Carlslund Lutheran Church

Founded 1866

Wright County, Minnesota

Early settlers from Sweden met in the fall of 1866 to consider the organization of a Lutheran congregation in the Buffalo area. Two women, Maria Moody (probably Erik Modig’s step-daughter, age 29) and Helga Jonsdotter (probably Johan Carlson’s wife, age 42) volunteered to walk the fifteen miles through the Big Woods to Gotaholm Lutheran Church of Watertown (now Trinity Lutheran). They requested that the recently ordained Pastor John S. Nelson come to the Buffalo area to hold services. Pastor Nelson also helped organize several other congregations in Wright County.

The organizational meeting of the new congregation was on November 7, 1866 in the home of Sven Erickson, the only one of the settlers to already have a real house rather than a crude cabin. Pastor Nelson chaired the meeting and preached a sermon based on the First Epistle to Timothy. The immigrants named the new church Carlslund Evangelical Lutheran Church, perhaps because it reminded people of Karlstad, the county seat of Värmland back home in Sweden, or of the Karlskoga area to the east.

There were 27 adult Charter Members and 31 children: The families of Johan Johansson, Eric Modig, Sven Ericksson, Carelius Arnesson, Anders Johnsson, Nils Andersson, Bengt Persson, Nils Persson, Johan Carlson, Nils Bengtsson, Jons Ericksson Stromberg, and Per Svensson.

It was determined that the congregation would be based on Luther’s Catechism and the Augsburg Confession, and that they would apply to become a member of the Augustana Synod. 

The first annual meeting of the congregation has held New Year’s Day, 1867. Eric Modig was elected secretary, and served eight successive years. The first confirmation class consisted of one member, Kristin Nilsdotter Bengtson, who was confirmed by Pastor Nelson in 1867.

Reverend Nelson visited the congregation once a month during these first years, and was paid $3 per visit. Mr. Nils Bonstrom was elected to lead the singing without the aid of any musical instrument. He received twenty-five cents from each family per year, later increased to fifty cents per year. The first deacons were Nils Bengtsson, Eric Modig, Nils Andersson, John Johnsson, Corelius Arnesson, and Sven Ericksson.

Like other ethnic groups in America, those Swedish farmers made the church a community center. By using Swedish as both liturgical and social languages, Swedish was also preserved for a few generations.

The Carlslund services were in Swedish, typical of the Augustana Synod of the Lutheran church. According to Swedes in Minnesota by Nordstrom, even in the face of bitter criticism of foreign language usage during World War I, 85 percent of Augustana Synod churches continued to conduct their services in Swedish.

The Swedish services were held regularly at 11 a.m. on Sundays, with some Sunday school classes in English and others in Swedish.Linda M. Mainquist in A Farmer All His Life

Worship services at Carlslund were discontinued in the early 1920s, and the building was razed in 1938.

Swedish Beginnings

Congregational records were kept in Swedish until 1928. The annual report from 1929 notes that Swedish language services were conducted on the second, fourth, and fifth Sunday mornings of each month, and English services were conducted every Sunday evening. A few years later, Swedish language services were cut back to just the fifth Sunday of the month. At the centenary of the congregation in 1966, there were still enough Swedish speakers that a Swedish language worship service was included in the festivities, and the first act of the 1966 historical pageant was in Swedish.

Swede School

Beginning around the 1870s, the congregation engaged a seminary student, who also acted as an assistant to the pastor, to teach “Swede school” for two months in the summer or fall. This was common in Augustana Synod churches, and followed the tradition of Swedish “Folkskola,” teaching both religion and Swedish culture.

The first student list, included in the minutes of the1876 congregational meeting, includes 16 students, the children of Halle Berglund, Hallsten Persson, Olof Persson, Lars Eriksson, Sven Sundberg, Nils Persson, Nils Bengtsson, Jon Eriksson, Anders Andersson, and John Hoglund.