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A Few Prominent Finland Swedes - now deceased – Silversten


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We would gladly write a memorial rune about all those who during their life-span made significant contributions for the development of their adoptive country, but it would be an impossible task to gather the necessary facts about all the individuals who should be included in such an undertaking. Nevertheless, we will devote the final chapter to present the biographies of a few noteworthy departed countrymen.

EDVARD JOHANNES ANTELL whose name is so firmly inscribed in the annals of our people here in America that it can never be erased, was born on March 22, 1852 in Viborg. He was the son of the then Governor and later Senator Samuel Henrik Antell and his wife, Fanny, who was born Wallenius.

Having passed the necessary examination to be classed as a "student," he entered Helsingfors University in 1869 to study law. He quickly passed all examinations, following which he held the position of temporary vice provincial secretary in the Province of Nyland. With an unusually keen mind, quick witted and sharp repartee and with an ever ready alert wit and good humor, Antell soon became one of the most popular cavaliers in Helsingfors society of the 1870s and 80s. The young man's skill as a horseman and his support of equestrian sports also contributed to his popularity.

Law and civil service with their narrow and confining work did not fit into Antell's love for freedom and openness. So in 1887 he chose to steer his course to the free land in the west. Here he found, like alll other new arrivals, that it was immediately necessary to start with hard laborious work, a fact which he himself has often stated as being of great benefit to him. Later he worked in commercial firms and as a traveling real estate agent for a couple of large companies. As an agent for one of those large firms, he visited his countrymen in many of the states of the Union as well as many areas of Canada and thus gained a knowledge of his countrymen on this side of the ocean.

This knowledge became very useful for Antell when he was called by his country-men in Worcester, Mass. in 1897 to become the editor of the recently established newspaper "Finska Amerikanaren". He remained in that post for about three decades until March 27, 1924, when he had to give up because of poor health and advancing age. He could look back on a long and laborious but also a successful and fruitful career. With good reason, a prominent Finland Swede characterized Antell as "a man who has done more than any other individual for the unity of the Finland Swedes in the United States and thereby forged a linkage between them and the homeland."

Editor Antell died on July 23, 1926 in Brooklyn, N.Y. leaving his spouse, Anna Antell (maiden name Hornborg) and six children. They were married in 1890.

(This biography was written by George E. Ervast.)

GABRIEL CARLSON was born in Korsnäs in 1861 and came to America in 1884. He settled in Minneapolis, Minn. where he labored for a time as a carpenter. One day while making repairs in a ready-made-clothing factory he noted how the raw material (cloth) was washed by hand. The idea came to him of how that might be done by machine. He fabricated an installation using brushes operated by air pressure and found that it worked. He was able to secure a patent on his idea. He transferred his patent to a firm in Springfield, Mass. which manufactured cleaning machinery. Carlson became a share owner in the company as well as a leader for the work force. He was elected to membership on the Board of Directors. Over the years Gabriel Carlson's ideas for improvement in the machinery resulted in great expansion of the company. The work force that in the beginning consisted of only six people grew mightily over the years, sometimes employing as many as 600 people. The name of the company was Confectioner's Machinery and Manufacturing Co. which name later was changed to National Equipment Co. now completely controlled by Americans.

Gabriel Carlson was a warm and religious man. He supported everything that was of benefit to his countrymen. Because of an accident in the factory, he was so badly injured that he died on April 19, 1908. He left his spouse and four children. His memory is revered among the Finland-Swedes of Springfield.

(This biography was supplied by Mrs. J. White of Springfield, Mass.)

