Swedish Roots, Illinois Soil Part IV

by Terry Hogan

Emigrants seldom had a pleasant journey from the old country to the new country, in the early and mid-1800's. Overcrowding, inadequate accommodations and poor sanitation usually provided an opportunity for diseases to run wild among the passengers. Some emigrants who left the old country never lived to see the new. Sometimes it was a thinning out of the passenger list by disease. Sometimes it was the loss of the entire ship by storm. It was the time of wooden sailing ships - small, relatively fragile, and wholly dependent upon the wind to get them where they wanted to go.

These travelers were mostly rural Swedes whose lives and knowledge, for the most part, were limited to a few days travel by horsepower from home. It makes you wonder. Were they incredibly brave? Were they driven by no alternative? Or did they just not know what might lay ahead? I suppose the answer, as it is in many cases, is "yes". They were not particularly knowledgeable of the outside world; they were driven by economic need; and they probably were brave, or at least fatalistic - "It's in God's hands now." They also probably did not fully appreciate the task they undertook.

However, some Swedes were probably misled, intentionally, or through not wanting to write a "bad letter" home. Many letters from America "back home" spoke of the cheap land, the freedom, the ability to succeed if you worked hard. Not much was said of the dangers of the ocean and disease. These so-called "American letters" back home were read aloud to neighbors or passed around. For this reason, it is not surprising that ships seemed to carry Swedish neighborhoods. For many Swedes, it was the promise of a new and better life, presenting opportunities not possible in Sweden. For those going to Bishop HiIl, they were driven by religious conviction and the promise of religious freedom.

But for whatever their reason, they left Sweden willingly, often bringing infant children or pregnant wives onto these little wooden ships that sailed at the whim of the wind.

Caroline, October 24, 1846

The Caroline arrived in New York Harbor on October 24, 1846. It had sailed from Stockholm. Although many ships undoubtedly had their share of adventures, lost to history mostly, it is noted that the Caroline arrived at New York with the assistance of the French Brig of War Vigilance. The Vigilance brought it into the harbor.

Catharina Lovisa Sahlin sailed on the Caroline and experienced whatever trouble befell it. Nils Olsson (1967) speculates that she was probably "Carin Sallin" who married Andreas Berglund in Henry County, Illinois on July 23, 1848.

Also on board the Caroline was "James Wickstrom", age 35, who was listed as a soldier. With him was his wife, Brita Hansdotter, age 35, and two sons and two daughters. This was probably Jonas Wikstrom, a soldier in the Halsinge Regiment from Alfta Parish. His wife was Brita Hansdotter. There was a "J. Wickstroem," a laborer, living in Bishop Hill with his wife and three children in 1850.

Also, with a degree of speculation, Nils Olsson (1967) notes that "Olle Olsson" and his family who appears on the Caroline's passenger list, may be "Oleve Olson" a Knox County farmer. Olle's wife was named "Brita" and the Knox County "Oleve" was married to "Brete". (Such are the difficulties that we genealogists with Swedish ancestors must endure).

Ingrid Olofsdotter, wife of Jonas Hedsund, and their daughter traveled on board the Caroline. Mother and daughter went to Bishop Hill and husband/father stayed in Sweden. It is recorded that mother and daughter emigrated in 1846 "deluded by the teachings of Erik Jansson" (Olsson, 1967). Their daughter, Christina was shown on the ship's manifest to be 12 years old.

Fritz, December 9, 1846

The Fritz sailed from Stockholm and arrived in New York on December 9, 1846, with approximately 117 passengers. Many of the Swedes were from Bollnas and Alfta parishes. There were even some from Nybo, in Jarvso Parish where my own Olsson/Olofsson/Williamson family branch lived. Many of the passengers were bound for Illinois. There were too many to recount all here.

However, notable among the Fritz passenger list was Jacob Jacobsson Soderholm, servant, who received his papers in Gavle on June 19, 1846. It appears this is the same individual who arrived in Bishop Hill in 1846. Soderholm married Helen Pehrsson in Henry County, Illinois on June 25, 1848. In future years, he would become one of the seven trustees of the Bishop Hill colony. With the collapse of the colony, Soderholm became a partner with Sven Svensson, who also was a trustee. They took over and operated the general store in Bishop Hill. Sven Svensson had arrived in America on the Solide (See Part III of this series for more on Sven Svensson).

