The history of Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church is filled with illustrations of charity and love shown to the church and by the church. It was the purpose of the early pioneers to establish a Lutheran Church where God could be brought together and bound by Christ’s love. As we look back on the past and forward to the future of our Church it should be so with humble pride that we have been sustained by God’s love for all these many years. Hopefully, all will take the time to read this history, so we can appreciate the sacrifices made in the past and those that may need to be made in the future to continue to support Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church so that charity and love will continue to prevail.
On May 24, 1869 a group of Lutheran people of this community of New Windsor met in the home of John A. Falk. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of establishing a Swedish Lutheran Church. Mr. and Mrs. John Falk and their 8 children had moved from Andover, IL to a farm east of the church on what we now know as Route 17 .(Jim and Julie Ryan currently reside in this home.) Early records show that Dr.S.P.A. Lindahl visited these parts at Christmas in 1865 and again 2 years later when he also conducted services in the Falk home. A large room on the second floor was devoted to this purpose until the church was built.
The organizational meeting conducted by Pastor Andreas Andreen o f Berlin (now Swedona) began with singing, Bible reading, and prayer. Pastor Andreen preached a sermon from Psalm 46 using as his text verse4, "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most high". Pastor Andreen then called the meeting to order. Mr. John A. Falk was elected secretary and Pastor Andreen, chairman. After prayerful consideration it was unanimously decided to organize a Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. A constitution proposed by the Augustana Synod was read and after making a few minor changes it was adopted. (This constitution served until 1916 when a new one was adopted giving women the right to vote in the congregation.) Mr. John A. Falk was elected delegate to attend the Augustana Synod meeting June 16, 1869 in Moline. The newly organized congregation of New Windsor was accepted into Augustana Synod which is now the Northern Illinois Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
The Trustees namely: Carl A. Johnson, Peter Falk (oldest son Of John Falk) and John M. Blad were given authority to select the site on which to build the church. It was the desire of John Falk that the church of his faith be erected within range of his vision from his home. Peter Falk chose the location. The ,mnjsections of land were not marked by roads as we find them today. This area was mostly a vast prairie. Since building a church was such a big project, they started with a subscription of money and if all went well, the construction would be started in that fall. The church was to be 30x50x18 ft. high on the sides with a tower and balcony. Mr. O. Fernell and C.J. Bjorkengren were appointed to secure plans and cost of construction of the church and present at the next congregational meeting.
Peter Falk chose property owned by Mrs. W. F. Petrie and her son, C.L. Petrie. In a memoir written by the late C.L. Petrie in 1929, he relates the following: "In the Spring of 1869 I came from the field where I was working for my mother.
Mother said to me, ‘Peter Falk and his father were here and wanted to buy enough land out of our pasture to build a Lutheran church on’. And, mother said to me, ‘You know Peter was very good to us when Alex and Edd were in the Army, and Edd was killed in the battle in Franklin, TN., and his remains were brought home for burial, that winter when that awful snow storm swept over the country. Peter came with his ox teams and broke the road to Oxford graveyard, and helped us when we were in sorrow and trouble. He shall have the land where he wants it. We will give up the pasture and have it surveyed into town lots’. This was done, and the east part fell to me as my portion. I gave the two lots, 7 and 8 in block two, and sold lots 5 ,6, 9, and 10, which were bought from me by Peter Falk for the Lutheran Church." The two lots given ate now our beautiful church lawn.
On August 23, 1869, the congregation was again called together in the Falk home. It was decided to ask Pastor Andreen to serve as Acting Pastor until a reular pastor could be obtained. The members agreed that they should ask Dr. S.P.A. Lindahl of Woodhull to become their first pastor. The Subscription Committee then reported that about $1,000.00 had been promised and some received. In faith they decided to build a church for about $5,000.00 in the property they would acquire from the Petries.
The building committee under the direction of Mr. Bjorkengren, who was a very good carpenter, went ahead with the building of the church. It was to measure 60 x 38 x 29 ft. high in the outside wall and built on a stone foundation 3 ½ ft. high. The tower was to be built 8 ft. square on the front of the church and a balcony was to be built. The boards were to be set up and down with batting on the seams on the outside. On the inside the boards were to be covered with plaster. The ceiling was to be rounded and the windows rounded with a peak at the top. Also ventilators were to be put in the walls to be used for those needing fresh air. One of the arduous tasks facing them was to haul all the lumber and other materials from Rock Island.
