Friday, July 21, 2017

Murder on Christmas night! The shooting of Swan Nelson in Chicago 25 Dec 1893 Part 2

Swan Nelson was buried on December 28nd  at Oakwood Cemetery outside Chicago. The burial service was most likely performed by pastor Carl Granath of the swedish-speaking Zion Evangelical Lutheran church which Swan and his relatives attended. In its It is burial record he is listed as "shot December 25th 3 AM" 


note about  Swan Nelsons burial inthe burial records from
Zion Evangelical Lutheran church in Chicago microfilm SAKA 192
 Swedish Emigrant Institute, Växjö,Sweden.

 The news of his death spread fast  among the Swedish-Americans in Chicago and caused great anger . It increased the ethnic tensions between  Swedish-Americans and Irish-Americans.The Chicago Daily News described the shooting as unjustified and the Swedish-American newspapers raged. The Swedish-American organisations quickly organised The Swedish National League to raise money for an investigation and legal counsel to make sure the two policemen were tried and punished. The leaders of the  committee were  contractor August G Myhrman, lawyer Harry Olsson and William Wennerholm. Support also came from the Swedish-American newspapers , including Svenska Tribunen




(from :Swedish-American Historical Quaterly 2014 jan no. 1page .41)


Quick to join in wasthe 25-year-old entrepreneur Fred Lundin known for his "Juniper-Ade" he  was elected chairman of the committee. The first mass meeting was held on January 7th and gathered 400 participants.More than 20 mass meetings were held between january and October 1894 and around  8,000 were gathered (about $ 200,000 in today's money value) .Several Swedish-American churches and clubs became involved in the matter.  A private detective was hired to search for  witnesses and a well known lawyer  Luther Laflin Mills  was retained.  

The biggest event for collecting money was a big concert held on May 26 1894in the new Auditorium Theatre , featuring t 400 singers and musicians andan audience of  around 4500 listeners.
The trial against Healy and Moran opened  on January 7, 1895. The proceedingsoffered a lot of drama and was given extensive coverage  by the Chicago newspapers. A juror was removed for perjury and indicted,during the trial there were charges of jury tampering and witnessess being  influenced and allegations of a police cover-up. . The defense argued that there were no unlawful killing since Swan nelson had fled the policeand that anyone could have fired the bullet.
 In the end, Luther Laflin Mills adressed the jury and  held a long speech in which he depicted Swan Nelson as a innocent  young man brutally shot  by two corrupt police officers and he  concluded:

"Lying on the ground dying with his lefeblood flowing on that frost-coveredside-walk,Swan Nelson grasped" I treated them,they wanted more,I refused and the policemen shot me. I am dying,I have done no wrong.´Gentlemen of the jury,this was an awful crime;yours should be an awful verdict"

The jury sentenced the policemen to 14 years in prison for manslaughter . They were sent toThe  Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet Illinois.. The sentence was however  not the end of the story.
The case was appealed and two more trials were  held in the following years.. In the 1897 trial, the sentence was reduced  to 4 years in prison. In 1899, the case was was again back in court, but  it was decided not to hold another trial and  Moran and Healy were returned  to prison . However, according to The 1900 Federal  Census they are not listed aong the prisoners at Illinois State Penitentiary.Perhaps they had been transferred to another prison or released .

                                    (Illinois state Penitentiary Joliet,Illinois ( )
The trial had consequences for all involved Josephine bjorkman died in 1901  Fred Lundin got contacts in politics served in the Illinois state senate and a  term in the House of Representatives congress before becomming the power behind  the corrupt Chicago mayor William Hale Thompson  l Luther Laflin Mills had a succesfull Career as lawyer before his death in 1909 Harry Olson later became first chief judge of the Juvenile Court of Chicago.

