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

By Henry C. Whyman; Kenneth E. Rowe | Go to book overview

Preface

The story of the Bethel Ship and the Hedstrom brothers is one of the most notable and colorful sagas of Swedish immigrant history. The program of religious and humanitarian services rendered by that floating chapel moored in New York harbor had an incalculable influence upon thousands of arriving immigrants and visiting Scandinavian seamen.

Two earlier histories were written at the turn of the century in the Swedish language, and both describe the expansion of post-Hedstrom Swedish Methodism. Their brief accounts of the Bethel Ship period are valuable but do not do justice to most aspects of early immigrant history. Nor was the biographical information on Olof Gustaf Hedstrom adequately researched and treated.

Some years ago, Dr. Wesley M. Westerberg and I made some preliminary plans to write a book on Swedish Methodism. Both of us had grown up in Swedish Methodist parsonages and had a natural interest in the project. Westerberg's untimely death in 1982 deprived me of a cherished and trusted friend of many years and deprived our project of his scholarly involvement. Subsequently, I decided to confine myself to a study of the Hedstroms -- the Bethel Ship saga -- their influence during a period of approximately thirty years. It is a story that merits documentation and interpretation. My first treatment of this topic, " Peter Bergner -- Pioneer Missionary to Swedish Seamen and Immigrants," was published as an article in the Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly ( 30 [ 1979 ]: 108-16). It was written in response to comments related to the dearth of available information on Bergner and has been reprinted with permission as chapter 5 in this

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