Volume 7, No.
Buffalo County Historical
ROOTS OF BUFFALO COUNTY
by Margaret Stines Nielsen
The Swedish Mission Church in Kearney
began about 1888 with a group of Swedes meeting in homes, and later in
Anderson Studio. Mrs. A. T. Anderson wrote of the:
and gospel meetings, with simple
traveling brethren as speakers, and Alfred playing the old Swedish
still touch the depths of my heart. He had made backless benches that
stacked outside ... and often when brought in ... were wet and snowy,
no one found fault with this, and the testimonies, songs and prayers
ascended from this simple room have been a comfort and strength
all my life.
In 1890, a small church
was built on 25th and Avenue C. The Reverend H. G. Swedell was first
of the permanent Mission Church in Kearney, Nebraska, organized in 1899
A. T. Anderson as chairman and Otto Carlson, secretary.
Financial problems and
disputes over doctrine marked the early years of the church, and it was
at various times. In 1928 revival meetings were held in a tent south of
the church. Seven faithful women were largely responsible for the
of the church. They were Tilda Rundquist, Mrs. Gust Bloomquist, Anna
Mrs. Ed Hagg, Anna Hultman, Mrs. Amanda Erickson and a Mrs. Lundberg.
the appointment of Arley Bragg as pastor in 1929 the English language
allowed for the first time at services on the first and third Sundays
month. In 1932 members accepted the title of Evangelical Free Church of
Evangelical Free Church
25th Street and Avenue C, 1910-1966.
Swan N. Freeman, born in Goteborg,
Sweden in 1846, came to Moline, Illinois where he worked for a lumber
He married Charlotte Holberg, also a native of Sweden, and the couple
a farm in Center township, where they moved in 1885. They had two
and one son. Mrs. Freeman died in 1891 and with the hard times of the
Swan ran into financial difficulties. His son, Bernett, who was farming
in the area, sent his sister Rose to a school in Chicago. She later
Melvin Jones, founder of Lions International. Bernett's son, Verne of
was for many years Clerk of the District Court of Buffalo County.
Swan Farris accompanied
a group of schoolmates from Sweden to Chicago in 1856. During the next
years he worked at a variety of jobs on the Mississippi: from raftsman
cabin waiter to building levees along the river. For a time he drove an
express wagon in New Orleans, hauling slaves from Arcade Hall to the
and boat landings. He was opposed to slavery, however, and with the
of the Civil War, went to Galesburg where he operated a restaurant and
in real estate.
He was living in
Chicago when a doctor recommended that he seek a change of climate for
health. As he had accumulated land in Odessa township and in Phelps
he moved to Kearney with his second wife, Cecilia Peterson Farris. They
bought "a handsome residence at 1810 7th Avenue." Mr. Farris died in
at the age of 90, a wealthy man. He had accumulated a collection of old
coins, and of rare books, some dating to the 1400's. In a hand-written
with several codicils, he left the collections to Luther College in
and bequests of $1000 to $5000 to other Scandinavian colleges,
churches. One bequest went to "the Charitable Home for Needy, Epileptic
Feeble-minded Children of Axtell, on condition that the home is
Another went to the Children's Orphan Home at Phelps Center.
Research by June
Hand of Pleasanton has revealed that the family of John Swenson
much of the area around Sartoria and Pleasant Valley. Peter Swenson, a
settled east of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Sartoria Township.
passing his house stopped to have "coffee and goodies" with Peter's
known to all as "Aunt Betty."
A sister, Gustava Svensdatter,
married Gunne Nillson in Markaryd Kronsberg, Sweden. At least three of
children immigrated to Sartoria in the late 1880's. John August Nillson
to his uncle's ranch at that time. He took the name of August
married Anna Kreutzer and they had four children. His sister Augusta
married Anton Johnson. Another sister, Hilda, married Sven Jonasson in Geneva, Illinois. They
their name to Jones. They also came to Sartoria and worked on John's
for a time. They had thirteen children. Other Swensons in the area
to be related but time and space do not permit inclusion in this
information requested in Part I about Andrew
Swenson reveals that in his will he appointed "my brother John
executor. (It appears that John was co-owner of the Swenson Bros. Drug
in Kearney and of the building and lot at 2114 Central Avenue where
the Rainbow store now stands.)
