03 October 2016

Swedish American Newspapers/Svensk-Amerikanska Tidningar now online

The project to scan historic Swedish-American newspapers is now online.  Swedish American Newspapers/Svensk-Amerikanska Tidningar was created through a partnership of the Minnesota Historical Society, the National Library of Sweden, the American Swedish Institute, and the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.  Funding for this digitization was provided by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, and the King Gustaf VI Adolf's Fund for Swedish Culture. Funding for online access was provided by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.  Those researching their Swedish ancestors or local Swedish immigrant history owe a debt of gratitude to these organizations for this new resource.

The collection only includes Vårt Land from 1890-1920 for Jamestown.  The scan is relatively good, so you will be able to search the text for these editions without complications.  It is a joy to see color scans instead of the reverse black and white images of the microfilm rolls that were the previous source for research.

Other older titles will often use the Fraktur style type faces.  Unfortunately the software used to transcribe these typefaces resulted in middling accuracy in the text.  This means that the success in searching will be quite uneven depending on the letters used in the search term.  Researching in the pre-eminent Swedish-American newspaper, Hemlandet (1855-1914), will remain complicated due to that typeface.

I do not know if there is any anticipated expansion of this project.  Of course, for our area it would be tremendous to also have Folkets Röst available.

This is a partial list of Swedish language newspapers that were published in the Jamestown area:

Folkets Röst (Jamestown) Founded by Olof A. Olson
1874-1876 Owners: Swedish Printers Assoc.
Editors: Norwall (1874), J.P. Haller (1875), Albert Malm (1876),
1877-1878 Owners: Conrad A. Hult and Paul Rosencrantz
Editors: J.P. Haller (1877), J. F. Nystrom (1877-1878)
1878- Owners: J.P. Haller and Gunderson

Published October 14, 1874-1884 : Weekly. OCLC 11669106
Fenton History Center
P <1874:11:25, 12:9-16> <1875:1:22-29, 2:26, 4:2-30, 5:14, 6:11,25, 7:9> <1876:2:11-25, 4:14, 5:12,26-6:2, 8:18-25, 10:20, 12:8> <1877:3:9, 4:6-13, 5:11-18, 6:1-6,20, 7:20, 8:17, 9:7,28, 11:9, 12:14>
James Prendergast Library
F <1874:11:25, 12:9-16> <1875:1:22-29, 2:26, 4:2-30, 5:14, 6:11,25, 7:9,18-25> <1876:2:11-25, 4:14, 5:12,26, 6:2, 8:18-25, 10:20, 12:8> <1877:3:9, 4:6-13, 5:11-18, 6:1, 7:6,20, 8:17,31-9:7,28, 11:9, 12:14>
Patterson Library
F <1874:11:25, 12:9-16> <1875:1:22-29, 2:26, 4:2-30, 5:14, 6:11,25, 7:9,18-25> <1876:2:11-25, 4:14, 5:12,26, 6:2, 8:18-25, 10:20, 12:8> <1877:3:9, 4:6-13, 5:11-18, 6:1, 7:6,20, 8:17,31-9:7,28, 11:9, 12:14>
SUNY at Fredonia
F <1874:11:25, 12:9-16> <1875:1:22-29, 2:26, 4:2-30, 5:14, 6:11,25, 7:9,18-25> <1876:2:11-25, 4:14, 5:12,26, 6:2, 8:18-25, 10:20, 12:8> <1877:3:9, 4:6-13, 5:11-18, 6:1, 7:6,20, 8:17, 8:31-9:7,28, 11:9, 12:14>
National Library of Sweden

Vårt Nya Hem (Jamestown)
Continuation of Folkets Rost 1884-1891
National Library of Sweden

Vårt Land (Jamestown)
Published 1890-1931 : Weekly. OCLC 22447201
Chautauqua County Historical Society
P <1898:1:6-1900:12:20> <1901:1:3-8:29, 10:10-12:26> <1902:1:2-1907:11:7> <1919:1:16> <1920:6:18-25>
Fenton History Center
P <1898:7:7> <1899:12:28> <1906:9:27-10:24> <1930:3> <1931:3:12>
James Prendergast Library
F <1898:7:7> <1899:12:28> <1906:9:27-10:4> <1919:1:16> <1920:6:18-25>
Patterson Library
F <1898:7:7> <1899:12:28> <1906:9:27-10:4> <1919:1:16> <1920:6:18-25>
SUNY at Fredonia
F <1898:7:7> <1899:12:28> <1906:9:27-10:4> <1919:1:16> <1920:6:18>

Minnesota Historical Society
Digital images: 1890 (4);  1891 (8); 1892 (51); 1893 (1); 1894 (26); 1895 (32); 1896 (53); 1897 (52); 1898 (18); 1901 (33); 1902 (52); 1903 (49); 1904 (52); 1905 (49); 1906 (52); 1907 (52); 1908 (53); 1909 (52); 1910 (52); 1911 (52); 1912 (52); 1913 (52); 1915 (51); 1916 (52); 1917 (50); 1918 (52); 1919 (52); 1920 (33).

Skandia (Jamestown)
Published 1903-19uu : Weekly. OCLC 17857509
Fenton History Center
P <1929:2:14> <1936:12:3> <1946:8:8>
James Prendergast Library
F <1936:12:3>
Patterson Library
F <1936:12:3>
SUNY at Fredonia
F <1936:12:3>
Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
1918:Apr. 25-1946:Aug.

