history covering a period of 30 years of activity by the Bethel Lutheran Church is not published with the purpose of spreading knowledge about our people, but rather as a record of some things that a few among this group of people have accomplished during a brief period of years in Duluth. For various reasons this history is incomplete. Some churches of the homeland, dear to the hearts of many, have been given a place on these pages and have been paid for by those interested. Trusting that this little volume may have some value both at the present and in the future and give an impetus to greater work among our children we hereby leave these pages to the reading public, foremost to the members of our church.

West Duluth, Minn., October 15, 1928.
Carl J. Silfversten,
Pastor Bethel Lutheran Church.

Duluth, Minnesota

The first Finland-Swedes came to Duluth some over fifty years ago. Then Duluth was a city with about one thousand inhabitants. Only one railroad which led up to these regions existed at that time. The oldest person among our Finland-Swedish people whom we have met so far and who has been here longer than any others that we know, is Mrs. Hanna Kynell from Nedervetil. She came here from White Cloud, Michigan, forty-six years ago. She tells us that when she came to Duluth and stepped off the train by the railroad station she began to cry. She had imagined it to be a larger city and found a small village where people were scattered among stones, stumps and brush.

The main street, Superior street, was a rough road, crooked and narrow, where a person with hardship, could find his way between stumps and stones, in vinter time on sled and in summer time on wagon.

One of the most testing questions was how to get water because there was no water system in the city at that time. In order to get water, people were compelled to go down to the lake shore and bring water for household purposes. For that reason also it was very common to see water wagons by which water was carried from Lake Superior and sold throughout the city at 5 cents a pail. One certain August Signer (Sigg?) from Närpes who first had a saloon on Lake avenue began later to sell water which possibly also became a paying business. By the Finns he was given the name "Vesi August. "

The city was surrounded on three sides by a forest, and the inhabitants of the forest, wolves, bears and deer, often made visits within the city limits and at night time people often could hear the howling of the beasts outside of their doors.

Indians of the Chippewa tribe lived in the vicinity where the State Normal School now is located, around 24th avenue East and Fourth street. These made their living by making maple sugar, which was cooked in big kettles and sold to the settlers. They often came into the city and sold baskets made of birch bark and other articles made of deerskin. These Indians were of a peaceful nature in contrast to the belief among the people. It happened now and then that they got some "fire water" from the white people and when they did, the white people had to lock their doors.

Fishing was at that time one of the chief occupations in the city. Later on sawmills were built and these were running all the year round. At the saw-mills our people sought work and there they made their living for many years. The greatest number of Finland-Swedes lived at that time on Garfield avenue, some lived on Grass. Island, a small island where now the Peavey elevator is located. The first pastor of the Bethel church lived, according to information, on that island. Garfield avenue was really no street but only a sand bank on which people had to make their own way until they came up to Superior street.

During the years 1883 to 1888 there was a boom in Duluth and the city flourished at that time. Since then, the growth of the city has been of a more stable nature and the city at the present time 'has about 115,000 inhabitants and in every way measures up to the requirements of a large city. The most remarkable thing about Duluth from a topographical point of view is its great length (about 30 miles) and its hills that reach high toward the sky and which provide for the tourists especially, a most remarkable view of the city and the lake beyond.

Some of our Finland-Swedish people as yet, live on Garfield avenue, many live in West End, but the greatest number we find in West Duluth. The number of Finland-Swedes in Duluth is impossible to estimate but very likely we would find at least two thousand, young and old counted. As already mentioned, our people found to, start with, work at the many saw-mills that were established here. But the life time of saw-mills is usually short wherever they have been established. This was also the case here in Duluth, for that reason our men sought work in other vocations. As good Finland-Swedes they were accustomed to use tools of various kinds, especially in the building line. They became carpenters and continue with that work today. Many others have found an open road in other occupations and make good in whatever they undertake to do. We find some in the business line, as for example in the West Duluth Mercantile Company with Mr. William Holm as manager, West Duluth Realty Company with John A. Forsman as manager and the Roller Harrow and Manufacturing Company where our people are in majority. The largest business concern among the Finland-Swedish people is the Jacobson Bros. Construction Company.

The inborn bashfulness has been compelled to give way for American enterprise. Politics have been left to others to take care of and there are many, as yet, who are not even American citizens. One thought has always been in the mind of our people and that is to secure their own homes and in this respect they stand as good examples for many homeless Americans.

History of the Bethel Lutheran Church

It is not known whether these first Finland-Swedes that came to Duluth ever thought of organizing a congregation, and it seems very unlikely; these, who came here at that time were thinking of in most cases to make money and then return back to their country. They were not all unchurchly although the spiritual life among our people then as now left much more to wish for. They visited the churches which were found here and possibly someone also joined a church. We are told that one man by the name of Charles Stone from Gamlakarleby became a Catholic. If anyone else followed his example no one can tell.

The number of the Finland-Swedes increased right along and among those who came here later there were some who intended to remain. At that time more interest was shown in church matters and later the question was raised whether or not they should organize a congregation and have a church as other people had. The question came up already in 1896 but nothing was done at that time. According to what John Skomars told the writer in 1905, there was one of the men who made a motion that they should organize a congregation; before the motion had been seconded and carried, was there another man who made a motion that a certain Mr. Lindstrom should be called as organist at the salary of $500.00 a year, but the organization plans stopped right there. The following year a meeting was called by those who were interested in the church matters. This meeting was held in a hall at the corner of Garfield avenue and Michigan street and at that meeting it was decided to organize a congregation among the Finland-Swedes. As chairman of the meeting served one Herman Johnson and as secretary one Andrew Anderson, the later possibly from Larsmo. This happened in November 1897. The minutes from that meeting are lost and whatever is related here has been told the writer by those that were present, especially Matt Simonson.

