The Second Pastor of Cordelia. By Larry Lass.
Rev. Carl A. Ramstedt
Undated photo from Victoria Olsen collection.
The second pastor of Cordelia was Carl August Ramstedt. Carl was born on August 28, 1863 in Kisa, Östergötland, Sweden to Allen (Erland) and Maria Ramstedt. The family immigrated to the United States when Carl was 5 years old. They settled in Waseca, located in south central Minnesota near the Iowa border. In 1882 Carl attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peters, Minnesota. The school was started in 1862 to train pastors and teachers, was operated by Pastor Eric Norelius and was really an extension of his education duties provided to the older students of his congregation. In 1863 there were 11 students (not including his own congregation’s children). “The school for the Swedes” was progressive and from the beginning was coeducational.
Carl’s parents – Maria and Allen (Erland) Ramstedt.
Undated photo from Nancy Ruth Peterson.
Attendance at Gustavus Adolphus School exceeded 100 by 1880 but struggled with finances and the lack of support by the synod. In 1882, the new president of the school established a four year degree college. The first freshman class was introduced in 1892 and the first bachelor degrees in 1890. Still based on a school concept, Gustavus Adolphus College made up only 20% of the total enrollment and averaged 10 graduates per year in the 1890's. Interestingly, 20 of the 35 graduates from 1890-1894 became ministers.
In the spring of 1884, Carl’s parents moved to Moscow, Idaho. During the Christmas breaks and summers Carl became active in the church his parents attended in Moscow, Idaho. Zion Lutheran, later called First Lutheran, shared pastors with Cordelia. Records show in December 1885, Carl helped Peter Carlson, first pastor of Cordelia and Zion, by holding an English School and leading the Sunday school. Each summer Carl would return to help at Zion. Peter wrote of him, “He is a good gifted youngster.”
Carl briefly returned in the spring of 1887 after the semester was completed. He left that summer to teach summer school somewhere in the east. His plans were to be away from Moscow for five years until he had completed his education.
During the early winter of 1889, Carl applied to Augustana Seminary and was accepted for the Fall term. The church in Moscow had grown into a new building under Pastor Carlson’s direction. The formal dedication ceremony for First Lutheran Church was on February 16,1890. Pastor J.W. Skans of Portland officiated, with the assistance of Pastors Peter Carlson and G.A. Anderson. Also present were two theological students, Carl A. Ramstedt and S. G. Youngert. In the summer of 1890, he once again helped Peter teach Sunday school at the Moscow churches. In a letter dated August 5, 1890 to his daughter, Peter expressed the hope Ramstedt would take his place when he completed his training. Ramstedt returned to Moscow the following summer. Pastor Carlson showed his interest in the “youngster” by paying the sum of $82, for his fare to and from school in 1891.
Carl August Ramstedt was ordained on June 5, 1892 at Lindsborg, Kansas with the other 23 other members of his class. Carl Johan Beckman (see Beckman biography), the pastor to replace Carl Ramstedt, was one of his classmates and also ordained the same day.
Carl Ramstedt (age 28) married Emma Johnson (age 18) in June 1892. Emma, from New Bedford, Illinois, was the daughter of Nels and Johanna (Danielson) Johnson. Nels was born in Sweden and Johanna in Illinois. New Bedford is located in northwest Bureau County. History does not record how Carl and Emma met.
Zion and Cordelia extended a call to Pastor Ramstedt. Peter Carlson was seriously ill most of the winter and could not serve Cordelia and Zion. He was very happy when Pastor Ramstedt accepted the call. He knew he was turning the work over to good hands. Peter had arranged the salary to be $600 per year. Pastor Ramstedt started work on July 1, 1892. Pastor Carlson had left two new churches, a parsonage in Moscow, and active self-supporting congregations. Pastor Ramstedt started a new record book reporting the annual activities of Cordelia. Peter had reported these activities in 1883 to 1887, but his health declined and information about church activities for four years is missing.
The first church record of Pastor Ramstedt was dated 1893 although it appears the activities of 1892. G. J. Lunquist was the Deacon for the year. Loth Carlson was the Secretary. Miss Mary Lundquist played the organ and was paid $5.00 plus lantern gas from May to November. John Reyd was paid $8.00 to provide heat and to clean the church. The church finances were not recorded, although the pastor’s salary from Cordelia was $100. Carl and his new wife lived in Moscow just to the north of Zion church and either walked or rode a horse to Cordelia for services.
In 1893, reported in 1894, the secretary was Waldus L. Carlson, the Deacon was Loth Carlson, the trustee was John Reyd and the treasurer was Andrew Persfon. Waldus was in charge of heating the church, but the record showed the work was divided among four members; Loth Carlson had January through March. Peter Bowman had April through June and Andrew Rubergs had July through September. The pastor’s salary increased to $165 for Cordelia’s share. Zion Lutheran of Moscow contributed the bulk of the funds for salary.
Carl Emmanuel Ramstedt, son of Carl and Emma, was born on March 3, 1893. Emma later listed the birth place as the State of Idaho, but does not provide information on the city or town. Latah County Historical Society does not have a record of his birth. In late fall of 1893, Carl had no energy and found it difficult to travel between Zion and Cordelia. Moscow had doctors but the true root of the problem was never found or revealed. Most notable of these medical men was Dr. Charles Gritman who started to practice in Moscow in 1892. Albert, son of Carl and Emma, was born on February 24, 1894.
In early March 1894, it was reported that Carl’s once strong voice was little more than a whisper and could not be heard in the church. He knew he needed a smaller church where travel in bad weather was not required and was near good medical facilities where his illness could be diagnosed and treated. He needed to be closer to Emma’s parents in central Illinois, and he needed to support his young wife and two small children. Pastor Ramstedt accepted a call to the Swedish Lutheran Church of Red Oak, Iowa in April 1894. On May 2, 1894, at a special meeting of Cordelia members, he resigned citing the reason of ill health.
The Swedish Lutheran Church in Red Oak, now called Bethlehem Lutheran Church, has an interesting history because there were several Swedish Lutheran synods at the time. A county history book written W. W. Merritt, Sr., and published in 1906, claimed the Swedish Lutheran Church of Red Oak was organized in 1872 by Rev. A. Skeppstedt, with fifteen charter members. Pastor Skeppstedt died in Sweden in 1880. A permanent place of worship was erected in 1874 at a cost of $1,400. Its first location was on the northeast corner of First Avenue and West Second Street and was moved to Reed Street in 1886. There were about 100 members in 1886. After Skeppstedt passed away the church hired J. E. Rehnstrom, who died in Lockport, Illinois in 1890; J. C. D. Osterholm, who died in Red Oak in 1887; A. J. Rydin; A. B. Lilja; then Carl Ramstedt.
The second reporting of the history came from the 125th anniversary booklet for Bethlehem Lutheran. Reverend Bengt Magnus Halland organized Bethlehem Lutheran in January of 1872. Pastor Halland had been ministering to the Swedish people of Red Oak Junction, as it was then known, as much as time would permit. Organization of the "Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem Congregation" was completed, with the help of Pastor Halland, on January 26, 1872 at the home of P. Johnson. There were 24 people present at that meeting who are registered as the charter members of the church.
The congregation held meetings in a rented building and by April of 1873 were ready to build a place of worship. We do not know exactly when the first church was built, but records indicate the building was completed by June of 1875 on a lot donated by the C.B.&Q. Railroad in southwest Red Oak. By 1885 the congregation had grown to 100 communicant members. In September of that year the church was moved to 505 Reed Street. This history does not list the pastors serving the church after Pastor Halland.
The County Historical Society book lists a second Swedish Lutheran church in Red Oak, but the history does not match the one written for the 125th anniversary. The Swedish Evangelical Church of Red Oak was organized in 1884, and the building was erected in 1902. The first pastor was Rev. G. N. Tegnell. When the book was written, Rev. C. V. Anderson was the pastor and membership was 125. History does not record the pastors between Tegnell and Anderson.
In May of 1894, Pastor Ramstedt moved his family to Red Oak, Iowa and started work in June. The new church and doctors did not help him recover. He resigned in December of 1894 and took his small family to Emma’s parents’ home in northwest Bureau County, Illinois where he died on February 4, 1895. The true cause of death was not recorded since Illinois did not require death certificates until 1910. It has always been speculated it was an infection or cancer spreading to the throat, but surviving relatives are not sure. Carl was buried in the Johnson Family plot at Oakland Cemetery near Princeton, Illinois.
On May 11, 1895, the youngest son of Carl and Emma died at age one year and 2 months. Albert Ramstedt is buried near his father. Emma stayed in Bureau County, Illinois and worked on several farms as a housekeeper and cook. She married Emil (daughter spelled it as Emile) O’berg, who may have been the grandson of Samuel O’berg who farmed in section 20 of the township near Princeton and was an early settler. Irene Violet O’berg was born to Emil and Emma O’berg in 1906, before their divorce. Emma retained the Ramstedt name after separation, although some evidence indicates she used Ramstedt-O’berg while she was married to Emile.
Carl E., the son of Carl and Emma, became a farmer near Manlius, Illinois in northwest Bureau County. On April 20, 1923 at age 30, he was accidentally killed by a spreader which passed over his head after he fell off the same. The death certificate informant was Mrs. Emma Ramstedt and she was living near Sheffield, Illinois (a few miles south of where Carl E. died).. Carl E. was buried on April 23, 1923 near his father and brother. Death records of Illinois indicated two persons with the name Emil Oberg died in the state before 1950. The first was from Chicago and his death occurred on October 19, 1926. The second was in Winnebago, Illinois on November 17, 1927.
Emma’s father, Nels Johnson, died in 1928 and her mother died in 1933. Irene, the daughter of Emma, married Earl Swan and they had two sons, Richard and Donald. Emma lived with them and helped raise the children. Friends remember Emma being teased about having so many last names. Emma continued to be employed as a housekeeper in Princeton, Illinois. She died of abdominal cancer at age 64 and 16 days on July 14, 1938. The death certificate indicated she worked until June 1938. She is buried near Carl and two sons.
Emma’s children and grandchildren have also died. The extended Ramstedt family now live in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, and Tennessee. The author is grateful to Roger Swan of Princeton, Illinois for help with the recent family history. Although Roger is not related, he knew Earl and Irene Swan and their sons. I must thank Diane Swan, the great-granddaughter of Emma, for her help with additional information, and Nancy Ruth Peterson, a great-grand-niece of Carl, for photographs of Carl’s parents from the Cordelia Archives.