Rev. C.A. Falk

John Falk was a respected and devout businessman in Stromsburg who we remember well from the mid 1970s. His widowed mother had brought her tender touch to the C.A. Falk homestead many years before, the home of the first pastor of the Stromsburg Mission church who had become her husband. So even within memory there stands a connection with the time a century earlier.

But much of those days is seen through a glass, darkly. It will be challenging today to surmise the details. C.A. Falk will provide a context for that exercise. Falk was from the Page county community of Nyman, part of the larger settlement named in honor of its founder, B.M. Halland of Stanton. One of the surviving rural churches of that region is the Fremont Lutheran church and New Hope cemetery at the Nyman corner, built on land donated by the elder Falk, who was a deacon in that church.

Falk descendants also came to the writer's home town of Wausa, and provide some details of their immigration:
From the Wausa Centennial book comes the story of insights into the Falk family pilgrimage from daughter Teckla Falk Peterson's family: "Teckla, sixth child of Sarah C. and C.A. Falk (senior), sailed with her mother, four sisters and one brother to join their father, who had gone ahead to America to locate and build a cabin in preparation for his family's arrival. His choice was the Red Oak-Essex, IA, area. When mother and children arrived the cabin wasn't finished, so the side that was missing was closed in by long strips of woven rugs that Sarah had brought with her from Sweden. There was a spring on the hill in back of the house, so father Falk dug a hole and lined it with sand, which served as their water supply. Teckla took on household duties at an early age - knitting socks, and herding cattle over the prairies that were full of rattlesnakes. Her father was a traveling minister. There were no churches, but he went from one area to another and held meetings in homes. There would be 18 to 25 people that would meet in a 2 or 3 room home, staying overnight." We assume that father and son shared the same initials, and here learn that the father as well was preaching in the "colporteur" style of the mission friends in Sweden.

Charles and Teckla's son Clarence Peterson is one the writer remembers from the Wausa Covenant Church. One of the well-remembered Greenwall neighbors in Wausa was the Edgar Johnson family. Edgar was born near Essex, IA, to C.A. Falk's daughter Selma Falk Johnson, one of the sisters mentioned above. This family, the F.A. Johnsons, also lived at Wakefield before coming to Wausa. Though the mission friends at Fremont would be separated from this church and build their own Fremont Mission church to the south, the Falks' roots were in the Augustana congregation and their burial places in the New Hope cemetery. The visits of mission pastors John Peterson and Andrew Hallner to Fremont in 1878 are remembered as the stone of stumbling for Fremont Lutheran unity, though these meetings were likely held in that very church. Falk had departed well before that time to train in Illinois, and was in fact already in Stromsburg by then.

Many were the Augustana pastors who encouraged promising young people in their congregations to prepare themselves for ministry; Bjork had been encouraged by Rev. Hawkinson at Swede Bend, Princell at Princeton, and perhaps C.A. Falk in Fremont. Indeed, he is reported to have traveled to the Augustana seminary in Paxton, Illinois, to train with T.N. Hasselquist. This probably came near the end of that school's location in Paxton (1863-1875), since the Falks reportedly immigrated in 1870. Apparently Falk did not follow the seminary when it moved to Rock Island in 1875, but attended further classes at the Ansgar school at Knoxville, Ill, which had been started in 1875 in Keokuk by Rev. Charles Anderson and moved shortly thereafter to Knoxville (near Galesburg). According to information in his files at the Covenant Archives, Falk received his ministerial credentials from the Ansgar Synod and was transfered into the Covenant ministerium when that Synod disbanded in the 80's. The same files report that Falk preached at locations in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, perhaps during these same student days.

Various historians describe the Ansgar Synod as an attempt to create a Swedish denomination more open to Americanization than the existing Augustana Synod (Anderson looked to the American General Synod of Lutherans as colleage and advocate in this, while Augustana aligned itself with the Lutheran General Council, influenced by recent European immigrants) Most of these historians also observe that the Ansgar Synod had been too dependant on one person, Anderson, and that his vision was too broad for the rank and file mission friend immigrants. But when Falk undertook his ministerial studies, Ansgar College was the only alternative for someone of the mission friend outlook. By this time, the Augustana Synod was excluding uncredentialed mission preachers from their pulpits, particularly if they were influenced by the ideas being promoted by P. Waldenström in Sweden.