JOHN NYBERG was born in the Nedervetil Parish on April 14, 1847. His parents both died when he was still a young boy so that early in life he had to learn to take care of himself. He arrived in America at the age of twenty, coming first to Chicago. But after a short stay he went to a lumber camp near Newago, Mich. working there until he mastered the new language. In Finland he had learned the watchmakers trade which he sought to pursue as soon as he had mastered the English language. After working in that trade for a couple of years in Newaygo, he was advised to go to Grand Rapids where prospects for greater income were brighter. There he worked for 55 years in the same company, truly an outstanding record for industry and loyalty. In Grand Rapids he made the acquaintance of Fredrika Johnson who belonged to the well-known Johnson clan from Jönköping. They were married on July 4, 1871. He Lord blessed them with seven children of which six are still living. Mrs. Nyberg was called home on August 1, 1922. Because of his dependability and talent, he became counselor, business agent and banker for hundreds of settlers. Anyone needing to sell or buy something consulted with Nyberg for advice and help. Especially when one needed to send money home to friends or family, Nyberg was the man to turn to. He fulfilled those consignments without charge and they amounted to many thousands of dollars over the years. His reputation for trustworthiness was such that hundreds of immigrants, many having no previous personal dealings with him, nevertheless were willing to entrust him with their hard-earned savings.

"Highly valued in the eyes of the Lord is the death of the pious." That quotation was brought forcefully home to us when we received word that the Lord had seen fit to call home John Nyberg, the organizer of the Bethlehem Congregation in Grand Rapids, Mich. For nearly 60 years, he had been a pillar of the congregation which he had organized as a newly married man. The couple, he a little over 20 and the bride just 18, had opened their home so that the third Swedish Lutheran congregation in Southern Michigan could be organized. Only recently having made peace with his God, he became the protector of the little congregation with the warmth and ardor of a new lover. When early on doctrinal strife and dissension crept into the little Swedish community, it was Nyberg's profession of fidelity and reverent leadership which, humanly seen, saved the recently established congregation from changing allegiance or simply passing into oblivion.

In the local congregation Nyberg has fulfilled all duties entrusted to him in an exemplary manner. Well read as he was, he exerted a deep influence on those who came under his leadership in Sunday School and Bible class. Few laymen have kept up with the flow of theological events to the extent practiced by John Nyberg. Even during the last few years, when his health forced him to be confined to his bed, he continued to devour the latest theological periodicals and books.

(This biography written by N.G.H. appeared in a 1928 issue of "Augustana.")

ANDREW A PALM was born in Nedervetil in August 1857. His formal education was limited to two weeks. He was forced to support himself when he was 11 years old. He came to America when he was 19. It is of course superfluous to say that he arrived with his only asset being the strength of his hands and a willingness to work hard. In that respect he was equal to other immigrants at that time.

He came to White Cloud, Mich. where he labored for about a year in saw mills and logging camps and then moved to Ludington which is also in Michigan. In 1891 he married Johanna Erickson from the Karleby parish in Finland. The following year, together with Jacob Anderson, he purchased a small furniture shop. Two years later he purchased Anderson's share and from then on he was the sole owner of the establishment. He continued to operate the shop alone for 30 years until it was taken over by his sons. Despite his lack of formal education and modern accounting methods, he was nevertheless able to establish his own operating and accounting system so that the business prospered. For what he lacked in formal business education, he substituted honesty which provided such confidence among the people that he became a wealthy man.

He was much interested in church work in the Swedish Lutheran church of his home city where he served as a "trustee" for many years, a deacon for 16 years and a Sunday School teacher for about 25 years. He was always faithful in attendance and if he was absent, it was a sure sign that he was not well.

Because he may have been deficient in formal education, he made sure that that did not carry over into his children, for they all graduated from high school and matriculated at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Two of his sons are pastors in the Lutheran Church and the other two are businessmen. His two daughters are teachers.

At his death on May 21, 1927, he was mourned by his spouse, six children and an especially large circle of friends. During the period of his funeral, all business affairs in the city were closed and flags were flown at half staff. The floral display in his honor was unparalled in the history of the city. His memory is honored by all who knew him.

(The information for the above biography was provided by his son, Pastor E. A. Palm.)

