The First Half of the 20th Century

When Pastor Lincoln came to Jamestown in 1896, First Lutheran Church had 1249 members. Their spirits were low because of the financial panic with many of the men, who were the wage earners, out of work. Some felt that the church should be turned over to the bank with hope to regain owndership sometime in the future. But the 23-year-old pastor, Julius Lincoln, would not hear of it. In 1897 he published the first issue of "Forsamlingens Val" or "The Church's Well-Being."

Many organizations were formed to raise funds.

  • Old Members Society (members of 25 years or more) - raised money for the stained glass windows
  • The Church Choir - raised money for the new organ
  • The Chandelier Society - took responsibility for the lighting fixtures, flatware, and table linens.
  • Numerous drives were held such as giving a day's wages on Thanksgiving Day.

Finally, the indebtedness was reduced to $27,000.00 on the church, which was valued at $127,000.00.

Pastor Lincoln was regarded as well educated. He was considered to be a protege of Carl Swensson (son of Jonas Swensson, the first Lutheran pastor in Jamestown). Carl Swensson founded Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. Julius Lincoln had graduated from this college when he was 18 and then taught Greek to the other students. When he came to Jamestown, he had completed seminary training and was pursuing further studies at Yale University.

Pastor Lincoln, a powerful and popular speaker, was much in demand for speaking engagements outside of the pulpit. On one occasion he spoke at the Chautauqua Institution on "Jamestown Day." This was an annual event when a steamboat of Swedes from Jamestown would go to Chautauqua accompanied by a Swedish Men's Chorus.

Sunday School had been a standard part of the church program and was made up of people of all ages. At different times, the "language issue" came up because the younger generation preferred activities conducted in English. However, the native born Swedes always felt that Swedish should be the language of religion. Therefore, all services were conducted in Swedish with the exception of an English speaking primary Sunday School department established in 1900.

In 1902, a study class for Sunday School teachers was begun and in 1903, an intermediate department was added.

In 1909, a stereopticon was purchased for the Sunday School to use - the beginning of multi-media instruction.

When the language issue came up again, English services were begun on Sunday evenings.

The Sunday School classes were held in the baseemnt of the church in one large room. It is noted that in 1912, small chairs were provided for the smaller children with short legs, so that they would not have "sleeping feet."

In 1914, a group of members insisted on establishing an English speaking Lutheran congregation. The church extended a call to a Rev. E.E. Ryden to minister the newly formed Grace Lutheran Church, originally planned to be a division of First Lutheran Church. Subsequently, Grace Lutheran Church merged with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, a previously established English speaking Lutheran church. The newly combined church applied for membership in the Augustana Synod.

By 1916, First Lutheran had 1900 members and the church nave was renovated with the enlargement of the altar, the addition of more pipes to the organ, and the establishment of an English divison of the Sunday School.

In 1917, during World War I, Pastor Lincoln was called by Herber Hoover to be a Commissioner of the United States Food Administration. He went overseas to evaluate the needs of war torn Europe.

Pastor Daniel Nystrom had been called to meet the needs of the English-speaking members. The following year, Pastor Lincoln resigned as senior pastor to become a lecturer for the government Food Administration. Pastor Nystrom became senior pastor on September 15, 1918. There were no services held the following month due to the influenza epidemic, during which many members died.

Sister Elfrieda Sandberg, a trained deaconess, came as a parish worker in 1919. English services were held at 10:10 followed by Swedish services at 11:15.

Church collections were changed from a dues assessment method to a free will offering using double-sectioned envelopes (one section for expenses, the other for benevolence). The annual church income increased by $2200.00. In 1921, a lingering debt of $30,000.00 was removed in thirty days.

Philemon J. Smith, a theological student, came and worked with the youth through 1925. He subsequently became a Lutheran pastor.

The boiler room was renovated in 1924 at a cost of $7,500.00. A cement floor was installed, removing the fire hazard of the old wooden floor.

In 1927, Miss Anna E. Peterson, a graduate of the Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI), arrived as parish secretary.

Pastor Nystrom resigned in 1930 to become Literature Secretary of the Augustana Lutheran Church. He had suffered with progressive loss of hearing, which may have prompted his departure.

Pastor P.A. Edquist served as interim pastor until Dr. Samuel M. Miller was installed as senior pastor on May 24, 1931. During 1931, First Lutheran celebrated its 75th Anniversary and the Augustana Synod held its convention it Jamestown, May 31-June 6.

Pastor Miller, a 1916 graduate of Augustana Seminary, was called to be the pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Three years later, he played a major role in the establishment of the Lutheran Bible Institute, and served as its dean. He received an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1926.

Doctor Miller declined living in the parsonage, and instead built a home in Lakewood. The parsonage was then remodeled for use as Sunday School classrooms.

Doctor Miller stressed Bible study and through his teachings, many of the youth in the church became ministers or other religious workers. He was very musical and had a pleasing voice. He wrote a number of hymns, including his most well-known - Jesus Only.

In 1935, he made it known that if an opportunity arose to establish an Eastern branch of LBI, he would remain in Jamestown. However, a prominent member of the church blocked this proposal. Pastor Miller accepted a call to return to the institute that spring.

Rev. S. Hjalmar Swanson came in August 1935 to serve as interim pastor. He and his family lived at 117 Beechview Avenue for the first year, until the parsonage was converted back to a residence.

In 1936 the building that would become known as the Willard Chapel was acquired from the Board of Education. This empty school building was remodeled into a Chapel and Sunday School to accomodate the many members that lived in the Swede Hill area of Jamestown.

Pastor Swanson was remembered as a warm person and very neighborly. He resigned in 1939 to become Executive Director of Foreign Missions of the Augustana Synod.

Rev. Constant Johnson followed Pastor Swanson, moving into the parsonage in September 1939.

In December 1940, the newly renovated nave was dedicated. There were some discontented members when they saw that the inscription on the altar had been changed from "Heliga, Heliga, Heliga" to "Holy, Holy, Holy." This was an indication that the church members were no longer exclusively of Swedish heritage.

The war years, 1941-1945, were marked with the rationing of food (butter, in short supply, was saved to bake cookies for the men overseas). There were scrap drives, Victory Bond Campaigns, and various patriotic events in which the First Lutheran Church Band played a major role.

Following the war, a new slate roof replaced the original, which leaked so badly that a temporary roof in the attic had to be placed over the organ loft to protect the expensive instrument below.

Pastor Johnson resigned in 1948 to accept a call to Grace Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa.

Pastor C.E. Benson, who had been a state prison chaplin, served as interim pastor until the arrival of Dr. Paul A. Westerberg in February 1950. Pastor Benson was also President of the National Prison Chaplins Association.