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The Swedes Come To The United States


Adele Hoglin


The day my great-great grandfather (whom I shallcall grandfather for obvious reasons) came to the United Statesfrom Vermland, Sweden was the day Swede jokes, seemingly America's favoritepastime, had a reason to start. It wasn't that Andrew Nordling was so ignorantor that he was such a comedian, it was because he had to start from scratchmaking his way in America's wilderness. This experience involved many mistakeswhich weren't so funny then, but are entertaining when retold now manyyears later.

There were many reasons why grandfather came to America.The biggest factor was the visions about American life. "Theyexpected a land of milk and honey," said Mrs.Hilma Olsen,"and found a land of mosquitoes and brush." (1)

The trip over was not uneventful. After the family wassettled in their quarters the news came out that the propeller had broken.The ship had not been stocked with food and water other than that whichwould be needed to make the ordinary voyage. The water, which was kept ina large keg at the front of the ship, had to be rationed. My grandfatherwho was short of stature, was able to make a trip, at the request of hismother. to the front of the ship to obtain illegal water, unnoticed. Finallyafter many desperate weeks adrift in the Atlantic help was received. A cattleship seeing the distressed ship came to help. There was no room for thepeople and the cattle so the cattle went. The Swedes watched with sickeningdisgust as the cattle dropped to their watery deaths. The helpless shipwas then towed to Newfoundland. After many weeks the travelers finally arrivedin New York.

Grandfather soon found out the United States wasn't allit was thought to be. There were no brides, no roads, it was a wild country.This was discovered after the family had come from New York to the Red RiverValley by train. The travel worn family arrived four and one-half milesSoutheast of Hallock in 1882. The wise Swedes staked out their farms sothat all of the brothers could have land adjoining the river. The methodwas referred to as "long quarters". The family lived in a sodhouse until the menfolk were able to make a log house.

Grandfather's family found the woods abounding with wildanimals. The river was so full of fish that they could be raked in.

Until a school was built. it was held in the homes. Thehome of the Nordlings was a community center. Dances were often held there.A large wooden platform was built in the woods. There were many benchesaround it where little boys and girls dreamed about the day when their turnwould come.

Farming took up of their time. They let the cattle runwild because of the lack of funds and of the needlessness of restrictions.At the end of the day the children had to bring the cows home at milkingtime. This task sometimes required some searching. The Nordlings used oxento pull the one-furrowed plow. In the spring the job that needed doing wasshearing the sheep. This started a new round of making material.

The men would shear the sheep, then the women would washthe wool and spread it out in the sun to dry. After this it would be carded,spun and finally woven into fabric. From this all of the family's clotheswould be made; suits, socks, blankets and quilts.

One time Grandpa sent one of the boys to get a pail ofdrinking water. On the way home, the little lad couldn't keep his feet solemnand slow, so consequently he spilled the whole pail of water. Instead oftaking all of the time to go back to the neighbors to get a new pail, hedecided to just go down to the river and save a little time. No one everknew the difference and since no one died, the truth wasn't known for manyyears.

Grandfather had his share of rare experiences also. Onetime he was going to a neighbors to get a horse. To get there he had togo across the cemetery. Now Grandfather had heard his share of stories aboutspooks in the graveyard, and he was 'mighty' wary of the journey he wasgoing to make. Suddenly he heard something rustling through the grass. Heran, it followed. He turned and looked, he saw nothing. Still, he saw nothing,then all of a sudden he realized that there was probably nothing to be worriedabout. He turned again only to find a halter hanging from his belt. Therewas another time that Grandfather found out more about the new world hehad come to live in. He met with the most dreaded of all animals the skunk.Since he didn't know the peculiar habits of this animal, he didn't avoidhim. Well, Mr. Nordling, in all his pride and glory got it full strength.He recovered from this episode minus a set of clothes and plus a littleknowledge.

My grandfather's family was fortunate in losing no onefrom their immediate family. He himself had asthma: smoking seemed to easethe condition. Grandmother was picking berries once and broke her leg. Shewould only allow her daughter to care for her. Her daughter's husband hadto hire a girl to come and care for the family. This large family was closeand many members of the family lived at the farm even after they were married.All of the children's children were born at the farm home.

My grandfather and his family were never sorry they cameto America although they had their periods of homesickness. They had tostart from scratch.

"Grandfather's coveralls were so patched that theylooked like a cabbage" said Mrs. Hilma Olson. In spite of their hardships.the Nordlings became very prominent people and had one of the most prosperousfarms in Kittson County. These people helped to establish Kittson Countyand every relative here (of which there are many) is glad to claim the heritage.


(1) Mrs. Hilma Olson, Lancaster, Minnesota, February 9,1969 (Interview)



Mrs. Hilma Olson, Lancaster, Minnesota, February 9, 1969(Interview).

Mr. Andy Hoglin, Humboldt, Minnesota, February 9, 1969(Interview).


Mr. Andy Hoglin, Humboldt, Minnesota, February 9, 1969(Interview).