First Lutheran Church, Rock Island

First Lutheran Church

First Lutheran Church Webpage (off-site link)

Pastors of First Lutheran Church

The Rev. Johan Forsberg -- 1871 - 1872
The Rev. Victor Setterdahl -- 1873 - 1874
The Rev. Dr. T. N. Hasselquist -- 1875 - 1891
The Rev. Carl E. Slatt -- 1894 - 1901
The Rev. J. A. Nyvall -- 1901 - 1905
The Rev. S. G. Hagglund -- 1901 - 1905
The Rev. Karl A. Nilsson -- 1913 - 1922
The Rev. Daniel T. Martin -- 1923 - 1928
The Rev. C. G. H. Ahnquist -- 1928 - 1931
The Rev. Carl H. Sandgren -- 1932 - 1936
The Rev. William E. Berg -- 1937 - 1951
The Rev. Herman E. Soderberg -- 1952 - 1957
The Rev. John A. Melvin -- 1960 - 1974
The Rev. Edward P. Nelson -- 1901 - 1905
The Rev. Thomas F. Hanson -- 1975 - 1981
The Rev. Geoffrey F. Hoy -- 1982 - 1996
The Rev. Bryan Robertson -- 1997 - 2000
The Rev. Gregory A. Mayer -- 2001 - present


A brief history of First Lutheran Church

from a church pamphlet; used with permission.

First Lutheran Church (ELCA)
1600 20th Street
Rock Island, IL 61201

Gregory A. Mayer, Pastor

This pamphlet is an introduction to the history of First Lutheran Church, Rock IslandÑits land, buildings, gardens, and people. Enjoy our church home on its beautiful five acre site overlooking the city of Rock Island and the Mississippi River.

History of the present church property

1829 - October 19
The first record of this property is a land grant from the USA to Russell Farnham and Col. George Davenport who settled in 1816 on Rock Island (now Arsenal Island). Col. Davenport was the first white settler. He became an Indian trader and the first postmaster and the owner of many acres of this wooded and fertile virgin land.

1837 - December 7
A division of a tract of 160 acres gave Col. Davenport the sole title to the 80 acres which included this hilltop.

1845- July 4
Col. Davenport was murdered in his island home by river bandits looking for money. His son, Bailey Davenport, inherited all his property and became the big landowner of thousands of acres in Illinois and Iowa.

Bailey Davenport died. His heirs werre the five children of an only brother, George L. Davenport, who had preceded him in death. They were Naomi I., Catherine, Ebenezer C., Henry C., and Joseph L.

The city of Rock Island was growing and lots were laid out and various names are on record as the land changed hands.

The name of Grace Velie Harper appears with her husband, Stuart Harper, as the owners of about seven acres of this property. They built the large, beautiful home and carriage house with an apartment for the caretaker and a stable for her horses. Grace Velie Harper was a daughter of Stephen Velie and a granddaughter of John Deere. Stuart Harper was a son of Ben Harper, builder of the Harper House and Harper Theatre.

Irvin Stacey White, known as I. S. White, President of the State Bank of Rock Island, and his wife, Margaret L., purchased this property from the Harpers for $36,000 and named it The Lindens.

Margaret Ellen White inherited the property when her mother died. She and her father continued to live here until he died in 1937 and she married Ellis Tracy Knoblock and moved to Erie, PA in 1938. she rented The Lindens to Oscar L. Aleshire, who was the head of Modern Woodmen of America.

John G. Scherermann and wife Margaret M. purchased the property for $17,500 and lived here for about five years.

First Lutheran Church was looking for a site on the hill. Carl J. L. Wessel, President of the Board of Trustees, heard that this ideal location might be for sale. Interest was aroused and Rev. William E. Berg, Pastor, convinced Mr. Scheuermann that this was the perfect spot for a church. The sale was closed on June 18 at a price of $50,000, and the title was transferred to First Lutheran Church.

The mansion soon became the Parish House and Parsonage. Conversion of the carriage house and stable into our church was completed in 1953.

History of the congregation

On November 19, 1870, a number of our forefathers who had been attending the Swedish Lutheran Church in Moline founded the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church now First Lutheran Church of Rock Island.

The first church was located at 904 8th Avenue. The congregation grew rapidly and in 1887 moved to a new, larger edifice at 14th Street and 4th Avenue. In 1913 an annex was added and the property served well until we moved to our present location Ð 1600 20th Street. On October 25, 1953, the new church was dedicated.

As good stewards we have continued to maintain and improve our church property. A memorial bell tower was built in 1959, and a neon sign was added to this tower in 1974. As music is an important part of our worship service, a new Moller pipe organ was dedicated in 1969. A handbell choir was started with the purchase of hand chimes in the 1980s and later memorial handbells were purchased.

A major project of memorial art glass windows for the sanctuary and narthex with leaded glass, biblical pictures and symbols began in 1983. The windows were created in the studio of Mark Seaholm. The altar area was renovated in 1986 providing a free standing altar and a larger, more accessible altar rail. The choir balcony and narthex have also been renovated. The kitchen was remodeled in 1979 and the fellowship hall in 1982. An elevator to the lower level of the church was installed in 1987. Air conditioning in the sanctuary has been a welcome addition since 1993.

In 1999, extensive maintenance and restoration began on the parish house including complete stucco renewal, refinishing of the second floor, and replacement of some windows. In 2000, plans were completed to utilize the rooms on the second floor for Sunday School. High school youth converted the Upper Room or third level of the parish house for their use in 1999.

The landscape design of the property is constantly evolving with the recent additions of many perennials, a wooden carving of the good shephard, a new sign, and campfire ring.

The place where we worship is important, but it is the people who are the church. Whether we worship in the pews or sing in the choir, ring bells, read the lessons, receive the offering, help in the Sunday Church School, serve on committees, visit members or help with any of the many other important tasks of the church, our members are willing to share their talents.

God has blessed us. Thanks be to God!

We invite you to join us.

Sunday services; 8:00 and 10:45 a.m.
9:30 a.m. during the summer months
Sunday Church School 9:15 a.m.

Phone: 309-788-9661
First Lutheran Church Web site