Journey to the Promised Land.
This is the story of Per Johan and Hulda Anderson and the journey that forever changed their life, and mine.
I’m Carl Nelson, a great grandson born and raised in Portland, Oregon.
They came from all of Sweden to the promised land, some made the journey across the continent—here is one family’s tale, from Styrshult to Oregon.
I’m still not exactly sure what sets the Swedish-American apart from the regular main-stream American, but I had an experience that made that part of me much more real.
..In 2004, I had the privilege of traveling to Sweden and visiting my great grandparents' ancestral homes. In doing that I visited Styrshult farm that was the boyhood home of Per Johan. It still very much resembles the farm they created when they came to America. In a quite rural setting, Styrshult lies just across a small creek from the old churchyard. With only a little imagination, I could hear the church bell pealing across the pastoral Swedish countryside and see young Per Johan walking with his mother, Sara Elisabeth, through the fields, across the creek and into the church. To the end, Per Johan (Morfar to us kids) and Hulda (Mormor) held closely their religious beliefs.
I was never privileged to know Per Johan, but I know that the family speaks of him with great respect; and the family was revered in the community.
Their daughter Sara was my maternal grandmother, a role model for us ten grandchildren.
Their’s was a story of stepping out into a vastly uncertain future, working from dawn to dusk, holding family tightly and, piece by piece, shaping a life to be admired. We who follow owe them very much.
From the household examines (husförhörslängd) for 1861-68, we know that Anders and Sara Peterson moved to the farm at Styrshult, Ljunghem from Warola (later Varola, now Värås) in 1865. Peterson bought a 3/16 mantal, a portion of the complete original farm, situated across the creek from Ljunghem’s churchyard, which he farmed. He seemed to move within surrounding parishes, which could mean that he worked increasingly responsible positions at mills. He also most likely worked a mill on the farm.
The couple had 13 children (10 sons and 3 daughters), a common number to have in Sweden at the time. Per Johan was born July 25, 1855; he was the second son of Anders and Sara, meaning that the farm would one day go to the older brother. The rest of the children needed to find another way to earn their living.
The Promised Land
This was a critical period in Swedish history when a very slow change from pure agricultural to pre-industrial society was making it very difficult for non-farming families to earn their living.
At the time Swedes heard about a country far away, called the Promised Land, where anybody with courage and determination could make a dream come true. This was the period of “America Fever” with hot promises of ample land through the Homestead Act, providing cheap or free land if the settlers would clear at least some acres and put them into production and thus work for the common man.
From the household examines for 1876-83, we know that Per Johan immigrated to America on April 6, 1882. Per Johan was not a Pettersson but was listed as Andersson and later Anderson, due to the Swedish system of patronymics as he was the son of Anders (Anderson).
He most likely departed to America through Gothenburg via Liverpool, England, and landed in New York for further travel to his final destination, Lohrville, Iowa. Very little is documented from this journey as this was for many immigrants a very difficult, cramped, unclean and tiresome journey in the late 1800’s.
After arriving in Lohrville in 1882, he worked in farming activities for 15 years. During his life there he met his future wife Hulda Larson, daughter of Gustav Larson, a miller in the Svenstorp area between Skövde and Warola, indicating that they lived within seven miles of each other in Sweden. Hulda arrived in America in 1886.
Per Johan and Hulda were married on June 8, 1890 and were members of Skaraborg Lutheran Church of Calhoun, Iowa. From the “letter of dismission” we know he had become a member of the church on August 27, 1882. She became a member on December 29, 1889. They had five children during the period 1892-1901 (Ernst, Sara, Alma, Carl and John), all of them baptized there.
“Be it remembered. That at a term of the District Court holden in and for said County in the Court House therein on the 10th day of October in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eighty Eight, when P.J. Anderson, a native of Sweden to be admitted to become a Citizen Of The United States.”
This is the magic moment that all immigrants are waiting for, and so did Per Johan Anderson.
To the west coast
Per Johan had an uncle who worked as a logger for the Benson Timber Co. in Oregon, which was logging in the Clatskanie area, and Per Johan moved the family to Longview, WA, at the behest of his uncle. His uncle had land in Longview and he sold Per Johan and his brother August some acreage.
Per Johan and Hulda built a farm along Cameron Creek in Longview, where they earned their living though logging, first in Clatskanie and later near Longview.
Per Johan also built a “Psaltar,” a stringed instrument played with bow, and sang hymns. Their oldest son Ernst began working at age 10 and continued their logging business.
At the end
Per Johan and Hulda Anderson ended their long journey from Ljunghem in Skaraborg County, Sweden to their farm along Cameron Creek, Longview, WA, and are buried at the Bunker Hill cemetery in Longview.
Per Johan died December 7, 1927 at the age of 72, and Hulda followed him to the shining city upon a hill, on September 20, 1958 at the age of 93.
Written by Leif Rosqvist, the editor of New Sweden Cultural Heritage newsletter (http://www.newsweden.org), in Portland, Oregon, based on material provided by the family.