Victoria was one of the earliest settlements in Knox County.
The first Swede among the settlers was Jonas Hedström, the Methodist preacher. He came in 1838 from Farmington, Fulton county. For many years Hedström was the only Swede in Victoria but after the Eric Jansonists began to settle at Bishop Hill, a number of those were attracted to Victoria. We have already related how Olof Olsson, their first envoy, with his family came there in 1845 and ws housed in a rude hut of logs situated in Copely Township; also how Erik Janson himself and his kindred found shelter in the same log cabin the following year. Not long afterwords, Sven Larsson,Olof Norlund and Jonas Jansson arrived from Söderala Helsingland and Jonas Hedin from Hede, Herjedalen. Norlund and Jansson soon succumbed to the cholera and the others left Victoria for Red Oak after a stay of only a few weeks.
Among the earliest settlers here may be mentioned Olof Olsson from Ofvanäker, Helsingland who came to Bishop Hill in 1846 but after three months bade farwell to the profet and his colony and moved to Victoria, where he bought a small farm. Olsson also died shortly after his arrival. Jonas Hellström, a tailor, left Bishop Hill in 1847 and opened a tailor shop at Victoria where he plied his trade until 1850 when he caught “gold fever” and went to California. After a year he returned to his old trade in Victoria. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted as sergeant in Company C, 53 rd Illinois Volunteers being advanced in 1864 to rank of first lieutenant in the 8 th U.S. Artillery. He died shortly afterwards leaving a wife and a son. “Old Man Bäck” from Bolläs Helsingland, an eccentric charater, was another of the Bishop Hill settlers who moved to Victoria where he purchased a small farm in Copely township. He is said to have considered himself the most important personage in the entire community. Olof Olsson from Afta, another Erik Jansonists simultaneously with Bäck moved to Copely township and became one of Victoria’s first landowners.
Then came in rapid succession Hillberg Hans Hansson, Carl Magnus Pettersson, Sven Larsson, Lars Larsson and Peter Källman. The last named accompanied the first party of Erik Jansonists to Chicago, remaining in that city for a few years then living in Galesburg for three years finally settling in Victoria in 1853. he died in 1877 leaving a family. Furthermore we find among the Swedish pioneers at Victoria Charles Petterson from Österuda, Upland who came with the first Erik Jansonists party remaining two years in New York and coming to Victoria in 1848. He also went to California in 1850 as a gold seeker and eventually settling on the coast. John E. Seline was another Erik Jansonists who deserted Bishop Hill going to Galesburg in 1849 whence he moved to Victoria where he employed as a building contractor until 1856 when he purchased a farm.
This man was one of Erik Janson’s twelve apostles. Seline, later in life became an agnostic and staunch follower of Robert G. Ingersoll. One Peter Skoglund, who came over with the Esbjorn party of emigrants settled in Victoria as a tailor, but later went into farming. He was still living in 1880, in comfortable circumstances. Peter Dahlgren from Österlunda severed his allegiance to Erik Janson, after a half a year’s stay in the colony and established himself in Victoria township as a farmer in 1853. He was accidentally killed in 1856 by falling earth.
Prosperity in Victoria was general owing partly to the fact that the Swedes almost from the start, became owners of the soil, partly to the circumstances that Methodism gained a firm foothold there from the first, making for industry, temperance and good morals. Furthermore this settlement is the most Americanized Swedish community in the whole state, resulting in early stoppage of immigration, the majority of its present inhabitants having been born and reared in this county. From the very start Methodism became a power in this community and its still firmly rooted there. The Swedish Methodist Church is the only house of worship in this place and almost entire population o the village and surrounding community are members of that congregation. Neither Lutherans, Baptists nor Mission Friends have sought to establish missions there and encroachments by secular organizations in this stronghold of Methodism is out of the question.
The population of Vistoria in 1900 was 329. The number of Swedish-Americans in the village proper together with the surrounding settlement we have been unable to ascertain.
From: History of Swedes in Illinois
Biographies Obituaries Emigrants
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