Letter from the colony "New Gotland" to the Gotlands Allehanda



"Cloud County Kansas, 6 August 1875.

"For the information of our friends, who with interest follow us, when we emigrated and who still remember us, and also for others who possibly could be amused by hearing something from this place, I will give, as far as is in my ability, an impartial representation of the state of things in the State of Kansas, and in the settlement New Gotland in particular.

"Most of our colony members left the island of Gotland on the 21st of May 1870. A hard weather met us on the sea, but after several adventures and difficulties we arrived all still with good health and sound spirits on the 23rd of June tochaschristinaandersson.jpg (224832 bytes) Kansas. After only a few days rest at this place a part of the company gahnstrom.jpg (41759 bytes)journeyed with horses and wagons 70 miles west to a river, called the Republican River, lying at 39° north latitude, to which two Gotlanders, Andersson and Ahlquist, already in the autumn of 1869 obtained a foothold.

"There we settled down, and the place for settlement was chosen, and after the land office had assured us about the ownership of our farms, we took possession of the same on the 8th of July, and already by the month's end we had most dwelling-houses finished and began our farm work. In the memory of the dear father island we named the place New Gotland.

rosval.jpg (37487 bytes)"The colony's members were the following: J. Ahlqvist, C. Andersson,ahlquist.jpg (37589 bytes) P.M. Rosvall, A.C. Rosvall, G.W. Norlin, N.H. Hansson, H. Hansson, R. Selander, P. Yorgeson, L. Gahnstrom, J. Westberg, P. Olsson, G. Melin, 0. Ahlqvist, and O. Cederlund.

"Though after being subjected to adversity of all sorts, our colony has still,olofandersson.jpg (76362 bytes) during the past five years, arrived at a good position. For the present we own 15 pair of horses and mules, 3 pair of oxen, and 230 cows and cattle. We own besides 4 reapers, 5 hay-mowers, 2 molasses presses, and ordinary farm tools of all sorts. Most of us live now in neat stone or wood houses. We have wood for household requirements, and rich access to fresh running water. The state of health among us is without exception good.



In the second Hablingbo book, Hablingbo sockens historia, Sten Almqvist, of the Emigrants Institute in Vaxjo, Sweden, wrote an article about the emigration from the parish: Emigrationen fran Hablingbo. The section about the Concordia Baptists, and Lars Gahnstrom, was called "Amerika, Amerika!" Here is my translation of the article.

I think you will find that Mr. Almqvist has an excellent understanding of the situation here in America at the time the immigrants came to Concordia, Kansas. From his writing we can gain some understanding of the immigrants coming to this country. David Larson


America, America!


The heavy crop failure at the close of the 1860's, which got the mass-emigration on the mainland to begin, had no counterpart in Hablingbo. Only one person emigrated, namely the farmhand Carl Henrik Qviberg, who worked at one of the farms at Petes. Where in America he set out for, there is no information about, for they still had not, in the Swedish ports, begun to establish ship's (passenger) lists.

The family Qviberg came from Kvinnegirda in Havdhem parish. Members of the family joined the first Baptist church parish on Gotland, which was founded in 1858. The Baptists were subjected to a certain persecution from both priests and parish. It resulted that they began to emigrate to America, a land that, one heard from layman and preacher, flowed with milk and honey and there one could freely worship one's God. Already in the middle of the 1860's some emigrated from Havdhem in groups, and by 1873 over 50 persons had left the parish, of which nearly a dozen were Baptists.

Certainly it was talked about far and wide in Hablingbo concerning the America fever, which ran rampant in Havdhem and about the farmhand Qviberg's venture to set out on so long a journey. 1870 began with the westward migration in earnest. At that time, Hans Hansson departed with parts of his family. They left Hallbenarve. The farm subsequently came to cease as a self-sustaining part. Hans Hansson, born in 1821, had married to the farm in 1843 when he married the young Anna Lenna Johanna Joransdotter, born in 1827. They had five children of whom the three youngest followed the parents. The son, who was called Hans Niklas, and was born in 1849, and who in 1864 resided in Visby, left Goteborg/Gothenberg three weeks after his parents.

The Hanssons joined a large group of emigrants from south Gotland. It was at this time normal that one would travel in this manner (in a group) .One could often negotiate about the price and through contacts with earlier emigrants already in America decide where in the huge USA they should settle. Since they were farmers, they intended to acquire farmland in America. Settling oneself in the vicinity of one another, they could help each other. It could or could not be difficult to learn the new language. One similar idea was that it was also an advantage when one could found a Swedish church parish. So they had done in Minnesota, it was told.

The goal of this emigrant group was Kansas, the prairie state which lies in the middle of the United States. Now after the Civil War, a hundred thousand Americans and immigrants were moving toward the land's interior. The great railroad, coast to coast, was finished and hundreds of roads and railroads built, often by the men who would become the inhabitants of the Middle West. It was a gigantic game in which these Gotland pioneers took part. Hundreds of Gotlanders, ten of thousands of Swedes, and millions of Europeans, who shipped over the Atlantic to later be transported widely to the continent's interior. The last part of the trip went over roadless land. They had reached the final goal: New Gotland.

