Swedish Roots, Illinois Soil - Part III

by Terry Hogan

Contrary to the impression of the first two parts, not all Swedes who came to Illinois were headed for Bishop Hill. Some were. Of those, some stayed and some did not. A few others, who said they were going to Bishop Hill, changed in mid-course, and took up residence elsewhere. One of those who had a change in heart was a brother of Erik Jansson, the leader of Bishop Hill. But a review of the Charlotte's passenger list, as augmented by the research of Nils Olsson (1967), shows that many of the Charlotte's passengers were bound for Bishop Hill. The ship Solide brought many more Swedes to American shores, on the way to Bishop Hill. Many of these were from Alfta Parish.

A review of these ships' manifests, relying upon the hard work of Nils Olsson (1967), shows a pattern. Jansson's followers, who were heading for Bishop Hill, tended to travel in clusters, heavily populating some ships, while many other ships had few or no sect members as passengers. This makes sense, as there was safety in numbers when traveling with folks sharing the same language, the same beliefs. Probably many were neighbors. And this brings me to the second obvious point. Many of the Janssonists sailing for Bishop Hill were from the same area of Sweden. And many of these traveled together.

This clustering of travel creates an opportunity for genealogists. If a genealogist knows part of an ancestor's history, a hypothesis can be made to test by research. For example, if you know when the ancestor arrived at Bishop Hill, you can backtrack to New York Harbor where most of the Swedes of that period arrived. You can then search passenger manifest records (starting with Olsson's excellent book). If you know where an ancestor came from, but not when, you can backtrack through the manifest records and look for ships with a high incidence of passengers from the same parish. If you find a "John Johnsson" (or whomever), it may not be "yours" but it may be a good one to spend some research on. Look on the ship's manifest and see if the wife's name, or children's names match or resemble the names that you have. If that doesn't work, check out the birth dates and ages. Swedes were notoriously uncommitted to their surnames. For example, one of my Swedish lines was "Olofsson" (Olsson) in Sweden, but ended up as "Williamson" in Wataga, Illinois.

Charlotte, September 15, 1846 (continued from Part II)

The Charlotte arrived in New York Harbor on September 15, 1846, sailing from Stockholm. Discussion of some of its passengers began in Part II of this series.

Sara Ersdotter, widow from Osterunda sailed on the Charlotte. She was the daughter of Erik Larsson, a farmer, and Maja Ersdotter. She had been married to Jan Mattsson who was a farmer in Klockaregarden in Osterunda. Among other things, she was the mother of the Bishop Hill sect leader, Erik Jansson. Oddly enough, history seems to be confused on whether she died during the crossing or not. The ship's manifest does not indicate whether she survived the sea journey. But it has been reported elsewhere that she had.

Also on the Charlotte, were two brothers of the sect's leader, Erik Jansson. Jan Jansson, his wife, and their children traveled to America to join the Bishop Hill colony. However, Jan Jansson and his family stopped in Chicago and did not go to Bishop Hill. He joined the St. Ansgarius Church. His wife, Sara Beata Sjogren died of cholera.

The other brother was Pehr Jansson, who was reported to have been born in Biskopskulla (origin of the name Bishop Hill) Parish in Uppsala lan on July 14, 1815. He was a widower by the time he set sail on the Charlotte. His two children accompanied him. He did go to Bishop Hill. After the death of his brother, he was one of the colony's trustees.

Anders Thorsell was a shoemaker and sailed away from home on the Charlotte. He married Brita Norling in Bishop Hill on July 30, 1848. They left Bishop Hill and settled in Galesburg, where their daughter, Mary, was born on August 4, 1851. Anders Thorsell became a successful shoemaker in Galesburg. However, it is reported that in later life, he was "beset by personal difficulties". He died in Galesburg in 1870.

Solide, October 14, 1846

The Solide left the Swedish seaport of Gavle (origin of the name "Galva") and arrived in New York Harbor on October 14, 1846. On board was "Olof Johansson" according to the ship's passenger manifest. Olof Jonsson was born in Soderala Parish in 1820. He left Sweden with his wife, Kerstin Jonsdotter (shown as "Christina Johansson" on the manifest), and their year old daughter, Margta Johansson. Olof Jonsson became one of the trustees of Bishop Hill. He died in Galva, Illinois on July 18, 1870.

Another noteworthy passenger on the Solide was Sven Svensson. Sven was born in Valla in Soderala Parish on May 28, 1825. Upon arriving in America, he, like so many others aboard the Solide, went to Bishop Hill. Sven became the general accountant for the colony and became the manager of the communal store. He was also one of the trustees for the colony. When the colony finally broke up, Sven and another trustee, Jacob Jacobsson, became partners in the Bishop Hill General Store. He also became the Bishop Hill postmaster. On July 2, 1848, Sven married Christina Gabrielsson. Sven died in Bishop Hill on March 24, 1907.

