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Rockford First Lutheran Church Records


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Historical Files

Administrative Material

Financial Records

Church Organizations

First Lutheran

Membership and Pastorial Records

June 1985

July 1998

April 2005

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Rockford First Lutheran Church Records, 1853-2005 | Northern Illinois University

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Collection Overview

Title: Rockford First Lutheran Church Records, 1853-2005

ID: RHC/RC/083

Extent: 39.25 Linear Feet


The first series contains the church’s historical files. 

The files dating 1854-1979 are arranged alphabetically by subject and the files dating 1853-1899 are arranged chronologically.   Series two contains minutes, reports, correspondence and agreements from the administrative bodies of the church.

All materials in this series are arranged chronologically with each subseries.   In all cases materials are arranged chronologically by type.  The records of several church organizations make up series four. Records of official pastoral acts and membership are found in series six.

Date Acquired: 11/21/1979. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Augustana Synod, Diaries-- 1840-1869, Diaries-- 1870-1909, First Lutheran Church (Rockford, Ill.), Lutherans, Nelson, John, Prohibition, Rockford (Ill.), Rockford Mitten and Hosiery Company, Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America, Swedish Americans, Swedish Americans- Illinios- Rockford, United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Diaries

Languages: English, Swedish

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The materials in this collection provide extensive documentation of the origins and growth of First Lutheran Church and of Rockford’s Swedish community from 1853 to 1970.  The collection is arranged in six series which provide fairly complete information on all aspects of the history of the church.  Researchers should note that although much of the pre-1930 material is in the Swedish language, translations of some of the core records are included.

The first series contains the church’s historical files.  The materials in this series were put together to aid in the preparation of the church’s centennial album (1954) and were updated thereafter.  The files dating 1854-1979 are arranged alphabetically by subject and the files dating 1853-1899 are arranged chronologically.  Also contained in this series are anniversary albums and programs; publications; materials relating to prominent church members; newspaper clippings and photographs and date 1856-1969.  This series serves as an outline of the subjects and types of materials found in the rest of the collection.

Series two contains minutes, reports, correspondence and agreements from the administrative bodies of the church.  Included in this series are minutes of annual congregational meetings, 1854-1969; minutes of Deacons and Trustees joint meetings, 1864-1943; minutes of Trustees meetings, Trustees’ correspondence, agreements, and reports, (1889-1966); minutes of Deacons meetings, 1944-1966; minutes, resolutions, and correspondence of the Church Council and Board of Administration, (1957-1977).  All materials in this series are arranged chronologically with each subseries.  Microfilmed minutes, which were added at a later time, are in Box 38A.

The church’s general financial records are found in series three and span the years 1854-1978.  Types of materials include: general ledgers, 1883-1895, (1912-1961); annual statements, 1854-1968; treasurer’s reports, (1897-1960); day books, (1868-1929); dues records, 1864-1976, 1898-1906, 1916-1929; pledges, 1929-1968; Savings Bank records, (1876-1902); and J. Godfrey Grant legacy account, 1920-1942.  In all cases materials are arranged chronologically by type.  Researchers should note that printed monthly reports containing financial data are located in series six.

The records of several church organizations make up series four and span the entire history of the church.  Types of materials found in this series include minutes, financial records, membership data, programs, publications, and scrapbooks.  The activities of the following organizations are partially documented: Brotherhood, 1926-1953; Jubilee Chorus, 1904-1954; Ladies Aid Society, 1883-1958; Luther League, 1877-1965; Sunday School, 1870-1966; and missionary societies, 1870-1960.  Although there are gaps in the records of all the listed organizations, documentation for the Brotherhood, Luther League, and missionary societies is the most comprehensive.

Series five contains printed materials from First Lutheran including monthly reports (1909-1959); bulletins, (1892-1978); and newsletters, 1957-1978.  Also contained in this series is publications from the district, synod, and national levels.

Records of official pastoral acts and membership are found in series six.  Types of materials include: original members, 1894; membership records, 1929-1954; confirmation data, 1857-1955; and transfer records, 1929-1954.  Although the bulk of the records of official acts remain with the church at this time, the Center expects First Lutheran to add these materials to the collection in 1980 or 1981.