The first group of Baptist emigrants left Klintehamn already in January 1870. It was pretty unusual that they traveled so early in the year because one wanted to avoid the winter storms on the North Sea and the Atlantic. Agent for this trip was the businessman Axel Samuel Rechnitzer, who represented the English Company Allan Brothers & Co. Samuel Rechnitzer had come to Gotland in the 1850's and as a preacher there began to spread the Baptist teaching.

He had attained great prosperity in the south (Sudret), above all in Havdhem, Nas, and Grotlingbo, where he once owned a farm. Into this, the first group, arrived the farmer and local leader Paul Mattias Rosvall from Havdhem. He and several of his fellow believers would in 1877 found the Baptist parish in Concordia in close association with the settlement New Gotland. Presumably Rosvall became leader of this emigrant party by virtue of his leadership abilities.

The group, which the Hansson family joined, came to be talked about through a "tidningsbrev" (letter in the newspaper), which came to the Gotlands Allehanda (newspaper) in 1875. Often such letters were a way to get further immigrants to settle down in "the new home-district." One wanted very much to have familiar people as neighbors.

Indirectly we understand by the letter that it was no longer small brigs, which were used for the transport. The Emigration had become a well built-up industry. Emigrant agents in the home district took down payment on the fares and booked trips and gave advice. General agents were found in larger sea-towns. England had become Europe's "steamboat builder". New York was the leading immigration harbor, because the city had Europe in the front and the Middle West at their back, and Chicago was the hub in the immigration wheel. Without steamboats and railroads America would not become populated so early and so quickly.

With help of the letters in the newspapers and what we from other sources have researched, we can follow the Hansson family. Through conversation outside the church and in the villages the emigrant group developed. Contact was made with the emigration agents in Visby. 130 Riksdalers for adults, half that for children, and infants free to New York, were the prices. 12 Riksdalers was paid in deposit to the agent Abraham Carlsson at St. Anga.

On the 17th of May 1870 they got the necessary out-moving papers at the Parish Registry Office. They left Visby on the 21st of May on a steamboat, which left at the scheduled time. From Stockholm now the railroad went to Goteborg/Gothenberg. They arrived there on the 24th of May. They were allotted a place in the shipping company's lodging, left the America-chests for loading, got the tickets, and sailed for Halifax on the 26th of May.

In Halifax the train waited which took the emigrants to Liverpool, where the big Atlantic steamboats waited to take aboard their 700-1000 passengers. It took around 10 days for the trip to New York. There they had to take themselves through customs and the medical examinations before they took their places on the emigrant train to Kansas City.

The Hanson family had tickets to Junction City. They possibly here purchased further fare to Salina, the already celebrated Wild West city. Later they had to take themselves to the settlement they decided upon. It lay not too far from the newly founded Swedish city, Lindsborg. They were at last there. They baptized their settlement after the home island in Sweden, but possibly also because they were hoping for a good land.

In 1877 Hans Hansson's son-in-law, Peter Niklas Joransson, emigrated with his wife and son, also from Hallbenarve. In 1878, finally, Hans Hansson's eldest child, the daughter Christina Magdalena, born in 1844, emigrated from Stjups. She had become widowed at Stjups in 1877 and traveled to the family in America with her two children. We can here without hesitation speak of "family emigration".


New Gotland at Concordia and New Gottland at Lindsborg, Kansas

By David Larson


Sten Almqvist has the New Gotland community of Cloud county Kansas, where the Baptists came to, located down in McPherson county near Lindsborg. Indeed Concordia is near Lindsborg, but he has it too near. Notice that the Letter from the colony "New Gotland" is datelined "Cloud County".

Lindsborg, Kansas is one of the better-known Swedish towns in America. A joke tells of the Swede who upon arriving in Chicago, looked around in amazement at its size, and said, 'if this is Chicago, what must Lindsborg be like! I also note Sten Almqvist's description of Lindsborg in the caption to the picture on page 6, as the most Swedish place in America.

Southeast of Lindsborg there is a community named New Gottland. It is still today a thriving community with both a Lutheran and a Covenant church. I have spoken to the pastors of each church on the phone, and with their help am trying to determine if there were indeed any Gotlanders in the New Gottland-Lindsborg community. To date we have not identified any Gotlanders there, though there were at least 3 Gotlanders in Lindsborg itself.

In the place-name books on Kansas, this community is mentioned, while the Concordia-New Gotland community is only noted in more comprehensive geographical surveys of the state, which show the Gotland cemetery, and old Gotland school locations. The place-name books say that New Gottland near Lindsborg was named for the settler’s expectation of 'ett nytt gott land', a new good land, and for the island out in the Baltic, Gotland.

The earliest reference I can find mentions the 'new good land' but does not mention Gotland. This is in a county history for McPherson county: under the bio of a Swan Burk, one of the founders of the New Gottland Lutheran church, and one of the first officers of the New Gottland township. The first reference I find which mentions Gotland is from 1932: "The name New Gottland was chosen, partially because Gottland means good land in Swedish and partially because an island in Sweden is called that.

From then on the two concepts are linked; I'm not sure they should be. As an example of a geographical misunderstanding going the other way across the Atlantic, the American author of the McPherson county history has Swan Burk's birthplace in Sweden, the county Vastergotland, referred to as a town.