Nils Gustaf Hallander was also on the Solide. On the passenger manifest, he was listed as "N. G. Hollander". Nils also went to Bishop Hill. In 1848, Erik Jansson appoint Hallander to be in charge of a group of Bishop Hill sect members who were sent to the island at Rock Island. They were sent to get away from the cholera that was killing so many of the sect's members in 1848. Among those who fled Bishop Hill were Jansson and his wife. Jansson's wife died of cholera at Rock Island.

Olof Jonsson Strom was a farmer in Alfta Parish. He left Sweden with his family on board the Solide and settled in Henry County. Accompanying him on the Solide, were Margta Strom, his wife; and their children Jonas, age 3; Karin age 10; and Margta, age 8. An Olof Strom became an American citizen on October 12, 1859.

Lars Anderson and his family were on the Solide, and they were also from Alfta Parish. Lars, age 30, his wife Anna, age 33, and their six children, ranging from 1 to 10, left their home to join the religious experiment at Bishop Hill.

Jonan Johansson Ronnqvist left Alfa Parish with his family, as well. The Solide appears to have made a dent on the population of the parish. Jonan, age 44, traveled with his wife, Kristen (Christina Nilsdotter), age 32 and their children Nils, Pehr, Margareta ("Martha" on the manifest). They settled in Bishop Hill where Jonan became a shoemaker and his wife became a school teacher at Red Oak Grove. Jonan became a American citizen in Henry County on May 6, 1857. He died in Henry County on August 31, 1882. His son, Nils Ronnqvist was a member of the Bishop Hill sect until 1860. He moved to Galva (Illinois) and started a business. He received his citizenship papers in Henry County on October 12, 1859.

Anders Jonsson Hjelm had been a soldier in the Halsinge Regiment. He too was from Alfta Parish and boarded Solide for America with his wife, Anna Nilsdotter and their children. They settled in Victoria, Illinois where he helped establish the Swedish Methodist Church in 1846.(For more on the Victoria Swedish Methodist Church, see Part 1 of this series). On February 3, 1847, they had another daughter, Nancy, born in Victoria.

Pehr Pehrsson, from Bollnas Parish, traveled with his wife, his children, and his mother-in-law. They were followers of Jansson. His father-in-law did not accompany his wife, daughter, and grandchildren to Bishop Hill. Pehr also had a sister-in-law, Margta Pehrsdotter, wife of Erik Strom, who joined them on the voyage to America. Margta brought her children but left her husband behind in Bollnas. The story of families breaking apart, with some going to Bishop Hill and some staying behind in Sweden was not all that uncommon. It is likely that this was part of the bitterness and conflict that is sometimes found in the stories of Bishop Hill and the homeland ("hemlandet").

Others aboard the Solide who traveled to Bishop Hill included Johan Johansson Woxen, his wife, Anna Elisabeth Johansdotter and their two daughters, Johanna Carolina and Anna Sophia. Note that "Woxen" appears as "Wakson" on the ship's manifest - another one of the bothersome problems during genealogical research. Both daughters married in Bishop Hill, with the ceremony being performed by Erik Jansson.

Sven Giljam, age 28, a carpenter from Voxna Parish in Sweden, arrived in Bishop Hill with his wife, Anna Margareta Larsdotter, age 36, and their infant son, Sven. In Bishop Hill, Sven Giljam became an undertaker. He died September 3, 1879.

Note: Given the limitations of my software, or perhaps my ability to use it, I cannot faithfully reproduce Swedish spellings. For example, the Swedish name "Strom" would have two "dots" over the "o". For those seeking the Swedish version, refer to Nils Olsson's book (see below). For those seeking the Swedish version, refer to Nils Olsson's book (see below). Most of the information for this article was gleamed from Olsson's research, which was an extraordinary gift to genealogists.


Olsson, Nils. 1967. Swedish Passenger Arrivals in New York, 1820- 1850. Swedish Pioneer Historical Society. Chicago.

Pinzke, Nancy Lindberg. 1982. Faces of Utopia, A Bishop Hill Family Album. Chicago.

Sandburg, Carl. 1953. Always the Young Strangers. Harcourt, Brace and Company. New York.

Swank, George. 1965. Bishop Hill, Swedish- American Showcase.

Swank, George. 1976. Painter Krans of Bishop Hill Colony. Galvaland Press. Galva, Illinois.