In the beginningÂ…

In the beginning most Swedes went to the Midwest where land was fertile and cheap, especially after 1862 when the Homestead Act became law.

How they came to settle in Jamestown brings up an interesting story.

In 1848 a small group of immigrants, having arrived in New York, traveled up the Hudson River to Albany, where they were robbed after boarding a barge to continue on the Erie Canal. When they arrived in Buffalo, they had only twenty-five cents among them.

A Mr. and Mrs. Germund Johnson temporarily left their two daughters Louise, 9 and Josephine, 7 at a public institution, while they went to find employment. When they returned two months later, they found that the two girls had been turned over to two families in Sugar Grove and Warren, Pennsylvania to work as domestics. The Johnsons then walked 90 miles to Pennsylvania to find their girls. Since both girls were wll cared for, they let them remain with the families who had hired them.

Subsequently, the parents and the other members of the group found work clearing the surrounding forests and were able to acquire land of their own. They urged their fellow countrymen back home in Sweden to come to this area. Eventually, the area surrounding Sugar Grove came to be known as Swedesborg. The small community then built a frame church and a log cabin parsonage. Since there were no ordained Lutheran pastors in the area, services were conducted by lay people.

One such person was B.G.F. Berglund, a self-appointed preacher. However, because of his unorthodox teachings and manner, the people complained and after a visit by Rev. Turre Nils Hasselquist, his license was not renewed. As a consequence, with the exception of an occasional visit by pastors from Illinois, the people were left to their own resources. Unfortunately, at that time, the Lutheran Church of Sweden was not particularly interested in the spiritual needs of the emigrants who had left their homeland to go to America.

In 1855, a member of the Hessel Valley community wrote a letter to Jonas Swensson, a newly ordained pastor in Sweden, pleading for him to come. The following spring, Pastor Swensson, newly married, left a secure, salaried position as an associate pastor to come to a primitive community with limited resources, to serve a scattered group of peasants struggling to survive in an uncleared forest.

He spent his first night in Jamestown as the guest of Swedish Methodist pastor, Jacob Bredberg and the next day was driven to Chandler's Valley. Although he settled in Chandler's Valley, his responsibility was for all the Swedish Lutherans in the surrounding area.

On July 26, 1856 about 140 individuals gathered and organized The Svenska Evangeska Lutheran Church with a constitution written by Pastor Swensson. Services were held alternately in Chandler's Valley, Jamestown, and every fourth Sunday Wrightsville. Traditionally, the Julotta (Christmas Service) was held in Chandler's Valley.

Pastor Swensson and his wife lived in Chandler's Valley. From there he traveled from community to community wherever groups of Swedes had clustered. These communities included Brocton, Jamestown, Mayville, Frewsburg, and Busti in New York and Chandler's Valley, Scandia, Wrightsville, Youngsville, and Warren in Pennsylvania.

He either walked or was driven (by horse and buggy) by a member of his congregation. It was a hard life for him and lonely for his wife who generally remained at home with their baby boy, Carl, born in the year following their arrival.

Pastor Swensson was warm and outgoing. His sermons were well written and delivered. He remained in this area for two years and two months before accepting a call to Andover, Illinois to be an assistant to Pastor Erland Carlsson. He was sorely missed and a church window was named in his honor.