It was also decided at this meeting or shortly after, to secure a suitable lot for a church but this location should not be farther west than 38th avenue west on Grand avenue. A suitable location was found between 34th and 35th avenue west but this section of the city was not as yet divided into lots and no purchase was made. The following year a small church was, rented at 60th avenue west and Bristol street. Here the people gathered to services a few times and Erick Johanson preached. Matt Simonson, John Erickson, Matt Sven, Erick Johanson and Alfred Ladin were delegated to seek a lawyer who could write out necessary papers for incorporation of the congregation. They turned to John Jenswold who was to do this work for the congregation, but this did not happen before 1898. Then everything was ready; the people had a Finland-Swedish congregation but at a later investigation a few years later, it was found that the congregation belonged to the Norwegian Lutheran Synod in America. This does not need to surprise any one because he who wrote the papers necessary for incorporation was a Norwegian. The members of the congregation who did not intend to join any Synod did not know about this.

A small church which had belonged to a Norwegian congregation on 59th avenue west and Elinor street was purchased by the new congregation and services were held here for about two years time. The pulpit as well as the altar and the altar railing for the church were made by John Erickson. After the burning of the church in 1916, the pulpit. which was undamaged was donated to the Swedish Lutheran church in Wright, Minn.

At a meeting of the congregation which was held on the sixth day of October, 1899 it was decided to secure other lots for the church and move the church to a more suitable location. The lots purchased at that time were number 8 and 9 in block 106 West Park division, West Duluth on 54th avenue west, nearly opposite the place where the Calumet Telephone Central now is located. The purchase price was $225.00, the money was gathered among the church members and others, and the lots were paid within a couple of years.

Regarding the moving of the church it is mentioned in the minutes from a meeting held on the 11th of January, 1900, that "Matt Kynell shall drive for three days for nothing and whatever more he drives he shall be paid for." It was also decided that "John Skomars shall buy a rope for moving of the church no matter what it may cost." We understand that, Mr. Skomars bought the rope because from the minutes of the 15th of January, 1900, we get the following information: "a rope purchased on behalf of the church to John Skomars, house mover, as pay for his work-the moving of the church." The moving of the church started on the 10th of January 1900.

The first pastor of the congregation was Erik Johanson Ryss from Jeppo in Finland. He had been a village schoolmaster in his homeland. He studied a short while under the leadership of a Finnish Pastor* Eloheimo in Ironwood, Mich., and was ordained by him. He was now a "real Minister" according to information given by those that were present at that time. What kind of a call that had been extended to Pastor Johanson is never mentioned in any minutes from that time, neither is it mentioned anything regarding his resignation from the church work in West Duluth, but this happened during the first part of the year 1901.

The congregation had at the beginning of 1900 not less than 61 communicant members but the children are not mentioned. The first organist mentioned in the minutes was a certain Miss E. Palmquist.

No records of any meeting were kept in the congregation between the second of June 1901 and the 6th of April 1902. At the last mentioned date is recorded that John Nyman was elected chairman for one year and C. J. Gustafson as vice chairman and secretary during the same time. Mr. Nyman was also honored with a position of janitor for one year. Dr. J. E. Nyquist, then a student, served the congregation during the summer 1901. Nothing is mentioned in the records regarding any call sent him but it is recorded that the congregation was to pay $40.00 a month for four months. He also served the congregation during the summer 1902. At a meeting of the congregation on the 27th of July, 1902, the question was brought up whether church work should be kept up during the coming winter or not and it was decided to keep up the work. It was also decided that the congregation should seek an agreement with the Finns who had the church on Lake avenue, that the two congregations together should call Rev. J. J. Hoikka from Crystal Falls, Mich., as their pastor. At a later meeting of the congregation it was reported that "the Finns do not want to take part in the work with us." Later on a committee was elected to see Rev. J. A. Krantz, pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Elim church in West Duluth and ask him to come and preach twice a month. Dr. Krantz was willing to serve the congregation and preached before the congregation for some time. But since this did not seem to have been enough it was decided at a meeting of the congregation on May 5, 1904, that the congregation should call a certain pastor Kulla from Jacobstad, Finland, and a committee was elected to make out the call to him. It was also decided that the salary of the pastor should be $600.00 a year. Nothing more is mentioned regarding this call and it is rather uncertain whether or not the call was made.

The next record of a meeting is dated on April 3, 1905. In a certain sense it can be said that the history of the church began from that date because as we see the church work had until this date been very irregular. At this gathering of the congregation Dr. J. A. Krantz served as president and Mr. A. Granquist was elected secretary, the constitution of the Augustana Synod was adopted and the congregation decided at that time to ask or admission into the Minnesota Conference within the Augustana Synod. This time it was also decided that the corporation papers should be changed so that the congregation no longer would be looked upon as belonging to the Norwegians. Dr. Krantz was elected to take care of the pastorial work until the congregation could get its own pastor. Mr. Wm. Fredrickson was elected as organist, a position which he already had filled for some time before. At this same meeting of the congregation student G. Oberg, recommended by student C. J. Silfversten, was called to preach and teach school during the summer. Mr. Oberg had already accepted another call and the call was made out to student Silfversten who according to the minutes had partly promised to accept the call in case Mr. Oberg did not do so.

