When most people think of Swedes and religion, they think of Lutherans. But in Duluth’s West End, where Swedes moved from Swede Town on Rice’s Point on up the hill as far as Piedmont Heights as their fortunes improved, another group of religious Swedes found a home.
Organizing themselves in 1884, the First Swedish Baptist Church dedicated their first building in 1887, at the corner of First Street and 20th Avenue West, with a congregation of 92. By 1910, when their new church was dedicated at 2202 West Third Street, they occupied a significant place in the Swedish community that surrounded them. Like most immigrant churches of the time, services were conducted in both their native language and English. Unlike many of their neighbors, however, they had come to Minnesota in an exodus fleeing religious persecution.
Up until 1858, non-Lutheran religious gatherings were prohibited by law in Sweden. Fredrik O. Nilsson, the founder of the Swedish Baptist church in Sweden, was jailed and then exiled for his religious activities. He and his fellow Swedish Baptists settled near Scandia, Minnesota, in the mid-1800s. By the time Duluth had started its final boom in the mid-1880s, the law in Sweden had been changed, but whole congregations of Swedish Baptists were still emigrating to America en masse, contributing to the huge wave of Scandinavians entering Minnesota.
In the summer of 1911, the following advertisement ran in the Duluth Herald:
The Seventh Ward Garden Division, located twelve blocks from Piedmont Avenue car line, facing Morris Thomas road. The new Hutchinson road runs through this land. Part of the land is cleared and balance wooded. Inquire from the owners, Karl J. Hagberg, 9 Twentieth avenue west, or Andrew Bergquist, 404 Exchange building. HAGBERG WILL BE ON THE GROUNDS JULY 13 to 29. LOOK FOR THE TENT.
Andrew Bergquist and Karl Hagberg were two Swedes and significant contributing members of the First Swedish Baptist Church. Karl’s wife Christine was a frequent soloist, her voice ringing out at weddings and at the church dedication in 1910. Andrew and his brother Louis both served as church directors during this time of church growth.
Both Bergquist and Hagberg came to Duluth from Sweden within a few years of one another, both accompanied by their brothers, and both ending up with their names appended to Duluth streets in Piedmont Heights: Andrew Street, Karl Avenue and Hagberg Street. (Unfortunately for symmetry’s sake, Bergquist Street was changed to Harvey Street in 1959.) On the old plat map in City Hall today you can see their signatures and those of their wives, Selma (Person) Bergquist and Christine (Nelson) Hagberg.
Andrew was born in 1862, arriving in Duluth at age 25 in 1887. He worked as a carpenter at first, forming his own contracting firm in 1891, and then partnering with his brother Louis Bergquist, under the name Bergquist Brothers. They eventually built houses at 2023 and 2030 London Road (where the Duluth Veterinary Hospital and the ICO gas station currently stand). His wife Selma became active in the Temperance Movement, hosting Women’s Christian Temperance Union meetings at their home. When Andrew died in 1922, he left an estate of $26,000, which equates to about $350,000 in today’s dollars. His widow Selma died in St. Paul at the age of 93 in 1965.
Karl J. Hagberg was born in 1873 in Sweden. His parents died two years later in 1875. His brother August Hagberg had come to Duluth in 1886 at the age of sixteen, finding a job as a tailor, while also going to school to become a teacher. After a brief stint in the school district, he went back into the clothing business, serving as the deputy registrar of deeds of St. Louis County, and eventually being appointed by the governor as the state factory inspector. In 1890, Karl J. joined his brother in Duluth, and they entered the tailoring/merchant business together as Hagberg Bros., which was located at 218 W. Superior Street. (Minnesota Surplus currently occupies that address.)
While both were well-known as tailors and clothing retailers, the brothers also became involved in investments. August ended up retiring from Hagberg Bros. in 1909 to devote himself to his mining ventures in the Southwestern United States, and Karl got into real estate, purchasing property in both the West End and near downtown.
Karl and his wife Christine (who came to Duluth in 1888) were married in the First Swedish Baptist Church in 1906, setting up housekeeping at 221 West Fifth Street. By 1916, Karl and his wife had sold their property in Piedmont Heights to August and other family members, and moved their family to Oregon. He continued in the real estate business there. Karl died in 1938, his wife Christine outliving him by many years until 1952, when she was killed in a tragic car accident at the age of 80.
The First Swedish Baptist Church in the West End became Temple Baptist Church in 1935. In 1999 the congregation changed the name again to the Lincoln Park Community Church, though they continue to maintain their Baptist roots.
The church has continued to focus its efforts on serving the needs of their immediate community, hosting a program called Celebrate Recovery, which provides sanctuary and support for recovering addicts of all kinds. One can’t help but wonder what the Bergquists and Hagbergs would think of the worship band that rocks the church rafters these days, but surely Christine would appreciate the continuation of music as the church foundation, and Selma would see the echoes of her temperance legacy in its programming.