Copyright
New Sweden (Me.).

The story of New Sweden [electronic resource] : as told at the quarter centennial celebration of the founding of the Swedish colony in the woods of Maine, June 25, 1895 online

. (page 2 of 8)
Online LibraryNew Sweden (Me.)The story of New Sweden [electronic resource] : as told at the quarter centennial celebration of the founding of the Swedish colony in the woods of Maine, June 25, 1895 → online text (page 2 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


up the prairies of our own broad land. I had done
whatever lay in my power to augment this emigration,
and had seen with gratification the number of Swedish
emigrants increase by thousands during my sojourn
in the Northland.

But there was one fact connected with this emiura-
tion that to me — a son of the Pine Tree state —
was anything but satisfactory. None of all these
emigrants settled in Maine ; all passed by our state
and went to build up and make strong and great the



OEATION BY HON. W. W. THOMAS, JR. 27

states of the West and Northwest. Yet no state or
territory in the Union is better adapted by nature to
become the home of Swedes than the northern,
wooded state of Maine. Here and in the Northhmd
the same mountains rear their altars to heaven ; the
same woodland lakes reflect the twinkling stars ; the
same forests clothe the hillsides ; the same swift, clear
rivers rush leaping to the sea ; the same deep harbors
notch the coast, and the same islands by the thousand
guard the shores.

It is an interesting fact also, that with few excep-
tions, as the French in Canada, immigrants from
Europe take up the same relative position in America
they occupied in the continent of their birth. In fact
there seem to be certain fixed isothermal lines between
whose parallels the immigrants from the Old World
are guided to their homes in the New. Thus the Ger-
mans from the center of Europe settle in Pennsylvania,
Ohio, and our other middle states ; the French and
Spanish from Southern Europe and the shores of the
Mediterranean, make their homes in Louisiana, Florida,
and all along the Gulf of Mexico ; while the Swedes
from the wooded north, fell the forests and build their
log-cabins in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Wash-
ington, Oregon — in our northern range of states —
the Pine Tree state forms one of this northern, wooded
range — Swedish immigration flows naturally to us.

And no better immigrants than the Swedes ever
landed on American shores. Honest and industrious,
law-abiding and God-fearing, polite and brave, hospit-
able and generous, of the same old northern stock as



28 THE STORY OF NEW SWEDEN.

ourselves, no foreign-speaking immigrants learn our
language more quickly, and none become more speed-
ily Americanized or make better citizens of our great
Republic.

Did Maine need immigration ? Yes ; surel3\

Maine is a state of great, but largely undeveloped,
resources. Our seacoast, indented all over with har-
bors, invites the commerce of the globe ; our rivers
offer sufficient power to run the factories of the nation,
while our quarries can supply the world with building
material. In the northwestern portion of our state
also, there was and still is a wilderness domain, whereon
is scarce a settler, larger in area than the state of
Massachusetts, covered with a stately forest of valuable
trees, possessing a soil of unusual depth and fertility,
and watered by plentiful streams.

Yet, notwithstanding all these advantages, the cen-
sus of 1870 revealed the startling fact that while the
United States as a whole had increased over seven and
a half millions in population in the previous decade,
our own State of Maine had paused and gone back-
ward. In 1870, Maine numbered one thousand three
hundred and sixty-four less inhabitants than she did
ten years before. With the single exception of our
neighboring state of New Hampshire, Maine was the
only state in the Union that had retrograded in popu-
lation from 1860 to 1870.

Was this a momentary halt in our advance, or was
it the beginning of our decline? This was a moment-
ous question ; for states, like men, cannot stand still.
they must grow or decay.



ORATION BY HON. W. W. THOMAS, JR. 29

That immigration of some sort was a necessity, and
that Scandinavian immigration would be the best for
us, I think was quite generally admitted. Indeed the
general subject of Scandinavian immigration had been
briefly presented to the attention of the Legislature as
early as 1861, by Gov. Washburn in his annual mes-
sage. But how could Scandinavian immigrants be
procured ? And how could they be retained within
our borders, if once we succeed in inducino; them to
come among us? These were unsolved problems, and
the doubters were many.

Our own sons and daughters, to the manner born,
were deserting Maine for the West. Would not our
Scandinavians, provided we succeeded in getting them,
do the same, and settle among the great masses of
their countrymen already established in the western
states ?

