From the Historical Room

 

Our history as a congregation had its beginning in the mid-1800's when services were conducted in Swedish homes by Lutheran laymen Per Adolph Norene and B.C.P. Bergenlund in Chandler's Valley, Pennsylvania and Jamestown, New York. In 1856, under the leadership of Rev. Jonas Swenson (1856-1858) "The Lutheran Church" was organized in Jamestown. The congregation voted to construct a church building in 1860, under the leadership of Rev. John Pehrson (1860-1862). However, it wasn't until four years later, under the leadership of Rev. Carl O. Hultgren (1864-1896), that the land on Center and Chandler Streets was actually purchased. At this time, the congregation consisted of 63 communicant members.

The original church building was constructed in 1856 at a cost of $3279.85, more than triple the estimated cost. The building was enlarged in 1871 and 1875 to nearly twice its original size.

The first choir was formed in 1870 and the need for an organ was realized. A hand pumped Tracker organ was purchased from the Utica Company for $1200.00. The organ was later electrified and is still in working condition in the Church Parlors. The organ, the oldest of its kind in Jamestown, was reconditioned in 1981.

In 1890, faced with a need for space, the congregation voted to hire an architect to draw up plans for a new building. Construction began on the new facility in 1892. However, it was not completed until 1901 due to financial constraints.

Julius Lincoln (1896-1918) was called as pastor and began his ministry on June 17, 1896. During his twenty-two years here, he confirmed 1,738 young people. Beginning in 1917, a Swedish service and an English service were held each Sunday morning.

Around that same time, Dr. Daniel Nystrom (1918-1930) was called to be assistant pastor. Dr. Nystrom would assume the full duties of pastor when Dr. Lincoln resigned the following year. Dr. Nystrom was instrumental in organizing the Lutheran Home for the Aged (now Lutheran Social Services) and served as its first president. A mortgage burning was held on Thanksgiving Day 1922 climaxing a "$30,000 in 30 days" drive that wiped out the church debt.

After Dr. Nystrom's retirement, the church called the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller (1931-1935). Dr. Miller emphasized Bible study and prayer in his ministry. Dr. S. Hjalmer Swanson (1935-1939) sought to expand the church's ministry. Dr. Swanson was succeeded by Dr. Constant Johnson (1939-1948). Associate Pastor from 1945-47 was the Rev. Emmett Ecklund.

The Rev. Dr. Paul A. Westerberg (1950-1976) was called in 1950 and served First Lutheran Church for twenty-six years. During his ministry the Parish Education Building and Chapel were constructed in celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of First Lutheran Church. An Organ Dedication and Consecration of the redecorated church nave was held on January 22, 1956. The new organ replaced the Hook and Hastings 3-manual organ that had been in place since 1901. Many sets of pipes from the Hook and Hastings organ were incorporated into the new Casavant Freres organ. Complete renovation of the church parlors or basement was completed in 1971 with extensive improvements to upgrade its function. During Dr. Westerberg's tenure the congregation was also served by the Rev. Lee Miller (1965-1971) and the Rev. John Carlson (1972-1975).

The Rev. Arthur J. Henne was called in 1977, following the retirement of Dr. Westerberg. Pastor Henne served until 1985. During his tenure, an endowment fund was established to ensure continued funds would be available for maintaining the church structure.

In 1985 the Rev. Charles D. May was called and remained until 2004. During his tenure, many necessary building upgrades were made, including a new heating system, repairs to the church tower, the church nave was redecorated, and many repairs to the Education Building. With building repairs taken care of, a new endowment fund was established for Ministries and Missions, allowing us to reach out and expand our programs.

During Pastor May's tenure at First Lutheran, the congregation was also served by Rev. Mary Lee Krahn (1987-1993) and Rev. Billy J. Banks (1994-2000).

In May 2004, Rev. Mary Anne Nelson-Loefke came to First Lutheran to serve as Intentional Interim Pastor as the congregation entered into a transition phase.

 

In February of 2007 Pr. Billy Banks came back to First Lutheran after there was a three year period without a full-time pastor.

The emphasis at First Lutheran continues to be on the education of both children and adults. We thank and praise God for the many who have served this congregation in its long history and for all those who have been a part of this congregation enabling us to have such an outstanding history. We pray for His continued guidance in the years to come.