AND THE SHIFTING CONTOURS OF COMMUNITY
By H. Arnold Barton
Submitted by H. Arnold Barton
Thank You, Mr. Barton!
An impressive amount has been written about the Bishop Hill colony, surely more about any other place associated with the great Swedish migration to America. Yet behind the colony, with its tree-shaded streets and weathered brick buildings, lay a community of a different nature with a history of its own that has never been systematically investigated throughout its entire life-span: the company of those in both the Old World and the New who accepted Eric Jansson as their prophet and embraced his creed.
It seems natural to regard the one community as synonymous with the other, and this indeed is the usual assumption. But closer examination reveals that this was far from the case. The composition of the company of the faithful, from the beginning of Eric Jansson's ministry in Sweden around 1840 down to the end of the end of the century, was in constant flux.
Many who had at first flocked to hear Eric Jansson preach the new dispensation in the old farmsteads in Uppland and Hälsingland or who had crowded around the book-burnings at Alfta, Söderala, and Forsa, were not prepared by 1846 to heed the prophet's call to depart for the Promised Land across the sea, although some continued to revere him and his teachings. Of those who did cross to the other shore, many left the sect before ever reaching the New Jerusalem on the Illinois prairie. Moreover, from its founding in 1846, there were repeated waves of defection from the Bishop Hill colony.
Yet the sect at the same time won new converts over at least a decade and a half. The emigration of Janssonists from Sweden continued for eight years or more, and some souls even seem to have been gained—at least for a time—elsewhere in Scandinavia and in America. After reaching its low point by the time of Eric Jansson's death in 1850, Bishop Hill's population doubled during the next eight years, before the onset of its long post-colony decline.
The publicity in Sweden surrounding the Janssonist sect and its colony at Bishop Hill, as well as the dispersal of former adherents, both during and after the colony period, to other localities in Illinois and beyond, are meanwhile universally recognized as factors of prime importance in the wider history of the great Swedish migration to this continent. Ulf Beijbom summarized a consensus when he called the Eric-Janssonists the "core" of the earlier emigration, while more recently Kjell Söderberg sought to demonstrate this concept in some detail. Yet there are still significant questions to be raised in this respect and new insights to be gained.
It would be of great interest to know more about how, when, and why the definitive decision was made for the sect to leave the homeland and seek its future in America. People in the Janssonist districts of north-central Sweden had become aware of America and its potentialities through a number of sources by the early 1840s. Already by 22 November 1845Hudikswalls Weckoblad reported that the Janssonists were talking of settling in the Mississippi Valley. Some three weeks later, on 16 December 1845, Olof Olsson arrived in New York to scout for a new home in America for his brethren in the faith. That same fall, the first small group of Janssonists attempted to sail to America from Söderhamn, but were shipwrecked near Öregrund and were forced to wait until the beginning of the following year to emigrate. Eric Jansson's son, Captain Eric Johnson, later wrote that his father had prepared the entire plan for the emigration and colonization of the group in America, and had selected the leaders for this enterprise, before he himself secretly left Sweden in the winter of 1846. That spring, Olof Olsson purchased the first land for the Janssonists in Henry County, Illinois.
The reason traditionally given for the Janssonist emigration is the persecution the sect suffered in Sweden. Yet there is good reason to suspect another, no less significant, motive. The Swedish scholar Emil Herlenius expressed the view in 1900 that "Eric-Janssonism would probably have declined at that time , since many had begun to regain their senses, had the idea of emigrating not combined religious enthusiasm with lust for adventure and the vision of a good land beyond the sea." A letter written by Eric Jansson at the time of his departure from Sweden in March 1846 makes angry allusions to the "hundreds" who had betrayed him. He beseeched that "all hypocrites be rooted out of God's holy congregation" and that "God make a way for all the upright, that [they] may either come to America or go to the heavenly world." This strongly suggests that the move to America was intended as an ordeal of faith, to separate the true believers from the faint of heart and thereby to vindicate the prophet's authority over those who heeded the call. The rapid radicalization of Eric Jansson's theology had doubtless caused may to have second thoughts. Seen in this light, the emigration was itself the first of the many splits within the Janssonist community, which figure so largely in its history and which account in such large part for its overall significance for early Swedish migration.
The mass exodus of the sect began with the departure of Eric Jansson, his family, and a few others via Christiania (now Oslo) in Norway in the spring of 1846 and continued over the next eight years, to 1854. Eric Johnson claimed that there were at the outset some 1,100 of his father's followers who wished to join his new colony in America. Swedish clerical reports from 1846 indicate that around 1,030 persons emigrated that year from the Janssonist districts, mainly in Hälsingland, almost all of them undoubtedly Janssonists. This correlates quite closely with a careful reckoning by Carl Gustaf Blombergsson, the sect's printer, that 1,001 Janssonists arrived in New York between early June in 1846 and 20 March 1847. Others thereafter decided to take the great step when favorable reports reached them from Bishop Hill. Meanwhile, proselytizing continued in Sweden for several years. By 1854, when the last organized group came over, the entire Janssonist emigration probably totaled around 1,500, the figure most often given.
