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Marge Mattsson Beaver wrote this about her parents, Johan Mattsson, 1875-1957, married to Sofia Abrahamsdotter Bastubacka-Bast, 1878-1958. Johan was from Esse, Finland and Sofia was from Nedervetil; both died in Superior, Wisconsin. Marge was the youngest of their children:

In the late 1800`s and early 1900`s our shores teemed with immigrants. They came from many places. My parents, Sofia Abrahamsson Bastubacka and Johann Mattson, landed in New York from Finland. Then they ended up in Superior, Wisconsin. They wanted to be near a lake as it reminded them of their homeland.

My mother and father were Swedish and had been born in Swedish settlements in Finland. They lived about 150 miles from one another but never met until they arrived in this country. My father came from a town called "Esse," and my mother sometimes called him "Esse John." He came to the United States when he was 15 and worked as a lumberjack in a logging camp in Minnesota. My mother came from a town called Nedervetil. She said it was very pretty. Her father owned horses and when she was young she used to ride bare-back. My mother was barely 19 when she came to the United States. She worked at different jobs. She worked as a maid for different families. She worked in a laundry, ironing men’s shirts. She could iron a man’s shirt, beautifully, in just 15 minutes. She worked as a waitress at a Milwaukee restaurant where she met my father.

I must tell you how she got the passage money to come to the United States. My Mom lived with her parents, brothers and sisters. Their elderly white-haired grandmother lived nearby. My grandfather drank and on this particular occasion, when he went to town on business, he sold his horse in town and bought a new one. The old horse knew the way home and how to continue on if grandfather was tipsy and had dropped the reins. The new horse eivently panicked and drove the cart with my grandfather in it off the bridge, killing him. After the funeral, there was some insurance money left and it was divided among the children, including my grandmother. My mother booked passage to America with her share of the money.

My cousin Gertie told me that her father Fred, who was my Mom’s brother, said their mother raised her boys alone when she became a widow and they were pretty wild boys. My Ma came to the United States first and her four brothers and sister came later on. Eventually, they all came to Superior and made their homes there. Several brothers remained in the old country. My Mom showed me a photo once a long time ago of the remaining brothers and their wives and children and her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother was old and very tiny and white-haired. I believe she lived to 101.

My mother said her intention was to fill her trunk with money and go back to the old country. Instead, she married my father and had 12 children. My mother and father never went back to the old country. It must have been so sad to leave your homeland, parents, brothers and sisters and friends and never see them again. My Mom made home-made bread, white and brown. The brown bread was called Limpa, a Swedish bread, that she baked twice a week. Limpa had spices in it, Anise and Cardamom seeds. Her bread was so good that the neighborhood kids that we played with would stand at the back screen door until she cut a loaf for all of us to eat.

We used to go to the Salvation Army as children. One Christmas I sang a Swedish song that my mother taught me out of her hymnal (which I still have). I can still see my Mom and Dad sitting in the congregation and they were so proud. My Dad sat there with his fur hat in his lap and he was fairly beaming.

During the summer we would all go berry picking. My mom would pack a lunch and the whole family would go and pick chokecherries. We had to walk quite a way but we never minded and we always had fun. We would make a day of it; it was like a picnic.

We would also go to the shipyard and dig for iron. My parents and brothers and I. We would take pick axes and dig for buried plates, nuts and bolts, that had been there for years. My mother would take lunches along and we would stay all day. My father would load the iron in a wheel barrow and sell the metal, 60 cents for a hundred pounds, to Mr. Kaner. He owned a junkyard near the shipyard. Mr. Kaner would give us money, 10 cents each, to go to the movies and sometimes more for candy.

The shipyard slip wasn`t far from our house; boats came there to be repaired. This is where I learned to swim; my mother never knew this. I tagged along with my brothers and we never did tell my mother. I remember playing around the ships anchors, the water was quite deep in the slip and we always had fun there.

I remember my first trip back home. The highways, the water, bridges, all the vast changes. All the familiar landmarks gone. Even many houses I remembered torn down, including ours. So sad and so many changes. There is an American flag where our house used to be. My mom loved the American flag, especially after having three sons in World War II. She`d be pleased to know they erected one there. It was sort of like it was there to honor my mother.

We lived on hamburger mostly, it was real cheap, 20 cents a pound and it took three pounds to feed our family. I`d be embarrassed if any of my school friends saw me buying it, as most people bought it to feed their dogs. When I had to buy hamburger, I`d always peek in the store first to make sure no one I knew was in there.

We had two gardens, one was "potato land," my parents only raised potatoes in it. They`d put the potates in the cellar in the fall and they would last all winter. In the second garden they raised green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and corn. My mother would can for the whole winter. We lived mostly on hamburger, potatoes and gravy. The vegetables we ate mostly on Sundays.

