28 February 2015

The Buffalo Years, 1846-1848 (Part 1)


Then we traveled on a canal boat to Buffalo, 140 [Swedish] miles from New York. Because we ran out of money, we could not go further and we, ten families and another 13 people, had to remain in Buffalo. When we came to the dock, two Swedish men appeared who are peddlers in the city. These men took notice of our needs. They went into the city and reserved rooms for all of us and brought our things. We also borrowed money from them as much as we needed. They also provided us with work in the country. In the beginning I had no more than 32 Riksdaler [$34] per month.1

Who were the Swedes who came to the rescue of the passengers of the Virginia ?

This blog will look at the community of Swedes in Buffalo who were already in western New York in 1846.  The next blog will continue with a documentation of the the passengers of the Virginia from their arrival in mid August 1846 until their departure in the fall of 1848.

Jewett, Thomas & Co. A New Map of the City of Buffalo, Published for the Commercial Advertiser Directory, 1849.  Reprinted in Geschichte der Deutschen in Buffalo und Erie County. Buffalo: Reinecke & Zesch, 1898, p 174. This detail of the map (rotated) shows the waterfront at the terminus of the Erie Canal.  This map is included in the website about the Buffalo canal system by Donald L. Hamilton.

Buffalo – Gateway to America’s West


The completion of the Erie Canal and the development of America's Midwest created tremendous growth in Buffalo.  Buffalo was a new city, rapidly growing, and with a large population of immigrants: 4 out of 10 residents were foreign born – about half of those were Germans (17% of the total population).   In 1845 the population of the city of Buffalo amounted to only 29,733.

The growth of Buffalo is shown in the census data a decade later.  In 1855, the population of Buffalo had increased 250% to 74,214.  The German community comprised 22% of the city of Buffalo, 29% of the Town of Hamburg and 21% of the total population of Erie County; and Irish immigrants accounted for about 10% of the population in Erie County in 1855 (their numbers were included within the UK figures in 1845).  This census enumerated just 76 Swedes living in Erie County, 52 of them in Buffalo (their numbers were indistinguishable within the category of Others in the 1845 census).2

The number of Swedes in Buffalo when the passengers of the Virginia arrived is not known.  The 1850 United States Census provides the closest list of Swedes in Buffalo, however it is likely that more than half (maybe two-thirds?) had arrived after our Swedes in 1846.  It should also be kept in mind that there are likely many Swedes who were in Buffalo at this time but who had moved on by the time of the next census.

Those Swedes who have been documented in the area before 1846 make up a tiny population of seaman, stragglers and bon vivants.   The Swedes already in the area were often already fully integrated into American life, many had married Americans.  Moreover, it seems questionable to even describe the Scandinavians living in Buffalo as a community  because they were so few, and they were so intermingled and dispersed in the city and in the surrounding townships (Erie and Niagara County).

Scandinavian Seamen


Although the total Scandinavian community was not large, it did comprise a noteworthy maritime workforce on the Great Lakes. The 1850 United States census enumerated:
    10 Norwegian seaman with Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and German wives and their children,
      4 Swedish seaman with American, Irish and Scottish wives and their children,
      1 Danish sailor with a French wife, and
      1 French sailor with a Norwegian wife.
Of these sixteen Scandinavian maritime families, two were ship captains (Edward Curtis, a Swede, and John Schmidt, a Norwegian) and another was a wheelsman (John Christiansen).  Note that there are more marriages between foreigners than with compatriots.


Other Scandinavians (enumerated)

The other Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes in the 1850 census were dispersed about Buffalo, in the rest of Erie County and in Niagara County . The 1850 United States census enumerated in Buffalo:
      4 Norwegian families and their children,
    13 Unmarried Norwegian servants (male and female),
      4 Swedish families and their children.
      3 Unmarried Swedes  (1 male piano maker and 2 female servants),
      3 Danish families with 1 German husband and 2 German wives.

An important personality for later immigrants may have been Ole Lawson, a Norwegian who was an innkeeper in the First Ward, at the terminus of the Erie Canal.  He is only listed in the 1848 Buffalo City Directory, working as an innkeeper at Water Street near Commercial.  This may be the same person as Alanson Lawson who is enumerated in the 1850 census (with two unrelated Swedish women and a Norwegian man living with his family).  Likewise, this may be the Norwegian named Larson in whose inn Hans Mattson stayed in 1851 (1890, p 16). 