Sources:  Moe 1983: 191-199

29 August 2016

Population Statistics for the Swedish Community Prior to the Civil War


Jamestown to-day boasts of a population of several thousand Swedes. We have no better citizens than our Scandinavian population. A prominent one of them said to us a few days ago, “Please not speak of us as Swedes. There are a few Swedes among us, late comers, who have not yet obtained their naturalization papers, but as soon as they do they will claim, as I do now, that they are Yankees and have ceased to be Swedes. We love our country, the United States, and you well know that many of us have fought for it, and what is better, will fight for it whenever the country calls."  It is nearly, if not quite fifty years ago that the first Swede man and family settled at the foot of English hill.  That man was Samuel Johnson. — He was a tanner by trade and worked for R. W. Arnold.  We named a child of Samuel Johnson after our own baby daughter, Katie, who has gone.  Katie Johnson, we are informed, became the wife of Capt. Conrad Hult.  Soon after Johnson settled in Jamestown other families came, and in a few years our Swede population could be counted by the hundred.  Since that time they have become numerous, and are counted by the thousand.  As citizens they are not excelled by any others. 

Gilbert W. Hazeltine, The Early History of the Town of Ellicott, Chautauqua County, N.Y., Jamestown Publishing Co., 1887, p 424.

This research project seeks to document Swedes who arrived in the area before the Civil War in order to then analyze this population regarding life expectancy, number of births, infant mortality, economic success, etc. So, how many Swedes were here before the Civil War? Histories usually reported that there were about 250 Swedes in the early 1850s, however, these numbers often seem to be referring only to the Swedes in the village of Jamestown. 

In a previous blog about Swedish participation in the Civil War, I found that the total number of Swedes had been substantially underestimated.  

I have completed an intermediate review of the database entries.  My current count is approaching 800 Swedes in Warren and Chautauqua County.  About half of the population arrived in 1851 and 1852.  The percentage loss due to later migration is less than I thought, but still an issue.

The intermediate stats still show nearly all of the immigrants to our area prior to 1860 were from two clusters of parishes.  The great majority of Swedish settlers were from parishes near Kisa (including parts of Östergötland, Kalmar and Jönköpings läns).  A minority of Swedes came from Redvägs, Kullings, and Gäsene härads in eastern Älvsborgs län.

I am currently researching the role of religion in the lives of these Swedes.  I have found some details not previously published, but a substantial amount of additional research will be necessary to complete this topic.  What makes this research more difficult is my lack of interest in this issue, however, religious divisiveness does seem to have been an important factor in our history.   In particular, the story of the controversial Lutheran priest B.G.P. Bergenlund is more complicated than I would like to tackle, but his interactions with the Sugar Grove community set up the conditions that Jonas Swensson then dealt with
during his tenure from 1856-1858.  

21 March 2016

Identifying Anna Maria [Dahl] 1821 Kisa Link.

Generally we get his story and not her story.  The life of Anna Maria1,2  is not recounted in any of our local histories and I can only provide a framework of documents to suggest her story.  But a look at her experiences  provides a window into the lives of the early settlers in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania. Her marriage to one of the leaders of the group that settled in Sugar Grove in 1848, her second husband Samuel Dahl,3 also places her story amid those who established the Swedish settlement that would develop in Chandlers Valley.

Anna Maria Pehrsdotter was born 18 September 1821 at a soldier's cottage near Tvetmyra in Norra Vi parish, Östergötlands län.  Her parents were Sara Maria Petersdotter and Livgrenadier Peter Jern.  The family was restationed in 1825 to Soldattorp Nr 36, Stensätter u. Gäddefall, Kisa parish. Anna Maria grew up at this cottage and left to work on other farms at age 15 in 1836.  At twenty-two she married Anders Magnus Rundbom and moved in with his parents on a farm at Runefors in Kisa parish.

Five and a half years later, Anna Maria Pehrsdotter left the farm of her in-laws in Kisa to travel with her infant and four-year-old sons amid the thirty-nine other emigrants leaving the parish for N. Amerika.  Her circumstances must have been difficult at Runefors.  Anna Maria had married Rundbom at Christmas 1843 and had her first child, Augustus, in August 1845.   The priest added a note in the household census4 that Anders M. Rundbom had disappeared before November 1845.  Almost three years later (3 July 1848) Anna Maria gave birth to her second son, Johan Christian.  Her husband was not listed in the baptismal record and the priest added the notation that the birth was illegitimate (öakta ). The next spring at the end of May, Anna Maria Pehrsdotter, listed as a widow, received permission from the priest to leave the parish.  Her permission was issued under the same number (besked n:r 12 ) as Jakob Nilsson and his family.  Both families left the parish and received passports in Linköping the same day (Olsson 1995, p 337) and both families left Göteborg aboard the ship Charles Tottie.

Anna Maria Pehrsdotter and her two sons were listed together with Jacob Nilsson and his family on the manifest that included 226 Swedes.  Nilsson's wife, Lena Jonsdotter, was the younger sister of Catherine (Carin) Jonsdotter, who had married Germund Johnson and emigrated in 1846.  Catherine and Germund Johnson were the first Swedish family to settle in Sugar Grove (1847) and it seems likely that Jacob Nilsson and his family's had made plans to join them in Warren County.  In total, about 20 Swedes from the Charles Tottie settled in our area.  They likely traveled together as a group – a group that may have included others who died between New York City and Buffalo because of the outbreak of cholera (their deaths would have gone undocumented).

Anna Maria Pehrsdotter and her sons may have stayed in Jamestown.  Her younger son recounted in a short autobiography nearly sixty years later that he had lived first in Jamestown before moving to Warren County.  No boy of Swedish birth matching his description is listed in the area in the 1850 census.  Likewise, I am unable to identify Anna Maria in that census, (although she might be listed as Mary Frederick 19 F Sweden working as a servant in the Clark Dalrymple farm in Sugar Grove – her actual age would have been 28).  Nor can I find Samuel Dahl enumerated.