Again one attempt to procure Swedish immigrants
for Maine had already been tried, and had ended in
complete failure. A company of Maine men, incorpor-
ated as the " Foreign Emigrant Association of Maine,"
had recruited, in 1864, some three hundred Swedish
laborers and servants in Sweden and paid their passage
across the Atlantic. These immigrants landed at Que-
bec, where they all, with one accord, disappeared.
Not one of them ever arrived in Maine; and the asso-
ciation dissolved with a loss of many thousand dollars.

With the exception of a few scattered Swedes that
had from time to time drifted into our seaboard cities
and towns — less than one hundred in all — there were
no Swedes in Maine.



30 THE STORY OF NEW SWEDEN.

Such was the condition of Maine, and such was the
condition of the immigration problem on my return
from Sweden to my native state at the close of 1865.

The conviction had gradually forced itself upon me,
that it would be impossible to attract or retain any
considerable number of individual Swedes witliin the
limits of our state, until we first procured and firmly
established somewhere upon the soil of Maine a colony
of picked Swedish immigrants.

Such a colony with its churches and schools, its
Swedish pastors and its Swedish homes, its Swedish
customs and holidays and festivities, it seemed to me,
would constitute a nucleus around which the Swedish
immigration of the future would gather, a central point
whose attractive force would ever hold the scattered
Swedes, who went out to service, or settled elsewhere
in Maine, within the borders of our state.

But how could such a colony be procured, and how
could it be established ?

This problem I had gradually worked out in my own
mind, and had arrived at a definite, practical plan. My
plan was this : —

1. Send a commissioner of the State of Maine to
Sweden.

2. Let him there recruit a colony of young Swedish
f irmei's — picked men — with their wives and children.
No one, however, was to be taken unless he could pay
his own passage and that of his family to Maine.

3. A Swedish pastor should accompany the colony,
that religi(ui might lend her powerful aid in binding
the colonists together.



ORATION BY HON. W. W. THOMAS. JR. 31

4. Let the commissioner lead the colony in a body,
all together, at one time, and aboard one ship, from
Sweden to America. Thus would they be made
acquainted with one another. Thus, also, would they
have a leader to follow and be prevented from going
astray.

5. Let the commissioner take the Swedes into our
northern forests, locate them on Township Number
15, Range 3, west of the east line of the state, give
every head of a family one hundred acres of woodland
for a farm, and do whatever else might be necessary
to root this Swedish colony firmly in the soil of Maine.

Then all State aid was to cease, for it was confidently
expected when once the colony was fast rooted in our
soil it would thrive and grow of itself, and throughout
the future draw to Maine our fair portion of the
Swedish immigration to the United States.

Such was my plan. I had a strong and abiding
faith that it could be accomplished. Immediately on
my return from Sweden I began, and for four years I
continued, to preach the faith that was in me, both in
our legislative halls and among our people. At hist
my colleagues, Hon. Parker P. Burleigh and Hon.
William Small, commissioners on the settlement of
the public lands of Maine, united with me in recom-
mending my plan of immigration in our official report
to the Legislature of 1870. Gov. Chamberlain, one of
the earliest and most constant friends of Scandinavian
immigration, warmly advocated the measure. Col.
James M. Stone, chairman of the committee on innni-
gration, placed the merits of the plan before the



32 THE STORY OF NEW SWEDEN.

House of Representatives in an eloquent speech.
The friends of the enterprise throughout the state
rallied to its support, and on March 23, 1870, an act
was passed authorizing my plan of Swedish innnigra-
tion to be tried.

The act established a Board of Immiuration, con-
sisting of the governor, land agent and secretary
of state. On March 25, two days after the passage of
the act, the Board appointed me commissioner of
immigration. The fate of my plan was thus placed
in my own hands.

Having successfully arranged all preliminaries, I
sailed from America, April 30, and landed at Gothen-
burg, Sw^eden, on the sixteenth of May. It was a
bright spring morning when I set foot once more on
Sw^edish soil, but brighter than the dawn was the
opportunity now open to me to accomplish an under-
taking, which for years had been the dream of my
life, for the good of my native state.

A head office was at once established at Gothen-
burg. Notices, advertisements and circulars describ-
ing our state and the proposed immigration, were
scattered broadcast over the country. Agents were
employed to canvass the northern provinces, and as
soon as the ball was fairly in motion, I left the office at
Gothenburg in charge of a trusty agent, Capt. G. W.
Schroder, and traveled extensively in the interior of
Sweden, distributing documents and talking with the
people in the villages, at their homes, by the roadside,
and wherever or whenever I met them. Familiar
with the Swedish language and people I was enabled



ORATION BY HON. W. W. THOMAS, JR. 33

to preach a crusade to Maine. But the crusade was
a peaceful one, its weapons were those of husbandry,
and its object to recover the fertile lands of our state
from the dominion of the forest.