Collection Historical Note

In the fall of 1853 Dr. Erland Carlsson of Chicago visited the new Scandinavian community in Rockford to see if it was feasible to organize a new congregation.  As a result of this meeting a formal petition was sent to the United Chicago and Mississippi Conference requesting that a pastor be sent to Rockford to organize a church.  Dr. Carlsson returned to Rockford on January 15, 1854 and met with the group to organize the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran congregation.  The congregation’s first deacons were John Peterson and Jonas Larson and the trustees chosen were John Lundback and Joseph Lindgren.  The new church’s first regular pastor, Andress Andreen, began his duties in 1856.

From 1854 to 1860 First Lutheran belonged to the Synod of Northern Illinois but in 1860 the congregation decided to join the newly created Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod of North America.  This synod became predominantly Swedish-American in 1870 when Norwegian Lutherans withdrew their congregation.  The tremendous growth of the Swedish community in Rockford after the Civil War led to increased membership rolls at First Lutheran.  To accommodate this growth the church erected three new structures in 1865, 1870 and the building currently in use, 1884.  Despite a split in the congregation in 1883, which led to the formation of a new church, First Lutheran’s growth continued and the church expanded its activities.  Among the many organizations founded during the last half of the 19th century were: Sunday School, 1853; Temperance Society, 1857; Savings Bank, 1869; Youth Society, 1878; Ladies Aid Society, 1883; and Women’s Missionary Society, 1890.

In addition to their church activities, many of First Lutheran’s members were beginning to make their mark in Rockford’s business community, especially in the knitting and furniture industries.  John Nelson moved to the forefront of the knitting industry when he perfected and patented a machine which would knit a stocking automatically.  Besides his role in the Nelson Knitting Co., John Nelson also helped to organize the Rockford Mitten Co. in 1881.  The furniture industry attracted many of First Lutheran’s members including S. A. Johnson, L. M. Noling, August Peterson and A. P. Floberg who were the chief officers of the Central Furniture Co. organized in 1879.  Several other furniture companies, including Forest City Furniture Co. and Union Furniture Co. were organized by members of First Lutheran and provided employment for many members.

As the congregation approached its 50th anniversary in 1904, First Lutheran had grown to become one of the largest Swedish Lutheran congregations in the United States and one of the dominant forces in the spiritual, economic, and political life of Rockford.  The history of First Lutheran in the twentieth century revolves around the lengthy pastorates of Johann F. Seedhoff (1896-1927) and Albert Loreen (1928-1956).  During the early years under Pastor Seedhoff First Lutheran added to its property, played an active role in the temperance movement in Rockford, and entered the growing debate over the transition from Swedish to English in church services.

By the 1920’s, declining memberships, controversy over the Grant estate, and the congregation’s dissatisfaction with Pastor Seedhoff’s leadership led to his resignation in 1927.  Albert Loreen began his lengthy term as pastor in 1928 and under his direction First Lutheran completed the transition to the English language, became more directly involved in youth programs, care for the elderly, and hospital work.  In the mid-1950’s First Lutheran joined with other members of the Augustana Synod and entered into discussions with other Lutheran church bodies which culminated in the formation of the Lutheran Church in America in 1962.

Despite pressures to relocate due to population shifts, First Lutheran remains in the center of the old Swedish neighborhood and continues to use the church built in 1884.

Subject/Index Terms

Augustana Synod
Diaries-- 1840-1869
Diaries-- 1870-1909
First Lutheran Church (Rockford, Ill.)
Nelson, John
Rockford (Ill.)
Rockford Mitten and Hosiery Company
Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America
Swedish Americans
Swedish Americans- Illinios- Rockford
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Diaries

Administrative Information

Repository: Northern Illinois University

Accruals: Additional records were added at later dates.

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions on access to the collection.

Use Restrictions: Property rights in the collection are held by First Lutheran Church; literary rights are dedicated to the public.

Acquisition Source: Reverend Arne Peterson

Acquisition Method: Reverend Arne Peterson deposited the records of First Lutheran Church with the Northern Illinois Regional History Center on November 21, 1979.

Related Materials: Researchers using this collection may also wish to consult other related manuscript collections held by the Regional History Center: Salem Lutheran Church, Sandwich (RC 84); Rockford Mitten and Hosiery (RC 38); Rockford Chair and Furniture (RC 42); Rockford Small Business (RC 57); National Chair (RC 59); Good Templars, (RC 66).

