Jonas Victor Swenson Family Photos

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

25. March 21, 1876

Anna Greta has a little daughter but the baby does not live.

Jonas Victor Swenson
Randolph, KS  March 21 1876

Grace and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanks for the letter we got from you yesterday.  I will answer at once and I also have some questions.  Thanks for the seeds you sent.

We thank God for his protection both with health and other good advantages.  Please send regards and thanks to the people in Hamra for all the troubles they have had for us.  We have not got the letter which was addressed to Anna Greta.  When we heard about the letter, I asked at the post office and they said that it had been there several months, but now they had sent it to Washington.  It is the law here that when a letter lies a certain time and nobody asks for it, it is sent back to Washington, where it will be opened.  If it is worth something it is sent back to the sender or a notice is put in the newspaper.

On New Year's Day we got a girl, but God did not entrust us to take care of her.  Our Heavenly Father loved her;  therefore he took her home to Himself.  She was born two months too soon.  She lived about a half an hour.  She was christened Hilma Charlotta.  The Lord gave and the Lord took.  Anna Greta thinks that it would have been a pleasure to keep her, but she will not fight with God about her.  She will not deny the happiness for her to be with her Heavenly Father.  God is right.

We have had summer the whole winter until March 1, when it was cold.  We have not seen any snow during the whole winter until now.  We have been out in the sleigh today for the first time this winter.

Already in the end of February, somebody has sowed wheat.

Our dear regards to all of you and the family in Hamra.

Jonas Victor Svenson    Anna Greta Svenson

I hope you can still read a book.  In that case, you should buy Resenius writings, if you have not read them before.  They are good.  You can also buy Luthers postilla.  It is a pleasure to read what our master Luther says because we are Lutherans.  The Germans here will build a new church in the summer.  We will have as long way to go to this church as you have in Hamra.  They built a house for the clergyman last summer so he is living there now.

24. November 22, 1875

A letter from Jonas Victor asking to borrow money.  His wife's family lived in Hamra.

Jonas Victor Swenson
Randolph, KS 22 November 1875

I have written to the relatives in Hamra and put in a letter to you asking if you can lend me 500 Swedish krona.  I want to buy bullocks.  You can make very good earnings here.  Here that amount would equal about 140 dollars.  You can buy bullock calves one year old for 11-13 dollars.  When they are two years old they are worth about 22-25 dollars and at three years about 35 dollars.  Consequently, you can double the value in a year.

The compound interest on this money will not be more than 10 dollars.  It is enough both for postage and everything else.  It is not more than what a bullock needs to grow up and I could buy 11 or 12 such calves and food does not cost more than a little work, when you have your own machine for cutting feed.  Otherwise, the cost would be more.  If I did not own a machine, I would not ask for money.

Here the compound interest is too high.  They who lend out money, take 20 per cent and the banks take 24 per cent.  If it wasn't so high, I would borrow here.  I do not need them for any debt, and I will not do you anything wrong.  If you think that I would cheat you in any way, in that case you should not send me money.  But I think I can earn 100 dollars in a year with this money.

I would have that much money this year but I have bought machines and horses for 1000 Swedish Krona.

If you cannot send all the money at the same time, you can send it in two shipments.  If you cannot send so much you can send less, but not less that 350 Swedish krona.  I will pay compound interest from the day you send it to me.  I will send a Swedish promissory note or American note--whichever you want.  You will not be taking a risk.

I have nothing more to write this time so we send the kindest regards to all of you.  Our Father in heaven has by His endless grace given us health both to body and soul until now.

Victor Svenson

On the side he has written a Biblical quotation:  For God loved the world so much everybody who believes in Him will not be lost without having life forever.

23. December 13 1874

Another year, another letter from Jonas Victor.  He talks about the dry weather, crops, buying farms, compares Illinois and Kansas.

Jonas Victor Swenson
Randolph, KS 13 December 1874

I will try to give short answers to your questions.  You ask about grasshoppers.  They are like your grasshoppers but narrower, longer and with longer wings.  They fly with the wind hundreds of miles, but toward the wind they cannot fly, so they stay until they get wind in the direction they want to fly.  There are many, when they come.  They could eat as much corn as your farm would have in Sweden in half a day.  They eat everything they find.  Wheat and oats were harvested here when the grasshoppers came.  They ate the barley, potatoes, products from the garden and the leaves in the woods and much of the "green on the ground".

It was nice to hear that August has arrived safely.  It may be impossible for him to travel again, and discard everything in Sweden.  I was not surprised that he did not want to buy Spakarp.  I knew that beforehand--to have a farm in Illinois and then come to you in the forest.  It is a difference larger than night and day.

You ask about a little home with a little house and a little land so you can have animals.  If you have no money, you cannot get that.  You have to go away and earn money and then you can get your own home for 300 dollars.  You can get 80 acres and a house.  Around here there is a place for sale with 30 acres cultivated and enclosed, a little house gone to the bad but stones have been taken out so you can build a better house.  The land is good.  The whole land can be cultivated.  The sale price is under 300 dollars.  Near us is land with a fine little stone house, 6 acres cultivated and ready to sow.   You cannot cultivate more than 20 acres.  The sale price is under 200 dollars, so of course you can get land if you only had money.  If it had been foreclosed on, you may be able to come here and get both land and horses, and then you would have it good.

You write that August says that in Illinois you can get a little house and a little land for 300 dollars, but I cannot believe that you can support yourself without working for other people.  Those who have a little home and then go out working can perhaps support themselves better in Illinois than those who have a lot of land here in Kansas.  Illinois is the corn richest state in America.  Here in Kansas, the cultivation is the same but because it lies higher it is more exposed to dry and windy weather.  But the climate is more healthy here.  The air is high and light.  Many people come from Illinois to Kansas to get better health.

Out problem is that we are in the middle of America.  What we sell we have to freight a long way, so we do not make as much profit.  What we need to buy, we have to go a long way, so it is expensive.

We have not received a letter from you since I wrote the last time until now, for which I say thank you.  Matilda put a picture in each of our letters to you and Hamra.

We had a very dry summer.  No rain during June, July and August and too many grasshoppers.  The harvest was not good, but we can feed ourselves.  The wheat is not worth more than 60 cents per bushel.  The animals bring a low price.  The whole autumn we have had warm and beautiful weather with no frost yet.

You say you have to pay postage on my letters but the postmaster says 6 cents is enough.  I will send this letter with no postage to learn what the postage costs.

I finish with kindest regards to all of you.  Do not wait too long before you write.  I also want to hear something from August.

Victor Svenson.

22. November 29 1873

This is the first letter from Kansas we have, though Jonas Victor and family arrived there in June, 1870.   jonas Victor Swenson was my great grandfather.  We have no letters about the trip.  Jonas Victor's wife, Anna Greta traveled to America with four children, while pregnant with a fifth, Peter Luther, who was born in November of that year.  Any letters from her might not have been very happy!   We know she was not pleased to be leaving Sweden, and who can blame her?  I think they had rather primitive housing when they first arrived.  This letter tells of the birth of another son, Otto Wilhem, born in February, 1873.  She had children for 20 years, twelve in all, including four who died in infancy.  I always long for letters from Anna Greta, but how would she have had time?  Jonas Victor was ever the farmer, always giving weather and crop reports.
Randolph, Kansas was in Riley County, Kansas.  I believe it is now under water because of the Tuttle Creek Dam.

Randolph, KS  29 November 1873

I will with God's grace send you a short letter.  I understand that you are paying for my letters, which is wrong, because I have already paid in full.

God has given us all good health until now and increased the family by a son, whose name is Otto Wilhelm.

We had a good wheat harvest this year and the oats was good too, but not the grain or potatoes.  It has been too dry.  No rain from Midsummer until September 24 when we got a hard thunderstorm.  A family who lived not far from us was killed.  They were building a new house, but they did not have the roof on, so they were in the stable protecting themselves during the storm.  It burned (probably from lightning).  The family had two children.  The paternal grandfather was also there.  He had helped them with the new house.  Even the two horses and a cow were burned to death.  It was a tragedy.