Even for Swans family life had to go on. His  brother  John Nelson married his fiancé Maria (Mary) Benson  in february1894 .they got two children Selma and Nels John Nelson became a Saloon keper the family settled in the Austin area of Chicago.John became a member of the of the Indipendent Order of Vikings and later of the Independent order of Svithiod.  .He died in 1938. His only grandchild died unmarried in2007. His sister Elna Neson  married Albert Stedman and died 1944 in San Fransisco,California..
Karna (Carrie) Nelson married John M Anderson  they first lived in Illinois but later moved to Washington near Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Swans youngest  sister Johanna (Hannah) Nelson 1874- married  Oscar Frederick Johnson. they moved from Illinois to  Flint River near   Burlington, Iowa, All sisters left descendants. During the following years the area were Swan Nelson was murdered became the home for many Sicilian immigrants .
The antagonism  between Swedish-Americans and Irish-Americans deacresed with time and they came to direct their prejudices towards newer immigrants and minority groups as East -Europeans and Afro-Americans.

More about the shooting of Swan Nelson can be read in  här i  i The Swedish American Historical Quaterly 2014 jan no. 1

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Murder on Christmas Night ! The shooting of Swan Nelson in Chicago Dec 25 1893 part 1

On  Chistmas Eve 1893 Swan Nelson a young Swedish Emigrant closed his little tobacco store on Archer Ave on Chicagos south side   at 4 pm and walked to his home close by near 32 Street .;
Swan was born as one of 7 surviving children  in 1871 in the village of Magletorp in Trolle- Ljungby in the province of  Skåne (Scania) in southern Sweden as the son of Nils Johnson 1820-1881 and Sissa Johnsdotter 1830-1891.
After the the death of their father, Nels two oldest sisters Elna and Karna emigrated to the USA in 1882.  after their mothers death Sven and his older brother Jöns and their youngest sister Johanna emigrated in march 1892. Sven and Jöns settled in Chicago where their maternal aunt Elna(Ella) Benson and her two children lived..

Trolle-Ljungby kyrka
Trolle-Ljungby church 

In Chicago Jöns and Sven Nilsson quickly became John and Swan Nelson .  Life apparently went well for the two brothers  Swan quickly learned a bit of english and manged to accuire a little tobacco store. He also took part in the social life of the Swedish-Americans in the city. In the summer of 1893 he became one of the charter members of the lodge Angantyr of The Independent order of Vikings. In  the summer and fall of 1893 Chicago also hosted The  Worlds Columbian Exposition .with visitors from allover the USA and the world visiting Chicago.
The city  was also plagued by crime and violence and political corruption  and shortly before  the Exposition closed Chicago mayor Carter Harrison was murdered .


Chicago World's Columbian Exposition 1893
"The White city" The Worlds comumbian Exibition in Chicago 1893

Swan had all reasons to be content with his life in Chicago and to look forward to a bright futute unfortunate his life was cut short all too soon. On Christmas evening  Swan went to a small Christmas party held by his neigbours Otto and Josephine  Bjorkman  . he and the bjorkman family and a few other friends celebrated Christmas Eve the Swedish way with some food and drink.


(Aproximate place where the shooting took place (the street numbers where changed in 1909)

About 2.30 AM  early on Christmas morning Swan left the Bjorkmans home. Despite being early in the mornng he decided to go to the Northelfer´s saloon nearby.  Outside the saloon he met two Irish-american policemen  Michael J Healy and Thomas  J Moran  who had had some drinks in another saloon earlier in the evening.
 They  insisted that Swan should buy them some drinks in the saloon. The three men went inside    where  there where  a few sleepy german-american customers and the bartender .The bartender gave the policemen cigars and Swan bought them each a drink. but when they insisted he should buy them more he refused.

 They then beat him with a club. and then  cleared the saloon. Outside the Saloon the quarell continued. They arrested Swan Nelson and while Mooran went to call the police-wagon Healy held him. Swan then brooke lose and ran towards his home .The two policemen fired 5 shoots (in the air) they later said.
Swan Nelson was hit in the back. Mrs.Bjorkman heard the shot and opened the door.  Mooran entered and said  he had fired at a robber and demanded more whiskey !.Swan Nelson had managed to crawl to his house where mrs Bjorkman found him dying.