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Historical Files],
[Series II: Administrative Material],
[Series III: Financial Records],
[Series IV: Church Organizations],
[Series V: First Lutheran],
[Series VI: Membership and Pastorial Records],
[Addendum I: June 1985],
[Addendum II: July 1998],
[Addendum III: April 2005],

Series I: Historical Files
Sub-Series A: 1854-1979 (Alphabetical)
Box 1
Folder 1: Acolytes, 1964
Folder 2: Activity reports of pastor and assistants, 1971-1975
Folder 3: Alter Guild; manuals, 1944, 1947
Folder 4: Anderson family
Folder 5: Anderson, Johannes
Folder 6: Anderson, Lars Peter
Folder 7: Anniversary clippings and letters
Folder 8: Anniversary programs, 1904-1964
Folder 9-10: Annual reports, 1939-1978
Folder 11: Appraisal, 1975
Folder 12: Archives
Folder 13: Augustana Synod, 1930, 1960
Folder 14: Basketball
Folder 15-16: Bell correspondence, 1890-1905
Folder 17: Bethpage mission
Folder 18: Bjork, Anna
Folder 19: Blueprints, Church and Loreen Hall
Folder 20: Borgren, Bertha; Estate, 1974
Folder 21: Boy Scouts and Pro Deo Et Patria
Folder 22: Brotherhood, 1954-1965
Folder 23: Budgets, 1971-1974
Folder 24: Building Fund, 1952
Folder 25: Business agreements, 1956-1958
Folder 26: Centennial album worksheet, 1954
Folder 27: Challenge, 1974-1975
Folder 28: Chapel; South Park, 1904
Folder 29: Chaplain, Army (Neal Pearson)
Folder 30: Charter members, 1854
Folder 31: Chinquist and Wenstrom
Folder 32: Choir, architect, 1883
Folder 33: Choir Brotherhood, 1927
Folder 34: Choir directors
Folder 35: Choir, Jubilee
Folder 36: Choir, Junior
Folder 37: Choir programs, 1906-1975
Folder 38: Choir school
Folder 39: Choir, senior
Folder 40: Church camp, Lutherdale
Folder 41: Church correspondence, 1954-1956
Folder 42: Church history; Constitution, 1852-1883, 1874
Folder 43: Church lighting
Folder 44: Church members, 19th century
Folder 45: Church pageant, 1954
Folder 46: Church properties, 1882-1892, 1941-1947
Folder 47: Church repairs, 1902-1967
Folder 48: Church split, 1882
Folder 49: Conference meeting, housing, 1917
Folder 50: Confirmation; Adult, 1859-1961
Folder 51: Confirmation classes, 1859-1954
Folder 52: Confirmation reunions, 1897-1964
Folder 53: Congregational banquets, 1935-1948
Folder 54: Constitutions, 1874, 1887, 1965-1966
Folder 55: Contributions, 1900-1901
Folder 56: Cottage meetings, 1963
Box 2
Folder 1: Debt fund contributions, 1899
Folder 2: Early members
Folder 3: Erlander, John and Albert
Folder 4: Florin, Anna Sophia
Folder 5: Funerals
Folder 6: Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), 1901
Folder 7: Gas rationing, 1944
Folder 8: Genealogies
Folder 9: Grant Legacy account, 1920-1925
Folder 10: Haight Village restoration
Folder 11: House Purchase, 1974-1975
Folder 12: Illinois Conference, 1899,1917, 1936
Folder 13: Insurance, 1893, 1907, 1960
Folder 14: Interns
Folder 15: Interviews with older families
Folder 16: Johnson, Swen A.; family history, 1852- 1952
Folder 17: Kuter, Mrs. Mary
Folder 18: Ladies Aid, handbooks
Folder 19: Lay assistants
Folder 20: Lent
Folder 21: Letters to congregation, 1954-1959
Folder 22: Lindahl, Petter Pehrson
Folder 23: Loreen, Albert; character sketches, 1971- 1972
Folder 24: Loreen Albert; meditations, 1971
Folder 25: Loreen Hall, 1950
Folder 26: Lundvall, Elsie, 1974
Folder 27: Luther Hall; Broadway Chapel Swede School2
Folder 28: Luther League, 1914-1961
Folder 29: Luther League; Texas Convention, 1960
Folder 30: Lutheran Church Men, programs
Folder 31: Lutheran Church Women
Folder 32: Lutheran Church Women, programs
Folder 33: Lutheran Church Women; yearbooks, 1959-1974
Folder 34: Lutheran World Action
Folder 35: Melodian
Folder 36: Membership, circa 1899
Folder 37: Memorial plan
