Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Swedish Colony Exhibit at Maine State Fair in Late 1800’s (?)

April 30, 2011

Marie Malmquist copied the following “whole account, word for word.”


A novel and entertaining feature of the Maine State fair, held at Lewiston, September 21-25, was the exhibit made by the Swedish Colony of The Pine Tree State, located in Aroostook County. The Fair itself was by far the largest and most successful since the organization of the Society, and the agricultural products and examples of the domestic industries of the Scandinavian settlement occupied a prominent place in the main building. The grains and vegetables amply illustrated the fruitfulness of the soil which a few short years ago formed part of the vast forest that still covers a part of the state larger than the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Illustrative of the primitive arts and industries of the sturdy descendants of the Vikings was displayed an assortment of home-made cloth, cloth made from cows hair (for blankets), wooden shoes, beartraps, bronze coffee pots, wooden tableware, saddlebags of wickerwork, oxyokes, moccasins, gloves and leggings of reindeer skin; straw beehives, snowshoes ten feet in length, and a variety of similar articles, none of them possessing much aesthetic grace or beauty, but admirably adapted for the severest purpose.

“A unique chapter in the History of Maine” was the apt phrase by which the Hon. W. W. Thomas, Jr. ex-minister to Sweden, characterized this Swedish Colony in an address at the decennial of its founding, held at New Sweden in 1880; and the colonists greeted Governor Chamberlain on that occasion with ‘Leve Koloniens Grundläggare! (Long live the Founder of the Colony). It was during the notably progressive administration of Joshua L. Chamberlain—the hero of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, and now President of Bowdoin College [1871-82] – that in response to his earnest recommendation the Legislature took action to secure Swedish immigrants to offset the depopulation of the State by emigration by the native born citizens. Mr. Thomas was sent to Sweden in 1870, and in a short time returned with a colony of fifty one souls, who were enthusiastically welcomed to the promised Land. The State gave each settler – all having paid their own fare from Sweden – 100 acres of land and afforded such other assistance as was necessary at the start. In 1880 the colony had expanded to 787 souls, and at present times numbers about 1000 men, women, and children. They have 20,000 acres of land under careful cultivation.

The Town Hall, or “Capitol,” as they call it, of New Sweden, serves as a church, schoolhouse, Castle Garden, and general place of meeting. In religion the colonists are about equally divided between the Lutherans and the Baptist. They have five schools and an excellent system of practical education. The original settlers still retain their native costumes and customs, but the new generation is becoming thoroughly Americanized. The farmers particularly pride themselves on their fine horses and comfortable turnouts for both Summer and Winter driving.

Mr. G. W. P. Gerrard of Caribou, who was responsible for the excellent exhibit at the State Fair, said to the writer: “The Swedish colony today is very prosperous. They are hardworking, industrious, frugal people, and are steadily improving their farms. They are an honorable class of men and women, and can be trusted implicitly. I do not believe there is another community of so many souls in America of which so much can be said in this direction, as of the Swedish Colony in The State of Maine.” Ex-Governor Chamberlain said: “I regard the enterprise as very well planned, well arranged and successful. The colonists are an excellent class of people, and will make the best of citizen. They are thriving in every way, and I look for a still more important development of the colony, which will in no small degree be influential in the course of future welfare of the State.”


By now, the great Decennial Celebration was past, the colony was secure, the church bell had been installed, and in making notes for a later speech, doubtless in a jocular vein, Thomas (we presume) wrote:

Church dedicated

You have built you a church

I have given the bell

You may now got to meeting

Or else go to h–l



[Centennial History Maine’s Swedish Colony 1870-1970 New Sweden, Westmanland, Stockholm and Adjoining Areas, Compiled and edited by Richard Hede, Section H-1 and H-2]

Grange Organized in New Sweden, ME 1893

April 28, 2011

Reported in the Bangor Daily News, April 21, 1893 (from Charlotte Lenentine Melvin’s files):

New Sweden Grange organized with 17 charter members. First master was F. O. Landgren. First secretary Solomon Johnson. First chaplain J. O. Wickstrom. (All three deceased by 1966). Later grange records note that some of the regular grange sessions which were then held on Saturday afternoons, drew an attendance of 77 members compared to the final year’s attendance which was not sufficient to fill the 13 officer’s chairs. Also noted in one of the earliest of secretaries reports was the purchase price of half a cord of kindling wood which was 50 cents and a half cord of hard wood which was $1.25.
A large pencentage of members have been awarded the Silver Star certificate for 25 years of consecutive grange membership and 12 or more members have received the coveted Golden Sheaf Award for 50 or more years of membership.