Although the whereabouts of Anna Maria and her youngest son are unknown in 1850, the location of her older son, Per Gustaf, is clear.  He had been taken in by Judge Gillman Merrill and his family in the borough of Warren.  In the 1850s the Gillmans moved to the house next door to the Struthers family who had taken in Catherine and Germund Johnson's oldest daughter, Louise, in 1846.   Per Gustaf Rundbom used the name August Rundbom Merrill or Augustus Merrill 5 and lived in the Merrill household during his entire life.  On 22 September 1885 he died from a single bullet wound to the temple and his unexplained suicide was front-page news.  He was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Warren under a headstone inscribed  (birth year incorrect):

The immediate placement (before August 1850) of Per Gustaf with a family in Warren suggests that the same destiny had occurred to Anna Maria's infant son, Johan Christian.  This may explain his later absence in the Dahl household and the change of his name to Charles Runningbrew.6

Anna Maria Pehrsdotter likely married Samuel Dahl in 1851 or 1852 before the birth of their first child, Christina Elizabeth, on 31 March 1852.  Their second child, Maria Anna, was born 12 Sept 1853.   Samuel Dahl was listed on "Teel Hill" by Rev. Jonas Swensson and his farm was indicated on an 1865 map of Warren County.  It seems probable that they remained at the same farm during their marriage  –  a great deal of effort was required to clear the forests for fields during the first years of settlement.

Map of Warren Co., Pa. New York : Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1865. Detail of Sugar Grove (detail) with database references added in red.
Library of Congress collection, Catalog Number 2012590191

In September 1866 after about fifteen years of marriage, Samuel Dahl died (date and burial location unknown).  He died with an estate worth "four or five hundred dollars" according to Mary Dahl (the appraisal submitted was $270).7

Half a year later, Anna Maria Pehrsdotter married her third husband,  Per Sims (Peter Simpson)8  a neighbor on Teel Hill, widower and father of six children.  After sixteen years of marriage, he died in 1883 when Anna Maria (now usually listed as Mary Simpson by census takers) was sixty-two.  His will demanded that he would be buried in the Sugar Grove Methodist cemetery although he is not identified in lists of burials there (aka Lawson cemetery).

About 1885 Anna Maria married  Nels Anderson9 from Tidersrum parish in Östergötland.  He had arrived in America in 1851 and owned a farm east of Chandlers Valley on the border with Freehold Township.  Nels was seventy-one years old when they married, eight years older that Anna Maria. This was his third marriage and her fourth.  Nels died in 1902 and was buried in Hessel Valley Lutheran cemetery; she moved in with the family of her daughter, Mrs. Augustus (Elizabeth C.) Lawson.  Anna Maria Pehrsdotter died at her daughter's house in Chandlers Valley on 11 April 1913.

Jamestown Evening Journal, April 11, 1913, p 1.

Anna Maria Pehrsdotter grave is marked (incorrectly):


 This is a timeline of the major events Anna Maria Pehrsdotter lived through:


  1. The title is based on what Jonas Swensson wrote about Anna Maria Pehrsdotter in his membership list for family #23 of the Sugar Grove congregation: "Anna Maria [Dahl] 1821 Kisa Link." The information about her was brief -- it listed only her name, did not indicate her patronymic surname, it didn't include the month or year of her birth and it listed Kisa, Linköping as her place of origin. See endnote 3 below for other details.  

  2. The identification of Anna Maria Pehrsdotter [1849.005] as the wife of Samuel Dahl included in Swensson's list was determined by:
    1. the brief details about Anna Maria in Jonas Swennson's congregation list provided no clear identity of her in the baptismal records for Kisa;
    2. Anna Maria Dahl married Per Sim 28 April 1867 in Sugar Grove according to the Jamestown and Sugar Grove Swedish Mission, Methodist Episcopal Church, Ministerial Book  volume 2 (1867-1864) in the archives of Christ First United Methodist Church, Jamestown, New York.  The ages reported in later censuses for Mrs. Peter (Mary) Simpson correspond with the age of Anna Maria as listed by Swensson;
      Jamestown and Sugar Grove Swedish Mission, Methodist Episcopal Church, Ministerial Book  volume 2 (1867-1864).  Archives of Christ First United Methodist Church, Jamestown, New York. 

    3. The will of Peter Simpson [1850.016] identified two step-children: Mary Lundy [sic] and Elizabeth Lawson; they correspond loosely to the children listed in the Dahl household;
    4. The obituary for Mary A. Lund noted that she had lived 59 years, 10 months, and 13 days indicating that she was born 12 September 1853, the same date as the daughter of Samuel and Anna Maria Dahl (Jamestown Evening Journal, June 25, 1913, p 6); 
    5. Mary A. Lund's obituary identified  her sister as Mrs. August Lawson of Chandlers Valley, whose date of birth corresponds with the other daughter of Samuel Dahl;
    6. Mary A. Lund's obituary surprisingly listed a brother named Charles Runningbrew;
    7. Charles Runningbrew was tracked through census that confirmed his Swedish parentage and that his age was approximately the same as Anna Maria Pehrdotter's second son;
    8. a biography of Runningbrew in a local history identified his birth date and provided additional corresponding details:
      Charles Runningbrew of No 115 Main street, Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, is a native of Sweden, born near Stockholm, July 16 1848, and came with his mother from their native land and located in Jamestown, New York.  Later he went to Warren county, Pennsylvania, where he lived until 1860 when he moved to Plumer, six miles north of Oil City.  
      John G. White (ed.)  A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Volume 2, Lewis Publishing Company, 1909, p 954-955.
      The indication that he had come to America without a father identifies most clearly that his mother was Anna Maria Pehrsdotter [1849.005]; there were few families comprised only of women with children who emigrated before 1852;
    9. Nels Anderson's marriage to Anna Maria is suggested by the details of the 1900 US census with the approximate age, correct number of children and approximate immigration year corresponding to Anna Maria.  His grave marker listed her death in 1913 and a brief death notice identified Mary Anderson as the mother of Mrs. Augustus Lawson and confirmed her marriage to Nels Anderson.