John Peter Lindbeck, born in
Jon Koping in 1838, married Johanna Louisa Johnston in 1872 in
came to America in 1888 with five of their six children. Upon arrival
were detained at Ellis Island because one son was ill. While waiting
they were robbed, but managed to get to Minnesota where a brother
Shortly thereafter they moved to Axtell where they had friends. By this
time the Kearney boom was on and Peter, a skilled woodworker and wood
soon found work doing interior finish work in many of the mansions
built at that time.
When he was working on the Frank house
their daughter Matilda Sophia, born in Sweden in 1872, met John Dallas
who was a coachman for the Franks at the time. In 1892 J. D. and
were married. The couple lived for a time in the Tillson house (the
Country Club home), then Mr. Lindbeck built a house for them on the
of 8th Avenue and 27th Street where they would be nearer to the
Mr. Saunders was a stationary engineer at the Kearney Power Plant. When
his wife took on the responsibility of the dining room at the new
Normal School, J. D. also assisted in the management. Of the nine
children, two sons and four daughters survive. Eleanor Dale, one of the
daughters, lives in a home next to the one built for her parents.
Lindbeck, the youngest of John Peter Lindbeck's children was a Lutheran
in China for thirty years until driven out by the Communists.
John Peter Lindbeck family
Ek (Eck) - Hallen
Enoch Albin Ek (Eck)and
Hedvig Sofia Maria Kallstrom, both from Smaland province, met and were
in Omaha on August 8, 1891. They came to Kearney the next year and Mr.
Eck opened a paint store in a little building off Central Avenue on
22nd Street. After he built the store on 2215 Central in 1916, his son
went into business with him.
A brother came to Kearney
about the same time. Because of military conscription in Sweden and the
similarity of Swedish surnames, the brother had been assigned the name
of Hjalmer Hallen. Mr. Hallen farmed near Riverdale. Their father,
Ek, a military man, also came to Kearney to live; he died in a fire in
house in 1899.
Enoch and his wife had
five children. They built a home at 3rd Avenue and 18th Street. Angur's
Grandpa had great faith in Kearney's
growth. When I was a victim of a bank closure in 1932 he repaid me what
I had lost and told me to always trust the banks. He owned the lot on
the Masonic Temple sits and sold it to the Masons "on time" although he
had a cash offer for it. He felt the Masons were a better community
than a filling station.
Angur continued to
operate the paint store until December
1964. He died in January, 1965. He is survived by his wife Helen and
Doris of Flagstaff, Arizona, and Marilyn Lindly of Laramie, Wyoming.
E. A. Eck Paint Store
East 22nd Street, 1892-1916
Herman Gunnar Mattson came
from Sweden to Nebraska in April, 1904 to visit his two brothers who
living in Shelton and Kenesaw, and to find work to support his growing
family. After looking around the area he picked Kearney for his future
In July, 1905 his wife, Ida Perrsson Mattson, left Goteborg, Sweden
their seven children. Herman G. Mattson described their departure in The
Mattson News of July 29, 1959:
We left from the
home place ... at Borngarter
#21. A fine drosky (hack) .... the driver wearing a high silk hat,
up in front of the gate .... The boys were dressed in white blouses,
bow ties, black knickers, socks and shoes. The girls had white blouses
gray bow ties, gray skirts, and black shoes and stockings .... That
... was decked out with many bouquets of flowers from family and
helped to take charge of the troop as he was always the instigator of
that was good. Carl Gunnar, the smallest of the troop, was like a young
calf on the loose, you had to ride herd on him at all times.
Henrietta Mattson Boyd
recalled that the wood sidewalks and dirt roads were the first things
strike these city-bred children. When the children enrolled at Kenwood
School, the language barrier was such a problem that they were all put
the first grade. This proved too much for the teacher because they were
fun of her "funny English". The school appealed to Blanche Eck who told
them "to pay attention and listen". By the end of the year the
advanced to their proper grades.
Mr. Mattson was a painting
assisted at various times by his sons. They had thirteen children in
Ivan was a photographer and served as Mayor of Kearney from 1939 to
"Swede" was appointed postmaster in 1932. He served in the army during
World War II, coming out with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He
to his job as postmaster until his retirement in 1950. Of the thirteen
children, six survive: Henrietta (Boyd), Carl Gunnar and Caroline
of Kearney; Paul of Fullerton, California; Arne of Omaha; and Dr.
A., an orthopedic surgeon in Dallas, Texas.
Part III will
conclude this series on the Scandinavians
and will tell of the immigrants from Denmark and Norway
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