SWEDES IN CHICAGO
by ©Wini Caudell
In 1846 the first party of Swedish immigrants came to Chicago. There were
fifteen families and they had no connection with the emigration movement
started by profit Erik Janson. They were poor and destitute and didn’t understand
a word of English. Coonsul Von Schneidan befriended them and got the men
jobs with two Americans W.B. Ogden and A, Smith. They worked hard and eventually
became successful citizens.
On October 3, 1846, Jonas Olson arrived in Chicago as the head of the party
for Erik Janson who was traveling to Bishop Hill in Henry County. Many of
the followers became disillusioned with Janson and his mission and
refused to follow him and stayed in Chicago. One was Janson’s brother, Jan.
He stayed in Chicago and became the owner of a large farm in Montrose in
Cook County. Others staying were Anders Larsson, John P. Källman, Pehr
Ersson, Petter Hessling, A. Thorsell and ? Källström. They all
lived for a time in the same house on Illinois street between Dearborn avenue
and State street.
In 1847 forty more immigrants came to Chicago and in 1848, one hundred more
There have been Swedish people in Chicago almost from the earliest days of
the city and their population has steadily increased . In the census of 1900
there were at least 48,836 which is second only to Stockholm.
Also in 1900 there were 98,883 persons born of Swedish parents.
A large number of the male population were skilled workman. They were found
in almost every trade and they had the reputation of being honest, hard-working,
skilled and intelligent. They have been credited with making ingenious
and practical inventions also. They are cabinet makers, tailors, builders,
builders and mechanical artisans. In many instances they were responsible
for building up large industrial companies of their own.
The Swedes main goal was to get a home of their own and many worked hard,
got loans and property and built their own homes. They are often Republicans
and voted in large numbers taking great pride in their new country. They
formed an organization known as The Swedish-American Central Republican Club
of Cook Co.
The Swedes are known for their religious beliefs and by 1905 in Chicago there
were 41 Swedish Lutheran congregations with memberships totaling 15,000 ,
the Swedish Methodists had 18 congregations totaling 2,520 members and the
Swedish Baptists had 11 congregations totaling 2,588. Every congregation
carried on extensive work in education and charity. The Lutherans controlled
and maintained the Augustana Hospital one of the most prominent institutions
of it’s kind in Chicago. Martin Luther College was founded by them in 1892
but discontinued in 1896. They maintained a home for the aged called Bethany
Home in Chicago. The Swedish Baptists constructed their own theological institute
located in Morgan Park and supported an old age home named Fridhem.
Swedish Fraternal Socities and Lodges
At one time it was thought to be about a hundred of the organizations in
Chicago. Many were designed for their pleasure as well as helping with sick
benefits, and funeral expenses of it’s many members. The two
main ones were The independent Order of Svithiod and The independent Order
of the Vikings (Vikinggarne) The Svithiod had 38 lodges and 16 ladies guilds.
The Vikings had 30 lodges and 15 ladies gulds. . There were 10 lodges of
Good Templars, four other temperance societies, a number of lodges of Scandinavian
Brotherhood of America, also Free Masons and Odd Fellows. Also Swedish Societie’s
Old Peoples Home Association and Swedish National Association.
In the early 1900’s there were at least eight large weekly newspapers published
in Chicago. The four largest being “Hamlandet”(The Home Land), Svenska Tribunen-Nyheter
( Swedish Tribune Newspaper)”, “Svenska Amerikananren” (The Swedish American)
and Svenska Kuriren (Swedish Currior). The other Four were “ Sändbudet”,
“Nya Vecko Posten” “Mission Vännen and “Chicago Bladet”.
A general publishing company was first started in Chicago by the Swedish
Lutheran Publication Society.
Some of these newspapers are still researchable through the Swenson Center at Augustana
in Rock Island. They have a web site that will tell you which newspapers
Sources: History of the Swedes in Illinois-1908
A Folk Divided by H. Arnold Barton
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