      There were several inconsistencies to consider: 

    10. no direct identification of Anna Maria Pehrsdotter as the mother of Charles Runningbrew,
    11. the difference in given names between Charles and the baptized Johan Christian;
    12. the difference in birth dates for Charles Runningbrew (16 July 1848) and the church record for Anna Maria's second son (3 July 1848); and
    13. the difference in birth places for Anna Maria Pehrsdotter between the listing of Swensson (1821 Kisa) and the parish records (19 September 1821 Norra Vi).

    Despite these difficulties with the various records, the early life circumstances of Charles Runningbrew, the mystery surrounding his surname (and its strange similarity, in a way, to Runbom) make me reasonably certain that Charles Runningbrew was the step-brother of Maria Anna and Elisabeth Dahl, that Anna Maria Pehrsdotter was their mother, and that she is the woman listed by Swensson as the wife of Samuel Dahl.

    Additional biographical information was found in the newspaper coverage of the suicide of Augustus Merrill - these note the location but not the names of his siblings.  These correspond to the previous research and corroborate these attributions.

  3. Samuel Dahl [1846.001] was frequently mentioned in a leadership role in the stories about the first Swedish settlers.   A.J. Lannes indicated that it was Samuel Dahl who traveled West to reconnoiter for the group in Buffalo.  In the story of the journey of Johanna Charlotta Johansdotter [1848.007] to America to join her brothers, she was part of the group that elected to join Germund and Charlotte Johnson in Sugar Grove in October 1848.  Her granddaughter's remembrance of the story noted that her great-uncle, Fredrick J. Johnson [1846.003] and Samuel Dahl rode out ahead of the group to secure lodging.  Despite his importance among the first settlers in Sugar Grove, details about Samuel Dahl's later life was ignored.  This may have been because he died decades before the interest in writing these histories or because of a lack of success in Chandlers Valley.

    The entry for Samuel Dahl in the membership list made by Jonas Swensson for the Sugar Grove Lutheran Congregation in 1856/7 is a jumble.  The most likely explanation for the entry is a confusion by Swensson between Samuel (Peterson) Dahl and Samuel Peterson.
    Comparison between Jonas Swensson's entry for Samuel Dahl (left, page 10) and Samuel Peterson (right, page 18)

    Because Swensson didn't make a notation that the children were illegitimate (and he would have), it can be assumed that Samuel and Anna Maria were married sometime between 1850 and 1852.  

  4.  Kisa parish household census AI-10a (1846-1850), p 110.  Noted as "försvunnen man wit ej hurn i Novemb. månad, 1845" or roughly translated "Not seen since November 1845". See also Olsson 1995, p 337.
  5. Detail from the notes columns of the household census indicating the disappearance of Anders Magnus Rundbom and Anna Maria Perhrsdotter's emigration

  6.  August C. Merrill, b. 24 August 1845 Kisa Parish, Östergötland, d. 22 September 1885 Warren, Warren County, Pennsylvania [1849.006]..

    His suicide was covered by the Jamestown Evening Journal, April 23,1885, p [4].  "The unfortunate man was about thirty-seven years of age, of a quiet, amiable disposition, and a general favorite among those who knew him.  He was a Swede by birth and his parents, it is said, live near Chandler's Valley.  At an early age he was adopted by the Misses Merrill, two maiden ladies residing at the corner of Market and Third streets.  They reared him carefully, gave him a fine education and he has always passed as their nephew.".

    Front page coverage by the
    Warren Sunday Mirror, September 27, 1885, p 1, provided additional biographical information: "Augustus Merrill was; about; thirty-eight years of age and unmarried.  His name originally was Augustus Runningbraw, but at the age of three years he was adopted by Judge Merrill, who had his name changed by the legislature to Morrill.  The Judge died about twenty-five years ago and Gust,as he was familiarly called has since resided with his foster sisters.  His mother and two sisters live near Chandlers Valley and one brother at Stoneboro, Mercer county.  He was a machinist by trade and was formerly employed in& Struthers, Wells & Co’s iron works.  About ten years ago he entered the Warren Savings Bank as bookkeeper and rose to the position of teller by reason of his faithfulness and integrity.  Several years ago he became interested in oil and came out, as& many others have done,  in debt.  These debts he has been paying off slowly but they were a constant source of worry to him.  It is also rumored that there was some ill-feeling between him and some of the other em­ployees of the bank but it is as yet impossible to tell how much truth there is in the report.".

    A photo of the headstone of  Augustus Rundbom Merrill can be found at www.findagrave.com [Find A Grave Memorial# 67413484 accessed 2016.03.20]

  7. Charles Runningbrew biography in  John G. White (ed)  A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County, Pennsylvania, Volume 2, Lewis Publishing Company, 1909, p 954-955.

  8. Samuel Dahl's estate was administered by G.W. Buel, Warren County Probates, Registers Docket vol 4, No. 594, p 278.

  9. Peter Simpson [1850.016] was baptized Per Sim in Pelarne parish, Kalmar, he was born 15 Nov 1805.  He emigrated from Lönneberga with his first wife, Maja Stina Jeremiasdotter [1850.016], and their six children and arrived 18 August 1850 aboard the Excellent in New York City.  It is not known when Maja Stina died, but his marriage to Anna Maria Dahl was recorded by the Swedish Mission of the Methodist church as 28 April 1867 in Sugar Grove.  The date of his death, 22 September 1883, is listed in the probate of his will (Warren County Probates, Registers Docket vol 6, no 1434, p 266).