I have received a letter from brother Johan August (in Andover, Illinois).  He writes he is very ill.  He says that you had sent him a letter and told about all your work.  He also says that Fredrik (their sister Anna Sofia's husband) has bought a farm in Aggebo and that he is displeased that he was not allowed to buy Spakarp.  I think it is a little strange.  Perhaps you had too many sellers.  (Irene says--It seems the family had discussed this to and fro.  I cannot understand what he refers to).  I will not tell you what to do.  You should decide what you think will be the best.

Now I finish my letter with greetings to all of you.

Jonas Victor Svenson

This is the second letter I have written since I received one from you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

21. July 1 1870

This is the last letter from either Johan August or Carolina.  Such a sad time.  We know that Carolina and Johan Svensson returned to Sweden in 1874 where he died a year later. Did he also have tuberculosis?  We know nothing more of Carolina.  She had so many tragedies in a short time.  She and Sven Peter must have had big dreams before coming to America and they were doing very well until he got sick.  What began so brightly, ended so sadly.  She was probably in her mid thirties.  I hope she found some happiness back in Sweden.  The Swenson parents lost two sons in America within four months, both in their mid thirties.  A third son, Johan would be dead in four years.  No wonder they did not really want their daughter, Greta Lovisa to leave in 1868.  She and her family stayed in America with many descendants here.  A fourth son, Jonas Victor Swenson was on his way to Kansas with his wife and children (including my grandmother Matilda), when all this was happening.  The next letter will be from him.

Andover, IL July 1, 1870

God's Grace and Peace will be with us in this world's fight as long as we struggle.

In my great sorrow I will send a few lines to my parents, siblings and relatives.  I pray that this letter will meet you with life and health.

We are all well, except your dear son, Hans Alfred, who left your home last month and arrived here June 8 (Wednesday).  During his travels he had good health and also was happy to be here in this country and it was so until Tuesday, when he said it had been better in Sweden everyday.

Saturday and Monday he worked a little and thought it was hard in this country despite the weather the last 14 days had been nice, which is seldom.  Wednesday morning he was not quite well.  He had a headache.   After he had eaten he went to bed and was in bed until Thursday afternoon, when he got up and dressed and was a little better and was sitting in the rocking chair.

At half past four Lina brought supper to the farm hand and me.  She stayed with us about one and a half hour.  When she went back, Hans Alfred was not in the cottage.  Lina went upstairs where he had his bed.  She found him lying there and his clothes were wet through with blood.  She asked him what the matter was.  He was not too ill to talk.  He said he had taken blood-letting.  When Lina looked at his arms she found that he had cut both of them, but the blood had now stopped.

Lina came and got me and told me what had happened and I went to him and asked him why he had done this without saying something to anybody.  He answered that he thought he could take care of himself.  I asked why he had let it run so much.  He said he cut first in the right arm and it did not run.  Then he cut in the left arm and when it began to run he fell asleep.

  We changed his clothes.  Still he could talk, but the body and limbs were not stable.  We thought he was not too bad but on Friday morning, June 17, he was not better.  I went over to Lovisa and Hans'.  About a quarter hour later he passed away and was excused from his wandering in this world.  He could talk a little while before he died.  Probably he had a stroke at the last.   It was a great pleasure to have him here, but it did not last long.  The pleasure turned to sorrow.

You, my brothers, who are in the old country, remember that I say it is better to be there and eat oat breads than to come here and feast.  I think it wold be nice to see you, but I know what I have gone through since I came here and so it will be for others.

Dear Parents, I say thanks for the gifts we have.

Thousands of regards to all of you from us.

God, our God, bless us and the whole world, Fear the Lord.

Johan August Svensson

20. June 18, 1870

I thought a long time about putting this in, but it is true history.  He was not the only immigrant who found this new country unbearable and took his own life. We tend to forget how hard the change was to make.   This newspaper clipping from the local paper is self explanatory.  It seems Hans Alfred could not make the change to America, though he was sure things would be better for him here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

19. June 14, 1870

A letter from Greta Lovisa who now signs her name the American way, using her husband's last name, Olsson, instead of Svensdotter.

Andover June 14, 1870

Dear Parents and Parents-in-Law, siblings and other relatives and friends,

I wish you grace and the peace of God our Father in Christ Jesus.  Often and for a long time I have thought that I should describe my heart's wishes, especially to you dear Parents.  I know that I am so dear to you, perhaps more than some of the siblings. Therefore, I am thankful both to you and to God.  (After that there are several lines with Biblical quotations).  I will ask for your approval of our departure here.  Although I have not heard anything about that, I know that you think of us.  We are all well.

We now have 80 acres, so we have two horses and farm implements.  We have sowed 10 acres of wheat, 16 acres of oats, and the rest in maize (corn).  We have two cows and five pigs.  You need time,  work, and happiness  in America before you will have wealth and independence.

Many thanks, dear Sister for your letter.  It is a lovely remembrance in lonely moments.

I send greetings from brother Hans Alfred.  He arrived the last Wednesday, June 8.  He is well and satisfied with America.  He stays with my sister-in-law and will be there all summer.

Brother August is now married to Carolina.  It was quick, but she needed his help and the custom of this land is that way. ( From Roselyn--we think that Jonas Victor might not have approved of this quick marriage.  He may be still thinking of the ways in Sweden that required the reading of banns in the church, etc. before marriage)

Brother Jonas Victor did not even stop enough that we saw him.  They arrived in Galva, 28 miles from here.  It was strange.  He went to Kansas to Johanes' sons in Applerum. (We don't know who that is--probably someone they had known in Sweden who now lived in Kansas. Irene says that that Hans Alfred and Jonas Victor and family emigrated together.)  

Send regards to Johan Pehrson in Hamra that we received his letter and say thank you, but we cannot grant his request now.  We have spent all our money for our travel here and we have not yet received anything from those we helped.  These are hard times for getting money because the country's in recession since we elected the last president.  A free country has difficulties because the people may not choose the right president for their government.

Now I finsh with a wish that God in his grace will lead us in His truth that we will have life.  Many regards to all of you from one who writes respectfully.

Your affectionate Child and Sister.

Greta Lovisa Olsson

18 June 12 1870

A letter from brother Hans Alfred Swenson who has arrived in Andover.  He is not very happy.

Andover, IL  June 12 1870
Dear Father and Mother, brother, sister and brothers-in-law in Sweden and friends.

I  will let you know that I arrived here late in the evening on the 9th of June.  It was both a long and troublesome voyage.  It was not like any travel in Sweden.

The 12th of May we left Goteborg, Sweden.  The 17th we arrived in Hull in England and the 18th to Liverpool. We went from there on the big ocean to New York and arrived there the 24th.  The 2nd of June we went from New York and arrived in Chicago on the 8th.

I am sure you want to know about the travel.  My travel companions and I thought it was a madness.  We had many experiences and learned much but we never had enough food.  You may wonder if anybody avoided the seasickness.  Nobody did, more or less.  The least seasickness is a headache and you cannot eat or drink.  That was what I had.  I was with people who were not so sick.

You should not believe that anybody who wrote to Sweden told the truth, because they came of their own free will.  You have to live with what you  decide as long as you live.  They have written to Sweden that they will not force or advise anybody to go to America.  A fool will learn and understand what they refer to when they say this.  When you are in Sweden, you do not realize that they speak another language in the new country.  I will tell you that I feel no safety and I would be happy if I was still in Sweden.  It is strange that August had not said that I should go or not and did not tell about paying travel money to them that helped me from Sweden. The reason is that they are so unhappy.

