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Jöns Gustafsson of Östergötland, Sweden,
and His Justason Descendants

by Peter Stebbins Craig, Historian, Swedish Colonial Society

Among the passengers on the Mercurius in 1655-56 was a former watchman named Jöns Gustafsson, who had entered the game preserve at Omberg, shooting a doe and her calf. The Swedish Privy Council sentenced him to lifetime servitude in New Sweden. Omberg is a a ridge of hills east of Sweden's second largest lake, Lake Vättern, in Östergötland, In 1805, the former game preserve became a national forest known as Kronopark. Further details of the circumstances of Jöns Gustafsson’s sentence have now been provided to the author in 2008 by Alf Åberg and by Rolf Ström of Hanige, Sweden.

The record of the Göta Court of Appeals, dated 27 February 1655, shows that Jöns Gustafsson, a young married man born in Gränna parish and former gamekeeper at the royal Omberg game preserve, when charged for the crime in the Lysing’s District Court, had "fled from his wife, children and all of his property" to Växjo in Småland, 200 kilometers from Omberg. He was arrested there and taken back to court to face the charges. In court, Jöns confessed that he had visited a cavalryman in Jussberg, a farm one kilometer south of Omberg. They had been drinking and practicing target shooting indoors. In the morning they walked together to the Omberg game preserve, where Jöns shot a deer. For his own part, Jöns had just kept a leg, while the cavalryman had taken the rest of the meat and also the hide. An officer of the game preserve, Hendrick Semell, testified that he never had any previous complaints against Jöns Gustafsson, who had been a watchman for two months. However, Semell confirmed the crime and charged that Jöns had also shot at him in the woods.

Jöns pleaded for mercy, emphasizing that he had a wife and two children. The court, however, was of the opinion that the royal regulation about hunting, enacted in 1647, had to be enforced and sentenced him to death. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to his being banished to New Sweden as a slave for life. His marriage was annulled and his wife was free to remarry.

The Mercurius left Sweden 25 November 1655 and arrived in the Delaware River 14 March 1656. By the time the ship arrived, New Sweden had surrendered to the Dutch. Jöns Gustafsson unexpectedly found himself a free man. Shortly thereafter, he married again, this time to a daughter of Knut Mårtensson from Vasa. Knut Mårtensson had been a resident of New Sweden since 1641.

Jöns Gustafsson lived with his father-in-law and by 1671, when the English took their first census of the Delaware, he was the head of the household, living in a log cabin located on the west side of the Delaware River between Marcus Hook Creek and Harwicks Creek in present Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The purpose of the census was to locate families that did not yet have a patent from the Duke of York - and therefore were not paying quitrents or taxes. The census taker had difficulty with Jöns Gustafsson's name, writing it "Umus Eustason", which was close to how it sounded to English ears.

Jöns was finally issued his patent on 10 April 1673, but in the same year he decided to move with his family across the Delaware to Raccoon Creek, there­by becoming one of the first settlers of present Gloucester County. He left both his father-in-law (Knut Mårtensson) and his brother-in-law (Mårten Knutsson) behind to care for the old family farm.

The groundwork for this move had been laid by three of his neighbors, Nils Larsson Frände of Upland (Chester) and Olle Rawson and Olle Jönsson of Marcus Hook, who in 1668 secured a license from Governor Cartrett to buy lands in West Jersey between Oldman's Creek and Timber Creek. They, in turn, sold this license to Hans Hoffman, Peter Jönsson Halton and Jöns Gustafsson, who took up residence on Raccoon Creek by 1673. Sufficient gifts having been supplied to the Indians, this trio succeeded in obtaining an official deed dated 15 November 1676 which conveyed to them the lands between Oldmans Creek on the south and Cachkikanahacking on the north. The deed was recorded in the New Castle court in 1680. At the same time, on 15 May 1680, the three of them persuaded the justices at New Castle that they had met the terms of the 1668 license; namely, that they had been seated on the land and made improvements for seven years.

The Swedes who were newly settled on Raccoon Creek soon confronted a more formidable power than the Duke of York's New Castle court. In 1677 the ship Kent appeared on Raccoon Creek, bearing representatives of the West Jersey Proprietors. They asked Jöns Gustafsson, a well-recognized negotiator with the Lenape Indians, to help them buy the same land from the Indians. Jöns obliged them and on 27 September 1677 (as "James Yesteven") he witnessed the deed conveying all of the lands between Oldmans Creek and Big Timber Creek to the West Jersey Proprietors' representatives.

The Indians saw no inconsistency in selling the same land twice within the same year. Jöns Gustafsson probably didn't either. To them, the buyer was merely obtaining the right to share the land, not the right to exclude others from it.

