Annual meeting and Berggren tiles

20 09 2022

Next Fika Meeting: Saturday, October 22, 2022, starting at 1:30 PM at Martin Luther Church, 9235 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee located just east of Milwaukee Zoo.

SAHSWI will hold its Annual General Meeting including Annual Reports and election of Board Directors. After the business meeting John Elliott, SAHSWI Vice President will present and discuss Swedish themed products marketed during the 1960’s including Berggren tiles decorated in Swedish folk tradition style known as ‘Dalmalningar’. John will bring examples to show, and anyone owning any Bergren tiles or other items are encouraged to bring to the meeting for show and tell. After the program attendants are invited to join the traditional Fika with coffee and treats. The meeting is open to the public.

The road to good friends is short & The Good Luck Tree

Berggren Trayner was founded by Arthur and Audrey Berggren in 1948. The company moved to 624 E. Park Avenue in Libertyville in 1953.The company created silk screen ceramic and enamelware decals in Swedish style – decorative cookware, cutting boards, porcelain, china, and ceramic tiles. Their wares were distributed at department stores like Carson Pirie Scott and Marshall Field. In 1986, Bergquist Imports, Inc. bought Berggren Trayner and moved to Cloquet, Minnesota in 1987. Bergquist Imports still sells items under the Berggren Trayner brand name. (Reference)

Exploring our Swedish Food Heritage

6 09 2022

Friendly reminder of the next SAHSWI meeting:

Saturday, September 10, starting at 1:30 PM at Martin Luther Church, 9235 West Bluemound Road, Milwaukee located just east of Milwaukee Zoo.

Society members will share stories and samples of their favorite Swedish food. Shortly after the meeting the recipes will be available at the society website, along with recipes by late Barbara Froemming from her collection of “Swedish Jul Favorites” released in 2007.

For more about the meeting goto

Remembering Barbara and Exploring our Swedish Food Heritage

14 08 2022

On May 12, 2022, Barbara Froemming, SAHSWI Treasurer and Past President, passed away peacefully. Barbara was the longest serving President for the Society, serving for 12 years. The society was established in 1975 as a part of planning for the Bicentennial celebrations to recognize the Swedish Americans and their descendant’s impact to the state of Wisconsin. Barbara is one descendent that is recognized for her leadership and dedication to the Swedish-Americans in Wisconsin. Her Grandmother and Grandfather on her mother’s side both came from Småland, Sweden, but from different cities, her grandmother came from Jönköping, her grandfather from Kalmar. Barbara was also officially recognized with an award of merit from the Swedish Council of America on Nov 4, 2016, for her outstanding contributions and many years of dedicated service to the Swedish American Community.

Barbara was a steadfast leader, well organized, ensuring Bylaws were followed, managed state and IRS filings and was the initiator and creator of many interesting programs for the Society meetings. One of her favorite topics was Swedish food and it was unfortunate that a meeting she planned to be held in March of 2020 titled “Exploring our Swedish Food Heritage” had to be cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic. To honor Barbara this meeting is now scheduled to be held on September 10, 2022.

Next meeting – Exploring our Swedish Food Heritage

September 10, 2022, 1:30 PM at Martin Luther Lutheran Church9235 West Bluemound RoadMilwaukee located just east of Milwaukee Zoo. Members of the Society will present their favorite Swedish dish, including samples for attendees to taste. The meeting is open to the public.

SAHSWI is not the same without Barbara, she is dearly missed, not only because of her leadership, but for the delightful, generous person she was, and for the delicious open face sandwiches she made for board and Fika meetings.

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