Winnebago County, Illinois
Rockford's Early History and Some of Its Swedish-born Industries
Stephen Mack, a Vermonter, was the first white man who made a permanent settlement in Winnebago county. The exact date is not known, but it was probably about 1829. He was also the first white settler in the Rock River valley. He engaged in trade with the Indians, taking their fur in exchange for merchandise. He married an Indian woman, daughter of a Pottawattamie chief. In 1835 Mr. Mack took possession of a tract of land at the mouth of the Pecatonica river where he resided until his death. There he planted a village which he called Macktown. He also operated a store, established a ferry and in 1842 built a bridge across the Rock river. He died in 1850. Winnebago county was established by an act of the State Legislature of Illinois January 16, 1836. The county war organized in August, the same year.
The first white settlers in what is now Rockford were Germanicus Kent and Thatcher Blake. They arrived on the site August 24, 1834. Each of them located a claim and built a log cabin. The village was first called Midway because of its location midway between Chicago and Galena, but from 1837 became known as Rockford, presumably named for a shallow place in the river with a rock bottom where the Indians and later the white settlers crossed the stream. The first settler on the East side was Daniel Shaw Haight who arrived April 9, 1835. His cabin, built that year, was the first building on the east side. Mrs. Haight and her sister were the first white women to settle in Winnebago county. Rockford was incorporated as a town in 1839 and after a long struggle was made the county seat by election the same year. In 1852 it was incorporated as a city.
The first Swedes arrived in Rockford in 1852. Among them was John Nelson who afterwards became famous as the inventor of the Nelson Knitting Machine. When he arrived in Rockford from St. Charles, Ill., he found ahead of him a few Swedish families and single men who had arrived shortly before. In 1853 a few more Swedes came, and during 1854 and 1855 a larger number, some directly from Sweden and some from Chicago after a brief stay in that city. In 1854 the Swedes in Rockford numbered approximately 1,000, in 1862 about 2,000, and ten years later about 3,500. The numerous factories established in the city with consequent opportunity for employment attracted more and more of the Swedish laboring class until Rockford became known as one of the Swedish population centers in the United States. According to the census of 1930 there resided in Rockford at that time 10,088 persons born in Sweden and 12,243 born in America of Swedish parents. If the third generation be included, the Swedish descendants in Rockford must be approximately 35,000.
The Swedes of Rockford have taken a very active and prominent part in the upbuilding of some of the leading industries of the city. In the forefront of these are the Knitting industry and the Furniture industry which were both started and developed through their initial stages by Swedish immigrants. The father of the knitting industry was John Nelson, a cabinet maker and inventor who was born in Karrakra, Vastergotland, Sweden, April 5, 1830, and emigrated to America in 1852, locating in Rockford the same year. While operating his own cabinet shop he worked at various inventions and after much experimenting completed in 1873 the remarkable knitting machine that produced in a few minutes a finished hose with double heel. Soon his product was produced in a number of Rockford factories and patented in United States and many European countries. Mr. Nelson died in 1883. His son, Fritjof Nelson, is now one of the leading men in the Rockford knitting industry.
The Swedish contribution to the furniture industry in Rockford had a unique beginning. In 1875 fifteen Swedish laborers joined together and formed The Forest City Furniture Co. with a capital of $50,000, half of which was paid in at the time. Another company The Union Furniture Co., was started the following year by the owners of the earlier company and some additional Swedes. A young Swede by the name of Per August Peterson who had taken a course in a business college was given the management of the business and ultimately became a multimillionaire and the leading industrialist of Rockford. He was born in Sodra Ving, Vastergotland, Sweden, September 8, 1846, and came with his parents to America in 1852. Here he worked on farms and in lumber camps and as a rubbish-hauler in Chicago after the great fire before he took hold of the furniture business in Rockford.
As the business grew, supported at first mainly by the savings of the workmen, Mr. Peterson obtained additional capital in the form of loans and started new companies. In 1882 he organized The Rockford Chair & Furniture Co. and the following year The Scandia Plow Co. In 1887 followed The Standard Furniture Co., in 1890 The Scandia Furniture Co., The Illinois Sewing Machine Co., The Star Furniture Co., The Rockford Mantel and Furniture Co., and The Mechanics Machine Co., and in 1891 a half dozen additional companies.