I will tell you that the country is not as good as you might think.  I could not believe this and I know that you think that the country is seven times better than it is.  Nobody in Sweden can understand and believe everything is as bad in America as it is now.  The weather is very dry here.  I have never seen it this dry in Sweden or thought it would be so dry here.  August did not tell me it would be so dry.  It seems that the soil here in America is not as good as it is in Sweden.  The grain is so thin and short, the grass is better, but not as thick and long as in Sweden.  Nobody in Sweden can believe this.  They boast of the deep soil in America when they write to Sweden.  I think it is miserable.

Between New York and Chicago, the soil is cultivated.  August has everything cultivated without a little piece for pasture for the cows.  He cannot let the horse out because he has no place where there is something to eat.  The people plant gardens and have vegetables.  They live off of vegetables, coffee and tea and buy wheat (flour) for bread.  Consequently, they do not eat as much.  A Swede who visits an American starves, because he only has three meals a day.

He has to get up at four o'clock in the morning, groom the horses, give the swine food and milk the cows  and make butter.  This must be done by six o'clock and then he has breakfast.  Then he is out working til noon when dinner is served.  After that he feeds the domestic animals.  At one o'clock he has to be out working again. At seven o'clock in the evening he has supper.  Then he has the horses to take care of.  Then he is glad it is evening.

The food is many different dishes, but mostly vegetables, both sour and not tasty.  The farm-hand has to eat quickly so he is lean.  It would be the same in Sweden if food was eaten like this.  It is only to quench the hunger and nothing to work on.

When the weather is warm you drink much water but it tastes like lime, which is in the oil.  It is no wonder people get sick.

There is not enough time to tell you what I know and have seen or paid for some room for me.  If I wrote all I have heard and seen it would be as long as the Bible.

Greetings to all of you and relatives from H.A. Svenson.  August and Lina (Carolina) also send their greetings to you and say thanks for what they have.

On the other side of the letter Hans Alfred has written:  I am with August.  The farm hand had finished his work some hours before I arrived, so I had to work at once.  If I had known the language it would have been easier, but now I have to suffer in all weather.

17 March 25 1870

A letter from Johan August telling of the death of Sven Peter and his estate.

Andover 25 March 1870
Dear Parents,

God will be with us in this world so we can pass away and wake up in a better world and there meet and sing together "Hallelujah and Amen in Jesus' Name".

I am writing to let you know about Sven Peter's estate.  Carolina keeps what he had.  They had bequeathed the estate to each other while he was still alive.  I can also tell you that Hans Olson (his brother-in-law) has rented 80 acres of the land and will pay rent.  He has paid $200.  Last fall I rented the land from Sven Peter.

I have no more news to tell you.  We all have good health that God has given us and hope this letter will find you in the same good health.

In great haste,

Johan August Svenson

Hans and Lovisa send their dear greetings to our parents, brothers and relatives in Sweden.  I send also my greeting to all of you.

16. March 25 1870

This is a sad letter from Carolina to her Parents-in-law, telling them that Sven Peter has died (of tuberculosis).  I confess that when I received this translation from Rune and Irene, I had tears in my eyes.  I recall he had written that after three years, they had bought land and had built a house that was small but "big enough for two people".    He said "the sun is shining on us" and he was "as happy as a man could be".  They had worked so hard and accomplished so much in this country, it seems unfair for this to happen.  He was only 34 years of age.  He had emigrated at age 21.  But it certainly happened to other people, as well.  My heart went out to Carolina.  She had worked so hard to make the business successful and was a widow in what was still a foreign country to her. We have not found any information about his burial.

Carolina Svenson
Andover Il  March 25 1870

Dear Parents-in-Law,

God's Grace and peace be with us all in my deep sorrow and grief.  I am writing to tell you that I am now a widow, which is a deep sorrow for me.  Some days ago Sven Peter passed away.

His disease began ten years ago and little by little his health became worse.  In the last year and a half he was very ill.  During the autumn of 1868, he began to cough and it became worse and worse.  During his last year he had a spittoon at his bed and every night he coughed up much.  The last year he has hardly been able to work at all and the situation was very bad.

He paid much to the doctor.  The last doctor he saw said to him that he could not do any more for him.

During this time he had been sitting up a little until nine days before he died.  Then last Friday morning at 4 o'clock he left this life and passed away peacefully.

At the end of my letter I will send some words from Hymn 344.

Kindly and lovely greetings from me to all of you.

Carolina Svenson

Sunday, August 28, 2011

15. January 2, 1870

Irene says about this letter--"We wonder about this old letter.  The handwriting is the same as Johan August's,  but it is signed by Greta Lovisa Svensdotter."   (From Roselyn--my Swedish researcher, Bertil Jonsson, told me about the house examination and this must be the same as it was in Sweden.  If you missed church, the priest or elder in the church could come to your home and test you on the sermon that was given.  There was some kind of punishment if you could not answer correctly!)   
 Rune has found that Leander Hallgren emigrated the first time in 1862 but returned to Sweden. "He was only 14 years old but his siblings were there before."  Rune further found that "Leander Hallgren and his mother, who was a widow, and his remaining siblings emigrated in May, 1870, the same time as Jonas Victor.  Perhaps they went together.  They were not our relatives."

Andover January 2 1870
God's grace and peace to us all.  Dear Father, Mother, brothers and sisters,

I thank you from my heart for your welcome letter which I received in August's letter.

I will answer your questions.  You want to know if you should stay in Sweden or come here.  God has promised mankind earthly possessions here on earth--clothes and food, but not without pains and labor.  It is a treasure we are given that is with us in this world's fight no matter where we live or where we go.

If you want something more, it takes a long time after you get here.   It is true that it is better here and you can make a better living than in Sweden.  You can, after a while acquire a piece of land.  I cannot say how you will do, because I have not been here long enough.  When I think of all others who have been here for a long time, I can see that they have acquired more or less.  Do not think that you can get anything without hard work.  I do not regret coming here because it seemed that the future would have been rather bad if I had stayed in Sweden.

In church we have a sermon first on Sunday morning.  There is a talk to children who want to go to Sunday School, which starts at nine o'clock.  At ten o'clock, the worship begins and finishes between one o'clock and two o'clock.  Then there is worship in the evening and also twice and three times during the week.  The children are prepared for their confirmation in the same way as in Sweden.  The participation of holy Communion and house examination,  we have in our Lutheran Church like you do.  Here it  is voluntary.  You cannot force anybody to do that.  I don't have any more information for you about this.

You can go to Leander Hallgren and ask him about all the states and anything you want to know.

Now I finish and ask you our parents and siblings to remember us in your prayers.  We send our kindest regards to you all.

At last it is my duty to send some lines to brother Jonas Victor and his wife, Anna Greta, because you are thinking of coming here.  I cannot give you anything but I welcome you to this country both spiritually and worldly.  Do not worry about clothes and food.

Friendly signed by your trifling daughter.

Greta Lovisa Svensdotter

Saturday, August 27, 2011

14. 13 December 1869

In this letter, Johan August again tries to tell his brothers what life is like in America.  He especially is talking to his brother Hans about what he may find.  He knows of the personal problems Hans has had in Sweden.

Andover 13 December 1869
Dear Parents and Relatives in my old native country.  Grace and peace to us all.

I sent a letter to you with Leander Hallgren.  I will again send a letter and answer to your welcome letter of December 12.  It was nice to hear that you all have good health.  Up to now I have had good health.

I have read and looked at your letter very carefully and found much.  I also see that you, Hans, have the permit to come here.  It cannot be too soon.  You have wanted to go for a long time.  In your letter you wonder if you will be happy or not when you come here.  Of course, it would be a great advantage if you could tell that ahead of time.  In that way you could keep away from many troubles.

One person's experience may be different from another's.  You think that I who am here, should be able to say whether it is a good thing for you or not.  Letters from America have told both truth and lies, and it is impossible to tell which is correct.  If anybody near you has come here, ask about everything you want to know.  You think I lie.  Remember, I promised to tell the truth before I went away and I have.

Last spring when I saw Peter Hultgren, he said to me that I wrote very badly about America.  I answered him that perhaps he could have written that it was better and he said he could not.  He saw that there were many changes he had to face.  It was not long before he regretted coming here and thought that until his death.

