23 December 2017

God jul!

Today as I shoveled snow off the roof here in Chautauqua County, I was thinking about the first winter for the Swedes in Sugar Grove, many of that group were living in the barn of William Faulkner. It is not very likely that they ate bruna bönor med fläsk or potatiskorv -- maybe some venison.

The early cooking of these Swedes is not a subject that I have run across in my research. Ingredients were different: the berries weren’t the same, the sirap now was maple syrup, maybe the apple cider was similar. A great deal of adjustment had to have been made to cook in this new world.

A nice discussion of brown beans and their role in Swedish cooking can be found at www.oland.se/en/the-swedish-brown-bean

If you have any stories related to early (pre 1880) cooking of the Swedes in our area, please forward them to this site:  jamestownswedes@hotmail.com.  Tack!

15 July 2017

Andover, Illinois

Soybeans, Henry County, Illinois. The power company pays $1000+ per year for each windmill.  This almost was your family farm...


One of the most influential events in the history of Jamestown, New York happened a hundred and sixty-nine years ago in the summer of 1848 and 625 miles (1000 km) west in Andover, Illinois. You could even argue that the decision made that summer by Samuel Dahl was the most consequential decision ever made by any single individual in the history of our area.

In 1848 Samuel Dahl [1846.001] traveled from Buffalo, New York to Andover, Henry County, Illinois to see the farming and living conditions of a new Swedish settlement there. He returned to the Swedes working as farm laborers in Hamburg township (Erie County, New York) with an unfavorable opinion. Several families decided to go to Andover anyway, but the remaining group decided to settle near Germund and Catherine Johnson’s farm in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania.

Accounts of the Trip

The information about this trip comes from a single source, Frederick J. Johnson [1846.003].  Johnson was interviewed late in life by A.J. Lannes and the account of the trip in Civic and industrial progress of the Swedish people in Jamestown, 1848-1914 noted:

The plan of the party stranded in Buffalo had been to join the Bishop Hill settlement [sic ] in Illinois as soon as they had earned enough to pay their way there.  Samuel Dahl even went westward for an investigation but returned to those who had remained in Buffalo and Hamburg (to which an addition of later immigrants also had come) with a harrowing tale of hardship and privation for their co-migrants and of bad drinking water in the western country.  Frederick Johnson, who seems to have been the leader of the group, made a decision there and then to move with his family and kin and clan up to that fine country where Germund and Catherine were located, and which they had described as both fertile and beautiful.  He went ahead with Samuel Dahl to look up sites, and on the 13th day of October, 1848, the other “trekked” to Sugar Grove, using horse wagons for their conveyance.

An earlier account with different details was included in the article “Svenskarne i Sugar Grove (Pennsylvanien), Jamestown (N.Y.) och å kringliggande platser.” published by Hemlandet on 28 Mar 1877. That article included information that was almost certainly contributed by the same Frederick J. Johnson. Its likely author, Johan Alfred Enander (the editor of the paper), wrote this account1  of the events:

Month after month passed and they were filled with difficulties and trials. One year after the arrival in Buffalo, two of the Swedes, Hans Hurtig and Samuel Samuelson, left for Andover, Illinois. When they got there, they wrote their friends in Buffalo that, if they wished to come to Andover, they would be met with conveyances at Chicago. As a result of this letter, six or seven families journeyed to Andover in August, 1848.

... Germund Johnson therefore returned alone to Buffalo to get the rest of his family and his possessions and bring them to Sugar Grove. On the strength of his description of that place, Frederik Johnson and Samuel Dahl, both of whom had been to Andover but were dissatisfied with the soil there, accompanied him to Sugar Grove to "spy out the land."

The Trip Itinerary

These accounts suggest that Samuel Dahl returned to Buffalo with his opinion about the conditions in Andover before the families who made the decision in favor of Andover left in August 1848.  These accounts also indicate that the fellow Swedes who had migrated to Andover in the summer of 1847 had written to the group and that Dahl's trip was in response to that letter.  It is likely then that Samuel Dahl made his trip after the Spring planting in 1848, sometime from May to July of 1848.2 

Henry Schenck Tanner. Tanner's Universal Atlas, 1844, p 31.  Library of Congress permanent link: lccn.loc.gov/map45000245
The most likely route that Samuel Dahl would have taken was by lake steamer from Buffalo to Chicago. Advertised steamship travel from Buffalo to Chicago indicate that the trip would have taken three or four days. After arriving in Chicago, which had a population of about 20,000 in 1848, Dahl might have found support (lodging) from the small Swedish population there.

The distance from Chicago to Andover is about 170 miles  (270 km).  If he had been lucky, Dahl could have taken a packet or line boat on the newly opened 96 mile Illinois & Michigan Canal from Chicago to LaSalle. This travel required one full day (24 hours). From LaSalle it would be 80 miles to Andover, by stagecoach. It's more likely that Dahl went on foot – a distance similar to that walked by Germund and Catherine Johnson enroute to Sugar Grove.3  That amounts to about three days walking and a total minimum travel time from Buffalo to Andover of one week.

Overall, the trip would have taken about three weeks and would have cost the equivalent of 15 or 20 acres of undeveloped land in Warren County. The cost of the steamship one-way from Buffalo to Chicago was likely about $6 with better accommodations onboard costing $10. My guess is that this investigative trip was a communal decision and that the overall cost was shared in some manner.

The timing of Samuel Dahl's trip was fortuitous.  While much warmer than western New York, the weather in Illinois during the summer of 1848 seems to have been a little cooler than normal.  The next summer (1849) was marked by the outbreak of cholera along the entirety of this route. Hans Hurtig,4  one of the Swedes named in the 1877 article, died in Andover in 1849.

Named Factors for the Decision

The reason given in the 1877 account, the condition of the farm land in Andover, is nearly stupefying. A comparison of the contemporary USDA rating of soils on Germund Johnson's farm in Chandlers Valley indicate a typical productivity for corn at 80 to 105 bushels per acre, oats at 65 to 80 bushels per acre and hay at 3.0 to 3.5 tons per acre. The rating for the soils near Andover indicate a typical productivity for corn at 140 to 195 bushels per acre, oats at 70 to 105 bushels per acre and hay at 3.2 to 7.0 tons per acre. The prairie soil was unfamiliar to the Swedes and its mechanical qualities (stickiness) made it difficult for iron plows of this era (John Deere had introduced his improved steel plow in 1837). But generally speaking, you can look at the land and see that it would be much better for farming and Samuel Dahl was an experienced farm worker.

The later account (Lannes, 1914) indicated that Samuel Dahl had encountered problems with water quality. In an era of cholera, typhoid and other diseases this was a major concern. Henry County is normally a little bit dryer than our region. The rainfall in Henry county is typically 37 inches (930 mm) of rain and 27 inches of snow. Sugar Grove has an average of 44 inches (1115 mm) of rain and 80 inches of snow; and Erie County (where they were working) gets 41 inches with 108 inches of snow. The Henry County prairie has slow moving creeks rather than the fast moving small streams and rivers of Warren County.

The misery that may be referenced in the Lannes account could be the situation at the Bishop Hill Colony5 during the summer of 1848. Bishop Hill was a religious colony/society near Andover where members of the Eric Jansson sect settled. Most of this group were from northern Sweden and began arriving in numbers in 1846. In 1848 there were possibly 800 - 1000  immigrants, although several hundred of them arrived later in the summer. Historical accounts indicate that a shipful of Janssonites had arrived at the colony with a disease (questionably listed as scurvy), and that about thirty of this party died in Bishop Hill after an extended and horrific battle with the malady. That episode was made worse by the religious leadership who forbade medical treatment and promoted fasting and prayer as the cure. Outside parties attempted to intervene, including Jonas Hedstrom, the brother of Olof G. Hedstrom and a Methodist minister.