It has been generally taken for granted that the Janssonist creed simply died out in Sweden when with the Janssonist emigration to America. Yet not all of those who still remained faithful to the prophet left Sweden. Among them were one of the prophet's own brothers and certain others who had played prominent roles in the movement. Some had set out but turned back for family or practical reasons. Was Janssonist altogether dead and buried in Sweden after the departure of the last of the group in 1854?This hardly seems logical and there are at least a few tantalizing signs that it long lingered on in a kind of concealed underground existence in certain localities and households. "Down to our own day," Emil Herlenius wrote in 1900, "one or another member [of the sect] has lived on, who the whole time has preserved his faith in Eric Jansson that he was 'the great light sent by God.'" By that time there were few, if any, who still openly professed the Janssonist faith even in Bishop Hill itself.. Meanwhile, two Janssonists who left the group in Copenhagen in 1846 made a number of converts
Ulf Beijbom, Amerika, Amerika. En bok om utvandringen (Stockholm, 1977), 45; Kjell Söderberg, Den första massutvandringen. En studie av befolkningsrörlighet och emigration utgående från Alfta socken i Hälsingland 1846-1894 (Stockholm, 1981). In addition to Söderberg, Charles H. Nelson has analyzed the economic background of the Janssonist emigrants in "Toward a More Accurate Approximation of the Class Composition of the Erik Janssonists," Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly (hereafter SPHQ) 26 (1975): 3-15. For printed sources on the Eric Janssonists and Bishop Hill, see E. Gustav Johnson, "A Selected Bibliography of Bishop Hill Literature," SPHQ 15 (1964): 109-22, and "Bishop Hill Bibliography: Additional Entries,"SPHQ 16 (1965): 26-30.
The best discussion of the background to the Janssonist emigration is in Paul Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah: Eric Jansson of Bishop Hill (Carbondale, IL, 1976), 111-14. See also John Norton, "Parson Baird, Bishop Hill, and Manifest Destiny," SPHQ 23 (1972): 151-68; Wesley M. Westerberg, "Bethel Ship to Bishop Hill: Document (Letter of Olof Olsson)," SPHQ 23 (1972): 55-70; Michael A. Mikkelsen, The Bishop Hill Colony: A Religious Communistic Settlement in Henry County, Illinois ( Baltimore, 1892), 11-14; Eric Johnson and C. F. Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois. Historiska anteckningar ( Chicago, 1880), 26-28.
Emil Herlenius, Erik-Jansismens historia. Ett bidrag till kännedom om det svenska sektväsendet (Jönköping, 1900), 59; Alan Swanson, "Erik Jansson's 'Ski Letter,'" Swedish-American Historical Quarterly (hereafter SPHQ) 35 (1984): 338-45, and "The Road to Perfection," Scandinavian Studies 60 (1988): 438-39. For the overall significance of deliberate ordeals of faith as "commitment mechanisms," see Rosabeth M. Kanter, Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective (Cambridge, MA, 1972), chapts. 3-4.
On Eric Jansson's theology, see Cecilia Wejryd, L äsare som brände böcker. Erik Janson och erikjansarna i 1840-talets Sverige (Uppsala, 2002).
Florence E. Janson, The Background of Swedish Immigration, 1840-1930 (Chicago, 1931), 181-82¸Beijbom, Amerika, Amerika, 123; Lars Ljungmark, Swedish Exodus (Carbondale, IL, 1979), 20; Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 109, 197n1; Ernst W. Olson, Martin Engberg, and Anders Schön, History of the Swedes of Illinois, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1908), I:228; Erik Wikén, "New Light on the Erik Janssonists' Emigration," SAHQ 35 (1984): 221-24, and errata, SAHQ 36 (1985): 68-69. For passenger lists for the ships involved and many biographical details, see Nils William Olsson and Erik Wik en, Swedish Passenger Arrivals in the United States, 1820-1850 (Stockholm, 1995) (hereafter SPAUS).among Danish Baptists in around around Vemmeløv Parish on Sjælland (Zealand) to a Janssonist offshoot sect that called itself the "Congregation of the Holy Brethren" (De hellige Brødres Forsamling or Den hellige Brødremenighed), which moved as a group to Fredericia on Jutland in late 1847 but seems to have broken up not long after.In 1848 a number of Jansson converts were made in Norway.
One would like to know more about the twilight years of Eric-Janssonism in Sweden. I know that many oral traditions about the prophet and his following still live on in Hälsingland—my grandmother's native province—and it may well be imagined that living memory even today preserves some recollections about the last of the faithful in those parts. Perhaps the little band who kept the flame burning in Sweden were able to preserve a more sanctified memory of their prophet than those who had to face the harsh realities of the American Midwestern frontier with him.
