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Salute to colleague, Reva

I was invited recently to write some words of appreciation for someone who was retiring as secretary of our church conference in Omaha. Reva was the kind of person for whom this is a pleasure, and perhaps it will remind you of someone you have known.

Conference superintendants came and went, but Reva remained, always the cheerful, calm and friendly little lady whose soft words made you feel as if you were a very important person and your question or problem was the most important one in the world.

A perfect "front office" personality is something highly valued by anyone who ever occupied a "back office." So it was with Reva, who knew very well that her boss, the Conference superintendant, was at ground zero for any and all crises and conflicts that arose around the region. Who knows how many such situations were toned down by Reva before he ever had to deal with them.

Then there was the matter of gently prodding all of us in ministry around the conference, to get our registrations and reports in on time. Not an easy task either. It was that gentle tone of voice that assured you it was just a friendly reminder and never a hint of nagging.

Probably overworked and undoubtedly underpaid, I hope Reva's book is a thousand pages long!



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A Chicago Pioneer Buried Here?

One could not read through the old newspapers without gaining a strong appreciation for the journalistic skills of long-time editor Chatta "Chattie" Coleman Westinius. Because of her diplomatic and measured treatment of subjects often anything but diplomatic or measured in nature, she earns our trust in matters that might otherwise seem doubtful.

I am thinking now about one of her "Do You Know" pieces concerning one of her own ancestors named John Coleman who is buried in the Stromsburg cemetery. In that piece she details a remarkable role he played in the story of a not-so-small city; Chicago.

It is not too hard to imagine the early days in the towns of Polk county...for better or worse they have not changed a great deal in either size or population over the years. The same can not be said for Chicago or any other large American city. To imagine them as small outposts strains the imagination given their huge dimensions and hundreds of thousands of citizens...even millions...stretching for miles upon miles today.

But history tells us that they, too, had modest beginnings and John Coleman was there to witness an earlier time. An Indiana carpenter, Coleman was prevailed upon to travel to the swampy southwestern shores of Lake Michigan to a place called Fort Dearborn. The reason for his trip was to ply his skills in building the first proper house at that location which heretofore was served only by log houses and fortifications.

In doing this, he lay claim to having built the first real house in Chicago! Were the story to come from anyone else but Chattie it might defy belief. But in addition to the family claim, she possessed a carpenter's wood plane he used on that very house. I wonder where that plane is today? The Polk County Museum would love to have it!



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An Arboretum Update

It's only been a little over a quarter century since the Arboretum was dedicated so that's pretty recent as history goes, but it seems like a good time to give a little report on some things that have been going on there. Some nice flowers appeared here and there last summer, and sure enough the ususal anonymous suspects had been at work again. Thanks ladies.

And another anonymous dog walker is going to be missed, as she moved to Florida and won't be picking up branches any more. Thanks, Linda S. Another couple labored mightily to transplant some prairie grass to screen an unsightly concrete remnant. So far the screen is not up to the task, but we have hopes for next season.

As for trimming and weeding, well, there will never be any shortage of things to be done in that department. Thanks again to the city for keeping the grass mowed. Some painting has also appeared on the benches and building fascia. Signs keep turning up beneath growth that need to be set upright again. Just as a reminder: there is a CD at the library with pictures of the Arboretum in its summer and autumn glory.

This year the frost was late, and it resulted in fall colors being a little off kilter. Our front trees were not their usual fiery red but the back yard trees looked better. The same variations could be seen at the Arboretum. When all was said and done all the leaves came down and we got our usual task of hauling them to the dump.



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Gustavus Adolphus Day

In 1932 the following church announcement appeared: "A week from Sunday we will celebrate the 300th anniversary of the death of Gustavus Adolphus on the battlefield of Lutzen, Germany, in his battle to save protestantism in Europe." Gustavus Adolphus was king of Sweden and led its armies in their deepest incursions into continental Europe four centuries ago. Most of us associate that name with the Swedish college in Minnesota which was named in his honor.

The reasons we no longer celebrate this holiday may include the discomfort we have about the "thirty years war," a conflict that pitted Protestants against Catholics in Europe, and the abandonment of state churches in America. One telling argument for freedom of religion was that nations would not rise up against nation in defense of their religion. It's interesting that back in the Swedish speaking days in Polk county this thing was still celebrated. Thankfully this affront to our good Catholic neighbors can be forgotten.

