Skip to content

Our History In Detail 1856-1928

Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church celebrated its 162 nd anniversary  in January of 2015.  Those 160 years have seen tremendous changes in the city of Chicago, the nature of its communities, and the ways in which religious congregations confront the needs of the people in those communities.

IELC picImmanuel has a rich history of innovative ministry, dynamic leadership, and perhaps its share of Scandinavian stubbornness.  That history has included the formation of more than a dozen other congregations, as well as the establishment of a college, a seminary, a hospital, a publishing house, and social service agencies.  Throughout its history, the congregation has embraced a style of liturgical worship which was both traditional and open to the breath of the Spirit.

If you would like to learn more about Immanuel’s past, we invite you to review the following:

The Story of The Immanuel Lutheran



(edited by Pastor Robert Goldstein)

 American Lutheran Beginnings

The first Lutheran settlers in America came from Holland in 1623. They settled in what is now Albany N. Y.  Two years later (1625) others came and settled on the present site of New York City.

The first Lutherans to organize congregations, build churches, and conduct public worship were the Swedes. They began to arrive in 1637. The first book translated into the language of the American Indians was Luther’s Small Catechism. It was translated by the Swedish pastor John Campanius.

The leader of greatest prominence in the early Lutheran Church was Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg the ”Lutheran patriarch” a notable figure of the Revolutionary period. He was the father of the famous ”Fighting Parson” of Virginia and of the first Speaker of the House of Congress. He came to America from Germany, at the age of thirty-two in 1742. In 1748 he organized the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States the first Lutheran synod in. America.

In 1638 there were fifty Lutherans in this country. A hundred years later (1738) there were 5000; two hundred years later (1838) there were 75,000; today (1928) there are over two million.

Beginnings in Chicago

The first Lutheran Church in Chicago was organized by Germans in 1846.  By that time quite a number of Scandinavians had settled in the city. A kind of congregation was organized among them in 1847 and a church building was started on Superior Street between La Salle and Wells Streets. A considerable amount of money was collected six hundred dollars of which was contributed by kindhearted German Lutherans in St. Louis.

Immanuel on Superior

Immanuel on Superior Street

The leader of the venture was a man named Gustaf Smith, an adventurer who, though not ordained, posed as a clergyman. Soon the members began to suspect that all was not well.  When he became aware of this he absconded with the funds. Shortly thereafter a vioIent storm nearly wrecked the partially completed building.  Grave dissension arose and the whole venture ended as a fiasco

A number of the Norwegians had from the first, been distrustful of Mr. Smith. They turned for leadership to a man named Paul Andersen, who visited Chicago at intervals and conducted divine services. At the time he was a student at Beloit College, a Presbyterian institution. On being urged to do so, Mr. Andersen took up his residence here in 1848. On February 14th of that year, he organized a congregation. The same year he was ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Frankean Synod. Before long the congregation purchased the unfinished structure on Superior Street, and rebuilt it into a neat and serviceable little sanctuary.

In 1852 a little company of immigrants came to Chicago from Västergötland, Sweden. After a disastrous hinterland trip they returned almost destitute to Chicago.  Here they managed to find quarters with some Norwegian families, members of the Lutheran Church. Many of them soon fell ill with the cholera, and one expressing an eager desire to see a Lutheran pastor, Rev. Paul Andersen was sent for. Though it was late in the night, he came with spiritual comfort for the sick and the dying. As time went on he continued his ministrations, giving them all good counsel and assistance, in both spiritual and temporal things. As a result, the members of the little band became much attached to him, most of them joining his Norwegian church. Some among them were of deep Christian piety.

Rev Paul Andersen

Rev Paul Andersen

About this time the Scandinavian population in Chicago was increasing rapidly. This brought new problems. Pastor Andersen was already fully occupied in meeting the spiritual needs of the Norwegians. He felt that to them belonged the first claim on his time and strength. His influence on the Swedish people was, naturally, rather limited. Yet, he was concerned about them. It troubled him to see many of them drawn into non‑Lutheran circles, some by sheer deception, and many others remain spiritually indifferent. He came to feel that the best way out would be to organize an independent Swedish Lutheran Church. His own Swedish members, so he hoped, were to become the nucleus of the new organization.

An opportunity to realize his plans presented itself with the arrival of the Rev. Tuve N. Hasselquist, from Sweden, in October, 1852. Pastor Hasselquist stopped in Chicago a few days, and was a guest in his home. The situation was gone into with the result that Rev. Hasselquist promised to return, at his earliest convenience, to organize a Swedish congregation.

