Reorus Torkillus

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Reorus Torkillus
Born 1608
Stockholm, Sweden
Died 1643
New Sweden
Church Church of Sweden
Title Ordained priest, missionary to New Sweden

Reorus Torkillus (1608–1643) was priest of the Church of Sweden and the first Lutheran clergyman to settle in what would become the United States.[1]


Torkillus was born at Mölndal, near Gothenburg, Sweden in 1608. He studied for the ministry at Lidköping and Skara in Sweden. After completing his education, he served as a chaplain and lecturer at the high school in Gothenburg.[2]

Torkillus sailed with the second expedition of Swedish settlers to New Sweden, aboard the Kalmar Nyckel. He arrived at Fort Christina near present-day Wilmington, Delaware on April 17, 1640. Initially, Torkillus officiated at church services held in a blockhouse at Fort Christina. Planning for and construction of the first log churches in the New Sweden settlement was probably begun during his tenure. Torkillus died at Fort Christina in 1643 and was succeeded in his pastorship to the New Sweden colonists by John Campanius.[3][4]

Today Holy Trinity Church, also known as Old Swedes', is a National Historic Landmark. It was built from local blue granite and Swedish bricks that had been used as ship's ballast on the site of the Fort Christina's burial ground. The church is stated to be the nation's oldest church building still standing as originally built. Lutheran services were held in the Swedish language well into the 18th century.[5]


  1. ^ Bente, Friedrich, 1858-1930. American Lutheranism Volume 1: Early History of American Lutheranism: Lutheran Swedes in Delaware. Concordia: 1919, p.11.
  2. ^ Clay, Jehu Curtis Annals of the Swedes on the Delaware (Published in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by J. C. Pechin, 1835) [1]
  3. ^ Wentz, Abdel Ross. A Basic History of Lutheranism in America. pp. 12–13. 
  4. ^ Gilbert, W. Kent. Commitment to Unity: A History of the Lutheran Church in America. p. 3. 
  5. ^ Old Swedes Episcopal Church, Wilmington, DE

Additional reading[edit]

  • Johnson, Amandus The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware Volume I: Their History and Relation to the Indians, Dutch and English, 1638-1664. (Philadelphia, PA: The Swedish Colonial Society. 1911)
  • McCullough, John W. Sacred Reminiscences in the Old Swedes' Church (Wilmington, Del.: Printed by Porter & Naff, 1842)[2]
  • Benson, Adolph B. and Naboth Hedin, eds. Swedes in America, 1638-1938 (The Swedish American Tercentenary Association. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1938) ISBN 978-0-8383-0326-9

Other sources[edit]

  • Gilbert, W. Kent (1988). "Immigration and Americanizaton". Commitment to Unity: A History of the Lutheran Church in America. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. ISBN 0-8006-0891-7. 
  • Gross, Ernie (1990). This Day in Religion. New York: Neil-Schuman Publishers. ISBN 1-55570-045-4. 
  • Henderson, John R. (2007-09-05). "A History of the Kalmar Nyckel and a New Look at New Sweden". Ithaca College website. Ithaca, NY: Ithaca College. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  • Wentz, Abdel Ross (1955). "New Sweden". A Basic History of Lutheranism in America. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press.