10 December 2014

The 1846 Emigrants

Eleven passengers who arrived in New York City aboard the iron-laden Swedish barque Virginia in August 1846 settled in Sugar Grove after two years working near Buffalo.1 They were joined in August 1848 by two more family members, two more servants from Lönneberga, and another unconnected family of five who had arrived aboard the Thracian. This group of 20 Swedes made their way from Buffalo to Sugar Grove township in northern Warren County, Pennsylvania in October 1848.2 Their settlement became the parent community3 for Swedish immigrants in Jamestown and the surrounding area.

This is the first of three blogs about their story.

Kisa, Gustaf Sundius, Peter Cassel and the 1846 emigrants 

Most of the histories of the settlement of Swedes in Warren and Chautauqua counties emphasize the connection to Hässleby parish – the origin of the name for the Hessel Valley4 Evangelical Lutheran Church. But more than a third of the passengers aboard the Virginia were from Kisa parish (less than 7 percent emigrated from Hässleby).

Emigration from Kisa and the surrounding parishes along the border of Östergötlands, Jönköpings and Kalmar län began in 1845 with Peter Cassel.5 The fifty-four year old Cassel was an established farmer who sold his land and left Kisa with twenty others in May 1845. They sailed aboard the Superb and arrived in New York City in August where they met Rev. O. G. Hedstrom, whose Bethel Ship mission was in its third year of operation. They also met Peter Dahlberg whose knowledge of America changed Cassel's choice of destination from Wisconsin to Iowa.6

In September 1845, along their journey west, Peter Cassel wrote a letter from Cincinnati to C.G. Sundius7 back in Kisa.  In February 1846, Cassel wrote a letter from Iowa that was published in the Linköping newspaper Östgöta Correspondenten in May. During the spring of 1846, thirty-one Swedes, including the families of Måns (Magnus) Jonsson and his younger brother, Germund Jonsson, received their exit permits from the parish priest in Kisa and joined the assemblage of about 75 passengers who sailed on the Virginia plus about 45 passengers who sailed aboard the Augusta to join Cassel in Iowa.

An important factor in the emigration from Kisa8 was the Apothecary Carl Gustaf Sundius (1783-1858). Starting in 1846, the apothecary shop in Kisa also served as an emigration bureau for the area. Its owner, the pharmacist Sundius, arrived in Kisa with his family in 1836 and had become an important friend of Peter Cassel. Both shared political views that argued for social, religious and economic reform in Sweden. Sundius never emigrated to America (he was 7 years older than Cassel), but he assisted in the sale of Cassel’s property in Kisa and helped with later emigration of locals to Cassel’s settlement in Iowa. His 26-year old son, Julius, was part of the group who emigrated aboard the Augusta in 1846.

I have found no documentation that directly connects the emigrants aboard the Virginia with Peter Cassel and/or Carl Gustaf Sundius, but it is reasonable to assert that both Sundius and Cassel were essential to their decision to emigrate. Kisa was the seat of the region (Kinda härad) and was the location for an essential service (pharmacy) which suggests that the emigrants of 1846 knew Carl Gustaf Sundius and Peter Cassel (either personally or by reputation) and based their emigration plans on Peter Cassel’s example. The geographic distribution of the emigrants aboard the Superb (1845), Virginia (1846) and Augusta (1846) demonstrates Peter Cassel's direct or indirect influence on this early mass emigration from Sweden.

Inland Travel of the 1846 Emigrants 

The emigrants aboard the Virginia probably followed Cassel's route to Göteborg.9 The first stage would have been by horse and cart10 from their farms to a point on the Göta Canal (about 40 miles/60 kilometers north of Kisa) such as Berg on Lake Roxen, north of Linköping. The travel was then by canal boat along the Göta Canal to Vättern Lake, across the lake to continue with the canal to Vänern Lake, and then south following the Göta River to Göteborg.  Alternatively, they may have traveled to the Göta Canal and then proceeded east to the Baltic coast and then by steamship to Göteborg.

Göteborg and the ships to America 

In this era, most emigrated from Sweden to America aboard sailing ships carrying semi-processed iron. Göteborg was a city of about 20,000 inhabitants in 1845 and was the principal port for the export of bar iron from Värmland and Västergötland producers (the other principal export port was Gävle near the iron producers north of Stockholm). Most ships sailed to New York City, however some trade also went through Boston.