Unnamed Factors for the Decision

It's hotter in Andover – just as cold as our area in the winter, but 90° F (32°C) weather in the summer is common and 100°F (38°C) is not unusual. Enough said for a Swede who is concerned about work, not vacation.

It is prairie land in Andover. It doesn't look anything like the terrain around Lönneberga where Samuel Dahl was born and worked. There are two small lakes, swamps and ponds near the beginning of the Green River in the north, but no major lake in the area. There were some wooded areas, but Bishop Hill had to bring in lumber from outside the area quite early in its construction.

I would suggest that it was the absence of substantial forests (sustainable woodlots) that may have been the pivotal factor in the decision against moving to Andover. The importance of the forest and a good edge tool to a Smålander likely superseded the attractive features of Andover. The woods of Warren and Chautauqua counties would provide a self-reliant independence for these Swedish immigrants.

Accounts indicate that it was very tough cutting through the native sod to turn the prairie into cultivated land, but that effort pales compared to the work involved removing tree stumps from a forest land to make it tillable. It is quite a price to pay for a place that looks like home.

Sophisticated Decision Making 

While this trip by Samuel Dahl is a footnote in our histories, I find the communications involved and the investigation conducted to be signs of a fairly sophisticated community, albeit that they were penniless immigrants.

The group of Swedish immigrants who arrived in 1847 and settled in Andover wrote to their compatriots in Buffalo.6   That seems simple until you consider the logistics.

First, how do you find out where another group of immigrants is living?  That information would have been gathered from either 1) triangulated communication through letters home to Sweden; 2) triangulated communication through an intermediary such as the Hedstroms and the Bethel ship who communicated with both groups; or most likely, 3) a Swede who happened to meet someone from the Virginia group in Buffalo and then met the Swedes in Andover, Illinois.  It is no small feat making this connection.

Second, how do you successfully get a letter to the other group?  Most likely, that was accomplished by the U.S. mail, but you need to be able to send it to a fixed address.  That is complicated when the recipients are day laborers and farm workers.

The letter that is referred to in the 1877 article is a much simpler communication – it seems likely that Samuel Samuelsson, one of those who left Buffalo for Andover in 1847, would have written to his fourteen year-old son, Samuel Leonard, who had been taken in by the Swift family in East Hamburg.

Next, the group had to raise enough money to pay for an expedition. Remember, these immigrants were on the margin of subsistence.  Then, the group needed to send someone who they could agree upon as dependable and who they could trust to provide a fair report.  This speaks volumes about the character of Samuel Dahl.

Once Dahl returned from Andover, then a further aspect of the group was shown.  The Swedes in Buffalo did not make a decision as a cohesive group.  Instead, half chose to go to Andover based on Dahl's report and half chose Sugar Grove.  Unlike the passengers of the Augusta who had pooled their resources to get to Iowa (see blog footnote), the passengers of the Virginia acted as family units whose responsibility to the larger community was limited.


  1. This text is from an anonymous translation made of the later, slightly revised article by Rev. H.O. Lindbland that is in the collection of his papers archived at the Swenson Center, Augustana College.

    I doubt that Frederick J. Johnson made this trip (as indicated in the 1877 article). The high cost of the trip and the absence of any indication in the A.J. Lannes history strongly suggest that the trip was made only by Samuel Dahl.  

    Also, in my opinion, Frederick J. Johnson’s short (auto)biography in Schenck’s History of Warren County, 1887, p  Li (51) was somewhat boastful (I have not been able to verify his land holdings) leading me to believe that if he had indeed made this trip that he would have made note of it in this write-up.

    Another passenger from the Virginia may have also gone West to investigate and returned to the group in Buffalo (alone or with Samuel Dahl).   Anders and Ingrid Catherine Norman are credited as the second Swedish settlers in Burlington, Iowa in 1847.  Anders Norman died there in 1871 and "Carrie" Norman died in Burlington in 1896.  However, in our local histories one member of the small group who settled in Sugar Grove in October 1848 was the old soldier Norman. That was clearly a reference to Anders Norman [i2160], yet there is no reference to his wife or his son.  Both of these two historical notes might be correct, but they demand a peculiar sequence of events best explained by a scouting trip.

  2. It is unlikely that Dahl would have missed work during the Fall harvest in 1847 and the Spring planting of 1848.  Travel during the winter months was very difficult and lake traffic stopped for several months.

  3. A shipload of Janssonists arrived during the summer of 1848 having walked from Chicago to Henry County.

  4. Hans Hurtig [O-W 2091] arrived 6 March 1847 in New York City aboard the Edla from Stockholm. Hurtig was not connected to any of the passengers of the Virginia who were in Buffalo. Hurtig was an ex-Janssonist who likely met Samuel Samuelsson in Buffalo and then traveled together to Andover. Hurtig died of cholera in 1847 or 1849 (Olsson and Wikén, 1995: 294).

  5. The Bishop Hill Colony was an anomaly in Swedish immigration. It can be compared to the later immigration of Swedish converts to Mormonism – both emigrations were typically organized by the church hierarchy. The Janssonist emigration was substantial and represented an important portion of all Swedish emigration during a decade beginning in 1846.

    Their settlement in Henry County was largely due to the influence of O.G. Hedstrom in New York and his connection with his brother Jonas Hedstrom in Victoria, Illinois, near Henry County. There is a great deal written about this sect. See Wikipedia or this article by H. Arnold Barton for additional basic information.

    It is very clear from the migration of the Swedish immigrants who arrived aboard the VIRGINIA in 1846 that their initial destination was Jefferson County, Iowa and Peter Cassel's settlement. In 1847 another group of Swedes from their home area settled near Andover, Henry County.  Like the Janssonists, their settlement in Andover was related to the advise of the Hedstroms. Their objective had also been Peter Cassel's New Sweden settlement in Iowa, but because of complications crossing the Mississippi River, they remained in Illinois – they were never part of the religious colony at Bishop Hill (15 miles/25 km southeast of Andover).

    This curious error by A.J. Lannes mistaking their destination as the Bishop Hill Colony likely reflects the changed perception of the sect at the turn of the twentieth century. The reconsideration of the Janssonist community began with the first substantial history of Swedish immigrants by Johnson and Peterson in 1880.  Their history includes a chapter written by Eric Johnson (son of one of the founders of the colony) dedicated to the history of Bishop Hill, see "Bishops Hill-Koloniens Historia" in Svenskarne i Illinois, Historiska Anteckningar. Swedish-American historians became fascinated with this communal society and many books and articles were written about the Janssonists, see for example Michael A. Mikkelsen, The Bishop Hill colony, a religious communistic settlement in Henry County, Illinois. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins, 1892.

  6. This correspondence between groups is discussed by Maria Erling in "The Connections Correspondence Made," Swedish-American Historical Quarterly, vol 56, No 2-3 (April-July 2005), p 173-182.

29 May 2017

Memorial Day

I have recently come across a March 25, 1863 article in the Swedish language American newspaper Hemlandet that described the local Swedes in the Chautauqua Regiment, the New York 112th Infantry.  The article was written by Carl Johan Neil (aka Charles Neil from Harmony) and listed the Swedes in various companies and described their activity up until the end of February 1863.


From countrymen in the New York 112th regiment. 

