Day 340 - Moline
Lennart Setterdahl was a resilient researcher of everything that related to Swedish America. Living in Rockford and Moline in the center of the Midwest and in the very center of Swedish emigration, he travelled around and documented the history before the sources disappeared. During the first ten years of his research, Lennart Setterdahl microfilmed Swedish American church records for the Emigrant Museum in Växjö. Then it was time for the Swedish American organizations and finally he taped interviews with the “last” immigrants - the ones who left Sweden in the 1920s. The result of his toil was an honorary doctorate at the University of Gothenburg and the fact that Swedes are, next to the Germans and the Jews, the most well-documented ethnic group in the USA. Lennart Setterdahl died in 1995 but his authoress wife Lily in Moline is still active in Swedish American endeavors.
And wherever there are Swedish endeavors you now know there must be churches. The First Lutheran Church (1230 Fifth Avenue(). The congregation was organized in 1850 by the Reverend Lars R Esbjörn, who also led the founding of the church in Andover, Illinois. Many early parishioners were unskilled laborers employed by such companies as John Deere. Young women worked as maids, laundresses, cooks, and nursemaids. In 1853, the Mississippi Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod was organized in the first sanctuary of First Lutheran. Honoring this event is a plaque quoting the minutes of the meeting in both Swedish and English. Among the exhortations was the need for pastors “to awake men among us … who will travel among our countrymen and preach the Word of Life.” The eighth resolution implored Lutherans to refrain from visiting churches where they might hear “preachers teaching strange and false doctrines.”
In 1875, the church made a decision to build a large Gothic-style red-brick building featuring a high, three-tiered clock tower (visible above the Moline skyline). Some members objected and formed Gustav Adolph’s Church in Moline, eventually joining the Mission Covenant Church. The former church is on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street. Over the front door of the red-brick building is the inscription, Missions Tabernaklet. The Covenant congregation has relocated to 3303 Forty-first Street.
The inaugural service in First Lutherans new church was held October 13, 1878. The sanctuary features impressive memorial stained-glass windows with Old and New Testament personages and Christian symbols made by German craftsmen. Local artist F. A. Lundahl rendered the altar painting of the Ascension. A recent $1 million renovation has returned the church to its early magnificence.
Continued use of Swedish in church services brought about tensions and congregational splits, including one producing Trinity Evangelical Lutheran, 1330 Thirteenth Street (309-762-3624; www.trinitylutheranmoline.org), in 1912. Despite the schism, First Lutheran was in the forefront in organizing Lutheran Hospital four years later. The hospital is now part of Trinity Medical Center, 500 John Deere Road (309-779-2200).
In the lobby of Bethany Baptist Church (at 701 Thirty-eight Avenue), organized in 1876, is a plaque noting that in 1852 in Rock Island the First Swedish Baptist Church in the United States was organized under the leadership of Gustav Palmquist (1812-1867) from northern Småland. He was one of three pastors who laid the foundation of the Swedish Baptist Church in the United States; the other two were Fredrik Olaus Nilsson (1809-1891) from Halland and Anders Wiberg (1816-1887) from Hälsingland. Not far away you also find the Betel Methodist Church (1201 Thirtenth Street), is an offspring of the congregation in Victoria, Illinois. The present red-brick building dates from 1910 and is identified as the Moline Bethel Wesley Church (309-764-0619).
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