2022 Scandinavian Midsommar celebration

11 07 2022

This unique and popular Scandinavian tradition was celebrated at Heidelberg Park, Glendale, WI, Sunday June 26. Close to a hundred people attended the event decorating the Maypole (Majstången), making flower crowns, raising the maypole and singing and dancing around it. There were sack raises, Kubb playing, tug-of-war, face painting and entertainment by the magnificent violinst duo Goda Vänner. New additions this year were the History table where you could learn about Swedish settlers in Wisconsin and the Sale table offering Swedish items for sale donated by SAHSWI members.

The party started by making flower crowns and decorating the Maypole
Then procession and raising the Midsommar Pole (Maypole)
The dancing could begin accompanied by violin music
Swedish donated gift items to be sold
Swedish immigration history discussed by historian and author Martha Bergland
Children enjoying the games and the rewards

We like to thank so many for keeping the Midsommar celebration a fun filled event recognizing our ancestors coming from Scandinavia. We thank Janet and Karin for the overall planning and brining the flowers and organizing the Swedish items sale, John for adding signage and arranging the Kubb games, Liza and Brent for leading the maypole assembly and decorations, Chris for bringing and setting up the sound system, Bev and Tracy for welcoming all the guests, Sonia for emceeing the song and dance and arranging the kids games, Danielle for leading the face painting and childrens activities, Bob for taking beautiful pictures, Camden the youngest helping from set-up to take-down, Martha and her husband Jim for engaging people in the history of the Swedish immigration to Wisconsin, Mary and Carol for entertaining us with traditional Scandinavian violin music, George who developed the Midsommer pole skeleton, Joann for inviting all our members through her newsletter and mailings and everyone not mentioned that helped, but most of all we like to thank everybody that came so that we could celebrate together Midsommar, one outcome of the Scandinavian immigration to Wisconsin.

2022 Midsommar celebrations

14 06 2022

Come celebrate Scandinavian Midsommar at Heidelberg Park, Glendale, WI, Sunday June 26 from 1 PM to 4 PM. All are welcome to this event to celebrate the longest day of the year, one of the most popular of Scandinavian holidays.

Help decorate the Majstång (Midsommar pole), make a traditional flower crown, learn about Swedish settlers in Wisconsin at the History Table, shop for Swedish items donated by SAHSWI members, enjoy lunch with some Swedish specialties while enjoying performances by the violinists Goda Vänner and the folk-dance group Lykkeringen Dancers. There are activities for children, face painting, the ancient Kubb game, sack raises, tug-a-war. Come enjoy it all, it is free, and open to the public. Food is available for purchase.

A little bit of history

Celebrating Midsommar, one of the most popular holidays in Sweden is a very ancient practice, dating back to pre-Christian times. It has its roots in Pagan rituals to welcome summer and season of fertility. In Sweden, midsommar festivals have been around for at least 500 years. Even in agrarian times, people in Sweden welcomed summertime by decorating their houses and farm tools with foliage and raising tall May Poles to dance around. It was the time to put the cows out to pasture and begin milking.


New Upsala and the Scandinavian Parish

25 05 2022

Descendents of the Swedish pioneers George Bergwall and Bengt Peterson, arriving to New Upsala at Pine Lake in 1842, attended the Fika meeting at St. Anskar’s Episcopal Church in Hartland on Saturday May 14. At the meeting the story of the founder Gustaf Unonius, the first Swedish settlement in Wisconsin, and the Scandinavian Parish was presented by the team working on a project to honor these events with an official Wisconsin Historical Marker to be located St. Anskar’s church. SAHSWI member Cletus Hasslinger discussed his family history, Bergwall’s and Peterson’s immigration, their leadership at the colony and their life in Sweden before coming to America. These unique stories will be published later on the website in conjunction with the project.

Left: Descendants of George Bergwall and Bengt Peterson Right: George Bergwall

SAHSWI and project team member Tracy Redman talked about her time growing up in the Hartland area and her interest in the Historical plaque of Gustaf Unonius and New Upsala unveiled in 1948 as the state celebrated its centennial. When she became familiar with SAHSWI, she suggested that the organization should initiate this project. Board member and author Martha Bergland discussed the friendship between Gustaf Unonius and Thure Kumlien (The birdman of Koshkonong, book written by Martha), which started when they both attended (old) Upsala university in Sweden, before they immigrated to Wisconsin.

Meg Haag, project team and St. Anskar’s church member talked about how the Scandinavian Parish was split between the Episcopal and Lutheran churches and how the Scandinavian church and cemetery evolved into Holy Innocents and later became a part of St. Anskar’s. On Memorial Day at 10 AM St. Anskar’s is having a short service at the Holy Innocents Cemetery. (On highway C (Lakeland Drive), 3 miles north of C intersection with Highway 16) A walk through the cemetery, looking at the new and old gravestones, Fr Thomas walks with anyone who wishes to have a particular grave blessed. There are 2 bronze plaques placed there “In memory of the pioneer settlers at rest here in the Scandinavian Cemetery”. All are welcome to this service.

“We honor your courage and thank you for our heritage”

After the presentations at the May 14 meeting attendants enjoyed the customary Fika organized by Board member Janet Taylor. St. Anskar’s Junior Warden Sarah Hintz thanked all the guests and offered a tour of the church. From Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, and the project team we thank St. Anskar’s for having us, and we thank all attendees for coming, and all volunteers for helping.

Please find below a link to a summary presentation of the story of Gustaf Unonius, New Upsala and the Scandinavian Parish.

Gustaf Unonius, New Upsala and the Scandinavian Parish

26 04 2022

The first Swedish colony in Wisconsin, the second in the United States was established at the east shore of Pine Lake in Chenequa, Wisconsin. The young founder Gustaf Unonius came here in 1841 together with his wife and a few friends claimed land and built a log cabin. Many more Swedes followed and the New Upsala settlement was formed. As the settlement grew with more immigration from Scandinavia, the Scandinavian Parish at Pine Lake was founded. Partly based on letters from Unonius and other pioneer settlers and the Unonius memoirs published in 1862 waves of immigration from Scandinavia followed especially in the 1860’s and 1880’s. In 1864 the Pine Lake Scandinavian Church became known as the Holy Innocents Church, which a hundred plus years later merged with Grace Episcopal Church and together they built a new church which eventually was named St. Anskar’s Episcopal Church.

1841 Pine Lake from Gustaf Unonius memoirs

Fika meeting, May 14 at 1:30 PM at St. Anskar’s Episcopal Church in Hartland.

This fascinating pioneer and church history has been the research topic of a SAHSWI Historical Project team that was initiated to recognize it with an official Wisconsin State Historical marker. The team will present the project and the story at the “fika” meeting. After the presentation participants will enjoy fika, coffee or tea with treats. The meeting is open to the public.

St Anskar’s Episcopal Church is located at N48W31340 Hill Rd, St Hwy 83 in Hartland.

Exit from Hwy 16 to State Road 83 North, follow 83 for 1/4 mile, enter driveway on the right from 83

Martha Bergland presented the life of Thure Kumlien

31 03 2022

Like finding a rare orchid, Martha Bergland has unveiled a rare and important naturalist during the early settlement years in Wisconsin. Fellow Swede Carl Linnaeus, considered the ‘Father of Botany‘, would have nodded in approval at Thure Kumlien’s contributions in helping us understand the biological riches found in early Wisconsin” (Reference Tom Anderson, author of Learning Nature by a Country Road)

SAHSWI Board member and award-winning author Martha Bergland introduced her newest book “The Birdman of Koshkonong, The Life of Naturalist Thure Kumlien” in the society’s first fika meeting in two years. The March 12, 2022, meeting was held at Martin Luther Lutheran Church, Milwaukee with about 50 people attending, among them Betsy D’onofrio and Susan Binzel, great granddaughters of Thure Kumlien.

Martha transported us back to his life and community in 1843 and the contributions he made to Wisconsin and the world as a Swedish immigrant to Wisconsin. Thure Kumlien was one of Wisconsin’s earliest Swedish settlers and an accomplished ornithologist, botanist, and naturalist in the mid-1800s. He settled on the shore of Lake Koshkonong and soon began sending bird specimens to museums and collectors in Europe and the eastern United States, including the Smithsonian. Later, he prepared natural history exhibits for the University of Wisconsin and became the first curator of the new Milwaukee Public Museum.

The Birdman of Koshkonong published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press is available for sale directly from Wisconsin Historical Society Press, Amazon, or your local bookstore. An excerpt of the book was published in the Summer 2021 issue of Wisconsin magazine of history.

After the presentation Marjorie Jothen’s 103rd birthday was celebrated to the tunes of Mary Stetson and Carol Gustafson’s violins and the voices of meeting attendees, Happy Birthday both in English and in Swedish. Carol also baked a special birthday cake for Marge to share with everyone. Coffee and treats were served, and everybody enjoyed this first fika meeting in 2 years.

Martha’s presentation was held in the Sanctuary. Celebrating Marge with fika, from left Bev Wenzel, Kristin Laufer, Marge, and Carol Gustafson.

Our Swedish Heritage in focus

27 01 2022

Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, Inc. (SAHSWI) is a non-profit volunteer organization focusing on the history of Swedish immigration to Wisconsin and the heritage of cultural Swedish traditions and everyday life, and the impact people of Swedish descent have made.

ZOOM meeting Thursday, February 10, 7 PM Society board and committee members presented the organization programs, projects and activities.

Saint Knut’s Day and SAHSWI update

13 01 2022

Happy St. Knut’s Day! Today January 13th marks the end of the Christmas season in Sweden, today is the day the Christmas tree should be “plundered” and thrown out, it is the 20th day after Christmas. Saint Knut’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Knut, is a traditional festival celebrated in Sweden and Finland on January 13. Christmas trees are taken down on “tjugondag Knut”, and the candies and cookies that decorated the tree are eaten. The feast held during this event is called a Knut’s party. It’s the party to Dance Out Christmas.

See the source image
Knut’s dance or “Dancing out Christmas”, by Swedish artist Hugo Hamilton (1802–1871)

Maybe this year there are not many St. Knut’s Day dance parties due to the continuous pandemic outbreaks. Once again, the hopes of an end to the Corona Virus pandemic were crushed. Another variant, record infection cases, with a glimmer of hope, it is not as severe as the other strands.

SAHSWI update

Considering the rapid surge of Covid 19 infections mostly of the Omicron variant the SAHSWI board has decided to postpone the January meeting at Martin Luther church until it can safely be conducted. The current belief or hope is that the Omicron will run its course by the end of February, so the Fika meeting scheduled at Martin Luther on March 12, is still on. The programming will be adjusted and the topic for the meeting will be announced at a later date. In addition, on Thursday February 10 at 7 PM the plan is to have a ZOOM meeting for members and others interested to present information about SAHSWI, upcoming plans, and the new meeting place Martin Luther church. 

Hopefully the remaining 2022 general meeting schedule can be maintained as follows:

  • March 12, 1:30 p.m. – Meeting, program and fika at Martin Luther Lutheran Church
  • May 14, 1:30 p.m. – Meeting, program and fika at Martin Luther Lutheran Church
  • June 26, 1 p.m. – Midsommar Celebration, Heidelberg Park, Glendale
  • October 1,– Scandinavian Festival, Ronald Reagan School, New Berlin
  • October 22, 1:30 p.m. – Annual Meeting, program and fika at Martin Luther Lutheran Church
  • December 11, 5 p.m.– Lucia Whitnall Park Lutheran Church

In addition, there will be committee and project meetings

Do you have any ideas of topics to be addressed by SAHSWI, do you know of a story, or any special tradition related to our Swedish heritage? Please don’t hesitate to bring it up. Respond to this blog or send an e-mail to swedishamericanhistoricalwisc@gmail.com

Santa Lucia Day celebration

21 12 2021

What a beautiful day it was. We all came together to celebrate Saint Lucia, the Sicilian maiden who gave her life for her faith and became a saint. Saint Lucia was helping the Christians hiding in the catacombs during the terror under the Roman empire. In order to bring with her as many supplies as possible, she needed to have both hands free. She solved this problem by attaching candles to a wreath on her head.

Saint Lucia came to Sweden in the late 1700’s to bring light and feed the poor in the cold winter darkness of December 13. In 1929 the first Lucia celebration was held in Stockholm, Sweden, and has since developed to be one of the most important traditions there.

The 2021 Lucia celebration at the Whitnall Park Lutheran Church in Hales Corners Wisconsin was attended by over 150 people.

The celebration began with children and the young adults from the area performing the Lucia program in the church sanctuary under the direction of Sonia Hummel.

As the saint Lucia did in the 4th century the SAHSWI Lucia Grace Katsekes was wearing a wreath with live candles while the procession was singing the beautiful Lucia song and Swedish carols and reading poetry, a poem for each candle in the Lucia crown.

The story of Lucia was told by member, and Linde Lodge President Liza Ekstrand. She introduced Lucia and each reader of the candle poems;

The Lucia procession include Lucia and her Attendants (Tärnor), the Star Boys (Stjärngossar), the Gingerbread men (Pepparkaksgubbar) and the little Santas (Tomtar)

Following the Lucia program, a Swedish Christmas Smorgasbord (Julbord) was served including food and pastries all donated by SAHSWI members and people attending the celebration. The children now changed into Swedish traditional costumes and performed folkdances around the Christmas Tree (Julgran). Soon they were joined by others.

As the dance around the Julgran continued, all of a sudden Jultomten (Santa) appeared to the great joy of the children. He handed out candy canes and little jingle bells adding to the festive atmosphere.

Another Lucia day in Wisconsin was coming to an end. How rewarding it was to see the children’s smiles. After two years of “social distancing” everybody could come together and celebrate the old fashioned way. A sigh of relief from the organizers, after a few weeks of preparation, it all turned out to be a great Lucia Day here in Wisconsin.


  • to Sonia Hummel, the participants in the Lucia program and everyone helping out
  • to everyone helping to organize, providing the printed program and song sheets, get all the supplies, setting up and serving the food, and later cleaning up, doing the dishes, etc.
  • to everyone bringing and donating the food
  • to Santa for coming and bringing more joy to the children
  • to everyone that attended the 2021 SAHSWI Lucia Day Celebration

For many Swedes the Lucia Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season. From all of us at the Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin we wish you

Illustration “Gnomes” Swedish Christmas by Lars Carlsson

2021 SAHSWI Annual Meeting

25 10 2021

The annual meeting 2021 was held via ZOOM (due to the surge of Covid 19 Delta variant) on Thursday October 21 at 7 PM. First an introduction video was played and then past year activities and annual committee reports were reviewed.

The annual meeting elected two directors to serve on the board, Karin Konrad elected for a second 3 year term and Janet Taylor for her first 3-year term. They are congratulated and we thank them for their support.

The photo video included pictures from the past year programs and historical projects. Background music features the adopted signature song for the society “Hälsa Dom Där Hemma” (Greet those back home) popular Swedish immigrant song during the early 20th century. This version is sung by Ann Charlotte Harvey, live recording from the Snoose Boulevard Festival (1973), introduced by Carol Gustafson and Mary Stetson at the March fika Zoom meeting.

A review of the annual reports followed

In addition to the ZOOM meetings and Midsommar celebration the Society activities included 2 projects; the first a reboot of Swedish Genealogy, which summarized material from the Swedish Genealogy Research Group work from the past with a listing of websites now available to support research of Swedish ancestry.

The second project is a historical project to honor the first Swedish Settlement in Wisconsin started by Gustaf Unonius in 1841 and the Scandinavian Parish that evolved with an official State of Wisconsin Historical Marker. These projects are reviewed in the following presentation.

As the last item on the agenda a discussion whether the planned Lucia celebration for December 12 to be held at Whitnall Park Lutheran church can still safely happen. A decision was made to keep it in the plans, however, with a reassessment by the board by November 13.

I like to thank all Members that have participated in our program for the past year, our Zoom meeting Presenters and Entertainers, all Volunteers at the Midsommar celebration, our Swedish Genealogy Research Group members, our Historical Project Team members, and finally I like to thank our Board Members and Committee Chairs for their dedicated support of our historical society.

Jan Ehrengren, President, Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, Inc.

New Upsala Historical Marker is moved

23 08 2021

18th of June 1948 the Swedish Pioneer Centennial Commission celebrated the Wisconsin state centennial mark by commemorate New Upsala, the first Swedish settlement in Wisconsin, and its founder Gustaf Unonius with an historical marker. The marker located on the property at Pine Lake, Wisconsin, that Gustaf Unonius had claimed when he arrived with wife and friends in 1841. Over the 73 years since the unveiling event the marker has been hidden due to vegetation growth, so most people have been unaware of it.

A newspaper article from June 1948 describes the unveiling event

As a part of the project to further honor Unonius, New Upsala settlement, and the Scandinavian Parish at Pine Lake with an official State Historical marker it was decided together with Chenequa Village to move the marker from the original location just west of highway 83 across the road to the Chenequa Village property. This will preserve access to the marker, so interested people can visit the site and view the marker in recognition of the first Swedish colony in Wisconsin and the early history of Chenequa.

Early Sunday morning, August 22nd, the move was realized. Dan Schlise, owner and President of Garden Gate Nursery and Landscaping in Hartland moved the 2000 lbs boulder to its new location, which previously had been prepared by Chenequa Village Forestry Department.

The Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin, (sahswi.org) appreciate all the help in order realize the move, John Yewer, once long time resident of Chenequa, for planning, preparation and coordination; Dan Schlise, Garden Gate, for the careful and safe move of the marker; Dan Neumer, Chenequa Police Chief, for organizing the support from Chenequa Village; and Cody Lincoln, Chenequa Forestry Department for preparing the new site and clean-up of the old site.