Amerika Letters

Thsese letters are from Swedes who have settled in America. They are printed with permission from Dr. H.Arnold Barton, the author and the University of Minnesota Press. Web site for the Minnesota Press is here.

A special thank you to my dear friend Dr. Barton!


Letter written from Alfta, Hälsingland to a daughter in Bishop Hill

April 3, 1846

Alfta kyrkby

Dearly Beloved but greatly missed Daughter and Son-In-Law

I will herewith without delay send you a few lines; whether these lines will reach you is in the hands of the lord. But my heart grieves and my eyes flow with tears when I think of your emigrating and the sorrow and longing you left me with. You can well imagine the sorrow with which you burdened my weak shoulders, and the other pains when you forsook the worldly good God allotted you, first and foremost your late father and me.

Then when through God’s merciful help and support, I wished to leave all this to you, dear children, you did not regard this as a gift from God but rather as a poison that repelled you. This was the reward that you gave me for all the unstinting efforts I made for your earthly future. You surely think you behaved toward your parents as befits obedient children. But dear children I would turn from your offense and gladly forgive you everything if only you would return from your erring foot steps and pray to God for His grace to forsake them and be obedient to Him and to me.

For you see, this is what God will have of both parents and children. Consider dear children, how first of all you were the means of early death of your little son, which your letter from Gräso described, over which many a tear of pain and sorrow has run down my cheeks, sunken with grief. But I can still comfort myself that your little son has a better father than any on earth. But this is a reminder the Lord has given you to return to your father’s land.

You think you have no means to make a living, but there is surely some way out. For you are only a father in the flesh here: He has revealed Himself to me, and I can tell you this. Fro think clear daughter, how you used to lie at my breast and your innocent years would trample on my knees; now you trample upon my heart, so that I shall go with sorrow down into an early grave. I must often say, Maria, my daughter and son-in-law, how could you do this to me? Grieving, I search for you day and night, and I wish and pray fervently to God that I may someday cry out with the Patriarch, it is enough for me that my daughter and son-in-law live and will go to visit their mother before she dies.

Signed: your mother with tears of pain and longing

Kare Jons Dotter



This letter is from an unknown sender who was a former Janssonist. Written in 1848.


They have aquired a lot of land. They carry on all kinds of crafts, and sell and save up money. They even make liquor. I want to ask if these are God’s folk but they say that what they do is to God’s glory. Morning and afternoon they have prayers and on Sundays divine services but even so they sell liquor on the Sabbath. The people get food and clothes, but not coffee or sugars, which are kept only for the Apostles. Their food is of the Swedish type. They have three dining halls and four long tables in each dining hall. No one can prepare his own food. The people are like serfs, who must work according to the bell. At six in the morning it rings when they are to get out of bed, at half past six it rings for prayer, which lasts until eight or nine, and then it rings for breakfast. When they have eaten, it rings for work, and it goes on like this morning and evening. After the evening meal, it rings after it gets dark for prayer, which lasts as long as in the morning.


Mary Johnson writes to her parents in Edshult parish Småland

Mt. Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa

May 7, 1859

Dearly Beloved parents, brothers and sisters,

In the first place I wish to thank you for the welcome letter which I received from you on the 24 th of February, in which I learned that you were blessed with good health. I am in good health, and I hope these simpole lines will find you in good circumstances. You write that youb miss me very much. This is not to be wondered at, because nothing lies closer to the heart than the love between children and parents. But, pray, do not worry too much about me. I got along well in Sweden, and this being a better country, I will do even better here. As my plans are now. I have no desire to be in Sweden. I never expect to speak with you again in this life. I am sending you my picture as a rememberance and with it another picture which I am certain will be welcome, because it is the likeness of the man who is to become your son-in-law sometime this fall. Perhaps I am in somewhat of a hurry to let you see it, but the opportunity to send messages with Swedes who are returning to Sweden comes but seldom. This letter is sent with a man who is going to Sweden to receive his inheritance on Öland…The young man whose picture you will see came from Södra Vi parish. He has been here ten years. One who has ben here that length of time is aquainted with the language and customs of America


Your loving daughter until death

Mary Johnson

If you're interested in Swedish Immigration Dr. H. Arnold Barton's book are wonderful. They are: Letters from the Promisland, A Folk Divided ; Homeland Swedes and Swedish Americans-1840-1940 and A Search for Ancestors: A Swedish American Family Saga.

Anyone who has Amerika letters to contribute please contact me. I'll be more than happy to post them!



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