Immanuel Organized – January 16, 1853

 Dr. Hasselquist kept his promise (to organize a Swedish congregation in Chicago. After attending a church conference in Moline in the early part of January, 1853, he set out by stage coach on the long, costly, and wearisome journey to Chicago.

 In a letter to Dr. P. Fjellstedt in Sweden, under the date of January 17,1853, he wrote: “After attending the Mississippi Conference convention in Moline I went from there to Chicago, and, since a week ago last Thursday, I have here preached five times. Yesterday I preached in the forenoon, in reality to the Norwegian congregation, and in the afternoon to the Swedes. At the latter occasion I preached on ‘Christian Caution in Regard to Strange Religious Communions,’ and afterwards spoke a few words on Jeremiah 6:16, whereupon Pastor Paul Andersen offered a fervent prayer with respect to thc weighty matter before us, which brought the tears to most eyes. Then we both went inside the altar rail and proposed to the Swedes three resolutions, in regard to the organization of a congregation, the basis on which members subsequently are to be received, and the congregation’s character as Lutheran. Now enrollment of members took place, and a decision was made regarding the call of a pastor, whereupon all was concluded with prayer, the benediction, and the singing of psalm number 412, stanza 6, from the Swedish psalmbook.”

The names of eighty persons were placed on the membership roll. The decision regarding the call of a pastor was, that a letter containing a call should be sent to Dr. P. Fjellstedt, giving him the authority to select the proper man. In due time Dr. Fjellstedt exercised the authority thus given him, and sent the call to the Rev. Erland Carlsson, at the time serving in the Vexjö diocese.

A Great Leader Comes

Dr. Fjellstedt chose more wise]y than he perhaps realized. There can be no doubt that he was divinely led in making the selection. A more fitting man could not have been found.  Pastor Carlsson, being impressed with the call, laid the matter earnestly in prayer before the Lord, and came at length to the conviction, that God had chosen him for this work.

After receiving the requisite permission from the Swedish Crown, and having made other necessary preparations, Pastor Carlsson set sail for America, in the company of one hundred and seventy‑six other emigrants, on June 3, 1853. New York was not reached until Saturday, August 13th. On Monday, August 22nd, Pastor Carlsson arrived in Chicago, and was met at the depot and warmly welcomed, by members of his future flock.

From the time of organization until Pastor Carlsson arrived; the congregation held its services in the Norwegian Church, each Sunday afternoon. There was no preacher, but a sermon from some good postil (a book of published sermons) was read by one of the members. Once during the spring the Rev. L. P. Esbjorn, then stationed at Andover, visited the congregation and conducted a communion service. The Rev. Erland Carlsson preached his first sermon on August 28th, the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Pastor Erland Carlsson’s Motto

During the first years both the pastor and the people endured many hardships. It is only to be expected that they looked upon themselves as strangers in a strange land.

This sentiment served to draw them closer

Pastor Erland Carlsson

Pastor Erland Carlsson

together, and where there was also spiritual fellowship based on the mutual experience of grace, the attachment became deep and tender. As Pastor Carlsson took hold, vigorously, on the multifarious duties crowding upon him, he was confident that God would supply him with both strength and wisdom for his labors. On the first page of the church records he has written these words:

“Relying upon divine assistance I am determined to declare the truth openly and faithfully, whatever difficulties may be thrown in my way.” –Rev. Erland Carlsson

Is there, perhaps, an element of prophecy in the circumstance that he wrote these words in the English language?

The Charter Members

By the time Rev. Carlsson took charge, the majority of the original eighty communicant members had drifted away. Some had left the city and some had been drawn into other denominations. Thirty‑six, eight married couples, and twenty single persons, were all that remained. All of them were in straitened financial circumstances. They lived in shanties, or other crowded and inadequate rented quarters. As they could not house the pastor, he secured two rooms with a Norwegian family. For lodging, board, and laundry he paid ten dollars a month.

In 1903, when the congregation celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its organization, only two of the charter members were still alive. They were Eva Charlotta Anderson and Gotttrid Carlson. Because of the merit of their membership, as well as its long duration, they deserve special mention.


Rebuilding in Faith

From the Ruins

 A great task now confronted the burned-out congregation. It was courageously taken in hand at the next annual meeting, January 1, 1872. The Rev. S. P. A. Lindahl was engaged to assist in the pulpit and pastoral work, so that Pastor Carlsson might give his time to the ingathering of funds. It was decided to begin building as soon as $10,000 had been collected. A building committee was elected, again consisting of the Board of Administration with twelve others. Again the committee was given practically unlimited powers. Except for a detail here and there, the plans and specifications were a duplication of the previous building.

