The following is taken from the history of the Concordia Swedish Baptist Church prepared at its 30th anniversary celebration in 1907. The church had a special significance in the early history of the family in this country. The Charles and Christina Anderson who were among the founding nine members of the church were the uncle and aunt to whom our grandmother first came. The T. Tomasson who was also one of the first nine members was Christina Anderson's father and our grandmother's grandfather. Mr. and Mrs. P. M. Roswall were the great-grandparents of our cousins Charles, Keith, and Robert Fredrickson. Mr. and Mrs. L.(Lars) Ganstrom were the great-grandparents of our cousin Pauline Hall. The C. (Charles) Carlson was the grandfather of our cousin Eunice Rolf.
On the occasion of the Swedish Baptist Church in Concordia, Kansas, a double celebration of the congregation's thirtieth year anniversary jubilee and Dr. A. Johnson's thirtieth year service as pastor and missionary in the state of Kansas. It was decided to put together a short history of the church's thirtieth accomplishments. The committee which has had this job as its responsibility at heart has made up its mind to do its best to assemble and put together these historical facts. Therefore, we beg your pardon for mistakes and errors which might have been made. Pictures are missing of some, which the committee had chosen to include if they had the photos sent to them. We hope therefore that this short history will remind us to be thankful for the memories of the Lord's goodness for the past days and a dear moment for future generations.
April 1, 1907
Thirtieth year report of the Swedish Baptist Congregation in Concordia, Kansas.
Concordia is located almost in the middle of the United States and it was in Kansas where a few of our people wandered (settled) in the years 1869 and 1870. I say wandered because at that time there were neither highways nor railroads. Most of them were poor and the land was desert. We had to build our houses (dug-outs) in the ground which were for several of our homes. What hardships and inconveniences we had to endure at that time cannot here be described.
The hardest was that we did not have a church, not even the preaching of the Word. We gathered together, read God's Word, prayed to the Lord and sang songs to His praise. Most of us had come from Gottland, Sweden, and there belonged to the Baptist churches. The thoughtful L. Ganstrom wrote to Dr. Edgren who then was in Chicago to ask him if he could send a preacher to Kansas. He replied that he did not have any preacher to send, but that a brother August Johnson had traveled to Kansas.
Brother Johnson did not go out as a preacher, but when he came and saw the need, he started going from house to house, from one settlement to the next, to humbly speak God's Word. His heart was warm and on fire of Christ's love, and people listened eagerly to the Word. So he continued his trip until the end of March i877 when he came to what was called "Gottland." It hardly needs to be said that he was welcome when we learned who he was. And on his side it was not less wonderful, as is noted since he lived at Gottland and now has met believers and those baptized from there.
Brother Johnson began holding meetings and preaching the gospel. Interest awakened in our hearts for God's Kingdom promotion and souls were saved. Even, it was seen the need of organizing a congregation of baptized believers. Therefore, a few Danish brothers from Saron Baptist Church were called to meet with us Saturday, May 12, 1877, at friends C. Andersons where the congregations had room after discussion and prayer.
Some had certificates from Sweden, but since they were old, everyone gave his testimony about his walk with God. After which, nine in number became the church and their names are: P. M. Roswall, Anna Roswall, C. Anderson, Christina Anderson, J. Ahlquist, T. Tomason, P. Olson and L. Ganstrom. All those had been baptized at Gottland in Sweden in 1858, plus August Johnson, baptized in Chicago 1874. The following brothers were elected the officers of the church: Rev. August Johnson, President (or superintendent) and preacher; P. M. Roswall, Treasurer; L. Ganstrom, Secretary; J. Ahlquist and J. Goodman, Deacons.
Even Mrs. Christina Ahlquist gave testimony of her faith in Christ and asked for baptism and church membership. Mrs. Ahlquist is therefore the first fruit. She was baptized the day after the congregation was organized and received with prayer and placing on of hands by N. Nelson who was Chairman (or superintendent.) Also Mrs. Carolina Goodman gave testimony as she had been baptized in Gottland in 1858 and had received the Lord's Supper. Now the church had eleven members--the same number as Jesus' disciples were at the time of His Ascension.
The same day, the 13th of May, August Johnson was set apart for the ministry (or as the preacher) through prayer and laying on of hands. Brother Johnson had now a large pastoral territory because all of Kansas was his area and the church at Concordia was the first in Kansas. Already in 1878 preparations were being made to build a church and lots were purchased in the town of Concordia. The only help the congregation had from other sources for the church building was $25.00 from the Swedish Baptist Church in Moline, Illinois.
From the time the congregation was organized until the present time or during the thirty years the church has received: through baptism 138, by letter 87, dismissed 50, moved away 89, death 23, and received back 13. The total number who has belonged to the church during these 30 years is 263. The total membership at time of this celebration is 92. The church has even during these years gone steadily forward, but the most increase was the years 1878, 1889, and 1905.