At a meeting of the congregation held May 22, 1905, it was decided to install electric lights in the church. Up until this time the people had been satisfied during the evening services with the poor light which the few kerosene lamps would give. It was also decided to have the church papered inside during the same summer, a matter which was carried out to the satisfaction of all concerned.

During this summer, seventy-five communicant members and sixty-nine children were received into the church. The church book was revised very thoroughly, a matter which demanded both time, work and patience. As an example of the condition of the church book may be mentioned that many whose names were written in the book were not found any longer in Duluth, some were dead, others were at other places. Many children had been born whose names never were written into the church books and others had died but were counted among the living. Dr. Krantz had never been given the church book although he served the church in other ways and by preaching.

At the congregational meeting on the second of January 1906, Rev. J. J. Hoikka was called as pastor. It was the intention then that he should also serve the Finland-Swedes in Superior, but our people in Superior were not willing to join in with our church. Notice of this was given Rev. Hoikka and also the decision that the congregation considered itself too small as yet, to build a parsonage and the answer on the call was in the negative.

At a congregational meeting in February 1906 the question was raised about moving the church to a more suitable location. During the time that had elapsed since the church was moved to 54th avenue, many of the members of the church had built themselves homes a longer or shorter distance from the church and the people wished to have the church moved closer to their homes. A committee was elected to consider the question and a motion was made later to move the church, but this motion was lost.

An inquiry had been made to a certain pastor Peterson if he would accept a call to our congregation but he had answered in the negative.

The student G. Oberg was called to work within the congregation during the summer and during the Christmas vacation 1906. The congregation was served by Mr. Oberg also during the summer 1907. At a meeting of the congregation on the first of August 1907, it was decided that the trustees within the congregation should be given the right to purchase two lots for a parsonage at the corner of 53rd avenue and Wadena street. It was also decided to give the trustees the power to find out at what price the lots could be sold where the church stood. It was therefore plain that everyone concerned felt that the church should be moved again. On the 27th of September the same year it was decided to move the church and the work started December 1907.

In December 1907 there came information from our Finnish brethren that they had begun to consider the proposition of calling a pastor together with our congregation, this same proposition as had been placed before them in 1902. This matter had been laid before the congregation by a certain pastor Mäntta and was brought up for a discussion at a meeting of the congregation December 6, 1907. At this time our congregation gave a negative answer because of the fact that the two congregations belonged to different synods.

At the yearly meeting in January 1908, Student Oberg was called to become pastor of our congregation after his ordination. He accepted this call and came here shortly after his ordination. It is easy to understand that the congregation looked forward hopefully when it at last had received its own pastor and he besides was one of the Finland-Swedish sons. Rev. Oberg could not give all his time however, to the field among our people here in Duluth because he had to serve also other mission fields within the district.

At an extra meeting which was held on November 30, 1908, it was decided to build a parsonage on the lot next to the church. The work was started with great enthusiasm and carried out mostly through day labor according to a decision at the above mentioned meeting.

The church work now progressed in a satisfactory way without being disturbed by any vacancies. The membership of the congregation increased and the congregation improved in every way. The reports given by the pastor tell us that the services were well attended by the older people, especially the evening services Sunday evenings, but that the young people seldom, if ever, were seen in the church at the services.

At an extra meeting held on the 12th of March 1912, it was decided to change the name of the congregation from Swedish Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church to Evangelical Lutheran Bethel Church. This change of name was carried out to satisfy a wish among the young people in the congregation. In the fall of the same year Rev Oberg resigned and moved down to Illinois.

The Theological Student Johannes Nystrom was called to serve the congregation during the Christmas season and Dr. J. A. Krantz, who during a long period before had stood by the congregation, was called again to make visits and preach in the Bethel church. Student Nystrom was called later to become pastor of this church after his ordination but this call was answered in the negative. Later on Rev. F. E. W. Kastman was called but also he answered the call in the negative.

The church work could not, as is easily seen, be carried out to the satisfaction of the congregation as long as it lacked its own pastor. Although Dr. Krantz did as much as anyone could expect of him, it was impossible to take care of all the work in our congregation because he was busily engaged in his own congregation and had other work to do besides. For this reason Rev. Oberg was called back to Bethel at the annual meeting of the congregation in January 1915. He accepted the call and came to Duluth in the spring of 1915.

More than one of the members realized that if the work should go forward the congregation would need a new church instead of the old one which had been moved from one place to another. In the records from the annual meeting January 1, 1916, we read the following with regard to the question of a new church building: "After a long discussion it was decided that a subscription committee consisting of five men be elected. "On this committee the following men were elected: Rev. G. Oberg, John A. Forsman, Wm. Holm, G. Nyholin, Victor Riska, John Holmes. While this committee was laying plans for the subscription work for a new church, the old church burned down. On account of this an extra meeting of the congregation was called in the Elim Lutheran church on the 27th day of March 1916. At this meeting the first question discussed was this: "Are we going to build a new church where the old one stood or should we join in with the Elim church?". After a long discussion it was decided that the congregation should go ahead and build a church as soon as possible. It was also decided that the church should be built on a more suitable location than where the old church stood. A building committee was elected and consisted of the following men: Rev. G. Oberg, John A. Forsman, August Sundquist, John Peterson, Emil Norland and Sigfrid Blomquist. Whatever remained of the old church together with the lot was sold to August Sundquist for $700.00.

