SWEDEN COMES TO AMERICA!


Growing up on a farm on the edge of the South Dakota prairie, I enjoyed the attention my dear parents, Ralph and Ethel Anderson, gave to their first child as well as enjoying the indulgences of two sets of grandparents and two great-grandmothers.  One of those sets of grandparents was the parents of my mother, Swan Peter Carlson and Frieda Kristina Hallberg Carlson.   The Carlson grandparents resided nine miles from our farm in the village of Stockholm, South Dakota.   When I was a little girl, our family was frequent Sunday dinner guests of the Carlson’s. 


I recall little talk of the “old country.”   Sweden was simply a mystery never to be known.   After her children were grown, my mother Ethel Anderson had time to ponder her Swedish heritage and really fell in love with the mystery of it.  I believe that was true of her two sisters, my dear aunts, Anne Carlson Fitzgerald and Lillie Carlson Johnson, as well.   All of the six children of Frieda and S. P. are now deceased.    Many of their descendants celebrated their memories in a most amazing way in July of 2006 when some of our Swedish story and heritage came to visit us!


Most of my family could not have imagined the events and reunion that we

Hallberg (Persson) descendants would enjoy in July of 2006, but there was one person who could, the redoubtable Charlie Sapp, husband of my cousin Lorraine Johnson Sapp.   Charlie’s enthusiastic and persistent pursuit of the genealogy of his dear wife’s family had resulted in success in finding our family in Sweden!  In 2005

Charlie and Lori had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by taking their family to Sweden where they enjoyed meeting many of our Hallberg relatives.

Amid the celebrating of family and the toasting of heritage, there surely were stories told, memories savored, and dreams shared.   Invitations were issued. 


The Sapp visit and subsequent e-mail and photo exchanges must have greatly piqued the interest of Swedish relatives.  In Sweden our third cousin Signild Håkansson (the daughter of Rut who is my late mother’s first cousin) was thinking she needed to satisfy her own curiosity about the life that her Great Aunt Frieda had found in America.   In April of 2006 the amazing, gregarious Cousin Signild indicated that she would indeed be visiting us in South Dakota, USA.    Two months later her brother Per, also amazing and gregarious, added his name to the visiting delegation after reading the July  reunion design that Charlie and Lori Sapp had created for all of us.   As I remembered my mother’s reverence for things Swedish, I felt as if we were about to entertain royalty.     


Charlie and Lori Sapp had generated gracious, detailed 4-page invitations (much of the secret of the success of the subsequent reunion!) to Frieda Carlson’s American family members.   First on the schedule, my husband Bob Carlson and I had the honor of meeting the plane bringing in the Swedish cousins in Sioux Falls.  South Dakota has an open-faced, big-sky kind of beauty to those of us who were born here, but that day we were wilting in a merciless July heat wave.

I worried that our Swedish cousins would melt.  Armed with photographs, we recognized each other with awe in the knowledge of our blood bond.   We took Per and Signild to our home in the village of Lyons where they had an evening meal with us and then we gave them their rooms for a night of rest after the long flight.

We enjoyed getting to know one another on Saturday forenoon.   Later we realized that we had really had a special privilege in that we had some private visiting and sharing time with them on Saturday.   Our cousins were interesting and interested!

It did not take us long to deduce that we should be very proud to be part of their family!


I thought we should grill steaks as a South Dakota luncheon treat for them, but the heat of the July Saturday was over 100 and we shrank from the joy of grilling in that heat and we drove to Sioux Falls for a quiet, private restaurant lunch.   I believe it was 114 degrees somewhere in South Dakota—the hottest spot on earth that day!  Per enjoyed sharing that record with his children back home.   We delivered our guests to the home of my cousin Gladys and her husband Warren Giere in the afternoon.   From that point Per and Signild went to the Sapp family reunion.


Our next stop on the great reunion was Sunday afternoon, July 16, 2006, at a general store turned museum at tiny Nora, South Dakota.    Nora had been the home of the Herbert and Lillie Johnson family for 17 years when Herbert ran the creamery there.  Mike Pedersen, owner and curator of the store, provided music from his home-styled pipe organ, accompanied our singing, and hosted us with sweet homespun humor.  Heroically, he had provided air conditioning that week.   A number of the sixty or more folks gathered shared stories of how life had shaped us in South Dakota and in Sweden.   Magically, an elegant buffet ended our Nora social.


Now we drove the forty or so miles to Sioux Falls where our next stop was an evening picnic at Falls Park.   A number of our family members were added to the mix at this stop.  Many of the guests at Nora had been members of the Sapp reunion party.  The picnic brought in some more of our children and grandchildren.  The total at this catered celebration was about 32, I believe.  Children and grandchildren were beginning to relish their Swedish connection.


Monday was a day for transition.  The Sapp family was busy seeing all of their four children and families off on their respective flights home.  Signild and Per journeyed with Charlie and Lori to Grant County, South Dakota.   


