California lured Swedes long before the railroad got there. In 1848 gold was found near San Francisco, California's biggest seaport of the time and with that the Swedes began to arrive. The thought of striking it rich enticed the impoverished Swedes.
They came sailing, walking and riding, all in search of a better life. Those who understood how to make America their land of opportunity, helped lay solid foundations for California's future
Many Swedes worked their way over the oceans as sailors and deserted their ships in the port of San Francisco. One of them was Lars Johan Berglund who jumped ship there in 1851.
In a letter to his mother he writes: "We are presently a large number of Swedes and Norwegians. We help each other digging and washing gold, but none has yet gained any great wealth or made a lucky find."
Berglund and his fellow gold diggers weren't the only misfortuned ones. Many Swedes who immigrated, or migrated from other states, to California, were to return home empty handed. Some gave up on the gold and tried to make a buck off the gold rush in other ways, like opening inns for other gold seekers or trading equipment. Many on their way to and from California were never heard from again.
Before the birth of the railroad, to travel across the country involved many dangers. It wasn't called the Wild West for nothing. Robbers would kill for a pair of boots and Indians were scalp hunting. Not to mention the wild animals which were always a threat to travelers. Still the smell of gold was irresistible.
One group of Swedes, on their way to California to dig gold, passed through Salt Lake City in Utah in 1859. From there one of them wrote home to the family in Sweden:
"Yesterday evening we arrived at Salt Lake City and are now in the midst of the Mormons and their wives. In the evening we will continue our journey to California. We have a two months trip ahead of us, making the duration of our entire journey five months. We praise God that we have met no misfortune. In order to lighten the load for the oxen we have walked the entire distance and we have to do likewise on the road to California."
Written by Katarina Lindell Voll
The Statue of Liberty draped in the Swedish flag-photograph and edit: Lars Lönninge.