Drawings for the new church in a more modern style were made by the architect E. Berg. These drawings were accepted and it was decided to ge ahead with the work of building a church according to these drawings at once. During the time the congregation lacked own quarters for services, the Elim Lutheran church was rented for this purpose.

The church building work under the leadership of Emil Norlund, progressed rapidly and by Thanksgiving the congregation could again move in under its own roof. The services were held in the basement to begin with and until the auditorium of the church was ready. In the spring of 1917 the work had progressed so far that also the auditorium of the church could be made use of and the church was dedicated for its sacred purpose on the 19th day of May.

The church is erected on the corner of 53rd avenue west and Ramsey street. It has a stone foundation with walls made of fireproof brick. The architecture followed is Pseudo-Gothic while the furniture is built according to pure Gothic style. The windows are made of colored glass where the main color is a soft green. Most of the windows are donated by members of the congregation in memory of deceased relatives. There is something harmonic and beautiful that we see in the church as a whole. Strangers tell us that it is homelike.

The years 1916-1917 are remembered as years of hard work and great progress. Every member was happy and willing to serve and to sacrifice for the sake of the congregation and the church. Not less than 67 communicants and 52 children were, according to the report of the pastor, received in the. congregation during the year 1917.

At the annual meeting 1919 it was decided to dig a basement under the parsonage and build a stone foundation under the same and also install a heating apparatus. Ingathering of money was done and the work was carried out to the satisfaction of all.

During the summer 1919 Rev. Oberg resigned and moved to Gardner, Mass. This time was a time of trials for our congregation but the Lord heard the prayers of his people and the storm subsided little by little, the wounds were healed and the past was left to be forgotten. Rev. John Gullans was called as Oberg's successor but he answered in the negative. Rev. F. Edward Olson was called to fill the vacancy and started his work at once and served the congregation for over a year.

At an extra meeting of the congregation held on the 8th day of April, 1920, the president of the Minnesota Conference, Dr. P. A. Mattson was called as pastor of the church but he answered in the negative. Again at an extra meeting for the purpose of calling a pastor, Rev. F. E. W. Kastman was called but also at this time the congregation received a reply in the negative. The congregation could not leave the matters to rest because of the fact that three successive calls had been answered in the negative. The congregation needed a leader now more than ever, for it is seldom that attacks from the outside have ruined the Lord's vineyard here on earth but it has rather been internal strife, and vacancies never foster people to unity. The congregation continued with the election of pastor and on the 26th day of August 1920, the congregation called its present pastor, Rev. C. J. Silfversten. At this time the congregation received a reply in the affirmative and Rev. Silfversten took up the church work in Bethel on the 18th day of October, 1920.

The congregation had before the calling of the pastor decided to sell the parsonage with the idea of building one right back of the church in the near future. The Lutheran Brotherhood had for this purpose, purchased the lot back of the church. In October 1921 the parsonage was sold but no new parsonage has been built so far; the pastor of the church had his own house built in 1923 and a parsonage is at the present not necessary.

During the year 1921 was added the largest number of communicant members that the congregation hitherto had witnessed. Not less than 46 comunicants were received into the congregation and a class consisting of 45 members was confirmed in the spring of 1921, making the total addition of 91 communicant members during that year.

The work within the congregation has been carried on with internal as well as external growth in view. In addition to this we have had in mind the active participation of the young people in the church work and also the language question which stands in close connection to this. We have also had in mind the church at large, our synod and conference, and laid more stress on mission work. He who follows along closely at the reading of the history of the different branches of our church work will be able to judge whether or not we have worked in the right direction.


Thirty years from a historical point of view is not a long period and still many things can happen during such a period. The working day of the Bethel congregation has not been without its hardships and trials; there has been success and there has been adversity; there has been strife and there has been peace; there has been work and sacrifice all with the idea that the Lord would be with us and near us also here in this strange land. The good seed, which was sown in the old churches in the homeland has sunk down in the hearts of many and born fruit of eternal value.

In Bethel there has always been found a group which has put the church to the forefront and which always has been working for this purpose. There have been and there are now those with a spirit of Mary who sat by the feet of Jesus and there have been those with the spirit of Martha who have shown their interest in their work and sacrifice. It is this group of men and women who with courage and hope have fought the battles during the dark hours and lead the cause of the Lord forward in the name of God. But many are also they who have shown themselves to be unsettled and have been afraid when meeting trials and hardships and who, when there was a chance, have left the group of workers in order to cast their lot with other congregations. Many names in church books and other records testify as to this. These records tell us about those who were with us then, but. are not with us now. That this spirit of unsettleness has done damage to the cause of God's kingdom, these people have not realized. With a better understanding and harmony between the people we would have had one of the largest Lutheran churches in Duluth and could have served the Lord God with greater happiness and one another with greater honor.

The attendance at the services are surely not all what it should be and still we have little reason to complain. Some members attended church services rather seldom except at special occasions as at Christmas and other greater festivals. Others again attend the services every Sunday once or twice and in addition to that, also at prayer meetings on Wednesday evenings. But this has been to their own benefit, they have always received something good from God at every time of worship and have never ceased to come in order to get more. Their lives also bear testimony to the fact that they have met with God and have found peace to their souls in his grace. Many others who have departed and gone to their eternal rest, have done so with full assurance of a promised resurrection.

In many pastoral reports from years past, complaints are found over the fact that "the young people are seldom, if ever, seen in the church. "This complaint is not necessary any longer and for that we thank God. By using the language of the land, which is the language of our young people, at our services, we are happy to see our young people attending the services fully as well as the older people.

