"We at Salemsborg have so benefited from the gifts of God's love, peace, strength, and joy through Jesus, that we seek to share these same gifts with others in grateful response!"
The southern portion of Saline County, and the northwestern portion of McPherson County Kansas was settled by Swedish Immigrants primarily from the province of Smäland, Sweden in the years 1868 and 1869.
The Galesburg Land Company was formed from members of the Swedish Congregations in Galesburg and Swedonia, Illinois with the intent of finding farms and homes for these recent immigrants. The very first settlers arrived in the fall of 1868 and the majority followed to Kansas in the early spring of 1869.
The Swedish settlers were led by C. J. Brodine, a lay minister and farmer from Illinois. His first priority was the organization of a Swedish Lutheran Church in the Smoky Valley. A first meeting was held on the Brodine homestead on June 16, 1869. A site was selected on the highest point in the community and 160 acres of land were purchased for the church from the Kansas Pacific Railroad for $2.50 an acre. The name for the church was to be Salemsberg, which loosely translated from Swedish means “peaceful mountain.”
The newly formed congregation soon began to build a church. It was to be a dugout made of sod with a stone foundation and was to be twenty feet wide by forty feet long. The sod walls could not withstand the wet summer and in October the walls were replaced with stone.
Pastor A.W. Dahlsten, leader of the Galesburg Company and pastor of First Lutheran Church of Galesburg, Illinois was called as the congregation’s first Pastor. He served the congregation from 1869-1888. He was an extraordinary man, the first Pastor of both the Salemsberg and Freemount Congregations, founder of the Kansas – Nebraska Synod of the Augustana Lutheran Church and instrumental in founding many Lutheran Congregations in Kansas.
The dugout church was soon too small and was replaced by a larger frame church in 1872. An accomplishment in architecture for this community included the placement of a great bell in the church tower.
Pastor Dahlsten retired in 1888 and the congregation called Pastor Carl Wallen to serve its growing needs.
In 1892 the congregation, having grown so large voted to again build a new church. A magnificent frame structure was built with a spire that rose 150 feet into the air. The bell from the frame church was placed in the tower and a great altar painting of the “Transfiguration” was commissioned from the Swedish American painter, Carl Lotave. The church was completed and dedicated in 1898. The spelling of the church also changed at this time. The new spelling was Salemsborg, reflecting the large building in Swedish as “Peaceful Fortress.”
Pastor Carl Wallen retired in 1908 and Pastor E.P. Karleen served from 1909 until 1912. Pastor P.A. Malm served briefly and in 1914 Pastor Gustaf Erikson was called to be Pastor. He served the congregation until 1940. A man of unbounded energy, he was loved by all who knew him.
On July 29, 1925 the Spire Church was struck by lightning. Local men climbed the tower and tried to chop off the tower before the church itself was in flames. As they labored, one man rode up to the church and ran inside and cut the Lotave “Transfiguration” from the wall.
Finally as the church became engulfed in flames, a grief-stricken Pastor Erikson was pulled away from the altar and led outside. The church burned to the ground. Those who were there remembered hearing the bell break loose and crash into the rubble below. Almost immediately after the fire the congregation began plans for replacing the great Spire Church with a new one of brick and with two towers. The church was built, and the “Transfiguration” painting was again placed above the altar. Beautiful stained glass windows were ordered from Germany and a large set of chimes were placed in the north tower.
The two-tower church of today was completed and dedicated in 1929. Above the doors are the words “A Mighty Fortress Is our God” both in English and in Swedish.
Nearby on the site of the original sod church stands a stone pulpit. It marks the spot were the pulpit stood in that original sod church. Created by Anton Pearson, the pulpit reminds us of our Swedish pioneer past and incorporated into the structure is the melted mass that was once the Salemsborg bell.
The congregation has thrived and continued now going on nearly 150 years. The people of the Salemsborg community have witnessed many triumphs and many tragedies. The congregation has been served by twelve distinguished Lutheran pastors.
Today our Pastor is Ethan Feistner. He has overseen a revitalization of the congregation, the building of a new fellowship center, a large and successful youth program, and the growth of the congregation to over 450 members.
The people of Salemsborg are very proud of their Swedish pioneer heritage and the witness to Jesus Christ first on the treeless prairie, later in times of war, economic depression, and disasters, and today in a changing and modern world. Our greatest hope is that 150 years from now the lights atop of the twin towers will shine and our descendants will still proclaim the Word to future generations in the Smoky Valley of Kansas.