Esbjörn, Lars Paul

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Pioneer Swedish Lutheran in America; b. Hälsingland, Sweden, Oct. 16, 1808; d. Ostervala, Sweden, July 2, 1870. He was a graduate of Uppsala University and taught school and served as pastor in his homeland for 17 years, during which he was influenced by Pietistic revivalism. Impressed by reports of the spiritual destitution of the Swedes who were then beginning to migrate to America in large numbers, he crossed the Atlantic in 1849 and settled in Illinois. There and in adjacent states he gathered Swedish immigrants into congregations. With other clergymen from Sweden he united these congregations into the Augustana Synod (1860). In the same year, persuaded that the future of Swedish lutherans in America required a native ministry, he helped found Augustana College and Seminary in Chicago (later in Rock Island, Ill.) and was made its president. In his early years in America Esbjörn had fellowship with Methodists because of his own background in Pietistic revivalism, but he resisted proselytizing among Swedish immigrants by Methodists, Baptists, and Episcopalians and in the process became more self-consciously Lutheran in doctrine and practice. Worn out by his labors he returned to Sweden in 1863, where he spent his last seven years as a parish minister.

Bibliography: s. rÖnnegÄrd, Prairie Shepherd: Lars Paul Esbjörn, tr. g. e. arden (Rock Island, Ill. 1952). o. n. olson, The Augustana Lutheran Church in America: Pioneer Period, 18461860 (Rock Island, Ill. 1950).

[t. g. tappert]