Names of the Swedes who last year enrolled in the New York 112th Volunteer regiment: 

Company A: Teodor Pettersson from Jamestown, Chautauqua Co., N. Y. 
Jan Petterson, ditto. 
Jan A. Peterson, ditto. 
William Peterson, Fluvanna. 
Johan August Nathanaelson, Town of Poland. 

Company F: Ekelund, Jamestown, 
Jan Larson, ditto. 
Augustus Jons, ditto. 
Jan Swenson, ditto. 
William Swanson, Warren co. Pa. 
August Janson. Bucklins Corner [Gerry].

Company H: George Thompson, Mayville. 
John Dalen, ditto. 
Carl Gorman ditto. 

Company E: Andr. Anderson, Mayville. 
Peter Johan Peters, ditto. 
Peter Larson, Portland. 

Company G: Gustaf Spencer, Portland. 
Fredrik Lindal. Mayville. 

Levant Sharpshooters: Alfred Linquist. 
Jan Larson from Fluburg [Frewsburg], dead. 
Conrad Bens, dead, Town of Eilre [Ellery], (raised and named by an American.) 
Fredrik Janson, Sugar Grove, courier with this regiment. 

Company D: Johan Janson from Busti. 
August Neil, Harmony. 
Carl Johan Neil, ditto.

These twenty-six Swedes had enlisted in 1862 in the Chautauqua Regiment and the independent company of the Levant Sharpshooters (NY 1st Battalion, Company 7).  The article was written after six months of duty and noted that two countrymen had died.  By the end of the war, seven more of the Swedes on this list had given their life for their adopted county, including the author of this Hemlandet article, Charles Neil.

Company H 
George Thompson [i1941] died from a shell wound in the right thigh 25 Apr 1863 at Black Island, SC, likely burial in Beaufort National Cemetery, Section 27, Site 2560.  He was baptized August Andersson born 16 Jul 1833 in Liared parish, Älvsborgs län.  He had emigrated from his home parish in 1852 and lived in Iowa where he married in 1856 then moved to Chautauqua County and enlisted in Westfield.  Pension documents indicate that his widow Christina died in 1902.

John Dalen [1850.063] died as a prisoner of war at Salisbury, NC on 6 Jan 1865. He had been taken P.O.W. at Chaffins Farm, VA on 29 Sep 1864 and is likely buried in Salisbury National Cemetery (Findagrave #109659725); however his name, or any variation (John A. Delain), is not included in the US Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator database. Johan Alfrid Dahlén was born 21 Nov 1840 in Djursdala parish in Kalmar län.  His family received their exit permission from that parish in 1849, but the family arrived aboard the Swedish barque Virginia on 3 Sep 1850 in New York City and later settled in the Town of Pomfret (Fredonia) in northern Chautauqua County.

Company E
Andrew Anderson [i3198] died 17 Jan 1865 in hospital from wounds received in the Fort Fisher battle. He is likely buried in Wilmington National Cemetery (Findagrave #109698564) but his name is not included in the US Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator database.  Andrew Anderson was born about 1838, and lived in Brocton, Town of Portland.  His origin and immigration have not yet been identified.

Peter J. Peterson [1851.008] died 19 Jan 1865 from wounds received in the battle for Fort Fisher. He had been previously wounded in action at Cold Harbor. He is likely buried in Wilmington National Cemetery (Findagrave #109667407) but his name is not included in the US Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator database.  Peter Johan was born 27 Nov 1842 in Vimmerby parish, Kalmar län, and emigrated with his family in 1851 who settled near Mayville in the Town of Chautauqua, Chautauqua County.

Peter Lawson [1853.034] died 8 October 1863 in hospital at Folly Island, SC and is buried in Beaufort National Cemetery, Section 27, Site 2431.  Peter Larsson was born 10 Oct 1844 in Björketorp Parish, Älvsborgs län, and emigrated with his family in 1853 who settled in the Town of Portland in northern Chautauqua County.

Levant Sharpshooters
John Lawson [ 1852.226] died of disease, December 20, 1862, at Suffolk, VA and is buried in Hampton National Cemetery, Section C, Site 1997.  The Hemlandet article lists him as Jan Larson from Fluburg, and the New York Adjutant General report indicates that he enlisted in the Town of Ellery, however the Town Clerks' Record of Soldiers and Officers who served notes that he was from the Town of Carroll suggesting that he was from Frewsburg not Fluvanna (Town of Ellery). His birthdate and parents names identify him as Lars Johan the son of Anders Larsson and Anna Johansdotter born 30 June 1844 in Hillared parish, Älvsborgs län, who emigrated with his family in 1852 from neighboring Ljushult parish and settled near Ivory in the Town of Carroll.

Pvt Joseph C. Benz (image edited),
New York State Military Museum,
Item PA.199.0014.0088 

Conrad Benz died from disease 2 Nov 1862 in Suffolk, VA and was buried in Hampton National Cemetery, Section B-H, Site 4594.  Conrad Bens was described in the Hemlandet article as a countryman from the Town of Ellre [sic, Ellery] who had been raised and named by an American family.  He has not been identified in the 1855 NY State census, but he is enumerated in the 1860 US census living/working at the Erasmus Darwin Strong farm in Ellery. Benz was listed as born in Germany in the Ellery Town Clerk's Report.

His older brother, Joseph C. Benz, was raised by the same family and served in the New York 72nd Infantry, Co. B.  All listings for his brother indicate place of birth as Germany and in the censuses of 1900 and 1910 he indicated that he had arrived in America in 1853 (age 12).

While listing Conrad Benz from Ellery, Charles Neil ommitted any listing for †Andrew Johnson [1852.155] who died 3 Jun 1864 in the battle of Cold Harbor and was buried in Cold Harbor National Cemetery, Section A, Site 6. This was Anders Gustaf Svensson born 29 Aug 1840 in Asby Parish, Östergötlands län who emigrated with his parents in 1852 and settled in Columbus Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania. The Ellery Town Clerk records listed the same birth date and indicated that his father was S.P. Johnson, an almost certain reference to Sven Peter Jonsson (S.P. Jones) of Columbus.  The Ellery Town Clerk record incorrectly listed his place of birth as Germany.

Company D
John Johnson died 18 Nov 1864 at Fort Monroe, VA from the wounds he received in the battle at Darbystown Road.  His burial location is uncertain, but he might be interred as "J Johnson" in Section E, Site 1157 or as "Jno Johnson" Section E, Site 222 in Hampton National Cemetery. He was listed in the Hemlandet article as Johan Janson from Busti, but his origin and immigration have not yet been identified.

Charles Neil [1852.099] died 29 Aug 1863 at Folly Island, SC from disease, six months after writing this article for Hemlandet. He is buried as "Charles Niel" in Beaufort National Cemetery, Section 27, Site 2451. Carl Johan Nihl was born 5 Jun 1820 at Husartorpet Nr. 74 Kallersebo in Målilla parish, Kalmar län, the son of Nils Fredrik Nihl and Christina Magnidotter. He was the only soldier from our area who had previously served in the Swedish military.

His father was career military, a husar (calvaryman) in the Överstelöjtnantens skvadron of the Smålands lätta Dragoner.  The Smålands Husarregemente's origins dated back to the 16th century. Husar Nils Fredrik Nihl died from typhoid in 1843.

Carl Johan enlisted in November 1840 in the Aspelands Compani of the Calmare Regemente. From 1842 until retiring 3 Mar 1852 he was stationed as a reserve infantry soldier at Soldattorp No. 73 Backen u. Ryds Nerby in Järeda parish.  He was listed in the muster rolls as Carl Johan Nilsson Hjelm, the military surname Hjelm (hjälm = helmet) recurring at this soldattorp. He and his family left from this post for America in 1852.