Emil Herlenius held that the great majority of the Janssonists remaining in Sweden either returned (at least nominally) to the Lutheran state church or became members of other sects. It seems likely that those who turned to other forms of pietism may well have brought with them at least certain ideas from their former creed. Certainly this was assumed by members of the state church clergy. A Lutheran pastor in in Ljusdal, Hälsingland, complained in 1853 of how, "as in America," sects and factions strove to tear apart all religious unity in Sweden. In Hälsingland "Eric-Janssonism was followed by Hedbergianism, which appeared in a more in a more subtle and dangerous guise, with Luther's name on its shield."
Bishop Hill was not the only, or even the first, Swedish settlement in America during the 1840s. Occasional individuals and even families had found their way across the Atlantic since colonial times. The first Swedish settlement in the Midwest was Gustaf Unonius's "New Upsala" at Pine Lake, Wisconsin, dating from 1841, which lasted only a few years. The farmer and miller Peter Cassel led twenty-one friends and relatives from Kisa in Östergötland, joined by a few others on the way, to establish the first lasting Swedish settlement in the region, New Sweden in Jefferson County, Iowa, in 1845. Between 1846 and 1849, groups of emigrants from Östergötland and Småland heading for the Cassel colony or splitting off from it settled at Swede Point (now Madrid) and Borgholm (now Munterville) in Iowa, and—most significantly in the present connection—from 1849 around Andover in Henry County in Illinois, a few miles northwest of Bishop Hill.
Still, in 1846 the more than 1,000 Eric-Janssonist arrivals comprised by far the largest influx of Swedes into the United States and by the end of that year Bishop Hill's population was larger than that of any of the older settlements and probably larger than all of them combined. Numerous letters from the colony described in glowing terms the blessings of the Promised Land. "I take now pen in hand, moved by the spirit of the Lord," one colonist wrote in 1847, "when I consider how God has blessed us here on this new soil by a hundred fold in both spiritual and worldly goods over what we possessed in our fatherland." The Janssonists, he claimed, had bought lands "that could not be exchanged for a quarter of all Sweden."
These were words to be reckoned with on the old farmsteads and crofts back home. The "America-letters" were eagerly read to all who would listen, passed from hand to hand, copied and recopied, and frequently printed in local newspapers. It was widely assumed, and remains so today, that the Janssonist exodus precipitated the mass migration of Swedes to America beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Vilhelm Moberg, who more than anyone gave currency to the popular saga of the Great Swedish Migration, summarized this view when he maintained: "If there is anything that has given circulation to the Legend of America in Sweden, it must be these letters from Bishop Hill."
Such a view, plausible as it may seem considering the timing of the mass emigration, is not to be accepted without critical examination. Many of the letters about Bishop Hill were in fact written by disgruntled persons who had left it and who roundly condemned its conditions and leadership. Their letters were widely printed in Swedish newspapers opposed to emigration as a warning to others against making the same mistake. Some were no doubt deterred by such reports. Eric-Jansson's biographer, Paul Elmen, has expressed a certain skepticism regarding Bishop Hill's publicity value. "Had the Janssonists never left, the emigration would probably have continued just as it did, and in ever larger numbers," he wrote in 1976. "All that one can say with confidence is that the Janssonists did publicize the American dream, and may have something to do with its acceptance in Sweden."
Nonetheless, many of those who denounced Eric Jansson and his utopia wrote enthusiastically about the land they had come to. "It is truly a land of Canaan," one of them wrote in 1847 from nearby Victoria, in Illinois, in a letter that was promptly printed in pamphlet form in Sweden, "where milk and honey flow for anyone who can and will work. . . . Here there are no crop failures. . . . The Americans [are] friendly in their manner and treat foreigners like friends and brothers." "Whoever is young and has money," another former colonist wrote, "can quickly acquire land without giving himself to Eric Jansson, and young people can find good earnings as well." In the balance, it thus seems difficult to escape the conclusion that the letters from Eric-Janssonists—both steadfast and apostate—played a central role in starting the "America Fever" in mid-nineteenth-century Sweden.
Kjell Söderberg, who in 1981 analyzed the Janssonist emigration, has, moreover, argued that the group migrations of Lutheran pietists led to northern Illinois by Pastors Lars Paul Esbjörn (1849), T. N. Hasselquist (1852), and Erland Carlsson (1853), as well as of the Hedbergian Lutherans from northern Hälsingland led by the farmer Joris Per Andersson in 1850 and the Baptists from Dalarna who a few years later settled in Isanti County, Minnesota, were all directly inspired by the Janssonist group migration. Young Eric Norelius, a member of Joris Per Andersson's group in 1850, recalled how "several other companies of emigrants sailed from Gävle during the summer, and they all were bound for Henry, Knox, and Rock Island counties, Illinois, as this region was well known through the Eric Janssonists."
In time, too, it would appear that the material appeal of the colony grew at the expense of the original religious mission. The Swedish Baptist missionary Anders Wiberg, who visited Bishop Hill in 1853, found that "the fanaticism which characterized the Eric Janssonists in Sweden seemed . . . to have disappeared to a great extent, and it was doubtless of great gain for the colony, in both a spiritual and a temporal sense, that Eric Jansson ended his days so suddenly [three years earlier]." The colony was by then approaching the height of its considerable prosperity before it was ruined by the nationwide economic crisis of 1857.