In 1846, it is likely that the emigrants had to make travel arrangements to America by contracting directly with the captain of the ship. This practice was soon replaced with agents. The departure of ships was irregular, depending on the wind and the arrival of ships for loading.   Cassel and his group helped construct a farm building for the Captain of the Superb while they waited for the ship's departure. The emigrants in 1846 from Östergötland and Småland arranged passage on two ships, the Virginia and the Augusta. The emigrants who would settle in Warren County booked passage aboard Captain E.A. Jansson’s Virginia.

The Virginia11 was a sailing ship rigged as a barque that hauled Swedish bar iron from Göteborg to New York City. Its voyage in 1846 was under contract arranged by C. Edward Habicht, the Swedish consul in New York. The ship was owned by Olof Wijk,12 a very influential businessman and politician in Göteborg, and the ship was captained by a 30 year old Swede, Erik Andreas Jansson. E.A. Jansson was the son of the sea captain, Erik Jansson, who associated with Olof Wijk (Wijk and his wife were godparents at the baptism of E.A. Jansson). Captain E.A. Jansson is noteworthy for the respect shown him in accounts by emigrants.

The Passengers of the Virginia

The parishes most represented aboard the Virginia were Kisa (26), Horn (8), Södra Vi (7), Västra Eneby (6), Hässleby (5), Gammalkil (5), and Lönneberga (5). This is a partial list because not all passengers have been identified or documented, but the concentration of emigrants from Kisa is evident. The parishes adjacent to Kisa are Tiderseum, Ulrika, Västra Eneby, Horn, Malexander and Södra Vi (Kalmar); and, if you add these parishes with Kisa, they represented two-thirds of the passenger onboard the Virginia.

The parish of origin for the emigrants from 1846 and 1848 who settled in Warren and Chautauqua County.  The families who
arrived on the Morgan Dix and New York settled in the area in the 1850s.  Note: both maps are at the same scale.

The next blog will continue the story of the emigrants aboard the Virginia from Göteborg to New York and onward.


  1. These eleven immigrants were part of the larger group who were waylaid in the Buffalo area from 1846 to 1848.  Hamburg is indicated as the place where Germund and Carin Johnson worked, however, the group may have been more than 60 people, so it is likely that these Swedes were dispersed throughout Erie County’s South Towns.

  2. Some histories note that Germund and Carin Johnson had moved to Sugar Grove in 1847, a year earlier.  Lannes (p 9) indicated that the group arrived October 13, 1848.

  3. This type of migration, step-by-step, is discussed by Lars Ljungmark in Den Stora utvandringen. Svensk emigration till USA 1840-1925, (En radiokurs), Stockholm: Sveriges Radio, 1965  This work was translated by Kermit B. Westerberg, Swedish Exodus. Carbondale: Published for Swedish Pioneer Historical Society by Southern Illinois University Press, 1979.  Ljungmark/Westerberg also used the phrase way station to describe step migration, the same term I chose to explain why Jamestown became a destination for Swedish immigrants, see the earlier blog Jamestown as a Destination (Part 1).

  4. The application of the name Hessel Valley reflects the later influence of Frederick J. Johnson and his family who were from Hässleby Parish.  Mariannelund is situated in this valley in Småland, and the small river (we would more likely refer to it as a stream) passes through Hässleby and Lönneberga parishes.  Largely overlooked by local histories, Lönneberga was the parish of birth or emigration for a large number of Jamestown families.

  5. The importance of Peter Cassel (1790-1857) has been noted by historians of Swedish emigration for some time and his life has been researched extensively.  See, for example,  George M. Stephenson, Documents relating to Peter Cassel and the settlement at New Sweden, Iowa. St. Paul, Minnesota: Swedish Historical Society of America, 1929; and H . Arnold Barton (ed.), Peter Cassel and Iowa's New Sweden, Chicago: Swedish-American Historical Society, 1995.
  6. Peter Dahlberg had emigrated in 1843 and was in New York City to meet his family who arrived aboard the Carolina the same day as Peter Cassel arrived aboard the Superb.   Dahlberg had lived in Gustaf Unonius’s settlement in Pine Lake, Wisconsin and served as the guide for the Cassel group on their travel to Iowa, where Dahlberg and his family also settled.  See George T. Flom, Early Swedish Immigration to Iowa, The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol 3, No. 4 (October), 1905, p 602, and Nils William Olsson, 1967, p 44-45, 66-67.