The Nihl family emigrated from Målilla and Järeda Parishes in 1851 and 1852 and settled in the Town of Harmony in Chautauqua County.  Charles's wife, Louisa, whose father was also a husar, never remarried, and died 29 Aug 1886 in Harmony. Only four of their nine children survived to adulthood. A family history written by Rosa Neil Crandall in 1908 is a unique and interesting description of the lives of the early Swedes in Chautauqua County.  See The Neil family, Sweden-America, 1718-1908. Albion, N.Y.: A.M. Eddy Press. 1908. It is available as a digital edition.

Left:  Charles Gorman, 112th NY Infantry shown in military uniform.
Right:  Kalmar Regemente 1845 uniform (shown with N.C.O helmet)

It is curious that Charles Neil, Augustus Neil, Augustus N. Jones and Frank Jones who were all sons of career military husars did not enlist with the NY 9th Cavalry. This may indicate the importance of the timing of the enlistment over individual interests or background.

Additonal Notes

Augustus Blood [1851.188] who was taken in by Luther Blood and raised by Asa Blood in Portland is likely listed by Neil as Gustaf Spencer, Portland. Spencer likely refers to Blood's use of the surname Swanson (his father was Jonas Peters Svensson who died three years after arriving in America). 

Fredrik Janson, Sugar Grove, the courier or newspaper correspondent for the Levant sharpshooters is an unknown reference.  There is no entry for this person in the Report of the New York Adjutant General for this regiment.  This might refer to Frederick J. Johnson [1846.003], one of the founders of the settlement in Chandlers Valley, but it seems unlikely since he was 44 years old in 1862.

The thirty-five per cent (35%) fatality rate is high but not among the worst of the war.  In addition to these deaths, several veterans returned to the area disabled, including Augustus N. Jones [i0527], the younger brother of my great, great-grandfather. He was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor and lost the use of his right arm. After the war he lived in Sugar Grove and then Jamestown, but never married.

Other Regiments

The death toll in other local regiments was similar.  In total, about 25 Swedes from the area died for the Union cause.  As with research in general about Civil War veterans, the information is inconsistent and at times ambiguous. For additional information see the previous blog on the participation of Swedes in the Civil War.

New York 72nd Infantry Regiment

F. Maurits Fincke [1854.008] died of typhoid fever 21 Dec 1862 in Jamestown after being discharged for disability 17 October from chronic diarrhea and was buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cypress Section, Lot 45. He was one of the first wave from Chautauqua County who enlisted with Col. James M. Brown to fight for the Union in the first month of the war.  Fincke signed-up as a private in Company B of the NY 72nd Infantry Regiment and was soon reassigned as a hospital steward, but not as a surgeon.  At his discharge, Fincke was serving at the US Army (Marcus Ward) Hospital in Newark, NJ, a 4-storey warehouse converted to medical facility that received the injured via the adjacent rail line.

Fincke daily diary, May 1862 at Fort Scott, Arlington, VA
Frederic Mauritz Finke was born 14 Dec 1815 in Stockholm.  He received his medical training there and then moved to Karlshamn where he was the physician for the Alms house.  He married Lovisa Harms in Karlshamn in 1842 and the family emigrated in 1854 - his wife giving birth to a so
n, Ely Wilhelm Frederick Fincke, aboard the Cambria en route to America.  The family first lived in Brooklyn, but Fincke encountered difficulty finding work because of his limited English.  After a year, the family relocated to Jamestown, but the doctor found similar conditions in the village and his family lived in poverty.

After Fincke’s medical discharge he returned to Jamestown in time to be the attending physician for his wife who died from consumption on 28 November 1862.  Fincke died three weeks later leaving two orphaned sons:  Gustavas M. Finkey who was serving in the NY 100th Regiment and Ely who was taken in by the Jamestown lawyer Levant Brown. The tragic effects of the Civil War on the family continued when Gustaf was captured 6 May 1864 at Drewry's Bluff, VA, and imprisoned at Andersonville.  He survived the ordeal, but on release was described as a broken man.  Gustaf settled in Michigan and died 8 Mar 1919 in Augusta, Kalamazoo County. The younger son used the name Ely Brown and died 8 Dec 1932 in Wickliffe, Lake County, Ohio.

Otto Nelson [1851.118] died from his wounds 16 Dec 1861 at Williamsburg, VA and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 13, site 12749. Otto Nelson enlisted in the Town of Kiantone and indicated that he was 21.  He is very likely to have been Nils Otto Larsson born 24 Mar 1837 in Västra Eneby parish, Östergötlands län, who emigrated with his widowed mother and siblings in 1851.  Two of his unmarried younger sisters used the surname Nelson suggesting that their mother, Stina Nilsdotter, had adapted her patronymic name to Nelson in the United States.

John A. Peterson [1852.015] died from his wounds 10 May 1862 at Williamsburg, VA.  There is a marker for him at Hessel Valley Lutheran Cemetery, however he was likely buried at Yorktown National Cemetery (although he is not listed in the US Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator database). He was born 1&nbspJun 1836 in Lönneberga parish, Kalmar län, and emigrated with his family in 1852, settling in Sugar Grove township, Warren County.

Andrew Johnson [i1943] died of disease 20 Feb 1864 as a prisoner of war in Richmond, VA. The location of his burial is unknown.  Johnson was born about 1834 and according to pension documents he lived in the area of Stenberga parish, Jönköpings län. His origin and identity remain undocumented, however, he is possibly Anders Gustaf Johansson, born 31 Mar 1828 in Skirö parish, who emigrated in the same year (1853) and from the same parish (Stenberga) as his future wife.  In Oct 1855 he married Johanna Maria Jonsdotter in Busti in a ceremony celebrated by Rev. Bargland (sic, B.G.P. Bergenlund).  Andrew Johnson has not been identified in the 1860 U.S. census, but his wife and children were enumerated in Meeker County, Minnesota in the household of her siblings.  After the war, Johanna remarried and remained in Minnesota.

New York 9th Cavalry Regiment

Frederick Lawson [1850.031] died 11 Jun 1864 at Trevilian Station, Louisa County, VA, during the largest cavalry battle of the war.  His burial location is unknown although some of the dead were buried as unknown soldiers in Oakwood Cemetery in Lousia, VA.  Nils Fredrik Larsson was born 4 Oct 1838 in Pelarne parish, Kalmar län and emigrated with his family in 1850, settling in Sugar Grove township.

Charles J. Jones [1851.044] died of disease 19 May 1862 at City Hospital, New York City, NY, burial location unknown.  Carl Johan Carlsson was born 25 Oct 1839 in Viserum parish, Kalmar län and emigrated with his family from Vimmerby in 1851. His parents, Charles P. and Helen M. Jones, settled in Sugar Grove Township.

Charles Peterson [i1937] died of disease 4 Dec 1862 at Chantilly, VA, and was buried in Lake View Cemetery (Jamestown), Monument Hill Section, Lot 7, Row 1, Grave 3. Charles Peterson is very likely to have been Carl Johan Petersson who was born 13 Feb 1835 in Stora Åby parish, Östergötlands län, likely emigrated in 1853, and worked in the Town of Ellicott/Jamestown. Carl Johan's sister, Mrs. Lars August (Mary) Johnson died from consumption 18 Aug 1864 in Jamestown.

