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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 IV: Church Organizations
Box 26
Folder 2-6: Brotherhood; minutes and reports, 1926-1953
Folder 7: Jubilee Chorus; minutes, 1904-1929
Folder 8-9: Jubilee Chorus; membership, 1904-1911
Folder 10: Jubilee Chorus; programs; reports, 1904-1917; 1907, 1909, 1913
Folder 11-12: Jubilee Chorus; music, 1904-1954
Box 27
Folder 1-3: Jubilee Chorus; music, 1904-1954
Folder 4: Swedish Temperance Union; minutes, 1864-1877
Folder 5: Historical Society; minutes, 1942-1944
Folder 6: Ladies Aid Society, minutes, 1890-1905, 1953-1958
Folder 7: Ladies Aid Society, treasurer's reports, 1883-1894, 1908-1944, 1954
Folder 8-9: Ladies Aid Society, minutes, 1941-1952
Folder 10-14: Ladies Aid Society, dues, 1883-1886, 1904-1914, 1930-1933, 1940-1958
Folder 15: Luther League; history; constitutions; reports, 1938, 1940; 1928-1929
Box 28
Folder 1: Luther League; minutes, 1940-1949
Folder 2: Luther League; treasurer s reports, 1905, 1910-1921, 1928
Folder 3: Luther League; membership lists, 1928, 1940-1941
Folder 4: Luther League; correspondence; publication, 1911, 1914, 1929, 1940-1941
Folder 5: Luther League; Council of Rockford; minutes, 1929-1936, 1958-1959
Folder 6: Luther League; Rockford District, programs, convention reports, 1910, 1941, 1946
Folder 7: Luther League; of Illinois; minutes; publications, 1900, 1905, 1932
Folder 8-14: Luther League; minutes, 1877-1929
Folder 15-17: Luther League; special committees, minutes, 1901-1927
Folder 18: Luther League; accounts, 1951
Folder 19: Luther League; treasurer s reports, 1931-1965
Folder 20: Sunday School; minutes, 1951-1966
Folder 21: Sunday School; treasurer's reports, 1886, 1903
Folder 22: Sunday School; class records, 1870-1872
Box 29
Folder 1-2: Sunday School; class records, 1893-1953
Folder 3: Sunday School; Bible class, 1942-1958
Folder 4: Women's Missionary Society; history; members; treasurer's report; conference report, 1954, 1953-1954, 1953-1958s, 1950-1954
Folder 5-6: Women's Missionary Society minutes, 1937-1949
Folder 7: Women's Missionary Society; minutes, 1927-1937
Folder 8-10: Women's Missionary Society; dues, 1915-1929, 1940-1949;
Folder 11: Women's Missionary Society; treasurers reports; dues; Beacon Light Society; Junior Mission Society, 1926-1930, 1930-1939, 1930-1933
Folder 12-14: Women's Missionary Society; treasurers reports, 1931-1951
Folder 15-16: Women's Missionary Society; Louise Circle, minutes, 1942-1957
Folder 17: Women's Missionary Society; Esther Circle, minutes (3 volumes), 1952-1959
Folder 18: Home and Foreign Missions; account book, 1870-1881
Box 30
Folder 1: Utah Missionary Society; minutes, 1891-1895
Folder 2: Junior Mission Band, 1943-1946
Folder 3: Beacon Light Society; scrapbook, 1930
Folder 4-5: Young Women's Missionary Society; minutes, 1890-1898, 1931-1938
Folder 6-7: Missionary Guild; minutes, 1938-1958
Folder 8: Missionary Guild; treasurer's reports; accounts, 1935-1948, 1950-1958, 1940-1958
Folder 9: Missionary Guild and Young Women's Missionary Society; roll books, 1936-1958
Folder 10: Young People's Society; minutes, 1911-1927

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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