Pastor Ole Paulson Autobiography – Chapter Eleven – The Scandinavian Augustana Synod



Pastor Ole Paulson;

1907 Autobiography.

Chapter Eleven

Pastor Ole Paulson

A translation from the Norwegian language into the English language.

Copyright © 2022 by Gary C. Dahle, all rights reserved.

The Scandinavian Augustana Synod

In the year 1851, the Northern Illinois Synod was organized. It came to consist of Americans, Germans, Norwegians, and Swedes, all Lutherans, of course. The synod immediately established a theological seminary in Springfield, Illinois. Pastor Lars Paul Esbjørn, who came to America in the summer of 1849 leading a group of 140 Swedish emigrants, and now lived in Princeton, Illinois, was, in 1858, named as theological professor at this newly established seminary in Springfield, Illinois. It appeared that Professor Esbjørn was not in agreement with the administration of this school, probably because he was too much of a true Lutheran. In the spring of 1860, the professor ended his connection to the school, left there, and took all of his Norwegian and Swedish students with him. This step led to all of the Scandinavian members of the Northern Illinois Synod sanctioning Professor Esbjørn’s action and withdrawing themselves from affiliation with this synod. Now it was a question of whether to form their own communion. A meeting toward this end was called, to be held at Pastor Ole Andrewson’s little church at Jefferson Prairie, Rock County, Wisconsin, on the 5th of June, 1860. Here, the Scandinavian Lutheran Augustana Synod was organized, with Pastor Tufve Nilsson Hasselquist[1] as president.

I killed two flies with one swat at this time, since I served the congregation[2] as its delegate to this consequential meeting, and in addition worked as a colporteur,[3] both during the meeting and on the way to and from it.

Again this time, Pastor Peter Carlson[4] and I drove together across all of Minnesota to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. From there, we took the train to Clinton Junction, Rock County, Wisconsin. We had plenty of time and stopped along the way at various places and held edifications. There wasn’t so much hazard in crossing synod or congregational boundaries at that time. There weren’t many of them. I believe there were only 16 pastors in all in the Norwegian Synod in 1860, and a total of 26 Norwegian and Swedish pastors in the newly founded Augustana Synod.

A little way outside of Prairie du Chien, a person who looked like a tramp boarded the train, carrying a common flour sack. When the conductor came and asked that he provide his ticket, he, of course, had none. Where was he bound for? Clinton. The conductor named the price. The tramp began to dig in his many pockets and found a few cents here and a few cents there. But with all that he dug up, it didn’t amount to enough. The conductor gave a nasty grimace, but allowed him to stay. The next day, when we were gathered in the church for the meeting, in came an elegantly dressed man with silk top hat and walking stick in hand.

I thought I had seen him before, but couldn’t recall him immediately. Yes, exactly, it was the tramp from yesterday. But who was he, then? None other than the then-widely-known Mister Pastor Fredrikson.[5] He came to the meeting to seek acceptance in the group. He knocked on all of the synod’s doors but was allowed in nowhere.

Pastor Paul Anderson was present for this meeting and participated in the organization of the synod, but departed with [his] brothers to travel to Norway. Pastor Olof Christian Telemak Andréen of Moline, Illinois, a very gifted pastor, also took his leave of us and traveled home to Sweden again.[6] Both are long since dead. Pastor Peter Andreas Rasmussen took part in the meeting’s business and negotiated regarding admission in the new communion. He imposed just one condition, that the Norwegian pastors in the synod agreed to use the prayer book of the Norwegian Church. They all agreed to this. Some had not used this book until then. In this way, the path was open for Rasmussen to come in. He did not want to enroll himself just now, as he expected a couple of men from Norway in the near future, who were going to take up the work of pastoring in America. These were John Fjeld and Nils Amlund. These men came, and all of them disappeared into the Norwegian Synod.

Among other things decided at the meeting was that the synod would establish its own school, with a college and seminary under the name Augustana College and Seminary, and that the school, for the time being, would operate in Chicago. Professor Lars Paul Esbjørn was chosen as teacher and administrator for the school. Both during the trip and during the meeting, I sold and distributed many books and tracts.

As with all new beginnings, this synod was also quite humble and insignificant. But there was no lack of courage. The entire synod consisted of just 26 pastors in total, of both nationalities. This insignificant gathering of people was able to set about establishing a teaching institution. One must have acted “by faith and not by sight.”[7] When the Conference[8] resolved 10 years later to establish a similar teaching institution, there was not much to see that time, either. With the founding of the Conference at St. Ansgar on the 16th of August, 1870, there were 14 pastors and three delegates who signed the draft constitution for the new communion. There was truly not much for the eyes to see. In both instances, one had to be acting in faith.

But this faith has not been disappointed to this day. Progress in the 46 years Augustana has existed is so enormous that my pen fails to describe it. The Conference, which began its existence in 1870, made joyous steps forward in spite of battles and conflict and inner rifts, so that 20 years later there was no synod that was in a better standing. It was not exactly large in comparison with other synods at this time, but it was fairly solid. From its seminary, Augsburg, hundreds of young men have gone out with the Good News to congregations.

[1] Hasselquist founded the Swedish-language newspaper Hemlandet while he was a pastor in Galeburg, Illinois, and he became the second president of Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. See:

[2] When Paulson writes “the congregation” here, I believe he means the East Union congregation that he helped start where he settled in Carver County. This translation project did not include chapters 9 and 10 of Paulson’s book, and those chapters might help to confirm this.

[3] A colporteur is a traveling salesperson who sells religious books and tracts.

[4] Paulson says “again” he traveled with “Pastor Carlson,” and I’ve assumed he means Pastor Peter Carlson from his home congregation at East Union. This could also be confirmed by looking at chapters 9 and 10 of Paulson’s book, where he probably tells about the previous time he traveled with Pastor Carlson.

[5] No Fredrikson is listed in Olaf Norlie’s book on Norwegian Lutheran Pastors in America. I’m not able to locate this person’s full name. He might have been Swedish or Danish.

[6] According to the Augustana Historical Society, affiliated with Augustana College, Andréen made his trip to Sweden on behalf of the Scandinavian Augustana Synod. More here:

[7] Here Paulson is echoing 2 Corinthians 5:7, “…for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

[8] Paulson explains the formation of the Conference in chapter 21. The Conference was a new synod whose full name was The Conference for the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Translation of chapter from the Norwegian language into the English language, and preparation of footnotes, by Denise Logeland.