When we look back upon the years past we do so with thankfulness to the Lord. Many faults can be found with the work that has been done; many mistakes have been made, partly because the leaders have not been acquainted with the work and partly for other reasons. But in spite of this, the Lord has blessed the activities in our Bethel so that the work has gone forward both in a spiritual and a temporal way. For that reason we also look forward with faith and hope because we know that the Lord shall not fail in his promises which he has given and which promises he always has kept. To the Lord be thanks for it all!


The growth of the church financially is shown in the following list, where we see how the membership fees have increased according to reports given at the early meetings:


$ 353.00









The members of our congregation have come here from many different congregations in the Swedish section of Finland, nearly everyone from Österbotten. Here below is a list of the names of places where our members have been born as we have it in the church books. In this list only the communicant members are given and not the children. Nearly all of the children within our congregation are born in America:

American-born communicants








Gamlakarleby landsförsamling








Nykarleby stads- och landsförsamling


























Gamlakarleby stadsförsamling













Societies Among the Women.

It is often the rule that Ladies' Aid society is the beginning of a congregation. This was not the rule in the case of our Bethel Lutheran church. This congregation was organized nearly two years before a Ladies' Aid was organized. The first Ladies' Aid was organized by eight ladies, on the 27th of July, 1899. We do not have any record of where the organization meeting was held. Mrs. Katarina Anderson was elected president, Mrs. Maria Carlson, secretary and Mrs. Emma Skomars was elected treasurer. An entrance fee of ten cents was charged every member who joined and a membership fee of five cents was collected from each member at the meetings no matter whether the member was present or not. How long this custom of paying an entrance fee was kept up is not known but it is possible that this custom prevailed as long as this society existed. No pastor was present at the first meeting but Pastor E. Johanson is mentioned later on in reports from the meetings. One interesting thing is recorded in the minutes of this society and that is that also a gentleman was admitted as a member of the society. In one of the minutes from the 13th of Sept. 1899 is mentioned that Mr. J. Bengts became a member of the society.

The income from the meetings in those days was not large, the largest income this society had at any meeting was $2.75 and the smallest income was 40c at a meeting. Auctions and patch-quilts belonged to the first part of business mentioned in the minutes of this society and we, who now thirty years later, do our utmost for the church, can bear witness to the fact that auctions and patch-quilts are with us still. He who wants to look at the matter in an appreciating way must acknowledge this fact, that back of auctions and patch-quilts is found much willingness to work and great sacrifice. The name of this first society was "Enighet."

The meetings of this first society were held on dates decided from time to time and were opened with prayer. Undoubtedly Bible reading also belonged to the opening program, although the secretaries had forgotten to mention it. In later records it is mentioned that meetings opened with prayer and singing. Mrs. Josephina Berg was elected secretary shortly after she joined the society in 1901 and she served longer than any other as secretary of this organization. The last minutes on record by this society is dated April 2, 1903. From this day on the work was abandoned for two years. The record book was found only recently after having been lost for twenty-five years.


This first society mentioned above was not the only society at that time. As can be found from the minutes kept by the society mentioned above, the meetings were held in West End and on Garfield avenue. Another Ladies' Aid existed in West Duluth at the same time. This society was organized in the home of Mrs. John Lybeck with ten members. Mrs. Lybeck (now Mrs. Hendrickson) was elected the first president; Mrs. Matt Johnson, secretary; Mrs. Matt Simonson, treasurer. It can not be stated with any certainty at what time this society was organized because no records are found from its meetings. Neither is it known at what time this society ceased to exist.


The fact that no Ladies' Aid existed for nearly two years depended undoubtedly on the fact that the church work was nearly at a standstill during this time. But on the 6th of April, 1905, some women gathered at the home of Mrs. August Sundquist and discussed the need of an organization among the women. The discussion lead to a decision to organize a society again. This society is still existing. On account of the fact that books of minutes from the first weeks of existence of this society cannot be found, there is undoubtedly a number of interesting facts that cannot be told here. From memory is recalled the fact that this society, in the summer of 1905, purchased a communion set for the church. This communion set is in use today.

From records kept from 1907 and on we can mention some few facts of interest. At one meeting in 1907 it was decided that the ladies should not serve cake at the Aid meetings, When this decision was revoked and cake again took its place on the table. we do not know, but cake is surely served at the meetings now. In the same year also it was decided to give to the congregation money for the purpose of buying lots for the church and the parsonage, likewise it was decided to pay for the repairs of the roof of the church.

At the beginning of the year 1909 the society had thirty-seven members. This number was reduced later to thirty-two but during the year 1913 the number of members increased again. In January 1911 it was decided that the meetings should be held as usual and that the ladies should serve in alphabetical order, a decision which has been renewed also later but which it is hard to follow. It was decided that such members who could not or did not serve refreshments at the meetings of the society should pay to the treasurer of the society a sum of $3.00. At a meeting in 1920 it was decided to raise this sum to $5.00.

During its first years of existence the society gave some smaller sums of money for mission purposes. Later on it was decided that a birthday collection should be taken, namely, one cent for each year every member had lived, and this sum was given for missions. The sum was collected at the first meeting after the birthday of the member. Since the Women's Home & Foreign Mission Society was organized in 1924, this way of giving a birthday collection for missions was discontinued.