The financial crash of 1893 tumbled the whole combination of these concerns, and the creditors took over all of them for debt. Mr. Peterson refused to go into bankruptcy and took a job as a traveling salesman for three years with the avowed purpose of paying off all his debts. The banks who had taken over the factories found them a losing proposition and offered to return them to Mr. Peterson on condition that he promise to pay off the loans as soon as possible. Thus he became general manager of the various companies. In the meanwhile he purchased all the stock he could obtain at reduced price. As business began to improve and the factories gradually showed a gain he paid first all his own notes and loans from the banks and then reembursed all those he had purchased stock from by paying the full price for the stock.
In 1898 Mr. Peterson organized The National Mirror Works and The Rockford Glass Bending Works. In 1901 he took part in founding The Kurtz-Seeberg Action Co. and the Haddorff Piano Co. In 1909 he erected the Hess Brothers Department Store and in 1911 he organized The Rockford Drop Forge Co. He attained a high age, passing away June 19, 1927, at 81 years, after a most remarkable career.
Another noted Swede among the inventors and industrialists of Rockford was Oscar Sundstrand who came to America with his parents from Sodermanland, Sweden, in 1882. With his brother David he was put to learn cabinet making, and being mechanically gifted he invented machines for furniture making that led to the organizing of The Sundstrand Machine & Tool Co. For a long time Mr. Sundstrand worked on a simplified adding machine in order to produce a machine with only ten keys, and finally succeeded and built a factory for manufacturing thesame. The first machine was sent out in 1911, and the first ten were sold in Rockford. It was patented and is now sold everywhere. The Sundstrand Adding Machine Co. was sold in 1925 to Underwood Elliot Fisher Co. In 1931, 70,000 machines were produced.
Levin Faust, another noted Swedish industrialist in Rockford, was born in Falkoping, Sweden, in 1863 and came to Rockford in 1887. In partnership with F. C. Hogland and E. C. Traner he founded The National Lock Co., which in 1930 was capitalized for $3,000,000, and employed some 2,500 people. Mr. Faust was actively interested in a number of industrial concerns and was the chief owner and stockholder in the company that erected the magnificent hotel which was named for him and was opened in 1929, costing almost $3,500,000.
Many other industries have been set afoot by men of Swedish descent, and it is estimated that about seventy of the industrial concerns of the city are owned or controlled by men of Swedish extraction, some of these companies being capitalized for over a million dollars. Recently several of the prominent industries established by Swedes have passed into the hands of outside capitalists and corporations.
Churches of Swedish Origin
The First Lutheran Church was organized January 15, 1854, by Dr. Erland Carlson of Chicago with 77 charter members of whom 45 were communicants. The first name given to the Church was "The Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation." Pastor Carlson agreed to visit the congregation four Sundays during the year and conduct services afternoon and evening the first Monday of each month. Rev. A. Andreen served the congregation during the summer of 1855. On August 20 of that year a lot was purchased for $325 and the location for a church building decided upon. The church which cost $775 was dedicated November 23, 1856, by Dr. T. N. Hasselquist. Rev. Andreen who had served the Church partly during 1855 and 1856 became resident pastor at Rockford in August, 1856, with a salary of $150 a year. In 1860 the congregation severed its connection with the Synod of Northern Illinois and affiliated with the Augustana Synod that was organized June 5, that year. Rev. Andreen left Rockford in 1860, and was succeeded by Rev. A. W. Dahlsten, 1861-63. In 1864 Rev. G. Peters took up the work, continuing as pastor until 1885. A new church was erected in 1868-69 which was dedcated January 1, 1870, by Dr. T. N. Hasselquist. Thirteen years later a much increased membership made it necessary to raze this church and build a larger one which was completed in the fall of 1884 at a cost of $48,716. Rev. L. A. Johnston was pastor of the congregation from 1886 till 1894. For parochial school purposes a chapel was puchased in 1888 and moved to Eighth street and Broadway, and in 1891 Luther Hall was erected on Kishwaukee street, the two buildings costing $10,000. In 1894 the communicant membership reached the figure of 2,066. Rev. Joel L. Haff served the church from April, 1895, till his sudden death in February, 1896. He was succeeded by Rev. J. F. Seedoff who remained pastor of the church from 1896 till 1927. Because of removals and the cutting out of dead timber the membership was reduced to 1,434 in 1891. In 1904 the present parsonage was built at a cost of $6,243, the lot costing $3,100. The church has been improved and remodelled repeatedly, the last time in 1928 at a cost of $65,000, when a new exterior of hard surface brick trimmed with Bedford stone was put on. The present pastor, Rev. Albert Loreen, has served the congregation since July 1, 1928. The church has now a communicant membership of 1,115.
