The Condor's Cargo

The Condor arrived in New York harbor on November 9, 1850. It had departed from the eastern Swedish seaport of Gavle. As so many of these ships from Gavle, it brought another load of Swedes hoping for a better life in America. One such Swede was listed as ''Ol. Olsson,'' age 12, on the Condor's passenger list. He was, in fact, Olof Eriksson, who was to call himself Olof Krans in America. Olof Krans was traveling with his family, bound for Bishop Hill. The received their papers in Vasteras on June 29, 1850, allowing them to leave Sweden. Olof Krans,and his several of his fellow passengers, also on the way to central Illinois, would shape a new life and a new land.

Olof's father was listed as E. Olsson, age 39, and his mother as B. Olsson, also 39. The father, Erik Olsson was a farmer from Salja in Nora Parish. He was born there on April 9, 1811. He married Beata Pehrsdotter. She was born in Nordmyra, in Nora Parish. They came to America with their 6 children, ranging from age 12 years to 6 months. Besides Olof, there were Peter, Carin, Erik, Anders, and the 6-month-old daughter, listed as ''St. Olsson.''

Peter (Olsson) Eriksson, who became known as Peter Krans in Bishop Hill, was born in Salja, October 7, 1840. He became a farmer in Galva, Ill. after the failure of the Bishop Hill settlement. Erik, another brother, also settled in Bishop Hill, owning 95 acres. He served during the Civil War.

The best known of these children was Olof Krans, who was born in Salja, November 2, 1838. He was part of Bishop Hill, until 1861, when he enlisted in Company D of the 57th Illinois Volunteer Regiment, serving in the Civil War. On June 3, 1862, he was discharged for disability. He moved to Galesburg where he, luckily, learned how to become a sign painter.

In 1867, Olof Krans moved to Galva (named for the Swedish seaport he left some 17 years earlier), and set up his business there. Of course, as most folks know who have visited or read about Bishop Hill, Olof used his simple painting style to record, mostly from memory, much of early Bishop Hill life. He also painted a large number of portraits of members of Bishop Hill. His ''primitive'' paintings help document life in early Bishop Hill and those who settled there after leaving all they knew, back home in Sweden. In 1910, he painted the transition from one world to the other, by depicting the Condor on a turbulent Atlantic.

Of course, by 1850, the Olssons, a.k.a., Eriksson, a.k.a., Krans, were not the only Swedes on the Condor bound for Bishop Hill or central Illinois. On board was also one ''J. Crannal'' who was probably Johan Granat. Johan was a tailor from Sorbo in Nora Parish. He received his papers in Vasteras on June 29, 1850. He also settled in Bishop Hill. He married Elizabeth Danielson at Bishop Hill and moved first to Altona, and later to Galesburg, where he was living in 1880.

Two sisters on board the Condor, Ingeborg Mattsdotter and Anna Mattsdotter, were recorded on the ships list as ''Jan Matson'' and ''A. Matson.'' They were from Nordanaker in Jarna Parish in Kopparber lan. They had received their papers May 18, 1850 in Falun. While living in Norrland, they became followers of Erik Jannson and both moved to Bishop Hill. Anna died in Cambridge, Ill. 1911.

Anders Andersson was a farmer of Bro in Nora Parish. He also received his papers on June 29, 1850 in Vasteras. He sailed on the Condor, with his wife and five children, bound for Bishop Hill. He was 41 and his wife was 39. One son, Andrew Andersson, Jr., born in Nora on July 29, 1842, was to settle in Galva, where he owned 105 acres.

Anders Berglof, listed as ''A. Berglof'' age 30, also placed his life and future on board the Condor. He was a tailor from Hogsbo in Nora Parish. He received his papers in Vasteras on July 25, 1850. In Bishop Hill, he was known as Andrew Barlow. He married Elizabeth Janson in Henry County on September 21, 1851. In the mid-1850s, he left Bishop Hill for Kewanee where he worked as a tailor and saddler. After moving around in Nebraska and Iowa, he came back to Bishop Hill and tried farming and then merchandising.

Jan Keijser, known as John Chaiser in Bishop Hill, left a life of a military man, to sail across the Atlantic on the Condor. The less-than Swedish surname may well have been the result of his military service. Frequently last names were arbitrarily changed to ease military record-keeping problems. He was born in Sundbro in Balinge Parish on December 5, 1813 and was 37 when he left Sweden. He was married to Anna Cajsa Pehrsdotter who was 33 when they sailed on the Condor with their 3 children, Catharina Agneta, Anders, and Jan Peter. Anders, after settling in Bishop Hill with his parents, learned the typographic trade. Ultimately, he became the owner of a Swedish newspaper in Chicago, called Svensk-amerikanska folket. Olof Krans painted a portrait of Andrew Chaiser. It was Andrew's newspaper that was first in publishing one of Olof's paintings. The portrait is reproduced in George Swank's ''Painter Krans of Bishop Hill Colony.''

Anders' brother, Jan Peter Keijser, became known as John Peter Chaiser. John also settled in Bishop Hill with his family. John married Betsey C. Linbeck on May 24, 1848. After the failure of Bishop Hill, he moved to Moline but returned to Bishop Hill in 1868 to work in a store. He studied at the Galesburg Commercial College in Galesburg and was appointed stationmaster in Bishop Hill.

Another Anders, Anders Rosenberg, age 42, sailed on the Condor. He was to settle in or near Bishop Hill and in 1858, was associated with the Swedish Methodist Church in Victoria. He received his papers in Uppsala on June 26, 1846. The papers included his wife and his son, but they apparently did not join him on the Condor.

The Condor's passenger list was not unusual for a ship leaving Gavle in the period of 1846 to 1850. Many of the ships had large numbers of passengers bound for Bishop Hill or for the surrounding area. I do not know whether the Condor's passengers bound for Bishop Hill traveled across from New York to Illinois as a group, or whether they found their own way.

However, Bishop Hill and those of us who are interested in the Swedish role in settling central Illinois, are lucky that among the Condors' cargo was a young lad who would call himself Olof Krans. His painting helped record life in early Bishop Hill, both by subject matter and by style.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online February 2, 2000

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