The Ladies' Aid took upon itself to serve refreshments for the young people who held their meeting on the same dates as the Ladies' Aid but in the evenings. This practice was followed up until 1925 when the young people decided to serve themselves.

On October 1915, the society decided to elect a committee for the purpose of visiting the sick and to give flowers to such members of the society. A free-will collection is lifted at every meeting for this purpose. Wreaths are given at funerals of church members and members of the society. This beautiful custom has undoubtedly its origin also from that time.

At the beginning of the year 1917 the society had forty-seven members. It was then decided that such members who on account of poverty could not belong to the society would be given membership without paying any dues. As far as we know there is no such member within the society now and there are many reasons for this. The same year it was also tried to have programs at the Ladies' Aid meetings but this practice did not last very long as could be expected. A few years later some members seemed to want to begin this practice again but the matter was left to rest until later. At the meeting of the society on the 5th of April the same year, it was decided that two ladies should serve refreshments at the meetings on account of the fact that the meetings were better attended.

During the World War our ladies took a very active interest in the Red Cross work.

Since Bethany Home had been established on 39th avenue west, our ladies have visited the home once a month in order to mend clothes for the many father- and motherless children there. The superintendent of the home, Rev. Christian Swenson, lately, in praising our ladies for visits at the home, told them that they had been the best in visiting the children's home in Duluth, taking into consideration that our church is the smallest of our Synod churches here. The society has also at many occasions donated pieces of clothing to the Bethany Children's Home.

No society has to the same extent as the Ladies' Aid helped our church treasury and it has in this way been a ray of light when it otherwise has been dark in the church treasury chest. The society has in addition to this donated various sums to those who have been in need, without advertising any such deed. All honors to this society for its splendid work! The number of members in this society is at present sixty-five. It is not easy any longer to keep the number of members this high because the one after the other is lost by death to the society and no other women come to our city to take their place.

The Sunday School.

The Sunday school is next to the oldest among the organizations in our church. Nothing is mentioned in the church records about any Sunday school but we have been advised that Sunday school was held at least for a short time during the first years of the congregation.

When the congregation was reorganized in the spring of 1905, the Sunday school was organized and has continued without any interruption since that time. As leaders of the Sunday school, the church has been fortunate in having good and faithful men. The first superintendent mentioned in the records was John Peterson, who was elected by the congregation on the 16th day of September 1905. At the annual meeting, in January 1908, Louis Cole was elected to this position. He was re-elected at the next annual meeting. At the annual meeting the following year, he was elected as assistant superintendent, but nothing is mentioned regarding any superintendent for two years in succession. At the annual meeting in 1912, Mr. Isaac Hoglund was elected as superintendent. Mr. John A. Forsman was elected to this position in 1913 and has been re-elected year after year since that time, with only one exception in 1922, when he asked to have one year's vacation and the pastor of the church served as superintendent. Mr. Forsman, a college and university graduate, who for sometime had served as teacher in the State Public Schools and also during a period acted as superintendent of a children's home, is undoubtedly one of the most experienced men for this position. Mr. August Gustafson has for many years been assistant superintendent and these two now serve side by side in the Sunday school work to the satisfaction of all concerned. The following men have served as assistant superintendents: Mr. Isaac Hoglund, Mr. Alfred Haga, Mr. J. J. Ovist, Mr. J. A. Gers. The last mentioned now resides in his home country. Mr. Ovist also had charge of the branch of our Sunday school work which was conducted in West End some years ago.

During the first years of our Sunday school work, older teachers were more easily secured. Now, when the language of the land is exclusively used in our Sunday school, our young people serve as teachers. During the last year two classes for confirmed boys and girls have been instructed with the purpose in view of training them to become Sunday school teachers.

It would be of interest if we could state in figures, the exact addition of children in our Sunday school, but our space is limited. We observe, however, that in spite of the fact that the number of children in our families, according to American fashion, is getting smaller year after year, the number of Sunday school children increases. In this fact we see partly a result of the mission work carried out in the neighborhood of our church and partly the result of using the language of our country. And as soon as our neighbors learn to know that the English language is used in our Sunday school, we will have a continued increase in the Sunday school classes.

The language of the Sunday school was in the beginning only Swedish, but later on some children joined the classes who did not read their lessons in the Swedish language; and in America children always have good and mindful parents, wherefore the children were allowed to read their lessons in the English language. The number of children in the English division increased year after year while at the same time the number of children who read their lessons in Swedish decreased. And so the Swedish section of the Sunday school finally discontinued altogether and the language of the land is now the language of our Sunday school. Bible history and Martin Luther's small Catechism, published by the Augustana Synod, has from the very beginning been read in our Sunday school and these books are the main text books today. Tracts for the Sunday school, also published by our Synod, have been used for study among the younger children for some years but now the Bible Primer is read by the little ones. Bible pictures have also been used for many years and with the help of these, it is possible for the superintendent to instruct the Sunday school very successfully in the Bible history.

The superintendent and the teachers of the Sunday school are worth our encouragement and hearty thanks for their unselfish services and work.

The First Young People's Organizations.

The young people who were found in the congregation in its earliest history were such as had come here from the old country, especially from Osterbotten. Partly on account of interest in the church work and partly because no other societies were found at that time, a society was organized among the young people in the early period of our congregation. This society held its meetings at least sometimes in the church but how long this society existed is not easy to tell. It is very possible that also this organization died out at the same time as the other church work was at a stand-still. During the summer 1905 a young people's society was organized, the name of this society was Adelphia. The membership in this organization was not large and its existence was rather short. This depended mostly upon the fact that there was no leader to take charge of the work in the fall of 1905.

