Because of my interest in genealogy, I try to piece stories from different sources together so I can try to create a picture of the life of my ancestors that have long passed. Here are some notes and stories I have of my Great Great Grandparents.
Left: Mom and I standing in front of Brohemmet in 2001, the birthplace of Karl August Swanson
Karl August Svensson (1832-1890) was a crofter at Fallhemmet on Norrby lands in Ljung, Östergötland, Sweden. Carolina Gustafsdotter (1839-1932) grew up at Skuttet near Ljung (1/2 mile NE of Fallhemmet) They were married May 9th, 1862 in Stjärnorp. After Karl's father's death he and his brother Adolph built Fallhemmet in the woods above Brohemmet. The two brothers and their wives and children lived together at Fallhemmet until Karl's young family left Sweden in 1869.
Right: A view from the grounds surrounding Stjärnorp church and castle ruins. We met descendants of Karl's youngest brother Alfred on the grounds here for a picnic and then went to church with some of them. Alfred was the master gardener and grounds keeper of the Stjärnorp estate until his death in 1910. We found his gravestone in the cemetery there.
Below: The front of the church and a view towards the back of the church and the organ and balcony.
Emmigration Records, Carl Svensson, age 39, profession "Arb" = worker, workman, date of move 09 April 1869, from Ljung Östergötlands län, depart from Göteborg, Sweden - destination New York, code 1:71:684 From Göteborg they traveled to Hull, England on the ship "Hero" and took a train to Liverpool to embark on a transatlantic liner to the United States.
*The following is excerpts & adaptations from the booklet "Father's Pioneer Days" written by Mable, Emil, & Elmer Swanson & Phoebe Swanson Johnson in 1942 for their father Charley Swanson. Additional notes from Alice Jacobson Bennett & Diane Johnson.
While in Sweden Karl August Svensson built a bridge with sixty men working under him and paid them with cash. He also acted as clerk when some of the families sold their belongings and left for America. (His son Charley said Karl could figure quicker in his head than most men could with a pencil & paper.)
They left Göteborg, Sweden in a sailboat and it took them three weeks to get to Chicago in the Spring of 1869. (note written by my Grandmother Phoebe Swanson Johnson: "My father, C.T. Swanson said that before they left for America his grandmother, Johanna came to say goodbye to them. As she was leaving she kept waving to them and walking backwards. All of a sudden she fell and Carolina said, "Now Mamma fell in the ditch!" Poor dear, she never saw her daughter again. It must have been hard for the parents in those days to part with their children.")
Karl, wife Carolina, Charley- 6, John- 3, and Annie- not quite 1 year old, lived in a little house in the outskirts of Chicago in a town by the name of Crete. Karl and a beeswarm of all nationalities of men dumped dirt with wheelbarrows on a new railroad bed. There was a creek nearby where Karl played with children who found goose and turkey eggs and floated them in the water. Carolina took Charley to school where he got acquainted with other children and quickly learned the English language. In the fall the family left for St. Paul, Minn. They together with several other Swedes, rented a house by the Mississippi River. All the families cooked on the same stove.
During the winter Karl got work clearing for the building of a railroad between St. Paul and Lake Superior. Large trees were chopped down and a road cleared wide enough so two-yoke ox teams could get through with skids holding four tons of provisions, which were piled up on high places along the way about ten to twelve miles apart. The sixty men were supposed to clear one mile each day. They got behind schedule and then they got double pay when they worked over-time. A cooking outfit followed the crew on skids pulled by oxen. The men were given tin plates which the cooks filled up for them. Their fare was mostly dried peas, beans, pork and meat. The men sat on the 4-5 ft. snowdrifts to eat, and sometimes it was so cold they had to keep their mittens on. After work at night they would smoke and talk. When they were ready for bed they would tramp down a place in a snow-drift large enough in which to prepare their bed. Then they would put some evergreen branches into this space and cover the branches with a blanket. This was their bed with another blanket as a cover and a little tent or tepee over it to hold out the snow. They would sleep with their clothes on. Their hair and whiskers would grow long at the camp, and in the morning some of the men were sometimes froze fast to the snow and had to be chopped loose with an ax. They would get so lousy they would have to boil their clothes. One of the men caught a cold and died. Karl was appointed to write and tell his family in the old country and send the money that this man had. It was thought that Karl conducted the funeral services. He was a gifted Christian man. While the way for the railroad was being cleared up toward Lake Superior, the Indians came around by the hundreds. They wanted to buy tobacco. The Indians had snow-shoes that some of the men bought from them. When the men got their pay and left, they had to look out of robbers. Two of the men were robbed. When a company that Karl was in left the camp, the robbers were after them later on a hand car on the track too, but they hid in the woods and outwitted the thieves. They found a man with his hands tied around a tree not as lucky.
