The Rev. Carl J. Renhard (1870-1947), a great man with an uncompromised vision of building a better world.
The visionary Pastor
- a great man with an uncompromised vision of building a better world.
Sänd ditt ljus och din sanning!
Låt dem leda mig,
låt dem föra mig till ditt heliga berg
och till din boning,
så att jag får komma till Guds altare,
till Gud, min glädje och fröjd,
och tacka dig till lyrans klang,
Gud, min Gud.
Psalm 43:3-4, requested by the Rev. Renhard to be read at his funeral at First Immanuel Church, Portland, Oregon, June 4, 1947.
The journey to Portland
Carl Johan Renhard’s parents, Johan Peter Pettersson and his wife, born Charlotta Christina Carlsdotter, came from Småland, Sweden. Carl Johan was born in Höreda Parish, on November 5, 1870, and lived there until his family immigrated to America when he was 9 years old. As a very young man he arrived in Polk County, Nebraska, in 1897, where his parents bought a farm near Stromsburg.
They became members of the Swedehome Nebraska Lutheran Church where he was confirmed, and where he also met his future wife, Ann-Louise (Anna) Victoria Hult.
Carl Johan's parents hoped their son would became a minister, so according to the approved plan for Swedish Lutheran higher education in Nebraska at that time, he began his education at Luther Academy in Wahoo, Nebraska.
He made his parents’ goal his own, graduating with honors from Luther Academy. He continued at Augustana College and Seminary in Rock Island, Illinois, from which he graduated in 1896, and then he was ordained in 1899 after finishing at Augustana Theological Seminary.
Shortly after completing his education, Carl married his high school sweetheart, Anna, in June 1899. His first pastoral call was in St. Louis.
At the Lutheran Conference held July 28, 1904, he was recommended to be the Rev. Skan’s successor in Portland, Oregon, at a small congregation of 235 members. He was totally unknown to the congregation but having the recommendations from the conference, the call was unanimous. The salary was $1,000 and did not include a parsonage, but he accepted the call and arrived in Portland on December 1, 1904. The new pastor, his wife and two little boys were welcomed by the congregation.
The man and his destiny
The congregation in Portland found the new pastor quite different from his predecessor, but they came to hear him and hoped for the best. Pastor Renhard was a dynamic dreamer, endowed with faith and conviction enough to carry through any project he believed in. He told the congregation to build a new parsonage and a new church. And they did!
The old church and lot, at Burnside and 10th, was sold; a new lot was purchased at the corner of Irving and 19th. In 1905, the congregation had grown to 500 members and the large, 20th century Gothic, beautiful First Immanuel Lutheran Church was built. A parsonage was built next to the church.
The church features a tall corner spire, and the interior is designed in the "classic Lutheran austere” style with a beautiful altar piece that reminded the immigrants of the churches they left behind. The sanctuary’s stained glass windows represent Christian symbols in memory of former members and include numerous Swedish inscriptions.
First Immanuel continues to provide the community with Swedish holiday events such as Julotta, the service held early Christmas morning ("otta" is the time just before dawn). Julotta is held in Swedish and is frequented by many in the Swedish community.
Quite often Renhard worked against staunch opposition but built for the future, with First Immanuel Church as a vivid example. However, his optimism always seemed directed to newer and bigger projects, and while sitting in his new parsonage next to his new church, he began planning a hospital. In 1909 the foundation of Emanuel Hospital was established as a Christian charity to care for the sick, and Renhard resigned from his position at the church in the summer of 1910 to devote time to fundraising for the construction of Emanuel Hospital on lots purchased in Albina, east of the Willamette River.
An institution is but a shadow of a man. Is this true of Emanuel Hospital? Could Renhard have possibly envisioned the tremendous future his dream would have? On September 14, 1909, a small group of men were called to a meeting which began what is now the largest Lutheran hospital in the United States.
It is said, “God is good to the beginner.” Renhard had many friends in the medical profession, and they all rallied with him for the new hospital. The following names are of men who declared themselves interested and willing to serve as members of the temporary board: the Rev. C. J. Renhard, the Rev. B. S. Nystrom, the Rev. J. E. Nordling, the Rev. H. E. Sandstedt, J. W. Hawkins, A. L. Morland, C. L. Larson, F. O. Carlson, A. J. Staffanson, Sven Peterson, Anton Hendrickson and N. P. Hult.
These were the founders of Emanuel Hospital.
Renhard had moved his family to Colton, where he served the Colton Church until the hospital opened.
Life was not easy in these surroundings. It was primitive compared to the years in Portland and St. Louis, but it was a new adventure, and there were things to be done. One of the top priorities was a new and larger place to live―as the Portland area was growing by leaps and bounds, it was only natural that the Renhard family would grow as well; during 1906-1915, the Renhard family was blessed with seven children: Eskil, Julius, Doris, Martin, Bertil, Marcus and Sigrid―and house plans were started soon after their arrival in Colton. It was completed about two years later.