To induce the right class of people to pay their
way to settle amono; us seemed indeed the most diffi-
cult part of the whole immigration enterprise. I
therefore deemed it expedient to take this point for
granted ; and in all advertisements, conversations and
addresses, to dwell rather on the fact that, as only a
limited number of families covdd be taken, none would
be accepted unless they brought with them the highest
testimonials as to character and proficiency in their
callings.

The problem which was thus taken for granted soon
began to solve itself. Recruits for Maine began to
appear. All bore certificates of character under the
hand and seal of the pastor of their district, and all
who had worked for others brouo-ht recommendations
from their employers. These credentials, however,
were not considered infallible, some applicants were
refused in spite of them, and no one was accepted
unless it appeared clear that he would make a thrifty
citizen of our good state of Maine. In this way a
little colony of picked men with their wiyes and
children, was quickly gathered together. The details
of the movement, the arguments used, the objections
met, the multitude of questions about our state asked
and answered, would fill a volume. I was repeatedly
asked if Maine were one of the United States. One
inquirer wished to know if Maine lay alongside Texas,



34 THE STORY OF NEW SWEDEN.

while another seeker after truth wrote, asking if
there were to be found in Maine any wild horses or
crocodiles This ignorance is not to be wondered at,
for what had Maine ever done prior to 1870 to make
herself known in Sweden.

Neither was the colony recruited without opposi-
tion. Capital and privilege always strive to prevent
the exodus of labor, and sometimes are reckless as to
the means they use. It is sufficient, however, to state
that all opposition was silenced or avoided.

On June 23, the colonists, who had been recruited
from nearly every province of Sweden, were assembled
at Gothenburg; and on the evening of that day —
midsummer's eve, a Swedish festival — I invited them
and their friends to a collation at the Baptist Hall in
that city. Over two hundred persons were present,
and after coffee and cake had been served, according
to Swedish custom, addresses were made by S. A.
Hedlund, Esq., member of the Swedish parliament, our
agent, Capt. Schroder, one of the leaders of the Baptist
movement in Sweden, and myself. The exercises
were concluded by a prayer from Pastor Trouve. At
this meeting the colonists were brought together and
made acquainted, their purpose quickened and invigor-
ated, and from that hour the bonds of common inter-
est and destiny have bound all the individuals into a
community. Such a knowledge of Maine and its
resources was also imparted by the speakers, that the
very friends who before had sought to persuade the
colonists not to desert their fatherland, exclaimed
" Ah, if I could only go too ! "



ORATION BY HON. W. W. THOMAS, JR. 35

In August, 1637, the Swedish ship of war Kalmar
Nyckel, accompanied by a smaller vessel, the Fog el
Grip, set sail from Gothenburg for America, with a
Swedish colony on board, which founded the first
New Sweden in the New World, on the banks of the
Delaware. Two hundred and thirty-three years later,
at noon of Saturday, June 25, and just forty days
after my landing in Sweden, I sailed from the same
Gothenburg in the steamship Orlando, with the first
Swedish colonists of Maine.

A heavy northwest gale, during the prevalence of
which the immigrants were compelled to keep below
while the hatches were battened down over their
heads, rendered our passage over the North Sea very
disagreeable, and so retarded our progress that we
did not reach the port of Hull till Monday evening,
June 27. The next day we crossed England by rail
to Liverpool. Here was an unavoidable delay of
three days. On Saturday, July 2, we sailed in the
good steamship City of Antwerp of the Inman line,
for America.

The passage over the ocean was a pleasant one,
and on Wednesday, July 13, we landed at Halifax.
The good people of this city fought shy of us.
Swedish immigration was as novel in Nova Scotia as
in Maine. No hotel or boarding-house would receive
us, and our colony was forced to pass its first night
on this continent in a large vacant warehouse kindly
placed at our disposal by the Messrs. Seaton, the
agents of the Inman steamships. Next day we con-
tinued our journey across the peninsula of Nova



36 THE STORY OF NEW SWEDEN.

Scotia and over the Bay of Fundy to the city of St.
John.

