31 July 2015

The First Years of Settlement, 1848-1850 (Part 1)

John A. Peterson article in 1907
Aside from Isaac and Christina Been1 form Helsingborg who arrived in 1844 in Chautauqua County and Germund and Catherine Johnson2 from Kisa who had moved in 1847 to Warren County to work for Robert Falconer (and to be near their two oldest daughters3  who were then fostered by the Falconer and Struthers families), the settlement of Swedish immigrants in our area began in October 1848.  After being reinforced by relatives and other immigrants who arrived in September and after finishing the harvest at the farms in Erie County, New York where they had been working, the group of about twenty arrived in Warren County to make their homes in Sugar Grove. They had likely been persuaded by the Johnsons with perhaps encouragement and support from the Falconers.  Anecdotal details suggest that the group was well informed and that they had chosen to clear their farms from the forests of Warren County rather than make their homes on the prairie of Henry County, Illinois.  More information about this group is included in an earlier article.

The experiences of  these early immigrants during their first years of settlement are largely untold.  This personal history by John A. Peterson4 explains more about the early situation of these settlers than any other account so far encountered.   John A. Peterson was seven years old when he and his family traveled first to Sugar Grove and then relocated to Worksburg (Falconer) in the Town of Ellicott in Chautauqua County.  They arrived in Falconer at the end of October 1849 – just one year after the arrival of the first group of settlers in Sugar Grove.


Story of the Coming of the First Swedish Settlers.
Four Families,  After Long Journey, 
 Found Friends in Chautauqua County.
The Founding of a Goodly Colony. 

To the Editor of The Journal: 

In the summer of the year 1849 the remnant of 200 passengers  who had landed from a canal boat in the city of Buffalo stood on the shore of Lake Erie, glancing at its broad expanse and discussing very earnestly as to whether they should continue their journey to Andover, III., 1,000 miles away. It seemed a sad future. They had already spent fifteen weeks on the ocean5 and six weeks between Albany and Buffalo.6 Only 120 were left, 80 having died with that dread disease, cholera,7 since leaving Albany. Andrew Peterson8 and Samuel Samuelson9 appear to be the only persons to escape the disease, although both their families were smitten.  But those two men were worn out by labor in burying the dead and caring for the sick. They said they would go no further, and Lars Lawson10 and John P. Peterson11 said the same.

The four men with their families stood on the shore and bade their friends farewell. Some went to Andover and some were "booked” for Bishop Hill. Bishop Hill at that time was considered a flourishing colony for both body and soul. It was established by, one Erick Johnson; who claimed after death he would be raised on the third day, but be was soon shot, killed and never resurrected. After that it is believed the colony broke up. 

 After the boat had left those four families stood looking at one another, not knowing where to go, and not one person could they talk with to get information. While in this precarious condition a beautiful young lady appeared and to our astonishment she addressed us in the Swedish language. When we began to talk it was found that she and Andrew Peterson had been acquainted in the old country. Her name was Maria Dahl.12  She was an angel of mercy indeed. Later she married Charles Johnson, a brother of Mrs. Frank Peterson. For many years she made her home in Chandlers Valley, but later went out west. Miss Dahl advised us to go to Sugar Grove, Pa. She told father he there would meet Fredrick Johnson, with whom he was well acquainted in the old country.   After receiving all the instruction necessary we were off at once, and took a steamboat for Dunkirk. While staying on the wharf at Dunkirk a child born to Mr. and Mrs. Lars Lawson died. As it was understood it was only about 40 miles to Sugar Grove, the remains were wrapped up and taken there and buried.

Next morning two teams arrived at the wharf and loaded on our our chests and we started on our journey. Never did the country seem so beautiful as the old Chautauqua hills, as between Albany and Buffalo no attention was paid to the country or anything else. We arrived In Jamestown in the afternoon of the day we started. We turned from Main to West Third street went down a steep hill to a vacant lot, now occupied by the Wellman building, where we remained long enough to change horses with new drivers. They appeared to be very kind — but I never was able to learn whom they were.  We arrived in Sugar Grove about sunset and there, in a small house opposite the residence of Robert Falconer, a brother of Patrick Falconer, we first met Fredrick Johnson and family.   It was a most happy meeting indeed. We were provided with the best in the house and what was lacking was sent from Mr. Falconer's.  As Mr. Johnson could not furnish quarters for so large a company we were taken to the barn owned by Robert Falconer and we had a chance to clean up and have a good fair breathing spell, which was very much needed as we bad been on the journey from the first of April to middle of August. Two days after we arrived the elder Mrs. Robert Falconer, who lived in the brick house just this side of Sugar Grove, came to the barn with her interpreter, Josephine Johnson,13 and wanted a family to come and live at her home. As Andrew and Katherina Peterson14 had the smallest family with only one child, they were selected.  We were at once taken to the residence of the elder Mr. and Mrs. Robert Falconer where our stay was destined to be short for in about three weeks we were taken to the home of Patrick Falconer in Worksburg, now Falconer, where we arrived September 11, 1849, being the first Swedish family to settle in the town of Ellicott and the first Swedes to settle in Falconer.  There were then residing in Jamestown three young ladies, Miss Charlotte Johnson, who became the wife of Frank Peterson, Miss Helen Anderson, who became Mrs. Otto Peterson, and Louise Peterson, who married Erker Johnson. Mrs. Frank Peterson now resides in Falconer; Mrs, Otto Peterson lives in Jamestown. Mrs. Johnson went west many years ago.15 

We remained at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Falconer until the next spring, when a house was built for us on what now is called Davis street, which is still standing about half way between the race and Main street. We had just occupied our new home in the year 1850 when John Everett and Ephraim King went to Dunkirk and brought two loads, six families of Swedes to Mr. Falconer’s barn, where they were placed in the same situation as Fredrick Johnson occupied the previous year, and the same generosity was extended by Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Falconer as was extended toward us the year before. 