My father was a carpenter of sorts. He built a bench for our back yard and I loved to sit in it. He even built a boat with oars and all; it was a beauty. He also made gun stocks out of the prettiest wood. Some he kept and some he sold. He never had a blue print but he could really build and carve and his gun stocks always had the right weight and balance. He would trap muskrats; I `d go with him in the evening and check his traps near the swamps. I would even carry the muskrats home, by the tails! He would skin them and scrape the hides and send them off to New York when they were dried. He sold alot of furs.

My mother did embroidery work and made a lot of tableclothes, pillow cases, dresser scarves. She would make them and put them away and when she needed money she would take some out and put them in a box and we would go around the neighborhood and sell chances on them, ten cents for three of them. After we had sold enough of them, we would put the names and addresses in a hat and draw out the winners. Then we would deliver the prizes.

My mother told me how the Swedish people would celebrate St. Lucia day. It is celebrated on December 13th. St. Lucia was a maid that promised her life, fortune to the church. She was bethrothed to a handsome young pagan and he was infuriated when he learned she had given her dowry to the poor. She died a martyr. St. Lucia appears on Decemebr 13th as a harbringer of Hope, Light and she offers help to all. Early in the morning on Dec 13th the eldest daughter of the house rises and prepares coffee and St. Lucia buns which she serves to all members of her family. While she serves her family she sings a melody called, "St. Lucia," which foretells that darkness will soon be vanquished and brings a message of hope and charity. She wears a crown of leaves with 9 lighted candles on it which represent the nine months of light. She wears a long white gown tied with a red sash."

My Mom said she had been named after the Queen of Sweden, Sofia, who had long red hair. My parents had 12 children: Johann (George), Ingrid (Bonnie) 2 Ingvalls – one died of diptheria and the second Ingvall (Harold) survived. Then came Agnes (Barbara), Svea (Pearl), Glen Elial (Leonard), Sgne Otelia (Dorothy) and then Kenneth, Marchall, Russell and I.

Barbara said she remembered how our parents loved to dance. Every Saturday night they’d go to Connor’s Point near Lake Superior. They would have music and they would meet their friends at the dance hall. Mom wore a black satin and taffeta dress. She kept it wrapped in tissue paper along with her corset. She had a very tiny waist, about 18-20 inches. She had long brown hair that she kept in an upsweep on top of her head.

My mother called herself a sound dreamer, a Swedish phrase which meant things would come to pass. She’d dream of a wedding or babies or someone she knew, and it would come to pass.

My Mom and Dad could neither read nor write. In the old country only the wealthy people sent their children to school. Most of the children worked on their parent’s farm. After a few years in this country my father taught himself a little bit of English as he learned how to read the evening newspaper. He also knew how to read Swedish. Both my parents read the “Strids Ropet”, a Swedish newspaper that came once a month. He learned to sign his name John instead of Johan. My Mom learned how to sign her name. Before, they marked with an X for their signatures. The proudest day of their lives was when they became United States citizens. I remember they would go and vote in every election.

My Mom died at age 78. She’d fallen on the ice and broken her hip. When it happened she was living in the apartment on 5th St. When she was released from the hospital, she went to live with Kenneth and Ethel in the country. She developed pneumonia and they brought her back to the hospital, where she died.

Marge also writes about one of her mother’s younger brothers as follows:

My Mom’s younger brother’s Otto and Fred both had farms. Uncle Fred had cows and he delivered milk. He had a bad foot. My Mom said he worked hard as a boy in the old country and something happened to his foot and it never did get well. He had such a good sense of humor; he’d come in and say, “Fia, leg café paw!” Which meant for my Mom to put the coffee on. Fred called her Fia, which was a nickname. He’d stop in and drink coffee with her when he delivered our milk. Uncle Fred would drink his coffee out of the saucer; I guess to cool it off. He was always joking and he had the most infectious laugh; I loved to hear him laugh. Another reason I liked him was because he’d always reach in his pocket and find me some pennies. Once I heard him drive up and I went to the door – and it was cousin “Eb”, he was about 14 or 15 then and I think I really embarrassed him as his face turned red when I spoke to him. He was delivering milk that day for his father.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Rosa had five children: three girls and two boys. Our cousin Gertie taught school and now lives in Duluth, Minnesota and is in her 80s. She married a man from Superior, a very nice man. I met him when I worked at the beauty salon in East End; they had an apartment upstairs of his mother’s house. I used to go there quite often to visit and for lunch. Then they moved to Mexico. I’m not sure if he worked for the Border Patrol. He died at an early age of a brain tumor, leaving Gert with several small children. She said it was the saddest and hardest thing she ever had to do, to go home and tell her children their daddy was gone. She moved back to Superior and Duluth to finish raising her children, near where she grew up.

Fred was on his own at the age of 13 as his father died in an accident, and he was not taken in by his mother’s new husband as his brother Otto was.


“I Remember” by Marge Mattsson Beaver

June Pelo


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