Anders Berglund, Immigrant from Sweden, settler in Bishop Hill

13 05 2019

In the 5/11/2019 program of the Swedish American Historical Society Member and Author Martha Bergland presented the story of her ancestor Anders Berglund who arrived at Bishop Hill in 1847 to join the Swedish colony.  This is a fascinating story of a young man in Sweden brought up under difficult circumstances and hardship leaving his home country to seek a better and more meaningful life in the USA. At age 63 Anders wrote a letter describing his life in Sweden and the reasons for his immigration to the USA. Below are sections of Anders’s letter with Martha’s comments:

(Martha) Anders Berglund wrote about leaving home as a boy to go to work.

In my early years, small for my age and with a weak body, I had to leave my dear childhood home and my beloved mother and go out into the world to get food and clothing to support myself.

Martha) Like most Swedish children of the lower classes in the first half of the 19th century, Anders left his home around the age of twelve to be a servant. Under contract from September to September, they would live with another slightly better off farm family, perhaps relatives, like Anders who lived and worked for uncles. Boys were hired for a year at a time to care for cows and sheep and oxen and to work in the fields. They often slept in barns and sheds. Girls worked in the house taking care of young children, the garden, chickens, fowl, milking cows, making cheese, weaving, and cleaning. Near larger towns or manufacturing areas, the children may have worked in grain mills or saw mills.

With poor upbringing I only had my mother’s … simple advice and … no more education than the ability to read a book. I was strongly frugal with what I had, and was eager to work and faithful in my service to my uncles on my mother’s side, who gladly employed me and cared for me in a physical sense. But about my soul and my needs for my spiritual life, they seemed to have no understanding. On that subject they left me alone in darkness and ignorance and I had to work it out all by myself the best I could.

Anders and Britta Berglund

History of Bishop Hill. Erik Jansson, leader of the Janssonist religious sect in Sweden left Sweden in 1846 guiding his dedicated followers to America where he established the Swedish Colony of Bishop Hill in Illinois.  For several decades, letters home to Sweden extolling the fertile agricultural land in the Midwest stimulated migration for more than 1000 of his followers.  Bishop Hill Colony population increased and flourished as it grew, but the colorful and dramatic history of the colony ended in 1861. With the site presently preserved as Bishop Hill Historic District, the story of the colony of Bishop Hill is an intriguing history of a group of Swedish American immigrants to the Midwest.

Video below is produced at the Moraine Valley Community College Library by Troy Swanson.



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