View Full Version : John Swan

June Pelo
05-12-05, 19:21
I thought we had finished the Swan research, but new information has come in that raises some questions. I hope someone can help:

John Swan said the religious faith of his parents prevented his learning music at home ...he learned to play a cornet at the home of a friend.

The family were Lutherans and this is the first I've heard that they frowned on learning music. Is this true?
He said that at age of 17, while he was attending the trade school, Russia attempted to absorb Finland as it had Poland. He and his student friends held secret meetings in a school room as they plotted against the Russians. One night Russian sympathizers raided their establishment and Swan with 20 other boys escaped to Sweden in a fishing boat. Money was provided there for their passage to America and Swan began his long years
in America as a cabinet maker in New York City where he had a brother already established.

Did Russia attempt to take over Finland ca 1894? Were there people in Sweden who provided money to people to go to America?
"After moving to California, his first organ was completed in 1943 and is now in the Finnish Lutheran church in Fort Bragg. His second one was purchased by the 7th Day Adventist church, Eureka and his third which he completed about five years
ago is in the Arcata Funeral Home."

Does anyone know how we could find out more about those organs and those churches?
"Prior to moving to Healdsburg, CA Swan lived in Eureka and then Fort Bragg. He and his second wife, Kaste, to whom he was married six years ago in Eureka moved to their present location in October 1950."

Swan made this statement in the early 1950s. Does someone have access to marriage records for Eureka to see if John Swan and Hanna Kaste married there in the early 1940s?

He claims he is the inventor of the single reed bassoon instead of the regulation two reeds. I don't know anything about music, but was this a major accomplishment in the music world?

While in Worcester, Swan organized bands, orchestras, and choirs, his bands averaging from 40 to 60 pieces. He also organized and directed another band while he lived in Cleveland for two years.

We have found some information about his bands in Worcester, but nothing about Cleveland. Does anyone know how we could find out about this band in Cleveland - it would have been prior to 1935.

I know these are a lot of questions, and I would appreciate any help.



05-12-05, 20:32
Originally posted by June Pelo
Did Russia attempt to take over Finland ca 1894? Were there people in Sweden who provided money to people to go to America?

1894 is a bit early. The Russian opression started abt. 1898 when Nicolai Borbrikoff was appointed governor for Finland. In 1899 czar Nicolai II gave the so called February manifest which considerably weakened the autonomy of Finland with respect to Russia. In a short time the Finns gathered one million names (the total population was abt. three million at that time) on an adress to the czar, but he refused to alter his mind and did not even recieve the adress.

In 1900 Russian was declared official language in public offices. Now the Finns were politically divided in constitutionalists and those who complied to the new illegal rules.

In 1901 there was a new law that forced Finnish men doing their national service to serve outside Finland in the Russian army. The draft strikes began and during this period very many fled the country, mainly to America.

In 1903 Bobrikoff got dictatorial rights in Finland and the Russification was stepped up.

In June 1904 Eugen Schauman killed Bobrikoff and in the fall 1905 after a general strike the Russians eased ther opression and the February manifest of 1899 was revoked by the November manifest 1905.

During this this period of opression the resistance among the constitutionalists. There were arms smuggling, contacts with the revolutionary movements in Russia, and finally, during WWI sending of young men to Germany for military education, the jaeger movement.

In my opinion it's not likely that there was much resistance against the Russians before 1899. Could John hade romanticized his youth in Finland a little?


05-12-05, 20:43
Originally posted by June Pelo
The family were Lutherans and this is the first I've heard that they frowned on learning music. Is this true?

There is music and there is music. If John's family had joined a pietist or a Laestadian movement, (which still have stayed within the Lutheran curch) it is quite possible that they frowned upon all profane music.

The accordion was called "syndaskrytto" (sinners crease) in Swedish Ostrobotnia and "Pirun palkeet" (Devil's bellows) in Finnish Ostrobotnia.

If the music wasn't used to praise the Lord or played on anything but an organ, it was considered sinful. Worst of all was dancing.


05-12-05, 21:43
Excuse me for joining this discussion, which I have only followed from beside, but does anyone know were this John Swan was born? I also have one John Swan in my database. His father was Johan Swan from Vasa, Finland. John also had a sister, Wilhelmina Swan (b.1852), who married one of my ancestors in Astoria. There were 2 brothers and three sisters in this family. My information tells that Johan emigrated to California and the boys became seamen.

Christian Dahlin

Karen Norwillo
05-12-05, 21:44
June, I sent an email to the Trinity Lutheran Church in Ft Bragg, CA to enquire about their organ. They are one of a few surviving Finnish-founded Lutheran churches in CA. I 'll let you know of any reply.
Also, apparently, single reed bassoon mouthpieces are uncommon, but still available. I found a site online where someone was selling rare Chedeville single reed mouthpieces (3) for $300. Description says single reed has a darker, more human singing quality. Wikepedia says in past times, musicians crafted their own reeds from cane. As to him "inventing" it, that would be very hard to prove. I'll keep looking.
I checked the CA Marriage Index 1850-1960. No Hanna Kaste, but it is not a complete index of all counties, so they could still be there, but not online.
I found the address for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in FT. Bragg, but no email address. If you want the address and phone #, let me know. Also, there were over 180 funeral homes under the Arcata umbrella, obviously a chain, in CA.

June Pelo
06-12-05, 17:39
Karen, Thanks for all the interesting bits of information. Some of Hanna's family said she and John had a common law marriage, and that they had never heard of them being married. But John claims they married. So it's a question of who to believe. Yes, if you have an address for the church in Ft. Bragg, we'd appreciate having it. I'll send all this info. to Sven.


13-12-05, 07:48
This is a picture of John Swan and his single reed bassoon which he made.
He said the single reed replaced the double reed used by other musicians.
Does anyone know anything about the single reed - or know if a patent was
issued for it?


/entered by Hasse

Hasse Andtbacka
13-12-05, 09:11
To me it seems like a bassoon with a saxophone mouthpiece.

Hasse A

June Pelo
13-12-05, 17:00

You asked where John Swan was born. He was born 7 Oct 1877 in Evijärvi as Matts Alexandersson Jouhten. He later changed his name to John Matthew Swan. The family moved to Nedervetil in 1890. I think there was another John Swan because we have run across his name during our search, but we couldn't make any connection to him.

Hasse A: Another musician thought the same as you. Evidently John Swan switched mouthpieces and called it a single reed.