Of the Swedes in Buffalo, one was Sven Lindahl (1846.012) who arrived with his family 8 Sep 1846 aboard the Morgan Dixon in New York City – just a month after those aboard the Virginia.  This family lived in Black Rock until moving to Chautauqua County and purchasing a farm near Mayville in 1853. 3

Another Swede listed in the 1850 census was Carl Fredrik Edmon (1849.042) who arrived with his family 12 July 1849 aboard the Charles Tottie  in New York City .  They settled in Warren County before 1856 when the family was listed by Swensson in the Sugar Grove congregation.  Their presence in Buffalo was a year after the passengers of the Virginia had left Buffalo.

Several Scandinavians were enumerated outside of Buffalo in Erie County in the 1850 census. These included Peter Bark (likely a retired seaman) who was a farmer with a German wife in the Town of Eden.  A Swedish farm laborer named Ackman was working in the Town of Wales. Three Norwegian families farmed in the Town of Alden, another in the Town of Newstead.  And a Danish shoemaker named Bentson lived with his family in the Town of Wales.  Significantly, none of these Scandinavians lived in the Town of Hamburg or East Hamburg (Orchard Park) which is the location noted in historical narratives as the place where the families who later settled in Sugar Grove lived and worked from 1846-1848.

The 1850 census also listed several Scandinavians living in Niagara County, north of Erie County.   Jacob Swatcher4  was listed as a Swede living in Lewiston, Niagara County, but he was actually Swiss.  A Swedish farmhand named Johnson worked in the Town of Pendleton.  Charles F. Tranchell5  and his family lived in the Town of Porter,  just north of Lewiston.  Tranchell was married to a Belgian immigrant and had six children.  His obituary notes that he was born in Göteborg, but no connection to the influential Tranchell family (Swedish East India Company, etc) has been documented.  At the close of the Civil War this family migrated to Clinton County, Michigan.

Tranchell was the only Swedish family living in Niagara County in the 1850, however, they had been part of a small Swedish enclave centered in Lewiston during the 1840s.

Detail. Map exhibiting the rail road, canal, lake, and river routes from New York and Boston to the west : via Ocdensburgh [sic] and Sacket's [sic] Harbor, N.Y. [New York? : s.n.], 1849.   Library of Congress Catalog Number 2010588057.

 

Swedes (not enumerated)


There are likely a number of Swedes who lived in the Buffalo area in 1846 who were not enumerated in the 1850 census because they had moved on to other destinations.  Of those Swedes who weren't enumerated in 1850, there was a group in Lewiston, Niagara County who are documented in personal letters of the 1840s.  These residents were primarily from the upper classes of Sweden.

The highest profile Swede was Count Magnus August Mauritz Piper of Stockholm.  He had left Sweden in 1834 and arrived in New York aboard the Providentia from Göteborg.  In 1841 he had married an American woman in Boston named Mary Ann Blood.6   The couple returned to Sweden sometime between 1847 and 1850.

August Sundevall7 arrived in New York in August 1845.  He used Buffalo as his base for travels in America from 1845-1847.   His letters to his family in Stockholm described his travels and provided some information about Swedes he encountered.   Sundevall enlisted in the U.S. Army in September 1847 (as Augustus Jackson, Co. M, US First Artillery) and fought in the war against the Mexicans where he died in Vera Cruz in June 1848.

One of Sundevall's letters was written in 26 December 1845 at the house of J. Morrell in Lewiston.8

Joseph C. Morrell is the most interesting Swede who lived in Lewiston in the 1840s.  Contemporary accounts by three travelers to Buffalo have provided sufficient detail to track his origin.  He was born in Helsingborg in 1809 when Sweden (allied with Great Britain) was at war with Denmark (allied with France) and his parents were the "Englishman" Joseph Morrell and Maria Christina Gersonius.   The war or the shift in alliances after Sweden's treaty with France (Treaty of Paris, 6 January 1810) may explain why Morrell was raised by his single mother (in Ystad after 1813).   Morrell began his apprenticeship as a saddlemaker in Ystad and then left the city in 1826 (age 15).  His movement after 1826 and his emigration have not yet been documented.

