John Gottlieb Matteson

1835 - 1896

John Matteson, pioneer Seventh-day Adventist preacher and worker in the Scandinavian countries, was also a trained musician who edited and published the first Danish-Norwegian songbooks. Originally a Baptist preacher, he became an Adventist evangelist who, by the time of his death at age sixty, had become a major figure in establishing the Adventist church among the Scandinavians in the U.S. and Europe.

John was born Johannes Gottlieb Mathieson in Langeland, an island in Denmark, on May 1, 1835, the only son of Hans C. and Karen Sonia Johanson Mathiason. Although the family was poor, he was given a good literary and musical education. Two years after beginning work as a postal clerk in Rudkjobing, Denmark, he emigrated with his parents and two sisters to the U.S. at age twenty and settled in Wisconsin.

At age 24, Matteson became a Christian and in the following year attended the Baptist Seminary at Douglas University, a Baptist school, now the the University of Chicago. By the time of his graduation and ordination as a minister two years later, he had married Anna Sieverson, who had been born in Tromso, Norway, in 1930.

They returned to Wisconsin where he served as a pastor of the Danish-speaking Baptist Church in Bloomfield. He then established a Danish Free Will Church in Brushfield where Matilda, the first of their seven children, was born in1862. He next established a church in Poy Sippi, with most of the of the Bloomfield congregation following him. While pastoring there, he and his wife were converted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1963. Matteson converted all of his Baptist congregation, with the exception of one family, making it the second Scandinavian Adventist church in America, the first having been established in Oakland, Wisconsin, four years earlier. Matteson was ordained and charged as a elder in the church by James White on September 21, 1867, in Johnstown Center, Wisconsin, at the first camp meeting held in the SDA Church.

He became a persuasive evangelist who preached the Adventist message stressing the importance of the love of God. His efforts led to the establishment of several churches throughout the Midwest including a Danish-Norwegian church in Chicago. He was also a talented writer whose first Danish language tract, "Det Nye Testamentes Sabbat" ("The New Testament Sabbath"), had to be typeset by him to overcome the initial disinterest at The Review and Herald Publishing House in printing it. A thousand copies were printed and it was later enlarged and reprinted numerous times It is still being used in Denmark.

In August 1870 during a vacation at his home he translated 25 hymns and copied 150 Danish hymns for the first SDA song book in the Danish-Norwegian language. It was released in November as the 220-page Danish Hymn Book. Later when it was expanded and printed in Norway, some of his hymns were included.   

At age 37, he became editor of The Advent Tidende, a magazine for Scandinavian members in the U.S. These were sent to the Northern European countries and ignited interest in the Adventist church and a request for someone to come and work in those countries. Matteson and his family traveled to Denmark in 1877, where his preaching in that country and Norway attracted overflow crowds and led to many conversions. The growth and vitality of the church in those countries led to his establishing the first conference outside the U.S. in 1880, with headquarters in Christiana, now Oslo, Norway.

He had started publishing the Tidernes Tegn (Signs of the Times) in 1879 and in 1881 introduced Sundhedsbladet (The Health Magazine) and a songbook that included a number of songs for which he had written both words and music. In the ensuing years, the publishing house in Oslo published books, magazines, and tracts that led to numerous conversions in the Scandinavian countries.

Matteson returned to the U.S. in 1888 because of failing health where he continued to work tirelessly in the education work of the church and as an editor of its Scandinavian publications. He became a faculty member at Union College, an SDA school established in 1891, that offered classes in the English, Scandinavian, and German languages, teaching Bible classes in the Danish-Norwegian department. Midway through his third year at UC, he became seriously ill and went to live with his son in Southern California, hoping to regain his health. He died two months on March 30, 1896, from chronic bronchitis, at age 60. He was survived by his wife, Anna, and three of their children. Anna was living in Clovis, California, when she died on April 25,1917, at age 87. 


Sources: Death Notice and Obituary for John, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald,  April 7 and 14, 1896; (Matteson Family Tree); Thorvald Kristensen, "Danish Adventists Begin Second Century," Review and Herald, 11 June 1981 and 14; Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Second Revised edition. Volume 11, (Review and Herald Publishing Association 1996) 41; Anna Matteson obituary, Pacific Union Recorder, August 23, 1917, 17.