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SCANDINAVIANS

SCANDINAVIANS. Scandinavian migration, relatively insignificant prior to 1850, increased rapidly after the Civil War because of successive crop failures and unemployment in the homeland and reported opportunities in the New World. Attracted by opportunities for work as longshoremen on the docks, Scandinavian immigrants began arriving in northeast Ohio ca. 1869, mainly, at first, in Ashtabula. By 1873 30 Swedes had settled east of that city's harbor. Andrew Swedenborg, dock foreman for almost 40 years, helped them find work and housing. The harbor community grew rapidly, and in 1890 the U.S. government granted it its own post office, named Sweden, and appointed an early Swedish settler who owned the local grocery, Edward P. Brodin, its postmaster. In the 1870s Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes in steadily increasing numbers came to Cleveland. Some were experienced seamen or longshoremen; a few were farmers; many were carpenters, blacksmiths, or tradesmen. Some of the women were seamstresses or cooks, many worked as domestic servants. Cleveland, with its construction and factories, steel mills, docks, and shipping, offered these immigrants many possibilities for employment. In 1880 there were 84 Danes, 37 Norwegians, and 180 Swedes in Cleveland. By 1910 they had increased to 448, 512, and 1,657, respectively. As this does not include American-born spouses, children, or grandchildren, the community was considerably larger.

Although Scandinavians settled on both sides of the Cuyahoga, Danes and Norwegians, whose languages are more closely related to each other than either is to Swedish, preferred Cleveland's west side. Although never numerous enough to dominate any neighborhood, prior to 1920 they lived mainly between W. 25th and W. 65th and between Lorain Ave. and the lake. As Cleveland's population increased, some Danes and Norwegians moved farther south to Memphis Ave., but by 1950 many families had moved out to the far west side, settling in ROCKY RIVER. By this time, however, ethnic Scandinavian ties had largely disappeared. Most Swedes lived on Cleveland's east side, many between Superior and Lexington avenues between E. 55th and E. 90th streets. Although the area was not exclusively Swedish, there were several Swedish stores, offices, and businesses there.

Since the Lutheran church is the state church in all 3 Scandinavian countries, most immigrants were inclined toward attending Lutheran services (see LUTHERANS). Beginning in 1874, Norwegian Lutheran missionary pastors occasionally held Sunday services in NEWBURGH Twp. and Cleveland. In 1878 Rev. J. I. Welo organized a Norwegian congregation in the German Zion Lutheran Schoolhouse on Bolivar Rd. on Cleveland's east side, which became Our Savior's Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Between 188392, pastors conducted Danish and Norwegian services at Trinity Lutheran Schoolhouse on W. 30th St. In 1893 a Danish Lutheran congregation was organized in Rocky River, which in 1897 built Immanuel Lutheran Church. From 18851915, Danish and Norwegian services were conducted on Cleveland's east side at First Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1951 Immanuel and Our Savior's churches merged, forming Our Savior's Rocky River Lutheran Church. Swedish missionary pastor Rev. Gustav Nelsenius in 1885 organized the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem Congregation, which met for several years in Olivet Chapel, a vacated Bohemian mission at Hill and Commercial streets, overlooking the east bank of the Cuyahoga River, before moving to Central Ave. and then, in 1899, to Wade Park Ave., where it remained for 50 years. In 1953 it moved to CLEVELAND HTS.

In 1920 Immanuel Lutheran Swedish Congregation was organized on Cleveland's west side by 25 families and 40 children, holding services at Emmaus Lutheran Church on W. 36th St. before building its own church near W. 25th St. in 1924. In 1933 the congregation disbanded. Later, the members reorganized, forming Gloria Dei Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, building its own structure in 1940 on Memphis Ave. Competing for members among Cleveland's Swedes were several other Swedish churches within just a few blocks of each other. Organized in 1889, the Swedish Baptist Congregation built its first church in 1894 on White Ave. and E. 57th St., and its second church in 1913 on Addison Rd., near Wade Park Ave. In 1940 the congregation became Bethel Baptist, and in 1952 moved to Cleveland Hts. Also organized in 1889, Swedish Congregational Church (later Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant) held services in Olivet Chapel; built its first church in 1892 on Lexington Ave.; in 1910 moved to Decker Ave.; and in 1955 divided into 2 congregations: First Covenant on Green Rd. and Bethany Covenant in LYNDHURST. The Swedish Methodist Congregation organized in 1892, built Walworth Swedish Methodist Church on Giddings in 1906, and disbanded in 1969.

In 1905 35 persons organized the Swedish Corps of the SALVATION ARMY, serving in many ways as a church, conducting Sunday school and worship services, and as a social organization, sponsoring concerts and recreational programs which attracted up to 100 people. In the early 1920s, the Swedish Corps moved to E. 90th St., and in 1969 it merged with the Wade Park Corps, forming the Addison-Superior Corps, consisting predominantly of black members.

Two Swedish cooperative organizations were formed to provide sick and death assistance. The Gustavus Adolphus Sick Benefit Society (org. 1890) held its monthly meetings at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The Harmony Relief Society (org. 1892) met first at the Swedish Covenant Church and subsequently at the Swedish Methodist Church. For many years the Danish Brotherhood, the Swedish Nobel-Monitor Lodge #130, and the Swedish Central Union provided modest assistance in times of need to their respective members and others. In 1970 there were 175 Swedes, 61 Danes, and 43 Norwegians in Cleveland proper. There were 6,200 related members of these nationalities and their American offspring in Greater Cleveland that year; however the Scandinavian community had been largely assimilated into the mainstream of life in Cleveland. Use of the Scandinavian languages disappeared by the 1920s and 1930s in the nationality churches. The Danish Brotherhood, Swedish Cultural Society, and Nobel-Monitor Lodge #130 of the Vasa Order of America do, however, remain active as social organizations striving to maintain Scandinavian cultural ties and traditions.


Paul A. Nelson

Cleveland Clinic