Hvistendahl's Mission to San Francisco, 1870-75
By Kenneth Bjork (Volume XVI: Page 1)
"Knowing that there were in San Francisco thousands of Scandinavians but no Scandinavian Lutheran Church, the Norwegian Lutheran Synod of America appointed Rev. Chr. Hvistendahl of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to go thither and try the organization of such a church." So reads the first sentence of the "Church Chronicle" in the "Records of 'Our Saviour's' Scandinavian Evangelical-Lutheran Church, San Francisco, 1871-1878," one of few such volumes that survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906.
In the spring of 1870, the year following the completion of the first "transcontinental" railroad, the Norwegian Synod did indeed feel that the time had come to forge an organizational link with the Scandinavians residing in California.
San Francisco, the home since the days of the gold rush of a considerable number of Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes, seemed the logical city in which to organize a congregation; it was also the most suitable base from which to conduct
future mission work in California as a whole.
The significance of the Synod's decision to the story of the further migration of Scandinavians to the west coast has been as yet unexplored, but fortunately the early experiences of the church that was started in San Francisco in 1871 and the major ramifications of its life may still be traced in considerable detail.
It fell to the lot of Christian Hvistendahl, age thirty-two, to make the mission trip to California.
He was a native of Holmestrand, a graduate of the Norwegian national university in Christiania, and a pastor in America serving the Synod congregations in Milwaukee and Port Washington. He was a staunch defender of the Synod, a close friend of the members of its church council, and a regular contributor to the columns of Skandinaven, Fædrelandet og emigranten, Norden, and other Norwegian-American newspapers. It was therefore a foregone conclusion that he would take with him the well-defined policies and practices of the Synod, that he would make careful observations of conditions on the Pacific coast, and that he would leave for posterity a thoroughly documented record of his varied activities.
En route to San Francisco, Hvistendahl stopped off at Omaha on October 5 and decided, after briefly looking over the church situation, to preach to the Scandinavians there on his return; he then set out on the two-and-a-half-day journey on the Union Pacific and Utah Central railroads to Salt Lake City. Arriving in the Mormon capital just in time for the semi-annual conference of the Latter-day Saints, he was one of twelve thousand people who crowded into the
tabernacle on Sunday, October 9. Together with many other "gentiles," he was able to observe Brigham Young, his two councilors, George A. Smith and Daniel Wells, the twelve "Apostles," and other leaders of the church, whom he described in his record of the journey. Quite naturally, he also gave an extensive and wholly unfavorable account of the Mormon religion.
He was not, however, merely a passive observer of events in Salt Lake City. He made a serious effort to learn about the many Scandinavians living in Zion.
In a letter to a secular newspaper, he wrote, "There are many Swedes and Danes here in the city, but fewer Norwegians. Most of the Scandinavians live out in the settlements and they are said to be very loyal subjects.
He learned from non-Mormons who had lived in Salt Lake City for some time that in many respects their material lot was bad when compared to that of the Scandinavians living in rural areas. The "Americans," on the other hand --- and especially Brigham Young and the "Twelve" --- suffered from no want. Spiritually, he wrote, the Scandinavians belonged to "the most ignorant of Brigham's blind admirers and slaves of sin." Hvistendahl met, among others, two intelligent Swedes who were ardent Mormons, though they did not practice polygamy, an institution which they nevertheless defended with vigor. He was forced to admit, "with shame and sorrow," that the Scandinavian Mormons had done and were doing (through tithing) much more for the spread of their "powerful errors" than "our Norwegian Lutherans are willing to do for the spread of the pure, Heaven-inspired Truth."
Hvistendahl was afforded the opportunity given to ministers of all faiths to preach to a congregation in a Mormon
hall. The first part of his service went quietly enough, but when he began to make certain obvious applications of scriptural passages, the silence was broken and several persons laughed out loud. One Mormon continued to laugh even after the pastor had reproved the congregation severely. Walking directly to where the heckler sat, Hvistendahl said, "Christ died even for this impudent scoffer; God will receive even such a one if he will return like the prodigal son, and I shall pray to God for him so that his eyes may be opened, yes that he and all of you may, before your death, come and inquire about the old paths, come back to the good way and thus find calm, blessed peace for your soul here and in the hereafter." The mocker being quieted, the service was then concluded. The listeners were told that they had now heard witness of glad tidings and that they must answer for themselves on judgment day.
After the singing of hymns, Ivar Isachsen, a mechanic from Christiania, rose to undo the "damage" caused by the sermon; Isachsen, it turned out, was married to three sisters. Later several women, "who groaned under the yoke" but were helpless to escape it, thanked the pastor in private for his words; one of them accompanied him to the station and bade him a tearful farewell. Otherwise, he admitted readily, "the seed fell on rocky soil."
Nevertheless, Hvistendahl saw signs of hope for the "spiritually subjugated and blinded" Mormons. He pointed out that several years earlier Joseph Smith the younger had led a faction away from the mother church and that his followers, who rejected plural marriage, were considerable in number. In the past two years, moreover, a new movement against Brigham Young had developed strength under the leadership of Amasa Lyman, formerly one of the "Twelve." The organ of this new movement, the Salt Lake City Tribune, was doing battle with Young's Deseret Evening News. Furthermore, during the past three years the Episcopal
Church had conducted a successful mission in Utah and, besides opening a school, had begun work on a large church building. The Methodists, too, had established a mission during the past year. More important still, since the completion oŁ the Union Pacific and the Utah Central railroads, a large number of non-Mormons had moved into the territory. lured on by mineral riches. Many disappointed Mormons despite the avenging Danites, had left for other places, thus helping to equalize Mormon and non-Mormon elements.
Hvistendahl also discussed the general growth of sentiment against Mormonism in the States, a movement that drew its chief strength from the opposition to plural marriage. If, he said, the leaders of the Latter-day Saints submitted to the clamor against polygamy, their organization would be weakened; if they did not yield, their lot would be worse. There were rumors that the Mormons were thinking of leaving Utah for some place where they might live in peace. Finally, much of the strength of Mormonism and the unity of its following depended on the dictatorial rule of Brigham Young, who was then seventy years of age. There appeared to be no one quite capable of replacing him when his working days were over. "When one considers all these things," Hvistendahl concluded, "one can readily see that Mormonism, which is based on lies, has little prospect of standing its ground. There is really very little likelihood that the new temple, the foundation of which is now built, will ever be finished. After having spent four days in Mormonism's capital, I left the city in despondent mood but not entirely without hope.
From Ogden Junction to San Francisco, a distance of 882 miles, Hvistendahl traveled by way of the Central Pacific. The trip required forty-eight hours and carried him through
the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, which reminded him of Norway. The railroad link to the Pacific coast, he felt, should inspire the church to work among the whites, Indians, and Chinese in California. In speaking of San Francisco, he said that it was not surprising that the "moral and social conditions from the start should have come to stand on so low a plane."
Family life was almost unknown, and it took time before churches and pastors arrived to exert any significant influence. So long as the wild debauch of speculation lasted, the Word could make no deep penetration into the hearts of people. With the coming of more family life and after the better elements began to organize themselves, a change for the better took place. Even so, the city remained morally very low. The opening of the Pacific railway will without doubt be of great moral significance in the city's future because of the livelier intercourse thus established with the eastern states and Europe.
He found in San Francisco about fifty churches representing various Christian beliefs, four Jewish synagogues, and two Chinese joss houses. "A glance at the map," he noted, "is sufficient to make clear that San Francisco, with its good natural location and remarkable harbor, will become one of America's largest cities." But, he added, the larger and richer it became, the greater would be the temptations. "Here it is necessary for God's church to be on the job, to throw out the net of the Word and to catch souls for God's Kingdom. This duty also rests heavily on us, for here in this city are thousands of people from the northern countries."
Later, in recalling his experiences in San Francisco, he dwelt at length on the peculiar social conditions of the city. The inhabitants had come from the four corners of the world in search of gold. Only a few realized the dream of becoming rich, and these usually lost their fortunes through gambling and debauchery. In 1870 a large number of families lived in hotels or took their meals in restaurants; house
rent was high and domestic help was expensive. While Chinese servants could be obtained at lower wages than white maids, for most families it was too expensive to maintain a house. "This life in boarding houses and in restaurants naturally has a bad influence on both the old and the young." In recent years, however, conditions had improved somewhat and family life, especially among the Scandinavians, was now more like that in Chicago and other large cities. Hvistendahl believed that the church was the best instrument for improving social conditions and he was happy to discover among the Scandinavians a desire to hear the gospel preached in their own language.
Hvistendahl estimated in his report to the Synod that the Scandinavian population of San Francisco totaled between three and four thousand. Of these about one half were Swedes; the rest were Danes and Norwegians, with a sprinkling of Swedish-speaking Finns. "They seem to be," he wrote, "on the average on a higher plane in terms of worldly knowledge and education than is the case in other places in America with which I am acquainted. Many have had good schooling in their homeland and special conditions there have fostered a spiritual development. For some time they have had a large organization (the Scandinavian Society) which has attained to a considerable activity."
In another letter he stated that the Scandinavian Society had a capital of about ten thousand dollars in addition to its own burial ground.
It had been difficult, however, to hold the three national groups together harmoniously. The president at the moment was a Norwegian, Christian
Christiansen from Bergen, "a very cultivated man who enjoys the respect of both Scandinavians and Americans." In the society's hall, which was open all day, were newspapers from Christiania, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, as well as American papers. It also had a small library. An oil portrait of the first president, Consul- general George C. Johnson-another Norwegian-hung in the hall. Johnson and a Norwegian banker, Peder Sæther, were reputed to be men of considerable wealth; both were married to American women. C. J. Johnson, a Swedish businessman, also possessed a large fortune; he had previously attempted to organize a Swedish church. Danish Consul Gustav O'Hara Taaffe, an intelligent, prosperous, and obliging man, was mentioned as an outstanding leader among the Danes, and P. Magnus, from Bergen, was cited as one who had been long active in the life of the society.
Apart from the few who had made fortunes in investments, shipping, and trade, the Scandinavians as a whole were less well off economically than in the other places in America where they had been living for a comparable period of time. "Most of the people are seamen and craftsmen, and in recent times there has been and there still is complaint about unemployment and bad times." The transcontinental railroad had suddenly brought a larger labor supply than could be absorbed; but in all probability the disturbed balance, he said, would shortly be restored. "In a moral sense the Scandinavians compare favorably with the other national groups. It is characteristic of the northern people that they faithfully preserve the more important memories of the homeland. Twice they have also attempted to establish a Lutheran church; but both attempts failed. It is no easy matter to bring the three peoples together in a congregation."
Hvistendahl thought it only natural that first attempts at
organized church work had failed. One could not expect, he wrote, that the ministers who led these pioneer efforts, both of them from the Swedish state church, "should have been able to feel at home in a foreign free-church milieu.
Nor was an English Lutheran pastor of the so-called Lutheran, but in reality united, General Synod able to accomplish anything among our countrymen." Shortly before Hvistendahl's arrival in San Francisco, a Schleswig-Holsteiner, "who called himself 'Pastor' Nanns, began to preach to the Scandinavians. But his broken speech and other still more substantial shortcomings prevented him from winning any confidence." Repeated church failures had "discouraged many and made others indifferent. Those who had a strong Christian and churchly sense joined various Reformed congregations so that their children should not be entirely unchurched.'' He thought it a misfortune that others had joined the Swedenborgians, "who have two churches in town and work with all their might to entice Scandinavians to them by remonstrating that Swedenborg was a Scandinavian." Still others had meetings every Thursday evening in a seamen's church under the direction of a Swede, "a former Methodist preacher."
Hvistendahl had to conclude, however, that "the great majority have gradually become altogether foreign and indifferent to God and His church. While all other national groups obtained churches of their own, the Scandinavians became in a churchly sense entirely homeless." He felt that the situation was rendered infinitely worse by the fact that
the city was "annually visited by many Scandinavian seamen who on their long voyages have almost no opportunity to hear God's Word preached according to their ancient faith and in their ancestral language." He did not fail to add that, in addition, "one must also take into consideration the shameful influence that the many secret societies have exerted on the population, even if in lesser degree on the Scandinavian people."