John A. Barge [1851.092] died of disease 7 June 1862 at David's Island Army Hospital, New Rochelle, New York, and was likely buried on the hospital grounds. Many of these soldiers were later re-interred at Cypress Hill National Cemetery, Brooklyn/Queens, New York. John A. Barge was almost certainly Johan August Berg who was born 14 Aug 1838 in Hässleby Parish, Jönköpings län who had emigrated with his parent in 1851, and worked in the Town of Busti. There is almost no documentation about this soldier, although he entered at age 23 and rose from private to sergeant in Company F.

New York 49th Infantry Regiment

Ole Olstrom [i3217] died 17 May 1863 in Williamsburg, VA according to the compiled list of soldiers from the Town of Ellicott.  Olstrom was listed as enrolling August 1862 as a private at age 24 (b. 1838). Olstrom is not included in the roster of the Adjutant General for the 49th Infantry nor other documentation located so far. His name, regiment and death date are uncertain; his identity and origins are unknown.

This list by the Town Clerks included deaths as "reported by the families to which the deceased belonged when at home" but there is no indication for the source of this information and there was no family with this surname in our area during this time period. The New York 49th was not in the vicinity of Williamsburg in May 1863, but it was there in May 1862.

This is very possibly a misreported listing for a soldier named Ole Ole, who enlisted 23 Jun 1861 in Staten Island in the New York 72nd Infantry Regiment, Co. G and who died from his woulds 18 May 1862 in Williamsburg and is buried in Yorktown National Cemetery. This soldier's identity and origin are unknown as is any connection to our area.

Coincidentally, there was an Ohlstrom of the correct age living with Germund Johnson [1846.007] in Goodhue County, Minnesota in 1860. This was the young Methodist minister, Nicholas S. Ohlstrom who died 28 Sep 1864 at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, likely from malaria.  He was buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Section 34, Site 3395 (he is listed with his name misspelled as Nichalas S. Olstrum). Ohlstrom had been appointed in August 1862 to raise a company of recruits in Goodhue County for the Minnesota 6th Infantry Regiment (The Stillwater Messenger, August 12, 1862, p 3) but was not mustered in due to poor eyesight.  He enlisted later in the war with the Minnesota 7th Infantry Regiment, Co. F.  His origins in Sweden or Norway and his emigration are unknown.

New York 154th  Cavalry Regiment

Elias B. Skone [i3138] died of disease 2 May 1863 at Chancellorsville, VA, and was buried in a battlefield grave. He enlisted in the Town of Portland.  His identity as a Swedish child who had been taken in by an immigrant Irish family named O’Hare is confirmed by the 1855 NY and 1860 US censuses, but his origin and emigration remain unknown (possibly from Skåne).

111th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment

John Anderson [1852.046] died 14 Oct 1862 at Antietam, VA, burial at Antietam National Cemetery, Site 3716. Johan Gustaf Johansson (Andersson) was born 18 Aug 1838 in Hult parish, Jönköpings län and emigrated with his family in 1852, settling near Wrightsville in Warren County.

Charles Hultberg [1851.034] died 20 Jul 1864 at Peachtree Creek, GA, burial location unknown. He had been wounded previously at Cedar Mountain, VA. on August 9, 1862.  Carl Magnus Hultberg was born 25 Jun 1846 in Frödinge parish, Kalmar län and his family emigrated from Vimmerby in 1851, settling in Sugar Grove Township. His older brother Andrew served in the same company and was taken as a prisoner of war the same day that Charles was killed.

Peter J. Lind [1855.005] died 15 Sep 1862 at Alexandria, VA and was buried at the Soldiers’ Home Cemetery, Site D 4221 (now the US Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery) Washington, DC. His name is included on the Lind family monument in Berea Lutheran Cemetery. Peter Johan Hansson was born 6 May 1843 in Hässleby parish, Jönköpings län and emigrated with his parents in 1855 and settled near Wrightsville, Warren County.

John Lind [1855.007] died 28 Dec 1864 at Savannah, GA and was buried at Beaufort National Cemetery, Section 38, Site 4414. His name is included on the Lind family monument in Berea Lutheran Cemetery. Johannes Hansson was born 24 Jun 1847 in Hässleby parish. He was a younger brother of Peter J. Lind.

Pennsylvania 64th Cavalry Regiment

Charles G. Agrelius [1851.106] died 24 Aug 1862 in the US Army General Hospital in Chester, PA, and was buried at Philadelphia National Cemetery, Section A, Site 71. His name is included on the Agrelius family monument in Elmwood Cemetery, Lindsborg, KS. Carl Gustaf Agrelius was born 26 Dec 1840 in Järstad parish, Östergötlands län, his family emigrated from that parish in 1851 and settled in Brokenstraw Township, Warren County.

Pennsylvania 83rd Infantry Regiment

Andrew P. Agrelius [1851.107] died 15 Oct 1864 as a prisoner of war at Florence, SC, and was likely buried at Florence National Cemetery in an unmarked grave. His name is included on the Agrelius family monument in Elmwood Cemetery, Lindsborg, KS.  He enlisted in the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment and was captured 5 May 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness where he was mistakenly reported killed in action. Agrelius was a prisoner of war at Andersonville before his transfer to Florence Prison. Anders Peter Agrelius was born 23 Jul 1843 in Järstad parish. He was a younger brother of Charles G. Agrelius.

04 March 2017

Identifying John Lawson

John Lawson, Anoka County. This photograph shows Lawson
wearing a G.A.R. medal – he became a member in 1889 at
age 64. Image courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society
[collection reference: por 28014 p1, locator number SV].
Matching the biographical details with historical accounts of numerous Lawsons has been challenging.  While there were more Swedes in our area named Andrew Johnson, John Johnson or John Peterson,1  there has been more confusion about those named John Lawson.   This research seeks to clear up the documentation of the various John Lawsons in the area prior to the Civil War. 

1. John Lawson, Methodist exhorter    (1825-1908)

On this visit [June 1851] of Pastor Hedstrom's, he conducted the first prayer service in Swedish held in Jamestown at the home of Samuel Johanson Sjostrand on Barrows Street.  There were only twelve persons present, but it was a rewarding service, for Samuel Johanson Sjostrand was converted.  He joined the M. E. Church at once, was licensed as an exhorter and securing the use of the basement of that church for meetings, he became the class leader for his Swedish brethren.  ...On a return trip to Chicago in November, 1852, Pastor Hedstrom again visited Jamestown and in the basement of the "American" M. E. Church, he organized the Swedish M. E. Church with a membership of twelve, which in two years increased to thirty-seven...Two other names are associated with this early church group – John Larson and Andrew P. Peterson.
Source:  Helena M. Stonehouse. One Hundred and Forty Years of Methodism in the Jamestown, N.Y. Area. 1954,  p. 107-108.

Sjöstrand was assisted in these meetings by John Larson and Andrew P. Peterson.
Source:  A.J. Lannes.  Civic and industrial progress of the Swedish people in Jamestown, 1848-1914. 1914,  p. 15.

So, who was this John Lawson who was a leader in this congregation?  Andrew J. Lannes included the photograph2  above of “John Larson” in his his 1914 history of Swedish Jamestown, but with little additional information.

The greater part of those who are reckoned as Jamestown’s first settlers came in 1850, 1851 and 1852. Some of them were...John Larson, a local Methodist exhorter and father of Mrs. A. John Peterson, afterwards settling in Minnesota...
Source:  A.J. Lannes.  Civic and industrial progress of the Swedish people in Jamestown, 1848-1914. 1914,  p. 11.