Morrell arrived in his young twenties (about 1832) in America.  He was a partner with Daniel Castle9  and operated Castle & Morrell jewelry shop in Buffalo from 1840-1844.  During this period, he met Gustaf Usonius (September 1841) and A.M. Johnson  (September 1843) and August Sundevall (December 1845).

He married  Nancy Helen Hewitt, the only daughter of a wealthy early settler in Lewiston, on 6 September 184110 in Lewiston, Niagara County.   It is unclear if the couple lived in Buffalo several years before moving to the farm in Lewiston, or if they split time between the two places.  Joseph had four children with Nancy, but is not found in the 1850 census.  Nancy Morrell is listed again in her parent's household, likely a widow.


Buffalo, the City of Good Neighbors


So, which of the Swedes in Buffalo came to the rescue of the passengers of the Virginia in August 1846?   There aren't that many to choose from, so it should be simple, but no clear candidates present themselves.

Samuel Johnson's commentary is the most authoritative:  two Swedes, both peddlers, with money to lend and a connection for jobs in the South Towns.

However, the narrative by A.J. Lannes (1914) noted that "two of their countryman heard them at the landing, and through them their immediate needs were provided."  Lannes quoted Fredrick Johnson: "they seemed like angels from heaven."   Then Lannes added that "(a) woman of Swedish birth, residing in Buffalo, came to their assistance later, and work was found for the grown-ups on the farms in the neighborhood of Hamburg, N.Y."   Lannes has been correct in other details about this group, and his source is identified, so there is credence in this elaboration.

The Swedish woman who helped might not  have been listed in the 1850 census, she may have moved away from Buffalo.  Of those enumerated in 1850 there are four candidates.
  • Ann Ibertson and Eva ? were both living in the boarding house run by Lawson.  They were likely new arrivals to Buffalo and therefore neither is likely to have been this Swedish woman.  
  • Mary Christiansen was the wife of Peter Christiansen, a Norwegian sailor.  They are listed as Peter Criseson[sic] and family in the 1855 New York State census and were noted to have resided in Buffalo since 1845.  
  • Mary Wall was the wife of the Norwegian sailor, William A. Wall.  Their family included an oldest son born in 1844 in New York.  I have not located them in later censuses.
To date I have not been able to establish a connection between any of the Swedish women and Hamburg.  The high concentration of Germans in Hamburg may be a clue.  While on the one hand there is a normal relationship between recently established immigrants and new immigrants (not always favorable to the new arrivals) it seems equally likely that the 60+ passengers of the Virginia represented an unwanted competition for work.  There may be a relationship established through a church group.  I have found no evidence.

The identity of the two Swedish men that came to the rescue of the passengers of the Virginia remains undetermined.   Overwhelmingly, the most likely candidate is Joseph C. Morrell, however, it is questionable to posit that he just happened to be in Buffalo instead of at his farm in Lewistown.

Joseph Morrell had come to the rescue of Swedes before.  When Gustaf Unonius traveled through Buffalo on his way to Wisconsin in 1841 he had difficulties with the freight charges for his luggage.  Unonius wrote that he was fortunate to have met Morrell who helped him settle the disagreement about the extra charges and saved Unonius money.
...Troligtvis skulle nya krångel uppstått , hade ej lyckan fört i vår väg en i Buffalo bosatt Svensk, som hjelpte oss till rätta. Denne Svensk, vid namn Morrcll, hade i många år varit i Amerika, var gift härstädes, och det var icke utan svårighet som han i början kunde underhålla samtalet på svenska. Efter några timmars konversation gick det likväl bättre. Han hade i Sverige varit sadelmakaregesall, men var nu juvelerare, d. v. s. icke till handtverket, men som försäljare, och innehade en af de mest eleganta butiker i Buffalo, med ett väl försedt lager af alla slags ur och klockor, guld, silfver och juvelerarearbeten. Enligt hans egen berättelse kom han hit med jemnt 25 cents , 1 Rdr Rmt, i fickan, och tog till en början tjenst någonstädes på landet. Snart märkte han likväl att han icke dugde till arbetare, men deremot vara klippt och skuren till handelsman. Han förskaffade sig derföre på ett eller annat sätt en liten lådamed spetsar,' nålar, ringar, kråsnålar och andra nipper, ett litet lager, med ett ord, af hvad här kallas Yankey-notions, hvars afsättning gifver en alldeles orimlig vinst. De till större delen oäkta guld- och silfver- prydnaderna, inköpta i parti för ett ganska ringa pris, utminuteras såsom äkta bland de för bjefs och grannlåter ofta svaga armerdöttrarne på landet. Med sin låda på ryggen vandrade Morrell från hus till hus, och der han icke kunde göra några andra affärer, så erhöll han åtminstone, såsom bruket är bland dessa Peddlers eller krämare, alltid sin middag och sitt nattqvarter emot någon messingsring eller några glasperlor. — Slutligen utvidgade han mer och mer sin rörelse; förstod att skaffa sig god kredit, och hade nu ett stort etablissemang, varifrån han dagligen furnerade ett dussin krämare, som sedan på vägar och gator afsatte hans varor till betydlig vinst för honom och sig sjelfva.