Thus, under rather inauspicious circumstances, Hvistendahl began his mission work. He had only five weeks to devote to this task. He considered it a piece of good fortune, therefore, that for the past ten years the German Lutheran Missouri Synod, with which body the Norwegian Synod had close ties in the Middle West, had had an able minister in San Francisco in the person of J. M. Buehler. Scandinavians had been in the habit of going to him for such ministerial services as baptisms and marriages, and he seemed to enjoy their confidence. It was Buehler who had eagerly urged the Norwegian Synod to send a pastor to do missionary work in San Francisco, and he had promised to aid such a missionary with counsel and service. "He took me into his house as a brother," Hvistendahl wrote, "guided me to the leading Scandinavians who had some interest in the church and arranged for us to hold services, without rent, in his church building, which is conveniently located."
And so it came about that the young Norwegian pastor preached his first sermon in St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church on Mission Street Sunday evening, October 16, using as his text "What think ye of Christ?" Though the service had been inadequately advertised, it drew a fair number of people, who appeared to be very receptive. Several, Hvistendahl reported, later expressed their pleasure over his coming but were distressed to hear that in a short
time he must go home to his Wisconsin congregations. On the following Sunday he preached in the afternoon and thereafter, upon request, also every Thursday evening in the seamen's church. All these services were well attended and when he visited Scandinavians in their homes, he discovered a strong desire among them to try again to establish an evangelical Lutheran congregation of their own.
In response to this general demand, a committee of nine men --- three from each national group --- explored with Hvistendahl the problem of starting such a church. On November 20, 1870, the definitive action was taken. A constitution, a typical Synod document, was prepared in Dano-Norwegian and signed by fifty-six persons, many of them family men, who thus became the charter members of Our Saviour's Scandinavian Evangelical-Lutheran Church (Vor Frelsers skandinavisk evangelisk-lutherske Kirke) in San Francisco, California. Nine officers --- again three from each national group --- were elected.
The next problem was to call a pastor. Hvistendahl "attempted to persuade them to empower the Synod's church council to issue the call for them. But they insisted that, after twice having called pastors who were unknown to them and experiencing only disappointment in them, they had no desire to repeat the performance. They would call only me, for they believed that my personality was exactly suited to the work in San Francisco with its peculiar difficulties. They had gained confidence in me, but it was doubtful how things would go ii a new man should come." Despite all argument, the congregation firmly stood its ground. Hvistendahl gave them no assurance that he would accept the call, but promised to lay the matter before his congregations and his ministerial brothers. In his absence and until a regular pastor arrived,
Pastor Buehler would preach in English to the Scandinavian congregation every third Sunday evening.
Hvistendahl left San Francisco on November 21 and four and a half days later arrived in Omaha. There he spent a day and a half studying the church situation. The Swedish Augustana Lutheran Synod maintained a minister, S. G. Larson, and his congregation, though supported out of the mission treasury, had built a church. A considerable number of Danes and Norwegians lived in Omaha, and they were not particularly eager to help support the Swedish church. Some families had joined the English Lutheran congregation, which until recently had been served by the Reverend H. W. Kuhns of the General Synod. Hvistendahl preached in both churches, in the latter on a Sunday afternoon and in the Swedish church before a large audience in the evening. He was approached by Danes and Norwegians who were interested in organizing a new congregation; Hvistendahl could only promise to present the matter to the Norwegian Synod, and asked them in the meantime to support the Augustana church. He doubted that much could be done for the Danes and Norwegians at that time, since the field was so large. He also reported that there were many obstacles to "truly Lutheran" church work in Omaha, which was full of sects; he said that this had been the experience of the Missouri Synod pastor working in the city.
Upon his return to Milwaukee, Hvistendahl related to his congregations his experiences in San Francisco, and after consulting ministers more experienced than himself, decided to accept the new call. On January 20, 1871, "encouraged by his brethren of the Synod," he submitted his resignation to the Wisconsin congregations. We know that he did this with the greatest reluctance, because in Milwaukee he had overcome, or thought he had overcome, the greatest obstacles to church work and had many friends, a good home, and a fine
congregation; but we also know that he believed it "to be his duty to build, if possible, a Scandinavian Lutheran church in the metropolis of the Pacific slope."
During the five months that elapsed between Hvistendahl's departure from San Francisco and his return in the spring of 1871, much had transpired in the Golden Gate city. Some good, he found out later, had resulted from his mission trip of the year before but "we had to expect that the enemy would industriously sow his tares during this long intermission. The old stories about the earlier Swedish ministers, who had proved so disappointing, were revived by those who for various reasons wanted no Scandinavian Lutheran congregation here." His acceptance of the call did not arrive until February, "and until then they said it was highly doubtful that anything would come of my trip." During his absence, furthermore, two Lutheran ministers had been something less than brotherly to Hvistendahl and to each other; they had been willing, "at a cheap price, to assist the Scandinavians." One had been Nanns, the Schleswig-Holsteiner, who had hurriedly incorporated a Scandinavian congregation composed of only a few families. The other was the Reverend A. E. Fridrichsen from Hancock, Michigan, who had attempted, without success, to organize a third congregation.
Fortunately for Hvistendahl, his two rivals came to blows,
called each another uncomplimentary
names, and generally damaged their cause. But the controversy naturally reflected on ministers as such and weakened the cause of the church as a whole among the Scandinavians. There was some objection also to raising funds to assist in defraying Hvistendahl's travel expenses and to provide a permanent parsonage, during a time of greater unemployment and money scarcity than had ever before been experienced in the city. Nanns had apparently volunteered to serve as pastor without salary and had promised to raise a thousand dollars, if the Scandinavians would build a church. Both Nanns and Fridrichsen, it appeared, were capitalists of a sort. "Shortly before my arrival here," Hvistendahl recalled, "Fridrichsen, who could win no confidence, left for Portland, Oregon. There he got a church
built by providing the money for it himself; but from what I have heard from trustworthy sources, he will be unable to organize a congregation." Nanns had been in San Francisco for five years and he continued to hold services. "In spite of the fact that he advertises them in four papers, he nevertheless had, for example, only three in his flock last Sunday."
Hvistendahl was blissfully unaware of most of these events as he journeyed with his family to the west coast. His thoughts were centered on Milwaukee, where he had spent seven years. The leave-taking reminded him of his emotions on departing from Norway in 1864. Stopping at Omaha for a couple of days, he preached there both in the forenoon and evening of the first Sunday after Easter. Time did not permit him to assist in organizing a Norwegian-Danish congregation that would have a prospect of surviving. "How much better it would have been," he reasoned, "if there had been organized in Omaha a Scandinavian church with a Norwegian pastor instead of a Swedish one, for a Norwegian is understood by both Swedes and Danes while they find it very difficult to understand one another. Otherwise, one
could so contrive, in hymn singing and the use of ritual, that there would need be no just cause for
complaining of partiality."
Traveling in Pullman and "Silver Palace" cars from Omaha, the Hvistendahl family arrived in San Francisco on April 21. He preached to his congregation on the subject "The Good Shepherd" two days later. "There were," he wrote, "fewer in church than I had expected and it was clear that the campaign of accusations had already begun. Only half of those who had participated in organizing the congregation and issuing the call to me were present. Of these, some had had to leave the city because of unemployment, while others for the same reason were ready to leave? Others were absent because they lacked the courage to "stand by when now we should seriously strive toward the goal that had earlier been attempted in vain." The two richest Norwegians in the city told the pastor "it will be impossible to carry the project through. When the initial enthusiasm dies down," they said, "everything will again collapse." Hvistendahl answered "that for God nothing is impossible and that through all the centuries He has carried His cause through from victory to victory without- even in spite of-rich men."
He explained to the Synod in his first report of 1871 that he held regular services in St. Paul's Lutheran Church every Sunday afternoon at two o'clock, and meetings on Wednesday evenings at seven-thirty. He preached in Norwegian, but every other Wednesday evening he spoke in English on subjects dealing with practical matters or church history. Alternate Wednesday meetings were devoted to Bible readings in Norwegian, a survey of the work of the apostles, and similar matters. At the English meetings he centered his remarks on such subjects as "Is the Bible Really the Word of God?" On two occasions in May he preached on Sunday evenings at the seamen's church, but on both occasions he
was disturbed by the congregation while holding services, and therefore "had to desist."
"When one considers the conditions," Hvistendahl reasoned, "our services have been very well attended. For, in the first place, the people here are in large measure unchurchly, and, secondly, they live spread out over the whole city." Matters were made worse by the fact that few families could afford the servant help which would make it easier for them to attend. "Finally, it requires something of an effort, when one has worked hard the whole week, to go to church on Sunday instead of taking a little pleasure trip such as the people have been accustomed to." As for the Wednesday meetings, most of the members worked hard and, being tired when they got home in the evening, "would rather rest than get ready to go out again. At all services, too, collections are taken, and many feel that in these hard times they could make better use of their money." What troubled Hvistendahl even more was the fact that Sunday was the "worst day of sin." Excepting Liverpool, England, he had "never anywhere seen so many forms of viciousness practiced with such shameless audacity as here."
Apart from the problem of getting people to go to church, Hvistendahl had difficulty enough caring for those who came. In the first place, the church had only a limited number of Swedish hymnbooks; as a result, the congregational singing was poor and the Danes and Norwegians were prevented from singing their familiar hymns. Hoping to correct
this situation, he made a selection of fifty Swedish and fifty Danish-Norwegian hymns and had them printed, without the music, in Latin type. "We now sing alternately Norwegian and Swedish hymns, and that goes better." Every first Sunday of the month he held communion. He solved the problem of the precise ritual by employing that of the Swedish state church every second month. He began in October, 1871, to give instruction for confirmation, starting with a class of twelve and using the English language. An English edition of Luther's catechism, with scriptural verse sand explanations, published by H. Ludwig in New York, served his purposes, but he was unsuccessful in finding a satisfactory Bible history in English. Insofar as time permitted, he also gave the confirmands practice in singing Swedish and Norwegian; he even had them learn some of the hymns by heart. "It is my hope," he added, "that some of these confirmands will later help with Sunday school, if we are fortunate enough to get one started."
Hvistendahl made as many pastoral visits as he could. "These," he explained, "are necessary, partly to encourage people to come to God's services, partly in order to bring the Word to those who for one reason or another seldom or never attend church." The Scandinavians, on the whole, received him with friendliness, "and the best opportunity has thus often come to me to dispel various prejudices that the people have brought with them to some extent from the old country. There it was, of course, the custom in some places to frighten children with the remark, 'Here comes the preacher!' Naturally there are many here who are afraid that with the influence of a pastor the 'darkness of the Middle Ages' will again return." He related how at one house he was nearly thrown out by a Swedish "friend of truth." The Swede "flew into an entirely impolite rage because I would not, in spiritual matters, make concessions to his 'common sense.'" Hvistendahl flatly stated that a considerable
number of the Scandinavians had "fallen into free thought and led a gay life." By these people, he added, one is "at best received only with coolness." Others were either married to Catholic women or were unmarried, "and it is very difficult to find them and get an invitation to speak to them." The greatest barrier, however, resulted from the fact that "there is so little association among Scandinavians here that it is difficult to find them, especially since many seem to be ashamed of their homeland and prefer to be --- Yankees."
To meet as many people as possible, Hvistendahl regularly inserted announcements of divine services in two newspapers and had a thousand cards printed for distribution. The cards had printed on one side, in English, information about the time and the place of services, and on the other side, in Swedish and Norwegian, some portions of Holy Writ. "It is our hope that thereby some will be reminded of long-forgotten truths. These cards we have especially distributed down by the water front, where many Scandinavian seamen hang around. I have been happy to discover that in several instances these cards have brought to church people who have not heard God's Word . . . in many years."
Little by little, he reported, confidence in the church was being restored. About sixty-five persons regularly made a monthly contribution to the treasury. Collections added a little to the total of funds and all commitments had been met, including a contribution to his travel expenses --- "all this without any special effort, in spite of the fact that times have been hard." Hvistendahl was grateful that in general the church efforts fared better than he had expected they would. But he pointed out that "the greatest difficulties still face us; it is now necessary to have a church of our own; with lot, it will cost at least fifteen thousand dollars. Until this is done, the church here must necessarily be regarded as a mission which stands on shaky legs."
On April 22, 1872, a year and one day after his return to San Francisco, Hvistendahl wrote another report on his mission work, this time covering the second half year as pastor. The most important single event, he felt, after the organization of the congregation, was his first confirmation service, held on Palm Sunday. Ten children in all confirmed their baptismal vows, eight in English, two in Norwegian.