The 1900 United States census entry for the  family of A. John Peterson3 indicates that his wife, Mary S. Peterson, was born April 1848 in Sweden and arrived in America in 1866, 44 years earlier [sic ]. Significantly, the household also included Christine Lawsen, Mary S. Peterson’s elderly mother. Christine Lawson was listed as a widow born in October 1825 in Sweden who had emigrated to America in 1875.  This is almost certainly Stina Cajsa Christophersdotter, born 4 November 1825 in Lönneberga Parish, who was the younger sister of Samuel (Sjöstrand) Johnson [1849.026], the leader of the early Swedish Methodist congregation in Jamestown. She married Johan Larsson on 13 June 1847 in the same parish and was the mother of Maria Sofia born 5 April 1848. Johan Larsson [1852.244] was born on 9 Feb 1825 in Karlstorp Parish, Jönköpings län. This family received an exit permit to emigrate from Lönneberga Parish in 1850, but for unknown reasons did not leave.  Instead, Johan Larsson emigrated alone in 1852, Maria Sofia emigrated in 1866 and Stina Cajsa Christophersdotter left for America in 1875.

After a year and a half in Jamestown, John Lawson [1852.244] married4 on 9 Feb 1854 Christina Lovisa Jonsdotter [1853.047] who had arrived the summer before from Järeda Parish.  Together they had three children in Jamestown before moving to Minnesota in 1861.  He served in Minnesota and the Dakotas during the Civil War5 and settled in Anoka County.  He died 26 Sep 1908 at his homestead.  His second wife Louise died 1 August 1914 also in Anoka County.  His first wife Christina died 7 January 1908 in Jamestown.

2. John P. Lawson, Methodist  (1834-1918)

The only (quasi-) primary documentation of the Swedish Mission congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church that I have encountered to date is found in Book No. 2 (1868-1874) of the Swedish Mission congregation of the Methodist Episcopal church.6  This book documents the tenures of  Rev. James Iverson and Rev. H. Olson and includes a listing of members.  Those who had been received into the church by Rev. O. G. Hedstrom were the founding members. There is only one John Lawson, recorded as Jon Larson, in that 1868 list - an active member who lived in Fruwsberg [sp]. The next person on that list was Clara J. Larson who was received into the church by Rev. Carlson on 3 Sep 1867. Both were part of Class 5 led by Alfred Dahlman and Anders Hulquist and were registered as No. 71 and 72,  John and Clara Johanna Larson.  Their marriage was recorded in the same book on 10 Aug 1867 where they were listed as Jon Larson and Clara Johana Stanhom.

This is clearly John P. Lawson [1852.186] who was born 26 Aug 1834 in Mörlunda Parish, Kalmar län to Anna Cajsa Jonsdotter [1851.160]  and Lars Peter Israelsson.  He was 18 years-old when he arrived in 1852 to join his widowed mother, and siblings in Jamestown (they had arrived in 1851).  John Lawson married a woman named Charlotte and had three children before enlisting in the Chautauqua Regiment (New York 112th Infantry Regiment) in 1861. His first wife's origin has not been discovered, nor her date of death. After the Civil War (10 August 1867), John P. Lawson married Clara Johanna Stenholm [i2322] who had just arrived in Jamestown from Västra Ed Parish, Kalmar län.  John P. Lawson died 21 August 1918 at the Old Soldiers Home in Bath, his second wife Clara died in Jamestown 20 Sep 1920.

Most historical accounts list only one John Lawson as a charter member of the Swedish Methodist congregation.7  However, that appears to be refuted by at least one account:

The following were charter members: Mr. and Mrs. Samuel J. Sjostrand. Mr, and Mrs. Andrew Peterson. John Larson, Nels Johan Swenson, Mr. and Mrs. Israel lsraelson, John Larson, John Ellickson, Mrs. Carolina Swenson and Anna Sjostrand. As far as is known these people are all dead.
Source:  “Swedish M. E. Church. Prepares to Observe Its 80th Anniversary” Jamestown Evening Journal, Nov 15, 1932, p 10.

This listing indicates that there were two John Lawsons among the charter members.  The order within this list is based on position and family:  the first John Lawson is listed with the other leaders of the congregation and the second John Lawson is listed after his mother and step-father.  I believe that the listing of two John Lawsons was not an error and that both John Lawson [1852.244] and John P. Lawson [1852.186] were original members of the congregation, and that only the latter remained in the area in 1868. 

3. John Lanson, Lottsville (1816-1899)

This Swede was frequently listed incorrectly as John Lawson but his name was Johan Lantz and he used the name John Lanson in America. John Lanson [1851.130] was born 6 May 1816 at Berghagen, Västra Ryd Parish, Östergötlands län, the son of tailor Anders Lants and Katherine Månsdotter.  He married Anna Greta Olofsdotter (b. 31 Mar 1818 Ingatorp Parish, Jönköpings län) in 1842 and they emigrated from Ingatorp with their two daughters in 1851.  John Lanson died 1 October 1899 at his farm just northwest of Lottsville, Freehold Township, Warren County and his wife died at the same farm on 19 Mar 1905. 

4. John Lawson, Chandlers Valley (1810-1880)

John Lawson [1851.055]  was born 13 Aug 1810 in Lönneberga Parish, son of Lars Jonsson and Sara Nilsdotter.  He married Sara Cajsa Pettersdotter (2 Dec 1803 Lönneberga) in their home parish 22 April 1831. They emigrated from their farm Gulleberg in Lönneberga Parish in 1851 with two daughters and a son and arrived aboard the Cazone in Boston 11 July 1851 along with several other families who settled in our area. Their farm was in Sugar Grove township.  John Lawson died in January 1880 and Sara C. Lawson died 28 February 1894.

5. John Lawson, Chandlers Valley (1799- aft. 1880) 

John Lawson [1851.071] was born 12 September 1799 in Pelarne Parish, Kalmar län to Lars Jansson and Carin Samuelsdotter.  He emigrated in 1851 along with the family of his brother Lars Magnus Lawson [1851.066] from Lönneberga Parish also aboard the bark Cazone.  He lived with his brother's family in Chandlers Valley and died after the 1880 United States census.

6. John Lawson, Brocton (1829-abt 1890)

John Lawson [1852.209] was born at Starekulla in Od Parish, Älvsborgs län.  He was the son of Lars
Håkansson Wästerlind aka Lausaner Westerling [1852.207] and Anna Elizabeth Johansdotter.  He emigrated with his parents and siblings from Fristad and Od Parishes in 1852 and settled in the Town of Portland in northern Chautauqua County. He married Johanna, a Swedish immigrant whose origin has not been identified. She died sometime between 1875 and 1880, John Lawson likely died near Brocton about 1890.

7. John A. Lawson, Levant (1818-1899)

John A. Lawson [1854.040] was born 4 October 1818 in Kölingared Parish, Älvsborgs län, son of soldier Lars Klen and Maria Svensdotter.  He used the name Johannes Larsson Klen when he emigrated from that parish along with his wife, Eva Nilsdotter, and two young sons in 1854. They settled in the Swedish community near Levant in the Town of Poland in southern Chautauqua County, east of Jamestown.  His step-mother, Helena Svensdotter, emigrated to America in 1869.  She died 30 Sep 1886 and John A. Lawson died 23 May 1899, shortly after his wife's death 6 May 1899 – all are buried in Levant Cemetery.

8. John P. Lawson, Chandlers Valley (1840-1929)

John P. Lawson [1849.023] was the second child of Lars Larsson and Anna Olafsdotter, born 16 June 1840 at Ölvedal (Ulvedal) in Hässleby Parish, Jönköpings län. He emigrated with his parents in 1849 who settled in Sugar Grove township. He enlisted in 1861 joining the the New York 72nd Infantry Regiment and mustering out in 1865 with the Pennsylvania 211th Infantry Regiment.  He married Stina Reyk aka Christina Wright after the Civil War and farmed in Brokenstraw Township in Warren County. Christina died 18 December 1891 and he died 2 February 1929 in Falconer, New York.  Both are buried in the Swedish Methodist "Lawson" Cemetery on the Youngsville Road south of Chandlers Valley.

