Volume 7, No.
Buffalo County Historical
ROOTS OF BUFFALO COUNTY -THE SCANDINAVIANS
by Margaret Stines Nielsen
Although most Scandinavians coming into this area settled in Phelps or
Kearney Counties, there were a number of Swedish people in Buffalo
by the mid-1870's. The Kearney Daily
Press, on January 11, 1877
announced the first issue of a Swedish language newspaper, Vart Nya
Hem, "a paper of general intelligence printed in the Press office"
Subscriptions were $2.00 a year. On May 9, 1877 the Press printed
this day assumed ownership of Vart
Nya Hem, the Swedish weekly--all bills due after this date for
or subscription are payable to me. Magnus Elmblad
Among the churches
listed in Kearney at that time were the
Swedish Lutheran and the Swedish Methodist.
One of the earliest of the Swedes
on record was John Swenson, who came to Buffalo County in 1874. He
twelve miles north of Kearney, but later moved to a location on the
Loup where he established the early settlement of Sartoria and
its first postmaster. (Buffalo
Tales, June 1981).
August Anderson moved from Phelps
to Kearney in 1875 and established a wagon and carriage manufacturing
at 16th Street and Avenue B in south Kearney. Travelers bound for the
Hills often changed wagons at the Anderson home. When Anderson's son,
T., returned from a short-lived apprenticeship as a painter in Omaha,
father announced that he would start work with J. A. Stridborg, a
on September 1, 1881. (Buffalo Tales,
October 1982). Mr. Stridborg,
"a fine Christian gentleman who had learned the trade in
Sweden," had a studio on South Central Avenue, where teacher and
pupil both lived until Stridborg was married in 1882 to Amanda
The next year the Stridborgs decided to try their hand at
and moved to a farm in the hills south of town. A. T. Anderson
work in the studio and in time, with the help of his father, was
able to buy the business from Stridborg.
In 1876 the C. A. Ericksons came to
Kearney from Peoria, Illinois. Mr. Erickson bought eighty acres near
from the railroad. They lived in a sod house until they were able
to build a frame home, which still stands. Mr. Erickson farmed many
near his home, using six and eight team horses. During the dry years he
supplemented his income by working for the railroad and at milling and
carpentry. When School District 77 was organized in the 1880's,
Erickson, along with Christian Jacobson, William Knox and Adam
built a schoolhouse in about eighteen days. The Ericksons had twelve
many of their descendants still live in the area.
A number of Swedish families
settled about ten years later between Riverdale and Kearney in
Greenhill area. Among them were the Sven Petersons, A. A. Andersons,
Olsons, Lars Melines, Johan Rydlunds, Emil Johnson and "Postage
Carlson, who tried to use a cancelled stamp on a letter and served time
Johanna Swenson, born at Pearstarp,
Sweden in 1844, came to America with neighbors in 1867. After living
two families in Iowa, she went to Omaha, then to Evanston, Wyoming, and
to Sidney, Nebraska where she met Gustav F. Prascher who was serving in
the army at Fort Sidney. The Praschers were married in 1874 in
Wyoming, and spent their honeymoon on a wagon train to Fort Laramie,
started for the Spotted Tail Agency, but hostile Indians caused them to
turn back. On their way back to Fort Laramie a storm halted them,
their food supply was soon exhausted and the men went on to the fort
supplies. While they were gone a wind of tornado proportions ripped the
tent to shreds; Mrs. Prascher wrapped herself in buffalo robes, and
her husband's pistol for protection, hid in the sagebrush until the men
returned. Later proceeding to the Spotted Tail Agency, they went on to
the Red Cloud Agency where they lived through another Indian uprising.
In 1877 the Praschers purchased
a relinquishment near Riverdale where they lived until Mr. Prascher
in 1904. Mrs. Prascher then moved to Riverdale where she died in 1930.
In addition to their family of seven children, the Praschers took into
their home a foster son, Sanfred Jensen Prascher, an orphan who was
to America from Denmark at the age of a year and a half.
Carl F. Bodinson, born
in Soderhamm, Sweden in 1846, came to America when he was nineteen. At
Galva, Illinois he worked in a general store for a few years,
saving enough money to buy the store. In 1878 he came to Kearney where
he operated a grocery store for eleven years, then bought the
Hardware Store. In those early years business was often conducted by
of various items. Cedar posts were one medium of exchange; Carl
the posts, knowing that when the prairie was fenced, they would
in value, as they did. The Bodinsons had three sons, Fred P.,
A. and Roy. The boys made extra money by gathering the many
bones which dotted the prairie. In Kearney they were manufactured into
fertilizer and shipped to all parts of the country.
F. Bodinson Grocery Store, 1878.
Mr. Bodinson installed the first
"telephone line" in town. Using two by fours for poles, he stretched a
copper line from the store on Central Avenue to his home near 24th and
Avenue A. Both ends of this line were fitted with tin cans which served
as both transmitters and receivers. "It worked and that is all that was
asked," according to a Hub article.
In 1899 he was elected County
Treasurer, serving for two terms. He was later elected to the State
for two terms, from 1908 to 1912. After Carl's death in 1913, his son
took over the store. When Roy died in 1926 he was succeeded by Frank.
is survived by two daughters, Anna Louise Tilton and Frances Voight,
of Sarasota, Florida.