The church during these years has had ten pastors of which seven stayed three years, one for three years and five months, two have stayed over four years. The church has been blessed to have among the brethren at some times come out and proclaimed the Word of life such as L. Ganstrom and 0. Johnson among them.
The congregation has during these years had its times of testing when it seemed that Satan had demanded to sell the congregation. But He who prayed for the disciples that their faith fail not has even kept the righteous with power so that this our celebration is held for the purpose to thankfully acknowledge God's grace and leading under the past years and renew the ties that humble faith serve Him; also to await the promise of our Savior: "Behold I am coming soon; keep that which you have that no one takes your crown."
Rev. Aug. Johnson, D. D. began serving the church immediately after it was organized, the 12th of May 1877 when even he was dedicated to the service of evangelism and served the church until 1 of January 1880 in that capacity 2 years and 8 months. Brother Johnson is by the Lord especially talented with ability to win people's friendship and trust and thereby self-denial and sympathy; therefore, he was of great encouragement in this field. Many were guided on to the way of truth because he pointed to God's Lamb, who taketh away the sins of the world.
Now we shall let Brother Johnson talk for himself about his first experiences in company with experiences here in this church.
To the Swedish Baptist Congregation in Concordia, Kansas: "Grace be with you and peace of God, our Father and Lord Jesus Christ. I thank God with all my remembrance of you." Philippians: 1:2-3.
When I was invited by letter to tell of my experiences during the first times in Kansas: together with the coming of the congregation at Gottland (at present in Concordia) and since I have had the pleasure to be with from the beginning and serve a few years, so I wish briefly to write the following few lines. When, we as a church, are about to observe our 30th year jubilee, therefore, I most heartily wish the Lord's blessing to rest over us.
I have yet a vivid memory how the Lord through inspiration guided me to leave Chicago in the spring of i877 to plan a trip to Kansas for the purpose to witness about the Lord and win others to the salvation which has become precious to me. Arrived at Leavenworth the 29th March the same year. Then the train did not go farther so we had to take the "Stage;" when we had driven a ways, one of the wheels broke, and instead of a wheel, a wooden stick was used. After much difficulty we arrived at our appointed place, Scandia, Kansas.
My visit in that little town and the first weeks' stay in the Danish Baptist Church on the farm gave me many new friends. Arrived in Concordia where I, with my great joy, found Baptists from Gottland, Sweden. Took my first meal at the friends Roswall and was there received in a heartily and friendly manner. In the evening of the same day, we met for the first time, brothers Chas. Anderson and Jacob Ahlquist, Jonas Goodman and Roswall who had just arrived home from Waterville, a 60 mile trip, where they had been and sold his seed.
The joy which we experienced at that meeting of those brethren cannot be described. The evangelistic meeting that evening was talked of experiences by both old and young. The following day a visit at brother L. Ganstrom's home. He questioned me if I was that student which he had written about, and Edgren had sent from the school in Chicago. I explained that I did not know about Ganstrom's letter to the Professor. The following day, a letter from Chicago arrived in which brother Edgren mentioned about my visit to Kansas bidding them to kindly welcome me. Here I see a special leading of the Lord, to him be glory and thanks for all.
Meetings were announced immediately for a longer time every evening when I had opportunity to witness about the Lord to the large gathering, even Norwegians and Americans came to listen and maybe to see the stranger who had come to the area. The Lord blessed the Word so that many were saved and the older Christians were blessed (or revived with God and one another) so that they began feeling the need to a closer gathering together.
The 12th of May was the great day when a few Danish brothers from Saron's congregation were invited and among them one of the first Danish Baptists, brother N. Nelson, who was able to be along for the organizing of the church. We were now nine souls who this day joined together and at this occasion, I was chosen as the church's leader and immediately after morning worship was ordained for evangelistic service.
We gathered hereafter by the Republican River and sang the Lord's glory and praise. Here we had the first baptism when Mrs. Ahlquist (Roswall's daughter) was buried with Christ in baptism. After that, we were off to the schoolhouse where preaching was held and the newly begun church observed the Lord's Supper--the death of Jesus. We continued to work with wonderful power among his children. We had some days both private and public gatherings. The newly converted who had found peace were beautifully happy.
A Lieutenant W. Norlin who did not know God I visited one day; found him occupied with his work out in the yard. With boldness, it occurred to me to ask him if he would like to be a Christian. He answered: "Do you think, Sir, that I am a heathen? Here, we are all Christians, except we are poor. I have lived an honorable life from my command as a military man in Sweden, so you need not think that I am a deserter?"
It was not long afterwards that he came to the schoolhouse and admitted that he was a sinner and received the sinner's forgiveness. Even his wife (who was of nobility In Sweden) came to faith in Jesus, and they both joined the church and were baptized.
