Paul Andersen, 1821-1891, pastor, First Norwegian Ev. Lutheran Church, Chicago

LeRoy Blommaert, “Andersonville or Andersenville – What difference does a letter make?” Edgewater Historical Society, 22.2 (Summer 2011),


The October 7, 1964, special “Andersonville” edition of the Swedish American Tribune, published in English, states unequivocally that “Andersonville owes its name to Rev. Paul Andersen” and that the school [Andersonville School at the southwest corner of Clark and Foster, then 59th Street] was named for him. Unfortunately, it gives no source for this claim; nor do any of the several articles in the edition have a by-line.

There was a Reverend Paul Andersen, however, and A.T. Andreas in his “History of Chicago (Vol. 1)” published in 1884, provides a short history of his life and work. He was born in Norway in 1821 and came to Chicago in January, 1848, where he soon founded the First Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. He also assisted a group of new Swedish immigrants to Chicago. This group would eventually become the first Swedish Lutheran Church established in Chicago, the Swedish Immanuel Lutheran Church now in Edgewater at Elmdale and Greenleaf.

His major claim to fame (written from the Anglo-Saxon Protestant perspective) is that he was responsible for having at least some services conducted in the English language. He was a pastor in Chicago for 12 years. In 1860, for health reasons, he left Chicago for Europe intending, according to sources at the time, to live out the remainder of his years there, but he came back in 1864. Back in the United States, he worked not in the ministry but in “revenue service.” In 1876, he answered a call to ministry from the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Milwaukee and served as pastor there until July, 1883, when he retired permanently from the ministry and returned to the Chicago area. And here is where the story becomes interesting. Andreas says “He now lives in Lake View, on North Clark St, near North Fifty-Ninth St.” Fifty-Ninth St. is now as Foster Ave.

Thus, Reverend Andersen lived in or near Andersonville and, sure enough, the 1883-84 Lake View Directory shows him at that location but, in a delicious bit of irony for us today, spells his name as Anderson – with an O! The 1886 directory did the same. He is absent from the 1887 directory. His obituary in the Chicago Tribune (10/15/1891), using the E spelling, confirms most of Andreas’ narrative and adds that he later moved to Colorado and died there at La Jara on October 11, 1891.

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A.T. Andreas, History of Chicago (3 vols. Chicago: A.T. Andreas, 1884), Vol. 1, pp. 349-50. Google Books.

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Jens Christian Roseland, American Lutheran Biographies: Or, Historical Notices of Over Three Hundred and Fifty Leading Men of the American Lutheran Church, from Its Establishment to the Year 1890 (Milwaukee: Houtkamp & Son, 1890), pp. 25-29. Google Books.

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