Karl wanted to homestead outside of St. Paul where Minneapolis is now located, but Carolina wanted to go to Lansing, IA where her brother, Peter Newberg, worked on a farm. When spring came and the ice on the Mississippi River was gone, the family boarded a steamboat and went to Lansing, IA. Karl's family moved in with another family at Lansing. Peter had a sweetheart, Anna Olson, and they would go to Karl's house for a courting meeting place in the evenings, then they would go out strolling. Anna and Peter soon married. Karl and Carolina, still young, and this newly married couple wanted to homestead.
Right: An old tin type photo that identifies Peter (Gustafsson) Newberg on the right and we believe the shorter man on the left is Karl August.
These folks started out westward in a covered wagon in search of a homestead, and each couple had one horse, one cow and two hens. They drove from Lansing across the prairie on through Storm Lake, Buena Vista county, to Sioux City, IA, and into Nebraska. When they had traveled two or three days into Nebraska, they stopped to camp near a creek. They ate and rested. Soon they noticed two covered wagons coming from the west. When the covered wagons came near, the people stopped and listened. They could hear that the camping party talked Swedish. A man climbed down from one of the covered wagons and went over to the camping party. They looked him over and stared. He was their old neighbor from Sweden! It was a joyous reunion. Peter Newberg knew him too. They talked and talked. They didn't drive any farther that day. This neighbor came from the west in Nebraska, and he told them that it was so hot and dry with drought out there, that they were moving away. Then Karl decided not to go further west, as he had intended to go out where this neighbor was. Lucky they met. Karl's party turned around and went back to Sioux City with this neighbor. Here the party separated. This neighbor went east and our party went north. Our relatives never heard what became of this neighbor. Karl bought in Sioux City, a preemption claim, 160 acres of land, nine miles north of now Canton, SD, in Lincoln County, then Dakota Territory in 1870. When he paid for it he had $1.00 left and half a sack of flour. He did not have much in earthly possession but he did have a pioneer's courage, faith in God and a good will.
Right: In 2005 at a cousins reunion we visited the site of the sod house where the Swanson's first lived on their land. Notice the indentation in the land. Cousin's Tina, Robin and Bill.
A one room sod house was built on the land and a hay stable for the cow and horses. His land adjoined the Big Sioux River from whose timbered sloped he received wood to burn and build with. Karl farmed, at first using a scythe for harvesting. Twins were born in the covered wagon before the sod house was built who were Sophie (Mrs. August Westling) and David (who died within a year). They walked and carried his little body about ten miles to burial in a Norwegian cemetery across the River. (Now near rural Inwood, IA).
The first winter Karl went to work chopping wood thirty miles south of Sioux City and left his family with half a sack of flour and a little corn. They used corn soup to live on. The earth from the sod had sunk down from the roof and Indians would come peering down into the sod house. Carolina kept an ax beside her bed. The Indians never hurt them. As years went on Karl would find beads and Indians trinkets where badgers had dug up Indian bones, yet with gristle on. Near springs, the ground was covered with buffalo skeletons, and buffalos were shot by the Missouri River. In the spring Karl walked home about 80 miles from Sioux City. It would take a week to go to Sioux City, to get provisions. There were two homesteads on the way, the one sod house built over the line of two quarters of land, and each homesteader sleeping in his end of the sod house.
To keep prairie fires away, they plowed a furrow around their dwelling place, then they left a space of grass and plowed another furrow. The space of grass between the plowed furrows was burned and became a protection against fierce prairie fires. Wood thieves would steal wood from the timbered river. They came from the west prairie with wagons. Grandfather got forty acres more land through a timber claim.
Two boys were later born, but died without a doctor, when each was about one year old, (they died in the winter and their bodies were first put out in a snow bank Annie Swanson told her daughter Alice (Jacobsen-Bennett) they were placed by the wagon to help identify their placement during the winter for spring thaws) and were buried in a burial plot on John Juel's father's virgin land, about three miles south.
Right: The log cabin in 2005. A room was added on and plaster was added over the hand cut logs inside. Isn't it amazing that it is still standing 136 years later on Swanson descendants land? Cousin A. J Swanson is working to bring the natural prairie back to the lands surrounding the cabin.