Another noteworthy passenger on the Fritz was Jon Erson (listed as Jonas Ersson on the manifest). As a Janssonist, he appears to have been involved in a "book burning" in Bollnas Parish. These book burnings did little to help Erik Jansson's movement in Sweden.

Among the Fritz passengers known or believed to have settled at Bishop Hill, or nearby were, Erik Andersson and his family, of Alfta Parish; Andeers and Lars Kihlstrom, brothers; and Per (Peter) Olof Brundin and his wife Carin who were living in Knox County by 1850.

Sophia, January 7, 1847

The Sophia left the Swedish seaport of Gavle in the dead of winter, arriving in New York on January 7, 1847. It must have been a bitterly cold experience in the small Sophia, riding the swells of the January Atlantic.

Among the Sophia passengers were Nils Hedstrom, son of Anders Nilsson Hedstrom. Both were from Alfta Parish. By 1850, Nils Hedstrom, born in Alfta on December 21, 1821, was living in Galesburg and working as a tailor. He was married with one daughter. Nils and his wife were charter members of the Swedish Methodist Church in Galesburg.

A brother of Nils, Olof Hedstrom was also on the Sophia. Like Nils, he came to Galesburg. However, the gold fields of California called to Olof and eleven other Swedes, who left Galesburg to make their fortunes out West. Olof Hedstrom returned in July 1851, and settled in nearby Victoria, Illinois.

New York, March 20, 1847

The sailing ship, New York, left Sweden from the seaport town of Gavle, and arrived in New York on March 20, 1847. Gavle was the source of the name, Galva, Illinois, located near Bishop Hill. Many of the Swedes who sailed to America left from Gavle. The New York was one of those vessels that was teeming with Janssonists, heading for Bishop Hill. Space does not allow a full discussion of all those on board.

One such Swede was Jonas Eriksson from Soderala Parish, He is believed to be the same Jonas Eriksson who was married to a woman who left Sweden in 1845 on board a ship that was lost near Oregrund. She was rescued and went on to Bishop Hill. Jonas became one of the seven trustees for the Bishop Hill colony in 1853. When Bishop Hill failed, Jonas Eriksson moved to Galva, Illinois, where he died.

Anders Olsson Berglund was also on board the New York. He traveled to Bishop Hill and became the Colony's chief administrator in the days immediately following the shooting death (May 13, 1850) of Erik Jansson. He held that position until Jonas Olsson made his long trip from California, sailing around the coast to the Isthmus of Panama, traveling across the Isthmus and then by boat to New Orleans and then by river steamer up the Mississippi. As you may remember from an Part II of this series, Jansson had sent Jonas Olsson and eight others to California on March 28, 1850 to make money for Bishop Hill. Some time after Olsson's return, Anders Berglund apparently broke with the colony, became a member of the Swedish Methodist Church, and served as its preacher.

Anders Olsson Berglund had a son, named Erik Berglund, who also came over on the New York. He was two years old, according to the ship's passengers manifest. Erik Berglund, who changed the spelling to "Bergland", volunteered for the Civil War and found success. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, and then promoted to first lieutenant after the Battle of Shiloh. He attended West Point Military Academy, being the first Swede to attend. After graduation, he made the military his career.

On board the New York was another example where a family was broken apart, due to divergent views about Erik Jansson. Carin Jonsdotter and a daughter were on board. They were following after two other daughters who had previously emigrated. They were followers of Erik Jansson. The husband/father, Jon Ersson of Alfta Parish stayed behind in Sweden. He gave his approval to allow his wife and daughter to leave Sweden. His predicament was recorded for all time by the Reverend Anders Oldsberg. Oldsberg wrote that he (Jon Ersson) "had no other choice, since the two of them, deluded by the Erik Jansson heresies now demanded with fanatical zeal to follow the rest of the sect's adherents to America" (Nils Olsson, 1967).

One alleged Swede who was on board the New York, bore the unusual name of Napoleon Kase. The passenger manifest lists him as 26 years old and a farmer. The Swedish newspaper created and first published in Galesburg, the Hemlandet (Homeland), published a query for Napoleon Kase on July 18, 1856. Kase was asked by the notice, to contact the Hemlandet's editor in Galesburg, concerning an inheritance in Halsingborg, Sweden.

Note: Given the limitations of my software, 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.

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

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