Folder 38: Microfilm project, 1970
Folder 39: Midsommar Hogmassa, 1970-1972
Folder 40: Missionaries
Folder 41: Missionary Guild
Folder 42: Mr. and Mrs. Club, 1951,1955
Folder 43: Music, 1930-1966
Folder 44: Newspaper clippings, First Lutheran
Folder 45: Newspaper clippings, Luther Center
Folder 46: Ordinations, 1929, 1970, 1974
Folder 47: Organ
Folder 48: Organ recitals
Folder 49: Organists, 1854-1974
Folder 50: Partners in Prayer
Folder 51: Pastor George P. Bernard, 1957-1959
Folder 52: Pastor Joel Haff, 1895-1896
Folder 53: Pastor L. A. Johnson, 1886-1894
Folder 54: Pastor P. Gerald Leaf, 1970-1976
Folder 55: Pastor Albert Loreen, 1928-1977
Folder 56: Pastor Loreen, weekly devotions, 1973-1974
Folder 57: Pastor Raymond A. Mai, 1974
Folder 58: Pastor Philip Nelson, 1962-1969
Folder 59: Pastor Gustav Peters, 1882-1918
Folder 60: Pastor Arne Peterson, 1977
Folder 61: Pastor Johann F. Seedhoff, 1926-1939
Folder 62: Pastor Melvin H. Sjostrand, 1959-1961
Folder 63: Pastoral acts, 1903-1928
Folder 64: Pastors' calls, 1886, 1927
Folder 65: Peters, Gustaf; Autobiography and Diary, 1859-1867
Folder 66: Peterson, P. A., Home
Folder 67: Prayer vigil, 1961
Folder 68: Programs; Augustana Synod, 1879-1943
Box 3
Folder 1: Property committee, 1970-19753
Folder 2: Property, Pastor Mai
Folder 3: Reception committee, 1919-1930
Folder 4: Rockford church census, 1959
Folder 5-6: Rockford history
Folder 7: Rockford Lutheran planning study, 1965
Folder 8: Rules of order, services
Folder 9: Safe deposit box
Folder 10: St. Mark's Church, 1961
Folder 11: Salem Church, 1906
Folder 12: Sandberg, Carl; letter, 1954
Folder 13: Savings Bank, 1895, 1900-1902
Folder 14: Scholarships, 1957-1958
Folder 15: Servicemen, 1945, 1954, 1960
Folder 16: Social ministry, 1966-1968
Folder 17: Sound and telephone systems
Folder 18: Sunday School teachers, 1959-1961
Folder 19: Sunshine Committee, 1940, 1955
Folder 20: Survey; Joint Lutheran Community, 1964-1965
Folder 21: Survey; relocation, 1959
Folder 22: Swedish Pioneer Centennial, 1948
Folder 23: Temperance Union, 1906
Folder 24: Treasurer s Relief Fund, 1906-1902
Folder 25: Ushers, 1918-1962
Folder 26: Weekday Bible School; minutes, 1932-1943
Folder 27: Women's Missionary Society, 1917-1956
Folder 28: Yearly reports, 1885, 1905, 1917-1918
Folder 29: Youth publication, 1959
Sub-Series B: 1853-1899 (Chronological)
Box 3
Folder 30: Sunday School, 1853
Folder 31: Sunday School, 1853
Folder 32: promissory notes and trust deed, 1867
Folder 33: church building and donations, 1868
Folder 34: church building, contracts and agreements, Savings Bank, 1869
Folder 35: notes and agreements, insurance, Savings Bank, collection book, 1870
Folder 36: insurance, notes and agreement, 1871
Folder 37: Savings Bank, notes, correspondence, 1872
Folder 38: insurance, bills paid, 1873
Folder 39: insurance, council meetings constitution, 1874
Folder 40: insurance, Savings Bank, Sunday School, 1875
Folder 41: dues, Sunday School report, 1876-1877
Folder 42: Poor Fund, mission school, 1878
Folder 43: inventory of church property, list of eligible voters, 1881
Folder 44: auction, Relief Fund, Treasurer s report, 1882
Folder 45: membership list, subscription insurance3, 1885
Folder 46: dues, congregational meetings, 1886
Folder 47: Savings Bank, 1889
Folder 48: membership list, dues, 1890
Folder 49: contributions, 1891
Folder 50: mortgages, loans, special meetings, Cemetery Association, 1893
Folder 51: Savings Bank, Trustees' reports, 1894
Folder 52: Treasurer's reports, 1895
Folder 53: contributions to special fund Savings Bank, 1896
Folder 54: Savings Bank reports and depositors, council report, dues, Treasurer s reports, Finance Committee, 1897
