One of them was John Saleen, who, with his family, arrived from Sweden in 1896, and began work to organize a Lutheran church that would worship in the Swedish language.
The initial group met at Sunny Slope school in 1900. (The building no longer exists. It was a one-room schoolhouse on, indeed, a sunny slope a few miles south of the small settlement of Ogallah.)
On August 25, 1902, Pastor Carl Waleen laid the cornerstone for the then-named Swedish Evangelical Emmanuel Lutheran Church. (The church is typically referred to as "the Swede church" by locals.)
The church’s first choir sang “Du Kyrka Po Den Grundvald Bygd” for its dedication. Construction continued until 1904. Services were conducted in the Swedish language until 1920.
I was baptized in this church on April 9, 1950, which was Easter Sunday, and continued attending church there until I was about 12 years old. (Alice Saleen, John's wife, was still a member of the church.)
It looked much different in the 1950's than in this photo. For one thing, this photo shows the church as it was first built. Obviously, there was little or no landscaping. Now, the church is ringed by several large cedars.
The biggest change, though, is that the church no longer has that impressive steeple. It was struck by lightning and burned during the 1930's and was never replaced. Imagine riding a horse and buggy through rural Kansas in the first part of the last century and coming upon this exotic looking structure.
Inside the church, the most striking feature is the painting above the altar. The subject is Christ in Gethsemene. It was painted by the renowned artist, Birger Sandzen, in the 1930's.
In 1962, we transferred our membership to Bethlehem Lutheran in the nearby town of WaKeeney. Bethlehem was primarily German. It had a similar painting of the same subject above its altar.
One couldn't help but compare the two paintings. The Sandzen painting in the Swede Church was sunny and light and set in a garden with vegatation and flowers. The painting in the German church was dark and grim, with thorns and lightning. As a friend of mine put it, "That tells you all you need to know about the difference between Swedes and Germans right there.
The "Swede Church" today:
*Limestone for construction of the church was quarried from nearby Threshing Machine Canyon. Threshing Machine Canyon was a station on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch, otherwise known as the Smoky Hill Trail. Threshing Machine Canyon got its name because of an 1867 attack by native Americans on a caravan transporting a thresh machine to Brigham Young in Salt Lake City. All the men in the caravan were killed and the threshing machine was set on fire. You could still see remains of the threshing machine as late as the 1950's.