GOD & TEXAS: Swante Palm
“The chief characteristic of weather in Texas is not variety, but surprise!” These are the words of Swante Palm, who came to Texas in the 1830s with his nephew Swen Magnus Swenson. Both of these Swedish immigrants often wrote letters back home to their native Smaland Province, and tried to explain Texas to their relatives.
By 1847, these two men created what became known as the “Swedish pipeline,” as hundreds of Swedish immigrants began to move to an area east of Austin. Swen Magnus, founder of the SMS Ranches of West Texas, brought many excellent workers from Sweden to work in his various businesses. Later he served as the first treasurer of the Texas State Agricultural Society, before moving to New York City in 1865.
Swante Palm worked as a bookkeeper before going into politics. He served on the Austin City Council and as the Travis County Justice of the Peace, before being appointed vice consul for Norway and Sweden. His name is still highly regarded in Austin with Palm elementary school and Palm Park named after him.
As the Swedish settlers found homes and jobs in Texas, Swante noticed that on Sundays, their community seemed lost without the church activities that they cherished back in Sweden. In 1868, Swante helped establish the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Gethsemane Church in Austin, now known as Gethsemane Lutheran Church. He served as the first secretary of the church and proved instrumental in making the church a major influence in the community.
After the first service, according to local church historians, Swante realized that worship was not the same without a pipe organ. He stated, “We love to sing our inspirational hymns and therefore I want to say that we can easily secure a melodeon or small organ which some member of the congregation can play. There are those among us willing to serve as organist. It is our love of the old hymns that prompts me to mention the matter.”
Some reports state that Swante not only raised the funds to purchase the organ, but that he actually served as organist occasionally! And that is another reason why Palm remains a cherished member of the church to this day.
The Bible teaches that the Church is built on our Rock Christ Jesus (Matthew 16:18). And Jesus promises to be present when Believers gather in His Name (Matthew 18:20). The Apostle Paul taught in Hebrews 10:25 (ESV), “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Texas pioneer Swante Palm knew that the church is vital in the world. Not only does it offer the occasion for corporate worship of God, it provides the opportunity for Christians to fellowship with one another, and to serve their community. Please support your church family.