The Emmanuel Lutheran Church was organized July 20, 1882, by Rev. Chas. Anderson who became the first minister of the congregation. The organization was accomplished at the Westminster Chapel, and 85 charter members were enrolled. The Emmanuel was affiliated with the General Synod of the Lutheran Church in America until 1890 when it joined the Augustana Synod. The first church building which was dedicated October 14, 1883, served the congregation for forty years. In 1920 the building was moved to its present site, eventually becoming Parish Hall and Sunday School Building. Since Rev. Anderson the following pastors have served the church: Rev. Hanson, 1885-88; C. Roos, 1889-90; A. P. Fors, 1890-92; G. Juhlin, 1892-95; Oscar Nelson, 1897-1900; Prof. C. O. Solberg, 1901-03; Dr! C. A. Wendell, 1905-12; Dr. J. W. Johnson, 1912-27; Dr. E. C. Bloomquist, since 1928. A new parsonage was dedicated in 1913. The present church was erected in 1922-23 and dedicated November 11, 1923, by the Conference President, Dr. Peter Peterson. The communicant membership of the church is now 1,346.
The Zion Lutheran Church was started as an outgrowth of the First Lutheran, the charter members of the Zion Church having previously belonged to the First Lutheran. The organization meeting was held in the Swedish Methodist Church August 7, 1883, when 146 charter members were enrolled. The name of The Swedish Evagelical Lutheran Zion Church was adopted. Meetings were first held in Chick's Hall, rented for the purpose. The lot on which the present church is located, at Fifth avenue and Sixth street, was purchased the same year for $1,200. The first pastor of the church, Rev. C. G. Lundell, who was a member of the Ansgar Synod, took charge in July, 1884. Meetings were held in the basement of the church in process of erection. In 1885 Rev. Lundell was admitted into the Illinois Conference of the Augustana Synod, and shortly after the Zion Church also became a member of the Conference. The finished church was dedicated October 11, 1885, by Rev. Erland Carlson, president of the Augustana Synod. Since the resignation of Rev. Lundell in 1887 the. church has been served by the following pastors: S. G. Ohman, 1888-94; J. A. Eckstrom, 1894-1901; N. P. Sjostrom, 1901-12; G. E. Hemdahl, 1912-18; Carl Salomonson, 1919-28; E. G. Knock, since November, 1928. The membership of the church grew rapidly in the early nineties, and on January 1, 1894, Zion had 1,000 comunicant members. A parsonage was erected in 1910 at 920 Fifth avenue, costing with lot $8,393. A Sunday School chapel was built in Rockview in 1924 which was turned over the following year to the newly organized Tabor Lutheran Church. A two-story structure was added to the church on the south side in 1929, and in 1930 further improvements of the church property were made at a cost of $10,000.
The communicant membership of Zion is now 1,743.
The Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized January 6, 1907, with 57 communicant members. For some months previously missionary work had been carried on in this part of the city by Rev. Alfred Appell upon the call of the Illinois Conference. From the beginning of 1907 the Sunday School and other services were conducted in a chapel at Broadway and Eighth street, owned by the First Lutheran Church. In April, 1908, Rev. Appell resigned because of ill health, and the present pastor, Rev. J. A. Benander, was called, arriving at Salem in November, 1908. The same year lots for a building site at 6th street and 16th avenue were purchased at a cost of $1,600, but actual work on the building did not commence until the fall of 1910. In August, 1912, the exterior of the building was completed and the church parlor ready for occupancy, but the church was not finished until November, 1917. Rev. Benander has remained as pastor of the congregation during these 31 years. The communicant membership of Salem is now 704.