The work among the young people was at a stand-still until in the fall of 1908 when a new organization came into being. This organization also adopted the name Adelphia. Many of the young people then joined this society and progress was made in that field. The members of this society were mostly such as had been born in America, but the business was transacted and the records were kept in the Swedish language. Meetings were held for a long time every other Thursday evening, partly in church and partly in the homes. This society gave financial support to the congregation when the parsonage was built and in addition to that, helped to defray the expenses of the congregation for some years. The society purchased books and had a library of its own for the benefit of members as well as for others within the congregation. It was this society which urged upon the congregation to change its name and paid the cost of this change. According to records, it was a custom for a while that members recited a bible verse when their names were called and the dues were collected. This society also seems to have been interested in politics. At one meeting a vote was taken on the preference of presidential candidates, and the vote was as follows: for Roosevelt, 13 votes; for Taft, 1 vote; for Wilson, 1, and for the Socalist candidate, Debs, 5 votes. The last record of this society is dated on the 10th of June, 1915. No meeting had been held then since the 5th of March 1914.

Willing Workers.

This society was organized in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Emil Norlund on the first of June, 1907. Its membership consists of young girls who under the leadership of some interested ladies, learn to sew in order thereby to be of some help to the congregation. The number of members during the years past has varied and at present it is about 25. The first among our ladies who were teachers for our Willing workers were Mrs. John Sundstrom and Mrs. Wm. Fredrickson.

The first thing that this society took upon itself' to work for was to gather money for the purchase of a new organ to the church. This organ was used until in the fall of 1922 when the pipe organ was installed. It was lately donated to the congregation in French River. Since the records from the first years of this organization's existence have been lost, there is undoubtedly a number of things of interest that cannot be recorded here.

The Willing Workers Society holds its meetings at the present, every other Saturday afternoon except during the summer when the society has two months vacation. Mrs. Wm. Holm has acted as a teacher for this society for a longer period than any one else. The society has every year donated to the church a larger or smaller sum of money, according to its ability. Some of the girls who were members of this society during its first years are now mothers, who have their own girls that belong to the society. Mrs. Arthur Amundson, Mrs. Victor Backman and Mrs. Edna Rolla serve at the present as teachers.

The "Hemåt" Society.

At the same time as we find that the Adelphia society had ceased to exist, there are two other societies that come to the forefront, namely the "Hemåt" society and the Luther League. Since no records can be found from the first meetings of these societies, we must be satisfied to mention here only such things as former members have told us.

The Hemåt society was organized among the young people who came here from the homeland across the waters. During its first period of existence, this society had many members and the work was carried on with great interest. But when many of the young men went to war, the interest gradually decreased with those who were at home and finally the activities ceased without again being revived. This society aided the congregation financially in many ways as long as it lived, and we surely mourn its death.

The Luther League.

We have mentioned before that the existence of the name Adelphia had ceased in 1915, but the society had not ceased to exist; it had only changed its name from Adelphia to Luther League, the common name for nearly all young peoples' societies among the Lutheran churches in America. The Luther League is open for membership for all confirmed young people within our congregation and receives also confirmed young people from other congregations outside of our city. Every year, shortly after the confirmation day, a reception is given for those newly confirmed and at that time also they are received as members of the Luther League.

The Luther League holds its meetings regularly twice a month, these meetings are, especially during the winter, well attended. The programs of this society have not always been the best, all depending upon what kind of a program committee that has served. During the last years, programs of a more serious nature have been rendered. Bible study has been conducted at every meeting and at the present we study and discuss "Problems That Confront the Young People. "

The Luther League bought a piano for the church in 1916 and six years later, the Luther League raised money for the purchase of a pipe organ. The members of the Luther League carried on the subscription work for only a short time and in the fall of 1922 a splendid pipe organ was purchased. This pipe organ had been made by The Henry Pilcher Company in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a two manual organ, large enough for our needs at our services and for concerts. The organ installed, costs nearly $3,300.00. The Luther League has also donated various sums to the congregation.

Serving of refreshments has become a custom in all organizations within the congregation and our Ladies' Aid has for a long time taken care of this for the Luther League, but during the last few years the Luther League has taken care of itself in serving of refreshments.

The Luther League is the largest society within our congregation as far as the membership is concerned and has at the present about ninety active members.

The Lutheran Brotherhood.
(The Men's Society)

In the report given by the pastor at the annual meeting of the congregation on January 4th, 1910, is stated the following: "A Men's Society was organized last spring but on account of lack of interest this society ceased to exist."

Again in August 1915, a new organization was perfected among our men and this society exists today. The following resolution was passed at the organization meeting: Resolved, "That we organize a Men's society for the purpose of gathering all the men within our congregation for united work in the interest of the congregation and the kingdom of God and by having regular meetings, give our men an opportunity for edification and fraternal gatherings."

The Men's society has in a way served, not in name but in practice, as a church council. That this has been the case has depended to a great extent on the fact that those, among our men who have taken a greater interest in our church work, have also belonged both to the church council and to the society. This statement is proven best by the fact that the society at its first meeting already took up for discussion, the question regarding a new church and a committee was elected to secure plans for this purpose.

During the time that the church building work was progressing, discussions in connection with this work were always on the programs. It is also interesting to notice that this society decided to order pews, pulpit, altar and altar railings for the church, but the treasurer's report does not show that the society paid for these things, the payments having been made from the congregational building fund.