At one time a war lasting thirty years seemed unthinkable. Lately we have gotten into some long-term conflicts ourselves. Most of the rest of the world is with us in abandoning the notion of "holy war." But our present adversaries very much consider their quest one of defending their religion. I am wary that people on our side may be tempted to turn back the clock and make it a new crusade for Christianity. Wouldn't that be a giant step backward?



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Grocer Forslund

It is often heard that Stromsburg once had four grocery stores. In tracking down our own grocer/relative, Eric Forslund, we have discovered that he operated at four different locations himself! Maybe you would like to know about this adventure around the square.

We have already written about the Forslund grocery in the Polk County News/ First National Bank/ Wilson Block building. There he was in one of the the east-facing stores we associate with Steve Peterson. He sold that business but later decided to go back into business with his nephew Eric Carlson. (Eric was also the nephew of my grandfather, John Greenwall)

They purchased the store of Herman Benda, which near as we can tell was along the north side of the square, west of the Wilson Block. That building was on its lasts legs and within a matter of months they had moved over to the east side, to the old Lime Kiln Hall building which was no "spring chicken" either. (The phrase "no spring chicken" is not heard much any more, but for younger readers let me explain that it is a polite way of saying "older than dirt.")

Guided by a wonderful picture of the east side stores found by Charles Noyd and the reminiscences of Sterling Anderson, whose hardware store now occupies the former Lime Kiln site, we made progress in tracking Forslund-Carlson Grocery down. Sterling was there when the two metal clad frame buildings were replaced by the present structure, and even helped carpenter Frank Anderson build the roof trusses in 1945.

What we hoped, of course, was that some evidence of the old grocery store might survive in back rooms or basements under the hardware store. Not likely, said Sterling, because the basement under the south half was filled in when the new building went up, and the north half was remodeled. He suggested that I talk to Elwyn Yungdahl, one door south. That was confusing, because the Goldenrod Insurance building, once known as the Ekeley Building, is present on Noyd's early picture and could not be the Lime Kiln hall.

At that point, as I said to wife Eleanor, one of three things must be true: either Chattie Coleman was mistaken about where the Forslund-Carlson store was (Lime Kiln), Sterling had slipped a cog in locating it at Yungdahl's (I needn't explain what "slipped a cog" means, right?) or least likely of all, Forslund had moved again for a fourth time! Within a week's reading in the old papers both Chattie and Sterling were vindicated. I should have known. Forslund did indeed move again!

Now it was time to pay Elwyn a visit with my copy of the Noyd picture. Can you guess what happened next?



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Grocer Forslund, part 2

In the last episode of this two-part serial, we traced ancestor Eric Forslund to what appeared to be his fourth location as a grocer around the square; the Ekeley building now home to Goldenrod Insurance. Elwyn Yungdahl graciously gave us a tour of the back room, where Karl Karlson once shared space with Forslund for his meat market. There, written in pencil on a doorpost were the following inscriptions: "Harold Swan 2-18-31" and "Charles Stromberg 2-3-1945."

Did these fellows suspect that 80 plus and 60 plus years later someone would still be reading their scribbles? Were they stockboys? We know that Carleton Anderson served in that capacity, but his name did not appear on the doorpost roster. Someone told us that Harold Swan, known as "Swanny," was later in the grocery business himself so we will keep an eye on that story. But the best part of the tour was yet to come.

Remember the old basement doors which were part of the floor and had to be opened to one side revealing the stairs? That's the way this basement was entered, and, yes, Elwyn let us go down there. What we saw took us back to the 1930's. Both sides and the center aisle were lined with shelves made up entirely of wooden apple boxes! Evidently none of the former occupants of this building, which included a savings and loan bank and a ceramics shop, cared to open that basement door to make any changes down there. Thank goodness they didn't!

On one of those many boxes, which once contained not only apples but other fruits and things as well, we found the "holy grail." A shipping label on which was written the words, "to Eric Forslund, Stromsburg Nebraska." There it was, all the proof needed to tie Eric to this basement and this former grocery store on the square. That's as good as it gets for us amateur genealogists and historians!



