Swedes in Moline

Swedish Employees at John Deere 1900

The earliest Swedish settlers in Moline were Olaus Bengtsson and Carl Johansson, the former coming over from Sweden in 1847, the later in 1848. Bengtsson landed with wife and children in Chicago and, being unable to find work, left his elder son there and came on to Moline on foot, accompanied by his wife and three of his children, the parents taking turns carrying the smaller ones when their strength gave out. The family settled on a farm in Moline Township, near the Rock River and did well at farming. Olaus Bengtsson died before the eighties. The son let behind in Chicago after three years rejoined the family, when he had to learn his mother tongue anew.

Carl Johnasson, a tailor by trade, came from Kämpestad, Östergötland to Andover in 1847and from there to Moline the next year. During the years 1840 to 1850 came the following Swedish settlers; Sven Jacobsson, a carpenter from Vermland with family who subsequently moved to Vasa, Minn. But returned to Moline after a few years; Carl Petter Andersson, who purchased land land on the bluffs where he was still engaged in farming some thirty years later: Gustaf Johnson, with family, he and Jacobsson dying before the eighties. Erik Forsse with family, who later joined the Bishop Hill Colony, was a major in the 57 th Illinois Regiment during the war, moving to Falun,Salina county, Kansas sometime after the close of the war; Jonas Westerberg who died prior to 1880: M.P. Petersson, who began farming on the bluffs, then conducted a small store, moved to Altona thence to Iowa, where he was still living in 1880; Peter Söderström, who moved to Minnesota and from there to Swede Bend, Ia.; Sven J. Johnson who for thirteen years ran the ferryboat across the Mississippi between Rock Island and Davenport. Abraham Andersson from Gnarp, Helsingland, a hired man who bought a small property in Moline and at his death in the early fifties willed to the Swedish Lutheran Church, a house and lot as a parsonage for its future pastor.

The Swedes in Moline in 1880 numbered 2,589 but at the close of 1905 the number had swelled to 8,000. The total population according to the census of 1900 was 17,240 succeeding years showing substantial increase.

The Swedes came here to find work, John Deere was the most prominent. Story has it that when the train got close to Moline and the conductor called “John Deere” the Swedes knew they had come to the right place and got off.

The Swedish element has always been strong in Moline and even today the Swedish hertitage remains alive and well in Moline.




From: History of Swedes in Illinois-1908

Picture and excerpt from Lilly Setterdahl


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