The Tabor Lutheran Church was organized February 12 and 23, 1925, by Dr. Peter Peterson, president of the Illinois Conference. Fifty-four charter members were enrolled. The Zion Lutheran Church had conducted meetings in the neighborhood since the fall before in a chapel at 12th avenue and 19th street, which the Tabor Church purchased from the Conference for $2,000. In 1935 an addition was made to the chapel. A parsonage was erected in 1938 at 1331 19th street. The first pastor of the church was Rev. Elmer Friedlund who served the congregation from June, 1925, till August, 1927. Since February 1, 1928, Rev. Clarence H. Anderzon has been in charge of the church. The communicant membership is now 415.
The Mission Tabernacle Church was organized June 1, 1875, under the name of Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society. The following year the church became a member of the Swedish Evangelical Mission Synod, the membership continuing until 1885 when this Synod was merged into The Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant. Meetings were first held in the Westminster Chapel and the Centennial Methodist Church, and were conducted either by visiting preachers or local members. The first permanent minister was Rev. J. P. Lindell who served part of 1876. He was followed by Rev. Palmquist who had charge of the congregation during 1878. In 1879 Rev. J. Gustafson became pastor and remained until October, 1880, being succeeded by Rev. A. E. Wenstrand, 1882-84. In November, 1881, the congregation was first incorporated under the name of Mission Society which in 1913 was changed to Mission Church. The first church was built in 1880 at a cost of $1,600. The present church, The Mission Tabernacle, at Kishwaukee street and Third avenue, was erected in 1888-89 at a cost of $18,364. Since 1885 the congregation has been served by the following pastors: A. Kalin, 1885-86; F. M. Johnson, 1887-97; S. W. Sundberg, 1898-1904; O. P. Peterson, 1905-6; J. J. Daniels, 1906-9; August Erickson, 1910-16; Carl J. Andrews 1916-21; A. T. Frykman, 1921-34; Helge Johnson, 1934-35; Carl G Westerdahl, since November, 1935. The church now has 830 members. The Bethesda Evangelical Church was organized January 11, 1926, in the auditorium of the Mission church. The charter members came mostly from the older congregation, their chief aim being to establish an English speaking church in the Highland district of the city. At the first business meeting 71 charter members were enrolled. Meetings were first held in the Highland School auditorium and the Westminster church. In April, 1926, Rev. Harold M. Carlson was called as pastor for three months. Rev. Carlson came to Bethesda in June the same year and shortly afterward was called as permanent pastor. In June, 1927, Bethesda was admitted as a member of the Mission Covenant of America. A site for a church was acquired in 1926 at 118-22 Washington street, costing $13,396, deducting price received for buildings located on the property. The church was erected in 1927-28 at a cost of $77,406, and dedicated March 25, 1928. The church has now a membership of 365 communicants with a Sunday School enrollment of 585.
The Swedish Christian Free Church dates its beginning from the summer of 1883, though not organized until the following year. A few Christians, most of them members of the Mission Church, began,in 1883, to hold meetings for Bible study in the home of Nils Jemberg on South Third street. In the fall of the same year Hjalmar Anderson conducted meetings in homes and in the Y. M. C. A. Hall at State and Main streets. In the beginning of 1884 the meetings were moved to Union Hall, and Frank Johanson was chosen as the first superintendent of the activities. Visiting preachers assisted local men in conducting services. As the need of a church became more evident, it was decided to incorporate, which was done in February, 1888. A lot was purchased at Fifth street and Fourth avenue, and a modest church erected the same year at a cost of $1,800. A record of members began first in 1890. The first minister, Elof Newberg, took charge in 1892. Professor J. G. Princell who had located at Rockford also served with preaching. The church was considerably enlarged and improved in 1894. Since the resignation of Rev. Newberg in 1894 the following pastors have been in charge of the church: P. J. Elmquist, 1894-96; A. C. Leafgren, 1897-1901; Gustaf F. Johnson, 1901-14; John G. Kalson, 1914-17; E. A. Halleen, 1918-27; Elmer Johnson, since 1927. During Gustaf F. Johnson's pastorate the membership of the church increased from 167 to 750. The old church being too small, a lot at the corner of Fourth avenue and Sixth street was purchased in 1904 for the price of $2,700 on which a new large church building was erected in 1905-06 at a cost of $31,000. The membership of the church is now 966.