  7. Carl Gustaf Sundius was the Apothecary in Kisa parish from 1835 to 1852.  This was the period when he knew Peter Cassel and when he started and operated an emigration agency from his Apothecary shop (1846-1852).

    Sundius is listed in later household censuses as born in Malmö in 1783 (no baptismal record yet found).  His father, Mathias Sundius, was a government official who died in 1786 when his son was three.  His mother, Jannica Marie Lundberg remarried a merchant in Simrishamn, but was a widow again in 1789.  She died in 1803 (Torrlösa CI:3 (1801-1832) p 753).  The bouppteckning of her second husband, Anton Myrman, indicates that she had five children with Sundius and two children with Myrman (Simrishamns rådhusrätt och magistrat FIIa:5 (1780-1799), p 243).  Carl Gustaf’s early life and his study in Germany (noted in several histories) are not documented.

    At some point in his early twenties Sundius began working in Denmark.  In 1807 he married a young Danish widow,  Nicoline Marie Bredahl.  They lived in Hjørring, a city located at the northern tip of the Jutland peninsula, and had five children together before they divorced in 1813.  In 1815 Sundius fathered a child with Kirstine Elisabet Lemberg.  In 1816 he married Jacobins Carolina Gercken, also a Dane.  About 1820 he moved with his family from Denmark to Mariestad, Skaraborgs län by way of Göteborg.  He worked in Mariestad for a decade (1821-1831) before moving to Vadstena in Östergötland.  Sundius left from there in 1836 for Kisa.

    Nearing age 70, Sundius moved from Kisa in 1852 to Ringsarum Parish, but lived there only a couple of years before moving to Tåby Parish for the last three years of his life.  He died on 12 October 1858 at age 75.  See additional notes.

  8. Some histories have attached a great importance to letters by Polycarpus von Schneidau on emigration from Kisa.  The likely motive for histories to connect von Schneidau to Peter Cassel is found in von Schneidau’s later, brief success in Chicago - that is to say, historians were likely name-dropping.  After Peter Cassel’s emigration, von Schneidau became an important element in the early Swedish settlement of Chicago and also became an important studio photographer.  Polycarpus von Schneidau remains historically noteworthy for his daguerreotype portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Jenny Lind.  See additional notes.

    Likewise, A.J. Lannes incorrectly associated the passengers aboard the Virginia with the Janssonists who settled in Bishop Hill, Henry County, Illinois beginning in 1846; see Civic and industrial progress of the Swedish people in Jamestown, 1848-1914. Jamestown, New York: 1914, p 9.  Lannes likely added this detail influenced by turn-of-the-century interest in the Bishop Hill community.  At least a third of the passengers of the Virginia did settle near Bishop Hill in the area of Andover, also located in Henry County, Illinois, but were not members of the Janssonist sect.

  9. Johan Peter Johansson Farman described this first leg of the journey in a letter.  See Letter No. 1644, dated North America, October 29, 1846, translation by Gunnel Asp.

    Now I want to mention our voyage to America: we traveled from Berg on May 22 and to Gothenburg on May 24 on the Sunday evening and the journey between them cost 25 Rdlr Bko. It was the first transport and it was also very hard, and when we had been in Gothenburg for half a week, as ill luck would have it, we had a sailing-vessel and then sailed off willingly.

  10. Their travel predates the Kinda canal which was not completed until the 1860s.  Railroads arrived in the region much later.

  11. The Virginia  has been researched by Birgitta Blomqvist and Jerry Lundgren and is presented on her website detailing the history of the Swedish immigrants in Swede Bend, Iowa.  Note:  I have not been able to corroborate all of their research.

    Their notes:  the Virginia was built in Kolboda shipyard in Kalmar in 1841 and was owned by Olof Wijk of Göteborg.  The cargo ship capacity was about (330 tons), the hull was about 125 feet by 25 ft girth and the vessel was rigged as a three masted barque.  The ship was captained by E. A. Jansson.  The Virginia sank off the island of Hogland in the Gulf of Finland on July 24th 1859. All on board were rescued.

  12. Olof Wijk had traveled to America in 1829-1830, including an audience with President Andrew Jackson.  His diary has been translated and annotated.  Olof Wijk, Nils William Olsson, and Mikael Grut. Olof Wijk's North American diary of 1829. Winter Park, Florida: SAG Publications, 1998.

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