It was difficult for him to earn money.  He had lost his old friends and missed Sweden.  He had also lost part of his strength, comfort, fun and good  spirit.  That is not good for the health.  It is too much all at once, but I cannot write about that now.

When you have learned everything and have lived here for some time you should be satisfied.  At least, it has been for me.  It can also be that way for you and others who come here.  You need to be careful to be dressed in comfortable clothes, if you want to stay healthy.  You cannot bear to be wet, cold and sweaty and much more.  If you want to stay healthy, you must be dressed as I have been in the summer.  I have clothes of linen (perhaps he means cotton).   If you do not have such clothes the first year you are here, it can do great damage.  If Johannes Peter had been dressed in the right clothes, I think he could still be alive.  Of boredom you do not die so quickly, but of the cold you can die rather quickly.  Many people here die for this reason.

Friendly regards from all of us.

J.A. Swenson

13. 3 October 1869

This is the last letter we have from Swen Peter.  Though he is very ill, he is making plans for the future and has bought more land.  He also tells of the troubles of another immigrant Swede he knows.

Andover  3 Oct 1869

As brother August sends a letter, I will with gratitude write some lines to you my brothers and tell how it is with us.  It is rather good, as long as we work hard.

I will let you know how the harvest was this year.  We got something from it all, but not as much wheat.  We have straw but not much grain.  Because of that I have lost $1,000 this year.

I was not satisfied so I have looked around and bought another farm and will move the next spring.

Now my brothers, you who want to come here next spring can perhaps stay with me as farmhands.  I would be rather glad because I have land in three places.  I do not want to entice you.  Do see what is best for you.

Hans Petter from Fundshult came here with a strong body, but now he is bad and his health will never come back.  He went away to work as a railway worker.  He had to sleep on the ground directly because there was no cottage there.  He has now come back with a bad body and will not stay in bed.  He wants to go "back to Fundhult".  He has brain damage and is dizzy and acts like he is crazy.

Sven Petter

Friday, August 26, 2011

11. July 18 1869 Part 2

Johan August continues to give both sides of the decision to come to America.  He seems to be afraid that someone will come and not be happy--which is usually true the first year.  It is interesting that he mentions birds singing.  There are many trees around Spakarp so of course, there are many birds--we saw many when we were there.  The farmland in Illinois is flat and grows wonderful crops but does not have many trees-so there are fewer birds!  I think he is also remembering Sweden through "rose colored glasses" from the distance--talks about the "light and healthy air". 

When you come here it is at once easier to get clothes and food, but if the health and all else goes, it is too much to lose.  When you are in Sweden with the light and healthy air you can work .  It does not strain you so much.  Such lightness is good for the people and you can hear so many birds sing.  It is a great pleasure to be at home in such a country.  It is not that way here.  There are no birds who sing beautifully.  Here there is no echo when you sing, so it does not give pleasure to sing.  When it is like this in this country you can understand that it is much more difficult the first time you are here before you get used to it.  When you have gotten used to it here, it can be good for you.  But wherever you live you will have difficulties.

I have thought much about you and your future with various difficulties in Sweden and other difficulties if you come over here.  As it is here now, I cannot say how you should do.  You have to do as you feel.  If you live like other persons and work to earn a place, you can have that when you get old.  In Sweden you cannot do that.  In that case it is better here, but there are not any more benefits from being in America.

I am satisfied to be here now.  When I came here I was sad.  If I had money I would not be here today but my money was gone.  What could I do?  It was as if I had been in a prison.  I think that all who come here get the same feeling.  It is a minority who write the truth to their home country.  Perhaps they say they are happy and trick people into coming over.  If people in Sweden knew how hard it was, I promise that half would not come.  But their money was gone so they had to earn enough to go back and by the time they had done that, they felt better and better and they stayed longer.

When you get used to the weather you think that you can do as well here as in Sweden.  Here you can earn money for clothes and food better.

The body does not feel good for at least a year.  You feel uncomfortable so you may understand for me to tell you what to do.  One the sea trip,  you will ask how I could tell you to come.  That is only the beginning.  The rest is much more difficult.  You have to decide for yourselves.

At last my warmest regards to all of you.

J.A. Swenson

12. May 13 1869

Here is another letter from Johan August Swenson.  He tells of letters from other immigrants comparing notes about the pros and cons of settling in different parts of America.  He also refers to the discussion about what they should do about Spakarp.

Andover IL  May 13 1869
Dear Parents and also brother and brothers-in-law,

If it is God's will, I now answer your letter we received April 26, which found us all with the finest gift--good health.  We also wish that this letter will find you with the same health.

I will answer some questions and Sven Peter answers the rest.  I understand that Brother Hans has had much to do at home, more than it has ever been before.  Mother will not leave either you or the farm and I cannot tell you whether to move or what you ought to do.  You have to do what you want to do. I am happy that I am here and do not need to fight about this.

Now I finish with this and answer your questions.  You want to know what the postage is for a letter.  It depends on the weight.  If it is not over a regular weight, we pay 35 cents when we get letters from you, and 65 cents to send a letter to you.

There is snuff here.  The people who use snuff say that it is not as good as it is in Sweden.  Hans Olson (Lovisa's husband)  uses tobacco not snuff.

The last time I got a letter from Anders Peter, I also got a letter from Johan Wilhelm Andersson in Attarp.  He wanted to know how much you can earn here.  In Sweden there are no earnings, not any work, so he wants to come over here.

The last spring, 3 weeks after we had arrived here, Karl in Boda went to Minnesota together with Charl Peter and sends regards to Anders that he was still alive. In the beginning of January, I wrote to him to get to know how it was there.   He answered in March and wrote that there was good earning there and also land.  He said that there are many lakes with much fish.  Some say that it is better in Minnesota than it is here.  I wonder what he means.  I can say that the weather is smoother here.  It is like the weather in Sweden.  But there is much that is not so good, but I have no time to tell about that.

I will tell you that there has been a little snow this winter and sometimes it has been very beautiful weather, but sometimes colder than in December.  I know that you do not believe that, but if you come here, you will experience that.

 I am with Sven Peter and I will be there from April 1 to December and I will get $116 for that.

If you come, let me know in time so I can tell you which clothes you should take with you.

Now, I finish this time and finally send my regard to all of you and God be with us all in Jesus name.  Amen

From Johan August Swensson
13 May 1869

11. July 18 1869. Part 1

Another letter from Johan August.  Sven Petter is writing very little now.  The letter continues answering questions about the pros and cons of coming to America.  You can almost feel the anguish on both sides as you read the letter.  Those in America want to give an honest answer, but don't want to keep their relatives from coming.  Again, the heat is one of the difficulties in getting used to Illinois.

Andover 18 July 1869
Dear Brother Albert (Gustav Albert) and also present brothers.

It is a great responsibility for me to answer this letter because it is about an important thing.  You are in despair and do not know whether you should come over here or not.  I cannot decide for you.  It must be difficult for you to hear and more difficult for me that I cannot give you any answer.  You must think it is odd because I have been in Sweden and know how it is there, and now I am here and know how it is here.  Sweden has its difficulties but also some nice things.  The difficulties here are large, therefore it is hard to say whether you should come.  I could gladly tell the difficulties if I had that ability.  I will tell you what I know and understand.  Then I cannot do any more.

First, I will tell you that the letter arrived to Hans Olson (his brother in law who also immigrated) on Midsummer Day and I got the letter the same day, when I was there working like any other day.  Perhaps you think it was odd that I should work on a day when it was a holiday for you.  Here the Americans do not celebrate a holiday during the week, nor the farm hands whether they are Swedes or Americans.  The Swedish clergyman has divine service that day (Midsummer Day) like Sundays.  The farm hands have only the right to go to church on Sundays.  The other days are only for those who can decide for themselves like Hans.  He does day work and has the right to be free, which he also makes use of.