 "Here is my watch,mrs Bjorkman"  he said " I am shoot and will die !. the two policemen returned.Healy treatened to shot mrs  Bjorkman if she left the dying man , he also hit her in the face she later testified. Swan Nelson was dragged to the sidewalk where he was heard saying "I die,I die ,I have done no wrong,Have I no friends here? help-I am dying."  The police-wagon arrived and took him  to the hospital where he died later on Christmas day .





Friday, November 11, 2016

Research tips for November

The Swedish digital provider of digitized Swedish church record Arkiv Digital announces free access to their records for the Weekend of 12-13 November.


Linda Kvist has started a new podcast about Swedish genealogy in English it is called
Cousin Linda 

The Minnesota Historical Society has opened a new website for showing digitized Swedish-American newspapers. 

Hundreds of Swedish-language newspapers were published in the United States from 1850 onward,
catering to America's Swedish immigrant communities. Use this online portal to learn more about these newspapers, and to search over 300,000 digitized newspaper pages from 28 different Swedish American newspaper titles published across the United States between 1859 and 2007. 


North Park University  in Chicago has digitized the records of the first Swedish church in  Chicago
the St. Ansgarius Protestant Episcopal Church

Founded in 1849, St. Ansgarius Episcopal Church was the first parish established for the growing community of Swedish immigrants in the city of Chicago. The church was formed jointly by the Swedish and Norwegian communities within the neighborhood of Swede Town (present-day River North). Gustaf Unonius (1810-1902), a Swedish pioneer and Episcopal priest, served as the church’s first pastor for 10 years.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Swede Hollow -The Swedish slums in Saint Paul, Part 1

In the swedish consiousness the typical Swedish Emigrants to USA are often symbolized by swedish author Vilhelm Moberg main characters in his novel series The Emigrants.
In the books the young hardworking farmer couple Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson  immigrates to Chisago county,Minnesota to create a better future in the 1850thies.

What few realise is that this image is only part of the thruth. Most swedish emigrants came to USA to settle in larger or smaller cities. The swedes also got their fair share of prejudices,racism,disease and slums. On of the slums that some of the swedish emigrants lived in was Swede Hollow on the East side of Saint Paul Minnesota. Situated between Payne Ave. and East 7nth Street on the border between Railroad island and Dayton's Bluff the area is now a park a green area but until 1956 it was one of the poorest parts of St. Paul.




 The area is located in the lower part of Phalen Creek Valley a narrow gorge about1,2 kilometers long surrounded by 20-30 meter high cliffs . in its bottom flows a stream Phalen Creek. The area has several springs and caves .The stream soon attracted industries to the surrounding area. Several breweries primarely the large Hamm Brewerey.its large buildings and its owners Theodore Hamms magnificent residence was right next to the ravine.  A railroad line to Duluth went through the valley.

 The area´s first inhabitants were non swedish trappers and ,loggers and odd job workers who lived there in the 1840-thies. the Swedes began to settle in the area in the 1850thies and came to dominate it for fifty years. They called the area Svenska Dalen (Swedish Valley) but it soon became known under its unofficial name Swede Hollow (Swedish hole)


Swede Hollow, looking north from East Seventh Street before creek was enclosed
1912-1915 courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society [1]


By the end of the 19th century Swede Hollow was an place where poor immigrants could find cheap accomodation when they began their life in USA It also was a stepping stone werethey  could reside for some time until they could  "move up" both socially and geographicly   to more more social-established areas in the city .it was also a refuge for those who went through hard times and needed a place to pull themself together . it was a slum and many remained poor diseases flourished and child mortality was high.

Swede Hollow was not devided into street,blocks and lots. The only street in Swede Hollow meandered along Phalen Creek. .The houses and shacks were self build  and build  close together were there were  place left . Some inhabitants  kept small animals as chicken out of necessity. The residents took their water from a well  and used the creek as their sewer. Some of the residents built their outhouses on piles over the brook

In 1881 the swedes got new neigbours when a group of Irish moved into the valley..The Irish area became known as Connemara Patch .The Irish lived downstreems Phalen Creek from the swedes and sometimes got the dirt from the swedish outhouses.the relationships between the groups was tense.




