Erik Janson was murdered on May 13, 1850 in Cambridge by John Root over a dispute over John Root’s wife Charlotte. Charlotte was Erik Janson’s cousin who had immigrated with the colony. John Root was also Swedish but had come to America on his own from Stockholm.Root has come to the colony in 1848 and became a “Jansonite”. Janson agreed to let Root marry his cousin Charlotte with the written understanding that should Root ever decide to leave Bishop Hill Charlotte would not be required to leave with him. They were married in January of 1849.

Two months after they were married Root was involved in an argument with Dr. Foster. After Janson sided with Foster in the argument, an argument broke out between Root and Janson. It was then that Root decided to leave Bishop Hill and take his wife. Janson refused to let him take his wife based on the written agreement they had signed. Charlotte fearing God’s wrath also refused to leave. Root left but stayed in the vicinity to try to persuade his wife to leave.When he couldn’t persuade her, he returned to the colon. In the mean time Charlotte had given birth to a son. She named him John after his father. He was the third child born at the colony and the first to survive.

Again he tried to persuade her to leave with the child and again, fearing the wrath of God that Janson had taught, she refused. Root became furious and after threatening Janson and his wife he left the colony again. He soon returned with a court order and Henry County officers and his wife agreed to leave with him.They traveled only two miles from the colony when armed men stopped them and mother and son were returned to Bishop Hill. This time Root swore out warrants for Janson and others and had his wife summoned as a witness. While in Cambridge, Root kidnapped her and took her away to a Rock River settlement then to Davenport and eventually to Chicago.

Janson managed to find their location and sent five of his trusty henchmen to bring mother and child back to Bishop Hill. Root this time gathered a posse of 70 men who searched Bishop Hill but found neither Janson or Charlotte. The Colonists were given one week to produce Charlotte or Bishop Hill would be burned to the ground.Frightened, Janson fled to St. Louis, taking his family, Charlotte and other colonists with him. Also leaving Bishop Hill was an expedition of men going to California in search of gold and to escape Roots wrath. They were Jonas Olson, P.O Blomberg, P.N. Blomberg, Peter Janson, E.O. Lind, C.M. Myrtengren, C.G. Blombergson Sven Norlin and Lars Stalberg.

Janson living high in St. Louis while colonist at Bishop Hill were haggard from hunger and privation, mustered a well armed posse in anticipation of Roots return and Root was again turned away.His fear of Root somewhat aleved, Janson returned to Bishop Hill on Saturday. In his srmon on Sunday, Janson, seemingly forcasting his death quoted “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.”

May 13,1850

The following day Janson was to appear in court as a defendant involving financial problems the colony was having.Root was there on a trespassing charge. As he prepared to leave for Cambridge he asked his driver, Mr. Mascall if he would take a bullet for him today. The driver said as a joke that he would.

Janson was standing by the window during adjournment for lunch and there are different stories telling what happened next. Some say that Root asked for his wife back and Janson replied that a hog would be a more proper mate for Root and some say there were no words exchanged but what happened next is the same. Root came into the courthouse and standing in the door way called Janson’s name. As Janson turned to face him, Janson was shot in the heart and a second bullet hit him in the shoulder.


John Root, was sentenced Sept. 18, 1852, for two years for manslaughter, in Knox County, to where he had taken a change of venue. At the end of a year he was pardoned.

Swedes in Illinois

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Illinois Ancestors