Andover, Illinois

        Andover is a small village that houses three Swedish churches, located 25 minutes north west of Bishop Hill. The largest is the Augustana Lutheran Church in solid brick (right). Next in size comes the white clapboard Methodist Church which housed the second Swedish Methodist congregation in America (bottom left). The smallest of the three, but also possibly the prettiest Swedish church building in North America, is the Jenny Lind chapel (left). The Swedish soprano Jenny Lind donated fifteen hundred dollars towards the construction of the chapel, a huge sum at the time (when you consider that you could buy an acre of land for $1.25), but a small fraction of the $200,000 Jenny Lind earned, and mostly gave away to charity, for the 95 concerts she gave in the USA under the management of promoter P.T. Barnum.

 

        Pastor Lars Paul Esbjörn had $2,200 when he started construction of the chapel. The task was to meet with many setbacks. First the homemade bricks were ruined by bad rains before there had been time to fire them. Then the nearby saw mill that was to supply all the lumber was washed away. Now timber had to be hauled through a swamp and when it finally reached its destination, it had to be used for coffins as cholera struck, rather than for a steeple. The chapel's basement served as a hospital and immigrant home for a long time during the epidemic that claimed the lives of Pastor Esbjörn's wife and daughter. He himself only narrowly escaped death.

 

      It is hard to imagine those early days when you stand in the tiny chapel basement today. There is a quaint museum here and the opening that allowed overflow church visitors to listen to the sermon has been closed. Both the exterior and interiors of the chapel are beautiful in their simplicity, making the chapel well worth a visit. The small church, only thirty by forty-five feet large, became the mother church for hundreds of other Augustana Lutheran churches in America.

 

        Reverend Esbjörn was the pioneer Swedish pastor in America, on loan from the Swedish church that fervently opposed emigration. In the beginning, Esbjörn was seen as an emissary of the Swedish church and he was shunned by most people. Eventually he became one of the founders of the Augustana Synod, that for the next hundred years was the most important Swedish Lutheran movement in North America. In his old age Esbjörn retired to Sweden and the parish near Uppsala from where he had set out for the new world.