CHARLES SJÖBERG was born on Kuggö Island in the Pargas parish in 1877. He died on June 14, 1930 in Detroit, Mich. Sjöberg spent his earliest childhood years in southern Finland, later moving to Vörå where he completed his high school education. In the spring of 1898 he moved to Vasa. There he found his companion for life in 1904. He came to the United States in 1913, living for a time in Eveleth, Minn. In 1916 he moved to Detroit, Mich. where he remained for the rest of his life.

Sjöberg has played a leading role in many different societies in many different locations wherever he has chosen to live. As early as the time he spent in Vasa, he organized the Swedish Constitutional Workers Society. In Eveleth, Minn. he took an active part in the various Finland-Swedish societies in that city. In Detroit he organized "Länken N:R 49, S.F. of America" and has remained a driving force in that society.

Charles Sjöberg is survived by his wife and four children. Emil Ekblad writes about him as follows: "Sjöberg during his industrious working days took time to gather a large measure of knowledge through self study. His well-rounded educational attainments were at an exceedingly high level. In conversation and in discussion, he often surprised us by his ready inventive and ingenious answers and through his great insights into nearly all subject matters. In temperance work where he was a most zealous and devoted champion, he performed a significant and most telling labor. He was an asset for the Order of Runeberg, yes actually an asset for all Finland-Swedish peoples in Finland as well as in the United States."

Charles Sjöberg had a group of his poetic creations published under the title "Toner och Missljud" (Tunes and Discord).

(The information for this biography was taken from Finska Amerikanaren.)

B. A. SJÖBERG (Seaborg) is the name of a man we surely need to remember.

Sjöberg was born in Kristinestad, Finland on July 29, 1841 and died in Lewiston, Idaho on November 17, 1923. In 1855 Sjöberg, as a young man, was employed as an assistant in a Trading Co. in Vasa. This equipped him with the necessary business acumen to organize his own trading company there in Vasa which he managed from 1860 to 1866. This included owning and managing ocean-going trading ships. At about this time he leased the Ilhala Estate in "Storkyro" and served in that county's administration for about a year. Since this was a period of depression in Finland and because the country's economy was ailing, Sjöberg decided to emigrate to the United States. He arrived in New York in the fall of 1867 and moved to Jamestown, NY in 1868 because he had a contract with the New York Central Railroad.

In 1873 we find him in Astoria, Oregon where he changed his name to Seaborg. In 1879 he moved to Ilwaco, Wash. where he organized his first Salmon Packing Co. which he named "Aberdeen Packing Co." Later he established a total of 10 salmon canning factories in the following places: Ilwaco, Aberdeen, Bay Center, Fairhaven, Stanwood, Eagle Cliff and Bay View, all in the state of Washington; two in Oregon, in Astoria and Rogue River, plus one in Wrangel, Alaska. The factory in Fairhaven was at that time the largest in the world.

In addition to his fish-canning factories, he built a number of railroads and owned many steamships and business establishments. He also conducted extensive business dealings in Ilwaco, Wash. The city of Aberdeen received its name from Seaborg's Fish Canning Factory. He had purchased for a dollar two acres of land where Aberdeen's central business district is now located and later sold lots there for a dollar each.

Seaborg was also a politician. He was a member of Washington State's first senate in which he represented three counties. He was the chairman of the Senate's Commerce Committee. He even was a school committee member and served for 8 years on the harbor pilots commission.

His wife was from Vasa and a member of the Vasastjärna family. One of his sons was an agent for the fisheries commission of the State of Washington. He was killed in an accident a few years ago. Another son drowned. A daughter, Mrs. R. A. Hawkins, lives near Ilwaco and is proud of her lineage from Swedish Finland.

