Carl August Hultkrans was born on April 25, 1859, in Visnum, Värmland, Sweden. He came to the United States in 1870, living first in Lake City, Minnesota and later in Stockholm, Wisconsin. He attended Gustavus Adolphus College 1880-1883 and received a B. A. from Augustana College in 1887. He studied theology at Augustana Seminary 1887-1889. He was ordained in Moline, Illinois, on June 6, 1889. He married Hilma Josefson that year in Moline. They had eight children.
The Rev. Hultkrans’ first pastorate was in Genesco, Illinois, where he served for two years. In 1891, he received a call from the Minnesota Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America to take charge of the Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Several years before the hospital, with an ever-increasing load of debt, had closed until the debt could be paid. At the time Pastor Hultkrans took over the administration of the hospital early in 1902, the debt was $8000. One of the problems was the location of the hospital on Lake Como, several miles from the city center. In a time before automobiles, this was a big liability. Pastor Hultkrans purchased a centrally-located property on Ninth Street which had a large house that could serve as a 30-bed hospital. The new hospital opened on March 8, 1892. During Pastor Hultkrans’ tenure, the hospital was enlarged several times, but under his careful management, the hospital met its payments and decreased its debts.
Pastor Hultkrans intended the hospital to have a Christian atmosphere, and to this end he wanted deaconesses as nurses. He affiliated with the Immanuel Deaconess Institute of Omaha, intending to get deaconesses there, but that institution had few to spare. Sister Bothilda Svenson from Immanuel served as directing sister of Bethesda Hospital from 1898-1907, but Pastor Hultkrans realized he must start his own motherhouse. The Minnesota Conference discouraged this because the Omaha institution was still considered an experiment, but Pastor Hultkrans persisted and the Bethesda Deaconess Home opened in 1902. Probationers entered the next year. Pastor Hultkrans also founded and supervised a home for elderly people at Chisago City, Minnesota, and a home for invalids at Lake Gervais, St. Paul.
In addition to his work at Bethesda, Pastor Hultkrans passion was his interest in China missions. In 1893, he had head a lecture by J. Hudson Taylor, an English missionary who had started the highly successful China Inland Mission. Pastor Hultkrans became convinced that the Augustana Synod should start a mission in China, a conviction shared by others in the Minnesota Conference. In 1901, he was one of the founders of the China Mission Society, which sought to promote missionary work in China. At the society’s second meeting, held on April 8, 1902, Pastor Hultkrans was elected a member of the board. In 1905, the society sent its first missionary to China. Pastor Hultkrans must have been delighted when the first deaconess consecrated at Bethesda, Sister Ingeborg Nystul, who was consecrated in 1906, elected to serve as a missionary in China. Pastor Hultkrans remained on the China Missionary Society board until 1908, when the synod took over the China mission work and formed the China Mission Board. Pastor Hultkrans was president of the board from 1908-1914, and was still a member until his death. He hoped to attend a festival to honor the tenth anniversary of mission work in China, but he suffered a stroke, and after lingering a while, died on October 21, 1915.
The Bethesda Deaconess Home in St. Paul closed in 1930. Twenty-one deaconesses had been consecrated there, but in 1930, only eight remained. They transferred to Immanuel Deaconess Institute.