This conflict in cultures was later to cause some embarrassment to Jöns Gustafsson and his family. Fortunately for them, however, one of the West Jersey Proprietors, Andrew Robeson, a former London merchant, sought to reassure the early Swedish settlers and, where they failed to possess lawful patents or deeds, promised them land from his own 5,000 acre allotment. As a demonstration of his support, he even sought to change the name of Raccoon Creek to the Stockholm River (which didn't stick). One large tract retained by Robeson, which was farmed by various Swedes under their presumed "Indian rights", was named "New Stockholm".

Andrew Robeson died in 1694, without the promised deed ever having been delivered. Jöns Gustafsson also died in 1699. His farm, occupied since 1673, was located on the north side of Raccoon Creek near present Bridgeport and adjacent to “New Stockholm.” But his heirs never received a deed for this property. In lieu thereof, Andrew Robeson's nephew and namesake, Andrew Robeson Jr., executed a deed in 1711 to Jöns's son "Nicholas Justison" for 100 acres and later Andrew Robeson III executed a deed in 1736 to Jöns' grandson "Justa Justison" for another 100 acres plus five acres of marsh. It was the latter tract, located on the southwest side of Raccoon Creek, that became Nils Gustafsson's home in his later years.

The 1693 census of the Swedes on the Delaware showed three persons in the household of Jöns Gustafsson. The other two were his sons Knut (who died soon after 1702) and Nils.

The English had almost as much trouble with the name of Nils Gustafsson as they did with the name of his father. At first, he was referred to as Cornelius Justesson and served as constable for Gloucester County under this name, 1697-1700. Later, however, he chose Nicholas Justison as a more appropriate English version of his name.

There was, however, another Gustafsson family - Johan Gustafsson, a Swedish soldier who had come with Governor Printz in 1643 and served initially at Fort Elfsborg, died in Kingsessing (West Philadelphia) and had nine sons who took the surname of Gustafsson/ Justisson. Perhaps to avoid confusion with this other Gustafsson family, Jöns Gustafsson's two sons, Nils and Knut, adopted the surname of Quist (meaning "twig" in Swedish) for use among the Swedes. Jöns’ sons and grandchildren were thus referred to in church records from 1699 to 1722 when the name Quist was abandoned in favor of Gustafsson, Justis or Justice.

Nils Gustafsson married soon after 1693. His wife was the eldest daughter of William Cobb of Raccoon Creek and Mill Creek (now Cobbs Creek) in Pennsylvania.

SOURCE: Swedish Colonial News, Volume 3, Number 9 (Fall 2007).


For more information on the Justason family, please contact G. Christian Larsen, Pennfield Parish Historian.

1. Jöns GUSTAFSSON
     m. daughter of Knut MÅRTENSSON from Vasa, Finland

2. Nils GUSTAFSSON (ca1658-ca1759) (aka: Nicholas JUSTESON)
    m. Catharine ?

3. Gustaf GUSTAFSSON (1696-1762) (aka: Justas JUSTESON)
    m. Annicka KEEN 

4. Isaac JUSTASON (ca1739-1812)
    m1 Cecilia SLYDE
    m2 Sarah TUSSEY

5.a) Gideon JUSTASON (1775-1833)
        m. Lydia HAWKINS (m2 William RUTHERFORD)

  1. Sarah Jane JUSTASON m1 Timothy WINN m2 John BLACK

  2. Wilmot JUSTASON m1 Elizabeth HAMILTON m2 Eleanor Ann

  3. Ann JUSTASON m. Michael TATTON

  4. Philip JUSTASON m. Catherine McFARLANE

  5. Justus JUSTASON m. Harriet BUCKNAM

  6. Mary JUSTASON m. Joseph BUCKNAM

  7. Zadoc JUSTASON m. Ann TATTON (Stirton, ON)

  8. William JUSTASON

5.b) Justus Justason (1777-1855)
        m. Susannah Chaffey

  1. Elizabeth JUSTASON m. Joshua KNIGHT III

  2. Isaac JUSTASON m. Jane HAWKINS

  3. Susan JUSTASON m. Samuel CALEFF (Bird Island, MN)

  4. Thomas Chaffey JUSTASON m. Sarah HAWKINS

  5. Catherine JUSTASON m. Enos POOLE

5.c) Sarah Justason (ca1789-by1844)
        m. William Eldridge Jr.

  1. Mary Ann ELDRIDGE m. John BEST

  2. Lydia ELDRIDGE m. John WADLIN

  3. George ELDRIDGE m. Jerusia CROSS

  4. Martha ELDRIDGE m. Isaac "Woodward" CROSS

  5. William Justason ELDRIDGE m. Caroline Brighton (Kybunga, South Australia, Australia)

  6. James ELDRIDGE m. Emily CROSS

  7. Euphemia ELDRIDGE nm-no issue

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