 Among those that came that year, who settled in the town of Ellicott were Frank and Otto Peterson, John Anderson, and Samuel Johnson's family, Samuel Johnson16 had come on the same ship with us the previous year.

John Anderson found a home with Jehial Tiffany; Otto Peterson went to Jamestown; Frank Peterson made his home with Andreas Peterson until he was married, and ever afterward resided In the town of Ellicott.  It is not always "flowery beds of ease" to be a pioneer in a strange land, and with a different language, to which father and Frank Peterson could testify today. were they alive. John Fostorp17 and a lady, I believe her name was Charlotte, were taken sick at the same time at father's home; also a child, born five months previous to father and mother, died and was the first Swede interred in Pine Hill cemetery. The neighbors appeared to be in fear, and no wonder, as the cholera was raging, in all its fury in Buffalo at that time and those people had just arrived from Buffalo a few weeks previous. It was hard on those two men to work in the field all day and sit up with the sick all night as mother had to care for the sick during the day and was not able to help much during the night.

Amid all this, Mrs. Falconer never failed to send delicacies and changes of clothing; in fact anything that was needed at that time. But soon it was discovered it was not cholera. Then the neighbors began to come in. John Fostorp was taken to the home of Mr. Devoe in Tiffanyvllle and both were restored to health in a few weeks. 

 In 1851 Jonas Peterson, Charles Malm, Johannes Johnson and John Peterson settled in or near Falconer, and many others settled In Jamestown, but Falconer appeared to be the center of the Swede settlement, at that time, and still they seemed not to be contented. As they had left their accustomed place of worship they felt "like sheep without a shepherd. But they had divine service every Sunday and read the day's Gospel and read sermons from Ekmanson and Ahlerg Bastila.  Fredrick and Charles Johnson came out from Sugar Grove very frequently, as they owned a horse. They were both splendid singers. In this way religious services were continued. A new preacher was appointed for every Sunday until 1851, when Rev. Olof Hedstrom18 came from New York and held service in father's house. He promulgated a doctrine to the effect that they must be born again. As a boy it put me in a quandary, or, in other words, deep meditation. As Albert Tiffany, Morrit Washburn and William Dennison were schoolmates and most intimate friends of mine, I wished to remain like them, as they did all in their power to teach me the English language from the time I first started to go to school. 

 It seems a coincidence that Rev. Mr. Hedstrom should advocate Methodism in the same house and place where Edward Work, John and James Willson, John Arthur and Wm. Staples first formed the first Methodist society in the year 1814.  A few were converted and in 1852 a young man by the name of Hammerene19 came here and continued the meetings in the basement of the old Methodist church, but his stay amongst us was short, as he soon died with that dread disease, cholera.  In 1853 B. G. P. Berglund20 came here. His actions and former circumstances seemed to win the sympathy of all.  He, like the school teacher of that time, "boarded around." He later conducted meetings in the Pine street school house, corner Pine and Fourth streets, and was the first to proclaim the Lutheran faith to the new settlers. 

The same year a man came here whom Frank Peterson called Myre Post.21 He insisted on preaching with his head covered with round cap, — He wished to set aside both the Lutheran and Methodist faith and create a new church. His object did not seem to take well and he soon left. 

No nationality was better represented in our Civil war than the Swedish. Of the 30 young men of military age residing in the town of Ellicott at the time, 27 enlisted, and none ever disgraced the town which he represented. From this little band of settlers that came here in the years 1849-'50-'51 has sprung the vast population of nearly one-half of the town of Ellicott. 

 J. A. P. 
Jamestown, Aug. 20.

Source:  Jamestown Evening Journal, August 21, 1907, p 4.

The arrangements made by the Falconer family to accommodate this group of immigrants is noteworthy.

I would like to thank Tom Tryniski for his work scanning and publishing searchable online New York State historic newspapers, now including the Jamestown Journal.   I was able to find this article by John A. Peterson through searches on his website www.fultonhistory.com


  1. Isaac K. Been [1844.001] and Christina (Bengtsdotter) Been [1846.002] emigrated from Stockhom and arrived in New York City on 25 March 1844 aboard the ArielFor additional information see this previous article.

  2. Germund Johnson [1846.007] and Catherine Johnson [1846.008] emigrated from Varbo torp, Kisa Parish in 1846 and arrived in America 5 August 1846 aboard the Virginia. They placed two daughters in the Buffalo Orphan Asylum in September 1846.  The adoption by two Warren County families of Inga Lovisa and Sarah Sophia was the circumstance that brought the Johnsons to Warren County.  See also notes 3 and 12.

  3. I will write about the saga of the Johnson Daughters and the settlement in Sugar Grove in a future blog – it is a work still in progress.  Donald Sandy and I presented a description of their story at the Scandinavian Festival in July 2015. 