On Tuesday we were Per and Signild, Curtis (great-nephew of Frieda) and Elaine Hallberg, Ron (my brother) and Linda Anderson and their daughter Susan, Wyn Boerger (my sister), Lori and Charlie, and Bob and I travelling about the county in a couple of vans.  We started at the Dairy Institute where there was a breakfast by Linda.  We drove around the hills west of Stockholm to find the farm sites of the Carlsons and the Johnsons.  We toured tiny Stockholm and Per and Signild took advantage of photos ops of Stockholm signage.  We stopped at the very good agricultural museum and we visited the cemetery where our Carlson grandparents are buried.  Linda Anderson hosted our excellent lunch at the Stockholm café and then we were off to the historic Indian church, the Milbank Cheese Factory, the ethanol plant, and other sites, ending at the Milbank Visitors’ Center where the Hallbergs treated us to delicious homemade refreshments. 


The invitation for the evening was a dinner hosted by Ron and Linda Anderson at their farm home.  We were joined by my son Tim Renner and his wife Karin and my granddaughter Elizabeth, Ron’s son Paul and fiancée Jenny,  Wyn’ s husband Larry and son Doug, cousin Gladys Johnson Giere and husband Warren,  Ruth Hallberg Gulck and her husband David, and our cousin Luverne Carlson’s widow, Phyllis Carlson.  There were at least two dozen of us at a beautiful buffet dinner, complete with the celebration of toasts.   A professional photographer took pictures of each family with Per and Signild as we posed near the farm where the children of Ethel Carlson Anderson had grown up.  The evening concluded with the showing of colored home movies that our distinguished, innovative and flamboyant late Uncle Ralph Carlson had taken in the early 1940’s.  There, strolling into the room, were Grandma Carlson (Frieda) and Grandpa Carlson.  There in young life were our aunts and uncles!  It was a thrill for my brother and our family to present the true life images of the family of the Swedish emigrant, Frieda Hallberg Carlson. 


The climax of our great Swedish reunion was on Wednesday when we got on the chartered bus for our journey to Langford, South Dakota, which had been where our grandmother had first settled.  We travelled to the International Vinegar Museum in Roslyn, South Dakota, en route to Langford.  The sights and tastes of vinegars were tantalizing, but we were on a mission.   Our busload of Hallberg family in pursuit of our ancestral story rolled happily through the countryside of northern South Dakota on a very warm July day.  The Swedish cousins, Signild and Per, visited endearingly with American cousins, imparting information and observation and absorbing the stories of the lives that happened to us, descendants of the Swedish emigrants.


In Langford we exited our bus at the city park clutching our yellow or blue lunch bags which had been prepared in Twin Brooks, South Dakota, by Carol Kilde of The Birdfeeder.  The yellow bag yielded a homemade peach pie; the blue, a blueberry pie!  The wonderful gourmet treats were provided by those hosts who love a good party, the Sapps.     


We travelled around the Langford area where Frieda Kristina had first settled and we wondered about the other emigrant brothers, Johan Axel and Malcolm Hugo.  We poured out of the bus to mark the spot of the first rented farm and then the second.   The sight of the Marshall, Minnesota, tourist bus stopping in the country to celebrate a cornfield must have been bewildering to the few passersby. Finally, we were at the Augustana Lutheran cemetery where we had learned that Hallbergs were buried. 


We were in search of any information about the emigrant brothers Johan Axel and Malcolm Hugo.  What had happened to those two emigrant brothers?  We had a picture of a rather elegant young Malcolm Hugo taken in America.  Charlie Sapp had relentlessly and tirelessly searched census records, military records, property records, and returns to Sweden for clues. Nothing.  By this time we had caught his fervent desire to know whether we had unknown family in America. 


We tumbled out of our bus and scrambled across the country cemetery to the area which our guide had identified as Hallberg graves.  We were three generations of pilgrims: most of us were of the third generation in America.  The fourth generation was represented by Ron’s daughter Susan and the fifth was by my granddaughter Elizabeth Renner.  Fallen tree branches littered the site but we were not deterred.  It was actually Linda Anderson who first saw the stone marking Johan Axel’s grave.  There it was for us to know!  Johan (John) had died on October 15, 1887, on his 22nd birthday!  His time in America had been just over one year and the mystery of the brevity of his life remains that to us. 


There was one gravesite where the identifying plate was missing.  Was that the grave of Malcolm Hugo?  Subsequent investigation of burial records by Curtis Hallberg has found that there was an M. H. Hallberg buried in that cemetery.   It would appear that we have also found Malcolm Hugo!


Heady with the triumph of the solved mystery, we boarded our bus.  As we came to the lovely wood frame country Augustana Lutheran Church, we decided to stop.  Our local guide gained our entry.  Inside, we sensed the connection of our Christian faith through five generations in America and many generations before in Sweden.  Talented Elaine Hallberg began to play the organ and we joined our voices in singing “Beautiful Savior.”  Not missing a beat, our dear Signild began to sing “Children of the Heavenly Father” in Swedish.  For many of us, the tears were rolling down our cheeks as we shared the moment of faithful destiny.  We celebrated God with us, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, in Sweden and in America! 


Back on the bus, there was much good family time as we headed back to Milbank, arriving there just five minutes before six when our chariot might have turned into a pumpkin.  We turned into the lot at the beautiful American Lutheran Church where our Milbank families are members.  There we joined parishioners at supper and then attended an evening service.  As we worshipped together, we celebrated our faith in God and gave thanks for our joy in our reunion with our family from Sweden and all the gifts it brought us.  There were tears, smiles, hugs and photos all around and then we bade farewell to the fantastic Signild and Per.  Swedish family had visited us and we all felt like royalty now! 


Gail Anderson Carlson

Granddaughter of Frieda Hallberg Carlson