Waldo Bodinson, born in
Sweden in 1898, lost his mother at an early age. He lived with a
family until his uncle, Carl Bodinson, sent for him. He learned English
and penmanship at the training school at Kearney State College and
in the store. In 1945 he purchased the store; when it was sold in
1964, the Bodinson family had operated continuously in Kearney for 86
Waldo married Mary Sorensen and they had one daughter, Virginia
Charles J. Burke, a native of
Sweden, also operated a hardware store in Kearney, "The Pioneer".
to America in 1856, he went first to Galesburg, Illinois, later
in a hardware store in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, before coming to Kearney
his bride in 1878. Mr. and Mrs. Burke first lived in what was later
as the Adair house at 27th and lst Avenue. It consisted of only four
at that time and rent was $30 a month. Mrs. Burke recalled that there
no streets, and paths meandered in all directions. One trail led so
to their house that the wagons gradually tore off the siding on one
of their house. Mr. Burke later went into the pump and windmill
assisted by his son Milton. Maybelle Burke, Milton's widow, served many
years as city clerk.
Frank and Leander
Hallgren, land agents for the Union Pacific, were responsible for
many Swedes in and around Galesburg, Illinois to come by immigrant
to Phelps and Kearney Counties. Leander Hallgren and Victor Rylander
an emigrant house in the center of Phelps County. The town which grew
the house was Phelps Center, and it was the county seat for a brief
However, when the B & M Railroad built west through Phelps County,
George Holdredge, construction superintendent, located the line
of Phelps Center, and the new town of Holdrege was chosen the county
at a bitterly contested meeting in 1883. Even before this some of the
Center businessmen had moved on to Kearney, by then a prosperous,
town. N. H. Johnson, who came in 1879, was a grocer. C. E. Hansen,
in Phelps Center, who married Ida Hallgren, moved to Kearney in 1881
had a real estate business in the Midway Hotel during the boom period.
came from his native Sweden to Batavia, Illinois in 1870. He started in
the clothing business, and later went into pharmacy, working in
Moline and Cambridge, Illinois. In 1880 he came to Kearney where he
the Swenson Brothers Drug Store. On September 18, 1880, he married
Carlson, daughter of Anders Carlson and Margretta Larson Carlson.
was a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm, Sweden
and a member of the "famous Swedish Quartette".
The writer was
unable to find additional information about Andrew. An A. Swenson was a
charter member of the Episcopal Church in Kearney, established in 1883.
The Swenson Brothers Drug Store continued operation in 1884. In 1888, Amanda
was listed in the city directory as "the widow of Andrew Swenson" and
a vocal music teacher. In 1887 she was director of "H.M.S. Pinafore"
was staged on "a huge boat" imported by an enterprising business man
use at the resort at Kearney Lake. She
also organized the Kearney Musical
Society which presented a concert of local talent, the proceeds going
the purchase of the first street lamps in town. Mrs. Swenson was
mentioned in Maude Marston Burrows' column during the boom years in
with social and musical events. When the
Musical Society presented the
cantata "Don Munio", Mrs. Burrows wrote:
The duet by Mrs.
Swenson and Mr. Beattie, "Once More
My Royal Master's Call," called forth a storm of applause which did not
abate until they stepped forward.... Mrs. Swenson's voice has lost none
of its sweetness, and the fact that it had not been heard for a long
in public made it all the more delightful to her listeners. The duet
In February of 1890
when the young women of
Kearney, at the instigation of Maude Marston Burrows, organized to
money to procure a hospital for Kearney, Mrs. Swenson promised to give
a concert for the benefit of the hospital drive. She left Kearney
The Swedish Lutheran
Church listed in 1877 was in all likelihood an informal group of people
meeting in homes for religious services. They often met with the Akey
Mr. Themanson was a lumber dealer in Kearney. An ardent Republican, he
swore he would never live under a Democratic President. He died the day
Grover Cleveland was inaugurated. One Themanson daughter, Bertha,
in the studio of her cousin, A. T. Anderson. Another daughter, Rosalyn,
married Torval Andrew Holmes. Their son Kenneth would return to Kearney
to practice dentistry.
In 1883 a group of
Swedes and Norwegians met at the home of C. J. Burke for the purpose of forming a church. However, the Swedes withdrew, and a year
later, on June
11, 1884, again in the Burke home, the Swedish Lutheran Church was
under the direction of the Rev. P. M. Sannquist. During the summer a church
was built at 19th Street and Avenue C south of the railroad. The Rev.
Torell became the first resident pastor in September 1884. Other early
"church fathers" in addition to Themanson and Burke were August Rose
A. A. Gustafson, carpenters, S. M. Wetterburg, a painter, and C. J.
||Early Church Fathers
August 14, 1884
Top row: M. P. Rose, C. J. Strand,
A. A. Gustafson.
row: Rev. P. M. Sannquist, Akey Themanson, C. J. Buirke
All services were in Swedish,
and in 1914 the Rev. Kenneth Bescher tried to introduce the use of
into the service "but with very little success." A resolution was
in 1923 to move the church "to a better part of the city" in order "to
come in touch with other people besides those of Swedish extraction."
cornerstone of the church at 25th and Avenue B was laid in 1924. That
the decision was made that all services would be conducted in English.
Lutheran Church in
Kearney will observe its 100th anniversary this year.
Resources will appear at the
end of Part II.
Author's Note: Anyone having additional information
about Andrew Swenson or August Swenson are urged to contact Margaret
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