Elmer R. and Lillian M. Danielson
The eldest of four sons, Elmer Reinhold Danielson was born on May 22, 1903, in Meriden, Connecticut. He attended Mt. Airy Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one year before transferring to Augustana Theological Seminary, Rock Island, Illinois, where he graduated in 1928. He was ordained in Des Moines, Iowa, in June 1928.
Rev. Danielson received his call to serve as an Augustana missionary in the Tanganyika territory during his senior year in seminary. Commissioned as a missionary in September 1928, he set sail for Tanganyika on September 20, 1928. It was on that journey that he met his future wife Lillian. Lillian and Elmer quickly became friends during the journey to Tanganyika. After arriving on the field, Lillian and Elmer were both stationed at Ruruma mission station, in the Iramba field, for language study. After three months Lillian was assigned work in the Iambi dispensary and Elmer was teaching a catechumen class in Iambi. Shortly after completion of language study, Elmer returned to Ruruma. During their separation, both Lillian and Elmer realized their love for each other and each hoped they would be able to work side-by-side one day.
In January 1929 Rev. Danielson was offered the opportunity to begin a new mission field in the Ushola District of the Iramba field. Lillian and Elmer were engaged in February and on August 15, 1929, were married before a congregation of local persons in the church at Ruruma. Soon after they moved into a small apartment in Ruruma and on Thanksgiving Day 1929, they moved into their recently completed home and began the work together for which they had earlier prayed.
From 1929-1937 Pastor and Mrs. Danielson worked in the Ushola District of the Iramba field. During their time at Ushola, four of their six children were born. Work at Ushola included evangelism, religious instruction, the opening of a village elementary school, operation of a medical clinic and dispensary, and the opening of a sub-station at Usele.
In September 1937 Rev. Danielson was placed in charge of work in the Wembere District of the Iramba field. He and his family remained there until 1939, when they returned to the United States on furlough. As the war in Europe intensified, the Danielsons began to question the idea of returning to Tanganyika at that moment. They decided that Rev. Danielson would return alone to Tanganyika to work for two years after which time the family would rejoin him.
In early 1941, missionaries and their families were beginning to return to the field and Rev. Danielson decided the time was right for his family to return. The family booked passage for March 21, 1941, on the Zamzam sailing for Mombasa, Kenya. On April 17, 1941, the ship was shelled and ultimately sunk by the German raider Tamesis. The Augustana church did not learn of the incident until May 19 and then it took another 24 hours to learn the fate of its passengers. All Augustana missionaries as well as other passengers were safe. Mrs. Danielson and the children arrived back in the United States on June 24, 1941. She and the family remained in the United States and Rev. Danielson stayed to work in Tanzania until he was reunited with the family in Lindsborg, Kansas, in November 1944.
Rev. Danielson served in a number of different capacities throughout his time in Tanganyika. He and his family returned to the United States permanently in 1969.
One soon discovered that although all kinds of further book knowledge would be helpful, the fundamental qualities needed by a foreign missionary were love, understanding, and a willingness to learn from the Iramba people.
This series comprises records from 1927-1986 retained by the Rev. Elmer and Mrs. Lillian Danielson, missionaries to Tanzania from 1928-1969. The records pertain to their work as missionaries in Tanzania first for the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church and then the Lutheran Church in America. Record types include correspondence (both personal and professional), meeting minutes, essays, articles, newspaper clippings, newsletters, sermon notes, circular letters, statistical reports, and copies of works authored by Rev. Danielson and Lillian Danielson. The bulk of the collection is correspondence, articles, essays, reports, and newspaper clippings. The collection is also available on microfilm.