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Words of Encouragement from Ford

The country was experiencing "hard times" already in 1933, but just how hard they were was driven home by a circumstance that we did not immediately recognize. The collection of early newspapers of which we are presently custodians is missing the year 1933. Fortunately the library has this year in their microfilm collection. It was there that the notice appeared in late summer, that the Federal Reserve had authorized "the reopening of the Stromsburg Bank." It was that bank which was responsible for the bound newspapers we have. That is probably why we are missing 1933.

Not a lot appears in the papers about the depression. Everyone was trying to hold their head up and put on a brave appearance. But the bank holiday that was in effect that year must have been frightening to say the least. Businesses and homes were urged to sign up for the new president's National Recovery Act, and display its symbol, a blue eagle banner. Henry Ford went into print with this encouraging message to Americans:

"I suppose that I may claim to be the first Ford Dealer. I not only made cars, but sold them and frequently delivered them myself.
The 'drive away' is not new; often I have driven cars from Detroit to towns in Ohio or Indiana or Midhigan to make delivery.
There were no good roads in those days, and the people where I drove had never seen a motor car before. My first really enthusiastic customers were Country Doctors. They were the first to realize the value of dependable transportation to a widely scattered practice.
Even today I occasionally hear from some of those first Ford users.
We had to teach local mechanics how to care for the cars. That is how Ford Service began, which is now found everywhere in the world.
We believed from the beginning that a sale does not complete our transaction with our customer -- it creates upon us an obligation to see that our customer's car gives him service. Ford Dealers know their duty to the public in this respect.
I can say of Ford Dealers generally that they have been and are men of character and standing in their communities. Most of them have been with us many years, which indicates that we agree on basic business principles. The Company provides that the methods used to sell the Ford car are consistent with the self-respect of the Dealers who handle it.
The present Ford V-8 is the peak of our 30 years experience. We have never made a better car. Its eight-cylinder engine is powerful and smooth running. The car is admittedly very good looking and has comfortable riding qualities. It is economical in operation because of advanced engine design and low car weight. It is the fastest, roomiest and most powerful car we have ever built."

Some of his comments ring true here; the first auto belonged to a doctor and the first Fords were sold in great numbers by the dealer the paper likes to call "that boy, O.A. Rystrom."



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Alex Swanson's Miniature Steamer

Even in the hard times of 1933 there were occasions for celebration and enjoyment in Polk county as the following account shows. People had been hounding Alex Swanson all summer for a public demonstration of his miniature steam tractor, and he finally consented with some very fascinating twists to that demonstration. The newspaper account estimated 300 spectators: here are some of the details:

"It was hitched on to a train of coaster wagons, ten in all, in each wagon was a small boy, and in several an extra passenger was riding. The engine pulled this train with ease and after it had gone about two hundred feet, was unhitched from the train of wagons and attached to a six cylinder Chevrolet automobile. The little machine pulled the car back to the place of starting, and not only the car but a swarm of small boys who had climbed onto the auto. In fact the boys were so thick that the auto could hardly be seen. This was pulled the two hundred feet with ease."

There followed a demonstration of generating electricity with the little steam engine. Those who missed the demonstration were promised a photo display at Ericson's jewelry. Previous to the demonstration it had been on display in Ericson & Anderson's window. Now what do you suppose happened to that steam engine and those pictures?



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Holiday Discoveries: Broom Factory and Nelson Dairy

Sorting out the aftermath of the holiday flurry of impressions and experiences is our present task. It is a pleasant one, for the excitement and interactions of people during holidays is something special. They come rapid fire and randomly. That's why we need a quiet time to reflect on them.

Meeting a constant stream of cars coming and going to and from the Nuttleman Dairy...what can it mean? It's because the holiday ethnic treat "ostakaka" must be made from whole milk, the kind you can't buy in a store. It is delicious, especially when topped with lingonberries. Lingonberries do not grow here; most are shipped in from the old country or some other northern land.

Nuttleman's was not the first dairy around here. The first one of note was Morrill's, and now the question has been posed: "is that old barn on the Morrill grounds, known as the creamery, part of that dairy?" Axel Rudeen gave us a picture of that dairy, and the barn in the picture does not look like the one there now. But it could be, with some changes. There are several figures seen in that picture, but they are far away. Could one be grandpa Greenwall? Surely one is great uncle Forslund.

