Swedish settlers from Ryssby parish in Kronoberg’s län, and other Swedes, began to arrive in Ryssby, Colorado in 1868. The Rev. Frederick Lagerman and eleven charter members founded the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Ryssby in January 1878 as a congregation within the Augustana Synod; the first services were held in the home of Sven Johnson until a school house could be built. A parsonage was built to accommodate Pastor Lagergren, who was paid $300 a year. The church edifice, built of stone from the area, was dedicated on June 24, 1882.

The snow-capped mountains are visible from Ryssby Church, about 50 miles north of Denver. The first settlers were disappointed in the quality of the land. The rainfall has always been minimal and irrigation was necessary. The farmers found a way of leading water from the mountains to their fields by digging ditches that drew water from a nearby creek and the St. Vrain River. Their efforts resulted in abundant harvests in 1876 and 1877. Water was not the only problem; the first settlers also had problems with grasshoppers that ate everything above ground.


Traditions prevail
It's been a tradition since 1946 to celebrate Midsummer with a service and a picnic in the church yard. Ten years ago, Roland Nilsson started a new tradition of having candlelight services in the church at Christmas. The candles are necessary because the church has no electricity. Heating is provided by a black stove in the front of the church. On December 2, 2012, Swea Denver sponsored a candlelight service with 200 persons in attendance. Tickets had to be obtained in advance. The proceeds always go toward the upkeep and restoration of the historic church. The Swea women’s choir sang and the service concluded with the appearance of Santa Lucia and her attendants.
Weddings and funerals are also held in the church. The markers in the cemetery show the names of many former members. To provide more room in the cemetery, an above ground columbarium has been added for cremated remains.

The State Historical Society of Colorado declared Ryssby an historic site in 1933. In 1976, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and recently the church benefited from a substantial restoration project and an iron fence has been erected around the property. The Ryssby Committee of First Lutheran Church in Longmont oversees the care and upkeep of the property.

By Lilly Setterdahl

For more info, see www.ryssbychurch.org