The Bethany Methodist Church. Among the first Methodist preachers that visited Rockford were Dr. N. O. Westergren and Rev. S. B. Newman. Dr. Westergren's parents located in Rockford in the fifties, and through them Rev. Newman was invited to visit the city when he organized a class and appointed Dr. Westergren's father as class leader. The Westergren family soon moved to Chicago, but Dr. Westergren occasionally visited Rockford and preached there. At the Conference of 1860 Rev. Victor Witting was appointed pastor for the little flock. He rented a little church in which the meetings were held and many of the numerous Swedish immigrants were converted and joined the group with the result that on January 30, 1861, the First Swedish Methodist Church was organized. In 1863 the congregation bought the church that they had been renting and moved it unto a lot on First avenue. During the pastorate of Rev. John Wigren the membership was greatly increased, necessitating a larger meeting place, and a new brick church was erected in 1877. Forty years later conditions had so changed that it was found advisable to seek a new location. Lots were bought at Eighth street and Third avenue in the spring of 1919, and the present church and parsonage were built, the church being dedicated March 28, 1920, by Bishop Thomas Nicholson. The value of the property is about $60,000. Twenty-six different pastors have served the church during its eighty years existence. The longest term as pastor was held by Rev. E. J. Eliason who served 15 years. The present pastor, Rev. Gustav Erickson, came to Rockford in 1938. The membership is now a little over 300.
The Temple Baptist Church (formerly First Swedish Baptist Church) was organized September 11, 1880, in the State Street Baptist church, Rev. Erik Wingren of Chicago acting as chairman of the meeting. Twelve charter members were enrolled. As early as 1873 a few Swedes of the Baptist faith were found in Rockford and meetings were held in homes by visiting preachers from Chicago and other places. The congregation was first called The Scandinavian Baptist Church, and was incorporated under that name in 1882, the name being changed two years later to The First Swedish Baptist Church. The first pastor of the church was L. J. Ahlstrom. Meetings were held first in homes and then in an assembly room in the State Street church. Rev. Ahlstrom left in 1881, and was succeeded the following year by Rev. C. Silene. A lot was purchased in 1883 and a store building moved onto it and fitted for a meeting house at a total cost of $1,500. As the membership increased larger quarters became necessary, and a new church was built in 1888 at Seventh street and Fourth avenue, costing $6,500. Between vacancies the church was served by the following pastors: J. P. Forsell, 1885-87; Uno Noll Brauer, 1887-89; Petrus Schwartz, 1889-94; C. P. Levin, 1894-96; Magnus Larson, 1897-1903; C. W. Sundmark, 1903-10. In 1907 the old church was sold to the Salvation Army, a lot being purchased at Fifth avenue and Eighth street on which a new church was erected in 1908 at a cost of $25,000, including lot. Since the resignation of Rev. Sundmark the following pastors have served the church- J Alfred Erickson, 1910-13; Eric Carlson, 1914-15; P. Alfred Peterson 1915-17; E. J. Nordlander, 1918-20; Jacob Peterson, 1920-31; Eric Carlson (second time), 1932-37; Gustav A. Gustavson, since August 1937. The church has now about 400 members.
The Elim Baptist Church (formerly Second Swedish Baptist) was organized in 1917 with about 25 charter members. Meetings were first held in a rented church building at Broadway and Eighth street The church was built in 1923 at the corner of 16th avenue and 10th street. The following pastors have served the church: Eric Rosen Eric Hallden, Axel C. Johnson, M. F. Jensen and Albin E. Appelquist who has been in charge since June, 1937. The membership is now about 100 with a Sunday School attendance of 120.
The Swedish Salvation Army was organized in 1891. About 40 years ago a Swedish Baptist church was purchased for a meeting place, and 20 years later an adjoining building was bought for officers' quarters. The buildings are located at 1019 Fourth avenue The Corps has now 205 senior and 70 junior members. Since September, 1939, Adjutant George Perry is in charge of the Corps.