The same folks that raised the creamery question revealed something startling and new to me. The Nelson Brothers' Dairy whose operation was famous in the twenties for its herd of registered cattle brought here from as far away as the east coast also had two other distinctions. One was their sister, Myrtle, who I was privileged to know when she was a resident at Covenant Home, having then no idea that she was their sister. Second, that it probably was the Nelsons who put an end to the Morrill Dairy. But the latter was more of a hobby business for the Morrill's anyway.

And for something completely different, the same folks were related to the broom factory Olsons. It was revealed that the location of the last broom factory here would have been right in front of the house where we live! Oh, would it be something to find a picture of that! Of this we can be sure; anything is possible. I hope the holidays were as interesting for you this year as they were for me.



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Counting Carlsons

"If you're worried and you can't sleep, why not count Carlsons instead of sheep?"

That thought occurred during a "genealogy moment" recently. There have been Carlson schoolmates, friends and even relatives. What was hoped was that grandpa's in-law Carlsons would have some descendants near here with whom we could connect. So far that has not happened. There have been some distant Carlsons who have turned up. Claus Carlson, cousin to grandpa's first wife Elisabeth, farmed a mile northwest of Stromsburg in the 1920's. His grandson contacted us from Illinois with fascinating pictures of the family and of district #50 school which his father attended.

Another cousin, Eric Carlson, was partner to Eric Forslund in the grocery business in Stromsburg at the same time but no descendants have surfaced. Elisabeth's sister Emma was Forslund's wife. Their maiden name was Carlson, but that was because of something called "patronymics." Their father was Carl Johnson. At one time they would have been entered in the books as "Carlsdotters" but in the confusing transitions from Sweden to America and from Swedish to English, they became "Carlsons." Are you with me? The meat department of the grocery was operated by Karl Karlson. He no doubt changed the spelling to avoid confusion (he was no relation). Very Klever.

Perhaps the most interesting Carlson descendant to turn up was another in-law from Sweden. Her husband is descended from the Carl Johnson clan over there and she caught up with me over the internet. Some amazing pictures have come from her including one of my grandfather that I had never seen before.

During our sojourn in Iowa we visited New Sweden, Jefferson county. There the first Swedish Baptist church in the country once stood (its cemetery remains) but nearly all of its members migrated to a little town in Nebraska...Stromsburg. Among them was Pastor Peter Carlson and some of his brothers. Though he is buried here and his brothers were in the hardware business in town, I have been unable to trace any descendants here. Can anyone help? The hardware branch of the family seems to have moved on to Gothenburg.

In recent years a cousin married a Carlson from Kansas. It turns out they were neighbors of our present neighbor, Pastor Dick Olson. That would fit the "it's a small world" category.

"And you'll fall asleep, counting your Carlsons." That won't work, morning will come first.



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Meeting Cousin Jane Wilcox

The year 2014 ended as it began; with the discovery of a previously unknown distant cousin.

Long ago there was the story of how our grandmother traveled to York as a young woman to learn what she could of the tailor's craft from an Uncle John Nelson. When we came to Polk county in 1975 there might have been a faint memory of this connection to nearby York.

Then sometime in recent years we saw at a family reunion a scrapbook from grandma's family which had three or four pictures of this Uncle John taken on a visit he and his family made up to our town, Wausa. Now there was more to consider...some children who would have been grandma's cousins. And also, there was a picture with John's sister Elise, grandma's mother who I can vaguely remember from childhood. Yet another showed John and one of his little girls outside their home in York.

Upon our return to Polk county in 2011, it occurred to me to investigate the York cemetery to see if there might be a John Nelson buried there. There was. Then as 2014 drew to a close along with my gift membership to a genealogy program, it was time to look further into this family. There was indeed someone who included him; it was the Shuknecht tree from the Gresham area. There was also a census report which located the Nelson house.

But it was Nancy Beach of the York County Historical Society that made these element come together. On the foggy day we went in search of the Nelson house, we stopped first at the Society's office to see what we could learn there. Nancy soon emerged with two large, clear pictures that were amazing. It was the tailor shop in which John Nelson worked, and John was in each picture! City directories there also pinpointed the location of the shop and of Nelson's residence. Later we would take a shot matching the view from the scrapbook picture. The street has not changed much and the house still stands.