Building began on July 5th, the corner stone was laid on August 4th, and the first service was held early on Christmas morning, 1872. The church was not furnished when this service was held, planks were used instead of pews, and there was no organ. The singing was led by a cornet band under the direction of Mr. L. E. Lindberg.

The Rebuilt Imanuel

The Rebuilt Immanuel

Help From Far and Wide

In the meantime Pastor Carlsson had visited a number of Augustana Synod Churches and several English and German speaking churches in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York.  Within the Immanuel Church itself an almost unbelievably large sum had been contributed.

 On May 26, 1873, Pastor Erland Carlsson boarded the Celtic at New York for a trip to Sweden in order to raise money for payment of the debt on the new church, to make contact with prospective pastors, and to identify the work of the Augustana Synod

 The principal reason for the Sweden trip was to have an audience with King Oscar II and to request authorization of a collection in Swedish churches for the building fund of the Immanuel congregation. His Majesty responded cordially. The sum of $2,954.45 was later collected and sent to the congregation. The kindly monarch, who was greatly impressed with Carlsson’s ministry among the Swedes in America, offered to arrange for him a pastorate in a good congregation if and when he wished to return to the homeland. Pastor Carlsson expressed great appreciation but declined and stated: “Where the young man has given his strength  and  life  for  the  heavenly King, there the old man wishes to lay down his pilgrim’s staff.” Then, King Oscar, with tears in his eyes, bade him Godspeed for the remainder of life’s journey.

 Pastor Carlsson spent several days at Kalmar where he visited his daughters, Annie and Emmy, students in Rostad School, and with the rektor, Mamsell Cecill Fryxell. A beautiful communion set was presented to Immanuel Church by Mamsell Fryxell to replace the one destroyed in the fire. She also wove and presented an attractive communion cloth. A baptismal basin for the Chicago church was provided through gifts from students of the school. They also contributed money for the organ as did students at Mamsell Hall’s school in Goteborg.

After a brief stay in England, the father and two daughters boarded the Polynesian at Liverpool in late October for the return voyage to America.  On November 13, 1875, they were again in Chicago.

The Immanuel building treasurer’s book finally showed the following figures:

Within the congregation                                   $17,633.05

From other Augustana Churches                         4,177.64

From English and German Luth. Churches       9,429.61

From Sweden                                                           2,954.45

Special gifts and offerings                                     3,349.66

Total        $37,544.41

 A New Beginning

Immanuel Sanctuary circa 1875

Immanuel Sanctuary circa 1875

The church completed for dedication cost $31,845.68. It had then neither steeple, organ, nor bells. As the funds gathered exceeded the cost by $5,698.73, this amount was applied on the debt.  The congregation, that year, reported a total communicant membership of 1,446. It was, at the time, the largest and most active church in the Augustana Synod.

Change in Pastors

The service of dedication was held on April 4, 1875. At that service a new pastor, the Rev. C. A. Evald, was installed.  Because of health reasons Pastor Carlsson, after 22 years of service at the Immanuel Church, moved to the very first Swedish Lutheran congregation in the Midwest in Andover, Illinois and served there until 1887.  He then moved to Rock Island to manage Augustana College and Seminary.  He became president of the Augustana Synod from 1881-1887.  He was also active in the development of the orphanage in Andover and Augustana Hospital in Chicago.  He retired in 1889 making his home on an estate near the Swedish settlement and college of Lindsborg, Kansas.

Pastor Erland Carlsson died on October 19, 1893, in the home of his son-in-law and daughter, Dr. and Mrs. (Emmy) C. A. Evald in Chicago.  His grave is in Graceland Cemetery marked by a stone erected by the Immanuel Church in 1897.

 A summary of Pastor Carlsson’s ministry in Chicago 1853-75 shows the following:

Baptized, 1667; Confirmed, 558; Marriages, 606; Members received, 2958; Members who moved, 1549; Deaths— Children, 410, and Adults, 169; Excommunicated or dropped, 415. The statistical data was influenced by the organization of the Salem Church with the assistance of Immanuel Church in 1868, but the effect was only modest in the parent church’s memberships.

Dr. W. A. Passavant, noted Lutheran leader, evaluated in 1864 the importance of Immanuel Church over and above the impressive membership statistics: “The amount of good which has been accomplished through the establishment of this church cannot be estimated. Thousands upon thousands of immigrants have passed through Chicago and have received counsel and assistance and spiritual direction for their new and untried American life . . . Hundreds who were unable to proceed further have been provided with employment, and have afterwards gone on their way rejoicing.”