All had learned the Swedish and Norwegian hymns that were selected for the festive occasion, "so we could sing our praise of God with considerable volume." The confirmands had also received enough instruction in Norwegian easily to understand his confirmation sermon. All things considered, Hvistendahl was pleased with the knowledge shown by his pupils, and for the first time all places in the festively decorated church were filled. The service obviously made a deep impression.
It is interesting to observe that Hvistendahl, almost from the start of his mission in California, adopted the Synod's attitude of hostility to the public schools. He called them "religionless" and said that their influence in contributing to "demoralization" was apparent. In a limited way he sought to counteract their influence by having most of the confirmands meet every Saturday from four to six in the afternoon, to go over with him the text of the next day's service. In a year's time, he believed, they would have a sufficient grounding in Scripture to take over classes in the Sunday school that he hoped to begin. He considered it unlikely that the congregation could support a Christian school at that time. In Pastor Buehler's German Lutheran congregation a "school society" had recently been organized with the ultimate goal of beginning such a congregational school. "If this
succeeds, there could also be a Scandinavian department in which I could teach religion and the Scandinavian languages. We have begun to collect a fund by monthly contributions, and as soon as we are able to manage the first payments and obtain able teachers, the school will be started. After a year's operation it may be able to continue on fees."
Before the dream of a Sunday school could be realized, teachers would have to be found and classes held at a convenient time. This required a suitable building for the Scandinavians. "Therefore we have begun in earnest to raise subscriptions for a church of our own. But it isn't easy to get money enough to acquire a church property, which will cost at least twenty thousand dollars." He was opposed to an indebtedness of more than eight thousand dollars, "and the prospects of collecting the first twelve thousand are not very bright. Here, as nearly everywhere, the rich have either no interest at all, or very little, in the advance of God's church." The last three years had been poor in an economic sense, "but it now appears that conditions should improve. . . . It will be my business to go from man to man and inform them that we both can and should have our own church, the sooner the better."
Hvistendahl readily admitted that many of his efforts thus far had brought no fruit, and he seemed to take some consolation in the fact that all churches "complain of the prevailing worldliness and pleasure-seeking." Sunday, it appeared, was the day when "the saloons and brothels did their liveliest business." Most of the churches "are poorly attended and only those who are gifted speakers and who use all kinds of fireworks to gain a certain popularity are able to attract a larger flock." But he was not entirely discouraged. "Gross disbelief and materialism have been given a hard blow, and a few are beginning to see that life without God is empty and wretched."
Almost pathetically, he mentions examples of interest
among Scandinavians in the work of the church. A Dane and his wife living two hundred miles from the city had been in church for the first time on confirmation day; upon returning to their home, they wrote the pastor a letter expressing their pleasure over the opportunity they had had to hear a service in their native language; they also enclosed a check for sixty-five dollars, of which fifty was to go to the building fund, and promised to contribute sixty dollars annually despite the fact that they lived far away and were not well-to-do. On another occasion a young Finn, who had earlier asked Hvistendahl's advice in matters of conscience, placed a ten-dollar gold piece in the collection. The usher who received it was convinced at first that the coin must be copper, for people generally gave coins of small denominations. The wonder grew when after the service the Finn announced his intention of giving fifty dollars to the building fund, a promise which he kept a few days later. Like many of the young men of the congregations, he was a common laborer. Neither of these men had been asked to contribute.
Hvistendahl had not been outside San Francisco during the past half year, because in the places he had visited earlier, Sacramento and Napa, nothing much could be accomplished by a week-day visit. Besides, San Francisco alone was too large a mission field. In Napa there were some Norwegian families from the Stavanger area who seemed to have an interest in religion, and in Sacramento there were Swedish and Norwegian families but they were, he felt, too few to form a congregation.
Hvistendahl's next report was in the form of a letter. He had been in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark during the summer of 1872.
He told of a general meeting of the Seamen's Mission Society in Tønsberg, of a growing concern in
the homeland for the countrymen who had migrated, and of a changed attitude in Norway toward the Synod. He also discussed religious controversies in America, in which he had played a role.
Physically and spiritually strengthened, he returned to his tasks in October. During his absence a few had fallen away from the church --- people who were not really "of us." The "largest part of the people out here," he inconsistently wrote, grew up in "a cold period that was weak in faith"; as a result, "they often brought with them from home only a dead faith." Furthermore, San Francisco was a dangerous place for unguarded and unstable childhood. All of the prisons in the city and state were full, and a large percentage of the criminals were under twenty-five.
Then, as now, it was but an easy step from the subject of delinquency to that of the schools. Even the descendants of the Puritans, Hvistendahl observed, were often sent to Roman Catholic schools and the Catholic Church, he insisted, was working hard to set up new schools and to bring students to them. "There is only one thing," he maintained, "that will help --- that we Protestants cease merely protesting. We must ourselves take a hand in things and do all in our power to prevent our adopted land from being ruled either by those without religion or by the papists. We must see to it that our children are able to receive a good secular education and, above all, a Christian upbringing; this demands the harmonious co-operation of home and school on a common Christian level. By founding Lutheran Christian congregational schools, we are thus working not only for the interests of the church . . . but also in behalf of the state, for if the non-religious or papist elements should come into the majority, we could read the fate of the
Republic in that of the French Republic of 1789  and in that of the republic in Mexico."
It was not only the Synod ministers who were worried about the school situation, Hvistendahl argued. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, even Methodists were beginning to take a greater interest in the subject. The Missouri Synod congregation in San Francisco had "started a German-American congregational school which already has about a hundred pupils --- the first school of its kind on the Pacific coast. It is my hope that this school will be a leaven by which in any case a small portion of the large German population here will be brought to Christ. Until now the situation has been extremely tragic --- so bad that they [some Germans] even pay a 'speaker' eighteen hundred dollars a year to preach against Christianity-against all religion . . . and the ungodly element is so powerful here that the authorities have not once attempted to enforce the Sunday law which was to have been put into effect in 1875." In spite of everything, however, he admitted that services in his church were well attended.
Personal tragedy struck the Hvistendahl family early in 1878 when death claimed one of their children. The first report of that year, written in grief, also struck a deep note of discouragement. Church attendance, it observed, had declined and "a spirit of dullness" seemed to have fallen over everything. For a time it had even seemed doubtful that sufficient funds would be collected to defray ordinary church expenses. But this storm, the third in the history of the congregation, had been weathered. Some warm friends of the church had spoken up strongly in support of the congregation's work at a general meeting. They felt that "it would be most tragic if the cause this time too should fail for lack of support. Some promised to make a greater effort to encourage outsiders to join us and to talk up the project
in wider circles." New members were added and funds began to come in. "So there is, economically, no immediate danger, but there are still many sandbanks and breakers threatening us and a deeper interest has not yet manifested itself.
Summer, he continued, was the worst of all times for the churches in San Francisco. Many people left the city; those who remained used Sundays for excursions of all kinds.
Tramcars to the parks, breweries, and all kinds of pleasure spots are then filled to overflowing. Processions led by musicians march through the streets, and there is always something new which the people run after with the enthusiasm of the Athenians in ancient times. Note that every Sunday during this season dawns with bright sunshine, that the heat is never oppressive, that the air a few miles from the city is perfumed by roses --- then you can understand that the majority who have been in the habit of spending Sunday in this manner, will not gladly stay home and go to God's house where they must hear a judgment on such a life without God.
One pronounced disadvantage for the Scandinavians lay in the fact that services were held in the afternoon, thus
preventing use of even part of the day for family outings. "That people who must work hard all week feel a desire for [fresh air] is quite natural."
Finally, parents cannot feel strongly drawn to a church to which they cannot take their children. These [the children] speak only English and feel more at home among the Americans, to whose Sunday schools they go. Many are even ashamed of their nationality and regard a Scandinavian church as an absurdity. Besides, there is no opportunity to have a stimulating pastoral conference, a gathering of mission friends, a festive ordination service, a church dedication, or similar ceremonies which so often serve to encourage both pastor and congregation in the East. Here we must always do without the strong moral support which a larger and well organized church body provides.
He concluded that there "is both light and shadow, but more shadow than light, in the picture." He was thinking of having a general collection for the church building fund in the fall. Lots in the best part of the city were expensive, and it would still be a couple of years before the congregation could gather in its own house.
Before this came to pass, there would have to be a genuine corporate spirit; at the moment the pastor felt he had to stand almost alone in the work of "gathering and preserving."
Hvistendahl fully appreciated the importance of auxiliary church organizations. He helped to start a Scandinavian Ladies Aid Society, the purpose of which was to arouse a community spirit and provide a means whereby friends of the congregation might have an opportunity to become better acquainted. The ladies met on Wednesdays and the meetings were given over to "Christian stories, descriptions
of nature and life in the northern countries, as well as to edifying conversation."
Each member paid a regular monthly fee; the money taken in was to be used in part for church needs and in part to assist needy Scandinavians. "There is now about sixty-five dollars in the treasury, and twenty dollars is being spent in small sums to alleviate immediate suffering." He also assisted in organizing a society for young men, which met at his house every Friday evening. "The purpose is to give young men the opportunity to become acquainted with persons who wish to lead an orderly life and who have, on the whole, higher interests."
"I first attempted," Hvistendahl wrote petulantly, "to have such meetings introduced in the local Scandinavian Society, but there was no interest in it, and perhaps the project fell through because the pastor was the person who first suggested it." The group meeting at his house was small, but he hoped that in time it might grow into something larger. As if wondering about the orthodoxy of his procedure, he explained:
The pastor's real business is, of course, to further spiritual enlightenment; but he must also say with the wise man of old, "I regard as foreign to me nothing that is human." Especially in city congregations, we meet many who harbor the prejudice that the minister is indifferent, perhaps even opposed, to so-called public enlightenment. This prejudice must be dispelled by both speech and action. The way to win many for the highest things will often be first to win them for the higher-for that which raises them above the materialism of the day. Therefore we must lift them up higher with us, without thereby giving up anything of that which belongs to God.
Hvistendahl also went among the sick and hunted out the needy. The latter, he said, were fewer than in the East. He visited the prisons, where his preaching was well received.
At the city's general hospital there were always several poor Scandinavians whom no one troubled about. Some years earlier these people perhaps possessed wealth, which they had scattered right and left in the company of "good friends." Unfortunate mine speculations, bad company, and a life of debauchery had caused money, friends, and health to vanish. "Ask them about father, mother, relatives and homeland and most often you receive an evasive answer, "he observed. "They retreat into a shell and can't understand why a stranger would want to talk to them now that they are poor. But with a little friendliness one gets, little by little, the opportunity to strike one of the few strings that are not broken and thus finds a little point of contact." Many of the patients were of "good family" in Europe, often of a noble line, and had received a fine education in childhood. "A few grew up in Christian homes. Once in a while there are some who come to see in poverty and sickness God's corrective hand, to receive the Word, and to desire the Lord's Supper."
He reported in some detail his experiences with a Norwegian sailor in prison. The seaman was charged with murder and sentenced to eighteen months for manslaughter. Hvistendahl had no doubt that "he acted in self-defense, for the person who was killed had threatened his life a couple of times and was in every way a violent man --- a terror to all --- while the Norwegian was always peaceful." It appeared that the best witnesses of the killing could not be found for the trial and that the others were prejudiced against the defendant because, although he served as a mate aboard ship, he was a foreigner. All this had made the Norwegian very bitter, for he had expected all along to go free. "How can a just God permit things to transpire in this way? . . . His religion was: 'Do right and fear no one!'" In prison the sailor's health, once robust, deteriorated rapidly because of the foul air and his inner suffering. He was converted by
Hvistendahl, who feared that the prisoner would not live "until we are able to arrange a pardon."
Church work in the fall of 1873 remained about as it had been earlier. Pastor Nanns, however, had seen several months earlier the wisdom of suspending his Scandinavian services, "as absolutely no one wanted to attend." A Swedish "exhorter" of the Methodist faith held meetings down on the water front where sailors hung out. "Not many attend, however," was Hvistendahl's observation, "and, for that matter, no good results can come of meetings where Methodists, Baptists, etc., get up one after the other." Older Californians among the seamen, he added, "lost confidence when 'Father' Taylor, a Methodist, had to leave from here." Taylor, once very active, had instituted, among other things, a savings bank for sailors. "But the result was, unfortunately, that the bank failed, and many lost all they had earned over a period of many years." The inevitable reaction was that they were filled "with bitterness and distrust toward all ministers, in fact toward all who wish to bring them together in God's Word." Hvistendahl rightly concluded that the "lot of the common sailor out here is very sad. San Francisco is justly in bad repute as one of the worst places to which he can come, for he is at once caught in a tight net of all kinds of temptations. To every boarding house is attached a bar, so that drinking and gambling, cursing and swearing go on both day and night." Several attempts to free "Jack," as the sailor was called, from boarding masters and "crimps," had failed and the "blood money" system continued to flourish.
"I have been able to draw a few young men out of this
seductive environment," Hvistendahl remarked, "and we hope that the church's influence will increase in time."
The practice of drinking in the Scandinavian Society, too, had always disturbed Hvistendahl. "A not small victory was won a couple of months ago," he reported, "when we were able to move out of the former quarters, which were linked to a saloon and all its consequent evil influences. As a member of the society, I have been eager from the start to have this nuisance abolished." With the aid of the president, Christian Christiansen, he was able to effect the reform. His "activity in this matter has aroused hatred among those who live by the motto, 'Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.'" For some time, he continued, "they have expressed their current displeasure by inviting not me as before, but Pastor Nanns, to perform their ministerial acts, despite the fact that they don't want anything to do with him either." Apparently the members were irked because Hvistendahl had always used his opportunity to "remind them of God's Word and to urge them to visit God's house." They felt that it was the minister's duty to speak of such things in church but "in their own house they wanted no 'moralizing.' They seem to have no awareness of the fact that there is such a thing as a private concern for the soul." The minister believed that such an attitude was a natural outcome of the state-church conditions under which the Scandinavians had grown up in the homeland. "We early experience out here that we cannot count on any special co-operation from the so-called educated people (dannede). When they arrive, poor and strangers, they often enough find the pastor's home; but later one sees little of them. In the larger cities a good deal of one's time is devoted to helping people straighten out material problems, for the pastors' time and the limited means of many of them are looked upon as public property."
In spite of obstacles, a small group in San Francisco clung to the church, and for them the mission was a blessing. The ladies' society, though not large, had acquired two hundred dollars in its treasury and the members were planning to contribute to the church building. The meetings of the young people had a smaller attendance than before; the reason was the recent establishing of two new secular Scandinavian social organizations in which they felt more at home than in the minister's house. A boy and two girls were preparing for confirmation at different times, the boy in Norwegian and the girls in English. There was no hope for a church lot this fall. Times had been poor, especially for those from whom he would have expected the largest contributions. But even so, about five thousand dollars had been subscribed, of which about four thousand had been paid in. Confidence in the church had been won, "and we can expect from now on a greater advance. But we can also' count on an ever-increasing opposition from those to whom the church is a thorn in the flesh."
Pastor Buehler's German-American congregational school had progressed remarkably. "A couple of days ago it celebrated its anniversary. It began with two men teachers and twenty-nine pupils and now has three men teachers, one woman teacher, and one hundred twenty pupils. We have been very happy to be able to send our daughter to the school, where discipline is enforced and instruction is based on a Christian foundation. The California state superintendent of public schools has presented the school with a number of valuable maps and sent his own son there to be instructed. Association with Pastor Buehler is my greatest inspiration."
"There is still no place out here," he added, "for another Scandinavian pastor, for the Scandinavians outside San Francisco are altogether too spread out. But 'there is much said and written just now to the effect that we can soon
expect a number of countrymen to arrive from the East. One paper, California Scandinav, which is working for this, has already come into being. But it is still too early to say just what will come of these efforts." California, however, would be a rich field for a German Lutheran circuit minister, and Hvistendahl felt that the Missouri Synod should send one.
Three and one half months later, in January, 1874, Hvistendahl was able to report that his congregation had observed Reformation Day and Thanksgiving. Christmas was naturally the day of days. "Christmas morning," he wrote, "at 6:30 we had early services, and in the afternoon at two o'clock our main service. A good choir did much to enhance the festive mood." At both services there were fairly large crowds, and "many who perhaps had not been in the church for a year or more thus heard the news of Him who is the day's real Prince." On New Year's Eve the gathering was larger than had been expected, "and the collection that was taken, we were agreed, should be given to poor Scandinavians.'' Hvistendahl was eager to begin a fund "from which the deserving poor can be helped in small amounts. By thus following the example of the apostolic church," he believed, "we will contribute not a little to the spread of Christ's Kingdom and strike a decisive blow against all secret societies," which he was convinced were nowhere in the world "so widespread as here in San Francisco." New Year's Day was cold and rainy. It was the custom on this day for the men to make calls while the women stayed home to receive visitors. Nevertheless, services were held and a handful of people attended.
The regular annual meeting of the congregation was held after a short service on the first Sunday after New Year's. "The accounts demonstrated that we made progress [during 1878], even if with hesitating steps, and we dare to hope that in a spiritual sense, too, a real step forward has been
He found comfort in the fact that a few "who are wholeheartedly with us" met at his house every Thursday evening. "We pray, sing, and read God's Word- at the moment David's psalms." The ladies' society had two hundred thirty-five dollars in its treasury after having aided the needy during the past year. On the whole, however, he was dissatisfied with the year 1875, largely because of poor church attendance.
Hvistendahl had long desired to speak to his congregation of the Synod's mission work, inner and foreign, but he had felt constrained by the thought that his was itself a mission church --- one lacking even a building of its own. Nevertheless, he presented the matter at a Sunday service. When the collection was counted, "it was found that $22.35 had been contributed," and among the coins was a ten-dollar gold piece. "I hereby send to your mission treasury $25 as a part-payment toward what was expended on this mission by my trip in 1870."
In the spring of 1875 Hvistendahl considered the time suitable for a review of his entire church effort on the west coast; and well he might, for he was soon to leave his mission charge to return to Wisconsin. He felt that, as a result of his work, a group of people had been "awakened to serious thought" and that his little congregation had become "a weak light, but still a light, in the great spiritual darkness." Often he had said to himself, "Had I been able to foresee what such a pioneer task would demand, my courage would have failed me." The banner of the church had been raised not one day too soon, for the Scandinavians in California were fast becoming victims of "materialism and the rankest disbelief."
San Francisco had grown rapidly in recent years to a population of two hundred fifty thousand. Its location guaranteed the city a place among the world's leading centers of trade. "Perhaps in the future it will be of greatest significance that an evangelical Lutheran congregation could be established here." The cold winters and the grasshopper plagues in several of the middle-western states, he continued, had "turned the eyes of many to California and the Pacific coast as a whole. Immigration last year was very large, and it appears that it will be even greater this year." Many Scandinavians from Chicago, New York, and. elsewhere had settled in San Francisco, but "most frequently they are such as do not trouble themselves much about God's Word." There had been no migration of farmers as yet and no substantial Scandinavian settlements in California had been made. Hvistendahl felt that if farmers, now keenly interested in the Pacific coast, did begin to migrate, the "best arrangement would be for a group to come at the same time, buy land together, and, at least in the beginning, work together in accordance with a definite understanding."
His last report to the Synod also noted that he had begun to use the full Lutheran liturgy, "and we try to get the whole congregation to take part in the responses." The congregation had obtained the services of a good organist, who also organized a choir to lead in singing.
In the past the singing had done more harm than good. "I understand absolutely nothing about music," he wrote, "but I feel that the lively and warm singing of the hymns lifts me up and helps me no end in my services." He would like to have the Synod do something about improving the singing in churches elsewhere too and would welcome the founding of a conservatory especially designed to "lift our church singing to a higher level."
He was dissatisfied with his work for the children, which "until now has been limited to the yearly preparation for confirmation. This must be in English, for most of the children out here cannot express themselves in any other language." He keenly felt the lack of suitable books to use in this work, and he added, "It is my intention, for the sake of my own development if not for other reasons, to put my hand to this task as soon as God gives me the strength." On Palm Sunday he confirmed five boys and eight girls. "Never before was the church so full." On Easter, fifty-two participated in the sacrament of the altar, and "almost every one of these seemed in our eyes to have approached the altar in the right spirit."
But Hvistendahl was more conscious of difficulties than of small successes. In a city like San Francisco it was no easy matter for the people who visited the church to become acquainted with one another. "The distance to church is often great and the route difficult, so that when services are over, one must hurry to get home." The ladies' society that he had organized in 1878 now numbered one hundred twelve members. It had given assistance to the old and to widows and had done something to weld a group spirit. "One can be a member of this society without being a member of the church, but even so, in some eyes, it has acquired an altogether too churchly look, for the officers have always been church members and I have served as secretary and treasurer most of the time." As a consequence, another group of Scandinavian women organized a new society in 1874.
This society set as its goal the building of a home for old and needy countrymen. Pastor Nanns was one of the trustees of the new organization, and its work, Hvistendahl felt, was such that it must be regarded "as an opposition society."
However, he hoped "that these ladies will do some good" and rejoiced "that the founding of their society has at least brought us closer together."
In speaking of the possibility that the Scandinavians might continue to hold together in church work, he observed that "experience seems to teach us that a Scandinavian congregation can survive only until the three national groups are strong enough each to organize its own congregation." The Norwegians and Danes could very well remain united, "as their language and the whole order of religious service are so close." The Swedes, however, naturally preferred services in their own language, despite the fact that they could "easily understand a Norwegian sermon." A Swedish Lutheran congregation would be formed in the not distant future. "Pastor [Jonas] Auslund of St. Paul worked here during the winter, and it was dear that there is a real desire here for such a congregation." Hvistendahl maintained a "brotherly relationship with Pastor Auslund," whom he considered a "serious man who moreover preached the Gospel in its pure form in accordance with our Lutheran profession." Hvistendahl would "rejoice if the Augustana Synod were able to send one of its ablest men out here, for even though the field has now been worked over, it is clear that there will be much work for a man who is both strong and gifted."
"My health," he concluded, "in recent times has not been good. Nevertheless, God has always provided the needed strength, and it is my hope and prayer that He will give me courage and endurance for my work."
Though in everything Hvistendahl wrote to the Synod leaders he reported the activities of Scandinavians in San Francisco, he divorced their life more completely from that of the church in his letters to the Norwegian-American secular press of the Middle West.
Thus he repeatedly spoke of the members and organizational life of the Scandinavian Society, a proud organization started in 1559 which embraced the leading Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians of the city. He called attention in 1872, for example, to the fact that the members had incorporated a Scandinavian Hall Association, with a nominal capital of seventy-five thousand dollars, to assist the society in acquiring a lot and erecting on it a building of its own. The new structure, besides providing clubrooms for the use of the society, would also have office and shop space that could be rented to business and professional men. If this seemed inadvisable, the association would purchase an older building that could be altered to serve the same purpose. The balance in the society's treasury at the moment was about twelve thousand dollars, of which three thousand must always be at the disposal of the sickness fund. From the difference, about nine thousand dollars, the society had bought shares in the hall association. Hvistendahl was of the opinion that half of the shares of the association --- at the start a total of 6,250 valued at twelve dollars each --- had already been taken. In the future, the society would use surplus funds each year to buy shares until all were sold. Hvistendahl also noted that the society had created a new fund of one thousand one hundred dollars which was set apart to aid Scandinavian widows and orphans in the city, and still another relief fund for other Scandinavians in no way associated with the society. From the latter fund, apparently intended to relieve short-term unemployment, persons could draw up to twenty dollars at a time. The same letter told of the death of one of the society's oldest members and first president, Consul-general George C. Johnson, a native of Bergen and a millionaire who had made his fortune in hardware and real estate.
In the late fall of 1875 Hvistendahl reported that the
Scandinavian Hall Association would soon begin to build a hall on a lot already in its possession. He stated, too, that a new Scandinavian society, Norden, had been organized.
It met in the evening once every other week and "in all probability has something better to offer than what the young people resort to in the large cities." He welcomed groups of the Norden type but added, "We must hope that they will one day also find the joy that comes of the highest." He had presumably heard reports of drinking at Norden meetings. "Apparently there has been progress from something worse to something better --- but not to the best." In this letter he retold the story of the removal of the Scandinavian Society to new quarters "where there is no saloon." Formerly, because of the near proximity of a bar, "there was no good order to the meetings; for many the bar became a temptation, and for the members who did not care for drink, card playing, and the like, it was a downright nuisance." The president, Christian Christiansen, was preparing to move to Paris; his departure would be a serious blow to the welfare of the society.
It was Hvistendahl's opinion that the Scandinavian element in San Francisco, while becoming stronger, had nothing like the influence and status enjoyed by Scandinavians in the Middle West. For this reason --- their basic weakness in relationship to the rest of the population --- the three northern peoples in California co-operated better than they did where they were more numerous. The Danes and Norwegians got along best, but the Swedes were in the majority. The president of the Scandinavian Society was
usually a Norwegian but at the present time he was a Dane and the vice-president a Swede.
The Scandinavians also became Americanized much more rapidly in San Francisco than elsewhere, again for the reason of their small numbers. And they, naturally, had their just portion of "hyper-Americans." A majority of the Norwegian and Danish population consisted of sailors, and a large percentage of the small coastal ships and individually owned larger craft were the property of Scandinavians.
In April, 1874, Hvistendahl reported the deaths of two men who had long been leaders in the Scandinavian Society, Peter Magnus and Gustav O'Hara Taaffe. Magnus, a Norwegian watchmaker, was neither particularly gifted nor wealthy, but he had been a striking personality and a remarkable leader; he had lived in San Francisco a long time and was seventy years old at the time of his death. Taaffe, the most distinguished Dane in the city, had been Danish consul and, following the death of Johnson, had served as the official representative in San Francisco of Sweden and Norway. Taaffe had been president of the Scandinavian Hall Association, had had an important role in starting the newspaper California Scandinav, and was a trustee and a generous supporter of Our Saviour's Church. He died at the age of forty-eight.
In his youth Hvistendahl had sailed before the mast on Norwegian ships. In San Francisco he had many friends among the seamen, and his letters reveal a perception of the suffering and abuses they endured. His letters to the Synod publication reveal that he spent considerable time among the sailors on the water front. It is therefore not at all surprising to find among his writings a long letter to Fædrelander og emigranten, in 1875, captioned "Seaman Syvert
Nilsen's Ill Treatment and Death" and dealing with the familiar theme of the brutal handling of sailors on board American ships.
This letter precipitated something of a newspaper controversy with Rasmus B. Anderson, who at the time and for understandable reasons was unduly sensitive to criticisms --- especially those emanating from clergymen --- of Americans and American institutions.
The bark "Crusader" sailed from New York October 22, 1872, carrying a cargo of coal for San Francisco. Its crew of nine sailors included a Swede, a Dane, a Finn, and a Norwegian (Syvert Nilsen ). The cook was also a Norwegian. On the first day out of port the crew learned what was in store for them. The captain was a brute and the second mate "a regular tiger" who took an almost inhuman pleasure in the sufferings of the men. Blows came not only from the fists of the officers but also from iron pins; cries of pain could be heard on the ship day and night, and blood occasionally flowed on the deck. Some of the American sailors learned that they would fare well enough if they turned their backs on what was going on; the Norwegian cook also escaped injury. But in the tyranny that developed, the foreigners suffered terribly. The Swede and the Finn had their noses smashed by the second mate, and a Scotchman soon died from mistreatment.
The sailor who was singled out for the most savage handling on the voyage was Syvert Nilsen, who apparently lacked experience on the sea and was certainly unfamiliar with English. The rage of the officers knew no limits when he failed to understand an order. The food for all was inadequate and bad, but Nilsen, who was now so weakened that he was unable to work, was deprived even of this fare unless he came to the galley to get it --- an exertion that much of the time was beyond him. If the Norwegian cook had not secretly carried food to him, Nilsen would have
starved. When the bark was rounding Cape Horn in January, 1878 --- in snow and storm --- he was subjected to unspeakable indignities and exposed to the cold in such a manner that he contracted consumption.
When the ship called at Acapulco on April 15, a doctor who examined Nilsen said that he would not live more than two months because of the condition of his lungs. The captain considered it wise to pay off the second mate, who signed on a steamer for San Francisco, whence he sailed on a ship bound for Liverpool. At Acapulco the captain also paid off the young Swede, whose nose was so battered that he was almost unrecognizable. By the time the bark arrived in San Francisco, on June 15, the reign of terror on board had deprived the crew of both courage and strength and rendered them almost indifferent to suffering.
Nilsen, who miraculously survived the last phase of the journey, was taken to Marine Hospital, where he died a week later. Before his death, the cook took his story to the Swedish-Norwegian consul, who had the captain, the first mate, and the crew arrested so that the case might be tried. No effort or expense was spared by the consul and the Scandinavian Society in having justice done, but they might as well have saved themselves the trouble. On September 3 the court handed down its verdict: a fine of three hundred dollars for the captain, another of one hundred dollars for the mate. The jury system, Hvistendahl concluded, works to the advantage of those who are members of the local organizations, as apparently the ship's officers were, or of mighty corporations --- but it was no boon to a foreign sailor.
Evidence at hand indicates that the Nilsen case was in no sense an exceptional one at the time; Hvistendahl in all probability reported the simple facts of the sailor's misuse and death. And had he merely written his story for Norwegian papers in America, a controversy might not have followed. But he also wrote a similar report to the
conservative paper Fædrelandet in Christiania. Soon a reply came from Professor Rasmus B. Anderson, who explained that during a recent visit to Norway he had read about the Nilsen case in the Norwegian press. All the conservative newspapers, he added, had reprinted Hvistendahl's account as just one more argument against migrating to America. The story, Anderson argued, would also give aid and comfort to the government party in the homeland in its battle with such liberals as Sverdrup, Bjørnson, and Jaabæk, in whose eyes America was something of a paradise for the common man when compared with Norway.
The conservative papers supporting the administration regularly printed all that was unfavorable to the United States, and articles and warnings written by educated persons naturally carried considerable weight, especially when based on personal observation.
Anderson asked if Hvistendahl had investigated fully conditions aboard American ships or had merely drawn conclusions from the one case reported. One frosty night, he reminded, did not constitute a whole winter. "Because one American ship's captain has mistreated his crew is no reason for saying that American captains as a whole are cruel." Then he launched forth on his current theme: "I am an American, and you should be the same, in that you have left Norway, sought a new home among us, and earn your bread here; it is our duty as Americans to combat hostile attacks against the country that protects us. To criticize conditions here is proper enough, but to send warnings abroad against one's own country I find less acceptable." If Hvistendahl had been sent from Norway, in Norway's interest and at her expense, to investigate conditions among sailors here, the matter would naturally appear in a different light, "but even then you would not be justified in stepping beyond the
boundaries of truth." As it was, Hvistendahl "has settled here and is in American service; therefore it is doubly unjust of you to warn people against America."
Americans, Anderson continued, treat people of all national origins with courtesy and hospitality. He knew from experience that this was true of American farmers. Maids were better off here than in Norway. And he had a brother who had sailed a great deal on the inland waters without complaining. He had himself known many American sailors and had traveled on the Great Lakes, where the captains were gentlemanly enough. The American consul in Liverpool had recently informed him that our captains are as humane, if not more so, than most. A Danish captain had told him that sailors, by and large, fared better on American ships than on those of any other country.
Anderson admitted that he wrote in reply to Hvistendahl partly because he had been requested to do so in Norway, presumably by liberals. But he said that he was also concerned because he had observed that certain of the Norwegian pastors in America had been in the habit of criticizing the American people and their institutions-"and, as it would seem, for no other reason than to ingratiate themselves with the party of the government in Norway. They appear, in this way, to be paving the way to a position in the homeland. They have not made up their minds to live here all their lives and therefore have matters well planned in case it should be necessary to beat a 'retreat.' The government party in Norway will gladly pay to have some officials among the people who have been in America for a time and have come back with their pockets and trunks full of terrible stories about that country." Anderson said he was "thinking just now of Pastor A. C. Preus." Preus, the former president of the Synod, was reported to have announced in Quebec, before returning to the homeland, that there was nothing but corruption in America, that he believed in monarchy,
and that conditions in Norway were more desirable generally than those in the United States. Upon his return to Norway, he at once received a call and, as Anderson put it, was in the good graces of the conservative government party. Anderson admitted that Preus had done much good in America, but he added that it was pitiful to see him "soil his life work" for the sake of his daily bread. "Do not you, Pastor, go and do the same."
A note added to the Anderson letter by the editor of Skandinaven og Amerika repeated that Hvistendahl had made a serious charge against American shippers in general. If things were as bad as he reported, "why haven't we heard the same from the hundreds of sailors who live in Chicago and Milwaukee?" The editor suggested that some of these sailors should speak up, and he underscored Anderson's accusations about playing up to the authorities in Norway.
Responses soon poured into the offices of Skandinaven og Amerika. Ole Bendixon, of Chicago, claimed that he had sailed on Norwegian, Danish, German, and American ships and that sailors were treated best on American ships.
Lars Eriksen said that Anderson knew nothing about life on the sea. Captains on American ships came from all countries, as did the crews. Conditions on the high seas could not be compared with those on the Great Lakes and the treatment of men on seagoing vessels was often brutal.
The most interesting letter of all was addressed to Fædrelandet og emigranten by one who called himself "a sailor."
The writer had sailed on both salt water and the inland lakes. Conditions on the Great Lakes were completely unlike those on the high seas, he said, though on the coastal and West Indian
ships, and on many American ships plying the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, the officers were generally sympathetic with the men. On the high seas the skippers were often beasts; this was especially the case on the packets sailing, for example, between New York and London. But the same could also be said of the men, who indeed were often worse than the masters. The officers ("packet rats") came from everywhere, in fact had no home, and they frequently obtained crews in every kind of false manner. He had never heard anyone but Anderson claim these captains as fellow Americans or defend their tyranny; salt-water sailors, he concluded, would only laugh at him. The same paper also carried another article, one week later, attacking Anderson for unfair charges against Hvistendahl.
The December 9, 1873, issue of Skandinaven og Amerika included a defense of Anderson's position, and in the January 6, 1874, issue of Skandinaven, an old seaman strongly defended American officers.
Hvistendahl was not one to avoid a controversy, especially when he considered his cause an eminently just one. To Skandinaven og Amerika he wrote that Anderson's attack grew out of an entirely false interpretation of what he had written about the Nilsen incident.
"The truth is that some months ago I sent a communication to the Christiania newspaper Fædrelandet about a horrible case of mistreatment." He had told only a part of the story, which he had got from sailors on the "Crusader." He quoted liberally from this article and added that the worst treatment was administered to those who, like Nilsen, were unfamiliar with English and the duties aboard ship on long journeys. He had made no accusations against American captains as a group and neither had he issued any general warning to Norwegian sailors. Hvistendahl had often written in Norwegian papers of the many opportunities in America. Returning to the main issue,
he stated that in the past two months not less than five ships arriving in San Francisco reported mistreatment at sea. In at least nine out of ten cases it was foreigners, many of them Norwegians, who were brutally handled. An attack against this system of mistreatment, he concluded, would be good for both Norway and the United States.
In a few weeks Hvistendahl wrote another article on the same subject. Four more court cases had come up in San Francisco since Nilsen's. In less than five months, five sailors reported mistreatment of one kind or another. A notorious example was the case of the "Sunrise," with sixteen men on board, among them a sailor from Stavanger and three Swedes. One of the Swedes, N. P. Johnson, had been seriously abused by the captain and the first mate, who were veritable devils engaged in shanghaiing and savage beatings. A Frenchman on the "Sunrise" had been mistreated to the point where he sought escape by leaping overboard, followed by an Englishman, who jumped for the same reason. The newspapers in San Francisco were aroused by this shameful situation and were calling for reform.
It would be easy, in the light of the fact that Hvistendahl was first and last a pastor forging ecclesiastical links with the Scandinavians of the west coast, to overlook another and equally significant aspect of his mission in San Francisco. He also served as a prolific, if unofficial, correspondent of the secular Norwegian press of the Middle West. Certainly it was no fault of his if the many readers of Scandinavian newspapers, especially of Fædrelandet og emigranten, of the early 1870's remained uninformed of conditions in California, and the evidence, in fact, is conclusive that interest grew as a result of his numerous letters. Hvistendahl was, for a time and together with the Reverend A. E. Fridrichsen in Portland, Oregon, a chief and generally reliable source of
information about economic opportunities on the Pacific coast. Middle-western workers and farmers who suffered from the depression of the 1870's read his communications carefully, and many from the cities actually migrated to California. One can see in the period 1871-75 the beginnings of the later migrations of dissatisfied farmers, though generally they were restrained by speculation and high land prices in California and waited for rail connections that would carry them to the Pacific Northwest, where at a later date free or cheap land was to be had in considerable amounts.
In the spring of 1871, Hvistendahl wrote that the completion of the first transcontinental railroad (in 1869) had caused a general standstill in business, and that many firms had been driven to the wall. Real estate values and interest rates, which had been excessively high as a result of over-speculation, had taken their inevitable drop. Many workers were unemployed, though at the moment their lot was somewhat improved as compared to the situation of several months earlier. It was generally assumed that after this sharp reaction to speculation, better times would follow. Despite an oversupply of laborers generally, there was a notable shortage of servant girls. "An able girl earns from $20 to $25 a month. Norwegian girls are eagerly sought after and are able, even when not proficient in English, to find good employment at once." Because maids were, on the whole, better off in every respect in San Francisco than in the East, he recommended that they come out to the coast. As common laborers and craftsmen, especially those with large families, Hvistendahl suggested that they should remain where they were for the present, "for both rent and living costs are much higher here though cheaper now than before."
Numerous letters which he received from the Middle
West forced the pastor to explain in a Norwegian newspaper that after the completion of the railroad the market had been flooded with goods from New York and Chicago. Industry and trade had consequently languished, prices had dropped, and merchants without large capital surpluses had buckled under. Factories on the coast had been unable to compete with eastern ones, he said, in capital, machinery, and labor. Unemployment had been the result. Furthermore, as a consequence of lack of rain, harvests had been poor during the past two years; farmers were purchasing only what was absolutely essential. The best mines in California were now in the hands of capitalists who employed expensive equipment and new mining techniques; it was no longer profitable to dig gold with one's hands. Laborers were forced to compete with the Chinese, who were either unmarried or had left their families in China and therefore worked for low wages and took little interest in this country and its institutions. Shipping had naturally been hurt, too, and because a large percentage of the coastal sailors were Scandinavians, this national group had been especially hard hit. "Real estate and house rentals are now from twenty-five to fifty per cent lower than they were two years ago. Common necessities such as butter, eggs, meat, wood, coal, etc., are very high in price, while manufactured goods cost about the same as in the East." Therefore, he repeated, it would not be advisable for workers with families to come to the coast. Skilled and diligent unmarried artisans, on the other hand, might do better in San Francisco than elsewhere. He had come to believe that the extent of unemployment was perhaps exaggerated; an employment office had informed him that all who could and would work had been able to find jobs. Hvistendahl added, however, that it was frequently difficult for the stranger to secure employment immediately; but this, he added, was the case everywhere.
He also reported that much of the land in California was
said to be of an inferior quality. Vast stretches of the better land --- that, for example, in the San Joaquin Valley --- were held by speculators at exorbitant prices. An attempt had been made in the state legislature to force the speculators to sell at reasonable prices, but nothing had come of the effort. The state as yet had done nothing to promote immigration, and for people to place any confidence in the literature of railroad companies and land offices would be extremely unwise. From what had been told him, he thought Washington Territory and part of Oregon were at the moment better places than California for Scandinavian land seekers. He thought it wise for experienced farmers in the Middle West first to come out and inspect the land, which could be had at a cheap price in the Pacific Northwest in amounts large enough to permit extensive settlements. Outside of San Francisco, there were few Scandinavians in California, though a few had settled in Sacramento, in Napa, in Vallejo, in Alameda County, and in the San Joaquin Valley, where they were a respected element of the population.
Early in 1873 private inquiries had accumulated to the point where Hvistendahl found it necessary again to resort to a general letter to Fædrelandet og emigranten. He was now ready to admit that there was good land in California, but he repeated that much of it was held for high prices by speculators. From some of this land, too, access to markets was still difficult and in places rain was uncertain. However, in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere farmers had begun to irrigate at costs that were not too great, and there were prospects of short railways being built to markets despite the "shameful monopoly" of the Central Pacific. The weather in the San Francisco area was almost ideal, with no such winters as were known in the Middle West, where at the time of writing- in January- people in Minnesota and Wisconsin were freezing. He had met an agent sent to
California by a group of Swedes in Meeker County, Minnesota, to seek out suitable land for a settlement in one of the coastal states; Hvistendahl heartily approved this time-tested method of procedure and remarked further that farmers, especially those with families, should not leave for the coast unless they possessed a fair amount of capital.
Hvistendahl returned to his original theme that any number of Scandinavian housemaids, on the other hand, could come and at once receive from fifteen to twenty-five dollars a month. Unfortunately for their employers, however, they were hard to retain as servants because of the bountiful supply of unmarried young Scandinavian men in the city. Clerks, teachers, and educated young people were warned against migrating. But skilled workers were assured of a good living. Scandinavian tailors, mostly Swedes, prospered in San Francisco, and seamen could sail the year around out of San Francisco, earning from thirty to forty-five dollars a month, on ships owned mostly by Norwegians and Swedes. The local Scandinavian Society, he added, apropos of nothing at all, had a membership of about four hundred, and a better economic status than any similar organization that he knew, but it provided no lectures, no opportunities for discussion, nor meetings that worked to the betterment of its members.
A few months later, again deluged by letters from readers, Hvistendahl found escape in another report to the press. Those who wrote to him, he explained, fell into four categories. (1) Those who sought information about persons supposed to be living in California. These he urged to write to the Swedish-Norwegian consul. "Missing" people had often changed their names and were hard to locate. (2) Farmers who wished to migrate to the Pacific coast. He found it most difficult to advise them, but repeated earlier statements about land, speculators, and lack of rain. The
cost of transportation to the coast was high.
Greenbacks were not always acceptable in California, where many items had to be paid for in gold or silver. Even so, some farmers without means had come and were now well off. But there were many difficulties to overcome, and eastern farmers were often careless in matters that called for extreme caution on the coast, such as the proper time to plant crops. An agent selling good land south of San Francisco was offering it at from thirty to forty dollars an acre; it could also be obtained on lease for three dollars an acre, with an option to buy at a later date. Hvistendahl repeated his earlier advice to organize a company and send an agent to investigate the land; this agent would be given free transportation from San Francisco to southern California without obligation. When railroads later linked the southern and central parts of the state, land would naturally rise in price. As for Oregon, he now believed that there was little good land there; and along the coast, he said, rheumatism and ague were common. He had also heard unfavorable stories about Washington Territory.
(3) Workers. For artisans conditions were somewhat better than in the Middle West. The same was true for sailors. Common laborers, however, would find that California had few factories and that these employed large numbers of Chinese, with the result that there was much agitation against "John" (the Chinaman). Tailors, shoemakers, smiths, watchmakers, and carpenters were usually advised not to migrate, but Hvistendahl admitted that an able man in any one of these trades would perhaps make his way satisfactorily. (4) Clerks, white-collar workers, artists, teachers, druggists, agents, and poets, he said, were not wanted in California. And people of all classes and vocations who
valued church life and a good Christian community he advised to remain at home.
Hvistendahl, while making the Scandinavians conscious of California and himself succumbing little by little to the attractions of the state, always urged extreme caution on the part of those who contemplated moving there, with the exception of housemaids. Nevertheless, in the depression year of 1873 the number of Scandinavians arriving in California, "to take advantage of its wonderful climate and many resources," grew every day, according to a story in Nordisk folkeblad, which also claimed that professional and business men, as well as farmers, craftsmen, servant girls, and sailors, were sought after in California. Scandinavians, furthermore, were highly respected there.
It is Obvious that this story was reprinted from California Scandinav, a Scandinavian (Swedish) newspaper started in San Francisco in 1873. The purpose of the paper, according to Hvistendahl, was to convey information about land on the Pacific coast, especially in California. "The large landowners," he said, "seem to have had their eyes opened to the need of a more liberal policy and they now wish to do more to obtain, in particular, a larger Scandinavian immigration out here." California Scandinav's life, he added, was underwritten for at least a year through a fund contributed by persons financially interested in such a migration. Its publisher and editor was Hugo Nisbeth, a correspondent for the Stockholm paper Aftonblad and a man who had traveled widely and was familiar with economic and social conditions in the United States.
Hvistendahl agreed with the paper that there undoubtedly were several places in California
where experienced farmers from the East could succeed, and repeated that the best policy for these would be to purchase large stretches of land where settlements, complete with schools and churches, could be established. Persons coming directly from the Scandinavian countries would be unsuited to the demands of farming in California.
In a later report Hvistendahl flatly stated that men like Leland Stanford and Consul G. O'Hara Taaffe were personally interested in the paper and were eager to bring about a large influx of Scandinavians.
Conditions improved sufficiently in California during 1874 to give the state the appearance of being something of a "white spot" in a nation suffering from depression. The Scandinavian element there increased steadily but never attained to anything like the position and influence it enjoyed in the Upper Midwest. Building projects in San Francisco, such as the colossal Palace Hotel, called for large numbers of laborers. Maids were still in great demand and sailors could earn good wages the year around on coastal vessels. Conditions aboard ship were still hard, so much so that many seamen preferred to take employment on land at lower wages. Hvistendahl pointed out, as he had done on several earlier occasions, that the coastal trade was almost entirely in Scandinavian hands and that many of the shipowners were men of considerable means. The majority of the sailors organized in the Master Mariners Society, he said, also came from the Scandinavian countries, and the largest single group of sailors on American ships in California was Norwegian.
The lot of the agricultural laborer was described in rather
dark colors by Hvistendahl. Like
the worker in the city, he often found it difficult to obtain work at once. When hired on California farms he was forced to sleep in barns and to provide his own blankets; during harvest he slept in straw-stacks. Farm wages had been thirty dollars a month, rising to two dollars a day during harvest, but employment was less steady than in Wisconsin, where on the whole the hired man was fairly treated. "Up in most of the places [in California] the worker finds none of the comforts that he was accustomed to in the eastern states after he had worked for a time and become known as a capable fellow."
Recently some land, reported to be good, had come on the market at moderate prices. In Santa Barbara County, for example, a large colony was forming on the so-called Lompoc Rancho. The price per acre was from ten dollars and up, one fifth in cash and the remainder in nine years at ten per cent interest on the mortgage. A steamship ticket from San Francisco to the colony was six dollars. In the colony a town had been laid out and there was a sufficient supply of water and wood for fuel. Building lumber could be obtained elsewhere at a reasonable price. The sale of liquor there would be strictly forbidden.
Among the many who arrived in San Francisco during 1874, more than in any previous year, were Scandinavians who had planned originally to remain there for only a short time. Now, however, they desired to settle permanently in California. Some had gone back once to the Middle West or to Europe and then had returned to stay. As a result of the total influx of peoples of all national backgrounds, some two thousand new houses, far too few, had recently been constructed. Hvistendahl noted a large number of craftsmen from Chicago among the immigrants and observed that the suddenly increased labor supply would result in unemployment. Men with hand skills, however, would quickly be
employed. The Scandinavian arrivals gave evidence of being poor, indicating that they were victims of the depression. He added that the Scandinavians had tardily begun to cherish their native language and to treasure their historical memories, and that even church work was improving with the new upswing in business.
Hvistendahl reported in January, 1875, that since April, 1874, about thirty thousand people had arrived in San Francisco. Of these some had gone on by steamer to Oregon and Washington Territory, and others had returned to the East, but most had remained in California, many buying land and settling on it, notably in the southern part of the state. The greatest excitement of the year, however, had been caused by a new wave of speculation, not immigration. The speculation was in the shares of mines in Nevada as a consequence of new discoveries of metal in the famous Comstock Lode. The mines had taken on a new life and the sale and purchase of stocks had turned California Street in San Francisco, with its "bulls and bears," into a second Wall Street. Mining stocks had recently climbed in value from ten to one hundred seventy dollars. California Scandinav had failed; its publisher, who had been absent in Europe during much of the paper's brief life, recently returned to California - too late to save it. Hvistendahl felt that, had it been carefully and industriously managed, California Scandinav might have had a bright future. Another Scandinavian (Danish) newspaper, California posten, had been started without strong financial backing.
During the last months of his mission in San Francisco, Hvistendahl continued to paint the California scene with
dark as well as bright colors. He described the inevitable crash following speculation in mine shares and never ceased to urge caution on the part of the "little fellow" with a family who planned to migrate to the coast. He recommended reading California posten and pointed out in particular an article titled "Well-meant Advice to California Travelers," which echoed ideas that he had long preached in the secular press.
California posten, in an article captioned "Concerning California's and San Francisco's Development," had spoken earlier of the fine prospects for a new crop, the generally favorable conditions in the mines and in trade and industry, and concluded that the last two harvests had made California the state where one "lives best and most cheaply."