If up to 1,500 of Eric Jansson's followers departed Sweden between 1846 and 1854, their numbers were reduced even before they reached New York. By one estimate, no less than 127 of them were the victims of shipwreck while others died of other causes, either at sea or ashore en route to Bishop Hill.
By the end of 1846, some 400 Janssonists had reached their new home, of whom perhaps a third may have died that winter. A large number who followed were forced to spend the winter in New York. The sailor Johan Edvard Liljeholm recalled, "of about 520 people who had left their homes, enticed by the bright account of the promised land, and believing Eric Jansson's false doctrine, no more than 400 remained, one third of whom were ill." The schisms that had commenced already before the first Janssonists left Sweden continued after the reached the further shore. Some disaffected members left the sect after arriving in New York. An evidently larger group—including one of the prophet's own brothers—defected in Chicago
. A few found their way back to Sweden. It thus seems remarkable that some historians should imply at least that Bishop Hill's population was equal to the total Eric-Janssonist emigration. Moreover, among the emigrants who got that far there were constant defections, causing the faithful to question the sincerity of many of those who traveled to America and who even had their debts paid for them in Sweden at the expense of the common fund. In an undated letter from the 1850s, a Bishop Hill colonist complained:
Herlenius, Erik-Jansismens historia, 68-69.
Gunnar Westin, Emigranterna och kyrkan. Brev från och till svenskar i Amerika 1849-1892 ( Stockholm, 1932), 67.
See my "Pre-Dawn of the Swedish Migration: Before 1846,"in this volume; America, Reality & Dream: The Freeman Letters from America & Sweden, 1841-1862, ed. George M. Stephenson, Axel Friman, and H. Arnold Barton (Rock Island, IL, 1996); Peter Cassel & Iowa's New Sweden, ed. H. Arnold Barton (Chicago, 1995).
Albin Widén, När Svensk-Amerika grundades (n. p, ), 21; cf. my Letters from the Promised Land: Swedes in America , 1840-1914 ( Minneapolis , 1975), 38-39.
Vilhelm Moberg, The Unknown Swedes: A Book about Swedes in America, Past and Present, trans. and ed. Roger McKnight (Carbodale, IL, 1988), 24; cf. the Swedish original, Den okända släkten, 2 nd. edition ( Stockholm, 1968), 24.
Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 174.
Albin Widén, Amerikaemigrationen i dokumenet ( Stockholm, 1966), 26-28; Gun Andersson, "An America-Letter to Alfta in 1847: Who Wrote It?" SPHQ 32 (1980): 321-41; Moberg, Unknown Swedes, 24-29 (Okända släkten, 24-29).
Söderberg, Den första massutvandringen, 204-15; [Eric Norelius,] Early Life of Eric Norelius (1833-1862), a Lutheran Pioneer, trans. Emeroy Johnson (Rock Island, IL, 1934), 98.
John Norton, trans. and ed., "Anders Wiberg's Account of a Trip to the United States in 1852-1853," SPHQ 29 (1978): 105; Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois , 46.
Janson, Swedish Immigration, 127.
Johan Edvard Liljeholm, Detta förlovade land. Resa i Amerika 1846-1850, ed. Olov Isaksson ( Stockholm, 1981), 40-41.
Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 121-22.
See, for ex., Janson, Swedish Immigration, 127.
. . . it has gotten so that there are hundreds of people around this country whom we have both bought clothes for and paid their way from Sweden, and some of them have stayed somewhere along the way and a lot of them have left us here. All of them have become our worst enemies and persecutors by spreading terrible lies, not only through letters to our home country but also here among the people of this country, they have talked, the one more unreasonable than the other.
Conditions in the colony were so hard during the first two years that by the fall of 1848 there was a mass exodus of between 100 and 300 of its members, encouraged—whether directly or indirectly—by the Swedish-born Methodist missionary Jonas Hedström in nearby Victoria, who had been appalled by their misery. Increasingly, in Paul Elmen's words, it would seem the colonists were coming to realize that "no single human act . . . could express in its simplicity the vision of purity which had captivated them in the farmhouses of Hälsingland." The following year, 1849, Bishop Hill was scourged by an epidemic of cholera that carried away some 200 of its members, in part at least because the prophet, insisting upon the healing powers of unquestioning faith, obdurately refused until too late to call in medical help, which proved to be incompetent.
At its first peak, between mid-1847 and mid-1848, Bishop Hill's population probably amounted to cose to 800 persons. In April 1850, the lawyer Britton A. Hill, who then represented the colony's interests, reported to the governor of Illinois that "the population of the colony is about 100 men, 250 women and girls, and 200 children." The female preponderance, not uncommon in utopian colonies, is notable. But this estimate was probably, already then, too great. The United States census of 1850—the year of Eric Jansson's death—counted no more than 405 inhabitants on 18 November of that year. Yet only three years later, Anders Wiberg reported that the colonists numbered 700 and in 1856 Baron Axel Adelswärd spoke of a total of circa 800, which by then may have included a few in Bishop Hill's new satellite colony at Galva, which he also described. Lars Ljungmark is doubtless correct in claiming that Bishop Hill's population never exceeded this figure. Following the economic collapse of 1857 its population steadily dwindled. After the formal incorporation of the colony in 1853, not all of Bishop Hill's residents joined initially or, in some cases, ever. In 1858, actual membership totaled 645, of which 147 were males and 258 females over twenty years of age. The United States census shows 420 residents in 1860 and 200 in 1870. By 1875, Charles Nordhoff, the pioneer chronicler of American utopian colonies, found Bishop Hill "slowly falling into decay." In 1892, Michael A. Mikkelsen reported that the village had 333 inhabitants.Its present population is around 160.