A Remarkable Lay Leader

Samuel Anderson

Samuel Anderson

One of the members on Immanuel’s building committee was a remarkable man who for many subsequent years played an important part in the Immanuel church, and in time became widely known throughout the synod. This man was Mr. Samuel Anderson. He was born in Landa parish, Halland, Sweden, August 14,1840, and came to Chicago in 1870

He was at first employed as a carpenter, but later he invented a process for the manufacture of margarine, which in time brought him financial independence. He consecrated his money to the Lord, giving liberally to the support of the church and other benevolent purposes.

He served as a deacon for thirty-two consecutive years. He was a leading member in the Tract Society, and in connection with the work of that organization, was instrumental in founding Sunday Schools in Lake View, Humboldt Park, and in the southwest. These schools eventually developed into the Trinity, Saron, and Zion congregations. Many have followed his example in similar home mission endeavors, with blessed results for many other communities in our city.

From 1886 until his death Mr. Anderson was a member of the Augustana Hospital Board. He served many years on thc board ol Augustana College. He was also for a long time a member of the Executive Committee of the Illinois Conference.

By nature Mr. Anderson was impulsive and big‑hearted. By grace he became devout and consecrated. Although in his business an executive with many mcn under his direction, and a leader of prominence in the church, he was always a man of marked humility. Hc made many trips to the county institutions of charity, and visited the sick and unfortunate in person, that he might speak to them of things spiritual, and distribute temporal cheer with a lavish hand. He befriended many an immigrant on his arrival, and helped him on to economic success.

He was deeply devoted to his pastor. Dr. Evald, on his part, often spoke of Mr. Anderson as his “Jonathan.”  Mr. Anderson departed this life in 1911 at an age of seventy‑one years.

Church Music and the Choir

The first director of music was Mr. C. J. Anderson, the man who, together with Dr. Carlsson, represented the congregation at thc convention of the Synod of Northern Illinois in 1853. The church had no organ, and Mr. Anderson’s duty consisted in leading the congregation, as best he could, in the singing.

In 1901 a special committee, to have charge of all matters pertaining to the music of the church, was appointed by the Board of Administration. The action of the Board was sanctioned by the annual meeting of the church. The committee secured the services again of Mr. Emil Larson. Mr. Larson continued through the jubilee year 1903, later going to Rock Island as head of the conservatory of music at Augustana College. He was followed, in the Immanuel Church, by Mr. A. Alfred Holmes, who served as organist and choir director for about twenty‑one years, or until November 1, 1925.

The Week Day Parish School

The Lutheran Church is a teaching church, and one of her main sources of strength is the thorough indoctrination of the young. This was realized, in the Immanuel congregation from the beginning. Only six weeks after Dr. Carlsson’s arrival a parish week day school was started. The first teacher was Erik Norelius, later for many years the president of the Augustana Synod (and founded Red Wing Lutheran Church, Kristian Johnson’s home congregation). He was followed by A. Andreen, the father of Dr. Gustav Andreen, president of Augustana College and Theological Seminary.

The first school house was built, at the rear of the first church, in 1856. It was a two‑story building, the ground dimensions being 24×32 feet. The upper story was rented for residence purposes, only the first being used by the school. In this building the Augustana Seminary was housed the first three years of its existence.

Plans for the parish school were quite ambitious. Swedish, English, history, geography, some of the elementary sciences, and music were taught. In fact the aim was to make it a full-blown grammar school. There was a faculty of three teachers, J. F. Ring, Emmy Carlsson, now Mrs. Emmy Evald, C. J. Blomstrom and A. P. Monten. During Dr. Monten’s time the school was removed to the new church on Sedgwick and Hobbie Streets, and located in the church basement.

Gradually the school went back to its original character, being in session only during a few weeks of the summer. The teachers were mostly students from Augustana College, Rock Island, and the deaconesses serving in the church. As of 1928 the school was conducted on Saturday forenoons, during the winter season. Since only Christianity is taught, it has been called the Saturday Bible School with an enrollment of seventy-five pupils.

The First Sunday School

Immanuel's First Sunday School

Immanuel’s First Sunday School

The Immanuel Sunday School goes back to the days before the congregation was organized. The first traces are found in 1850. At that time it was conducted together with the Norwegian Sunday School. Among the teachers was the now world famous Dr. D. L. Moody.  When the Immanuel congregation secured its own sanctuary the Sunday School was separated from the Norwegian School. Dr. Carlsson was the first superintendent.

For many years the English language was used exclusively. The parents of those days felt that since the language of the country was English, it was well that their children should receive religious training in that language. With the great influx of immigrants at a later period this attitude was modified. Swedish classes were organized, and the general exercises, for a time, were conducted in that language. In using only English today, we have gone back to the original position taken by the founders of the church.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: