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Lindsborg, Kansas is in the valley of the Smoky Hill River within the central Kansas wheat belt, is the center of an Old World culture unusual in this section of the country. Settled by a Swedish so-ciety, Lindsborg took its name from the first syllable of the surname of three society members S. P. Lindgren, S. A. Lindell, A. P. Linde and borg (Sw., castle). The population is composed almost entirely of persons of Swedish birth or descent.

Outwardly, Lindsborg is like a score of other agricultural communities. Sturdy brick and limestone buildings line its main street. Most of the homes in the residential districts are neat frame structures with closely cut lawns. Only in an occasional glimpse of a tiny garden, an arched window, or the slender, grey spire of Bethany Church does the town reflect its character to the casual observer.

Every year on Palm Sunday, music lovers from all sections of the Middle West crowd into Presser Hall to hear a presentation of Handel's oratorio, The Messiah, sung by a chorus of 500 voices. The Oratorio Society is the center about which the Annual Messiah Festival has grown. The festival continues through Holy Week with concerts, contests, and recitals until Good Friday, when a rendition of Bach's Passion According to St. Matthew is given, concluding on Easter Sunday with a second performance of The Messiah.

Lindsborg was organized in 1868 by the Chicago Swedish Company and its first building was the company's house, where religious services were held and business was transacted. The following year the first dwelling house was erected by the Swedish Merchants' Association and the first store and post office was opened, with J. H. Johnson, the storekeeper, as postmaster.

McPherson County was organized in 1870 with the village of Sweadal, two miles from Lindsborg, as a temporary county seat, but in September 1870 it was moved to Lindsborg. A petition asking for relocation of the county seat was presented to the board of commissioners in April 1873, signed by the citizens of McPherson, King City, and Gotland. An election was called, and these three towns competed with Lindsborg.

The McPherson town company offered land as a site for the courthouse and rooms for the county offices for a period of ten years or until a courthouse could be completed. When the votes were counted McPherson had 605 out of the total vote of 934 and the county offices were moved to that town. There were rumors of illegal voting, due to the fact that the vote cast exceeded the county's population by nearly 200, but charges were never pressed.

The story of the Messiah Festival, however, is the story of Lindsborg. In the late 1800's, while on a European tour, Dr. Olaf Olsson of Augustana College, Rock Island, 111., heard a rendition of the Handel oratorio in Exeter Hall, London. Returning home, he attempted to develop a similar chorus in Rock Island, but was unsuccessful, although some recitals were given. In 1878, Dr. Carl Swensson, recently graduated from Augustana, was appointed to the pastorate of Bethany Church. Having heard the recitals in Rock Island, he became imbued with the idea of founding a Messiah chorus in Lindsborg, and, with the assistance of his bride, Alma, he began the undertaking in 1881.

From the village and the adjacent farms the young couple gathered a group of fifty singers. The Swedish pioneers, with their natural love of music, were enthusiastic pupils, but rehearsing was difficult, for only a few of them had ever seen a music score before. Bad roads and primitive means of transportation delayed rehearsals. In many instances the trip to Bethany Church for the Sunday afternoon practice sessions took three or four hours.

Despite these obstacles the work continued and on Easter Sunday 1882 the chorus gave its first recital. An orchestra was imported from Rock Island, Dr. Olsson acted as director and organist, and the chorus was conducted by Joseph Osborn. Concerts were held in neighboring towns that year and receipts were given to Bethany College, founded in 1881, of which Dr. Swensson was the first president. So encouraged were the founders by the interest in the chorus that The Messiah was repeated the following year, and since 1889 has been presented annually on Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

During its half century of existence the choir has appeared outside Lindsborg on only four occasions. The most notable performance was given at Convention Hall, Kansas City, Mo., in 1930. It was in that year that the new Presser Hall, a magnificent music temple, was completed on the college campus. Mrs. Swensson, who is 78 years of age (1938), still sings a soprano role in the chorus she helped establish and has missed but one performance since the first recital in 1882.

No person in the chorus receives pay. As early as 1892, however, Dr. Swensson began engaging artists and singers of national reputation to give special concerts during the festival week. In that year, Remenyi, one of the foremost violinists of the time, appeared in a recital. Since then many noted musicians have taken part in the activities of festival week, among them Nordica, Schumann-Heink, Gadski, Galli Curci, Giannini, Matzenauer, Ysaye, Marion Talley, Sigrid Onegin, Frances Alda, Claire Dux, Erika Morini, Richard Crooks, Elsa Alsen, and Helen Marshall.

The director of the choir (1938), Dr. Hagbard Erase, has held this position since 1914. Dr. Erase is a native of Sweden and a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music at Stockholm. He is a member of the American Guild of Organists and has achieved success as a composer and conductor.

Lindsborg is also well known as the home of Prof. Sven Birger Sandzen, a painter of international reputation. Professor Sandzen, the dean of Kansas artists, has been a member of the faculty of Bethany College since 1894 and is now (1938) professor of Art History and director of the Art School of the Lindsborg institution.

Wood carving is another Old World art that is practiced in Lindsborg, and many outstanding character interpretations have been produced by Lindsborg artisans. The figures are usually carved from basswood and seldom exceed ten inches in height. Some are faithful representations of American characters, others portray Old Country costumes and activities.

Probably the most notable of Lindsborg' s wood carvers are Anton Pearson and John A. Altenborg.