From a small beginning which consisted of a letter to the Svenska Posten by a man named Nelson, accompanied by a contribution of one dollar the idea of a Swedish hospital in Rockford was first given serious thought. The matter was given considerable publicity by the editor of the Svenska Posten, and a meeting of all the Swedish ministers in Rockford was called to talk it over. The minutes of the first meeting held May 31, 1911, indicate that Mr. Wm. Johnson acted as chairman and Mr. Levin Faust as secretary protem Other officers were Rev. H. P. Sjostrom, vice president; Hjalmar Lundquist, secretary, and G. Adolph Peterson, treasurer. After speeches being made by a number of the ministers, as well as Levin Faust Hjalmar Lundquist, F. G. Hogland, Wm. Johnson and others, a mtion was made, seconded and carried unanimously that the Swedish-American Hospital Association of Rockford, Illinois, be incorporated under the state laws which was done June 6, 1911. A board of twenty- four directors was also elected, and a committee was appointed for the soliciting of funds.
The hospital building was opened July 17, 1918. The site was well chosen, it being located in a quiet residential section. It has a bed capacity of eighty-seven, and boasts of the finest equipment and the best of service. The hospital is approvel by the American College of Surgeons and is a member of the American Hospital Association A School of Nursing comprising approximately fifty students is maintained and is approved by the State Department of Registration and Education.
The officers elected by the Association for the year 1939-40 are as follows: Gunnard A. Anderson, president; Carl E. Swenson vice president; Mrs. A. G. Ogren, secretary; and C. A. Rohlen, treasurer The Superintendent of the hospital is Mr. C. N. Andrews.
Swedish Societies and Clubs
The Svea Soner Singing Society was organized in January, 1890. The leading spirit in the undertaking was a musician by the name of C. H. E. Oberg who had been a choir director in Sweden and was one of the famous Arpi singers at the Paris Exposition in 1867. While in Rockford he was organist in one of the local churches and was chosen director of Svea Soner. After his removal from Rockford the choir was directed by various leaders for short periods until a professor Wm. Swenson arrived from Sweden and took on the dual responsibility of organist in the Zion Lutheran Church and director of Svea Soner. During his leadership the chorus joined the American Union of Swedish Singers and took part in the great concerts at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893. From 1894 till 1896 A. B. Ohman was director of Svea Soner, but after his leaving the city the chorus was with-out a director and suffered other adversities in the form of division,more than half of the singers separating and forming another choir. Then professor Ortengren from Chicago came to the rescue of Svea Soner and accepted the directorship which he continued for sixteen years, coming to Rockford every week during the singing season. Under his leadership selected members of the chorus took part in a number of singing festivals, and four Rockford singers joined the elite chorus of 45 that went to Sweden in 1910. Professor Ortengren decided to remain in Sweden, and for the last thirty years Svea Soner have had as director an able musician of their own number, Mr. Gustaf Ohlson. During this period the chorus has taken part in various Singing Festivals of the Western Division of the Union of Swedish Singers, besides giving generously of its services to its home city. The chorus has also sponsored the bringing to Rockford a number of noted choruses and individual singers and celebrities from Sweden. Meeting first in rented halls, the society in 1892 decided to erect an opera house on Seventh street. An association was formed for this purpose and a site purchased for $10,000, stock being sold to members. The building contract called for $54,000, but before the building could be finished the financial crash knocked the bottom out of the venture, an outsider taking over the assets. Later the purchaser generously offered to sell the finished building to Svea Soner for $28,000. His offer was accepted, and the whole amount paid in due time, the building, Svea Hall, at 326 Seventh street, now being the property of the Society. The active chorus now numbers 29 singers and the Society 200 resident members. The present officers are: J. H. Hallstrom, president; George W. Asprooth, vice president; Arvid Anderson and Vernie Gustaf son, secretaries; and Al Ekeberg, treasurer.
The Lyran Singing Society was organized October 17, 1893, with eleven charter members. At first the singers met in the homes of different members. Later a hall was rented for the purpose. On January 1, 1905, the Society was incorporated. The Lyran Building was erected in 1911 at 1115 Fourth avenue. The Society also owns a picnic ground, "Oak Hills," comprising 35 acres, by the Kishwaukee river, seven miles from Rockford. A sick and funeral fund has been established by the membership. The Society now numbers 290 members and 35 active singers. John Roebuck is director of the chorus. The present officers of the Society are: John E. Carlson, president; Carl Swanberg, secretary; Einar Hedlund, financial secretary; and Gustaf Lager, treasurer.