They built a log cabin in 1872 near a spring. Mary and August were also born and were the youngest living of 9 children. From the river as the years went on, they received quantities of plums for sauce, grapes, gooseberries and choke cherries. They swam, dove, boated, skated, chopped wood, trapped, fished seined, hunted, picked fruit and picnicked about the river. The children drove three miles to school. When hearding cattle across the river the children would catch hold of the cows' tails when swimming across the river and thus be towed across the river.
In 1888 America experienced its "first" Great Blizzard. The day started, as most blizzard days do, with very mild, spring-like conditions. By the afternoon the skies were blackened by heavy clouds loaded with moisture. The storm struck the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, all the way down to Texas. The winds howled and the snow came down heavily as the temperatures dropped. In this era before modern, high-tech weather forecasting, people were caught off guard and many got lost and froze to death. When the great blizzard of 1888 came, in which so many people lost their lives and so much livestock died, Karl, Phillip Jacobson and August Newberg were in Sioux Falls, SD. Mrs. Ringdahl had invited the men in for coffee when the blizzard struck, where they remained until the black blizzard broke of its fury. They afterwards drove slowly from Sioux Falls across the country over the snowdrifts which were over the fences, the horses lunging up to get up on the snow drifts, breaking through, and then sinking down to rest. Some men had taken refuge during the blizzard under a sled box turned upside down. In the spring, frozen cattle were standing on high pillars of snow and ice. During the flood of the spring of 1888 when the river was about a mile wide in places with waves, the Banning Mill near East Sioux Falls came floating down the river. Son's, Charley and John boated out to it and tied it by its lighting rods to poles they had driven down into the Iowa side river banks. (*Abraham and David Banning built a grist mill in 1877 to grind locally grown wheat into flour. The mill was swept away and deposited in ruins four miles downstream in the historic flood of 1881. The mill was rebuilt and used until at least 1892. It served as a gathering place for settlers, where they fished at the dam and mill pond. SIOUX FALLS ARGUS LEADER July 5, 1998)
There were seasons of hard times, grasshoppers and drought. Karl would gather his family together on Sunday afternoons and read the sermon for that Sunday. He would send for books, written by colportorer (early evangelists), leaders and forefathers of the church, and read. He was a deeply spiritual and Christian man.
"The History of Lincoln Co., S.D." Copyright 1985 by The Lincoln County History Committee, Canton, South Dakota. Printed in the United States of America by Pine Hill Press, Freeman, South Dakota 57029.
CARL & CAROLINA SWANSON FAMILY
Carl August Swanson (Svensson) and wife, Carolina, immigrated from Sweden in 1869. The family, with three children, arrived with a covered wagon and team in Lincoln Co. in 1870. Carl held a pre-emption claim to lands situated along the Big Sioux River approximately 8 miles north and one mile east of Canton, in what is now Dayton Twp. The covered wagon was overturned on a sand pit, near a spring, for the family's shelter. Twins were born under this shelter in August 1870, while a sod house was built for the first winter. Carl left his wife and children that winter to work south of Sioux City clearing land for wages. At home, Carolina and her children had but a little corn and a half sack of flour to survive on. Over the next years, Carl planted many cottonwood trees and in 1872 constructed a log cabin on a hill. A son, August, was born in the cabin in 1876; the cabin yet stands (as of 1983) and in now owned by Carl's grandson, Virgil Swanson. Three sons died in infancy; two were buried in the 1870's in a plot on the Juul farm, about three miles south, while the other is reputedly buried some distance southeast of the cabin, near what is a very large cottonwood tree known locally as the "hanging tree. In 1889 Carl was riding a young colt on the homestead when the animal stepped in a badger hole. Carl was thrown and the horse rolled on it's rider. Carl was gravely injured and died in 1890, at age 55. Several days before his death, he deeded all his lands to his wife, Carolina, who then lived in the log cabin until 1903. Carolina then lived with her adult children in Dayton Twp. and elsewhere until her death in 1932, at age 92.
Left: Carolina in front of her log cabin in approximately 1928.
Carolina suggested to her husband, tying a rope from the log house to the barn, as a guideline so he could find and feed his livestock during blind blizzards.
In her later years, Grandma Carolina was living with Mrs. Andrew Anderson in Rowena, SD when the Andersons got their first radio. While getting supper one evening Carolina was serious when she thought Mrs. Anderson should feed that man in the box too! (as told by Melvin Swanson)
Her daughter Mary took care of her mother for a time in the 1920's. Hilda Hilberg also helped take care of Carolina in her later years. Andrew & Alvira Anderson lived in Rowena and took care of Grandma Carolina the last year of her life. She fell outside their home, breaking her arm, which set into pneumonia, at 92 years old.
Left: 89 year old Carolina Swanson.