  4. John A. Peterson [1849.047] was born 19 January 1842 in Buskebo Storegård, Karlstorp Parish, Jönköpings län to Cathrina Hansdotter and Anders Peter Johansson. He died in Jamestown in 1919.

    ANOTHER EARLY SETTLER DEADJohn A. Peterson Passed Away At His Home This MorningCAME HERE IN 1849One of the Last of Group of Swedish Settlers Who Came to Western New York 70 Years Ago, Dead At Home On East Second Street — Old Soldier Known To Many Because of Manner In Which He Bore Bodily Ailments.
    John A. Peterson, a resident of Jamestown and its immediate vicinity since 1849, and one of the last of the group of Swedish settlers who came to western New York 70 years ago, died at his home, 1007 East Second street, this morning at 6 o'clock, aged nearly 78 years. He is survived by three sons, Melvin A . and William S. Peterson of this city and Clayborn F. Peterson of Denver, Col. Mrs. Peterson died in 1879. Mr. Peterson was born in Sweden and came to Falconer, then known as Worksburg with his parents and other members of his family In 1849. He lived there until 1871, coming here when his parents moved from Falconer to Chandlers Valley, Pa. During the Civil war he served in the Union army, and comrades, who served with him say that he was a good soldier at all times. He enlisted in Company A, 112th New York Volunteer Infantry, at Jamestown on Aug. 4, 1862 the regiment then being formed at Camp Brown on the outskirts of the village. He served continuously with his company until the 112th was mustered out of the United States service at Raleigh, N . C. on June 13, 1865 after the war was over. For many years Mr. Peterson was engaged in the carpentry contracting business here. He suffered from deafness caused by his service in the army and about three years ago was stricken with paralysis, one side of his body being affected. In spite of his bodily ailments however, he maintained a cheerful disposition to the last and he will be remembered by many of the residents of this city by reason of the manner in which he bore his afflictions. He became a member of James M. Brown post, Grand Army of the Republic, in 1883. Of the Swedish pioneers, who came here at about the same time as Mr. Peterson, there are living today only a very few, among them being Mrs. Otto Peterson of Harrison street this city, and Mrs. Frank Peterson of Falconer." Jamestown Evening Journal, December 17, 1919, p 1.

    The obituary notes that Peterson arrived with his parents and other relatives in 1849.   His aunt (father's sister) was Mrs. Maria Christina Peterson Tinnestedt [1849.033] whose husband and children also emigrated on the same ship.

  5. This number of passengers refers to the canal boat.  These canal boats likely carried the majority of the 141 passengers who emigrated aboard the Norwegian ship Brødrene transporting Swedish iron.  They left from Göteborg about 16 June and arrived in New York City on 17 August 1849, so transit was a little more than eight weeks (61 days) not 15 weeks.

  6. The immigrants would have been in Albany about August 19th.  Six weeks transit would indicate the end of September, however Peterson noted that they arrived in Worksburg on September 11th after about three weeks at the house of Robert and Eliza Falconer.  This suggests that passage on the canal took about one week, which was normal passage time in 1850 for a packet boat.  This may have been an editorial error [weeks instead of days] or another exaggeration.

  7. Cholera devastated Buffalo and other cities in 1849.  Although there were no deaths aboard the ship Brødrene, there were likely many deaths among this group of immigrants. 

    John M . Monson, who came the same year [1849], wrote that some days on the Erie Canal their boat had to stop "almost every hour" to bury another cholera victim. One was his father, Carl Magnus Månsson, and three others were their friends and ship-mates, Andrew Peterson and two of his children. The widows continued on to New Sweden with their children. They could do nothing else.
    Source: Ardith K. Melloh, Life in Early New Sweden, Iowa, Swedish Pioneer Historical Society, v.32, no.2 (April 1981), p 123.  

    The Månsson family was from Tidersrum Parish (Östergötland) and they were also passengers aboard the Brødrene.  See Nils William Olsson, Swedish Passenger Arrivals in New York, 1820-1850, p 277.

    John A. Peterson indicated that his and other families were "smitten" but didn't identify any others of their group who had died (except for the infant of Lars Lawson).

  8. Andrew Peterson [1849.046] and Mrs. Andrew (Catherine) Peterson [1849.045] and their son John A. Peterson [1846.047] emigrated in 1849 from Karlstorp Parish via Hässleby Parish according to the priest's notes in the household registrer.

  9. Samuel Samuelson [1849.036] and Mrs. Samuel (Mary) Samuelson [1849.037] and their children emigrated from Hässleby Parish.

  10. Lars Lawson [1849.020] and Mrs. Lars (Anna) Lawson [1849.021] and their children emigrated from Hässleby Parish.

    Anna (Olafsdotter) Lawson died before 1851 when Lars Lawson remarried Helena Jonsdotter [1849.002] the widow of Jacob Nilsson [1849.001] who had emigrated from Kisa Parish also in 1849.  Helena Jonsdotter was the sister of Mrs. Germund (Catherine) Johnson [1846.008].

     Swensson's 1856 household list of Lars Lawson's combined family includes Martha Anna, born 14 Aug 1849 in America.  This is likely to be Mrs. (Martha A.) Wright  [i0398] who was indicated on one census as born At Sea.  The manifest of the Brødrene lists four children and no infants for Lars Lawson and the manifest of the Charles Tottie lists two children and no infants for Helena Jonsdotter - neither indicates any births onboard.  If  John A. Peterson's  narrative is correct then both couples had infants just as they arrived in America and Martha Ann was the daughter of Helena and the step-daughter of Lars Lawson.  See also note 7.