On the whole, however, it maintained a surprisingly moderate and responsible tone, and in its article "Well-meant Advice" stated that while it had faith in California's future, it could not honestly advise all who sought to escape the hard times in the East to come to the coast --- this despite the fact that "we do indeed need workers, farmers, craftsmen, sailors, and especially servant girls."
The article called attention to the fact that after a California farmer had harvested his crop, there was little for him or the agricultural worker to do until spring work began. In the cities the winter season, the time of rains, was a period during which few buildings were erected. Yet it was precisely during this quiet season of the year that the heavy influx of immigrants from Chicago and elsewhere occurred. As a consequence, many did not at once find work; if they were penniless the situation was a serious one. "It is true," the article went on, "that there are a couple of Scandinavian societies here which give assistance to needy countrymen, but
for the most part they must limit their aid to widows and others who live with their families in poverty. Therefore, no one should ever come here who does not have enough to live on for a month or two without a job. A single person can live on twenty dollars a month if he is frugal." The cost was naturally much greater when one brought a wife and children. Poor families should have either relatives or friends in the city --- or a little reserve of money. It often happens, the article continued, that someone arrives from the East with his family and a promise of a job, only to find that no one meets his train and that there is no job and no assistance from the supposed friend. Therefore it is best for one seeking employment to leave his family at home until he has established himself in the job and in the city. The article was obviously inspired by the tears of many disappointed Scandinavians who had arrived without means and without friends. In no sense, however, did it constitute a retraction of what the paper had previously said about California.
California posten was more specific than Hvistendahl in its information about the wages that craftsmen could earn in San Francisco in 1875. The following list condenses the data given in an issue of February: Bakers, $40-60 per month, with board; job foremen, $60, with board and room; lesser foremen, $60 per month, without board; barbers, $15-$25 per week, without board; common workers, $3-4 per ten-hour day; in the mines, $60 per month, without board; boilermakers, $3-3.75 per day; bookbinders, $2.50-$5 per day; masons, $4-5 per day; foremen, $6-8; butchers, $40-75 (average $50) per month; house carpenters, $3.50 per day; ship carpenters, $4-6 per day; cigar makers, 50c-90c per day (mostly Chinese); hat makers, $3-4 per day (skilled ones badly needed); goldsmiths, $3-5 per day; painters, $3-5 per day; plasterers, $3.50-4.50 per day; plumbers, $4-4.50 per day; sailors, $26-30 per month (deep water), $40 per month (coastal); mates, $40-90 per month; maids, $15-55 (in
private homes), $20-30 in hotels; seamstresses, $1.50 per day, with board; women tailors, $1-3 per day; tailors, work by piece (good income); shoemakers, $2-4 per day (Chinese); upholsterers, $3-5 per day; wagonmakers, coppersmiths, machinists, etc., $3-4 per day.
The Norwegian newspapers of the Midwest in 1874-75 regularly ran stories from California, usually reprints of articles in California Scandinav or California posten. Budstikken, for example, in 1875 had a short column under the caption "News Bits from the Pacific Coast" (Smaanyt fra Pacific-kysten). The papers also reprinted stories that had no direct connection with the Scandinavians of the West, but which had the effect of making the Scandinavians of the Middle West conscious as never before of California and, to a lesser extent, of Oregon and Washington Territory. They were therefore no longer dependent for west-coast news on the letters written by Hvistendahl. His reports continued, however, to appear.
In answer to letters from businessmen and schoolteachers, asking if they should migrate to California, he urged them strongly to stay at home. Scandinavians, he added, were arriving every day, and many were going to the mines at Virginia City, Nevada, where from five to six thousand people were without work.
He reviewed a book by John S. Hittell on the Resources of California, which he said came the closest to the truth of any such publication, but he advised no one to consider his review as advice to go to California.
Hvistendahl's last letters from San Francisco were generally pessimistic in tone, reflecting no doubt exhaustion from overwork and a certain measure of disappointment over the results of his pastoral efforts. He spoke of the oversupply of workers resulting from the constant influx of immigrants,
many with "heads full of exaggerated ideas"; of maids who complained of the fact that they had to work too hard and enjoyed no personal freedom; of farm workers who had to sleep in the open air and were victims of the seasonal system of employment; of an immigration bureau, recently started, which had only a few offices and seemed interested only in selling land or in collecting the two or three-dollar fee that it charged for its services. Land was rising in price again, about twenty-five per cent in the last eighteen months. About fifty Scandinavians had recently tried to organize a political club, had elected officers, had stressed the word "in- dependent," and insisted they would vote only for good men --- meaning those who would be friendly to the Scandinavians. Actually, he concluded, the Scandinavians had little in common with one another.
About a month before Hvistendahl left San Francisco, he wrote his last letter in answer to the many inquiries he had been receiving during the summer of 1875. Conditions in San Francisco were both good and bad, he said. There was much building, and so masons and carpenters were kept busy; all skilled labor, in fact, could find opportunities there, but he warned again, as he had done so often in the past, against thinking that jobs could always be found at once. The employment offices were always full of those seeking work, both in the city and in the small towns and country. People returning from Oregon reported that little was going on there. He urged those who wished information about Oregon to write to a Mr. Hjerpeland in Portland, who had traveled through the state and knew more about its resources than any other Norwegian. Hjerpeland would give a more reliable report, he said, than Pastor Fridrichsen. Hvistendahl advised against migrating to Oregon, where life was still more wild and unchristian than in California.
Hvistendahl's parting advice to Norwegians in the Middle
West was against selling their farms and moving to California to settle. There was little promise, he said, that there would ever be Norwegian settlements in the state.
The chief reason for his negative counsel then appeared more clearly than in any of his earlier letters. People who migrated would have to give up church life, old acquaintances, and all that made life agreeable in the East. The Scandinavians in San Francisco --- and they were now fairly numerous --- were less fortunate than those in the Middle West. They found less cordiality among people, and considerable numbers deserted their own countrymen. Of late a restless spirit had seized them, an unfortunate influence on character.
Without being immodest, I can say that the work of our Lutheran congregation has done not a little to bring about better times for our countrymen out here. The prejudice, even opposition, with which this work was met on the part of the majority during the first two years seems now to have disappeared to a considerable extent. But on the whole all churches here have an exceedingly difficult task, and there are hardly five out of every hundred adult persons who somewhat regularly go to God's house, while the ninety-five spend their Sundays in the saloons, in the parks, or on picnics. Monday mornings the police judge has his heaviest work; it is no exaggeration to call our city a heathen place where the Christians have their mission stations. And a large percentage of those who call themselves "cultivated" even pride themselves on being "freethinkers."
With this he characteristically launched into a sermon. Interestingly, he was far less harsh on such evangelists as Hammond, Moody, and Sankey than on the Lutherans,
especially those belonging to synods other than the Norwegian and the Missouri. "If only," he concluded, "we Norwegians in all our congregations could have a really serious and fundamental awakening, especially an inner and living acceptance of the Truth!"
In his last reports, both to the Synod council and to the secular press, Hvistendahl complained of failing health. In addition, as already noted, he was obviously discouraged over his work and eager to return to the Middle West. He therefore welcomed a call from Stoughton, Wisconsin. After services on June 6, 1875, he read his letter of resignation to the congregation, and at a meeting of the trustees at his home two days later he "recapitulated the reasons for his resignation as given to the congregation. He laid particular stress on the fact, that all the members of the [Norwegian Synod] church council, including the President of the Synod, the Vice-President, the President of the Norwegian Lutheran College at Decorah [Luther College] and other representative men of the Synod had urged him to accept the call from Stoughton and MacFarland congregations in Wisconsin. They believed, that he could be of more use to the church at large there, and that a younger man might go on with the work in San Francisco." The trustees agreed that "his reasons for accepting the call were good and valid."
Hvistendahl explained that he intended to leave at the end of August or the beginning of September. One of the trustees wondered if, in selecting a successor, they should not call a Swedish minister. "But it was agreed, that a Norwegian minister was understood by all, while the Danes could not understand in any degree a Swedish clergyman as was ascertained when Pastor Auslund was here. And as about three fourths of the members were Danes and
Norwegians, they could not be expected to give up their preferences.'' It was agreed that a minister should be called from the Norwegian Synod, and that a sum of one hundred twenty-five dollars should be paid out of the current expense funds as a help to the traveling expenses of the minister who would accept such a call. At a congregational meeting on August 8, Captain Adolf Petersen read a resolution in English and Dano-Norwegian recognizing that Hvistendahl's "opportunities for promoting the cause of Christ and serving the church at large with his peculiar talents will be greater there [in Stoughton] than in his present position." But the congregation "would gladly have continued the pastoral relations." Hvistendahl had obviously "endeared himself to our hearts" and the people expressed their gratitude "for the good he has accomplished among us." After services on August 29, Hvistendahl announced that he had received a letter from the Reverend Lauritz Carlsen saying that he had accepted the San Francisco call but would be unable to leave before the middle of October or even later.
Hvistendahl preached his farewell sermon on August 29, 1875, using as his text, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." With the free-will offering that was given to him he promised to buy a keepsake that "should be to him a dear memento of his friends in San Francisco." California posten reported that never before had so many been in the church on Mission Street as on August 29. Hvistendahl was thanked in particular by the overflow crowd for his work with the sick and needy Scandinavians in the city. He agreed to write a letter each week that could be read to the congregation on the Sundays that they would be without a pastor.
The Hvistendahl family boarded a steamer for
Sacramento on the day following the farewell sermon. At Sacramento they caught a crowded emigrant train and apparently enjoyed the company of many of the travelers. The ear in which they rode had plenty of good water and two stoves on which they could boil coffee or tea, and was provided with seats that could be so adjusted at night that one could sleep quite satisfactorily on them. Hvistendahl felt that such trains were comfortable enough when one considered the low fare, but they were only about half as fast as the express trains.
The journey to the end of the Central Pacific at Ogden, Utah, took five days. There the passengers had to walk a short distance to a Union Pacific train which would carry them to Omaha; those with no baggage or very little got to the waiting train first and took all the available seats. The late arrivals, among them the Hvistendahls, who required help with their luggage, made such a serious protest that another car was added to the train and thus all found seats. They arrived in Omaha without incident in the evening of the eighth day of the journey. In Omaha they slept one night at an emigrant hotel near the station and next day left for Chicago. The journey to Chicago on the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy was delayed by floods, which had washed out bridges and tracks in certain places. After a short rest in Chicago, the Hvistendahls departed for Milwaukee, where they arrived September 11. Two days later they were in Stoughton, warmly welcomed by the Reverend and Mrs. J. A. Ottesen and others and, though tired, they were happy and grateful to be back in Wisconsin.
Hvistendahl served the congregations at Stoughton, doubtless with great ability, until 1881. During this time, too, he continued to write on religious subjects and proved to be an eager protagonist for the Norwegian Synod in the controversies which consumed the energy of pastors and
laymen and helped to fill the columns of even the secular press. In 1881 he returned to Norway, where he served the church of his native country until 1911, completing his long and useful career in the ministry as sogneprest at Strømsø. His death occurred in January, 1918, at Christiania. It is interesting to note that he continued to write to the Norwegian-American papers after 1881, often submitting book reviews, but in his letters one finds nothing pertaining to his California experiences. His heart and mind remained, in a sense, in the American Middle West, as had been the case during the years 1871-75. Yet it was his mission to San Francisco, with its concrete results in the vital expansion of church work and the less tangible consequence of acquainting the Scandinavians of the Middle West with the Pacific coast, that constitutes his one important claim to recognition in the history of migration within the United States.
<1> This and succeeding volumes of Our Saviour's (Vor Frelsers) Church records are preserved in the Norwegian Lutheran Church of San Francisco, the Reverend A. C. Anderson, pastor. Hvistendahl kept his records in English, but his successors reverted to the more familiar Norwegian.
<2> It is interesting to note that a Norwegian-American pastor, Hans Gasmann, went to California in 1859 as the first Episcopal minister in the mining town of Sonora. He served in Stockton, 1862-66, and, after a period away from the coast, later preached in San Francisco and Santa Clara. Sophus Hartwick, Danske i California og California historie, beretninger om de danakes liv og virke fra de tidligste pioner dage, 1:411 (San Francisco, 1939 ).
<3> The census report for 1870 gives the following figures for California as a whole: Danes 1,857, Norwegians 1,000, Swedes 1,944. These figures include only those born in Europe.
<4> The Scandinavian leaders in San Francisco first asked for the Reverend J. A. Ottesen. Because Ottesen's health was not adequate to the task, the Synod recommended Hvistendahl.
<5> The census figures for 1870 give Utah Territory a total population of 86,786. Of these 4,957 were born in Denmark, 1,790 in Sweden, and only 613 in Norway. The majority of the Scandinavians lived in Box Elder, Cache, Salt Lake, Sanpete, and Utah counties.
<6> Fædrelandet og emigranten (La Crosse, Wisconsin), October 27, 1870.
<7> Chr. Hvistendahl, "Gjennem Omaha og Salt Lake City til San Francisco,'' in Kirkelig maanedstidende (Decorah, Iowa), 16:8-12 (January 1, 1871).
<8> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 16:44-47 (February 1, 1871).
<9> Nordisk folkeblad (Minneapolis), December 7, 1870.
<10> See Hartwick, "Skandinavisk samvirke i foreninger," in Danske i California, 1:308-311. An interesting but not entirely reliable record is August Wetterman, "History and Review of the Scandinavian Society of San Francisco, Cal.," a manuscript account, written in 1912; a copy of it is in the California State Library, Sacramento.
<11> In 1865 the society purchased part of Laurel Hill Cemetery, earlier known as Lone Mountain Cemetery.
<12> Nordisk folkeblad, November 30, 1870.
<13> He apparently refers to the Reverend Janne Tenggren, who came from Sweden in 1861 to serve a small Swedish congregation in the city, and to a Pastor Stromberg, who served there from 1864 to 1867. Stromberg was able to change the name of this congregation to the Scandinavian Evangelical Church. At least two other Swedish pastors served this congregation for short periods before Stromberg's arrival. A permanent Swedish church, the Evangelical Lutheran Ebenezer, was started in 1882 by the Reverend Johannes Telleen of the Augustana Synod. Ernst Skarstedt, California och des svenska befolkning, 179 (Seattle, 1910); and Wetterman, "History and Review of the Scandinavian Society."
<14> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 16:44-47 (February 1, 1871).
<15> Consul Gustav O'Hara Taaffe, the local man chiefly responsible for the new church, was made president of the board of trustees, and John G. Nelson, a Norwegian, was elected first treasurer.
<16> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 16:59-61 (February 15, 1871 ); and "Records of 'Our Saviour's?"
<17> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 16:59-61 (February 15, 1871); and "Records of 'Our Saviour's.'"
<18> Fridrichsen, a native of Norway, was held in low esteem by the Synod leaders. In 1854 he had accepted a call from a Norwegian Lutheran congregation in Kaufman County, Texas; he emigrated the next year. After 1857 he was in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and in the late 1860's he served congregations in Houghton County, Michigan. When he went to Michigan, the Synod paper, Kirkelig maanedstidende (15:28 - January 15, 1868), said, "Seemingly he can no longer find a permanent charge without resorting to the most out-of-the-way segment of the Norwegian population." In the spring of 1871 he organized a Scandinavian congregation in Portland, Oregon, where he remained until his death in January, 1882. He was never a Synod pastor.
<19> The "Church Chronicle," in "Records of 'Our Saviour's,'" reveals that in the beginning all his lectures were in English. Some of the lecture titles were "Timothy as a Model for Young Men," "What I Saw and Heard in Salt Lake City," "Missionary Experiences in San Francisco," "The Model Church," "Introduction of Christianity in Norway," and "The Best Inheritance We Can Leave to Our Children." After starting the Scandinavian program in September, 1871, he devoted these meetings very largely to a discussion of the Acts of the Apostles. His later English lectures included "Gustavus Adolphus, the Swedish Hero," "The Rite of Confirmation," "Ought We Scandinavians to Teach Our Children Our Own Language?" and "Life and Deeds of Martin Luther."
<20> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 16:344-349 (November 15, 1871).
<21> The "Records of 'Our Saviour's'" explains that one confirmand had used a Norwegian textbook, another a Swedish text. The first recited in Norwegian and the second in Swedish. On March 29, 1874, three children of Swedish parents were confirmed after being catechized in Swedish. Twelve were confirmed on March 21, 1875- six Swedes, four Norwegians, and two Danes.
<22> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 17:168-172 (June 1, 1872).
<23> At a meeting of Our Saviour's board of trustees, May 31, 1872, Hvistendahl gave, as reasons for his proposed four-month absence from San Francisco, impaired health and a promise given to his parents in Norway "to return on a visit in eight years."
<24> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 18:29-30 (February 1, 1873). He also reported on his Scandinavian tour in Fædrelandet og emigranten, November 7, 1872. He left on June 17 and returned October 19.
<25> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 18:71-74 (March 1, 1873).
<26> At the first quarterly congregational meeting of 1873, held April 4, the pastor flatly stated that "the cause of the church had for the last three months been declining, and if we could create no more interest, the cause would in a few months more prove a failure, and it was now for the people to decide, if they would let the church go down or not." He added that he wondered "whether it was right to work in a place, where the difficulties seemed almost insurmountable when there were other places, where the work of the Pastor would be much more acceptable and more good [could] be accomplished." Yet he would be sorry to leave a place "where a church was so very much needed." He offered to resign if the members thought a new pastor would further the work of the church. Captain B. H. Madison spoke in support of Hvistendahl and pledged his co-operation. Others echoed these sentiments. One member, a Swede, thought Hvistendahl was "too severe in his sermons and ought to address himself more to the feelings.'' The minister explained that he "had to preach law and the gospel to show, that there was a hell for the unbelievers as well as a heaven for believers- that God would bring us to fear the one and long for the other." A resolution endorsing Hvistendahl and supporting the work of the church was submitted by Captain Madison and was unanimously carried. "Records of 'Our Saviour's.'"
<27> The trustees on December 27, 1872, thoroughly discussed the feasibility of purchasing a lot and building a church of their own. Despite Hvistendahl's promptings, they "could not advise to make any definite move, but if we could raise $7,500 in cash, we might go ahead with the building." It was resolved "that we should do our best to increase the subscriptions to the Building-Fund and get so much of the subscriptions paid in as possible." By February, 1875, about thirty-two hundred dollars had been subscribed.
<28> Den Skandinaviske Kvinders Hjælpeforening, organized January 8, 1875, at the pastor's house. Though begun by the ladies of Our Saviour's, membership was open to persons outside the church without regard to religious faith.
<29> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 18:200-205 (June 1, 1875).
<30> The "crimps" made their living by furnishing captains with crews. They might also be the boarding masters. The crimps were organized into associations which monopolized the supply of sailors. When sailors were scarce, captains paid "blood money" to the crimps for their crews. The sailors, shanghaied aboard ship after being drugged or beaten, were often covered with blood.
<31> Kirkelig maanedstidende, 18:375-378 (November 1, 1873).
<32> As of January 4, 1874, the building fund showed a total of $3,990.36. By January 3, 1875, it had climbed to $4,931.70, and on April 28, 1876, it was $5,972.19.
<33> Evangelisk luthersk kirketidende ( Decorah, Iowa ), 1:91-94 ( February 6, 1874). This publication was the successor to Kirkelig maanedstidende.
<34> The organist, whose name was Lindtner, came from Chicago, where he had had experience in church work.
<35> He refers to the Scandinavian Benevolent and Relief Society, incorporated May 22, 1874, largely through the efforts of Metha Nelson, wife of the Danish shipowner Charles Nelson. Its aim was primarily to care for aged Scandinavians and it later operated an old people's home. Hartwick, Danske i California, 1:312-315.
<36> Evangelisk luthersk kirketidende, 2:280-283 (April 30, 1875).
<37> Fædrelandet og emigranten, June 20, 1872.
<38> Originally the Scandinavian Dramatic Club, organized in July, 1875, under the leadership of Danes. It quickly changed its name to Klub Norden, which has been termed the first Danish society in San Francisco. The membership seems to have consisted largely of young artisans and businessmen from Copenhagen and other Danish cities, but Norwegians also participated in the varied activities of the club. Hartwick, Danske i California, 1:319-325.
<39> Fædrelandet og emigranten, December 11, 1873.
<40> The following Norwegians served as presidents: George C. Johnson, 1859-62; Christian Christiansen, 1863, 1871-73; B. A. Hendriksen, 1865-66.
<41> Fædrelandet og emigranten, March 19, 1874.
<42> Fædrelandet og emigranten, May 7, 1874.
<43> "Sømanden Syvert Nilsens mishandling og død," September 4, 1873.
<44> Hvistendahl's report of his trip to Europe in 1872, "En snartur til Skandinavien," had used only harsh words in speaking of Jaabæk and even raised the question whether or not the leader of the Norwegian bønder was a Christian. Fædrelandet og emigranten, November 7, 1872.
<45> Skandinaven og Amerika (Chicago), October 14, 1873. Anderson's record of his trip to Norway in 1873 is in Life Story of Rasmus B. Anderson, 192-205 (Madison, Wisconsin, 1915).
<46> Skandinaven og Amerika, October 21, 1873.
<47> Skandinaven og Amerika, November 5, 1873.
<48> "Lidt om livet blandt amerikanske saltvandssøfolk"; November 13, 1873.
<49> Fædrelandet og emigranten, November 20, 1873.
<50> November 5, 1873.
<51> "Mishandling ombord paa det amerikanske skib 'Sunrise' og hvad bladene sige herom," in Fædrelandet og emigranten, November 20, 1873.
<52> Fædrelandet og emigranten, May 18, 1871.
<53> Fædrelandet og emigranten, October 26, 1871.
<54> Fædrelandet og emigranten, January 30, 1873.
<55> In 1873 the railroad fare from Omaha to San Francisco was $50.00 on the emigrant train. From St. Paul it was $67.85; from Chicago, $65.00. From San Francisco to Portland tickets cost $15.00 for steerage aboard steamers. Skandinaven og Amerika, July 8 and August 19, 1873.
<56> Fædrelandet og emigranten, June 5, 1873.
<57> Nordisk folkeblad, December 3, 1873.
<58> Hugo Nisbeth was also the former publisher of Figaro in Stockholm. His California Scandinav came out twice a month as a four-page, five-column paper until December, 1873, when it was enlarged to six columns. It carried stories in Dano-Norwegian as well as in Swedish. Skarstedt, California och des svenska befolkning, 203
<59> Skandinaven og Amerika, September 23, 1873.
<60> Fædrelandet og emigranten, December 11, 1873. Taaffe's interest in migration to California is revealed in a pamphlet of forty pages, Californien som det er, which he wrote and published in Copenhagen in 1869. This pamphlet is, on the whole, a sober and seemingly accurate account of conditions in the state, which he knew intimately through travel and business. Its appeal is largely to workers rather than to farmers. There is a copy in the California State Library, Sacramento.
<61> Fædrelandet og emigranten, September 24 and November 19, 1874.
<62> Fædrelandet og emigranten, December 31, 1871.
<63> Norden (Chicago), January 28, 1875. The first number of California posten appeared on Christmas Day, 1874. It was a four-page weekly with six-column pages. Its publishers were two young Danish typographers, Peter Freese and Ferdinand Iversen. Freese, after one year, left the paper, and Iversen a year later gave up the struggle to publish it alone. Hartwick, Danske i California, 2:873.
<64> "Velmente raad til California-farere," February 11, 1875. This article was reprinted in Budstikken (Minneapolis), March 2, 1875.
<65> "Om Californias og San Franciscos udvikling," reprinted in Budstikken, February 9, 1875.
<66> Reprinted in Norden, February 25, 1875.
<67> Fædrelandet og emigranten, March 4, 1875.
<68> Norden, April 29, 1875.
<69> Fædrelandet og emigranten, June 10, 1875.
<70> Norden, June 17, 1875.
<71> In the Fresno region, however, there was a Scandinavian settlement, largely Danish. California posten describes "A California Farm" owned by Dr. Otto Brandt. This was 640 acres in size, with 120 acres in grapes. Water from King's River and the Fresno Canal Company irrigated the fields, including 30 acres planted in cotton. The farm was also raising tobacco, corn, and barley. Reprinted in Fædrelandet og emigranten, January 21, 1875. California posten also discussed "Farming in California," informing Scandinavians of the peculiar problems they would meet in the Fresno and San Joaquin areas, where Scandinavians lived. Reprinted in Fædrelandet og emigranten, February 4, 1875.
<72> Norden, August 12, 1875.
<73> "Records of 'Our Saviour's.'" Carlsen arrived in December.
<74> Reprinted in Norden, December 16, 1875.
<75> Norden; September 23, 1875.