Programs are rendered at the meetings whenever such can be arranged. The society has also invited outside speakers on its programs; mainly pastors from neighboring congregations. During the present year the society has had on its program to study the different branches of our church work at large, such as schools, missions and charities.

The society changed its name last spring from Men's society to Lutheran Brotherhood, in order to have the name in common with other Men's organizations found within our congregations. The society has also joined the Duluth Lutheran Brotherhood, which has on its programs to sponsor a reformation festival on a large scale every fall and also a Lutheran Brotherhood banquet each spring.

At the meetings of the Lutheran Brotherhood, which are held once a month, our men are often accompanied by their wives who usually have matters of their own to discuss. The Men's meetings in this way become very genial and of a social nature.

This society has like all the others helped the congregation along finaicially besides having paid for various repairs on the church property.

Boy Scouts.

While it usually is comparatively easy to gather the young girls into useful organizations, it is rather hard to gather the boys and interest them in useful work. "Being idle teaches much evil." This remark was made by a wise man in the olden times and this truth holds good today. One of the organizations which has undertaken to interest the boys, is the boy scout organization. It is not a churchly organization but it is serving to teach the young such knowledge, as can be of service to them during their boyhood days as well as later on in life.

During the early part of the winter 1922, a boy scout troop was organized among our boys under the leadership of Mr. Walter Saari and later under the leadership of Mr. Arthur Peterson. He has also had charge of this organization until about a year ago. Last spring he was elected as Assistant Scout Executive for all the scouts in Duluth; this as a recognition of his unparalleled leadership among the boys. Albert Hendrickson is the present scout master and Wendell Hendrickson is assistant. Meetings are held every Tuesday evening in the basement of the church.

Our scout troop has won many prizes in contests with other scouts in the city and is counted as one of the best among the forty scout troops in Duluth. It is to be regretted that not more of our own boys belong to our scout troop.

Certain people, who are unacquainted with the scout movement, seem to think that this movement is militaristic. This is not, however, the case. A certain amount of discipline must be used of course but that is necessary also in the most orderly families.


In the fall of 1922 was organized a society by the name of "Hembygden." At that time a number of young people who had lately come from their homeland were found in the western section of our city. Many of these young people became members in this organization which by its name reminded them of their homeland. Hembygden held its meetings in various homes and these meetings were often very well attended. Programs that were rendered were often of a patriotic nature. Often it. was a longing for home that found its expression in these programs.

This society took upon itself in 1924 to pay for the interior decorating of the church, a job which cost over $500.00. We were happy to see that these young people who so recently had come over from the homeland were willing to work in this way for the best of our church.

Many organizations are dissolved because quarrels and hatred arises among the members. But here it was the opposite; it was love that ended "Hembygden." The young people learned to know each others at these meetings and this resulted in marriage. And after their marriage these members did not attend the meetings of the society. The meetings of Hembygden were less attended and at last these meetings ceased altogether in the fall of 1926. Another cause may also be counted with and which possibly had more to do with the death of Hembygden, namely the fact that immigration practically ceased in 1923. When therefore no new young people took the place of those who had married and dropped out of the society, it is easily understood what the result would be. We wish that this society would have lived longer.

Women's Home and Foreign Mission Society.

This society was organized in April 1924. Before this organization had come into being our women had given a certain birthday collection at the Ladies' Aid meetings. These collections, one cent for each year of age of the member, were given for missionary purposes.

After this organization had come into being our women are giving more time and interest to the cause of missions through programs and studies and also by listening to lectures given by missionaries. At the present, meetings are held every other month and besides a membership fee which is fifty cents a year, collections are taken for home and foreign mission purposes. This society has some over forty members.

The Dorcas Society.

This is the youngest branch in our church work. This society was organized in the house of the pastor and his family in December 1924. Members of this society are such among our young ladies who have been raised in America and who, therefore, to a large degree are unlike their mothers born and raised in the old country. In addition to this we also think of the fact that these younger women understand and use only the language of the land. Many of the members within the Dorcas society count their descent from other countries than Finland and although these are not at present members of our church, they kindly consent to help us in the church work.

The Dorcas society took upon itself shortly after its organization, to raise money for another piano, one that could be used exclusively in the church. The piano which was bought by the Luther League is used in the church basement. The Dorcas society has also gathered enough money for this purpose and the beautiful grand piano which we have in our church is now also paid for.

The Dorcas society has about twenty members but it is rather difficult to keep up the membership in this society because inane of the young families have recently moved from Duluth to other places. We have hopes that this society will grow in the future in order some day to be the only women's organization within our congregation, because the addition of older families has ceased while younger families can be anticipated.

Singing Organizations.

When it comes to the matter of singing we cannot boast very much in case we speak about chorus singing; but if we speak about congregational singing we stand the comparison well with any congregation.

Choruses have been organized and lived for a while and died. It is impossible to tell how many choruses that have existed. We have had singing organizations among the young people, among the little girls, among our older members both women and men. Our present choir consists nearly exclusively of young people and during the winter especially, we have the pleasure of listening to choir singing both at our Swedish and our English services. Our present organist, Mrs. Edna Bankey, has done much in order to encourage chorus singing within our congregation during the last few years

* This Eloheimo had according to information to the writer by Dr. Nikander, President of Suomi College in Hancock, Mich., made himself bishop over the Finns in America, an action which later caused a split among the Finnish Lutherans.

Published 1928 in Duluth, Minnesota. 60 p.

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