The Swedish American Patriotic League, shortly after its formation in 1895, decided the organization should raise money for special projects. Money was raised for a senior retirement property through bazaars, raffles and other events, and by 1920 they had $8,000. A committee, comprised of Nels A. Hanson, Emil Högberg, George Larson, Alexander Olsson, Franz Otto Sjögren and Erik Strom, was appointed to investigate available properties, but the membership did not want to wait until their retirement to enjoy this place. And so it became a recreational area for the Bay Area Swedish Community.

Nels A. Hanson (President Swedish Society 1921-22, President SAPL 1923-24), Hanson was born in Hörvik, Blekinge on November 12, 1880. He came to the U.S. in 1898 and eventually to San Francisco in 1907. He married Selma Person Peterson and they had one daughter Ruth (Rice) and one son Kenneth. Hanson was a house mover; at the time of the property search he was 46 years old and retired.

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Emil Högberg (President SAPL 1901, President Swedish Society 1908-09, President Swedish Club 1916, President Political Club, President Swedish Singers 1905, Balder Master 1913-14, first president of United Swedish Singers of Pacific Coast 1905). Högberg was born in Hökult on April 29, 1871. The original family name was Höök. He immigrated to Chicago in 1887, married Ingrid Lindström and had two sons, Eskil and Ingemar. Högberg's first career was as a cook and part owner of a restaurant near Seattle before coming to San Francisco in 1897. His employment changed again and he became a masonry contractor. Högberg was 55 when Sveadal was purchased.

George W. Larson (President SAPL 1925-26, parade marshall at 1915 Expo, President Swedish Political Club 1912-1924). Larson was born in New York City on April 30, 1875. He attended Cooper Institute of Fine Arts in NYC and learned his jewelry and engraving skills at Tiffany’s. He married Alice and had one son, George. They moved to San Francisco and worked at Shreve & Co. for six years before Larson opened his own engraving firm. He designed and made most of the metal plaques for Sveadal. He made a silver urn for the 50th birthday of King Gustav V and a similar one for millionaire Lindblom from the Swedish Society. He also bought the property of the County Park next to Sveadal in hopes that the Swedish colony would eventually add it to the Sveadal holding.… Unfortunately a lost opportunity. Larson was 51 at the time of purchase.

Alexander Olsson (editor and owner of Vestkusten 1894-1952, President SAPL 1903-09, Charter Delegate Knights of the Golden Banner to SAPL, President Swedish Society 1903-05, Secretary SAPL 54 years). Olsson was born in Onsala, Halland on February 27, 1868. He came to San Francisco in 1880 and began work as a typesetter for Vestkusten. By 1891 he was the editor and by 1894 the owner—he owned the paper for 58 years. Olsson married Augusta Grahn and they had two children, Hugo and Martha (Kuhnle). Olsson was 58 at this time.

Franz Otto Sjögren (President Swedish Society 1910-11, President SAPL 1909, Balder Master 1915). Sjögren was born in Gräsgårds, Öland on May 5, 1866. He came to the U.S. in 1888 and had a building contracting business with his brother. Sjögren married Hulda C. Peterson and they had one daughter, Bethel. Sjögren was 60 years old.

Erik W. Strom (President Swedish Society 1924-25, President SAPL 1926-27, sports chairman of Sveadal for 25 years, awarded the Sveadal Medallion 1974). Strom was born in Göteborg on January 29, 1882. He had technical and manual training in Sweden before embarking for a life at sea. He jumped ship in Florida, made his way to Texas where he met his wife, Nanny Sand, and they had two children, Lillian (Walker) and Herb. They came to California in 1911 when Strom opened an electrical contracting firm. Strom was 44 at the time of the property purchase; he died in 1987 at the incredible age of 105.

Five of the six member committee drove to Uvas Canyon in March of 1926. None of the roads (McKean/Uvas/Croy) were paved, so it was a dusty and long drive. The youngest member, Erik Strom, did the driving. Croy Road was quite narrow even from my earliest memory of it. You sounded your horn going around a curve to warn cars coming from the other way. The committee stopped at Montoya’s and thought it had to be a mistake—no pavement, no electricity, no phone lines. Montoya did assure them they were on the right road and that the owner was at his property. The owner, John Mills, a retired Key System executive, was eager to sell. He had not used the place and had owned the property for only two years.
The SAPL wanted to purchase the land for $13,500, but the League had only $9,500 in the special property account. The bank was unwilling to lend the difference without some assurance of repayment so four members of the committee guaranteed the loan for $1,000 each: Högberg, Larson, Olsson and Strom. It was a remarkably generous offer to help secure this property. Fortunately the SAPL was able to repay the loan in timely fashion.
This year on July 28 we are celebrating our 86th anniversary and honoring the founding fathers who had the foresight to envision Sveadal as a community for all Bay Area Swedes. At the time, the property included 110 acres, with no paved roads or bridges anywhere, a hunting lodge, old barn, several small run down cabins, a nice lawn and large vineyard, and several fruit trees. It has been transformed into a charming recreational area, with many fine new amenities including a spacious clubhouse and kitchen, 49 private cabins, 10 rental units, several bridges, a pool, playground, ball field, tennis and basketball courts, sports lawn, two dance floors, picnic area, campground and a reliable water system. The founders had the vision and the Swedish people and their friends did the rest.
It takes complete devotion to provide the labor and assets to keep Sveadal in first-rate shape. Let’s hope that our younger generation will keep this place for all to enjoy in the future. We will soon be celebrating the 100th anniversary in 2026.

Muriel Nelson Beroza

For more info, see Sveadal and SAPL