Gustav Unonius, Minnen från en sjuttonårig vistelse i nordvestra Amerika, Stockholm: 1862, p 83-84.
No doubt we should have had more trouble still had not our good fortune brought us into contact with a Swede who was living in Buffalo and who helped get things straightened out. This Swede, whose name was Morrell, had lived in America many years and had married in this country. At first he found it difficult to carry on a conversation in Swedish. After a few hours, however, he managed it with greater ease. In Sweden he had been a harness maker's journeyman, but now he was a jeweler; that is, not one practicing the trade, but a vender of jewelry. He had one of the most elegant stores in Buffalo with a valuable stock of all kinds of watches and clocks, as well as of gold, silver, and other jeweler's goods. According to his own statement he had come to Buffalo with twenty-five cents in his pocket. At first he had hired out as a farm laborer, but he soon realized he had not been born to hard labor. He thought, though, he would make a success as a businessman. In some way or other he managed to obtain a small stock of lace, needles, rings, stickpins, and other trinkets — what is known as "Yankee notions," the sale of which brings an immense profit. Most of it consisted of imitation gold and silver ornaments, purchased in quantities at low prices and sold as genuine to farmer lasses with a weakness for gewgaws and bits of finery. With a box on his back, he walked from house to house. Where he was unable to make a sale, he managed at any rate, as is customary among peddlers, to get his meals and lodging in exchange for a brass ring or a few glass beads. In the course of time he extended his business and established his credit. Now he had a large establishment from which he furnished a dozen peddlers, who sold his wares on highways and byways, at good profit to themselves as well as to him.

Gustav Unonius. A pioneer in Northwest America, 1841-1858; the Memoirs of Gustaf Unonius. Vol 1, translation by Oscar Backland and edited by Nils William Olsson, 1950, p. 84-85.


Another Swede encountered the same difficulty in Buffalo and was assisted by the same Swede, Joseph C. Morrell, in 1844.
Friday, September 2, we arrived at Buffalo, next to New York the most important city we passed. Here we had to make final arrangement with the agents of the transportation company, who demanded a dollar for each one hundred pounds (our goods were 1900 pounds overweight), but with the aid of a kindly countryman we succeeded in having it reduced to seventy-five cents. We can never be grateful enough to this honorable and unselfish countryman, C. Morell*, a merchant, who assisted us in matters that we as strangers knew nothing about, giving much of his time and going to a great deal of trouble. We remained in Buffalo until Monday, the 11th, when we continued our journey… *his address is 191 Main St.
A.M. Jönsson, Letter From a Swedish Emigrant in North America, Aftonbladet, March 2, 1844. Translated by George M. Stephenson and reprinted in Letters relating to Gustaf Unonius and the early Swedish settlers in Wisconsin, Augustana Historical Society Publications, 1937, p 117-118.



Are there other Swedish men who match the description of these Swedes?  Sundevall wrote that he had been cared for by a Swedish doctor named Polman.11    Sundevall also noted that a Swedish peddler/merchant named Swedberg12  had assisted him in Buffalo, but provided no other details about this person.