I wish that I could l give you advice, but it is hard to put it into words that you can understand.  Perhaps it would be easier if could speak to you.  I cannot give you any advice, but I will do as well as I can.  You wonder if you can bear the heat.  I think you could do as well as the others.  It is something that is difficult until you get used to both the heat and other things.

When you leave Sweden, you leave all the difficulties that are there and also all the nice things like your health and a nice country to live in, which it will never be the same here.  You should know that at first it is dreary .  You are uninformed and unaccustomed with the work that is here and you cannot speak with anybody.  As I have written before, this country is a heavy oppressive country.  That is the reason that both people and cattle are tired and slack and cannot do anything.  The limbs are so frail and feeble and then you have to force yourself to work.  What pleasure is it to be in America during such a circumstance?

If you come over you you might have a deplorable time like Johanes Peter (maybe a neighbor).  He walks heavy like he was walking deep in the soil.  The work here is not that difficult, but you will be tired enough you may not have enough strength to walk.  After Johanes Peter came here we have done different things.  We have plowed and by afternoon he was so tired that he could not walk, so he had to take off the horses and rest some.  The work was not so severe.  It was the climate and the air.  I have never been as tired as he.  Johanes Peter has a heavy body and it is a strain both for him and others.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

10. May 12 1869

In this letter written by Sven Petter and signed by Johan August, Sven Petter Swenson and their sister, Lovisa's, husband, Hans Olson, who are in America, there is a discussion of what to do about Spakarp Farm.  As more of the family emigrate to America, there is concern for the "old" (the parents) and what will happen to Spakarp.  Victor is deciding whether to stay in Sweden or move his family to America and seems to have made an offer for Spakarp.  There is some concern about their brother, Hans Alfred, who we think has had some personal mental problems.  The letter is complicated with money denominations that are hard to understand.  Irene has done a wonderful job of translating, but I will shorten that part of the discussion.

This is a response to your question in your last letter about how to divide Spakarp.  We have given much thought about that what the best should be.  We have decided that if "the old" will agree that the farm be sold to Victor, part of that money would be deposited in the bank for the loan and part will be for the "old" with money left.  Hans shall have some money as a compensation for being at home and giving his best days.  Then some of the rest would be given to each who has not received their inheritance.  The money from the auction of other things would be given to the children.  There is a little debt on the house, which must be paid first from the children's inheritance.

Father, I (Sven Petter talking) will say a little about brother Hans and his compensation.  You should not forget that it is only you who pay him.  He has been at home and worked ten years, the best time of his life and helped his parents and siblings and brother-in-law.  He should not have to come here with bad body and clothes like rags.  It should not be so. Some of you say he has what he needs.  If anyone says that,  I say it is unjust and not right.  The one who is religious, which I think you are, Father, will say yes to that.

Now we have told you what our opinion is and wish that all will be satisfied.  We think that Fredrik and also Karl Magnus think that the asking price is too high for a farm that does not feed people.  Then my wish is that of seven sons, somebody ought to stay in the father's house and take care of the father's ground.  You talk about renting, which will be much worse.  The farm will be ruined.  If brother Victor will agree, do not say no to that.  It is better for him to do that than to go to America with wife and so many children without having somewhere to live.  My dear parents, I wish that Victor and his wife will be kind to you.  You can let the young work and the old be restful.

Now we leave it to "the old" and may see how it will be, because it is not polite that the children oppose the parents.  The Lord says:  "The one who goes against his father and mother is not worth welcome when I come".   S.P Swenson

We have dry and warm weather and are planting corn now, or as you say in Sweden "maize, so we are in a hurry.  We use two pair of horses and we have another three younger ones, and 33 swine,  I would be happy if I could just send you 5 swine and a load of wheat in a letter.

J.A. Swenson, Hans Olson, S.P. Swenson

When you have read the letter and thought it over, we will wait to know what you decide.  Kindest regard and farewell to you all.

From Roselyn:  Jonas Victor Swenson (my ancestor) decided not to buy Spakarp and emigrated with his wife and family the next year to settle in Riley CO. Kansas.  The final heir to Spakarp was Gustav Albert, some of  whose descendants now own the Spakarp Farm.

9. January 20 1869 Part 3

Swedish immigrants had a difficult time getting used to the weather in Illinois.  The heat in the summer and cold and wind in the winter caused some to leave and return to Sweden.  The high price of machinery necessary to work larger fields was a big barrier for people with not much money.

It is the warmth, which is different from Sweden, that makes you need much more water.  It is a strain for the chest.  It is like a sauna.  When it is cold it is like a sauna without heat.

You ask how much the big machines cost and if you cannot use anything else than machines.  Do you not think that plow, harrow, wagon, harness cost something plus everything else?  Everything costs something.  A machine we use for plowing on the fields is something like a tiller which whirls the soil.  Then they can use the land machines.  We can borrow, but we pay much.  Machines are used to sow and cut the grain.  We use horses to thresh.  They pull the machine.  When we cut the grain we use two pair of horses.  When we thresh we use five pair of horses and they have a lot of hard work.  Any simple machines are not used here.  If you think that you can thresh with flail and cut with the scythe and get it to the barn like in Sweden--do not think so.  It that was possible, there would be many who could do so and need only cattle for the farmer.  A pair of horses cost at least 250 dollars and then the machines you need cost a lot too.

You ask me to help you get land.  I cannot do that.  Nobody can sell land if you do not have it yourself.  The land must by built up after you have bought it.  The most you can buy is 160 acres and you must know that I don't have enough money to buy land.

You think that this country is not as expensive as it is.  You do not know how difficult it is to come to a new country, no persons close to you.  You must have at least 500 dollars.  You must have somewhere to live and get food until you have your own cottage and feed.  Before you can do that you must have draft animals and machines.  Perhaps you think that when other people have bought land that anybody can do that, too.  At first, I think they work together and rent a room in a cottage.

You ask if I think that it is better to be here than in Sweden.  I can tell you wherever you go, you have troubles, but I think it is better here.  If you want to work, you can make more money here than in Sweden.  When you first come here it is not so easy, but I think it will be better.  I have earned a hundred dollars.

Now I finish my letter for this time.  The health we all have until now.

Regards from us all to all of you.

J. A. Swenson

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

9. January 20, 1868 Part 2

In this second part of the letter, Johan August writes more about what to expect in America.

If you have been like me, when I was in Sweden, I was well and healthy and free from illness and misery. Then you come here and get sick, which many experience.  How much fun is that?

Here sometimes we have nether warmth nor cold.  In the summer it is warmer here than in Sweden and in the winter it is much colder here than there.  That is difficult to bear.  Perhaps, you do not believe that, but if I am writing it, that is true.  You will see that if you come here.

I will say that you can get work here if you have strength to work, so you need not be in Sweden for that reason.  Here there is little difference between clergyman or parish clerk or organist or farmer.

If you work with the soil, you are free 3 months during the winter, when nothing under the sky grows, but you can earn enough for your food if you look after the cattle.  Do not be afraid that you will be without work.

The houses here are of the same sort as there with walls, roof, windows and doors.  There are iron stoves, the size dependent on your resources.

For a barn, you put poles in the ground and nail boards around it and put a thatched roof on top.  The size is different dependent on the size of the house and what you need as food during the year.  For what we sell we make a place on the field where we thresh.  It is built of poles and put in a square and we make a pile of what we need.  Then we put straw on the sides to stop the grain coming out.  There will be straw in the grain but it is no matter, because the mill grinds and sifts at the same time.  Here we use a barn for hay like in Sweden, but no straw on the sides.  The grain in the barn we give to our cattle.

(This is his description of  corn)  A grain cone is like a spruce cone.  The grains are around on a block, like the scale of a spruce cone and you get a "kabb" left. A cone which is 10 inches long and about 4 inches around is sitting so close something like a pile of boards and straw to roof.

For our cattle we use only straw as a roof even when it is cold.  Otherwise they are out on the whole field.  The stalks left in the field are their food during the winter.

