Swede Methodist Episcopal Church

Picture of Olof Englund and Brita Olsdotter (Members of the Swede Methodist Episcopal Church) and newspaper article about its beginning.

From the Historical Plat Book of Clay County, Kansas, 1881 (Microfilm LM488, No 2 at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, Kansas) comes the following information:

"The Swede Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the winter of 1871-72 by Rev. M. Stevenson. There were twenty-seven members at that time. The first Trustee Board was elected August 8, 1872, and consisted of Jonas Johnson, Olof Englund, George Erickson, Andrew Prins and Jonas Allison. The parsonage was built in 1877. On October 1, 1880, the corner-stone to the church building was laid; the services were conducted by Rev. P. J. Berg, the Pastor. The parsonage and church are located on the southeast corner of Section 6, Town 7, Range 8."

From the Kansas Kin, published quarterly by The Riley County Kansas Genealogical Society, 2005 Claflin, Manhattan, Kansas 66502 - Volume XXVII, Number 3, ISSN 0451-4084, August 1989, pg. 55 (copy located at the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Johnson County, Kansas) comes the following information:

The Pleasant Hill Swedish Methodist Episcopal church was located six miles directly north of Clay Center in Clay County, Kansas. The following history of this church is a translation of the original church records which were written in Swedish by P. J. Berg and translated by Orcena Michelson Jury of Clifton, Kansas in the summer of 1988. The Michelson family were members of the church as early as 1881.

"In the year 1870 many of our fellow countrymen immigrated here to Clay County, Kansas in order to procure themselves an earthly home, the most coming from Bishop Hill, Illinois. Many of them were poor and didn't have anything to build with. But our trust we have in the Lord. The most had been converted to God among the Methodists and had belonged to that church in other places. The yearning for God's worship and the fellowship with brothers and sisters was great; but this was soon remedied. Brothers J. Engstrom, George Erickson, and A Prints began religious meetings here and there in small dwelling houses and dugouts. The first communion and Julotta (early Christmas morning service) was celebrated in George Erickson's basement.

In the winter of 1871 came brother N. Peterson from Chicago as presiding elder and he preached God's word for the new immigrants here and so they organized the Swedish Methodist congregation of twenty-seven members. The first trustee board was elected August 3, 1872, consisting of five: Jonas Johnson, Olaf Englund, George Erickson, Andrew Prints, and Jonas Alleson.

Brother J. Engstrom became the first preacher for this little group of the Lord's flock out in the wilderness. He led this congregation for four years and during these years he preached at several places around here and organized a good congregation in Randolph, Riley County, Kansas.

In 1872 a little school house (Dist. 38) was built on N. Swanburg's land, twenty feet long and sixteen wide. This house was immediately used as a church. In 1874 they added one more building to the length - fifteen feet. In this way, it's been used up to now, but once again it is too small, and we must extend our room.

After Brother Engstrom, came C. N. Wennersten, and he stayed two years. Next came brother J. B. Anderson, and he stayed also two years. Under his term was built a small congregation in Seapo (Seapo was a large Methodist church north of Concordia, Kansas) and in Scandia, Republic County, Kansas - also building a parsonage here. His successor was P. J. Berg who now has led our congregation for three years.

The congregation consists of seventy-four members in full membership and twenty-five on trial. The present trustee board consists of George Erickson, A. Brodin, D. Danielson, A. Prints, and M. Groberg. These same men were also the building committee together with P. J. Berg, N. Swanberg and D. Danielson served as building superintendents. 'Hither to hath the Lord helped us. 1 Sam. 7:12.'

On Nov. 30, 1876, the church bought five acres of land in the S.E. corner of 6-7-3 from Andrew G. Ostlund for $30. This was across the road north from the school house. In 1877 members built a parsonage there and on Oct. 1, 1880 the cornerstone for the church was laid."

Again, from the Swedish history we read, "July 31, 1881 - The dedication of the existing Swedish Methodist church by John A. Gabrielson, P.A. The church is 34 x 48 x 14 ft high and seats 300 people. The total cost was $1831 and to date $1089 has been paid off. The debt is $1039. Subscription taken to meet the debt was $896 leaving a balance of $143 owed on the church and $74 on the parsonage making a total of $187. This sum in cash and other income during the day amounted to $180 more than needed."

Church membership at Pleasant Hill was greatest in the years 1904-1906 when records show one hundred four full members and six probationers. The last recorded baptisms were those of Wilburn, LeRoy, and Margurite Nelson on Aug. 17, 1919.

No record has been found to tell when the last services were held in the Pleasant Hill church; however, the Western Conference of the Swedish M. E. church held in Clay Center the week of Aug. 18, 1919 consolidated the Pleasant Hill Swedish Methodist and the Clay Center Swedish Methodist churches with Rev. W. W. Carlson to have charge of both.

On Nov. 25 1920 the church members voted to sell four acres of their ground. They sold the land to John A. Swanberg on April 23, 1918 for $1700. Trustees at the time were: Nels Nelson, Peter R. Forslund, Theodore Olson, Jonas Alften, Olaf Norquist, A. L. Carlson, and J. A. Johnson. On Sept 18, 1925 the congregation authorized the sale of the remaining acre to John A. Swanberg for $50.

In addition to the ministers named above the following ministers also served the church: Oscar J. Swan, John Linn, C. A. Anderson, A. J. Lofgren, John Lundeen, P. A. Lundberg, J. E. Johnson, Olof Forsgren, H. A. Peterson, Carl Fromen, Olof Olson, Emil Malmstrom, Oscar Stromberg, Frank Edwards.

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