Considering the constant defections, it seems remarkable that the colony's population actually increased from 406 in 1850 to around 800 by 1856, that is, by nearly 100 percent, if the latter figure is trustworthy. This calls for at least some explanation. One group of about 100 persons arrived in Bishop Hill from Sweden in December 1850, following the census of that year, after having lost fifty to sixty of its members from cholera on the way. A final organized party of some seventy persons from Sweden in late 1854.Some earlier defectors doubtless rejoined the colony. Both during and after the colony period, individual immigrants from the homeland came to join relatives and friends from home at Bishop Hill.Despite its experiments in celibacy during its first two years and again for a time after 1854, many children were born in the colony.
Moreover, Janssonism won some converts en route and in America, including some notable figures in Bishop Hill's history. Sophie Pollock, who in 1949 became Eric Jansson's second wife, while born in Gothenburg, had long been living in New York when the prophet, passing through in 1846, won her for the faith. F. U. Norberg, the stormy petrel of the colony who eventually brought suit for its dissolution, had been in America since 1842 and came to Bishop Hill evidently in 1847. Victor Witting, later one of the leaders of Swedish Methodism, was a sailor on ships carrying Janssonists to America before joining the colony for a time in 1847. Ragtag adventurers of Swedish origin but questionable credentials for a Godly community occasionally passed through, including John Root, Eric Jansson's future murderer, who first showed up with some of his cronies in 1847. By the prosperous middle 1850s, the colony had become more liberal toward those not of its own persuasion. Baron Axel Adelswärd noted in 1856 that the colonists were "very good to other poor Swedes who come to them. If they wish, they may join them, but if not they may stay with them for some time and are fed and housed free." It is not unlikely that some did elect to remain.
Janssonism was Swedish in fact but universal in theory. C. G. Blombergsson claimed that Eric Jansson, during his brief stay in New York in 1846, made a number of converts, including some who could not understand a word of Swedish but were impressed by his conviction and manner. Once at Bishop Hill, the prophet began training a select group, the "Twelve Apostles," to carry the Word throughout the world.
In 1847, Cleng Peerson, the celebrated "Pathfinder" of the Norwegian immigration since the 1820s, now a man of sixty-five years, joined the colony, sold his property in Missouri for the benefit of the common fund, and took a Swedish wife. The marriage seems to have turned sour, however, and Peerson departed for the Norwegian Fox River settlement in nearby La Salle County, Illinois, in 1849, leaving his young wife at Bishop Hill. In the latter year, meanwhile, Jonas Nylund from Hälsingland led a sizable party to Bishop Hill, consisting mainly of converts he had made in Norway. Cholera broke out by the time they reached La Salle, which they then brought to Bishop Hill, setting off the disastrous epidemic of that year. According to the Lutheran pastor and historian Eric Norelius in 1890, the surviving Norwegians seem to have moved on to Mission Point on the Fox River and most of them later became Mormons. Eric Johnson claimed, however, that three of them remained in Bishop Hill.
Despite their valiant attempts to learn English—after finding to their dismay upon arriving in America that they did not possess the gift of tongues—the "Twelve Apostles" met with scant success in their efforts to convert the unredeemed, with one possible exception. Indeed, little seems to be known about their labors except in the case of the tailor Nils Hedin, who visited the Rappists in Economy, Pennsylvania, the Oneida colony in New York state, and Hopedale in Massachusetts. He is even reputed to have persuaded twenty-five or thirty persons in Hopedale to move to Bishop Hill. Eric Johnson wrote that Hedin recruited "a number of persons" from a religious utopian colony in Massachusetts. Hedin paid for their transportation to Bishop Hill, where they were hospitably received. But when the desired amalgamation failed to work out, the colony paid their return fare to the East as well as compensation for the work they had done. There was much contact with the Shakers at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.
At any event, the United States census of 1850 shows a single American family named Hinton from Tennessee and the German-American born bricklayer August Bandholtz living in Bishop Hill. In 1860 the census reveals only Swedish born residents and their Illinois-born children. Neither of these censuses can, however, be considered entirely reliable. Only with the census of 1870, nearly a decade after the dissolution of the colony, does any influx of non-Swedes become apparent.
Paul Elmen has pointed to the Janssonists' unresolved dilemma of seeking "to achieve a monastic exclusiveness and separation and, at the same time, launch a furious effort to transform and penetrate the world."