Unfortunately, the identity of those who came to the rescue of our Swedes remains undetermined.  My best guess is that the two Swedish men who assisted the the passengers of the Virginia were either Joseph Morrell (who by coincidence was in town) and an assistant, or two Swedes who worked for Morrell.  Recall that Usonius noted that Morrell had several peddlers working for him in 1841.  It seems plausible that Morrell could have employed Swedes in need of a job to peddle goods to the travelers arriving by canal or setting out by steamship.  Morrell's generosity to strangers is the mark of a peddler with a disposition well suited for trade.  I don't believe it is unreasonable to think that if he had employed other Swedes that he would have then insisted on the same demeanor.

Let me know if you find any family stories about Swedes earning money as a peddler en route  west -- all the Swedes of Jamestown owe a debt of gratitude.


Endnotes

  1. Sedan reste vi på kanalbåt till Buffalo, 140 mil från New-York. Emedan vära penningar då voro slut, sä kunde vi icke komna längre utan mäste vi, tio familjer och några 13:a personer, stanna i Buffalo. När vi kommo till bryggan, framträdde 2 Svenske mån, som aro handlande bår i staden. Desse gjorde sig underrastade om våra behov. De gingo upp I staden och beställde rum ät oss atta samt skjuts till våra saker. Vi fings även låna penningar af dem så mycket vi behovde. De skaffade oss åven arbete på landet. I borjan fick jag icke mer ån 32 Rdr i mänaden.    Samuel Jönsson, 22 November 1846, Buffalo, New York.

    Samuel Johnson, letter published in the Östgötha Correspondenten, May 26, 1847 and referenced by Nils William Olsson in his research (1967, 1995). This is my own crude translation of the text, I apologize for its limited quality.

    I want to thank Lars Griberg of Linköpings Universitetsbibliotek for providing a digital image of the original newspaper article. It was an act of internet kindness that is very much appreciated.


  2. See the statistics presented in New York Department of State and Franklin Benjamin Hough. Census of the State of New York for 1855 Taken in Pursuance of Article Third of the Constitution of the State and of Chapter Sixty-Four of the Laws of 1855. Albany: Printed by C. Van Benthuysen, 1857.

  3. Sven Lindahl was enumerated as Swan Lindell from Switzerland. This typical mistake was likely more common in the Buffalo area where the influence of German immigrants was substantial. The information about the Swedish population isn't complete because I have not reviewed the likely categorization of Swedes as Germans in the various censuses.

  4. Jacob Swatcher (3 Sep 1821 Basel, Switzerland - 16 Mar 1910 Niagara County, New York)  He was listed with an American wife and three young children in Lewiston in 1850.  See Find a Grave Memorial# 55173076.    Swatcher was Schweitzer and Sweden was Switzerland  but that is relatively common in census takers listings.  A Swanson  in Buffalo was later listed as Swanzer .

  5. Charles F. Tranchell (1807 Göteborg - 1899 Clinton County, Michigan)  Tranchell. — Chas. Tranchell, an old resident, died at his home in northeast Bengal February 19, 1899, aged 82 years. He was born in Gottenburg, Sweden, and came to the United States in 1836, and was married to Magdelena Stagner, December 5, 1838, at East Rochester, N. Y. Soon after they removed to Porter, Niagara county, N. Y. In 1865 they moved to Clinton county and settled on the farm where they both died. Mr. Tranchell had held various township offices and positions of trust, and was most highly esteemed by all. He leaves three sons, George C. and John L., of St. Johns, and J. R., of LeRoy, Osceola county.   Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society. Historical Collections, Collections and Researches, Vol 29 (1901), p 60.

  6. Mary Ann Blood (May 19, 1817 Massachusetts - March 11, 1862 Björklinge Parish, Uppsala län) was the daughter of Hannah Kenney (1796 - 2 Nov 1874 Salem) and Nathan Blood (1785 Massachusetts  - 1850/1855), a merchant from Salem, Massachusetts who later lived in Charlestown.  Piper and Blood were married 26 April 1841 in Boston (Boston Marriages, Vol 2, p 212).  August Mauritz Magnus Piper was the son of a baroness and a high-ranking military officer.  After returning to Stockholm, they settled in Björklinge Parish, Uppsala län in 1855.  (See Olsson and Wikén, 1995, p 171 and web pages of Swedish nobility.)  Olsson and Wikén noted: "Both d. in 1862.  The wife's estate went to her mother, who was still living, a sister Elizabeth and the wife of her deceased brother, Nathan, named Mary."  Searches in the 1840-1870 censuses identified Mary as the likely daughter of  Nathan and Hannah Blood; and birth, marriage and death records document this as fact.

