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

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