  10. Nels Anderson [1851.096] was baptized Nils Magnus Andersson in Tidersrum Parish in Östergötland, he was born 19 June 1813.  Nels was also from a military family, the child of  Livgrenadier Anders Månsson Örn  (same Regiment and Company as Peter Jern) and his wife Kerstin Nilsdotter.  He married Stina Lotta Andersdotter [1851.097] from Kisa parish and emigrated in 1851 with two children.  Stina Lotta died two days after giving birth to their fourth child in 1857.  Nels promptly remarried Anna Brita Carlsdotter [1852.057] who had emigrated in 1852 from Locknevi parish in Kalmar.  They had two children together and died at fifty-seven in 1881.

    Nels Anderson married Anna Maria Pehrsdotter in 1885 according to their enumeration in the 1900 census.  It is unclear if Anderson was still living in the same cabin he had built when he first moved to the area.  That log cabin was a curiosity story amid the publicity in 1846 for the centennial celebration in Chandlers Valley.

    photo of the headstone of Nels Anderson and wives can be found at www.findagrave.com [Find A Grave Memorial# 75455796 accessed 2016.03.20].

    Jamestown Post-Journal July 3, 1946, p 1

11 February 2016

Religion in the Early Swedish Community

The role of religion in the lives of early Swedish settlers in our area is not well understood.  A great deal of heavy handed editing during the intervening decades has made this part of the story difficult to assess.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that there was a range of religious practice from strong continuance of the Lutheran tradition or fervent Methodism to non-participation and/or non-belief.

The religiousness of the community, that is to say, how demonstrably some practiced their faith, was commented on by John A. Peterson in his 1907 remembrances of the early history of Swedes in Ellicott.1
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.2 and Ahlberg Bastila.  Fredrick [1846.003] and Charles Johnson [1846.006] 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 Hedstrom 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. 

Early Rites and the First Religious Records  

The first religious rites in the area were likely administered by non-Swedes and non-Lutherans.  The earliest event in our area that I have come across is a family history noting the marriage on Christmas day in 1849 at the Weld farm in Sugar Grove Township, Warren County between Swan Peterson [1849.048] and Brita Elisabeth Abramsdotter [1849.015].3  The ministerial record of this marriage has not been located, nor the minister identified.

Olaf Gustaf Hedstrom - Biographies, Correspondence, Photos, and Journal, Swedish Methodist Collection - Drew University, Madison, New Jersey.  Image courtesy of Frances Bristol, all image rights reserved by Drew University, 2014.

 The first rites celebrated in Jamestown by a Swedish minister were likely to have been the three marriages performed by Olof G. Hedstrom in the summer of 1851 when he visited en route to Chicago.

June 28th 1851 
Lars Larson from Hessleby in Sweden 
Lina NilsDotter from Westra Enby  in Sweden 4  

June 28th 1851 
Pontius Oberg from Opperby in Sweden 
Maria HansDotter fr. Jusdala in Sweden 5

June 28th 1851 
Otto Pettersson from Wimmerby in Sweden
Lislena from Lonberga in Sweden 6

Olof G. Hedstrom's ministerial journal is likely to be the earliest religious record of the Swedish community in our area.  Hedstrom issued marriage certificates at the Bethel Ship mission7 but it seems unlikely that he issued these for the weddings in Jamestown.

Marriage certificate signed by Hedstrom issued by the North
River (Bethel Ship) Mission in 1850. Image from Swedish
American Genealogist.

Early Religious Leaders and Irregular Ministers

Two Swedish preachers were active before 1854:  John P. Dahlen8 and B.G.P. Bergenlund.9  Neither of these men were recognized by later church histories as the first ministers in the area.   Almost nothing is known of Dahlen and his work.  A good deal has been written in Lutheran histories about B.G.P. Bergenlund and his authorized and then disapproved ministry.

John P. Dahlen

The only mention of his pastoral work that I have found is in a Methodist history.
Guds ords predikan saknades då på modersmålet. En viss Dahlin höll sammankomster i ett på 4:de gatan beläget skolhus, men O. G. Hedström var den förste svenske prestman, som höll svensk gudstjenst derstädes.10God's words preached in their mother tongue were missing.  A certain Dahlin held gatherings in the Fourth Street schoolhouse, but O. G. Hedstrom was the first Swedish clergyman, who held Swedish worship there.

This most likely refers to John P. Dahlen [1850.061] who emigrated with his family and others from Djursdal parish in Kalmar län and arrived  in New York City in 1850.  Dahlen's sister-in-law,  Mrs. Pontius (Mary) Oberg nee Maja Stina Hansdotter [1849.049] had emigrated the year before from the same parish.  She was listed as the bride Mary Hansdotter by Olaf G. Hedstrom in his journal entries from June 1851 (see above).  Maja Stina's older sister, Anna Greta, was the wife of Dahlen.

Dahlen seems an ordinary Swedish immigrant.  His employment was as a common laborer, brush maker, farmer, brick yard worker.  He died in Jamestown sometime between 1875 and 1879. His widow Anne died in February 1880.  Aside from the Methodist history, there is no suggestion from the records that he was religiously active.