Grange unit dissolved at New Sweden 1966

April 27, 2011

Reported on March 4, 1966 by the Bangor Daily News (from the archived files of charlotte Lenentine Melving):

Grange met for the final session on Saturday night at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Forrest Nelson. Unanimous vote was recorded for the dissolvement of New Sweden Grange No. 315 and surrender of the grange charter due to lack of member attendance.
Approximately 100 members from Stockholm, Woodland, Westmanland and New Sweden are on the Grange roster with a high of 150 members, registered in previous years.
Youngest master to serve was Forrest Nelson at age 16.
Only three women served as Master’s: Alice Nelson, Mrs. Madge Nelson, Mrs. Beatrice Farrington
Any granger in good standing and on the grange membership may apply to the secretary, Mrs. Charles Hicks for a demit, to join another grange. The Grange Hall, located on a town lot which was formerly the Capitol School has automatically reverted to the town, an agreement at the time of purchase.

Old Maine Swedish Farms

April 16, 2011

Old Maine Swedish Farms

It is sad to say but true. The Swedish language is slowly dying here in Maine Swedish Colony. Local filmmakers Brenda and Alan Jepson have recently released their lastest DVD which chronicles the importance of the Swedish language to the culture of the community. Several Swedish speakers are interviewed, including Floyd Jepson and Edmund Anderson, both no longer with us. Another interviewee is Lewis Peterson.

Dan Olson, narrator and language consultant for the film, conducts personal conversations with  local people in Swedish. The focus of the interviews centers on living on the farms in the old days and what life entailed in those times.

Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) recently aired an interview with the filmmakers. Follow the link to read the transcription and to listen to the rich audio which includes Swedish music, the Swedish interviews, and English translations.

Crown of Maine Productions offers the opportunity to own your own copy of “Old Maine Swedish Farms.”

Wordless Wednesday: Founder of New Sweden, ME

July 8, 2009
W. W. Thomas Jr, about age 45-50 in Stockholm, Sweden

W. W. Thomas Jr, about age 45-50 in Stockholm, Sweden

Anniversary of Death: Mildred Westin

June 7, 2009
Mildred Velma Barnes Westin

Mildred Velma Barnes Westin

Mildred “Millie” Barnes Westin used to be my landlady. We lived in the upstairs apartment in her rambling old house on the edge of Collins Pond in Caribou, Maine. She used to sing in her deep alto voice while working around the kitchen downstairs and I would hear her through the hot air grates in the floor.

Millie had a table in the bay window facing east right next to our entrance. Among the plants was a huge Christmas cactus that always seemed to be in bloom. Her outdoor garden was filled with lilies, roses, and cultivated raspberries in the summertime.

I remember seeing Millie and Everett, her husband, sing the special music presentation in church at the Caribou United Baptist. I didn’t realize it then, but it really was very special to hear the Swedish hymns sung. (Everett’s father immigrated from Sweden. He served first as a minister at the First Baptist Church of New Sweden, Maine starting in 1895 and also at the Stockholm First Baptist Church as late as 1928).

As a teen, I was a junior church helper and sat in the tiny pews with the 4 year olds as Millie led them in learning to sing (with the hand motions) “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine.”

One Thanksgiving, Millie came to our house for dinner along with my father’s cousin Olive Choate. She told stories about Everett during World War I involving lots of blood. I can’t remember the details now.

Millie died two years ago today at the age of 94. She was born in Caribou, graduated from Caribou High School in 1931, and worked for the telephone and telegraph company in their Caribou office. She and Everett were married November 21, 1950. He predeceased her in 1992 at age 91.

Kapitoleum Movie from New Sweden, Maine

June 7, 2009

Music by the Swedish Meatballs. Movie by Red Squirrel Productions (that’s me) from old images.

Carnival of Genealogy: Swimsuit Edition

June 5, 2009
"Bathing" Aug. 1911 Madawaska Lake, Maine

"Bathing" Aug. 1911 Madawaska Lake, Maine

John J. Sodergren and his father cut a path probably in the 1880’s from their log house  near the Little Madawaska River in Stockholm, Maine to Madawaska Lake in the Maine Swedish Colony established in 1870.  John J. Sodergren catered to the local population that spent their summer holidays at the lake. A steamboat was in use and rowboats were for rent as were lakeside cabins. A barn was built near the shore for the horses. In the winter, ice was cut from Madawaska Lake for use in the summertime.

Mabel Sodergren bought the store from her father in 1914 and ran the business with her her second husband Andrew Lawson for many years. The business was purchased by Chester Buzzell upon their retirement. Buzzell sold to Stan Thomas who was the last owner of the building which was torn down in 2006.

Madawaska Lake is still a popular spot for swimming and boating, a little treasure in far northern Maine cherished by many residents and visitors.

Mathilda Anderson hosts researcher Melvin 1950

February 18, 2009

Charlotte Lenentine Melvin visited New Sweden as a student researcher in 1950. She was invited to stay at the home of Mathilda Anderson during the visit. The notes that Charlotte took from her conversation with Mathilda provide an interesting view of the hardships in the early days of settling New Sweden.

Do you know who Mathilda’s family was? Please help me find out about them.


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