The possible conversion to Janssonism and residence at Bishop Hill—real or alleged—of non-Swedes remains one of the obscurest yet most tantalizing aspects of the colony's history. Clearly there was much coming and going at Bishop Hill during the colony period and the community seems to have been surprisingly open to outsiders. The story of its relations with non-Swedish Americans deserves further research.
It has meanwhile been repeatedly alleged that Bishop Hill was the mother hive to numerous daughter colonies both near and far. "In various parts of the west," Olov Isaksson has written, "settlements arose, populated by ex-colonists." Such new centers of Swedish settlement would naturally have attracted other Swedish immigrants to their respective areas. Where, specifically, did members—or most frequently ex-members—of Eric Jansson's sect settle outside of their utopia, and under what circumstances?
A special case, as previously noted, was that of the defecting Janssonists who remained in Chicago, beginning in 1846. Although they did not really comprise a "daughter colony" of Bishop Hill, since they had never lived there, they constituted for a time a little "colony" of their own because most of the twenty-seven persons who left the Janssonists in Chicago that first year lived to begin with in a house on Illinois Street between Dearborn and State. They were the first sizable group of Swedes to settle in the city. Gustaf Unonius, now ordained as an Episcopal priest, first visited Chicago in 1848 and begin his ministry there the following year. He found that the former Janssonists, who had been compelled to relinquish their worldly goods to the sect, had been "left almost naked and starving in a strange land." They provided much of the original membership of his St. Ansgarius Church. In time, other defectors drifted back to Chicago from Bishop Hill. Together with those few of their countrymen who had preceded them, the ex-Janssonists formed the nucleus of what would soon becomeAmerica's Swedish metropolis above all others.
The largest mass exodus out of the colony took place in the fall of 1848, as seen. Between 200 and 300 persons left at that time, defying anathema and despite the forfeiture of their goods. Most first went to Victoria in Knox County, which quickly became a predominantly Swedish community and the stronghold of embittered anti-Janssonism.Before long, increasing numbers settled in other nearby communities, such as Kewanee, Woodhull, and Alpha in Henry County; Galesburg, Henderson Grove, Wataga, Oneida, and Altona in Knox County; La Fayette and Toulon in Stark County; and in Rock Island and Moline. Carolyn Wilson has found evidence that a group of Bishop Hill colonists became Baptists and moved to Galesburg around 1857, where they briefly published a Baptist newspaper, Frihetsvännen, edited by the former Janssonist Svante Cronsioe. This group seems to have at least considered moving to Red Oak, Iowa.
From the later 1860s, these break-away groups were joined by increasing numbers from Bishop Hill following the dissolution of the colony and the economic problems this caused many of its former members. The life and career of Olof Krans is instructive in this regard: although celebrated as the painter of Bishop Hill colony life and the portraitist of its pioneers, he spent most of his life residing and working as a house painter in Galesburg and Altona. Galva, a few miles to the southeast, was meanwhile a "daughter colony" of Bishop Hill in the fullest sense. The town was platted by two American entrepreneurs in 1854, whereupon the Bishop Hill colony immediately purchased a block of fifty lots. This gave it so predominant an interest in the enterprise that they were able to name the new town Gefle (now spelled Gävle), after the northern Swedish seaport from which so many of them had sailed, which was soon corrupted to Galva. Here the colony built a large warehouse for the shipment of its products on the newly constructed Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad, followed by a pork packing house, a general merchandise business, a bank, and one of the earliest Swedish-American newspapers, Svante Cronsioe's Den Swenske Republikanen. A number of Bishop Hill colonists lived there after 1854, or later moved there.Another outpost was the village of Nekoma in Henry County, a few miles southwest of Bishop Hill, established by the colony in 1854 in anticipation of a rail line that did not then materialize.
By the later 1860s, land prices had risen to high levels while the disastrous crop failures in Sweden between 1867 and 1869 brought a flood of new immigrants to the existing Swedish communities in the area. This set off what George M. Stephenson has aptly called the "swarming of the Swedes" out of Illinois to new areas of settlement, involving numbers of former Bishop Hill settlers, both from Bishop Hill itself and from other Illinois communities.
By this time, some former colonists had already left Illinois in search of greener pastures. In 1850, Jonas Olsson had led a party of eight gold-seekers to California in an effort to bolster the colony's sagging economy. While all returned, except for a man named Stålberg who stayed and C. G. Blombergsson who died there, the venture may well have caught the imagination of other Illinois Swedes, encouraging them to go out to California. That same year, F. U. Norberg, one of the more controversial and intermittent members of the colony, took the lead, together with Gustaf Unonius, in promoting the first Swedish settlement at Chisago Lake in Minnesota. Although Norberg returned to Illinois, where he spent his last years near Toulon, this circumstance has apparently given rise to the frequent claim that a number of Bishop Hill people were among the early settlers in that area. The evidence of Eric Norelius, who knew the community well and gave a detailed listing of Chicago Lake's Swedish pioneers during the first five years of its settlement, seems however to disprove this commonly held idea. In 1848, Anders Blomberg, a tailor from Orsa in Dalarna, together with another Janssonist missionary, visited the Shaker colony at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.
