Rock Island Swedes
The beginning of the Swedish immigration to Rock Island was in 1848, when ther founder of the Bishop Hill Colony established a fishing camp on the island, managed by the aforementioned N.J. Hollander as foreman for a half a dozen colonists. At this point Eric Janson’s wife and two of their children together with several other persons succumbed to the cholera in 1849.
Among the earliest Swedish settlers at Rock Island was A.J. Swanson, who came there in 1850 and made a small fortune in the boot and shoe business. Swanson or Svensson, haled from Ödeshög, Österg ötland. When he died, Jan. 8,1880 , at the age of fifty-one, he left an estate worth $40,000. Other Swedish settlers about this time were J.Bäck and Peter Söderström both son in laws of Rev. J. Rolin of Hessela, Helsingland; Jonas Strand, Jonas Norell and Erik Thomasson, all from Northern Sweden . A.T. Manke and Fredrika Boberg. Manke is supposed to have been among those who perished at the burning of the steamer “ Austria ” on the Atlantic Sept. 13, 1858 Peter Söderström and Fredrika boberg moved to Iowa before the eighties. In the fifties came August Linder, a tailor, Erik Åkerberg, a jeweler N.J. Rundquist, a wagon maker by the name of Envall Isreal Johansson, a shoe maker, one Hofflund, the brothers Carl and Peter Stjernström, the one a tailor the other a day laborer. Hufflund moved to Osco township and the Sternström brothers to Iowa previous to 1880. Not until the sixties and more especially in the seventies, however, did the Swedish immigrants come to settle in Rock Island in any great numbers.
The little colony of Swedes that existed there in the fifties is noteworthy in this that it was the orign of the first Swedish Baptist Church in America , organized there Sept. 26, 1852 . The founder was Gustaf Palmquist, a former school teacher from Stockholm who had joined the American Baptists in Galesburg in June of that year and it’s first members were: A.T. Manke, A.Boberg and Fredrika his wife, Peter Söderström and Carl Johansson mentioned among the Moline pioneers and Anders Norrelius, a brother of Eric Norrelius who later became a pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Church in America and is now president of the Augustana Synod.
The oldest and principal Swedish-American educational institution, Augustana College and Theological Seminary is located at Rock Island having been removed there from Paxton in 1873. Under the guidance of zealous and competent educators the institution has developed far beyond the aspirations of the founders. Besides being a complete college and a theological seminary Augustana embraces an academic department, a normal school, a commercial school a musical conservatory and a department of art. For several years past the work of gathering large endowment funds for the institution has been carried on. These and other signs point to a period of new and great prosperity for this old and venerated institution of learning. In immediate proximity to the institution lies the Augustana Book Concern, the publishing house of the Augustana Synod.
The Swedish-American population of the city of Rock Island at the close of the year 1905 was estimated at 3,500.
Swedes in Illinois
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