Swan Johnson

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Swan Johnson’s mother died when he was six and his father apprenticed him out until he was thirteen years old and then he was apprenticed out to a carpenter who was a master builder. From him Swan learned the carpenter trade. Swan repaired many big buildings and was sent out to fix a barn that was split in the center by a storm. This was at Bement, near Chicago. Later he did a great deal of carpenter work for a Mr. Vorhies, of Bement, where Swan Johnson had moved his family from Chicago, building up the many farms of Vorhies.

Swan Johnson was the son born of the second marriage of his father and he had older step-brothers, also one brother. It was a letter from his brother from whom he had not heard for fifteen years which overjoyed him, causing a heart attack which resulted in his death. He was called for breakfast and when he didn’t come, Mrs. Johnson went to see about him, and there he was, one sock on and the other in his hand as he had fallen back on the bed.

Swan Johnson went on a land excursion to Nebraska, Platte County, in 1877 with the B & M Railroad. Mr. Byron was the Land Agent. Swan Johnson, Johnny Lawson and Hans Johnson (the latter became Thilda’s husband) went from Bement, Illinois, Swan Johnson gave a span of mules in first payment for his land. Johnny Lawson and Hans Johnson gave a team of horses each as first payment on their 160 acres of land. Each sold a set of harness for $25.00 for the horses and mules, and Nels Johnson, a thirteen year old son of Swan Johnson, rode a horse bareback and led the mules. They got another fellow to ride a horse and lead a team fifteen miles to Lovington, Illinois, where the horses and mules were loaded into a car and shipped to Kearney County, Nebraska. Nels rode back from Lovington to Bement on a train. Mr. Byron gave Nels his ticket but the conductor never took the ticket.

Swan Johnson died January 26, l894, from a heart attack caused by a letter from his only brother after fifteen years’ silence. He was so overjoyed he read and reread it.

The Johnson sale of personal property was in the spring of 1896, and Will took over the farming for two years with the help of Harry Carpenter and Harry Coyle.

Mrs. Swan Johnson’s last name was Vesterson. Bothilda was Thilda’s name but she never liked it. Peter went to Omaha to business college where he received the nickname of “Rock”. When he got home he liked to write “Peter Rock”, then “P. R.”, and he liked to call himself “P.R.”, so it became his name. Nels assumed the middle initial “E” because another Nels Johnson got his mail. Eric put an “E” in his name when he was to be married.

Nels says that a practical nurse who came to care for Mrs. Swan Johnson at Bement by the name of Katie Baird, named Ellen “Louellen” all one word, but the family called her Ellen. Mrs. Swan Johnson [ 5 ] wished to name her daughter “Mimie Elizabeth”, but her sons wanted to call her “Minnie Elizabeth” after a girl by the name of Minnie who they thought was pretty and very attractive so her name was, to the family, Minnie Elizabeth. She was born at Keatskootoos on February 16, 1879. Minnie celebrated January 16th until Andersons, at Keatskootoos, found it was February 16th. Victor was born January 1, 1872, and Mary on July 4, 1881. Oscar died at Bement at the age of nine months.

There were several Swedish families who lived at Bement who followed Swan Johnson to Nebraska: (1) Nels Larson, an uncle of Rena Hoffstein (of Elgin), a brother to her mother; (2) John Larson, Rena’s father; (3) Johnny Lawson of Genoa, whose children Albert, Charles, Minnie, Gladys, Nellie, Ida, etc., lived east of Genoa; (4) John Anderson (Mrs. Lottie Willard’s father), and (5) the Swan Johnsons. These five families always celebrated Christmas, New Years, Easter, etc., together at one place while at Bement, and again when they came to Genoa they did the same for years.

Rena stayed with the Johnson family and went to school. When Rena Larson’s folks moved to Elgin, Nebraska, there were no schools, so she lived during the school year at the Swan Johnson home. She also liked to spend the summers there as she and Ida were good friends. In the family it was a lively place to be. Victor, Will, Ida, Rena and Eric had many happy times together. When Ida was married her husband, John Johnson, sent Rena a railroad ticket to come down to Arlington and take care of Ida and the first baby, Mabel. After Rena’s mother’s death, Rena stayed at the Johnson home. She found work, but all weekends were spent at the Johnson home.

There were nine children born to Kjerstin’s mother, but five died in childhood. Kjerstin’s father was a carpenter and cabinet maker but he always had a class of seven or eight young men who met together to read the Bible every night. He was a tall, light complected, slender young man much like Victor. Kjerstin was the oldest of the four living children. She had two brothers and one sister:

Nels Wecelius who was appointed a Judge by the King of Sweden. He had several children.

  1. Mrs. Hilma Haak, address, Ostermalm, Sundsvall, Sweden. She lives in the old home, and address is always the same.
  2. Ellen, single, who lived at home and kept house for Nels Wescelius, her brother.

Two sons came to America about the age of sixty who live in Minnesota, one a contractor and builder, and the other has a chicken ranch.

  1. Mr. Oscar Wescelius, Gheen, Minnesota, Box 46.
  2. Robert Wescelius who must live near but doesn’t write to his sisters so often.
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Wviclius is the way the name was spelled in Swedish. Uncle John always spelled it Wescelius. Thilda had one cousin, her father’s nephew, tall, red haired, on her father’s side of the house who was educated for a missionary. He lived in Legvig near Swan Johnson’s home, but went to the University in Stockholm. He came home for a visit and returned to Stockholm to board a ship for his mission field. As he stepped on the ship he fell into the sea and was never seen or heard of again. He always preached in the neighborhood when he came home on vacations.

When the Johnson family left Sweden for America, Thilda was thirteen, Peter ten, John seven, Nels five, Ida two, and Eric three months. Chicago was their first new home. Kjerstin’s sister Kana, or Karen — as we now call it — who came with her family here has a daughter, Mrs. Ellen Long, of Kimball, Nebraska, and a son, John Ahlm. John Ahlm lives in Nebraska, and another daughter, Karine, lives in California. She did live in Ong, Nebraska. Another daughter, Anna, (single) died.

Swan Johnson sent tickets for all of them to come to the United States, but Nels Ahlm was a fancy dresser and spent the money on fine clothes instead of buying his passage tickets, so the next time grandfather sent the tickets to Nels and his son John, and they later arrived in America, going on to Genoa, Nebraska.

Later, grandfather sent tickets to Kana, a sister of Kjerstin, and the three girls to come to Genoa. This Aunt Kana was a tiny little woman, less than one hundred pounds in weight, four feet eight inches tall.

Kana Ahlm had three daughters and one son, John, who later married Dora Magnuson, of Genoa. Ellen married Wesley Long, of Genoa, and they also had three lovely daughters and a son, Amos. They moved to Kimball County, Nebraska.

The son, John, also moved his family to Kimball County. One daughter, Karen, married an older man at Ong, Nebraska, and later moved to Los Angeles.

Peter, Kjerstin’s brother, learned the tailor’s trade and went to England to live, married an English lady and once came home to Sweden to visit. He had four children. Peter died in England.

Kana, Kjerstin’s sister, or Karine as we called her, married Nels Ahlm. They immigrated to America. She was a very small, thin person. They had three daughters and one son. They settled in Genoa, and Nels Ahlm did carpenter work with Swan Johnson. Kjerstin’s two brothers went off to the University at Stockho1m. They were gone a couple of years and when they returned they stopped to see Kjerstin and inquire the way. She didn’t recognize them until they told her who they were.

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