You ask if the wheat bread is as good as in Sweden.  I cannot answer that because when I was in Sweden I could not afford to eat wheat bread.  I have eaten it here and it tasted nice, better than your rye bread.

9. January 20 1869 Part 1

This is a letter from Johan August Swenson, brother of Sven Petter, who emigrated to America in 1868 and settled in Andover.  It is very long, with his impressions of America.

Andover 20 January 1869
Dear Parents and siblings.  We will with God's help send an answer to the letter from you, which we received from our church January 16.  It was very nice for us all to get to know how you are in our old country.  It was nice to hear that you are all well.  It is the best news in the world, but it was difficult to hear that you have much misery for your living.

As you had written, Hans, we cannot understand about the cattle and how you can get what you need for your living.  Hans, you say that you cannot come over here this year because you don't have any money or clothes.  I say if you have money enough and clothes during the travel, you can go.  I know that.  There is no use here for Swedish clothes.  When I came over here I had to buy other clothes.  You ask if we can use the same plow as we had in Sweden.  I am as ignorant as you for I have not plowed with a Swedish plow here.  You think perhaps that yours is better, but you need not be anxious for that.  In America we have much better than you have there.

You want to know if there are ditches in the fields.  (The area around their home in Spakarp is hilly with stony ground so I think they can't imagine the flat land in Illinois)   There are no ditches--when we plow, we drive around, like you we want to begin on the edge of the field and drive around until we get the field done.  The field may be big or small.  The fields here are square.  All ways are used here in four directions.

It is the same in town here as it is there.  The streets are the same way.  You ask when I stand in America and look around what I can see.  I can see cottages one after another, fields, woods and grass.  Instead of the pine forest you have, there is deciduous forest here.  I have not been far in America, so I have not seen anything of what you have mentioned, but America is large.  You can find everything you want on this side of the ocean.  Here are people and civilization and also wheat fields.  You ask what is the best here.  You can find everything.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

8. 1869

At last--a letter from a woman!  We have only a few but it is nice to hear a woman's experience about coming to America.  This is from Swen Petter's sister, Greta Lovisa Svensdotter, who had come with her husband, Hans Olsson, to America in 1868.  Like the other letters, hers has advice about coming to this country.  Whenever I think of Lovisa, I always picture her looking like Marcia, one of her descendants!
I must add a note about the high mortality of children at this time.  According to genealogy records, Greta Lovisa lost 4 children--Hans died in Sweden in 1866, at 1 year.  After coming to America, Johanna died before 1876 at 9 years,  Hilma (mentioned below) died in 1875 at 7 years and Emmelie died in 1874 at 8 months.  How hard this must have been.  I have read that epidemics of diseases like cholera, etc took many lives.  Better sanitation practices and antibiotics have resulted in a far lower death rate among children.

Greta Lovisa, Andover, IL 1869

I will send an answer to your welcome letter, which arrived last Monday and told of both sorrow and joy.  I will tell you that I think it is best for Oskar (Franz Oskar, another brother) to come here.  He could easily learn the language and he can earn rather much during the summer, so he does not need to work during the winter.  He can go to school and learn English and pay for the food.  You can believe that he will not feel bad.  (I don't think he ever came to America).   

Many thanks for the song you sent to me.  It was nice to get it for I had thought to ask you to send that song to me.  Thanks to God that we have good health.

I want to tell you that uncle is very godly and has plenty of time.  (I am not sure who this is).  He does not need to do anything if he does not want.  He says that you can go to America in spite of being crippled but well.  I think it would be troublesome during the travel, because you have to walk much to the stations.

Our little daughter, Hilma Christina, is very lovely.  She is 10 months old and walks around when she has something to hold on to.  She has never been swaddled because it is too warm here for small children.  You should know that she is very feeble.  She coughs much during the nights.

Sven Petter is very busy.  He works more than he needs, to earn their living.  Sven Petter has a very hard working wife, or I think that he would not be as wealthy as he is.  When he was sick, she cut the hay and piled it on drying racks.  She cut 10 acres of wheat with a scythe and she worked so hard that she became a little sick.  She does not hear so well.  If you come over here you will see that she has much to do.

I will also tell what the women do.  Once a week they wash and they also cut out and make dresses and whatever they need.  Here the tailors do not need to go around in the villages to sew dresses, which are called calico.  A dress can cost 2 dollars or less.

I have thought that it has been very quiet since I came here.  I have thought many times if I could meet you and talk to you again, I would enjoy it so much.

May God grant that we may meet in a better world.  (Irene writes that Lovisa has written many lines with Biblical quotations).

Greetings to parents, siblings and all.

Lovisa Svensdotter

7. 1869

These are parts of undated letters sent by Sven Petter, mostly to Victor about coming to America.  I have dated them 1969 because they follow others about the same subject.  Even though he is ill, Sven Petter is trying to help his siblings.  Johan August has already come to America.

Andover  IL 1869

Something else I want to let you know about is the sale of grain, which is only a little.  I have 18 buyers every day (?).  Sometimes I have 6 horses, 12 cattle and 25-30 pigs.  Every year I need grain to feed horses and pigs.  I have large expenses and small income.  Here we have winter rye, but we mostly use spring wheat.  Broom rye we use to sweep the cottage.

To go from Sweden to here the money shrinks.  If you have four thousand you get 12 hundred in dollars.  I am a little disappointed with Hans money.  He had $200 left after he had bought a few household things and a stove.  He cannot do anything for me next year because he does not know how to drive a couple of horses.

My friends and brothers, I am a poor writer because the sun has burned me so I am shaky and am failing as a man.

You should know that you must promise to spell and read in pounds and you will be here a little quicker to get together wheat so you can soon eat.

Brother Victor is going to Spakarp to think over what to do with the farm.  My younger brothers would not be one day in Sweden if they were thinking right, but I will not force any of them.

S. P. Swenson

I will say that if brother Hans comes alone, I think he will be satisfied and manage well.

Brother Victor, read this little note at last, because I have written much in the two others before, which you perhaps have not understood.  I leave it entirely up to you to go or not to go.  If you have a farm and have settled down, there is some possibility to get enough to make a living, you should stay.  But if you see that it is not enough, do not wait too long so you will be without enough money for the trip.  In that case it will be too late.  Do you understand that?  Nearly all maids and farmhands ought to quickly go.  But I will not force or entice anybody.

Therefore, search your happiness while you are young.  When you get old it is too late.  (I think Sven knows he is dying and is only 37 years old.)

S. P. Swenson

You talk about coming together.  It  can be ok but "the old" should stay and die in Sweden.  It will not pay at all if they come, because Father has bad health.  You have the right to go to a new country.

Sister Lovisa sends her greetings.  She is well.  She is fine looking and has much to eat and something to do.  Her husband, Hans, is laughing constantly and pats her.

Andover undated probably 1869

Now we are caring for two children, one is four and the other is two years but they are not our children.  Their mother died and we are caring for them.

Now I have 70 acres of ground (does he mean planted or his own ground?)   My health is worse and my lung sickness hangs over me, but I can still work some.

Kindly regards to you all and friends.

S. P. Swenson   Carolina Swenson

I will say that if Hans is feeble minded he should not come.

6. January 18 1869

This is a letter to Sven's brother, Jonas Victor who is my great grandfather.  Apparently, Jonas Victor has asked for advice from Sven about coming to America--the pros and cons.  Sven gives him both sides.  He thinks that most of the best land in Illinois has already been taken.  

Andover,  !L 18 January 1869

By request of Victor,  I will give answers and common sense about coming to this country.  I know that you will not believe my letter.  I write the truth and not a lie.  You know that I will not urge you to come here to America.  The reason why I write this, is that when you come here and get to eat enough you will not remember the distress in Sweden.  You will want to go home like sister Lovisa does.  The second day she wanted to go home, to live one day here and one day in Sweden.  Perhaps it would be so for you brother Victor if you come here.

