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Contributed by Julie Kmoch, 2/24/99.

Letter from Earl Stenberg to Axel Henriksson
July 10, 1966

To Axel Henriksson
Lillangen, Algustbada
Broakulla, Smaland Sweden

Dear Axel Henriksson:

I am going to try to write in Swedish, but I know before hand that I won't get very far with that. But then I will write in English, and then I guess it is better that I change to the English right now, because I have no Swedish-English dictionary and my spelling is quite impossible. [This part was in Swedish before].

So no I will write in English.

Johannes Peterson, a carpenter, who later took the name of Stenberg, was born August 29, 1812 in Algutsboda Kronebergslan Sweden, emigrated to the United States, North America and to Franconia in the Territory of Minnesota in the year 1853. Minnesota became a state in 1858. He left Algutsboda Smaland, Sweden with his first wife and two children and his wife passed away on the ocean. To the best of our knowledge, she gave birth to a baby and died from that. The baby lived and was taken care of by other kindhearted people, but it was lost track of although it was believed that it was adopted by some other family, but we don’t know that for sure.

She had to be buried at sea and I was told by my father, who got it from his father, that the casket was loaded with iron and rock with the corpse and then lowered to the water, and it floated for a bit, then dipped on end and went down. I suppose the usual services were held in a case like that and probably it was quite common in the early days of emigration.

There he was in the middle of the ocean with three children, no wife, and no mother for the children. Other passengers on the boat were very helpful.

They arrived in Franconia and there he left the children in care of others to go out through the land to see where he could find a favorable location for a home for himself and his children. He came to a place about one and one-half miles east of what is now Center City, it was then called Swede Lake. There he built a cabin, partly of poles and partly of earth, and hay for roof. This was to be their temporary home until he could get title to some land. He obtained forty acres from Peter Swanson who lived near Little Lake (Lille Sjon) about a mile north of the place he had selected, and later he bought twenty acres which was part of some land that the government sold to raise money to build schools.

He evidently chose this location because it was close to a creek that had water flowing most of the year. He dug three wells along this creek to serve them with fresh and cold water. They were filled when the water in the creek was high. Pollution at that time was probably non existent. He also made a dam to serve as a water supply for the cattle when the creek went low. And a root cellar in the hillside to keep the food fresh and protect it from frost in winter. He proceeded to clear the land so he could raise some crops for food to eat. He would prepare some food in the evenings to have for the following day and while he was out working, the Indians would come into the cabin and eat the food, but they did no harm to the children nor any other damage. I was also told that the Indians killed deer and brought venison to the settlers.

As time went on, he very likely decided that it was not good to do all this alone. 1857, Johanna Gummes-dottar emigrated to America and they met and were married the same year. How they met and how they courted, I know nothing of. I was too young to know about that. There were 13 children from that marriage and all grew up except one who passed away in childhood.

The settlers got food supplies by trapping deer. They did this by digging deep pits with steep sides which the deer could not possibly climb out of. They next covered the pits with branches of maple with lots of buds. Soft maple trees have buds most of the winter. The deer liked to eat these buds. The rail fence was then built around this pit, and the deer jumped over this rail fence to get the buds and fell to the bottom of the pits. There were four of these on the home farm (dira groop) they were called by the folks. At this writing there were still land marks of these although they had been filled so cattle would not fall in them.

[missing text] had a good stand of heavy timber, ash, oak, basswood, birch, elm, and close by a lot of butternut. I believe that is the sweetest and richest nut I’ve tasted.

My grandfather used timber from these trees to build a barn for his cattle. First he cut logs and hued them into timber, then he used moss and sealed it with clay which made it good and tight. He thatched the roof with wild hay and used tamarack poles to hold the hay in place. Then he built a house of timber which was hewn from logs that were as nearly perfect as possible, and fitted them together and joined them in the corners with dovetail joints. I still remember the building and how well it all fit together. On the outside of this, he nailed regular boards with battens perpendicularly. The roof of this house was covered with wooden shingles. I don’t know if these were split with a broad axe or mill sawed. I’ve heard of them having been split in those days too. This house was close to where the wells for water and the food cellar were. He also built another barn which was close to the dam and it had room for more cattle than the first. There seemed to have been an addition to this barn for horses, so it is my guess that at first their transportation method was by oxen. I do not know whether he built the house or second barn first, but that barn roof was also thatched hay, but this time covered with wooden shingles later. The hay floor above was of poles laid as close as possible together. That way when the hay was packed in good it made it quite comfortable for the cattle in cold weather; winters get pretty cold here!

I will now try to give some account of grandfather’s family life.

From the first marriage to Lena Cajsa Magnusdaughter. They had 4 children.

I. Franze Ulrik, who had a severe fever at the age of 5 and that left him without hearing and speech (deaf and dumb). I saw him only once and he used a sign language and had a notebook to write notes on. He had gone to school for the deaf and dumb. He was married and had one daughter.