The Swedish Music and Sick Fund Society (S. M. & S. F. Club) was organized in 1899 for the avowed purpose of providing sick and funeral benefits and social enjoyment for its members. In 1918 the Society erected its own building at 1019 Third avenue with store rooms on the first floor and an assembly hall and club rooms on the second floor. The Society owns country grounds in the form of a farm of 144 acres, located on the Rock river, eight miles southwest of the city. While the farm is rented out, an inclosed yard with cottage provides a rendevouz for club members. The Society has now 150 members. The present officers are: Timotheus Hanson, president; John Peterson, recording secretary; John E. Ahlquist, financial secretary; Gust Johnson, treasurer.
The Swedish-American Gymnastic Club had its inception before the World War, but disbanded during the war period and was reorganized in the early twenties. In 1936 the Club purchased the former Good Templar Hall at 1015 Third avenue in which it is now carrying on its performances. These have been consisting mainly of the Ling System of Gymnastics, being now centered on Gymnastics and Weight Lifting. At present Axel Tegner and Alfred O. Ahlstrand are two of its outstanding performers. The Club has about 150 members. Axel Tegner is vice president of the Club and A. O. Ahlstrand chairman of its Board of Directors.
The Independent Order of Good Templars is represented in Rockford by two lodges, Rockford and Vega. A lodge named Skandia was organized in Rockford in the nineties, the name being later changed to Skandinavia. Another lodge named Linnea was started some time later. In 1919 Skandinavia and Linnea were merged into one lodge called Rockford Lodge No. 6 which now has a membership of 100 and possesses its own building, erected in 1916 at 1535 South Ninth street. The Vega Lodge No. 4 was organized in 1911 and has now a membership of 125. Carl Linde is chief templar and Gunnar Anderson, secretary. Associated with the Vega are two Junior Lodges, No. 13 and No. 14, and the Vega Gymnastic Club. Rockford and Vega are joint owners of a country resort, Camp Elmwood, comprising 16 acres, located by the Kishwaukee river, eight miles south of Rockford.
The Independent Order of Vikings has four lodges in Rockford. Ellida Lodge No. 25 was organized in 1906, and has a mixed membership of 356. Meetings are held at the Viking Hall, 702-4 Seventh street. The Ellida is the owner of Camp Hillcrest, comprising 67 acres by the Kishwaukee river, eight miles south of Rockford. The Baltic Lodge No. 56, organized in March, 1907, has a membership of about 400. Four years ago this lodge built its own club rooms at 1524 South Ninth street, and in 1938 added a suitable hall to the building. The Baltic Star, No. 112, a ladies' lodge, was organized May 8, 1937, and has now a membership of 138. Their meetings are also held in the Viking Hall on South Ninth street. The Lindy Lodge No. 73 is composed of members located at Loves Park, a suburb of Rockford. Ladies' Independent Order of Vikings Lodge Elvira No. 26 was organized in 1912 and has now 122 members. Its meetings are held at 1612 Sixth avenue. Officers are, Hazel Ney, president, and Jennie Peterson, secretary.
The Independent Order of Vasa is represented in Rockford by three lodges. Hilding No. 135 was organized February 13, 1908, and has now a membership of 200. Its present secretary is Ellen Johnson. Meetings are held at the Tegner Hall, 1016 Fourth avenue, the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month.— Brahe No. 245 was organized January 30, 1913, and has a membership of 165. Meetings are held at Tegner Hall, the 2nd and 4th Thursday. Laura Swanberg, secretary.— Elvira No. 522 was organized November 10, 1928, and has now a membership of 135. Meetings are held at the Viking Hall, 702 Seventh street, the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month. Sigrid Larson, president, and Mrs. Ingeborg Carlson, secretary.