At the start of the 20tcentury as more of Swede Hollows swedish residents became more socially established.They bagan to move up from the valley and into more established neigbourhoods in St.Paul.new immigrant groups began to settle in Swede Hollow .First italians later poles and other East europeans.After World War one the area became home to newly arrived Mexicans.

After word War two the city authorities began to see the area as a burden.In 1956 it "discovered" that the sanitary conditions in Swede Hollow was unfit without access to municipal water and sewers.
Despite protest from local residents,they were evicted . On november 2 1956  the Saint Paul Firedepartment set the remaining empty houses on fire. in 1978 the area begame inagurated as a park Swede Hollow Park.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Minnesota Day in Ljuder Church August 14, 2016



 This year's Minnesota day celebration was held on August 14  and took place as usual in Ljuder Church in in Lessebo municipality in Småland .The area is known for being the home area of swedish author Vilhelm Moberg's and the setting for his novel series (The Emigrants) about the  of the first significant wave of immigration to the United States in the 1840thies and 1850thies.
The opening speach was held by  the municipality manager in Lessebo Christina Nyquist.


photo: Gunilla Grügiel


This year's Honorary speaker was retired bishop of Växjö Jan-Olof Johansson, He spoke on the subject "Always on the run" which he compared the migration flows past and present.




The Swedish-American of the Year Nils Lofgren with roots in  the province of Värmland was  presented by the Grand Lodge Deputy of the Vasa Order of America   Catherine Bringselius-Nilsson.
Nils Lofgren has become known as an outstanding musician and guitarist of  Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.
                                                         
                                             

Guests were sounding the  handbell ensemble Strikepoint from from  Duluth in northern Minnesota.They  have  toured worldwide and now they entertained the  the audience in Ljuders church with several beautiful melodies with their bells of different sizes.

Gunilla Grügiel (left) Monika Banas(right)
One of the  most popular features  on the program each year is  "Greetings from near and far away " Among the greatings this year was Swedish Emigrant Institute Fellow of  2000 Monica Banas from the University of Krakow  


                                                         
Another faithful visitor to  to the Minnesotaday and other Swedish-American events was Carl Boberg who brougt greetings  from his hometown Nisswa in nothern Minnesota .


Last but not least was the Swedish Emigrant Institute's first director Professor Ulf Beijbom present along with his wife, textileartist Viola Kristiansson.






Friday, June 3, 2016

Early Emigrants: Sophie Sager -a woman before her time Part 2






Sophie's ordeal had made her aware of the lack of  legal rights for women and especially single unprotected women. She becan holding pulic lectures advocating for better womens rights first 1849 in Stockholm and later Uppsala and in the following years she visited Malmö,Gothenburg and Copenhagen.

She got a lot of audience, mostly young men but often met with  criticism because of her lack of “ladylike behaviour” Sophie  was ahead of its time and deviated from the ideal of the  passive, good womanhood. She had dared to do that no one else before her had done, namely, to use police force to defend their right not to be assaulted.. Maybe she was considered to forward  as she frequently advertised their activities in the press. 

her litterary production was little and and her talent lacking . Among her works include: Emanciperade fantasier i vers och prosa(Emancipated fantasies in verse and prose) 1850)
 Fonsterbarnets avslöjande genealogi (Pictures from life or Foster Child and its genealogy) (1852).

Sophie's thoughts were not revolutionary. She believed in the institution of marriage but thought women should have the right to a good education and to move freely in the community without having to bow to unnecessary conventions or be molested.


Emigration and life in the US
In1854 Sophie emigrated to the United States. She sailed with the bark Columbia from Hamburg with 200 German emmigrants. and arrived in New York August 5, 1854 In the lists of arrival she is listed as seamstress with her she had a two and a half year old child, if it was her own child, or if she has a child on behalf of another is not clear .


