24 Feb Pentecost Comes To Pennsylvania – Emil Samuelson
Emil Samuelson was born in Solberga, Sweden on May 21, 1871. He is considered by many to be responsible for bringing Pentecost to Pennsylvania via the railroad! This is his story…
Growing up in a modest home, Emil was confirmed in the state church of Sweden (“Lutheran”) which enabled him to be married in the church. He came to Christ during his teen years as the result of Salvation Army meetings being held in Gothenburg. A friend invited him to come to the platform and ask the Lord to forgive him of his sins. Emil reported, “I told him I would do that when I got home – and I did. When I got home I got down on my knees at an old trunk in the kitchen and said, ‘Lord be merciful to me a sinner.’ The Lord said ‘your sins are forgiven thee.’ That was … August, 1888. At this time, February 1959, it is still good. Thank the Lord.” Emil’s father was not entirely pleased with his participation in the Salvation Army meetings, and expressed his displeasure. Nevertheless, Emil continued serving the Lord.
In 1889, at the age of 18, Emil requested that his father make arrangements for him to come to America. Arrangements were made through a friend of the family, and Emil arrived in New York on March 29 after a two week journey. Samuelson settled in Westfield, New York, and began to work at a tannery. His first paycheck amounted to $10, five dollars of which he kept for himself, and the other five he sent to “a poor widow in Sweden that he had taken shoes to while working with the shoemaker. “She had two children and had trouble with her lungs,” Emil said. “I felt sorry for her. That was seventy years ago, but I still feel the blessing that came from doing that,” he reported.
Friends from Gothenburg also immigrated to New York. Two of these friends decided to be married, and since Emil had been dating a young woman of this group for some time, a decision was reached to make the wedding a double. Thus, Emil and Ida were married in November of 1891. After having a number of children, and moving from place to place to work in tanneries, Emil saved enough money to apply to a school for training as a civil servant. “I was interested in railway mail service. It was very, very hard – especially for a fellow that had limited schooling and no English at all. But with the help of the Lord, I studied and studied.”
After a move to Elkland, Pennsylvania, Samuelson and family began to attend a mission that had recently begun. Samuelson reflects, “The head man who did the preaching was a telegraph operator named Henry Clark. They had been in touch with Dr. A.B. Simpson of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The doctrine of sanctification was preached. My wife and I started to attend and we enjoyed the services very much.
At one meeting they had an evangelist. He preached that if there was something in my life that caused me trouble, I could come and ask the Lord and He would take it out. So I went and asked, and the Lord heard my cry; and it has been out ever since. They called it sanctification. Whatever it is called, God did the work!”
Samuelson’s experience with the Lord continued to grow along with his family and career. In 1898 or 1899, Samuelson reported a very distinct healing experience from the Lord during a crowded prayer meeting. “I got up from that prayer meeting and to this day have not had a sick day,” he reported. Emil also learned how to wait for the Lord’s return. “In the summer of 1899 a traveling evangelist came. He had a revelation that the Lord would come when 1899 and 1900 met. Therefore everyone was waiting for twelve o’clock midnight of December 31, 1899 because we were all interested.”
“Our Watchnight Service started early so we could be home when the Lord would appear. We went home at eleven forty-five. Out of the upstairs window my wife and I looked at the sky to see when the Lord would come through the clouds. My wife had one look and I another; now another minute and the Tannery whistle would sound and the Lord would appear. We both crowded in the window…it sounded, we looked, but no Lord appeared! We were a rather disappointed crowd at the next meeting; however, we had learned what it is to wait for the Lord to come.”
In 1902 Samuelson received an appointment to work for the Buffalo-Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad. Among other places, his duties on the railroad caused him to travel between Bradford, Pennsylvania and Rochester, New York. It was during this period that Emil began attending Elim Tabernacle when his railroad duties put him Rochester.
“Reports had been coming that the Lord was pouring out His Spirit; people that were tarrying before Him would be blessed and would speak in other languages as they did on the day of Pentecost. Some said this was of God and others said it was not…Pastor Erdman had been in Los Angeles and had received this experience. Once while in Rochester on a Friday night I attended the Erdman meeting. As we were standing up it seemed the Lord said, ‘why not go up and find out if it is from me or not…’ After a little while Brother Erdman came, put his hand on my head and asked me, ‘what are you here for?’ I answered, ‘For the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ He said, ‘Lift up your hands,’ and with that he started to pray. I fell on the floor and while there I saw the Lord Jesus coming in the air, on clouds. Turning my head I saw a stream of people going into perdition until I cried out, ‘Lord please delay your coming in order that souls may be saved.’ Then I started to speak in other languages.”
After receiving the Baptism of the Spirit, Samuelson arranged for Evangelist Erdman to hold meetings in his home in Bradford, Pennsylvania. After a group was established, Emil was asked to pastor this new work. Feeling inadequate to do so, Emil insisted that someone more qualified would take the church. Samuelson stated, “They insisted that I was God’s man at the time, and I said I would hold on until the Lord sent His man.” Eventually, while attending a camp meeting in Homestead near Pittsburgh, Samuelson heard the preaching of E.S. Williams. Williams was invited to Bradford to conduct meetings, and eventually returned to work with Samuelson for two and a half years. (E.S. Williams would eventually serve as General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.)
Emil Samuelson was ordained on March 1, 1918. He served the Lord faithfully in Bradford until 1954 when W.T. Kroah assumed the pastorate. In addition to his pastoral and evangelistic efforts, Emil worked full time with the railroad until his retirement in April 1933, the time of mandatory retirement.
A more extensive record of Emil Samuelson’s life and ministry can be read in his autobiography “Samuelson’s Saga.”