Karl Peterson’s legacy throughout the Jamestown community has been widely noticed by the manufacturing community and through his service as a member of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities. However, many people today would not know the side of him that was dedicated to serving those in need.
Growing up in Sweden, Peterson received an excellent common school education and worked closely with his father, demonstrating a natural mechanical talent by overseeing the inner workings of steam engines. His parents instilled in him a good work ethic with the notion that serving one’s community is just as important as being successful.
In 1886, at the age of 20, Peterson left Sweden and moved to Jamestown and began working in the manufacturing of tobacco products. It wasn’t long before his interest in mechanics led him to explore developing tools, thus creating the Crescent Tool Company.
As Peterson’s success grew, so did his family. He married, had children and began to look for ways to continue serving his community.
In addition to a number of civic organizations, Peterson became very involved in the First Lutheran Church of Jamestown.
Organized by Swedish immigrants in 1856, the First Lutheran Church building was constructed on the corner of Center and Chandler Streets in the 1860s. Peterson was an active and loyal member, serving as chair of the board of trustees and even being a part of the construction committee, until his untimely death in 1933.
According to First Lutheran Church’s pastor at the time, Dr. Samuel Miller, who delivered Peterson’s eulogy, the church was proud to have him as a faithful son.
“The secret of (Peterson’s) good and useful life, was the dynamic love of Christ in his heart,” Miller said.
Nearly 20 years later, Peterson’s, son Marvin, created the Karl Peterson Foundation to support community projects. For 40 years, this foundation, managed by Crescent Tool trustees and employees, awarded funds to better the community in honor of their founder.
In 1992, the Karl Peterson Foundation transferred its assets to the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, creating four new funds, each representative of Peterson’s interests and passions.
Since then, the Karl Peterson Fund for First Lutheran Church has awarded $91,500 to support a variety of congregational needs.
According to Pastor Dan Nagle, over the past few years the church has been able to purchase hymnals, install new chairs for the choir loft, renovate and update the pipe organ, and install a chair lift for members unable to climb stairs.
“Awards from the Karl Peterson Fund at the Foundation have also allowed us to raise community garden plots for local residents to use,” Nagle said. “We also purchased a lot on Center Street where we created a green space.”