B.G.P. Bergenlund (Berglund)

B.G.P. Bergenlund preached in Jamestown in 1853.  The histories of the local Lutheran church often mention Bergenlund but do not explain what it was about his ministry that required his removal.  After Bergenlund's permission to preach was rescinded,  he left Jamestown, spent several years in Illinois and then Minnesota.  He returned to Sweden about 1861 and surprisingly, he became a Lutheran minister near Göteborg.

After a series of hot encounters with Methodists and Baptists, from which the Lutheran pastor [Rev. Esbjörn] and his flock [in Andover, Illinois] seem to have emerged with a deepened sense of the worth of the evangelical Lutheran confession, the congregation grew both in numbers and in inward stability. The order of service and ecclesiastical practices of the old country were more fully adhered to, while greater importance was attached to soundness in spiritual life.  Peace having eventually been restored in the church, renewed disturbances occurred when one B.G.P. Bergenlund, in the summer of 1855, after having been appointed assistant pastor and school teacher, began to cast aspersions on Rev. Esbjörn and his work, at the same time giving offense and scandalizing the church by conduct unbecoming a pastor and a Christian.  Bergenlund, apparently a native of Ignaberga in the province of Skåne, and a man of education, had come to this country in January 1853, stopping in Jamestown, N.Y.  There and in Sugar Grove, Pa. he began preaching to his fellow countrymen and in the fall of the same year came to Illinois at the suggestion of Rev. Hasselquist.11  Having passed examination, he was licensed by the Synod of Northern Illinois as a regular preacher whereupon, he returned to Jamestown and Sugar Grove.  By his unseemly behavior be spoiled his reputation in less than a year and was forced to leave.  In May, 1855 he appeared in Moline, where he took ministerial charge of the Swedish Lutheran congregation without notifying Esbjörn.  When the congregation showed a disinclination to receive him, he left for Andover where he insinuated himself into the confidence and friendship of the people by going from house to house. ... Bergenlund continued operations in Andover, but before the end of the year the parishioners had their eyes to the eccentricities of their pastor and resolved to call Rev. M.F. Hokanson, of New Sweden, Iowa.  ... In the summer of 1857 he was compelled to leave Andover and the next fall the Synod of Northern Illinois refused to renew his preacher's license After drifting about from place to place mostly in Minnesota he came back in 1860, after the Scandinavian Lutherans had separated from the Synod of Northern Illinois and formed the Augustana Synod.  He was then re-admitted into the Synod of Northern Illinois and ordained minister.  He now began to make vehement attacks on the Augustana Synod, but more particularly on Esbjörn.  After a few years he returned to Sweden where he succeeded in gaining admittance to the state church and obtain a charge in the bishopric of Göteborg where still perserving [sic] in his erratic ways he gave old Bishop Björk a great deal of annoyance. 12


T. N. Hasselquist, the staunch pioneer leader of the Lutherans, came in the summer of 1853 [to Jamestown], and gathered the immigrants for worship.  Then, too, there was B.G.P. Bergenlund ­­­— and what a character.  He caused no end of trouble, and in 1854 Hasselquist was forced to make another journey East in an effort to straighten things out.  The church statistics show that during one year alone Bergenlund had “excommunicated” upwards of 30 members in his Sugar Grove flock.13

The Formation of Congregations

O.G. Hedstrom returned to Jamestown in November 1852 and helped organize the Swedish Methodist congregation.  Soon afterward, the local organizational framework of the Methodist church added the Swedish Mission to the Erie Conference.

The Methodist congregation in Jamestown was organized around the leadership of Samuel Johnson [1849.026],  Andrew P. Peterson [1849.046] and John Larson.14     Their first meetings were held at the home of Samuel Johnson on Barrows Street at the foot of what would become Swede Hill.

The Lutheran congregation, as yet not organized, heard its first official  Lutheran sermon 1 June 1853 in the Presbyterian Church in Jamestown.  That Swedish sermon was given by Dr. Hasselquist when he visited Jamestown to interview Bergenlund.

The First Swedish Church

The earliest congregations were likely informal with services in houses and at other churches.

Germund Johnson [1846.007] provided the land for a community church in Chandlers Valley (approximately at the location of the Sugar Grove Mission Covenant Church today).  This church was built sometime between 1852 and 1854.  Olaf G. Hedstrom provided $35 for improvements when he visited Jamestown in 1851.15

This congregation split several times during the ensuing years; Hessel Valley Lutheran Church traces its origin to this church.16  

Germund and Catherine Johnson sold the land where the church stood (1.57 acres) 1 September 1857 for one dollar to John Lawson and Samuel Samuelson, Trustees of the Sugar Grove Lutheran congregation.17

Jamestown's First Swedish Minister:  Olof Hamren

The first Swede to take a permanent posting in our area was a young minister appointed to the Swedish Mission affiliated with the Jamestown Methodist church.  His name was Olof Hamren18  and he began his ministry July 22, 1853.19

Hamren had worked for O.G. Hedstrom at the Bethel ship mission in New York harbor.  His origin remains undocumented, however differing sources indicate that he was born in northern Sweden about 1825.

Hamren was assigned to the new Swedish Mission for the Erie Conference, so that he was in charge of all of the Swedish settlers in the region not just the single congregation in Jamestown.  The few references to his ministry indicate that he was young and well liked by the community.

At the end of his first year Hamren attended the Methodist annual conference in Cleveland.  Just after returning home to Jamestown, he died from cholera.

Rev. and Dear Brother, -- I sit down to record the painful fact that our beloved brother Olif Hamren [sic], is no more. He finished his useful life and career this morning, July 22d, at half-past six o'clock, at his own residence, in the midst of the little weeping group of his flock, who were wont to look up to him as their faithful shepherd and pastor, and under whose devoted labors they had many of them been converted.

We prayed together and wept together, and as we arose from our knees there was a transient struggle, a gasping for breath, and the spirit took its departure.