II. Mathilda married John Artig. They had 5 children, Lotta, Mary, Nellie, Frank, and Minnie
1. Lotta married Edward Andrews - 4 children - Floyd, Leroy, Irene, and Gene.
2. Mary married Ludwig Andrews - no children
3. Nellie married ___ Hall - no children.
4. Frank married ______ - 1 son Jimmy
5. Minnie didn’t marry.

III. Eva Sophia died as an infant in Sweden.
IV. Emma Sophia was born on the ocean and the whereabouts are unknown.

The second marriage was to Johanna Christina Gumesdaughter. They had 13 children as follows:

I. Theander married Eva - 7 children Minnie, Nancy, Theodore, Hilma, Benonie, Edna, and Elmer.
II. Elof #1 died early.
III. Helena - married Charlie Peterson, they had 2 sons, Leonard and Gilbert. Helena died about the year 1900 when the boys were still young.
IV. Louisa married to Frank Fredeen - 4 children Esther, Everett, Edna, and Leo
V. Emma married Edward Lorens - 1 daughter Beatrice
VI. Albert married Christina Mathilda Peterson 6 children, Earl #1 (died young), Arthur, Earl #II, Mildred, Wallace, and Lucile.
VII. Ida not married
VIII. Charlie not married
IX. Joel not married
X. Alfred married maude Vaughn - 6 children - Doris, Jennie, William, Ralph, and two I don’t remember the names of.
XI. Elof not married
XII. Ulrika married to Norton Masterson - 3 children - Norton, Margaret and William
XIII. Olivia Amanda married Walter Havens - no children.

These are only as far as grandchildren such as myself, but I am sure there are many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren quite different from what it is of descendants in the relationship in Sweden. But there still may be some that have not been found. Grandfather also made some furniture of which I believe he brought the pattern from Sweden. He also made a draw sofa which I thought was very clever and convenient because it was used as a bed at night and in the day it stored the bed clothes. I have read that those were quite common in Sweden years ago.

They also used wooden shoes when my father was a child. The shoemaker went from family to family and made shoes for the whole family at one time. I suppose that was the same as had been the practice in Sweden and all over Europe.

The women in those days were supposed to card wool and spin yearn and knit stockings for the whole family. I remember my mother doing those things, but she also bought a machine to knit with and after practicing for a bit she did very well. My grandfather and grandmother thrashed the grain they raised by hand with a slager, that was two short poles tied together, one was the handle and the other pounded the grain and thrashed it. Then they ground it in a grist mill that was burned by hand. This made course meal but nevertheless they seemed to be very healthy ( probably because of). They grew into tall healthy people.

Some of the grain they carried to the mill at Franconia in a sack with some on each side of the neck with as much as they could carry. Then they got better flour than that which they ground at home. There was also a lumber mill at Franconia which cut logs into lumber. These two mills were both operated by water power, the grist mill got its power from the creek and the lumber mill took it off the river.

My grandfather lived in the home that he worked so hard to accomplish until he passed away, but he had gangrene in his legs before he went and my father said that the doctor that took care of him said that the only relief for that was to amputate, but that he was too old for that. They had no drugs or painkiller for that in those days, and my father said that he suffered terribly. One who has gone through so much and worked so hard does no deserve such an ending.

Well now, I’m afraid I have made this too long and you won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t have any use for all of it or even if you don’t use any of it, because you are the judge of that. I would like to hear from you also if you can trace our family tree over there, I can send you the pay for it before you start on it. I have a cousin who is coming to Sweden in September. May I send hi to you? He does not speak Swedish unless he has learned it in the later years. I wish I was coming over with him. After you were gone I regretted that I hadn’t come to Lindstrom sooner and that I had taken you around some as well as the other people you met. I don’t know if you saw Franconia, but of course it is just a ghost town now although the creek is still there and the river and quite a few landmarks and the site of the old sawmill I saw a few years ago.

I read almost all of the book Algutsboda#1 that I bought from you and my brother who is still on the home farm read it and he also enjoyed it very much.

This is a letter I wrote to Axel Hendriksson in 1966, but I have discovered a lot of things since then that are subject to correction, so I have tried to make a few changes here and there to bring out the true facts, because I had to depend on what was told to me by my father, Albert, and brothers and sisters and even then it was handed down facts. I did find quite a few real facts from letters and receipts that I looked over. The most important things are those letters from Sweden in 1882 and 1886, which gave a lead to the grandfather’s family history because it mentioned almost all of the members of that family. Together with this I tried to include other items such as his title to this first piece of land and other items. I also have a copy of his legal clearance papers from Sweden. But it is done in the Swedish language and the terms are such that although I have interpreted some of his items, this one I draw the line on, but if anyone wants to know about it, I could with great effort possibly rewrite it in our own language. This is an afternote to the history of grandfather Johannes Peterson-Stenberg and I will be glad to answer any questions that I now anything of. I have had this information for a couple of years, but last year was a difficult time for me, first my mate passed on and so I had legal affairs to see to and then I had eye trouble and one eye is blind and I had surgery in both eyes, so during that time this investigation lay idle. I am happy to pass it on to whomever is interested in it.

Now I remain like any of you who are descendants of Johannes Peterson-Stenberg.

Earl Stenberg

Contributed by Julie Kmoch, 2/24/99.


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