  7. August Sundevall (11 July 1810 Högestad Parish, Malmöhus län - 25 June 1848 Vera  Cruz, Mexico).  See research by Olsson & Wikén (1995, p 171, 222, note 932).  

    The letters of August Sundevall are in the collection of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.  Olsson & Wikén reference these correspondences in their update of Olsson’s work.   I would like to thank Maria Asp Dahlbäck, archivist for the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences (Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien), for locating these documents and providing digital images.  I have only transcribed a fraction of these letters to date.  Their content is, in general, superficial and dealt with the every day issues of money, sickness and travel arrangements.  However, these letters are nearly unique in their witness to Amerika and Buffalo in the 1840s.   Many sections of the letters are written in portrait orientation and then overwritten in a different ink in the landscape orientation, and this can make reading difficult (luckily there is Photoshop).

  8. Detail from August Sundevall letter, 26 December 1845, p 2.  Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences collection, Stockholm.  Image courtesy of Maria Asp Dahlbäck. © Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien



  9. Sundevall wrote a short description about Morrell after Christmas in 1845:    Värden heter Morrell, och är frän Ystad, han var uti Sadelmakarene lära hus Erlandsson i Ystad, då jag var hus Åkerblom i bod, han kom het for 14 år sedan, började, handla med synålar o såba ut smutt, och har förtjent hans compagnon bor, Morrell har gif sig med en rik Farmors enda doter och sått sedan 40 milk och är har en mäkta stor patron.  Roughly translated: My host is named Morrell, and is from Ystad, he was a saddlermaker’s apprentice in the house of Erlandsson in Ystad, then he was in the house of Åkerblom in bod [?], he came here 14 years ago, began selling sewing needles and såba [sic. soap?] and small things, and has deserved his compagnon life, Morrell has married a rich farmer’s daughter and has 40 milk cows and is a large landowner. 

  10.  Daniel B. Castle (1815-1883) was born in Connecticut and worked as a jeweler for most of his life in Buffalo.  In 1839 he is listed in the Buffalo Directory as owning a jeweler’s stand at the foot of Commercial Street (near the terminus of the Erie Canal).  He was a partner with Joseph C. Morrell from 1840-1844. In 1847 his own shop was listed at 189 Main Street.  Some additional Information about his career can be found in guides to American silversmiths.

  11. See the separate page for research notes about Joseph C. Morrell.  The marriage entry for Joseph Morrell and Helen Hewitt was part of a transcription of 1840s Lewiston records by Michelle Kratts and this was key to further research about Morrell.

  12. Doctor Polman, identity unknown. He is not listed in the Buffalo City directories.  In the same letter of 26 December 1845, Sundevall wrote  "...Sedan mitt sista bref från Buffalo, insjuknade jag ånyo i Röt Feber, och maste ligga 26 dygn. hade icke en Swensk Låkare vid namn Polman kommit, hade jag vär alldrig kommit längne. genom hans åtgard blef jag frisk, och han lärds mig tala lite Engl men min kassa minskades hvarje dag."  Roughly translated: ... "Since my last letter from Buffalo, I became ill again with fever [gangrene?] for 26 days. If a Swedish doctor named Polman had not come, I would have never made it. Through his care I became healthy, and he taught me talk a little English, but my money was reduced every day." 
  13. Swedborg, identity unknown.  He is not listed in the Buffalo City directories.  In the same letter of 26 December 1845.  Sundevall noted that "En Svensk Handl. vid namn Swedberg" had helped him get to the Farmers Bank. This may be the same man listed by George T. Flom:  "In 1843 we find a Gustaf Flack located in Chicago.  About the same time came also a Swede whose name was Astrom... Not long after he was joined by a Swede named Svedberg, who came from Buffalo, New York."   Flom, 1905, p 596. 

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