I think that both you and your wife have a good head, knowledge and a little humor.  It is not odd that it is slow to decide.  You are now sitting with cattle, house, home and little of everything.  You want to come here.  You sell everything for nearly nothing.  You take your money, your children and wife and come here.  When you come, you have nothing.  You cannot use your language here.  You are not sure you can learn English or not.  Your money is gone, but you don't feel that so much.  You will miss your Swedish place and your house.  There is why you have sadness.

I say, if you cannot get what you need where you are now, come here in the right time, when you have enough money.  Clothes and food you can get where ever you are.  If you do not demand more, you will be grateful for the little you have.  What we have is a loan from God and we should not search for our treasure here on earth, but rather in Heaven.

My friend and brother Victor, if you come here looking for getting a large estate like many people think, you may be disappointed.  If you come to take the Lord with you and ask for mercy and forgiveness, he will be with you always and give you daily bread.  If you have such thoughts it will be good for you.

You ask how we use the milk we get.  We let the calves suckle and I have 30 pigs who need a little.  The milk is not so great, so we have nothing to boast of.  The land here is going fast and it will be less and less.  Finish and great regards to you.

S. P. Swenson

5. January 21 1868

In this letter Sven Peter is suggesting to his brothers they should come to America while they still have enough money for the trip.  You will notice that all the family go by their second names.  Even my father and some of his siblings also went by their second names.  

Andover 21 January 1868

The letter I received 15 January came too late to me.  A man with the same name has got it out of the post office, and I cannot help you with any money because I had loaned out $350 before and will not get it back until next autumn.

I have heard that it goes backwards for you at Spakarp, so try to sell everything, and my nine siblings could receive about $75  each.  Let both my parents and yours have the rest of the money for needs.  It will be the best to do so while you have something left.  If you stay more years in Spakarp youwill have nothing left.  The more you work, the more you will be be poor.  I do nothing during the whole winter and get on well.  From New Year we have had cold weather but no snow yet.

You,  (Johan) August and (Gustav) Albert want to come here and you can come, but I say that you come too late.  I nearly came too late.  Now I can say that I have money enough to be able to live here.  If you come it will be good for me.  I can give you work, my brothers.  If you can,  come early in the spring to learn the ways, but only buy the ticket to the town of Geneseo,  where you can stay.  At that place there are always many Swedes with corn, so you can go with them to Andover.  You should only take a few clothes in a little trunk.  If you get this letter, let all read it.  As father is sick he should have money for living and Hans and Gottfried can come another year.

A Lovely Greeting.  S. P. Swenson

4. February 19, 1861

In this letter we learn that Sven Peter has contracted tuberculosis and is feeling his mortality as he writes much about religion and God. It is sad to read of this when he and Carolina had worked so hard to be a success.   There was a lot of tuberculosis in America, and most people who got it died.  My father, Victor Skonberg, lost three older siblings to that disease, bringing sorrow to his whole family, especially his mother, Matilda Swenson Skonberg.
Sven Peter also writes about his success and happiness in having a "cottage".

Andover 19 February 1861

To you my dear parents and brothers and sisters and even my fellow-creatures, I wish all the best from now and forever.

My friends, I will tell my situation before I am separated from you.  My health is not good now.  I have been ill since May 10, 1860 and there is no help for my illness--just death.  The illness is tuberculosis.  Only a minority can be cured.  I have been strong and healthy, but it is finished.  As I have written before, in this country you can get ill quickly because the weather changes so often from summer one day to winter the next day  (this was before they knew what caused tuberculosis and often blamed it on the weather)  This is a strain for the working people.  I have worked much during the dry weather, but no longer.  Everything has been in vain.  I cannot get my health back anymore, but I say thanks to God who has given us grace.  (Irene writes "there is so much about God, I cannot write everything").  

I would be happy if I could talk to you face to face for only one hour.  I will try to tell you a little about our clergymen.  We have divine service at 9:00 on Sunday morning until 3:00 in the afternoon and then again in the evening from 7:00 until 11:00 or 12:00.  We also have divine service in the week both three and four times.  (Irene writes "then come several lines about trespasses and forgiveness").

Now I will tell you that I have built a cottage on my land and the cottage is small, not so big, but it is a place for two people.  The cost is only $100 and I am so happy now that I have a home, which is mine.  If I had good health I would have everything I want to have.  I am happy that I did not get ill as soon as I came here.  Now I have so much that I can take care of my myself.  I have property worth $400.

You ask what we use for heating.  We burn coal which we take from the ground and that makes a fire.

There are even sheep in some places here and our calves do no freeze because they nurse.  It is our remedy for keeping them.  If the animals in Sweden were allowed to be outside, they would be much better and not get pains or lice.

Last spring I wrote you before I got ill and sent portraits.  Did this arrive?  I have heard that you have to pay for my letters, but that is not correct because I have paid in full.  I have more money to pay for the letters than you have.  It does not cost me so much.  I can earn enough in one day but you cannot.

We had a good harvest here last summer but we are having a cold winter with much snow.  In Kansas they had a bad harvest--both animals and people are starving.  It has been such dry weather, the ground has been red like fire.

In the South of America there is a war (The Civil War).   But it is not a problem for me. They who want war can make much money, many thousands of dollars from the public.  But nobody is forced to do that.

Irene writes that she cannot find the rest of this letter.

3. March 19, 1860

This is the second latter from Sven Petter.  It is much shorter than the first letter we have.  He tells of sending a "portrait" of themselves.  It would be nice to see it.  There are no pictures of them that survives.

Andover 19 March 1860

Dear Father and Mother and Siblings.  We wish you everything good.  While it is time I send some lines with a person who is going to Sweden this week.

We will tell you that we have good health until now.  It is a good advantage.

I will send you our portraits so you can know us as when cannot see each other face to face.  We send it as a memory.  When it comes to you, look at it closely and then send the other half to my parent-in-law, but be careful about the portraits.  We hope it will go quickly to my parents-in-law.  Please try to do as I want, if that is possible.

My time for writing is short, so I can not tell you any details.  We live on our place still and are satisfied and glad with our exchange.  We have provided much since we came here.  We have bought ground, which I wrote in the last letter and we still have our cattle.  We have 7 cattle and oxen today and I have thought if I have had this farm in Sweden I should be a rich man.

My friends, my time is short so I finish my letter for this time with a kindly greeting to you all.

Sven Petter Svenson and Carolina Andersdotter.
I ask for an answer if you had not sent that before.

Monday, August 22, 2011

2. Swenson Family in Sweden

Now that you have met Sven Peter Swenson, let me introduce the whole family that was living in Sweden or had emigrated to America at the time of the letters.

Father--Sven Jonsson  born Aug 5 1805 and died Nov 16, 1887
Mother-Greta Pehrsdotter  born Nov 19 1811 and died March 13 1904

Children:Anna Sofia Swensdotter born April 3, 1831  died Jan 18, 1934  (she lived to be 103 years old)
              Sven Petter Swenson born Jan 18 , 1833   died March 1870   Immigrated in 1857
              Jonas Victor Swenson born Oct 1, 1835   died Mar 13, 1933  Immigrated in 1870
              Hans Alfred Swenson born Feb 9, 1838   Died in 1870   Immigrated in 1870
              Greta Lovisa Swensdotter  born May 21, 1840  Immigrated in 1868
              Kristina Charlotta Swensdotter  born Oct 1842
              Johan August Swenson  born Mar 24, 1836  Immigrated in 1868
              Gustav Albert Swenson  born Spet 17, 1848  died April 15, 1935
              Gottfried Swenson  born Sept 12, 1851   died  Feb 19, 1921
              Frans Oskar Swenson   born May 22, 1856

As you can see five of the siblings came to America.  Gustav Albert came to visit Jonas Victor for a short time and then returned to Sweden.
The writers of the Letters to Spakarp are Sven Petter Swenson, Carolina Swenson, Greta Lovisa Swenson Olsson, Jonas Victor Swenson, Hans Alfred Swenson and Johan August Swenson.