On New Year’s Day 1870, the congregation gathered for its first service in the new sanctuary, though only partially completed. There were no windows and comfortable pews, only nail kegs with planks across to sit on, but the congregation with grateful hearts sang, "How lovely is Thy temple, Lord". Over $2,ooo.00 had been paid out and only $1,208.70 had come in. And yet the congregation was happy and thankful because two days later at their annual meeting, the congregation passed a resolution of thanks to God that they were privileged to hold service in their church for the first time on New Year’s day. And they had so much to be thankful for. Besides their church property they had 34 communicant members who had signed their names as charter members of the new congregation that first year, twenty of which members had been transferred from Swedona.
Mr. C.L.Petrie, in a talk given at the Sixtieth Anniversary of the church in 1929, praised the forefathers and mothers who built a $5,000 church with money realized from selling eggs at five cents a dozen and butter at six cents a pound. It was indeed , a courageous undertaking..
The report given at the first annual meeting showed the cost of the church was $4,817.84.
The records show that the church yard was surrounded by a fence. The fence on the west side had to be moved in so there would be room for horses and buggies. On the north side of the church yard were the hitching posts. In 1874 a barn was built for the Pastor’s horses. The lumber cost $11.25. Thereafter any members wishing to build a stall for their horses were given permission to do so but must build all stalls the same size and in the same line as the stall for the Pastor’s horses.
On January 1, 1873, a committee of S.T.Gibson, A.P.Falk, and A.Swenson was appointed to investigate and purchase a suitable place for a cemetery. The next year J.A. Falk was added to this committee. During that year or in 1874 the present tract of land was bought from Mr. C.L. Petrie for $150.00. Since that time it has been used by the congregation as its burial ground. Our cemetery has a beautiful location and it is well kept by members.
Dr. Lindahl, who lived in Woodhull and shared the Woodhull and New Windsor pastorate, and Pastor Andreen of Berlin (Swedona) conducted services in our church the second and fourth Sundays mornings of each month. Dr. Lindahl’s salary was $250. a year.
The janitor was paid $30 . a year and was given one collection. He was also allowed to have the hay on the church yard and cemetery for his cow.
Records show that the first child baptized was Hendri , born January 1, 1872 and baptized January 30, 1872. The parents were J.F. Johnson and wife Anna L. The first death was Josephina Nikolena, August 25, 1872. The first marriage was Alens Alfred Hallberg and Alida Falk, April 21, 1874.
After about a year, Dr. Lindahl resigned as pastor of the two congregations, and both Woodhull and New Windsor churches decided to continue sharing a pastor. Pastor P.M. Sannquist accepted a call sent him by the New Windsor church on May 21, 1871.
He made his home in Woodhull but preached here regularly. For about 7 years Pastor Sannquist traveled back and forth over a poor prairie road between New Windsor and Woodhull. Pastor Sannquist was often covered with dust and dirt from his unpleasant drive when he arrived in New Windsor to preach his morning sermon, but in spite of it he preached fiery sermons on repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. Earlier written histories remark that his sermons were like the powerful wind that God went down from Mount Horeb of old which broke the rocks to pieces.
In 1872 the following decision was made to concerning church dues: $3.00 for women, $4.00 for men, to be paid in two installments Aug. 1
Nora Falk was the first organist and played a small reed organ which was brought to church on Sunday morning in a lumber wagon from the Falk home. In 1882, the first hand-pumped pipe organ was purchased from a church in Orion for $812.50, and Hjalmar Anderson, ‘klockarefar’ from Andover was called to be regular organist. Mr. Anderson was also to teach parochial school. Miss Alida Falk was the first choir director. Both Nora and Alida Falk were daughters of John Falk.
In 1878 when Pastor Sannquist resigned as pastor of the Woodhull and New Windsor churches, each congregation decided to dissolve the Pastorate and each church to call their own pastor. This then marked the close of the first 10 years of Calvary Lutheran Church.