The Independent Order of Svithiod has three lodges in Rockford. They all hold their meetings at the Svithiod Hall, 1110 Fifth avenue. The John Ericsson Lodge No. 23 was organized in June 1903, and has now a membership of 445. Its present officers are, Gustaf Soderstrom, president, and Birger Johnson, secretary.— The Ladies' Lodge Frideborg No. 17 was organized Septemper 11, 1908, and has now 115 members. Corona No. 55 was organized in 1917 and has a membership of 147. Mrs. Augusta Sandberg, president, and Mrs. Martha Larson, secretary.
The Scandinavian Fraternity of America has two Swedish lodges in Rockford. Harold No. 84 was organized February 18, 1907, and has now a membership of 215. Axel Leamont, president.— Baner No. 138 was organized March 8, 1912, and has now 230 members. Vic Peterson, president.
The John Ericsson Republican League, a branch of the state organization by the same name, was organized in 1893, simultaneously with the State League. The Winnebago County organization is the second largest in the state. Mr. Stanley Kjellgren is its present president.
The Swedish Historical Society
This society is an outgrowth of the New Sweden Tercentenary Committee which functioned in Rockford during 1938 in carrying out the most ambitious and successful local celebration staged anywhere commemorating the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the New Sweden colony on the Delaware. During the past year, the society's most successful undertaking has been the sponsorship of semi-weekly Swedish radio programs over radio station WROK. Half-hour programs have been given Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons with approximately forty different musical groups, soloists and speakers taking part. Seventy half-hour programs were given between October, 1939, and June 1, 1940. Similar broadcasts were sponsored during the spring of 1939 and the first six months of 1938.
The idea of a New Sweden tercentenary organization took form in Rockford at a meeting at Hotel Faust September 20, 1937. The formal organization followed in December. By proclamation of Mayor Charles F. Brown, the entire week of March 21 to 26, 1938, was set aside as the New Sweden tercentenary week for Rockford. The highlight of the celebration was a mass meeting at the National Guard armory attended by 6,700 persons, with thousands turned away.
An old-fashioned Swedish coffee party on March 26 in the 7th street business district was a tremendous success. Ten thousand cups of coffee were served. A concert by the Augustana college choir was sponsored by the tercentenary committee April 20. A souvenir New Sweden coin was minted by the local committee. On one side was the face of the late P. A. Peterson and the words "Honoring Swedish Settlers of Rockford" and "P. A. Peterson." On the other side was a replica of the Kalmar Nyckel and the words "New Sweden Tercentenary 1638-1938." Five thousand coins were made. Two hundred Rockford persons attended the official celebration at Wilmington. They included the Svea Sdner male chorus and the Rocklynn Children's club. Gov. Henry Horner also recognized the Rockford group by appointing Herman G. Nelson as a member of the official Illinois Swedish tercentenary commission.
Climax of the Rockford observance was the visit of Prince Bertil on July 15 under auspices of the tercentenary committee. Prince Bertil was guest at the business men's luncheon at noon. In the afternoon, he visited three Rockford factories and the News Tower. He spoke early in the evening to 6,000 persons on the lawn of the Swedish-American hospital and later was guest at the banquet at Hotel Faust.
Officers of the Swedish Historical society for 1940 are Dr. E. G. Bloomquist, president; Eric Anderson, vice president; Herman G. Nelson, secretary-treasurer; and the following directors: Thorsten Thorstenson, Oscar W. T. Peterson, J. Herman Hallstrom, Axel Ney, Mrs. Ernest Nyberg, Mrs. Alida Carlson, A. J. Anderson, Albert N. Nelson, George Blomgren, Alf. O. Ahlstrand, Axel Rehnberg and Adjutant George Perry.
The 1940 radio committee, which is the same as functioned in 1939, consists of the following: Thorsten Thorstenson, chairman; Hilmer Borggren, vice chairman; Herman G. Nelson, secretary-treasurer; Dr. E. C. Bloomquist, Gust E. Swanson, George Blomgren, G. A. Ohlson, Albert Ulin, Lawrence D. Larson, Axel Mickelson, Otto Axelson and Alf. Ahlstrand.
In 1939, the society was instrumental in bringing about the first observance in Rockford of Leif Ericson Day on October 9. The American flags, as a result, were displayed on all public and private buildings and in all the business districts. Recognition was given in the public schools.
BIOGRAPHIES of Business and Professional Men of Swedish Descent listed in this book.
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