Swan Johnson

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Swan Johnson’s mother died when he was six and his father appren­ticed him out until he was thir­teen years old and then he was appren­ticed out to a car­pen­ter who was a mas­ter builder. From him Swan learned the car­pen­ter trade. Swan repaired many big build­ings and was sent out to fix a barn that was split in the cen­ter by a storm. This was at Bement, near Chicago. Later he did a great deal of car­pen­ter work for a Mr. Vorhies, of Bement, where Swan John­son had moved his fam­ily from Chicago, build­ing up the many farms of Vorhies.

Swan John­son was the son born of the sec­ond mar­riage of his father and he had older step-brothers, also one brother. It was a let­ter from his brother from whom he had not heard for fif­teen years which over­joyed him, caus­ing a heart attack which resulted in his death. He was called for break­fast and when he didn’t come, Mrs. John­son went to see about him, and there he was, one sock on and the other in his hand as he had fallen back on the bed.

Swan John­son went on a land excur­sion to Nebraska, Platte County, in 1877 with the B & M Rail­road. Mr. Byron was the Land Agent. Swan John­son, Johnny Law­son and Hans John­son (the lat­ter became Thilda’s hus­band) went from Bement, Illi­nois, Swan John­son gave a span of mules in first pay­ment for his land. Johnny Law­son and Hans John­son gave a team of horses each as first pay­ment on their 160 acres of land. Each sold a set of har­ness for $25.00 for the horses and mules, and Nels John­son, a thir­teen year old son of Swan John­son, rode a horse bare­back and led the mules. They got another fel­low to ride a horse and lead a team fif­teen miles to Lov­ing­ton, Illi­nois, where the horses and mules were loaded into a car and shipped to Kear­ney County, Nebraska. Nels rode back from Lov­ing­ton to Bement on a train. Mr. Byron gave Nels his ticket but the con­duc­tor never took the ticket.

Swan John­son died Jan­u­ary 26, l894, from a heart attack caused by a let­ter from his only brother after fif­teen years’ silence. He was so over­joyed he read and reread it.

The John­son sale of per­sonal prop­erty was in the spring of 1896, and Will took over the farm­ing for two years with the help of Harry Car­pen­ter and Harry Coyle.

Mrs. Swan Johnson’s last name was Vester­son. Both­ilda was Thilda’s name but she never liked it. Peter went to Omaha to busi­ness col­lege where he received the nick­name of “Rock”. When he got home he liked to write “Peter Rock”, then “P. R.”, and he liked to call him­self “P.R.”, so it became his name. Nels assumed the mid­dle ini­tial “E” because another Nels John­son got his mail. Eric put an “E” in his name when he was to be married.

Nels says that a prac­ti­cal nurse who came to care for Mrs. Swan John­son at Bement by the name of Katie Baird, named Ellen “Louellen” all one word, but the fam­ily called her Ellen. Mrs. Swan John­son [ 5 ] wished to name her daugh­ter “Mimie Eliz­a­beth”, but her sons wanted to call her “Min­nie E1izabeth” after a girl by the name of Min­nie who they thought was pretty and very attrac­tive so her name was, to the fam­ily, Min­nie Eliz­a­beth. She was born at Keatskootoos on Feb­ru­ary 16, 1879. Min­nie cel­e­brated Jan­u­ary 16th until Ander­sons, at Keatskootoos, found it was Feb­ru­ary 16th. Vic­tor was born Jan­u­ary 1, 1872, and Mary on July 4, 1881. Oscar died at Bement at the age of nine months.

There were sev­eral Swedish fam­i­lies who lived at Bement who fol­lowed Swan John­son to Nebraska: (1) Nels Lar­son, an uncle of Rena Hoff­stein (of Elgin), a brother to her mother; (2) John Lar­son, Rena’s father; (3) Johnny Law­son of Genoa, whose chil­dren Albert, Charles, Min­nie, Gladys, Nel­lie, Ida, etc., lived east of Genoa; (4) John Ander­son (Mrs. Lot­tie Willard’s father), and (5) the Swan John­sons. These five fam­i­lies always cel­e­brated Christ­mas, New Years, Easter, etc., together at one place while at Bement, and again when they came to Genoa they did the same for years.