In 1855 Sophie married   the German music professor Eugene Adolphe Wiener (ca1813-1888). They had two  sons, Gabriel (1856-1932) and Victor Bolivar (1862-1932) The family settled in New York most of the time at different addresses in Brooklyn
Inthe Us federal census Census 1860 Sophie's husband is listed as music professor and in 1870 he is listed as as pianist and Sophie as musician
In 1861 Sophie published a pamplet called Woman's Destiny and Man's Duty Sophie and her husband separated around 1878 around 1878. In the mid and late 1880s Sophie held lectures on various topics, for example feminism, often her piano playing son Victor Bolivar performad with her, In 1887 Victor married a s girl of modest family background .She that was not good enough,for him according to Sophie who told the local newspaper, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle that he couldhave married a girl worth 60 000 dollar .. In 1888 Sophie became a widow according to the newspaper, he had devoted much of his time to think about a strategy how people could avoid bumping into each other on the street. 1893 Sophie suggested in the nespaper that passenger ships that sailed across the seas to oughto always sail in pairs if there were an accident they should be able to assist eachother.
Funeral and death
Sophie Sager died February 28, 1901 in her residence at 151 Jefferson Avenue in New York, According to the death certificate, she was 76 years old .She was buried two days later at her husband's side at the Greenwood Cemetery. According to an obituary d she was a famous lecturer
A year later, February 26, 1902 a memorial service over her was held inover her in the Swedish-American Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Brooklyn by Pastor J Jacobson.
The late memorial service supposedly gave rise to the rumor she'd died in 1902 Sophie's two sons died in 1932 Gabriel was unmarried, Victor had 4 children reaching adulthood

Sophie was ridiculed in her own time by her contemporaries.Today she is often seen as a early pioneer in the fight for womens rights. An her cause that a woman have the right to go unmolested in the public sphere is as actual now as it was then. However, Sophie was according son Gabriel against women's suffrage Today there is a street named after her in Enskededalen outside Stockholm.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Early Emigrants: Sophie Sager -a woman before her time Part 1




Sophie Sager
Among the earliest  Swedish emigrants was  also a female pioneer whose career took her from the swedish countryside to the dangerous sides of Stockholm and later  across the Atlantic to Brooklyn.New York.  The first woman held public  lectures on women's rights.
and sued a man for assault and battery in her own name.


Childhood and adolescence
Sophie Lisette Sager came from a  family  of  industrialists .Born in 1825 in Byarum ,Jönköping county, the daughter of  Gabriel Sager and his second wife Johanna Bergenholz. After her father's death in1834, the family went broke .and in1840 they had to move to the poorhouse  .Sophie education came to depend on the charity of relatives. According to Sophie she later had to earn a living as a governess and companion.

In 1848 a relative paid for Sophies  travel by steamboat to Stockholm and for her stay there in order to learn fine needlework. It  was Sophies plan to open her own dress shop in Stockholm.
Her  experiences in the shady suroundings there, would turn her life upside down, and drive her on to the public stage.


The trip to Stockholm The Sager case
After her arrival Sophie took lodgings with a shoemakermaster family Dillström in Bollhusgränd in Stockholms Old city. Bollhusgränd was already in the late 18th century known to be a prostitution district.  After rows and quarrels with mrs Dillström who had an illigal tavern and wanted Sophie to be at the guests disposal,
Sophie was forced to move and managed, thanks to a certain stable manager Gustaf Adolf Möller , to find lodgings with his housekeeper.Lovisa Ström.  Sophie soon  discovered that miss Ström  was Möller’s mistress and also engaged in prostitution under the cover of “receiving needlework”. Before long, Sophie  also had a nocturnal visit, . The visit was energetically rejected. The stable manager then began a sexual siege of the dismissive Sophie , which ended with attempted rape and assault.

Sophie managed to escape and was tended to by a doctor Johan Eric Brisman  who helped her report Möller to the police and documented her injuries. The long and detailed statements to the court Sophie Sager wrote herself, and she represented herself before the court.
The statements were thus the first of Sophie Sager’s writings to be published. They reveal a reality that her contemporary female authors probably never had any personal contact with and did not write about. Stockholm’s nocturnal world of bars, prostitution, and general immorality. Möller was convicted and scandalised and left Stockholm  in 1849.

The trial was  a sensation and  extensively written about in the  Stockholm newspapers.
and the documents concerning the trial were printed as a book Sagerska målet (The Sager case)