The last words of our departed brother were words of triumph. He was fully aware that his end was nigh and he met it as one fully ready for the summons.

We had just returned from conference. We went in company and returned together, and arrived at Jamestown on Thursday, July 20th, at five o'clock P.M. His health was good up to the time of the attack, which occurred last evening at about six o'clock. Thus, in about twelve hours time, we go down from health to the grave. His disease was the cholera.

The little shepherdless flock came around me with weeping eyes and throbbing hearts to ask, “What shall be done? Who shall preach to us now the gospel of Christ in the language which we can understand?” I told them that the Lord would provide; he would send them another. They desired me to write to you as they look up to pastor Hedstrom as a patriarch and father. O, if you could only visit them, and preach to them a few times just at this emergency, how much good it would do them!

Yesterday brother Hamren and I were talking of starting a subscription, for the purpose of raising means for the building of a church for the Swedish brethren on the lot recently given them by Hon. Judge Foote of New-Haven Conn. But a mysterious Providence has called him from labor to reward.

They have a large congregation, and from forty to fifty members in society.

J.E. Chapin..20  

It is remarkable how little is known about Hamren.21  Not even the correct spelling of his first and last name are certain  (he is listed as Olaf, Olof, Olrif, et al. and Hamren, Hamrin, Hansen, et al.).  This is likely due to his death after only one year of service, but it may also reflect his being a minister of a non-Lutheran sect or his origin from a far northern region of Sweden.


  1. John A. Peterson, Swedes in Ellicott, Jamestown Evening Journal, August 21, 1907, p 4.  See the July 2015 blog for the full article.

    Ekmanson. Utkast til Skrifte-tal, 1797. A collection of sermons
  2. Carl Gustaf Ekmanson (b 1724 Veta Parish, Östergötland, d 1812 Stora Aby Parish).  Lutheran minister and politician known for his many published sermons.

    Peterson's reference to the "Ahlberg Bastila" is likely confused.  "Bastilla" probably refers to a  Postilla, the accepted Lutheran interpretations of bible passages, especially by Martin Luther and Johann Arndt.  "Ahlberg" refers to Per August Ahlberg (b. 1823 Morlunda, Kalmar) whose preaching and missionary school  were significant in Sweden and America in later decades.

  3. The marriage of Swan Peterson and Brita Elisabeth Abramsdotter is noted in the family history posted by David Mosier Miller on Rootsweb

  4. Lars Lawson [1849.020] from Hässleby married to widow Lena Jonsdotter Nilsson [1849.002] from Västra Eneby.

  5. Pontius Oberg [1848.003] from Oppeby married to Maja Stina Hansdotter [1849.049] from Djursdala.

  6. Otto Peterson [1850.003] from Vimmerby married to  Lisa Lena Andersdotter [1848.009] from Lönneberga

  7. Erik Wikén.  A Marriage Certificate from the Bethel Ship in New YorkSwedish American Genealogist, Vol 9, No. 4 (1989), p 11-12.

    1882 Jamestown Ad
  8. John P. Dahlen [1850.061] was born 3 Dec 1817 at Olstorpet and baptized Jaen Petter Nilsson in Västrum Parish, Kalmar län.  He married  Anna Greta Hansdotter 23 Jun 1840 in Djursdala Parish.  The couple and three children received permission to emigrate (Besked N:o 8) from Mohåll, Djursdala in 1849.  The family did not emigrate, however, until the next year when they traveled aboard the Virginia and arrived in New York City on 3 September 1850.  It is likely they planned to travel with Anna Greta's family but remained in Djursdala because of the health of Dalen's mother, Ana Johansdotter – she died 15 January 1850.  Her husband, Nils Nilsson Tyfting [i2584] accompanied his son's family aboard the Virginia, but no further records for him have been found in our area (he was 58 years old in 1850).

    Jaen Petter Nilsson adopted the surname Dahlén (from the valley) and his father, Nils Nilsson, adopted the surname Tyfting from the name of a local estate.

    I have not yet researched whether Jaen Petter Nilsson Dahlén was part of the läsare movement.

    John P. Dahlen was difficult to track because the spelling of his surname was different for each census and he and his family lived in several locations in our area.  In 1850 he arrived too late for the U.S. census, but if the Methodist history is correct he first lived in the Jamestown area.  He and his family were likely in Warren County in 1855 missing the New York State census – some of his children noted Pennsylvania as their state of birth.  In 1860 he was listed as John Delani living in Fredonia and in 1865 as Peter Lean living in nearby Poland Township.  In 1870 he was listed in Jamestown as John P. Delene and in 1875 he was listed also in Jamestown as John P. Dahlen by the Swedish census taker.  

    His children used various spellings including Delane, DeLain,  Delain.  His oldest son, who died in the Salisbury P.O.W. camp during the Civil War, was listed by the Department of War as John A. Delaine.   Three of his sons became wallpaper hangers and painters working in Jamestown and Niagara Falls.  See for example, Jamestown Daily Journal, May 4, 1882, p 2.

  9. B.G.P. Bergenlund [i2255] aka B.G.P. Berglund, born 19 February 1841 in Norra Åkarp Parish, Kristianstads län .  Additional biographical information primarily from Eric Norelius, De svenska luterska församlingarnas och Svenskarnas historia i Amerika, Volume 1, 1890, p 163.  Norelius noted that Bergenlund was born in Ingnaberga parish, that Bergenlund had met T.N. Hasselquist in Sweden and that Bergenlund had arrived in January 1853.

    Bergenlund applied for a passport in 12 October 1861 in New York City to travel to Sweden and this may be when he re-emigrated to Sweden.