Rena stayed with the John­son fam­ily and went to school. When Rena Larson’s folks moved to Elgin, Nebraska, there were no schools, so she lived dur­ing the school year at the Swan John­son home. She also liked to spend the sum­mers there as she and Ida were good friends. In the fam­ily it was a lively place to be. Vic­tor, Will, Ida, Rena and Eric had many happy times together. When Ida was mar­ried her hus­band, John John­son, sent Rena a rail­road ticket to come down to Arling­ton and take care of Ida and the first baby, Mabel. After Rena’s mother’s death, Rena stayed at the John­son home. She found work, but all week­ends were spent at the John­son home.

There were nine chil­dren born to Kjerstin’s mother, but five died in child­hood. Kjerstin’s father was a car­pen­ter and cab­i­net maker but he always had a class of seven or eight young men who met together to read the Bible every night. He was a tall, light com­plected, slen­der young man much like Vic­tor. Kjer­stin was the old­est of the four liv­ing chil­dren. She had two broth­ers and one sister:

Nels Wecelius who was appointed a Judge by the King of Swe­den. He had sev­eral children.

  1. Mrs. Hilma Haak, address, Oster­malm, Sundsvall, Swe­den. She lives in the old home, and address is always the same.
  2. Ellen, sin­gle, who lived at home and kept house for Nels Wescelius, her brother.

Two sons came to Amer­ica about the age of sixty who live in Min­nesota, one a con­trac­tor and builder, and the other has a chicken ranch.

  1. Mr. Oscar Wescelius, Gheen, Min­nesota, Box 46.
  2. Robert Wescelius who must live near but doesn’t write to his sis­ters so often.
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Wvi­clius is the way the name was spelled in Swedish. Uncle John always spelled it Wescelius. Thilda had one cousin, her father’s nephew, tall, red haired, on her father’s side of the house who was edu­cated for a mis­sion­ary. He lived in Legvig near Swan Johnson’s home, but went to the Uni­ver­sity in Stock­holm. He came home for a visit and returned to Stock­holm to board a ship for his mis­sion field. As he stepped on the ship he fell into the sea and was never seen or heard of again. He always preached in the neigh­bor­hood when he came home on vacations.

When the John­son fam­ily left Swe­den for Amer­ica, Thilda was thir­teen, Peter ten, John seven, Nels five, Ida two, and Eric three months. Chicago was their first new home. Kjerstin’s sis­ter Kana, or Karen — as we now call it — who came with her fam­ily here has a daugh­ter, Mrs. Ellen Long, of Kim­ball, Nebraska, and a son, John Ahlm. John Ahlm lives in Nebraska, and another daugh­ter, Karine, lives in Cal­i­for­nia. She did live in Ong, Nebraska. Another daugh­ter, Anna, (sin­gle) died.

Swan John­son sent tick­ets for all of them to come to the United States, but Nels Ahlm was a fancy dresser and spent the money on fine clothes instead of buy­ing his pas­sage tick­ets, so the next time grand­fa­ther sent the tick­ets to Nels and his son John, and they later arrived in Amer­ica, going on to Genoa, Nebraska.

Later, grand­fa­ther sent tick­ets to Kana, a sis­ter of Kjer­stin, and the three girls to come to Genoa. This Aunt Kana was a tiny lit­tle woman, less than one hun­dred pounds in weight, four feet eight inches tall.

Kana Ahlm had three daugh­ters and one son, John, who later mar­ried Dora Mag­nu­son, of Genoa. Ellen mar­ried Wes­ley Long, of Genoa, and they also had three lovely daugh­ters and a son, Amos. They moved to Kim­ball County, Nebraska.

The son, John, also moved his fam­ily to Kim­ball County. One daugh­ter, Karen, mar­ried an older man at Ong, Nebraska, and later moved to Los Angeles.

Peter, Kjerstin’s brother, learned the tailor’s trade and went to Eng­land to live, mar­ried an Eng­lish lady and once came home to Swe­den to visit. He had four chil­dren. Peter died in England.

Kana, Kjerstin’s sis­ter, or Karine as we called her, mar­ried Nels Ahlm. They immi­grated to Amer­ica. She was a very small, thin per­son. They had three daugh­ters and one son. They set­tled in Genoa, and Nels Ahlm did car­pen­ter work with Swan John­son. Kjerstin’s two broth­ers went off to the Uni­ver­sity at Stockho1m. They were gone a cou­ple of years and when they returned they stopped to see Kjer­stin and inquire the way. She didn’t rec­og­nize them until they told her who they were.

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