John Nelson at center

"Do you have some time this morning?," asked Nancy, "You may have discovered more than you thought." (or words to that effect). Not long after, the person who had brought those tailor shop pictures to the Society office appeared in person, responding to Nancy's call. A granddaughter of John Nelson! Another cousin! A great way to end the year and open a new door of discovery.



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When Genealogy Pays Off

There has been a resurgence of interest in genealogy among people in general and the same is true around here. As in the case of way too many things, you can avoid a lot of time and work by just spending a lot of money. That would be for the internet resources that do things you probably could never do like searching through databases of public records for any places where your family name appears.

One should be prepared for some unexpected things when doing family genealogy. Aside from the occasional "skeleton in the closet," there are mostly delightful things lurking just beyond our known information or our fading memories. For instance, since moving back to Polk county in late 2011 we have found approximately one new distant cousin per year living right here. Mostly these are people our own age and so are at a point where they are at the height of interest in family ties.

The latest of these does not involve the paternal Greenwall line which has known but fading ties to the area. Rather it involves the maternal branch, and is based on one very slender twig of knowledge: that grandma Alma Johnson Gustafson came down to York as a young woman to learn the tailoring skills from her uncle John Nelson. He was her uncle by virtue of the fact that her mother, Elis Nelson Johnson, was his sister.

While passing time waiting at WalMart, we asked the hostess lady how to find the local cemeteries hoping to find a gravesite for uncle John Nelson. This was accomplished rather easily through Greenwood cemetery's electronic kiosk. There were other Nelsons buried nearby which indicated that this branch had more leaves but not much more than that. After quite a long time the online census records for York county were checked, and some more things on uncle John came to light. There were three children, and the address of his home.

On the way to check this address we stopped at the York County Historical Society office near the fairgrounds to see what curator Nancy Beach might know. She soon emerged with no less than two actual pictures of John at work in the tailor shop on Lincoln Avenue and a street view of that shop. But what happened next went way beyond our expectations. She phoned the lady who donated these pictures and who also soon joined us at the office with more pictures. It was uncle John's granddaughter!

Readers may remember a column about "finding the York Swedes" in which we toured the Bethesda cemetery on the old Bethesda church site northwest of town. Now we know that it was here that John's wife Elisabeth's last rites were conducted though she was buried at Greenwood. Through the magic of genealogy a real, living Swede and a relative at that, were discovered.



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When Swedish goes French

Swedish names are fun and sometimes puzzling. Why, for instance, would Swedes name a son Robert (a French-sounding name which the French would pronounce "Row-bare." Pastor Bob Johnson and I not only share this first name, but our shared middle name is Leroy (Le Roy means "the king" in French). My neighbor Olson got the name Richard, which the French pronounce "Ree-shard." Why all this confusion?

A clear explanation came along with a copy of "Scandinavian Press" from North Dakota thanks to another neighbor. It was our first sighting of that publication which, as the title suggests, includes Norwegian lore. Here is the relevant quote from an article about the baptism of Swedish Princess Leonore:

"Leonore's mother, Madeleine, is fourth in line to the Swedish throne, which Carl XVI Gustaf inherited 41 years ago. She is the youngest of the king's and Queen Silvia's three children.

Sweden is a constitutional monarchy in which the royals primarily serve as figureheads. The current dynasty was founded in 1810 when French marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was elected as successor to the throne."

A rumor that we had heard earlier had it that one of Napoleon's generals was placed on the throne. This may have been Bernadotte. Royalty is a notion foreign to us, but clearly there were diplomatic motives in these marriages between nations. Queen Sylvia, we are told, grew up in Brazil!

So, in best patriotic fashion (or perhaps just a fad) Swedes began naming their children with French sounding names. And, in best Scandinavian fashion, they still haven't stopped doing it centuries later.



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Jeweler J.A. Anderson remembers...

Stromsburg jeweler J.A. Anderson remembered that he had operated his store on the north side of the square for thirty years and wanted to put some of his recollections into print, which he did in a 1934 issue of the paper. He was sixteen when his parents began farming south of Clarks in 1879. They cashed in on the rising land prices and later moved to California but not before securing the properties in Stromsburg.