In 1906 Renhard established the Oregon Swedish Colonization Company in an attempt to encourage more Scandinavian Lutherans to move to the Pacific Northwest. He was looking for people who were Swedish, Lutheran and Republican.
In 1907 the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Carlsborg congregation was formally organized in the home of Nils P. Hult, Renhard's father-in-law. During the following years the white frame church was built. The congregation changed its name from Carlsborg Evangelical Lutheran to Colton Lutheran in 1945.
One local report regarding Colton Swedish Lutheran Church stated, “It is the Swedes who built up this community and it is the little church and the faithful congregation that has functioned as the unifying bond which has made accomplishments possible.”
Most of the original settlers came from Nebraska, particularly Oakland, Wakefield and Omaha. One of the more outstanding families was the Hults from Swedehome Lutheran Church near Stromsburg, Nebraska. Hult became a successful lumberman and built the first lumber mill in the area. Two thousand acres of land were purchased to be made available to the settlers.
The Renhard family wasn't isolated in Colton. The Hults had already become established there, as were Renhard’s parents, the Johan Petersons, the P. O. Chindegrens, the Nordling family and several other Swedish families from the midwest.
Renhard served as superintendent of Emanuel Hospital until 1915, when he became president of Coeur d’Alene College, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He served there until 1918 when he became Lutheran Camp Pastor at Fort Lewis in Washington state. In 1919, he again became pastor of the Colton Church, serving until 1922, when he accepted a call to Grays Harbor parish, serving Aberdeen and Hoquian, Washington. He served at Grays Harbor until 1935, when he resigned and moved back to Colton. In 1936, he became pastor at Brush Prairie, Washington and served there until his failing health forced his retirement in 1945. This was the year his beloved Anna died. After that he lived with his son, Eskil, in Colton.
During his lifetime Renhard always took an active role in promoting the welfare of Scandinavians who settled in the west. He was a lover of music and devoted his last years to growing fruit, perhaps his greatest hobby.
He felt the greatest pride in the establishment of Emanuel Hospital and its success and service to the community. Renhard lived with his son and family in Colton, as mentioned, but was back as a patient in the hospital he founded, eight times before his rugged physique yielded on May 31, 1947. A funeral service was held in the church which he built, and his body was brought to Colton for burial in the community which he sponsored.
The church stands on Highway 211, next to the high school. Nearby, Colton Cemetery is the final resting place for Renhard (1870-1947), his wife, Anna (1874-1945), and members of the Hult family. On Hult Road stands the Lutheran Pioneer Home, a nursing home started by the Hults. In it, the Luther Cornay Chapel has the original pews and altar curtain of Colton Lutheran Church.
May the peace which he seldom felt while sponsoring a cause, now be bestowed on his memory.
In memory of a great man that Portland is very proud of, we are able to summarize some of Carl Renhard’s contribution to the Scandinavian community’s healthcare needs.
1. The original hospital (1912).
2. First building on the present site (1915) and addition in 1918.
3. The Nurses Home (1921)
4. The first main building (1926)
5. The main building with addition of North and East wing (1931)
6. East extension to Maternity section (1942)
The Rev. Carl W. Södergren wrote in the North West Pioneer and Preacher an appreciation for his friend Carl J. Renhard.
“It was in 1941 that I first saw this big man with the flaming eyes and bushy eyebrows, and the solid chin and gaunt figure. Here is a man to be reckoned with.
He was at the time already more than seventy years of age but his eyes were not dimmed and his strength was unabated. I was to discover that he had been and was indeed a giant on the earth in those days.…
The story of his life was a colorful saga of a rugged individualist and personality strategically used by God for the promotion of His Kingdom: Immigrant, Student, Pastor, Builder, Colonizer, Organizer,
Hospital Administrator, College President, Military Camp Pastor, Farmer, Historian―all of these, and through it all, a leader and promoter in both Church and Community in both Urban and Rural Life.”
by Leif Rosqvist
based on information provided by Bruce Renhard the grandson to Carl J. Renhard, and from the First Immanuel Lutheran Church and Augustana College library staff.
References and directions for more information:
English text to the Psalter psalm 43:3-4. Go to Google Search and type in Psalter psalm 43:3-4, Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me... and search under Biblos, New international version
Fifty Years of the Columbia Conference, 1893-1943. Historical glimpses of Lutheran Mission work in the Pacific Northwest under the auspices of the Columbia Conference of the Lutheran Augustana
Gold and Green Timber. A history of Nils Peter Hult Family, Colton, Oregon 1978.
Outreach, Emanuel Hospital 70 years of service, 1912-1982.
Augustana Theological Seminary Library for photography's
Pillars of Swedish Heritage: The Churches, by Leif Rosqvist www.newsweden.org