July 15, we ascended the St. John River to Freder-
icton by steamer. Here steam navigation ceased on
account of low water ; but two river flatboats were
chartered, the colony and their baggage placed on
board, and at five o'clock next morning, our colony
was en route again. Each boat was towed up river
by two horses. The boats frequently grounded and
the progress up stream was slow and toilsome, but the
weather was fine and the colonists caught fish from
the river and picked berries along the banks.

Near Florenceville the first misfortune befell us.
Here, on Tuesday, July 19, died Hilma C. Clas6,
infant daughter of Capt. Nicholas P. Clase, aged nine
months. Her little body was properly embalmed,
placed in a quickly constructed cofl&n, and brought on
with the colony. " We cannot leave our little one by
the way," said the sorrow-stricken parents, " we will
carry her through to our new home."

On the afternoon of Thursday, July 21, the flat-
boats reached Tobique Landing. Six days had been
spent in towing up from Fredericton. The journey is
now accomplished by railroad in as many hours. All
along our route from Halifax to Tobique the inhabi-
tants came out very generally to see the new comers,
and there was an universal expression of regret, that
so fine a body of immigrants should pass through the
Provinces instead of settling there. At Tobique the
colonists debarked and were met by Hon. Parker P.
Burleigh, land agent and member of the Board of



ORATION BY HON. W. W. THOMAS, JR. 37

Immigration. We obtained lodgings for the colony
on the hay in Mr. Tibbit's barn, and Mr. Burleigh and
I driving round from house to house, buying a loaf of
bread here, a loaf there, a cheese in another place,
and milk wherever it could be procured, got together
supplies sufficient for supper and breakfast.

Friday morning, July 22, teams were provided for
the Swedes and their baggage, and at eight o'clock the
Swedish immigrant train started for Maine and the
United States. The teams were furnished by and
under the charge of Mr. Joseph Fisher of Fort Fair-
field. Mr. Burleigh and I drove ahead in a wagon,
then came a covered carriage, drawn by four horses.
This contained the women and children. Next were
two three-horse teams with the men, followed by a
couple of two-horse teams containing the baggage.
So we wound over the hills and at ten o'clock
reached the iron post that marks the boundary be-
tween the dominions of the queen and the United
States.

Beneath us lay the broad valley of the Aroostook.
The river glistened in the sun and the white houses of
Fort Fairfield shone brightly among the green fields
along the river bank. As we crossed the line and
entered the United States, the American flag was
unfurled from the foremost carriage, and we were
greeted with a salute of cannon from the village of
Fort Fairfield. Mr. Burleigh stepped from the wagon
and in an appropriate speech welcomed the colony to
Aroostook County, Maine, and the United States. I
translated the speech and the train moved on. Cheers



38 THE STORY OF NEW SWEDEN.

waving of handkerchiefs, and ever}'^ demonstration
of enthusiasm greeted us on our way.

Shortl}^ after crossing the line an incident occurred
which showed of what stuff the Swedes are made.
In ascending a liill the horses attached to one of the
immigrant wagons became balky, backed the wagon
into the ditch and upset it, tipping out the load of
baggage. The Swedes instantly sprang from the
carriages in which they were riding, unhitched the
horses, righted the wagon, and in scarcely more time
than it takes to tell it, reloaded their ton and a half
of baggage and then ran the wagon by hand to the
top of the hill. This was the first act of the Swedes
in Maine.

At noon we reached the Town Hall at Fort Fairfield.
A gun announced our arrival. Here a halt was made.
A multitude of people received us. The Swedes got out
of the wagons and clustered together by themselves, a
little shy in the presence of so many strangers. The
assembly was called to order by A. C. Gary, Esq., and
a meeting organized by the choice of Hon. Isaac
Hacker as chairman. Mr. Hacker after some perti-
nent remarks introduced Judge William Small, who
welcomed the Swedish immigrants in a judicious,
elaborate and eloquent address. He was followed by
the Rev. Daniel Stickney of Presque Isle in a stirring
and telling speech. The remarks of these gentlemen
were then given to the Swedes in their own tongue by
myself, after which at the request of the Swedes I
expressed their gratitude at the unexpected and gener-
ous hospitality of the citizens of Aroostook. The



ORATION BY HON. W. W. THOMAS, JR. 39

Swedes were then invited to a sumptuous collation in
the Town Hall. The tables groaned with good things.
There were salmon, green peas, baked beans, pies,
pudding, cake, raspberries, coffee, and all in profusion.

At two o'clock the Swedes resumed their journey,
gladdened by the welcome and strengthened by the
repast so generously given them by the good people
of Fort Fairfield. The procession passed up the fer-
tile valley of the Aroostook — the stars and stripes
still waved " at the fore." Many citizens followed in
wagons. Along the route every one turned out to
get a good look at the new comers. A Swedish youth
of twenty struck up an acquaintance with an Ameri-
can young man of about the same age. It mattered
not that the Yankee did not speak a word of Swedish,
nor the Swede a word of English, they chattered away
at each other, made signs, nodded and laughed as
heartily as though they understood it all. Then they
picked leaves, decorated each other with leafy gar-
lands, and putting their arms around one another
marched along at the head of the procession, singing
away in the greatest good fellowship, as good friends
as though they had known each other for a lifetime,
and perfectly regardless of the little fact that neither
of them could speak a word the other could under-
stand. Youth and fraternity were to them a common
language and overleaped the confusion of tongues.

As the immigrant train halted on a hilltop, I pointed
out the distant ridges of this township rising against
the sky. ^^ Det utlofvade Landed' — "The prom-
ised land " — shout the Swedes, and a cheer goes



40 THE STORY OF NEW SWEDEN.

along: the line. Late in the afternoon we reached
the bridcre over the Aroostook River. A salute of
cannon announced our approach. Here we were met
by a concourse of five hundred peo])le with a fine
brass band of sixteen pieces, and escorted into the
picturesque villag-e of Caribou. Hon. John S. Arnold
delivered an address of welcome, and the citizens
invited us to a bountiful supper in Arnold's hall,
where also the settlers passed the night. At this
supper one of the good ladies of Caribou happened to
wait upon our worthy land agent, and getting from
him a reply in a language she understood, was over-
joyed and exclaimed, " Why, you speak very good
English for a Swede ! "

Next morning the Swedish immigrant train was
early in motion accompanied by some hundred and
fifty citizens of the vicinity. One farmer along the
route put out tubs of cold water for our refresh-
ment. I thanked him for this. " Oh, never mind,"
he replied, " all I wanted was to stop the Swedes long
enough to get a good look at them." We soon passed
beyond the last clearing of the American pioneer and
entered the deep woods. Our long line of wagons
slowly wound its way among the stumps of the newly-
cut wood road, and penetrated a forest which now for
the first time was opened for the abode of man.

At twelve o'clock, noon, of Saturday, July 23, 1870,
just four months from the passage of the act author-
izing this enterprise, and four weeks from the depart-
ure of the immigrants from Sweden, the first Swedish
colony of our state arrived at its new home in the



ORATION BY HON. W. VT. THOMAS, JR. 41

wilds of Maine. As the waggon train stopped in the
woods, a little south of where the Swedish capitol now
stands, the Swedes instinctively drew together in a
little group around me, and here in the shadow of the
forest primeval we devoutly thanked God, who had
led us safely on our long journey, and fervently
prayed for His blessing and guidance in the great
work that lay before us. Here too I baptised the
township

"NEW SWEDEN,"

a name at once commemorative of the past and auspi-
cious of the future. Here in behalf of the State of
Maine I bade a welcome and Godspeed to these far
travelers, our future citizens, and here at the south-
west corner of the cross roads, under a camp of bark
and by the side of a rill of pure spring water, Swedes
and Americans broke bread together, and the colonists
ate their first meal on the township, where they were
to hew themselves homes out of the forest.

All around us was an unbroken wilderness. A
gigantic forest covered all the land, stretching away
over hill and dale as far as the eye could reach. In
these vast northern woods, the blows of settlor's ax
had never resounded, through their branches the smoke
from settler's cabin had never curled. Here roamed
the moose, and prowled the bear, and here the silence of
midnight was broken by the hooting of the arctic owl.

One thousand years ago the great Scandinavian sea-
king Rollo sailed out from the Northland with a fleet
of viking ships. Landing on the coast of France, he

4



42 THE STORY OF NEW SWEDEN.

subiugated one of her fairest provinces. Here the
Northmen settled, and from them the province is
called to this day Normandy.

Eifflit hundred years later the descendants of these
Northmen, speaking French, sailed from Normandy to
this continent and settled Acadia. When driven from
their homes by the British fleet, a detachment of
Acadians came up the St. John River and settled on
the interval, vvhere now stands the city of Fredericton.


2 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryNew Sweden (Me.)The story of New Sweden [electronic resource] : as told at the quarter centennial celebration of the founding of the Swedish colony in the woods of Maine, June 25, 1895 → online text (page 2 of 8)