His story about the old hotel, called at one time the Ryder House, a block east of the southeast corner of the square, is very interesting. His father had constructed the original building as a wagon-building shop in 1884. Later a second story was added with the unusual feature of having a windmill on the roof for the purpose of driving a feed mill. "Sometimes the mill would not run because the wind did not blow, then my father had a basement dug under the mill where he kept a team of mules to run the mill. I was the lucky one to take care of the mules." No doubt this experience made a deep impression on young Anderson, and vouches for the accuracy of the story. Charles Norman then operated the building as a hotel, originally called the Leland.

Readers of Kathy Nelson's book on Dr. Flippin might recall that this hotel was the location of the notorious illegal operation performed by the elder Flippin on the unfortunate out-of-town woman who lost her life as a result. All of these things and more took place on the corner where the city garage now quietly sits. Page 54 of the red centennial book has a good picture of the Ryder House. I've wondered if my relatives stayed there when first coming to town.

Another piece of news he reports is the exploratory shaft dug in search of coal on the Morrill estate. "Long before oil talk around Stromsburg a shaft was sunk in prospects for coal in Morrill's pasture, just south of the brick yard, but no coal was found." Needless to say, no oil turned up either.

Finally there is this striking opinion on the relative merits of horses versus cars as a means of transportation. "The year 1894 was a very severe time for business, a very severe drouth came upon the country. I was driving a horse at that time and bought a ton of hay from A.B. Lind for $40... After keeping the horse for twenty years, I invested $1,000 in a Ford automobile. The roads at that time were nothing to talk or brag about and after driving my touring car eight years it went into the junk pile. I might mention that I purchased this Ford in 1910. I consider the horse the most economical for transportation considering things from all sides."

We are indebted to Mr. Anderson for some glimpses into the past and are glad he took the time to write about them.



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Natalie Lingenfelter's "Nebraska" movie collection

You might have seen an article recently about a Girl Scout up in Plainview, Nebraska, who undertook a big project to organize a collection and display from the making of the movie, "Nebraska." That movie was made a couple of years ago with scenes shot in Plainview, Hooper, Norfolk and Stanton. But it was Natalie Lingenfelter's home town of Plainview that was "the fictional town for the movie."

The article goes on to say "She completed her project on behalf of the Plainview Historical Society for display at the community's Depot Museum and as part of a Gold Award, which is the highest honor for Girl Scouts. 'It has been my life from June to now,' Natalie said." She no doubt captured a story that will live long in Plainview lore.

The whole family got involved, with her parents Lyle and Dianne Lingenfelter hosting an open house at the museum, and with her brother Nick assisting as cameraman for interviews Natalie conducted. Among those things displayed was an original script for the movie which was left behind, hundreds of photos from when the filming took place, and interviews with those who were involved.

What made the whole story of special interest in these quarters is that Natalie's great-great grandmother was born Anna Regina Grönvall, and to top that, her great grandfather was the doctor who delivered this writer. Anna lived in Stromsburg briefly when her husband, August, was a blacksmith here. Their son, Eric Harold, was born here and retained Stromsburg ties by marrying a Berggren daughter, Beulah. He was "uncle Nordy" to the Berggrens and is buried here.

(As a postscript, should you see this movie, see if you can catch the reference to "an auto accident near Wausa.")



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The Swedes of McKeesport, Pennsylvania

A couple recently visited here in search of information about an ancestor, Rev. Walfred Gustaf Holmberg, who was pastor of the Stromsburg Baptist church from 1944 to 1950. Since I have an unusually complete set of resources about Swedish Baptists, this would be an interesting task. First up would be to check the roster of clergy found in the 1946 history of Bethel Seminary. Could it be that Holmberg might have attended Bethel while it was located here in Stromsburg? Afraid not, he was too young.

But it had a summary of his career which went as follows: "Born Dec. 3, 1891, McKeesport, Pa. Converted, April 1902, McKeesport, and baptized there Febr. 8, 1903, by Detlof Lofstrom. Bethel Ac(ademy), 1916-19; Bethel Theol. Sem., 1919-22; ThB (Bachelor of Theology), 1922; Student pastor, Middle East Conf. 1917; Glen Cove, N.Y., 1918; Payne St. Mission, St. Paul, 1916-17; Lake Park Mission, St. Paul 1918-20; Spring Vale, Minn. 1920-22. Married Ruth Elizabeth Carlson, Minneapolis, Sept. 12, 1922. Children: Virginia Elizabeth and Ruth Elaine (our own Ruthie Erickson). Ordained Oct. 18, 1922, Fargo, N.D. Pastor, Fargo, N.D. 1922-24; Concordia, Kans., 1924-33; Minneapolis Bethel, 1933-39; Albert Lea Calvary, Minn., 1939-44; Stromsburg, Nebr., since 1944."

It would be great if all the immigrant denominations kept this kind of records concerning its pastors, but sadly this is not the case. The reference to McKeesport, PA, triggered an association in memory. Most immigrant church stories are midwestern, so this takes us to new territory. The Free Mission history of 1934 reports that their somewhat isolated McKeesport church was served by pastors including August Modig, C.E. Cedar and Fred Nelson, names that will be familiar to Nebraskans. The Swedish Methodist history notes that pastors August Stromberg and A. Sallen served the church of that denomination which was built in 1893.

Adolph Olson's Baptist history records that pioneer pastor, Olof Lindh, founded their congregation around a group of Baptists who previously had worshiped with the Mission group. He had good friends here in Stromsburg and may have intended to retire here (his name appears on a property early on). Karl Olsson, Covenant historian, reports that this same Mission group cooperated with the regional Covenant youth ministries before formally joining the Free denomination. That left only the Augustana Lutheran people unaccounted for, and that was soon remedied with the help of the internet. There were two Augustana congregations in this greater Pittsburgh area among the many American Lutherans of Pennsylvania Dutch and other stripes. One of these, along with the churches mentioned above, each were clustered along a ridge on "Jenny Lind" street. Wouldn't you know? McKeesport turned out to be an interesting place.



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When a Swede is a Turnip

Most of us keep a dictionary handy, mainly to check spellings when writing, but while doing this recently my eyes fell on a word that caught my full attention. The word was "swede." The amazing thing was the definition: " a fleshy, yellow turnip."

Checking the preface to this dictionary revealed something about its source: "This book is nominally an abridgement of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, but has in fact cost its compilers more labour, partly because the larger book was found not to be easily squeezable..." Obviously these editors were not using the form of English familiar to us.

Like many of my books, this dictionary came either from a used book store or one of those big book closeouts found in vacant supermarkets in the city. It supports the old adage, "you get what you pay for." Now there is no animosity meant toward the Brits, but one must consider some history regarding their relationship with Sweden. Bishop Ansgar of Hamburg is credited with bringing Christianity to Sweden in the 9th century. His saint's day is celebrated on February 3rd and the Covenant church here was initially part of the Swedish Lutheran Ansgar Synod, named in his honor.

The Swedish Baptists also trace their roots to German soil where some of their first pastors were baptized. And there was the case of a Wesleyan Englishman, George Scott, who carried on mission work in Stockholm until it was discovered that he spoke critically of Swedish ways in other countries. He was then ushered out. Many immigrant stories involve a stop at English ports and invariably comment on the dismal squalor of those places.

During both world wars the Swedes were reluctant to join with the English against the Germans. In the latter case, goods continued to flow across the Baltic and Sweden was spared occupation. We must set aside all such trivial offenses, but it would be a shame if some English youngster were led to conclude that Stromsburg is the turnip capital of Nebraska...



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Advice for Seniors

The following words were in an old newspaper clipping found in one of my books. It appears to be aimed at senior citizens, so here it is:

"Lord, thou knowest I am growing older.
Keep me from becoming talkative and possessed with the idea that I must express myself on every subject.
Release me from the craving to straighten out everyone's affairs.
Keep me from the recital of endless details. Give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips when I am inclined to tell of my aches and pains. They are increasing with the years and my love to speak of them grows sweeter as time goes by.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong. Make me thoughtful but not nosy, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom and experience, it does seem a pity not to use it all. But thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end."



Folkets Vän 148
Was Stromsburg a movie site?

