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.

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