Today was spent exploring our Mårtensson heritage. Dad’s grandmother obn his mother’s side was Hulda Martinsson, and her father Jöns (John) came to America in 1869.
John came to America with a group of men from Skoglösa farm in Önnestad parish. One of his fellow travelers, Nils Aspengren, wrote a diary about their travels. His diary begins, “We, who were from Skoglösa, Önnestad parish, Kristianstad län, left Sweden on April 28, 1869.” The group was organized by Colonel Hans Matson, a Swede from Önnestad who had been contracted by the state of Minnesota to recruit emigrants from Sweden. The diary describes how they boarded the train at Fridhem station and traveled to Minnesota by way of Malmö, Copenhagen, Liverpool, Quebec and Wisconsin. (As it turns out, they decided Minnesota was too cold and they moved to Nebraska instead.)
Our B&B host, Lena, recalled that a friend of hers knew something about the local history and asked him to meet with us this morning and give us a tour. His hame is Hans Ohlsson and he grew up on Skoglösa No. 10 and his family has lived there for many generations. Our Jöns and his family lived at Skoglösa No. 6, so at the very least, our ancestors were next-door neighbors.
Our first stop was the site of the Fridhem station. The building is still there, but it has been converted to a private home.
This building was at the top of my “must-see list” and I wasnt even sure if it still existed. What a great treat to see it still sitting next to the rail line!
Next stop was Skoglösa farm. Hans introduced us to his brother Karl who has kept many of his father’s papers about local history and genealogy. As we were comparing notes, we realized that Hans, Karl and their late father Bertil are all descended from a man whose sister had married John’s brothers Lars. So they aren’t our cousins exactly but as the Swedes say, “släkt i släkt”. They have a whole pile of letters that they have received over the years from our distant cousins Vince, Patricia and Lee Martinson (hi, Lee!). Karl had a photocopy of the original Aspengren diary, handwritten in Swedish.
It was an amazing coincidence that Lena was able to put us in touch with the Ohlsson brothers and I was glad to be able to make a personal connection with people who are part of my extended family.
The old farmhouses aren’t numbered anymore, but Hans and Karl were able to figure out which one was the old No. 6 so we could take a picture:
It started to rain a bit so we did quick drive-by’s of Norra Strö kyrka (Nilla’s) and Önnestad kyrka (John’s). Hans also showed us a monument erected in Colonel Matson’s memory. Apparently, there is an annual event about Col. Matson and the emigrants who left for Amerika.
Will figure out the translation later.
Later, Lena hosted an afternoon coffee, attended by her daughter Johanna, our “cousin” Hans, Raoul (a neighbor), and Lena’s parents Brigitta and Sven. She served a rhubarb cobbler with ice cream – oh my!
Then we were all off to a local museum that displays an 18th-century cottage with its furnishings intact. The barn was full of old farm implements. Eveything was perfectly displayed and labeled, plus the caretakers, Ann Marie and Karl, were on hand to explain what everything was (including such obscure household items as a louse-catcher). This out-of-the-way and unadvertised museum puts the Småland Museum in Växjö completely to shame!
Lena prepared a gourmet meal for us for dinner. The main dish was moose. We enjoyed good conversation and a lot of laughs.
It was an unforgettable day.