  11. John Peter Tinnerstedt (Eric Johan Petersson aka John P. Peterson) [1849.032] and Mrs. John P. (Maria Christina Johansdotter) Tinnerstedt [1849.033] and their children emigrated from Hässleby Parish.

  12. Mrs. Charles M. (Caroline Dahl) Johnson [1846.002] was the sister of Samuel Dahl and married the brother of Fredrick Johnson.  It is unlikely that this meeting was a coincidence and is more likely that she was sent to Buffalo to wait for the arrival of this group from Hässleby. Charles M. Johnson [1846.006] and his wife moved to Paxton, Ford County, Illinois in 1863.

    Not mentioned in John A. Peterson's narrative is Charles J. Peterson [1849.027] and his family who emigrated from Lönneberga Parish.  Charles J. Peterson, Samuel Dahl and Caroline Dahl all worked on Saxemåla farm.  The omission of Charles J. Peterson in this history is not understandable since they traveled aboard the same ship and were from a neighboring parish.

  13. Sara Sophia (Josephine) Johnson [1846.010] was adopted by Robert and Eliza Falconer in late 1846.  Her role as interpreter suggests that she had quickly adapted to their household.  See also notes 2 and 3.

    Note that there are no references to Germund and Catherine Johnson – only their daughter Josephine is mentioned.   This seems unusual because Germund Johnson also became active in the Swedish Methodist church (first in Chandlers Valley and then in Vasa, Minnesota) and would likely have been close to Samuel Johnson and Andrew Peterson.  See also note 15.  This may suggest that regional connections (home parishes) were more influential than religious differences within the early Swedish community.  Or it may indicate that Germund and Catherine were living at their new farm in Chandlers Valley several miles south of Sugar Grove.

  14. This was John A. Peterson writing about his own family in the third person.

  15. The author had confused the surname of Erker Peterson.   Eric Anderson [1850.001] married Louise Peterson, aka Lena Lovisa Petersdotter [1848.008] in Jamestown around 1852.  They were the first family from the area to migrate to Vasa, Goodhue County, Minnesota, leaving Chautauqua County in 1855.

    Many other families from the area migrated to Hans Mattson's community in Vasa in the following years, including Germund and Catherine Johnson in 1857.

  16. Samuel (Sjöstrand) Johnson [1849.026] emigrated from Lönneberga Parish. He was a tanner and gained work immediately in Jamestown and settled at the base of what would become Swedes Hill in Jamestown.  His wife, children and brother-in-law emigrated from Södra Vi Parish in 1850 and joined him in Jamestown.

    Samuel Johnson and Andrew Peterson (the father of  John A. Peterson) were leaders of the Swedish Methodist congregation in Jamestown.

  17. John Fostorp has not been identified.  The text suggests that he is an early Swedish immigrant to Jamestown but no other references to him have yet been found.

  18. Rev. Olof  Gustav Hedstrom ran the Bethel ship (North River Mission) in New York City.  Hedstrom visited Jamestown at least twice, both visits as part of his travels to Chicago.  He performed several marriages in Jamestown, the earliest by a Swedish pastor.

  19. Olaf Hamrin worked on the Bethel ship before coming to Jamestown.   He was the first Swedish Methodist minister assigned to the area and was appointed to the new Swedish Mission of  the Jamestown District of the Erie Conference in 1853.   He died of cholera 22 July 1854 in Jamestown soon after returning from a Methodist conference in Cleveland.    

  20. B.G.P. Berglund was a layman whose preaching in the area predated the establishment of the Lutheran church by Jonas Swensson in 1856.

  21. Myre Post has not been identified and it is unclear if he was Swedish.  In addition, his name may have been a play on words.

29 March 2015

The Buffalo Years, 1846-1848 (Part 2)

J.W. Hill. Buffalo, New York. New York: Smith Brother & Co, 1853.  Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1970-188-1083 W.H. Coverdale Collection of Canadiana, MIKAN No. 2836207.
   The end of the Erie Canal is hidden behind the buildings at the left of this birds eye view.  The trapezoidal area between the canal's terminus and the port of Buffalo is where the Norwegian Larson's boarding house was located.  The center of the view is Buffalo's Main Street in 1853 where ten years earlier Joseph Morrell had been a partner in Castle & Morrell.  The Buffalo Orphan Asylum was located in September 1846 at 240 Niagara Street, an area to the left of Main Street in this image and not far from Niagara Square.  The Asylum moved to Main Street and Virginia Street on 12 November 1846, a location in the center at the extreme edge of the city in this illustration.

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.1

Because we ran out of money, we could not go further and we, ten families and another 13 people, had to remain in Buffalo.

The saga told of the first Swedes who settled in Sugar Grove in 1848 ignored the considerable detail that their experiences in Buffalo were shared by 30 or 40 other passengers of the Virginia.  This blog will look at how these 10 families and 13 single men and women fared in moving on to their eventual destinations.  See the separate webpage (Manifest of the VIRGINIA 6 August 1846) that includes an annotated image of the manifest and a table of the passengers including their destinations.

My tabulations show a total of 13 families and 13 individuals on Captain Eric A. Jansson's manifest.  If Samuel Johnson's description was accurate, three families were able to continue with their travels, so not all of the passengers of the Virginia were stranded in Buffalo for two years.  Those families who were able to continue right away were likely to have been the families who settled in Iowa, the original destination for the passengers.  The passengers who remained in Buffalo changed their plans and settled in Illinois or Pennsylvania in 1848 instead of in Iowa.

The different ultimate destinations and arrivals tells us that the passengers aboard the Virginia acted autonomously (as family units or as individuals).  By contrast,  the passengers aboard the Augusta, who had arrived one week later than the Virginia,  acted together as a group and succeeded in reaching Iowa in September 1846.   

Passengers who continued on their way in 1846 or who settled in Iowa

John Farman's letter written in October 1846 in Iowa and then published in 1847 by Swedish newspapers is a significant document in the history of Swedish immigration.  Aside from what it tells us about Peter Cassel, it evidences Farman and his family's nearly direct travel from Buffalo to Iowa.  So not all of the passengers aboard the Virginia arrived in America with insufficient funds for their journey.  Since John Farman2 and his family were able to continue their journey  then this raises several possibilities:
  • Farman had sufficient funds to make the trip.  Although he complained about the costs of everything in his letter, he was prepared for the extra costs.
  • It is also possible, however, that he was able to borrow money from the emigrants from the Kisa area who were aboard the Augusta and who would have arrived one week later in Buffalo in their own boat.
  • Another possibility, less likely, is that Farman had negotiated with the transport agents for the group and had received favorable treatment as a result.  This is what Friedrich Kapp referred to as stooling.3

If Samuel Johnson's reckoning of the Swedes in Buffalo was accurate then two other families aboard the Virginia may have continued to their destination directly.  This would likely have been the other families who settled in New Sweden, Jefferson County, Iowa and included Philip Andersson4 and family and Anders Johan Andersson5 and his wife.

Other Passengers who arrived at their destinations in 1846 - Swedish children

A different group also arrived at their destination in 1846 – the children who were left in the care of the Buffalo Orphan's Asylum and who were then placed in homes.

Recent research by Donald Sandy and Jennifer Liber Raines encountered the documentation of these Swedish immigrant children.  Their research has now identified the institution that took in these children (previously unnamed) and has confirmed that a child was placed with Mr.. Struthers (rather than with Mr or Mrs. Falconer).

Five girls were taken-in by the Buffalo Orphans Asylum on 12 Sept 1846.   The register notes the entry of  Ingra L. (Louise. age 8)6 and Sara S. (Josephina, age 6),7  the oldest children of Germund and Catherine Johnson, Anna S. (age 7) and Ingra. L. (age 4), two daughters of Eric Peter and  Karin Anderson, and Eva Christine (age 3), the daughter of Peter Magnus and Maria Lena Larson.

The Johnson girls were in Warren and Sugar Grove by the end of 1846.

The Anderson girls returned to their parents in the spring of 1847 – their family remained in Buffalo until 1848.

The Larson girl was noted as having been placed with a Mr. Coyea [?] of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Eva Christina Larson, therefore, would also have arrived at her destination in 1846.  She has not been identified in the 1850 census.

Buffalo Orphan's Asylum, Register 1, page 38 (1846) collection of the Buffalo History Museum.  Images copyright by the Buffalo History Museum 2015 and provided by Donald Sandy.


Passengers who might have continued on their way in 1847

The historian George Flom wrote that Anders Norrman8 and his wife settled in Burlington, Iowa in 1847.  Research about the Swedish settlers in Sugar Grove has raised questions about this fact. Anders Norman is listed on the manifest of the Virginia with Inga Catherine Erlandsdotter (his second wife) and with his son Carl Gustaf (his last child by his first wife).  Johnson and Peterson in 1880 noted that the first group of settlers in Sugar Grove included “En gammal soldat vid namn Norman från Horn i Östergötland.”  It seems relatively certain that they were referring to Andrew Norman.  He has been documented as emigrating from adjacent Ulrika parish (not from Horn, whose parish records from this period were almost entirely lost due to a church fire) where he had lived for 10 years.  Before that he lived in Malexander parish and before 1825 he had served as a lifgrenadier in Storhagen, Torpa parishAnders Jonsson Norrman (aka Andrew Norman) was born in Linderås parish in 1794 and was among the oldest passengers aboard the Virginia (fifty-two years old).

Andrew Norman has not been identified in the 1850 Census, but a Charles Norman (age 24) was working for Laban Hazeltine in Pine Township in Warren County,  This is most likely to have been Andrew's son, Carl Gustaf.  Whether Andrew Norman was in Burlington or in Sugar Grove in 1850 remains open to debate, however, it may also relate to the narrative about the trip made by Samuel Dahl17  in 1847 to scout the locations in the West.  Dahl returned to the group in Buffalo with a negative report according to Lannes (1915, p 9).   It is easy to speculate about a scenario in which both Dahl and Norman traveled to Iowa and Illinois in the summer of 1847 and that both returned.

Andrew Norman alone was enumerated in the 1852 Iowa state census in Burlington.  He is documented in later censuses living in Burlington with his wife Caroline.  It seems likely that Inga Catherine, his second wife had died before 1852 and that he had remarried.  Norman died in the decade before 1880.  His wife was listed as Carrie Norman and denoted as a widow in that census.  She died in Burlington in 1896.


Germund and Catherine Johnson likely migrated to Sugar Grove and worked for William Falconer beginning in 1847.  The personal letters of William Falconer add credence to this date as likely although some accounts indicated that they arrived in 1848.  Their fifth child, Elisabeth Jane, was listed as born 4 April 1848 in Sugar Grove.

Life in Erie County and Emigrant Decision making 1847-1848

During 1847 and 1848 the remainder of the group continued working in the Buffalo area.  The details in Samuel Johnson's letter suggest that the group in Buffalo may have worked together (at least at first).  Research to date hasn't established the connection to any farm(s) in the Town of Hamburg, so it remains unknown where these Swedes worked or lived in 1847 and 1848.

Research has identified that Samuel Leonard, the son of Samuel Samuelsson, was adopted by a family in East Hamburg but that might only be a coincidence.

No Swedes were enumerated in this area of the south towns of Erie County in the 1850 census.

Hans Mattson (1891, p 17) wrote that his co-traveler had also worked on a farm in Hamburg in 1851 and noted that they had asked to stay in the house of a Swedish family who lived on the road to Hamburg – that family told them that they had had enough of the Swedish upper classes and did not invite them into their home.  This Swedish family has not been identified.


During 1847 the remaining passengers of the Virginia likely debated where they should settle.  As indicated previously, Lannes noted in his history that Samuel Dahl went West to investigate conditions there and came back with a negative report about the quality of the water.

Johnson and Peterson's narrative indicated that the various Swedish immigrant groups from the Kisa region remained connected by letter-writing.9  

The little Swedish settlement [Andover] was reinforced in 1848 by two unmarried men ... and five families...  These five families were part of a party of 75 emigrants who left Sweden in 1846, embarking at Goteborg on the sailing vessel “Virginia,” Captain Johnson, for New York. The entire company were bound for New Sweden. Iowa, but their plans were frustrated. In Albany, N. Y., the modest sum set aside for their traveling expenses was stolen, and all the way to Buffalo, N. Y., the emigrants had to subsist on wild plums growing on the banks of the canal, and anything edible that they could pick up. Reaching Buffalo, they were unable to proceed farther, but remained in that city for two years in order to earn the money needed for reaching their final destination.  In the meantime, friends and kindred at Andover had learned of their where-abouts and their sorry predicament, and sent letters urging them to come to their settlement.

Likewise, it is variously noted that Germund and Catherine Johnson made efforts (letters and/or visits?) to encourage the group to consider settling in Warren County.

It can also be speculated that the group was in touch with their families in Sweden during 1847.  This is made evident by the arrival of additional family members aboard the Thracian who arrived 31 July 1848 in New York.

Passengers who continued on their way in 1848 to Andover, Henry County, Illinois

Likely at the end of the harvest season in 1848 the various families went their separate ways selecting two destinations not considered before they left the Kisa area.  Instead of  Peter Cassel's New Sweden settlement in Iowa, they chose to settle in Andover, Illinois and Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania.

The families who settled in Andover included
  • Eric Peter Anderson10 and his family, 
  • Samuel Samuelson11 and one of his four children (three children were left in Buffalo, his wife died aboard the Virginia ), 
  • Anna Greta (Mattsdotter) Johnson,12 the widow of Magnus Johnson (the older brother of Germund Johnson who died in Buffalo) and her son, 
  • Harald Alm13 and his family, and 
  • Samuel Johnson14 and his family.

A.J. Johnson.  Johnson's new railroad and township copper-plate map of Illinois, Iowa, & Missouri, from the latest and best authorities.  New York, 1859, c1857.  Library of Congress Call Number G4061.P3 1859.J6.

   The star at the left is the location in Jefferson County, Iowa of Cassel's settlement.  Burlington, Iowa was another destination.  One of  the stars at the far right is Victoria, Knox County, Illinois where Jonas Hedstrom lived.  Just north of Victoria near Galva, Henry County, Illinois is the site of Bishop Hill, the colony of the Janssonists.  Several of the families from the Virginia settled near Andover, also in Henry County, Illinois.  Samuel Samuelson is reported to have moved to Henry County and then to have settled further south in Galesburg, Knox County.  Galesburg is the small town where Carl Sandberg was born in 1878.


Passengers who continued on their way in 1848 to Sugar Grove, Warren County, Pennsylvania

Charles Johnson15 and his wife Caroline Dahl were among the group that settled in Sugar Grove in 1848.  They were likely interviewed by Johnson and Peterson (1880, p 366-7) who noted that the group also included: 
Johnsons broder Fredrik Johnson med hustru och ett barn, en gammal soldat vid namn Norman från Horn i Östergötland, Germond Johnson med hustru och 2 barn från Kisa, Carl Johnson med hustru och ett barn från Sund, Östergötland, samt, Samuel Dahl och hans syster Karolina. Desse uppehöllo sig i närheten af Buffalo till 1848.
A.J. Lannes did not provide a list of this group.  E.B. Lawson, likewise, did not provide a list, but added that the group arrived 13 October 1848.16

The inclusion of Carl Johnson18  and his family from Sund is also open to debate.  Johnson and Peterson are clearly referring to passengers of the Virginia in their statement, and the only family from Sund was Carl Johan Jonsson, his wife Eva Ericksdotter, and her infant daughter Carolina.  The first difficulty is that Carl Johan Jonsson was not listed on the manifest (although Nils William Olsson noted that Johnson was listed in the passport request in Linköping and remarked about other deficiencies of Capt. Jansson's paperwork).  Secondly, Carolina died according to the manifest and this is corroborated by Samuel Johnson's tally of the voyage's dead.  Subsequently, there is no evidence of this couple in Sugar Grove.  Even with all of these points indicating the contrary, it is quite possible that Carl Johnson and his family did move to Warren County.

I believe that five of the 13 unmarried Swedes had worked or were from Lönneberga.  Samuel Dahl and his sister Caroline were children of Corporal Peter Dahl and Annica Carlsdotter.  Both Samuel and Caroline had worked as servants at a series of farms, but especially at the Saxemåla estate.  Anna Charlotta Carlsdotter19 who was listed as Dahl on the manifest also worked at Saxemåla.  Gustaf Haraldsson20 and Anders J. Andersson21 were also servants  working in Lönneberga.   This group received exit permissions at the same time (besked n:o 2-6) and were listed together on the manifest. 

Carl Magnus Johnson was another single Swede and brother to Frederick Johnson.  He emigrated from Hässleby Parish and married Caroline Dahl in Sugar Grovein 1851.

The remaining single Swedes included
  • two from Horn:   Alexander Gustafsson [7] and Anders Andersson 28 M [8].  
  • the brother of John Farman named Sven Gustaf Johansson [57] Besked No. 18, Kjettestorp, Kisa, 
  • Samuel Nillerquist [69] 1121, an entirely undocumented passenger, and
  •  Johan Samuel Pettersson [58], Källeberg, Rumskulla Parish  1110 according to Olsson, 1995, p. 236.  11/5 1802 Rumskulla AI:11 (1845-1851) Image 62 / page 50 (AID: v23841.b62.s50, NAD: SE/VALA/00309)  His wife and children?  Believed by Olsson to have abandoned his wife.  She is listed as a widow and remains in Rumskulla.
Of these thirteen unmarried passengers, only Charles Johnson, Samuel Dahl and Caroline Dahl  have been documented later on.  What happened to the other ten in Buffalo is unknown.

Passengers who remained in Buffalo

There are a couple of Swedish children in other households in the 1850 census that may suggest that they were adopted.

Samuel Samuelson’s children

Although Olsson is undecided, I think that it is clear that Samuel Samuelson’s wife, Maja Lena Ericsdotter was one of the five passengers who died aboard the Virginia.  This annotation on the ship’s manifest is corroborated by Samuel Johnson's tally.  Johnson and Peterson (1880) note that Samuelson and his wife and one child settled in Andover in 1848.  I believe this is either an error or more likely a reference to Samuelson’s third/new wife.

We know from later census and burial information that the daughter who accompanied Samuel Samuelsson to Illinois was his oldest daughter, Sophia Brita, who was born in 1831.  She married William H. Miller in Henry County, Illinois on 19 Aug 1849 and she was married a second time to Edgar Nichols.  She died in Henry County in 1883.

If Johnson and Peterson are correct, then the children that Samuel Samuelson left behind in Buffalo were Samuel  Leonard (b 1833),  Lena Lovisa (b. 1839) and Clara Mathilda (b. 1844).

Samuel Leonard and the Swift Family of the Town of Hamburg

Samuel Leonard22 was listed as a 15 year old German [sic] living in the household of Nathaniel and Charlotte Swift in the Town of Hamburg in the 1850 census.  He is living in the same household in 1855 and 1860 but he is listed as Swedish.  The 1855 New York State census also indicates that he has been living in Erie County for 9 years - since 1846.
Samuel Leonard Samuelsson was adopted by Nathaniel and Charlotte Swift of East Hamburg Township (Hamburg until 1850, today renamed Orchard Park).   The Nathaniel Swift farm was located near the present  intersection of Milestrip and Orchard Park Roads ( 42°47'29.41"N and  78°45'0.46"W) about two miles NNE of Rich Stadium.  Nathaniel Swift died in 1852.  Samuel Leonard remained with Charlotte Swift and was listed as her adopted son in 1865. 

Samuel Leonard  served in Company A of the 116th NY Infantry during the Civil War entering as a private and rising to second Lieutenant by the end of the war (5 Sep 1862 - 8 June 1865). He was wounded in action at Plain Store, Louisiana where Nathaniel Swift (grandson of Nathaniel and Charlotte Swift) was also wounded and then died in hospital later.  No other Swede from western New York or Northwestern Pennsylvania rose to such a high rank during the war.

After the war Samuel Leonard married, worked as a stone mason and moved to Ohio, Nebraska, and then settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he died in 1904.

Samuel Leonard’s half-sisters

Louise23  was likely adopted by the German family of Joseph and Barbary Reichert in Buffalo and remained living in the East.  Clara24 joined her half-sister and father in Andover at an unknown date and married Nels J. Engstrand in 1868 in Henry County, Illinois.


At least one of the group died in Buffalo during these two years.  Johnson and Peterson (1880, p 74) indicated that Måns (Magnus) Johnson, the older brother of Germund Johnson, died in Buffalo.  It seems very likely that there were many others who died there based on the number of passengers who aren't identified in the 1850 census (more than 10).