A headline for July 12, 1934, read: "Autos Collide on Main Street of Stromsburg." But it was not an actual event, rather a "teaser" for publicity about a movie that was planned for right here in town. This was the plan:

"An old eccentric Ford, driven by Roy Minnick and Leslie Johnson, two of the leading characters in 'Lazy Bones,' a two-reel comedy picture will crash into a sedan, on the corner of the square, Friday at 3:00 P.M., driven by Miss Doris Johnson who will be accompanied by Mrs. Leslie Johnson, Miss June Ericson, Miss Dorothy Robinson and Miss Ruth Peterson."

Further details of the movie, to be shot by the C.D. Tinsley Film Co. of Des Moines, had Stromsburg Chief of Police, Harry Lindblade, chase down the scoundrels. The plot involved the two finding a wallet full of money at the depot and immediately converting the cash into a car at Emil Johnson's dealership. Then the crash and chase ensued.

"If you are on the street during the taking of this picture, you will want to see if you can find yourself in any of the scenes of 'Lazy Bones'," the Headlight continued. (It was scheduled to be shown at the Rialto on the 17th and 18th.)

Imagine the excitement this announcement would have stirred up. What we don't know, as of the September issues of that year, is whether the thing actually came off or not. Does anyone know?



Folkets Vän 149
Church news from 1910

In July of '34 the newspaper column "Looking Back" listed the pastors of the various churches 24 years earlier, or in 1910. It must have been an interesting year.

Rev. Carl A. Anderson served the Swedish Baptist congregation, and L.K. McNeil the American Methodist as it was then called in contrast to the Swedish Methodist...then served by Olin Swanson who would go on to be Conference Superintendent with headquarters in Stromsburg. Eden Baptist, the English speaking congregation, was vacant but served in the interim by native son J.L. Hedbloom.

The Lutheran church had as its pastor Carl H. Hemborg, who was an avid amateur astronomer who traveled about giving lectures on the subject and had also published articles on that science. In '34 another Stromsburg minister was reported to have constructed a reflector telescope by which to search the heavens. "Keep looking up" might have been their watchword.

Things got more interesting as we come to Rev. Harry N. Poston and "The People's Independent Church." What was that? Well, it seems that this previous pastor of the American Methodists did not wish to accept reassignment to a very small parish in southeast Nebraska nor did his people want him to leave. So, they did a most unMethodist-like thing and started their own congregation, meeting in a public hall. They must all have soon thought better of this, since it did not survive for long.

The Swedish Methodist church also played host that year to a group which had dissented to the Swedish Mission Church, Rev. G.D. Hall in the pulpit, when it joined the Nebraska Conference of the Mission Covenant. Served first by Rev. C.W. Nelson, this group formed the nucleus of the Free Mission congregation which soon built its own church.

Yes, it must have been an interesting year...



Folkets Vän 150
Good stories from the Senior Center

I am amazed how much is to be learned by a simple dinner hour visit to the Senior Center. For instance, just recently some of the diners there were asked whether they remembered hearing Sunday sermons preached in the Swedish language. That led to an interesting discussion.

One associated these memories with times spent at grandmother's house. In my own family, the grandparents of our parents delighted in teaching the language of the "old country" to the youngsters. Sometimes it was only when going to public school that our parents' generation began to learn English. We might bear this in mind when thinking of more recent immigrants to America. The child so schooled by grandparents in Swedish could avoid the practice parents sometimes employed by using the old language to talk about things they didn't want the youngsters to hear.

One anecdote that was new to me, was that beyond the time when there had to be two Sunday morning services; one in Swedish and one in English; it was decided to have only one service and to use Swedish for only the last fifteen minutes! This would have had the added benefit of ensuring that the old timers remained awake till the end. The Yankton, SD, radio station had a Sunday morning service by Rev. J.H. Mars which featured fifteen minutes in Swedish and fifteen in English. (the name "Mars", mythological god of war, would be a dramatic example of a Swedish "military" name, like Spjut which is spear, Hjälm which is helmet, etc.)

A final revelation concerned the Lutheran pastor who kept a pet crow in its own backyard quarters. Discovered in these quarters were items of loot which said crow had stolen, clearly in violation of one of the commandments every Lutheran confirmand knows. Examination of some of these items, pens to be exact, proved that they had been liberated from the high school, no doubt through an open window.

No, you can't beat the Senior Center for good stories.




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