Local author traces Swedish-American dreams

Posted Online: Feb. 08, 2013, 9:40 am
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By Claudia Loucks,
GENESEO – Swedish immigrants relied on their faith and values to make their American dreams come true, a local author said.

Dr. Nancy Frakes recently wrote and published a book titled "Swedish Immigrants Find the American Dream in Andover, Illinois."

Ithighlights the village's founding and focuses on the history of the Jenny Lind Chapel, '"a memorial to the Swedish settlers who came to America in 1849 to build a Swedish Lutheran Church under the leadership of Pastor Lars Paul Esbjorn." she said

Rev. Esbjorn later became the first president of Augustana College in Rock Island.

Dr. Frakes's book explains why many Swedish immigrants came to America. In Sweden, as in many other countries in Europe, life was not easy in the 1800s, she said.

"Many believed that America was the only place where they could start a new life with the freedom of religion they desired," she wrote in her book.

Rev. Esbjorn was such a Swede. He followed his dream and came to America to build a Lutheran church, Dr. Frakes said.

Rev. Esbjorn was born in Delsbo, Sweden, in 1808. His father and mother died before he was seven years old, according to records.

Dr. Frakes traces Rev. Esbjorn's childhood, including a time when a neighbor of the Esbjorn family took him into her home and became his foster mother.

"She was a deeply religious woman who was very kind to him," Ms. Frakes's book states. "She knew the importance of an education and she enrolled young Lars in an elementary school."

The neighbor woman's account called him a "gifted student."

His friends often encouraged him to become an engineer, but he had a different idea. He wanted to become a Lutheran minister.

Rev. Esbjorn was 24 when he was ordained, and served as a chaplain for a large manufacturing company in Sweden, until he learned that pastors were needed in Illinois. He and his family then sailed from Sweden in a freighter to New York. They continued west by boat until they reached Lake Michigan Sept. 30, 1849. In Chicago, they bought a horse and wagon to make the last leg of their journey to Andover.

Rev. Esbjorn's introduction to Jenny Lind came some years later.

Miss Lind was born in Sweden and became an accomplished opera singer, famous first in Europe and later in the U.S.

Rev. Esbjorn was traveling in the eastern U.S. to raise money to build a church in Andover and learned about the Miss Lind's well-reported "generosity for people in need."

According to Dr.Frakes's account, Miss Lind was so impressed with "this adventurous lad from Sweden," she decided to give him $1,500 to build his church for Swedish immigrants.

Rev. Esbjorn used the money to start three churches, including the one in Andover, a smaller one in Moline and a small log church in New Sweden, Iowa.

"The Jenny Lind Chapel became a mother church for hundreds of other churches of the Augustana Lutheran Church in America," Ms. Frakes said."The people who dreamed, acted and built the Jenny Lind Chapel and the town of Andover were strong in their faith and dedicated to their beliefs. We continue to be thankful for all those pioneers and especially their descendants who really did achieve the American Dream in the small town of Andover."

Dr. Nancy Frakes bio box
Hometown: Spent early life in Wyoming; moved to Geneseo about 15 years ago.
Education: Bachelor of Science Degree, Master's Degree in elementary education, and Education Specialist Administration Degree, all from Western Illinois University, Macomb; doctorate in educational administration, from the University of Santa Barbara, Calif.
Experience: Elementary, middle and high school teacher, college and university professor, Dean of Education/Director of Teacher Education, Supervisor of student teachers, Staff Development/Coordinator and Administrative Academy; presents workshops throughout Illinois.
Favorite Scripture: Romans, Chapter 12.
Biblical characters I'd like to meet: Jesus and Mary.
Hobbies and activities: teaching adult Sunday school classes at Grace United Methodist Church, Geneseo; reading, writing and craft projects.
One thing I feel strongly about: "working at being a good Christian."
I wish I knew how to: "use my time more wisely."

Available by emailing Ms. Frakes at and sold at the Central Bank in Andover.
The book includes a section of trivia,thematic units, geography (including maps), language arts, math and science.
Other books written by Ms. Frakes include: "Abe Lincoln in New Salem," "Bilingual Book," "Bishop Hill — Over Land, by River and on the Erie Canal," "Carl Sandburg," "Hennepin Canal," "My Presidents," "Indian Lands in Illinois," is working on "American Civil War" and "Agriculture, Then and Now," both pf which should be in print by summer.


Local events heading

  Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today.
1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass.
1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links.
1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned.
1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today.
1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.

(More History)