The Hedstroms and the Bethel Ship Saga: Methodist Influence on Swedish Religious Life


In this informative new volume, Henry C. Whyman presents the first biographical treatment of the brothers Olof Gustaf and Jonas Hedstrom, documenting their work in spreading Methodism among Swedish immigrants to America. Whyman discusses the Bethel Ship saga, a ministry notable and unique in American immigrant history. He also touches upon early Methodism in Sweden itself and examines the larger picture of American immigration, especially the role played by religion in nineteenth-century European immigration to the United States. The Bethel Ship, a floating chapel in New York Harbor, was the vehicle and headquarters for an effective and legendary ministry to immigrants arriving in America. The ship was purchased by a Methodist mission agency to provide a facility for a small congregation of Swedish seamen and immigrant nationals. Olof Hedstrom, a Methodist minister serving in the Catskill Mountain area, was called to New York to organize and lead this endeavor. Through Hedstrom's own efforts, theaid of his,brother Jonas, and the supportive assistance of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, denominational Methodism was established among Scandinavians in communities throughout the United States. In addition, returning seamen and emigrant re-migration established Methodism in all Scandinavian countries. At its height, more than sixty thousand Scandinavians were on the rolls of Methodist churches on either side of the Atlantic. Whyman also examines pietism as a strong religious force in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He cites John and Charles Wesley, from whom Methodism traces its origins, as examples of early pietists, noting that the movement isreflected in the lasare (readers) of Sweden, many of whom immigrated to America. In writing this book, Whyman utilized periodicals, private papers, autobiographies, diaries, and the indispensable annual reports of the Missionary S