1. September 1859 Part 3

This is the last part of  the letter.  Sven Peter tells more about life, his family and coming here, etc.

I have thought much about you, my siblings.  I know your living earnings in Sweden.  I see what should be better for you, but I will not say that you should come over here.  The parents would be worried and our father would not be well here.  The person who comes over must have good health for it demands it here.  So you had better stay where you are as long as you can.  You must understand how to do it before you try to come here.

I understand that brother Hans has to go to the military two years in succession.  We do not know about that here, not any war  or military service.  Here there are no supermen, you are as you are.

We have no names of the farm.  The man's name is on the farm.  What we call Andover is a town where we post our letters.  I live close to the town so I can see it every day.  When you write, let me know if there is postal service between Vimmerby or Svinhult or some other place, so you could receive the letter faster.

I hear it has been very hot and dry in Sweden.  We have had the same here, but we have got a good harvest in spite of that.  I also hear that Lovisa (his sister) is getting married and will live in Hamra.  Victor  (his brother) already has two heirs.  I have been married nearly as long as Victor, but I have no heir.  Still no child is on our way.  My wife send a patch of a quilt she is making for Lovisa so you can see what it is like.  She has sewn four.  We cannot come to the wedding, Lovisa.  We wish you a happy marriage.

Now, my sisters and brothers I have in a few words told you about how we are and a little about America.  I have more to tell but my work is waiting.  I only will say some words to all of you.  We have a fight in this world, but let us not fight in vain and remember the Heavenly Father and pray about help from Him.  The Lord bless us and save us forever.  Amen

Kindest regards to relatives and friends and thousands regards from us.

Sven P Svenson and Carolina Andersdotter.

1. September 1859 Part 2

In this part Sven writes about the housing, the animals, the weather and the grains.  Rye bread is the common bread in Sweden and immigrants had to get used to using wheat.  It is still the custom in Sweden to eat 5 meals a day.  Immigrants had a difficult time changing to 3 meals a day in America.  Our experience in Sweden is that they drink even more coffee than we do!  He is becoming satisfied.

We are not so "circumstantial", here is only a "cottage" for horses.  They who have money can build good enough, but they who have not money have to support themselves any way they can.  There are deals to buy, but we live many hundred miles from there.  They who have not money have not much to build for.  The farm animals are freezing much during the winter.  They have no protection against the cold. It is colder here than in Sweden.  But the winter is not so long, only 4 months.  The sky is much lower here.  The sun "works" more and it is big thunderstorm here.  Our grain we get during the spring.  We cannot cultivate rye wintertime because the weather changes so much, no snow on the ground and cold wind.  The roots get broken off.  Certainly somebody can get winter wheat here, but it is not many years you can get rye.  If you could that would be much better.  The climate here is so intense during the summer.

The food is good but not enough.  Those who come lose much of their strength.  They use too much coffee here.  Breakfast and supper are not used here (?).

I will let you know that you can buy land, but to build and put up fence costs three times more than to buy land.  We need to earn money.  You need money for everything, but the clothes are not so expensive here as in Sweden.  The reason is that they use sewing-machines.  They do nearly everything with a machine.  We under open sky can thresh 100 barrels a day or more and that machine both threshes and shucks at the same time.

The first letter I wrote you I thought I was more satisfied here.  If you shall say the truth it was quickly dreary when we came here.  At least a year you must be here for getting accustomed to the country.  Now I should not want to go back in any way, but of course it would be nice to speak to you for a week but not longer.  I have much to tell which I cannot describe.

Many people have gone from Andover to Kansas, but they soon come back.  They have not commended Kansas.  I think they scantily have religion or clergyman.  We have both here.  America is large, many times larger than Sweden, but I think that the best land is here.  In Kansas the price of land is good compared to here.  It does not matter.  I am so satisfied with the land I have.  I only want to be able to have a cottage but I am happy.

1. September 1859 Part 1

Sven Peter Svenson and his wife Carolina Andersdotter emigrated to America in 1857.  He is the oldest son of Swen Johnsson and Great Pehrsdotter.  (In Sweden for many years, the child took the father's first name and added son for the boys and dotter for the girls.  Women kept their maiden names)
This seems to be the second letter he wrote to his family in Spakrparp and he mentions having received two from them.  We do not have the first letter.  This part of the letter tells about how things are for them and the cost of living here. He has concern for his father's health.  Times were hard in Sweden in these years and I think there was some hunger. Good health was a constant concern.
This letter shows that Sven and Carolina are ambitious and successful in getting a good start in America.
It is interesting to note that his wife seems to have some property of her own.  Roselyn

Andover 24, September 1859.
My dear parents, siblings, relatives and friends.  I wish you everything good.  I will with much gratitude answer your letters.  The first arrived 27 February 1859, which told that you were alive and had the health. I say Thank You God for the same for us.  The second letter came to me 22 September 1859.  It was nice to hear about you, but not so pleasure to hear that you were bad in different ways.  Such a pain and hardship that Father now was more ill than when I was home.  I am sorry for that, and who can work, I am so far away and cannot help you.  You have had so much care for me.

Perhaps you think that I have forgotten you, but now I will tell why it was such a long time before I write.  I have been working with buying a piece of land.  Now I have bought 10 acres of land, so I can tell you that I am so happy with 10 acres of land I have my perfect food.  I have paid 100 dollars for that corresponding to 400 Rdr in Sweden.

I have had good health the whole summer so I have earned $100 off the land and we have some dollars left.  My wife has also had a little income from a cow and a calf for the summer and a little of everything, so we are living at the same place as the last year and we will stay here over the winter for we are feeling much agreed with our master.  I have got much since I wrote the last time, when it was bad and heavy.  Now the light begins to shine over us, everything gets better and better.  We are very happy because we know America.

 I can tell that we have two cows, three heifers, two pigs and also fowls and it is a great value here because you earn much with having farm animals.  This winter if God gives me the health I will tame my first bullocks.

I will with a few words answer our request how prices are here.  Wood, carriages and tools are immoderately expensive.  A complete log here costs here $100, a carriage with four wheels several hundred dollars, a room in town one dollar for a week, in the country 25 cents.  We can buy 40 acres of land in built or unbuilt area for $1,000 and it supports six persons.

About The Letters

An original letter written in 1861
Click on picture to enlarge
These letters were found in Spakarp, Sweden, home of the Swenson Family since 1850.  Rune and Irene Elofsson scanned them all and have been translating them from the old faded Swedish script for several years.  All of the letters are written to someone living in Spakarp.  Irene is a Swenson descendant and Rune is an expert in genealogy in Sweden.  Since the letters were not "arranged" in any order, we have received them piecemeal as they picked one out to translate.  Slowly, we are putting together the puzzle of our Swenson ancestors who came to America.  We owe much gratitude to Irene and Rune for their hard work that makes it possible for us to read these letters today.

These are not memoirs, or memories, or made up stories of what somebody may have thought was happening.  These are letters written at the time about what they were doing, thinking, and their impressions of life here as they found it.  It was not always easy--at times it was quite difficult.  Some of the letters give advice to others considering the move to America, telling about all the hardships they may face.  Many Swedes who came to America went back home a few years later.  Leaving Sweden to come to America was not for the weak of heart or body.  And this was true for all immigrants from all countries.  Only the strong and persistent survived.  We, their descendants, benefit from their hard work.

As you read the letters, put yourself in their places.  Most of them never returned home to Sweden again, never saw their parents, other family members or friends they left behind.  Jonas Victor frequently asks how his parents are, especially his mother.  There were no telephones, email or other communication helps.  Letters took a long time to travel so they heard of any deaths many weeks later.  He asks about the "bog in Spakarp" and what they are planting there.  He inquires about old neighbors and relatives--about marriages, etc.

I hope these letters give you a new respect for your pioneer ancestors who came here to begin a new life.