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John Campanius was born in Stockholm and attended Uppsala University, where he studied theology and graduated in 1633. He was ordained into the Lutheran ministry in 1633. He served as the chaplain to the Swedish delegation in Russia in 1634. He then moved to Norrtälje, where he served as a schoolmaster beginning in 1636. He also served as chaplain and preceptor of the Stockholm Orphan’s Home, a position he continued in through 1642.
Upon his arrival in New Sweden, in 1643, he accompanied the first Swedish settlers to Fort Christina, near present-day Wilmington, Delaware, and served as a missionary to the nearby Lenape Indians. For several years the New Sweden colony had no specific location for organized worship until Campanius dedicated a new church at Tinicum on September 4, 1646. One of the antiquities that remain from his time of service is a gilded silver chalice used in the celebration of Eucharist.
Campanius grasped the Lenape language learning how to preach to them effectively. He also transliterated their words, numbers, and common phrases for the missionaries to come. He eventually translated Luther’s Small Catechism into the Lenape language. This translation is one of the first attempts by a European native to create a written document in one of the indigenous American languages. It was published in the Delaware and Swedish languages, together with a vocabulary. He also studied the natives’ traditions and recorded them in his journal. While this did help in the preservation of some anthropological information on them, it also helped perpetuate the idea that the Native Americans were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel.
In 1648, three other ministers were sent to New Sweden to continue his work, and Campanius was allowed to return to Sweden. There he served as minister of churches at Härnevi and Frösthult in east central Sweden until his death in 1683. While in these positions he worked on completing his translation of Luther’s catechism.
John Campanius was the first person known to have taken systematic weather observations in the American Colonies. He is considered by some to be the first weatherman in America because he kept a daily record of the weather in New Sweden. The records included the years 1644 and 1645 and were published in Sweden in 1702. The prestigious John Campanius Holm Award is granted annually to honor cooperative observers for outstanding accomplishments in the field of meteorological observations. The certificate is signed by the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Dictionary of American Religious Biography. (Henry Warner Bowden. Westport, CT: Greenwood, Press, 1977)
- Jump up to One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). “Holm, John Campanius” . Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- New Sweden on the Delaware 1638-1655 (C. A. Weslager. Wilmington, Delaware: The Middle Atlantic Press. 1988)
- The Weather Factor ( David M. Ludlum, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1984, p. 7-8)
Accessed Wikipedia.org 15 August 2022.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1795 – Ordination of Absalom Jones, formerly a slave, as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. He became America’s first African-American Episcopal priest.
1875 – Evangelist, pastor, and educator Charles G. Finney died in Oberlin.
1967 – John Courtney Murray, a Jesuit theologian, and educator died in New York City. He is best known for his defense of the United States Constitution and his arguments against any effort by the Roman Catholic Church to bring about change within nations by means other than moral persuasion.
Accessed ChristianHistoryInstitute.org 15 August 2022.
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