He was impressed that the Shakers professed a perfectionist doctrine similar to the Janssonists'. Returning to Bishop Hill, he urged strict celibacy on the Shaker model—an experiment that had just been abandoned, at least for the next six years, by the Janssonists. When this was rejected, Blomberg left Bishop Hill and joined the Shakers. He was followed around 1854 by ten others from Bishop Hill, including Eric Jansson's widow, Sophie, and son, Eric. The sequel is that Anders Blomberg visited Sweden as a Shaker missionary in 1866-67, resulting in the emigration of sixty-three persons from Älvdalen in northern Dalarna in 1868, most of whom went to Pleasant Hill. Here the Swedes live together in the West Family House, forming a little colony within the colony. In the 1870s, Charles Nordhoff noted that while most of the Pleasant Hill Shakers were Americans, there were also "a good many Swedes." The large-scale movement of Swedes out of their older areas of settlement in northern Illinois, mainly to the west, beginning in the later 1860s, after the breakup of the Bishop Hill colony, certainly involved an indeterminable number of former colonists who as individuals or single families joined larger groups of Swedish land-seekers without Bishop Hill connections. In such cases, they are difficult, if not impossible, to trace.
There were at least a couple of instances, however, of organized Bishop Hill ventures for colonization further west. In 1869, Major Eric Forsse (originally Fors), a Bishop hill colonist who during the Civil War had raised and commanded Company D of the 57 th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, composed of Bishop Hill and Galva Swedes, led some fifty persons from those communities, among them several fellow veterans from Company D, to Saline County, Kansas, where they founded the Falun settlement. A few Swedes, possibly from Bishop Hill, seem to have arrived there already the year before.Widén,
Amerikaemigrationen, 60; my Letters, 83; Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 28.
Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 34-35; Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois, I:234; Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 142-44; M. M. Liljegren, N. O. Westergreen, and C. G. Wallenius, Svenska Metodismen i Amerika ( Chicago, 1895), 168-69.
Henry E. Pratt, ed., "The Murder of Eric Jansson, Leader of the Bishop Hill Colony," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 45 (1952): 64; Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 117, 148; Norton, "Wiberg's Account," 104; my Letters, 81; Ljungmark, Swedish Exodus, 20.
Philip J. Stoneberg in Henry L. Kiner, History of Henry County, Illinois, 2 vols. (Chicago, 1910), I:641-42, 645; Charles Nordhoff, The Communistic Societies of the United States (New York, 1965¸ first publ. in 1875), 348; Mikkelsen, Bishop Hill Colony, 71.
Eric Norelius, De svenska luterska Församlingarnas och Svenskarnes Historia i Amerika, 2 vols. (Rock Island, IL, 1890, 1916), I:29-30.
In 1962, Folke Hedblom met Swedish immigrants who had arrived in Bishop Hill as late as 1901. See his "Hos hälsingar i Bishop Hill. Från en Amerika-resa 1962," in Hälsingerunor. En hembygdsbok 1963 (Bollnäs, Sweden, 1963), 17-18.
Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 103-4, 120, 138-39, 202-3; Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois, I:269-70; my Letters, 81.
Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 132-33.
Theodore C. Blegen, "Cleng Peerson and Norwegian Immigration," MississippiValley Historical Review 7 (1921): 323. A somewhat more imaginative account is Hjalmar R. Holand, De norske Settlementers Historie (Ephraim, WI, 1908), 96-97.
Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 37; Norelius, De svenska Lurerska, I:29; Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois, 227. No persons of Norwegian birth show up in either the 1850 or 1860 U. S. censuses for Bishop Hill, but in unpublished studies Carolyn Wilson of Minneapolis and Roy Ostrom of Williamsfield, IL, have criticized the 1850 and 1860 censuses, respectively, for being demonstrably incomplete. Mr. Ostrom remembers hearing of one "Norsk Ole" in Bishop Hill and his unpublished listing of necrologies of former colonists includes the Norwegian-born Ole Anderson, who died in 1901.
Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 47; Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 132-34; Olov Isaksson and Sören Hallgren, Bishop Hill: A Utopia on the Prairie ( Stockholm, 1969), 94.
See note 26, above.
Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 133.
Isaksson and Hallgren, Bishop Hill, 146, cf. 153. Tis point is strongly stressed in Söderberg, Den första massutvandringen, 208, 217, see also map, 206.
Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 234; Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 121-22, 148-49; Ulf Beijbom, Swedes in Chicago: A Demographic and Social Study of the 1846-1880 Immigration (Uppsala, 1971), 44-45; [Gustaf Unonius,] A Pioneer in Northwest America, 1841-1858, trans. Jonas Oscar Backlund, ed. Nils William Olsson, 2 vols. (Minneapolis, 1950, 1960), II:166-67.
Norelius, De svenska luterska, I:75; Liljegren, et al., Svenska Metodismen, I:168-69.
See Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, and Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois for details on early Swedish settlers in these communities, identifying those who came from Bishop Hill. Part of Johnson and Peterson has been translated by Leroy Williamson as The Swedes in Knox County, Illinois (Galesburg, IL, 1979). Conversation with Carolyn A. Wilson, Feb.. 1989; J. Oscar Backlund, A Century of the Swedish-American Press ( Chicago, 1952), 21-22. Söderberg, Den första massutvandringen, 200-3, emphasizes above-average rates of emigration from the former "Janssonist" parishes in Sweden down to the end of the 19 th century. George Swank, Painter Krans: OK of Bishop Hill Colony (Galva, IL, 1976).
Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 64-68; Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois, I:337-40; The History of HenryCounty, Illinois ( Chicago, 1877), 168-70; my Letters, 79, 81.
Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 62-63; Kiner, History of HenryCounty, I:620-21.
George M. Stephenson, The Religious Aspects of Swedish Immigration ( Minneapolis, 1932), title to Chapt. 21.
See Isaksson and Hallgren, Bishop Hill, 155-61; Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 39.
Emeroy Johnson, "Early History of Chisago Lake Re-Examined," SAHQ 39 (1988): 215-25; Norelius, De svenska luterska, I:541-42, 554-58.
Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 133-34, 168, 200n45; Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 47; Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois, I:250-51; Olson and Wikén, SPAUS, 276; E. Gustaf Johnson, "A Scholarly Testament," SPHQ 25 (1975): 125-26; Nordhoff, Communistic Societies, 212.
DeVere E. Blomberg, ed., Heart and Heritage: Centennial Reflectios—Falun Lutheran Church and Community, 1887-1897 (Ellsworth, KS, 1987), 2, 58; Otto Robert Landelius, Swedish Place Names in North America, trans. Karin Franz én, ed. Raymond Jarvi (Carbondale, IL, 1985), 73. Conversation with Ronald E. Nelson, Bishop Hill, and John Norton, Moline , IL , Jan. 1989.
; Otto Robert Landelius, Swedish Place Names in North America, trans. Karin Franz én, ed. Raymond Jarvi (Carbondale, IL, 1985), 73. Conversation with Ronald E. Nelson, Bishop Hill, and John Norton, Moline , IL , Jan. 1989.
Widén, När Svensk-Amerika grundades, 118; Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 297-98; Helge Nelson, The Swedes and the Swedish Settlements in North America, 2 vols. ( Lund, 1943), I:271, II: map 55.
Minnie C. Norlin, Karin (n. p., 1936), 45. (This rare source was lent to me by Linda Holden, Bishop Hill.) Conversations with Ronald E. Nelson and Rias Spet, Bishop Hill, and Lowell Bjorling, Altona, IL. For attendance at the 1896 and 1946 celebrations, see Theo. J. Anderson, ed., 100 Years: A History of Bishop Hill, Illinois ( Chicago, 1946), esp. 200-1, 235, 245-47. The necrologies were compiled by Roy Ostrom, Williamsfield, IL.
Nelson, Swedes and Swedish Settlements, I:166.
See, for ex., Robert C. Ostergren, A Community Transplanted: The Trans-Atlantic Experiences of a Swedish Immigrant Settlement in the Upper Middle West (Madison, WI, 1988).
Anna Söderblom, En Amerikabok ( Stockholm, 1925), 196-97; Widén, När Svensk-Amerika grundades, 118.
Mikkelsen, Bishop Hill Colony, 6-7.
Arvid Bjerkling, ed., En skånsk banbrytare i Amerika. Trued Granville Pearsons självbiografi (Oscarshamn, Sweden, 1937), 56; Westin, Emigranterna och kyrkan, 43. Cf. Norelius, De svenska luterska, I:154; Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 24; Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah, 123-24.
Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois, I:266; Liljegren, et al., Svenskas Metodismen,200-3.
Unonius, Pioneer in Northwest America, II:203; Westin, Emigranterna och kyrkan, 43; Norelius, De svenska luterska, I:133.
Moberg, Unknown Swedes, 24.
Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 52-54; Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois, I:266; Blomberg, Heart and Heritage, 2, 58; Lilly Setterdahl, "The End of Eric Janssonism: Religious Life at Bishop Hill in the Post-Colony Period," Western Illinois Regional Studies 11 (1988): 39-54.
Lilly Setterdahl, "Emigrant Letters by Bishop Hill Colonists from Nora Parish," Western Illinois Regional Studies 1 (1978): 127-18.
Elmen, Wheat Flour Messiah,122, cf. 145.
Setterdahl, "Emigrant Letters," 121, 127-28; Stephenson, Religious Aspects, 70-71; Olson, et al., History of the Swedes of Illinois, I:266; Mikkelsen, Bishop Hill Colony, 70-71. The strongly Janssonist parishes of Nora, Torstuna, and Österunda lay in Västmanland County (län), but were part of the historic province of Uppland, which has sometimes created some confusion.
Johnson and Peterson, Svenskarne i Illinois, 234; Setterdahl, "Emgrant Letters," 127; Nelson, Swedish Settlements, I:277.
Submitted by H. Arnold Barton
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