Folder 55: legal agreements, correspondence dues, Cemetery Association, 1898
Folder 56: dues, special funds, Savings Bank, 1899
Folder 57: Fiftieth Anniversary Scrapbook, 1904
Folder 58: Fiftieth Anniversary Album, 1904
Folder 59: Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Album, 1929
Folder 60: Centennial Album, 1954
Folder 61: Anniversary Book, 1964
Folder 62: Anniversary Book, 1969
Box 4
Folder 1-6: Guest books, 1950-1972
Folder 7-17: Anniversary books from other congregations
Folder 18: Josephine Noling; Diary, 1886-1904
Folder 19: Noling family church activities, 1889-1930
Folder 20: Noling Diary, 1916-1930
Folder 21-22: Noling family albums (2), no date
Folder 23: Josephine Noling memo book, 1873-1877
Folder 24: Noling memo book, 1900-1931
Folder 25: Sunday School books (2), 1879
Folder 26: Mary Peterson, album, 1883-1892
Folder 27: Mrs. E. Johnson; diary, 1880-1890
Folder 28: Almanac memo books (3), 1843, 1849-1850
Folder 29: Teacher lists, 1905
Folder 30: Teacher salaries, 1906
Volume 1: Scrapbook
Box 5
Folder 1: Noling family, 4 prints, no date
Folder 2: Poetry by Nohlander, 1862-1869
Folder 3: Wagledning Och Croft by John James
Folder 4: Noling family letters and poetry, 1871-1906
Folder 5-12: Newspaper clippings, 1864-1894
Box 6
Folder 1-50: Newspaper clippings, 1895-1951, no date
Folder 51-98: Approximately 500 black and white prints (most 8x10) from production of 1954 Centennial History; arranged by subject, alphabetically
Folder 99: Photographs: Church interior (10), 1906-1954
Folder 100: Photographs: Building construction (16), 1940's
Folder 101: Photographs: Early members (8), no date
Folder 102: Photographs: Servicemen (10), no date
Folder 103: Photographs: Sunday School (10), 1954
Folder 104: Photographs: Sunshine Committee (4), 1954
Folder 105: Photographs: Organ (7), 1954
Folder 106: Photographs: E.Power Biggs (2), 1954
Folder 107: Photographs: Reverend Loreen family (5), 1954
Folder 108: Photographs: Carl Alexis (6), 1954
Folder 109: Photographs: Brotherhood Circle (17), 1950's
Folder 110: Photographs: Mission Circles (7), 1950's
Folder 111-112: Photographs: Church buildings (39), 1854-1883
Folder 113: Photographs: Augustana Synod founders (1), 1860
Folder 114: Photographs: 50th Anniversary (1), 1904
Folder 115: Photographs: 110th Anniversary (18), 1964
Folder 116: Photographs: ReverendHaff (1), no date
Folder 117: Photographs: Pastors & families (8), no date
Folder 118-121: Photographs: Biographical (30), no date
Folder 122: Photographs: Augustana Synod Pastors (1), 1887
Folder 123-126: Photographs: identified biographical (37), no date
Folder 127-130: Photographs: identifies biographical ferrotypes (9), no date
Folder 131: Sunday School cards
Box 7
Folder 1: Dr. G. Peters and friends (1), no date
Folder 2: Ladies Society (1), 1885
Folder 3: Augustana Synod Pastors (1), 1869
Folder 4: Pastor's family, friends (1), 1885
Folder 5: Confirmation (1), 1893
Folder 6: Confirmation (15), 1879-1964
Folder 7: Organ (1), 1901
Folder 8: Carl Swenson sketches (6);Women's Missionary Society (1); Choir (1); Confirmation  (1), 1953-1954, no date, 1870's, 1954
Box 8
Volume 1: Photo album, Mr. Elmer Latt (1 volume), no date
Volume 2: Photo album, unidentified (1 volume), no date
Box 9
Folder 1: Photo album, unidentified prints, 1864-1865
Folder 2: Printing block, no date

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Historical Files],
[Series II: Administrative Material],
[Series III: Financial Records],
[Series IV: Church Organizations],
[Series V: First Lutheran],
[Series VI: Membership and Pastorial Records],
[Addendum I: June 1985],
[Addendum II: July 1998],
[Addendum III: April 2005],

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