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 54. New Sweden, Iowa NRHP Logo

In Lockridge Township, Jefferson County, Iowa

"In Jefferson County Iowa, in 1845, a group of Swedish immigrates lead by Peter Cassel founded one of the first lasting Swedish settlements in the United States."

This is the first sentence of an article printed in the January/February 1978 issue of The Palimpsest (read it here).

Some authors claim that New Sweden, Iowa was also the first Swedish settlement in North America.

Read the entire article, "New Sweden, Iowa," in The Palimpsest issue of Jan/Feb 1978 (reproduced with permission of the Editor, Iowa Heritage Illustrated, State Historical Society of Iowa).

The Palimpsest article tells the story of this early settlement.  In early May 1845, twenty-five people left Kisa parish in Sweden to come to the United States because of Sweden's social and economic conditions.

From Burlington, Iowa, the nearest available government land was in Lockridge Township, Jefferson County.  By mid-September they found an abandoned cabin at Section 26 of Lockridge Township.

Despite the expected problems, the settlers wrote enthusiastic letters to people at home in Sweden, and more and more people arrived.  In 1846, when Iowa became a state, some became land owners.

In a January 1848 meeting, the Swedish immigrants formed a congregation, which became the oldest congregation in the Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod of North America.  They held services in a log-built church.

In 1860-61 they built a new church, the New Sweden Lutheran Church (or New Sweden Chapel), which still stands in Lockridge Township, Jefferson County.  The area is known as Fours Corners (about 2 miles north of Lockridge on Highway W40).  Signs will guide you.

By 1858, about 100 families (500 people) lived in New Sweden.  By 1868, the crossroads just east of the churches, known as Four Corners, had a general store with a post office, a school, and other businesses. 

Other churches were built.  In 1850, the first Swedish Methodist Church west of the Mississippi was organized in New Sweden.  A log church was built in 1855, and later a wood-framed church was built.  That church burned down after being hit by lighting in 2010, and was rebuilt in a different shape -- it is 0.3-miles west of the Lutheran Church on 195th St.

A Swedish Baptist congregation was formed in 1854, but did not remain active very long -- their cemetery is at the northeast corner of Velvetleaf and 195th Street, next to the St. John Lutheran Cemetery.  The Four Corners German Lutheran cemetery is just east of Four Corners.

After 1900, with lessening of immigration, the advent of Ford Model T's, and the organization of an all English Lutheran Church in Lockridge, New Sweden's influence began to wane.  Descendents of the Swedish immigrants still live in the area.

The Iowa Gen Web has more information about New Sweden -- click these links:

The Swedish Community of Jefferson County.

New Sweden Chapel (Lutheran), The beginning.

A New Church is Built.

1948, The Church Building Becomes A Lutheran Shrine.

1977, National Historical Recognition.

General photos of the Swedish Community.

Map of Lockridge Township, showing cemeteries.

 

Click here for the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form and photos for this building, which you can download.

 

Scroll down this page to view recent photos of the churches.

The New Sweden Lutheran Church, built in 1860-61.   (Photo Nov 17, 2013).
New Sweden Lutheran Church, Nov 17, 2013.

A photo taken in 2003 of The New Sweden Lutheran Church (May 18, 2003).
New Sweden Lutheran Church, May 18, 2003.

Same view as on the cover of The Palimpsest issue of Jan/Feb 1978..   (Photo Nov 15, 2013).
New Sweden Lutheran Church, Nov 157, 2013.

Heritage sign next to the church.   (Photo Nov 15, 2013).
Heritage sign next to the church.  (Photo Nov 15, 2013).

Close up of the memorial in front of the church (or chapel).   (Photo Nov 15, 2013).
Memorial in front of the church (or chapel).  Photo taken Nov 15, 2013.

Memorial in front of the church (or chapel).   (Photo Nov 17, 2013).
Memorial in front of the church (or chapel).  Photo taken Nov 17, 2013.

Interior of the New Sweden Lutheran Church.   (Photo Nov 15, 2013).
Interior of the New Sweden Lutheran Church (Photo Nov 15, 2013).

Southwest view the church.   (Nov 15, 2013).
Southwest view the church, Nov 15, 2013.

Reflection in a south window of the church.   (Nov 17, 2013).
Reflection in a south window of the church, Nov 17, 2013.

Church Cemetery.   (Photo Nov 17, 2013).
Church Cemetery, Nov 17, 2013.

Plaque on the church (chapel).   (Photo Nov 15, 2013).
Plaque on the church (chapel).  Photo taken Nov 15, 2013

Front view, the plaque is to the left of the left window.   (Photo Nov 15, 2013).
New Sweden Lutheran Church, Nov 15, 2013.

This is old Methodist church, as of May 18, 2003, before it burned down in 2010.
New Sweden United Methodist Church, May 18, 2003, before it burned down.

The new church which replaced the destroyed New Sweden United Methodist Church.   (Photo Nov 17, 2013).
The new, New Sweden United Methodist Church  Photo taken Nov 17, 2013.

The Methodist cemetery is to the left of the church.   (Photo Nov 17, 2013).
The new, New Sweden United Methodist Church  Photo taken Nov 17, 2013.

Photos dated 11-15-2013 by David Fitz-Randolph, photos dated 11-17-13 and 05-18-2003 by Jeffrey Fitz-Randolph. Page updated Oct 2014, reformatted 05-31-16.

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