It would be most interesting to know what motivated Falk to go from Augustana to Ansgar. It happened before Karl Erixon or J.G. Princell came to Ansgar, so would have been in the time of Charles Anderson. It would have been very early even to mention Waldenström's name. If there were any attrition of Paxton (or Rock Island) students in the direction of the Mission Synods, it fails to merit mention in the Augustana histories, but that would not be surprising. It might be that the emerging strength of mission friends in Galesburg, where one of their first ruptures with Augustana came and where Charles Anderson was pastor of the Mission congregation (Second Lutheran Church of Galesburg) caught Falk's attention. What we do know for a fact is that Falk began his ministerial training with Hasselquist, the name most closely associated with unyielding opposition to the aspirations of the mission friends outside the Augustana Synod. (Stromsburg homesteader and pastor, A.N. Sweders had emigrated to America in the company of T.N. Hasselquist. He, too, would be separated from Augustana....more on that later)


(Little Indian, Illinois, was the location of Falk's "internship" and ordination)


About 1830 Little Indian was first started. It was located about four miles south and a little east of Virginia, the county seat. It was never "laid out" as a village but was considered a very important place for shipping out grain and livestock. Of course this was made possible by the building of a railroad about 1869, then known as the Peoria, Pekin and Jacksonville. It was a branch of the Wabash system. When they were constructing this railroad, they found an old burial ground here. Human bones were taken up from the place where they built the water tank for the railroad. The bones were removed to Zion Cemetery about a mile east of there. Zion Church and the cemetery are still there. The church has now been sold and will probably be torn down. In early days Little Indian comprised a railroad station, a shipping point, one store, and a Swedish church. A number of other buildings were added in later years.

Jacob Epler, in 1830, was the first white man to locate here. He became a successful farmer and also took part in the banking business. His son, John Epler, made one of the most important improvements in the community. He built a grinding mill of very crude construction and run by horse power. It was not only of great benefit to the Little Indian community, but also to people from Sangamon County. Many of them came and camped overnight, in order to get the first turn the next morning. If the team was a good one, they could grind one or two bushels of corn per hour.

James Stevenson was the first railroad agent. He also became well known as a livestock farmer. His herd of Shorthorn cattle was one of the finest in all the surrounding country. Levi Conover, my step-father's grandfather, came to the vicinity about 1841 and purchased a farm about one and one-half miles east of Little Indian. All of these pioneers had formerly lived in the East, moved to Kentucky, and later came to settle near Little Indian, Illinois.

About 1869 John Asplund, an immigrant from Sweden, settled at Little Indian. He had a wagon, blacksmith and repair shop. He made the bricks and built his own home, which is still standing. The house had two rooms on the first floor, two on the second, and a room above this which could be reached only by ascending an outside ladder. There was a little cellar under the house. He also built a store and sold merchandise.

When I was a child there were two stores, two elevators, a railroad station, and several homes, besides the Swedish Church about a half a quarter of a mile to the east. The railroad became known as the C. P. and St. L. or Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis. They had a shipping yard for livestock, and a great deal of grain from miles around was sent out by train. In two different fires, the stores and one elevator were destroyed. The stores were both rebuilt and carried on some business until sometime in the 1930's. Later the railroad was discontinued and one store was sold and moved away. The other store, formerly Mr. Asplund's, is now owned by a farmer who uses it for an implement shed.

Another old landmark known as the Stevenson cemetery or sometimes called the Swedish cemetery, is still being cared for. It is in the middle of a field adjoining our place. Several of the early settlers are buried there. One of the first to be buried there was James Stevenson who died in 1851. A negro slave, who was born in Georgia, was also buried there. This slave belonged to the grandfather of one of my classmates in high school - Maxine Ward.

The Swedish church was moved away many years ago to a place east of Virginia and made into a home. Mr. Asplund's house is standing but it is in a delapidated condition. This house and the old store are all that are left of what was once Little Indian. Old residents coming back to visit the community never know when they pass through it.

Written by Gertrude Wright Winhold in 1986, a teacher for Virginia, Chandlerville and rural schools of Cass County