Other John Lawsons

In addition to these John Lawsons there was a Dane listed as John Lawson who lived in Jamestown in 1865. Other Swedes included John Lawson [1850.032] b. 1843 Pelarne Parish and John Lawson [1852.226] b. 1844 Hillared Parish, Älvsborgs län plus several more John Lawsons born after 1845. Another Swede, John Lawson [i3094] b. 1812 who arrived 1852-1856 was living in Sugar Grove in 1860 and has not yet been identified and documented.


G.A.R. medal (shown with facsimile
of its original flag ribbon) Wikipedia.
  1. There were about fourteen men named Andrew Johnson or John Johnson or John Peterson, plus a dozen or so each named John Anderson and John Lawson, and about ten different Charles Petersons in the area pre-1865.

    The Swedish patronym Larsson and Larsdotter typically transformed into the surname Lawson in the Jamestown area. The surname Larson was common in the Midwest and after the Civil War in our area.
  2. Photographic portrait included in Lannes, 1914, p 16.  It is the same image as a photograph in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society which corroborates the identification of John Lawson. Lawson wore a medal in his portrait - it is the most typical veteran's medal of the G.A.R. The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) opened in Anoka County in 1889, so the photograph is likely after that date.

  3. A. John Peterson [1852.080] was the son of another leader of the Methodist church, Andrew P. Lawson [1852.077].  A. John Peterson was a Civil War veteran and one of the first Swedes elected to office in Jamestown  (village trustee) and was involved in several businesses, but especially retail clothing. The details of his marriages are confused in one biography.  His first wife, Clara, was the daughter of another John Lawson, Johan Lantz, later known as John Lanson [1851.130].

    A. JOHN PETERSON was born in Sweden, June 18th, 1844; came to Jamestown in 1853[sic], and is a member of the firms of T. & A. J. Peterson, contractors and builders, and Petersons & Thomas, grocers. He married Sophia Lawson [sic], of Jamestown, December 31st, 1869 [sic]. During the late war he served in Company A, 112th N. Y. volunteers, and he has been one of the village trustees.
    Source: Beers (ed) Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of Chautauqua New-York from Actual Survey and Records, New York. 1881, Personals.

    "On Aug. 16 1866 A. J. Peterson united in marriage with Clara Lanson, of Lottsville, Pa., and after her death espoused Sophia Jones, of Jamestown.  Their union has been blest with four children, three sons and one daughter:  James C., a clerk in his father's store; Conrad (dead); Mabel Jenevieve, and John T."
    Source: Butler F. Dilley.  Biographies of Chautauqua County. 1891, p 149-150.
  4. I have not determined if John Lawson was divorced from Stina Cajsa, however, abandonment was a basis for divorce proceedings in Sweden in this period. A letter stating residence in another country was the typical proof used in the proceedings administered by the church. "One spouse would leave the country (as Copenhagen was the nearest foreign town, many went there) and the remaining spouse would file for divorce on grounds of desertion. The fact of desertion would be confirmed by the party who left the country." Wikipedia. His first wife was listed as Enka Stina Cajsa Christophersdotter (widow) in later household examinations in Sweden.

    This likely situation signifies that John Lawson worked with his ex-brother-in-law, Samuel (Sjöstrand)  Johnson, for nearly a decade in establishing the Swedish Methodist church in Jamestown.
  5. JOHN LARSON.  MN 7th Inf Co G. Residence: Minnesota. Born 9 Feb 1825 in Gotenberg, Sweden. Came to New York in 1853. On 9 Feb 1854 he married Louise Johnson. Four children. They moved to Minnesota in 1861. Civil War: Age 38. Farmer. Brown eyes, brown hair, light complexion, 5’8”. Enlisted for three years on 15 Aug 1862. Private. On 27 Jan 1864 he was sent to a hospital in St. Peter, Minnesota. On 19 Feb 1864 he was assigned to the Invalid Corps. Worked in the quartermaster department. On 21 Apr 1865 at Fort Wadsworth, Dakota Territory, he was ordered discharged due to having become physically unfit for further service due to chronic rheumatism. Was mustered out at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, on 16 Aug 1865. Post war: Lived in Anoka, Anoka County, Minnesota. Died of heart failure on 26 Sep 1908 and is buried in the New Cemetery at Anoka. The name on his death certificate is “John Lawson”. Sources: (Anoka County Historical Society, Civil War Collection #20).
    See Lawson, John in the Civil War Database of Vesterheim, The National Norwegian-American History and Cultural Center.

  6. This book is protected in the archive of Christ First Methodist Church in Jamestown. It is noted in pencil to be Book 2; Book 1 is not in the archive and its location is unknown.  The location of other documentation may be held by individuals in our area – the changing of generations make this situation perilous for the history contained in these original documents.

    The ministerial books for Hamren, Bredberg and Newman, the first three pastors of the Swedish Mission, are not located at the Swedish Collection of the General Commission on Archives and History for the United Methodist Church (GCAH) at Drew University, nor in archives consulted in Chicago, nor in local archives 

  7. A list of the original members of the Swedish Methodist congregation has been added to this website:  community lists > 1852 Swedish M.E. congregation list

09 February 2017

From illegal immigrants to American citizens

Many of the Swedes who settled in our area entered the United States unlawfully.1  These immigrants were not approved for entry, held no visas permitting them access to the country and arrived without sufficient financial resources to be independent.  Despite their unassured circumstances, they came and created a new community in our area. As we recount the stories of these ancestors who survived and prospered here, we should not lose sight of all of the other immigrants who died of hunger and sickness, undocumented along the way.

The story of Germund and Catherine Johnson, the founders of the Swedish community in our region (Sugar Grove/Chandlers Valley) recounts the events surrounding a shipload of Swedes who did not meet the financial qualifications for legal entry in the port of New York.  Unable to travel to their destination (Iowa), these Swedes had to depend on American goodwill in their newly adopted land just to survive.  Through the assistance of a charity, Louisa and Josephine (Sara Sophia) Johnson were taken in by American families and as a result of that kindness, Swedes ended up settling in northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York.2  

Citizenship and Land Ownership in Pennsylvania

One of the major factors pushing our Swedish ancestors from their homeland was their inability to own land. The limitations built into Sweden's class structure meant that an increasing part of the population did not have the prospect of owning their own farm.  America pulled these Swedish emigrants to our shore with the enticement of land.  Although the issues of citizenship and land ownership were interconnected for this history, in practice it usually took Swedes many years to become land owners  – usually sufficient time for them to also become citizens.

Arriving Swedes were not required to be citizens to own land in Pennsylvania. The legal basis for Swedish settlers to purchase land in Pennsylvania was established in the Commonwealth’s first constitution in 1776 – this incentive for immigration was built into the law from the beginning. The success of Pennsylvania in extending rights to new immigrants influenced other states and the national government in its policies.