From The Statistics of the Population of the United States, Compiled from the Original Returns of the Ninth Census, 1872.  Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin. This appears to be an earlier version of the work by Francis A. Walker that was published by the U.S. Census Office in 1874, p 23.  I have added white stars indicating the principal settlement areas of Swedes with connections to Sugar Grove, especially with the passengers on the Virginia.


Numbers in brackets [ ] refer to the passenger number aboard the Virginia, see the manifest.
  1. 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).   Samuel Johnson [64] and his family settled in Andover, Henry County, Illinois in 1848.

  2. John Farman was listed as [43] Johan Peter Johansson on the manifest of the VirginiaHe and his family had arrived in Peter Cassel's New Sweden settlement in September 1846.

  3. Friedrich  Kapp, Immigration and the Commissioners of Emigration of the State of New York. New York: The Nation Press. 1870, p 66-67.   Kapp wrote about the abuses of immigrants including the fraud schemes detailed before the Commission.

  4. Carl Philip Andersson [1] and Sara Maria Svensdotter [2] have not been located in later censuses.  However, two of their daughters are noted by Olsson as marrying in Iowa.  Anna Elisabeth [4] married Magnus Fredrik Håkansson in 1848 and Sara Catharina [3] married Johan Peter Andersson 1 Feb 1851 in Jefferson County.

  5. Anders Johan Andersson [21] and his wife Anna Lisa Nilsdotter [22] and their infant were noted as having died shortly after their arrival in Iowa.  See Olsson and Wiken 1995, p 234.  This information is based on an America letter written in 1849 so it is more likely that this family arrived in Iowa in 1848.

  6. Lovisa Inga Johnson [33]   was listed as Orphan No. 132 in the record book of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum.  This register is in the collection of the Research Library of the Buffalo Historical Museum.  The orphanage documents resolve some historical details but open new questions that perhaps explain some of the confusion.  The placement of a child with the Struthers appears in the entry for one of the Anderson girls, however, we know that Louise would be adopted by them.   These documents are an important discovery.

  7. Sara Sophia Johnson [35].

  8. Anders Norman [50]  The next [second] Swedish settler in Burlington was Anders Norrman, who with his wife came in 1847 from Malander, Sweden.  George T. Flom, 1915, p 609.  The first permanent Swedish settler in Burlington was Fabian Brydolf who arrived in 1846

  9. This passage is Olson's translation of Johnson and Peterson.  The informing of Swedes in Andover, Illinois about the situation of a different group of Swedes 650 miles away in Buffalo, New York is an interesting topic.  It could be that succeeding waves of Swedish immigrants who passed through Buffalo brought the story to Andover.  Or it could suggest a triangulation of sources such as Rev. O.G. Hedstrom in New York City and his brother Jonas in Victoria, Illinois.  Or it could mean that the interchange of news was through families in Sweden.  See also a discussion of this by Maria Erling, "The Connections Correspondence Made" Swedish-American Historical Quarterly, Vol 56, No. 2-3 (April-July 2005), p 173-182.

  10. Eric Peter Anderson [26] (Olsson, 1995: p 234 n 1078)

  11. Samuel Samuelson [37] and his oldest daughter Brita Sophia [39] migrated to Andover in 1848.  See endnotes 22-24.  (Olsson, 1995: p 234 n 1089)

  12. Anna Greta (Mattsdotter) Johnson [44], the widow of Magnus Johnson (the older brother of Germund Johnson who died in Buffalo) and her son (Olsson, 1995: p 235 n 1095-1097)

  13. Harald Alm [59] (Olsson, 1995: p 236 n 1111)

  14. Samuel Johnson [64] (Olsson, 1995: p 236 n 1116)

  15. Charles Magnus Johnson [18] and Carolina Dahl [10]

  16. Rev. E.B. Lawson was the president of Uppsala College and researched this group as part of the Centennial celebrations in Chandlers Valley.

  17. Samuel Dahl [9] besked N:o 2 Lönneberga.

  18. Carl Johan Jonasson [nic] and Eva Ericksdotter [19] and her daughter Carolina [20]

  19. Anna Charlotta Carlsdotter  [11]  born 18 Feb 1821 in Tiderserum parish.  She emigrated  (Besked N:o 6) from Lönneberga Parish, Kalmar.  (Olsson, 1995, p 233, n 1063).  Possibly listed in 1850 Census as Anna Cragans servant in Abner Hazeltine household, Ellicott.   She was not related to the Dahl family.

  20. Gustaf Haraldsson  [12]  born in Karlstorp parish in 1823.  Besked N:o 5, Gallö, Lönneberga Parish, Kalmar, aka Nils Gustaf Petersson  (Olsson, 1995: p 233 n 1064).

  21. Anders J. Andersson  [13]  born 30 Apr 1825 in Pelarne parish.  Exit permit No. 4, Djursbo,  Lönneberga, issued the same day as Haraldsson and Anna Charlotta Carlsdotter.

  22. Samuel Leonard Samuelsson’s baptism is registered in Kisa Parish on 7 Dec 1833 (Olsson 1967: 75) matching his age in the later censuses (and indicating once again the frequent inaccuracies of the Virginia manifest). 

  23. Louise [40 Helena Lovisa] was likely adopted by the German family of Joseph Reichert in Buffalo. 

  24. Clara[41] joined her sister and father in Andover at an unknown later date. 

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.


  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.