  10. N.M. Liljegren, N.O. Westergreen & C.G. Wallenius. Svenska metodismen i Amerika, Chicago, 1895, p.297.  Rough translation by John Everett Jones.
    T.N. Hasselquist, 1860

  11. Rev. Dr. Tuve Nilsson Hasselquist (1816-1891) was a founding member of the Augustana Synod, the second president of  Augustana College and founder and editor of Hemlandet, the first Swedish-language newspaper in America.  See Wikipedia article.  The photo at right appeared in Eric Norelius's biography, T. N. Hasselquist : lefnadsteckning, Rock Island, 1900, p 86.

  12. Ernst W Olson & Martin J. Endberg, editors. History of the Swedes in Illinois, Chicago, 1908, p 434-435.

  13. Dr. Evald B. Lawson. Centennial of Coming of Swedes to These Parts to be Observed at Chandler’s Valley Exercises, Part II.  Jamestown Evening Journal, Sept 11, 1941, p 19. 

  14.  John Lawson [1852.244] was a founding member of the Swedish Methodist church in Jamestown.  See research to identify him in a subsequent blog (4 March 2017).

  15. The initial funding was to fence in the church property  "Samtidigt med verksamheten i Jamestown börjades af Hedström verksamhet i Chandlers Valley, der tomt för kyrka och kyrkogård skänktes af Germund Johnson samt $35.00 af Hedström till ett stakets uppförande omkring tomten."  
    At the same time as his work in Jamestown, Hedstrom was active in Chandlers Valley, where the plot of land for a church and cemetery were donated by Germund Johnson and $35.00 was provided by Hedstrom to build a fence around the land.  

    N.M. Liljegren, N.O. Westergreen & C.G. Wallenius. Svenska metodismen i Amerika, Chicago, 1895, p.299.  Rough translation by John Everett Jones.

    The details about the church building are not well documented even though it was one of the first Swedish churches built in America (aside from the Delaware Valley).  This church predates the organization of a Lutheran congregation by Jonas Swensson in 1856 and likely served more as a church for the community, rather than as a singular denomination.  Germund Johnson was an opinionated Methodist according to Eric Norelius, the Lutheran minister in Vasa, Minnesota.

  16. The Lutheran congregation formed by Jonas Swensson took over control of the community church in 1856.

  17. Warren County Land Records, Record Book R, p. 128.

  18. Olof Hamren [i0566].  I have not encountered information in Nils William Olsson's published research about Hamren. A painter named Olof Nilsson Hamren from Attmar Parish, Västernorrland who arrived aboard the Oden in 1850 (Eric Norelius was also a passenger on that journey) was listed by Olsson  (1967, p 256-257, 1995, p 443), however, this is not likely the same man who was in Jamestown.

    The Methodist tribute to Hamren indicates that he had been a sailor.  This would account for his entry into the U.S., his association with the Bethel Ship mission and his absence from the works of Olsson.
    The sailor has also received the word of God, and we have preached to as many, on an average ,as any other bethel Church in the United States. Those who hear the word in the mission are constantly passing to and fro between this country and Europe, and some of them labor not only on the voyage, but when they arrive at distant ports, for the salvation of souls, and especially in their native country. Two successful missionaries have been raised from this class: one, Olif Hamren, fell at his post in the Jamestown mission, dying in triumph; the other labors with success in his native country. 
    Source: Methodist Episcopal Church, Missionary Society. 1855 Missionary Report, Annual report of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church., Volumes 36-37, New York, p. 107-108.8.

    Additional research has located more details about Hamren, but his life remains sketchy.

    The ministerial book of Olof Hamren has not been discovered - it does not appear in the archives of Upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, or the Swedish Methodist collection of Drew University. The earliest records in the archives of Christ First United Methodist Church in Jamestown begin in 1868 with the ministerial books of B.A. Carlson.

  19. M. Lorimer Moe, Saga From the Hills, A History of the Swedes of Jamestown, 1983, p 19. Moe listed specific birth information (5 February 1815 in Skellefteå) for Hamren that doesn't match parish registers nor the description of Hamren as a young man.  Moe did not indicate the source for his information, however, it was likely based on the autobiography of Victor Witting, Minnen Från Mitt Lif: Som Sjöman, Immigrant Och Predikant, Samt En Historisk Afhandling Af Metodismens Uppkomst, Utveckling, Utbredning Bland Svenskarne I Amerika Och I Sverige Från Dess Början, 1845, Till Dess Organiserande I Konferenser, 1876 i Sverige Och 1877 i Amerika. Worcester, MA: Burbank & co:s tryckeri, 1904.

  20. Methodist Episcopal Church, Missionary Society. 1855 Missionary Report, Annual report of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church., Volumes 36-37, New York, p. 112.

  21. The unknown life of Olof Hamren also includes the claimed paternity of a son – seven months after his death.  Margareta Charlotta Hellström [1851.113]  gave birth to William Henry Hamerine on 20 February 1855, she was 22 years old at the time of his birth.  It is not clear if she had married Olof Hamren although she is listed as Charlotte Hamren in the 1865 New York State Census (Household No. 393, Jamestown 2nd Ward, Ellicott, Chautauqua County).  She was later known as Mr. Swan (Margaret C.) Nelson.

    William Henry Hammerine died at the home of Swan Nelson, 275 Willard street at 2 o'clock this morning aged 50 years, 9 months and 23 days. He leaves no immediate family. He was the son of the first pastor of the Swedish M.E. church in this city, was born in Jamestown and has always lived here. Announcement has not been made as to the time of the funeral.
    Jamestown Evening Journal, December 15, 1905, p 11.

    Hamerine was buried in Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown.