Wednesday, November 11, 2015

John August Johnson - Part 2 - Immigrating, Homesteading, and a Wish

In July of 1869, when Johan was twenty-two, he left Byarum for the town of Jönköping thirty miles to the North. It was noted by the priest in the household records of Plätt farm that Johan and his sister, Britta, had plans to emigrate from Sweden to America.
The conversations about leaving home to go so far away he and Britta must have had with their mother must have been painful. Inga had lost much in her life and now her two oldest children were leaving Sweden for what would end up being forever. Four of her children were dead and now two were soon leaving for the other side of the ocean. That left her with two children who stayed in Sweden. Sorrow and hope most likely mingled in her heart as she said goodbye to Johan and Britta.
According to the Emigranternas Hus (House of Emigrants), an emigrants’ museum in Gothenburg, Swedes emigrating from the central part of Southern Sweden usually arrived in Gothenburg by train. They would step off the train and walk West down a street called Sillgatan, now known as Postgatan, that ran from Central Train Station to the harbor. Along that street were offices where agents sold passages to America. Johan would have purchased passage and boarded ship from Gothenburg to England and then on to America.
After crossing the ocean from Gothenburg to Hull, England, across land by train and on across the Atlantic to America, John finally found himself on an immigrant train headed to the town of Red Wing in Goodhue County, Minnesota by 1870. Red Wing, Minnesota Train Depot
Red Wing had one of the first and the largest assemblage of Swedish immigrants in Minnesota. It is unknown at this time if he had friends or family already there or who his sponsor might have been. According to family stories, he worked in the timber industry while living in Minnesota. 
John applied for US citizenship several times before receiving it. A letter sent to him by a clerk in the immigration office at Red Wing, as a response to an inquiry he made, stated that there were so many John Johnsons in the county that his records couldn't be definitively located. It was years before he finally became a citizen in 1906.

Britta immigrated around the same time as John but landed at a different entry point. She met and married a Swedish immigrant named Louis Nordling and they moved to Delmore Township, McPherson County, Kansas. Britta changed her first name to Bettie when she immigrated.
After hearing about the Kansas Land Act, and from Britta about land available near her home in McPherson, Kansas, John decided to go to see it for himself. 
After arriving at Britta and Louis’ home, he explored the land around the county. He purchased a quarter section of land bordering the Nordling land to the east in central Delmore Township, McPherson County, Kansas for $600 on 28 Oct 1876. 1 Mar 1878, he purchase a quarter section down the road about half a mile north from the first section. This is where he planned to homestead. There was a creek running through the land and he chose the spot where he would eventually build his home.
He dug a cave in the side of a hill near the creek and lived there until he could build a proper shelter.
In the section adjacent to his homestead lived another family of Johnson's. They were immigrants from Vena, Kalmar län, Sweden. Jonas and Stina Lovisa had three daughters and three sons. Their youngest daughter, Ida Mathilda, was 13 when John moved to the cave by the creek. He needed a wife and being the practical type, he decided to wait for her to grow up and get to marrying age.
John and Ida were married on the first day of September, 1882. She was 16 and he, 35.
By the time their first son, Arthur Theodore, was born in the fall of 1884, the home they were building was more than a dugout, but not by very much! Over the next several years, the dugout became the basement with the first story built. By the time their last child was born in 1903, it was a large, two story home with a porch that wrapped around two sides of the house and a big brick cistern in the back and a room with a real bathtub; one of the first in the area. 
They purchased the quarter section to the east of their homestead in 1885 and half of a quarter more in 1908. By this time, they owned nearly a whole section of land.
There were several other buildings on the farm, along with cattle, hogs, horses, farm implements, and two lumber wagons, according to a list of property put up for collateral on a loan dated 25 Apr 1892.
John's grandchildren, now in their 80s and 90s, still remember him saying that he wished his family in Sweden could see the house he built in America. It was a wish that he never saw fulfilled.

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