During the time that I served the congregation, I took long trips in the state as well as the neighboring state of Missouri in order to look up our Swedish people and preached the gospel.
A lot could be said which could be both interesting and funny about my experiences during this time. Kansas then consisted of open prairie and the people lived on hills where they often ate worms, mice and other undesirable animals. Communication was poor, wherefore I had to take my trips mostly on foot, even if railroads were available to certain places; there was not money for tickets sometimes. Certain times I worked with my hands because people at that time were not rich.
When sometimes there was the question of getting help for our mission from The Home Mission Society, discussion was held one whole day how the Swedes could get help, whereas they decided to give me $16.00 for one year.
Among the most pleasant memories during my work as pastor, was the day that I followed my aged father, brother-in-law and sister up through the baptismal water.
What had occurred during my ministry in Kansas and this congregation is recorded above and shall first on the eternal morning be made clear. I have many dear and everlasting memories in association with this church and in my solitude, I will let those memories and friends pass over my heart's view. I live only a time and wander through rosy gardens, even though now weak, and pick even now a few. Forget me not and hide me in your hearts.
YES DEAR FRIENDS
Thirty years ago a stranger I came
To Kansas and no one there I knew,
But found soon in poor houses heart and room
And friends wherever I came.
But dearest when I to Concordia came.
There dear friends from Gottland I found.
These members ever since have been.
And during that time, I as a member have stood.
In this our sisterhood dear
Both friendship and love I experienced
For this God will get the glory.
Also during this time from the now past days,
Many precious moments from you I have,
Which thankfully in heart shall hide.
Time has devastated the rose gardens and scattered the frost on our crowns; many have become tired and begun to give up, but If we wait on the Lord we shall receive strength. May the Lord's rich grace In the future rest over his congregation until Christ comes to receive his precious purchased bride.
THE CONGREGATION'S SERVANTS
Deacons and in the order they served: J. Ahlquist, Jonas Goodman, P. Benson, Jonas Axelson, P. M. Roswall, L. G. Huggerth, O. Anderson. The present deacons are: P. Benson, 0. Anderson, and C. Fredrickson.
Trustees: P. Benson, P. M. Roswall, J. Goodman, J. Ahlquist, L. G. Huggerth, A. Lindblom, John Johnson, J. A. Olson, and C. Anderson. The present trustees are: H. Benson, G.(?) Ganstrom, J. Johnson, J. Larson and C. Ceder.
Secretaries: L, Ganstrom, 0., Johnson, N. G. Hedin, A. Lindblom, and J. A. Olson. Present Secretary: N. P. Nelson.
Treasures: P. Benson, P. M. Roswall, A. Lindblom, and O. Anderson. Present Treasurer: C. E. Carlson.
Those who have served as organist: Mary Johnson (present), Mrs. Martin, Lydia Johnson, Betty Johnson, Minnie Lindblom, Mrs. Erickson, Althea Palmquist, and Ellen Ahlquist.
SUNDAY SCHOOL AND ITS BEGINNING
Sunday School was organized the 29th of April 1883, in Gottland settlement by Sunday School Missionary W. Skoglund. For Sunday school superintendent was chosen L. Ganstrom who served a few months after which J. Goodman continued until the following winter when Mrs. P. Benson was elected to serve. She served until June 1885 when Sunday School moved from Gottland to Concordia and came under the leading of pastor A. B. Anderson until year 1886 when N. G. Hedlin was elected as superintendent and served faithfully for several years until the spring of 1891 when he moved to Oregon.
In his place, C. Anderson was elected who served a time for 4 years or until 1894 when Axel Lundin was elected Sunday school superintendent. He served until Pastor A. Boberg became the church's pastor in 1896 and who was also elected Sunday School superintendent for two years or until 1898 when again C. Anderson became chosen and installed Sunday School superintendent with much regard and knowledge and under apparent blessing until the Lord called him home to himself 6th of November 1903.
J. A. Olson then became elected and is now Sunday school superintendent and a1so fi11s his place as with all contentment with great enthusiasm and falthfu1ness and we wish him many years continuance. Pastors J. Johnson, J. Bjork and A. Rose fellow members have taken a lively part in Sunday school while they were in Concordia.
Many faithful teachers have even during these years given much work for which the Lord will reward them. The longest time, no doubt, has been Mrs. P. Benson who took part in Sunday School from the beginning and served even as a teacher.
Sunday School goes forward uninterrupted and many of the chi1dren have been saved and are now members of the church. The greatest increase the church had from the Sunday school was in 1905 when eleven were baptized and joined the church. The present Sunday School is about 65 enrolled, with six teachers: C. Fredrickson, Mrs. P. Benson, Mrs. A. Olson, Mrs. A1thea Palmquist, C. Melin, Pastor Olson, and J. A. Olson as superintendent and Marie (May) Ganstrom as secretary; treasurer, Willie Fredrickson.