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.
Matteson was born in Langeland, Denmark, 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 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 a Baptist seminary in Chicago. By the time of his graduation and ordination as minister two years later, he had married Anna Sieverson, who had been born in Tromso, Norway. They would have seven children.
They moved to Wisconsin, where he pastored a Danish-speaking Baptist congregation. Following his and his wife's conversion to the Adventist church in 1863, 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 also been in Wisconsin.
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. He was also a talented writer whose first Danish language tract, "Det Nye Testamentes Sabbat" ("The New Testament Sabbath"), was also typeset by him. During this time he edited the first Adventist songbook in the Danish-Norwegian language.
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 the establishment in 1880 of the first conference outside the U.S., 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, where he continued to work tirelessly in the education work of the church and as an editor of its Scandinavian publications, in spite of serious health problems. He became a faculty member at Union College, a 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 later from chronic bronchitis.
Sources: Death Notice and Obituary, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 7 and 14 April 1896; Ancestory.com (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.