Seaborg savored life to the fullest. He often said, "it is difficult to think of life as it really is, working night and day and then, when you have finally learned how to live, you are called home." Seaborg's philosophy of life was his own: "Live according with the dictates of your conscience and give each one what is rightfully his; try to do your best; the Lord does not demand more than he gave." Those ideals contain the power which allowed him to prevail over all obstacles in an eventful life. A correspondent wrote the following in "Finska Amerikanaren" after Seaborg's death: "He was a man that, when the history of Oregon and Washington is written, he would be included. But in the eyes of Finland he was an emigrant. Most countries follow the fortunes of their sons and daughters in foreign countries, help them when necessary and rejoice when they do well. Many countries would have been proud to call Seaborg their son but not Finland." Those words by the correspondent are too harsh. It may be true that Seaborg may have devoted himself to his own interests and affairs to such an extent that he forgot his mother country and perhaps there he may be classified as a missing person.

Material for the above biography was supplied by J. E. Wicks.

DR. M. ÖSTMAN (Bergödoktorn), a man worthy of note among Finland Swedes. Östman was born on Bergö, an island in the archipelago south of Vasa on April 10, 1860 He was among 12 brothers and 3 sisters. Because of this and like so many others, it was necessary for him to support himself at a very young age.

Thus at the age of 12 we find him with the Mannelin Trading Company learning the fundamentals of landscaping and flower culture at the owner's estate near Metviken which later stood him in good stead. To begin with, it involved rising at three o'clock in the morning to hand-carry water from a well located alongside the principal building to insure that everything on the grounds was adequately watered and the paths completely raked before the specified hour. During the winter, it involved general oversight of the buildings and grounds of the whole estate. That he should eventually become responsible for the whole estate was not to his liking. Thus he became intrigued by an advertisement in a Helsingfors paper which caused him on the spur of the moment to board the steamer "Tärnan" for a trip to Helsingfors, the capital. He searched for and because of his boldness was able to land a position as assistant at the Angerska pharmacy and as part time helper at the pharmacist's estate near Borgå.

After seven years in the capital city, the young man's thirst for knowledge proved overpowering. He, therefore, made a number of study trips to Stockholm to garner more knowledge in the botanical as well as the medicinal fields. After satisfying his thirst in these areas, he returned to Bergö. He labored among the people there on the island and in the rural communities on the mainland, alleviating and healing sickness and disease, usually with very little compensation. His sympathetic, steadfast character and friendly manner won everyone's admiration.

That cupid's arrows were never able to penetrate his defenses is explained by the fact that he had promised his mother on her death bed that he would never marry. The world knows that he did keep that promise as long as he lived.

That Bergö also became too confining for his temperament became apparent since on November 28, 1901 we find him at the Vasa railroad station, flower-bedecked to begin his journey to America. The steamship Polaris left Hangö on New Years Eve as dusk was settling in while he joined everyone on deck with searching eyes contemplating the rapidly disappearing dearest land on earth. Hangö's "blinking eye" continued sending its farewell message late into the evening.

He arrived in Gladstone and Escanaba, Mich. and remained in that area until early spring of 1903, when he moved to Duluth. He remained there until October of that year when he set his course for the West Coast with Seattle as the target. Here he spent his remaining years, 25 in number.

Doctor Östman during his 23-year practice in Seattle gathered a circle of friends among his clientele that in many cases had come to him on crutches and who, after his treatment, threw them away because they could stand and walk without them.

Behind his mask of gruffness which he adopted in the best interest of his patients, there was a sympathetic heart in hiding. It did not pay to show it because it was not desirable to show weakness, only strength.

He was one of those who dauntless took the lead when Swedish culture and idealism was involved and his career can be compared to that of the exponents of Swedish culture at home in the mother country. Dr. Östman was truly one of those who belonged to the constellation of Finland-Swedish heroes. He also took his place among those who served humanity. Anointed by the desire to serve a suffering humanity, he had with untiring and never-ceasing spirit of self-sacrifice burned his energy on the altar of love and sympathy for the benefit of his fellow-man who have been met by sickness and adversity.

Dr. Östman was a true son of Finland. While he was separated from his mother country, he was never capable of replanting his roots in foreign soil. His heart always remained in summer dreamy Suomi.

The material for this biography was gleaned from Finska Amerikanaren.

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