The “progressive” granting of property rights prior to naturalization was unobjectionable in part because a few states had already granted property rights to foreigners. The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, for example, granted property rights to aliens who had declared their allegiance to the state and allowed them to be elected to state office after two years as “free denizen[s].”
PENN. CONST. of 1776, § 42. The Constitution stated: Every foreigner of good character who comes to settle in this state, having first taken an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the same, may purchase, or by other just means acquire, hold, and transfer land or other real estate; and after one year’s residence, shall be deemed a free denizen thereof, and entitled to all the rights of a natural born subject of this state, except that he shall not be capable of being elected a representative until after two years residence

Source:  Allison Brownell Tirres. “Ownership Without Citizenship: The Creation of Noncitizen Property Rights.” Michigan Journal of Race and Law, Volume 19, Issue 1, p 18.

Citizenship and Land Ownership in New York

There were legal restrictions in New York State for alien ownership of land.  These restrictions were eased in 1825, however, in principal, land ownership was to be limited to American citizens.3  This issue of foreign ownership was especially relevant in our region.

Nearly all of the land in western New York had been owned by non-citizens: the Holland Land Company.4  The legal basis for the Holland Land Company remained complicated during the first decades of land settlement in Chautauqua County.  The Holland Land Company employed various advocates and lobbyists in Albany to fight for their interests, including both Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.  In 1836 setbacks in Albany resulted in new taxation and the Dutch investors sold their remaining interests in Chautauqua County to an investment group of Trumbull Cary, George Lay and others from Batavia, New York.5  This group brought in William Seward as land agent, who worked in the county from 1836 to 1838 (he ran for Governor and was elected in November 1838).  His brother, Benjamin J. Seward, then replaced him as land agent.   Payment of William Seward with land resulted in Seward being the grantor of the land title registered to the first Swedish family in Chautauqua County  – Isaac and Christina Been.

Land Title registered 17 June 1852, Grantor: William Seward, Grantee: Isaac Killian Been.  Although Isaac and Christina Been immigrated here on 25 March 1844, they only became naturalized citizens on 15 June 1863.


Naturalization and Land Contracts

Conditional land sales had been used by the Holland Land Company since the earliest settlements in Chautauqua and Warren County.  These conditional sales required new settlers to begin making improvements during a grace period and then make a down payment.  After the down payment, a land contract was signed that guaranteed the land to the settler once they had completed payments. Time limits set by the land contracts were not usually strictly enforced.  When the land contract was fully paid the title was transferred at Mayville or Warren.  These conditional sales continued as a practice with the new group represented by Seward that succeeded the Holland Land Company in Chautauqua County and likely by Harm Jan Huidekoper of Meadville who succeeded the Holland Land Company in Warren County.  Because this process could take many years, we don’t find a large number of land titles granted to Swedes prior to the Civil War.

This extended purchase time for land coincided with the time required by immigrants to become citizens.


The law for becoming a citizen of the United States for the early Swedish immigrants was the Naturalization Law of 1802 signed on April 14, 1802.  The law allowed naturalization after five years of residence in the United States and three years after making a declaration of intent to become a citizen.  This process was handled at the county courts in Mayville (Chautauqua County) and Warren (Warren County).  The process was quite simple, aside from various restrictions that usually didn’t apply to these early Swedish settlers:  
  1. they had to be white6 and over twenty-one;
  2. they had to be free -- if they were “held in service” then their master had to apply;
  3. they had to reside in the county for a year prior to application;
  4. they required proof that they had resided for the required time, usually provided by a witness or affidavit;
  5. they had to be of good moral character;
  6. they could not be native citizens of a belligerent country (the United States has never been at war with Sweden); and,
  7. they had to renounce any noble title.7 

The court in Warren charged for registering the petition of intent ($1.00) and naturalization ($1.50). There were significantly fewer applications in Warren County than there were in Chautauqua County.
The children of naturalized citizens were made citizens of the United States under the statute.  Women were not excluded, however, very few applicants were women, and no Swedish women were applicants.  Wives of natural citizens were extended citizenship by an amendment in 1855 (see 
Wikipedia article).

A list of naturalized Swedish immigrants in Warren and Chautauqua County has been added to this website (community lists > naturalized citizen lists). The earliest possible date for becoming a citizen was 25 March 1849 in Chautauqua County and 5 August 1851 in Warren County. On 7 October 1852 in Warren, the first Swedes in our area became naturalized citizens: Germund Johnson [1846.007], Charles M. Johnson [1846.006], and Frederick J. Johnson [1846.003]. The earliest Swedes to become naturalized citizens in Chautauqua County were Otto Peterson [1850.003] and Samuel Johnson [1849.026] on 25 July 1856.


  1. It is not without merit to argue that many Swedish immigrants did not meet the lawful requirements of aliens wishing to enter the United States through the port of New York, although technically the ship owners were bonded to prevent entry of immigrants without means.  Paupers were restricted from entry into the port of New York under the New York State Passenger Act of 1824 .  Similar laws applied in Massachusetts for the port of Boston. These laws were weak, poorly enforced and ineffective.  There was no equivalent measure preventing entrance into the United States of America.

    New York State's restrictions on the entry of sick or indigent immigrants was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1837 case New York v. Miln.  The decision of this case, between the Mayor of New York City (authorized by New York State) and the owner of a ship that transported immigrants, upheld an 1824 New York State law that in effect denied entry of immigrants at the port of New York if they did not have sufficient means.

    This 1837 decision was limited by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1849 in its ruling Smith v. Turner that a New York per capita charge to ship owners based on the number of immigrants transported was unconstitutional because it was in effect a tax, a power exclusive to the federal government.  This decision did not restrict New York's limits on immigration based on quarantine or indigence and did not prevent the state from recouping costs from ship owners.  See the Passenger Cases (Wikipedia)

    New York State laws limiting immigration were later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1875 Henderson v. Mayor of New York decision.  

  2. For this reason, it is likely that the temperature of the earth is warmer this winter in the burial ground of these first immigrants (Hessel Valley Lutheran Cemetery) as all of those dead Swedes are surely spinning in their graves.  Their descendants, in both Chautauqua County (58%) and Warren County (68%), voted for Donald J. Trump who ran on an anti-immigration platform in November 2016.

  3. "Between 1825 and 1913 a simpler, alternate proceeding was available to enable aliens to acquire, own, and dispose of real property: the alien made a deposition of intent to become a citizen and filed it in the Secretary of State's office in Albany. The alien's rights in regard to real property expired six years after filing the deposition. The so-called alien depositions, now in the State Archives, typically give name of alien, date and place of deposition, and sometimes the country of origin. A few of the earlier depositions give additional information, such as place of residence in New York, date of entry into the United States, and marital status of a woman (married, single, or widowed). After the mid-nineteenth century many of the alien depositions (up to one third of the total) were made by women. (Statutes passed between 1848 and 1862 allowed married women in New York to own real property in their own names.)"  Source:  Records of Aliens Enabled to Own Real Property

  4. Reed Library of the State University of New York at Fredonia has an important collection of materials related to the Holland Land Company.

  5. Interests:  Cary, Schemerhorn and Rathbone, each 22% and Lay 11%; William Seward received 22% for his work. See lecture by G.P. Crandall  “Recalling William Seward” at the Chautauqua County Historical Society, 7 Oct 1939.

  6.  It's our own unChristian history, own it.  Americans of African descent became citizens in 1870, Americans of Asian descent would not be recognized until the end of the nineteenth century.

  7. Although there are various family stories of Swedes who were illegitimate children of royalty or nobility, there are no known residents of this class in our area. This noble claim occurs quite frequently among Swedish immigrants. The nearest real case of noblese was Isaac Been.  His parents were from two important families of Helsingborg, connected to shipping, trade and the Swedish East India Company.  His brother, Peter von Möller, was knighted by King Karl XV in 1860. Isaac and Christina Beén named their only child Peter Möller Beén, later shortened and translated as P. Miller Been.