The first Lutherans in the New World were the Welzers who settled in Venezuela in 1528, where they remained until the Spanish took possession 1550. Lutherans settled in Florida in 1562, but were “liquidated” by the Spaniards.
In 1619 a Danish expedition spent the winter on the shores of Hudson Bay, bringing along a pastor, the Rev. Rasmus Jensen. He conducted services from September until January, the first Lutheran services in America.
The first Lutherans to settle permanently in America came from Holland to New Amsterdam [New York] in 1623. Some moved upstate, settling at Fort Orange [Albany]. These Lutherans were not allowed by the Dutch to build churches or secure pastors. On Manhattan Island they organized a congregation in 1648, but did not secure freedom of worship until 1664. A pastor was secured in 1669, and a church built in 1671.
Swedish Lutherans settled along the Delaware River in 1638. A pastor was sent to them from Sweden in the next year. Nine miles from Philadelphia the first Lutheran church in America was built in 1646. Immigration from Sweden stopped after 1655, but the Swedish congregations survived for many years. Several of their churches [Old Swedes, at Wilmington, Delaware, built 1699; Gloria Dei, Philadelphia, 1700] are still standing, now belonging to the Episcopal Church.
About 1700 a great tide of German immigration began. Many of these settlers were Lutherans. Some came to Pennsylvania. The oldest congregation they organized  is in New Hanover. But in the early period the larger number of these Lutherans came to New York. Congregations were established in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. Among the pioneer pastors at work in this area was Justus Falckner, ordained to the ministry in the Swedish church in Philadelphia, 1703, first Lutheran pastor ordained in America.
After 1717 most of the Lutheran colonists settled in Pennsylvania, coming in rapidly increasing numbers. Other Lutheran colonists established themselves in the South, notably the Salzburg refugees who settled in Georgia in 1734. Their descendants still maintain flourishing congregations. Lutherans also settled in the Carolinas and Virginia before the middle of the eighteenth century. Others went north to Nova Scotia, helping to found the city of Halifax in 1749 and establishing a strong and permanent Lutheran center in Lunenburg in 1753.
When Henry Muhlenberg reached America in 1742 he found the Lutheran Church already here, but not organized, poorly provided with pastors, greatly in need of leadership. Muhlenberg’s great place in American Lutheran history is that he became the leader who drew together the growing Lutheran forces and welded them into a strong and progressive Church.”
Look for the “John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg” installment in our September Archive Web Page.