Biography of A. Joseph Anderson of Princeton, Illinois

In a little town called Breyd, Jonkolvigelas, Sweden, three young men, namely Joseph Anderson, John Peterson and Swan Linstrom, jovially would say they were going to America until after a while they began to really think seriously and decided they would venture out into this strange land and come to America. Knowing no one in America they had no special destination but just that they were going to America. They started out with their little Swedish trunks, bidding good bye to their loved ones, and took a boat for America on Good Friday in the year 1869.

When they came on the boat they met others who were also going to America and they fell in company with three other young men whose names were Victor Peterson, Joe Johnson and Solomon Swanson, also Swedish, and these young men questioned Big Joe’s crowd where they were destined to go and they said ‘to America.’ These other men said they were going to Princeton, Illinois. Big Joe and his pals said, ‘We’ll just go there too!’ So then these six men all traveled together, bound for Princeton, Illinois, but what a trip they had coming over. They didn’t have boats like they have now and did they ride in Pullmans from New York to Chicago? Yes, cattle Pullmans. They were put on a stock train and were on the way six days from New York to Chicago, but did six robust young men mind that? They were going to America to make a future for themselves. Then on from Chicago they came on a passenger train that arrived in Princeton at 8:30 P.M. on a Saturday evening but there was no one there to meet them. Not knowing a word of English, ask our young men how they would feel in a position like that. But they were not the only immigrants arriving in Princeton those days, so it was quite customary for those who had been here awhile to go down to meet trains to see out of curiosity whether there would be any immigrants arriving.

They would kindly find them a place to stay until they could get work, etc., so it happened that a couple of young folks were there at this particular evening and questioned these men if they had any place to go and they had to answer in the negative. They took them to a family by the name of Nelson. . . . It was not such a large house then so to take in six husky Swedes and find a place for them to sleep was no easy task. They were willing to sleep on the floor and were very kindly taken care of until they were placed on farms to work. And how kind and patient American people were to them in trying to teach them the language and work.

I remember father told of one boss he had worked for faithfully and hard chopping wood or trees. The man wanted father to lie down to sleep after the noon meal awhile, but the Swedish word for grinding is slip so father misunderstood him and took up his axe and started for the door intending to grind his axe, but the boss grabbed him and then laid down on the floor and closed his eyes demonstrating in this way what he meant for him to do. This is only one incident of many of how patient and kind they were to them although they had to work hard and it was not long until they became citizens and loyal Americans.

With them Big Joe worked hard and saved his earnings for four years and then bought a tract of lands. I dare not say if it was an 80 acre tract north of Dover but anyway 40 acres had been timberland with all the stumps left and he would tell how he could stand on one stump and chop on 13 stumps around him. He cleared all of them away and farmed those 40 acres and built a new home for his bride. Did they have all modern conveniences like we have in this day and age—Frigidaires, electric washers, stoves and lights, etc.? I think they said it was two rooms and a creek close by where mother carried all the water from a spring for all household use.

I don’t remember how long they lived there but my oldest sister Jennie was born there and then he sold this farm for a nice profit and moved into Princeton, I think for a year or less. He then bought a farm north of Princeton now owned by Mrs. Judd Shugart and there they lived and prospered until they moved to Princeton to live a retired life in 1900, building a new home where they lived until they passed away, mother in 1926 and father now in 1936.

Some time before 1883 during revival meetings. . . the folks became converted to their Christian faith and joined the local Mission [Covenant] church in 1883. Both mother and father were loyal members and served their church in many ways and their home was always a home of welcome hospitality to all friends and ministers and when Rev. Pamp moved to Princeton he and father came to find out they had trained in the army in Sweden at the same time, also Rev. August Pohl. How Rev. Pohl, when he would come to Princeton, would march, father and himself priding themselves on what stalwart soldiers they were. Rev. Pamp and father also decided they had come over to America on the same boat, jovially saying they could be quite certain about that as there was only one Good Friday that year. All these incidents happened before they knew one another but it made a binding friendship when they compared their experiences that way. I wonder if it might be interesting also to mention that father or “Big Joe” was the only member of the six who stuck to Princeton all his life. The other five members came on farther west, Victor Peterson locating in Kewanee, John Peterson and Joe Johnson came on to Aurora, Neb., and Swan Linstrom and Solomon Swanson located around Gresham, Neb. Father or ‘Big Joe’ was the last one to pass on so I think that speaks well for Princeton as the best place to live. So, like Abraham, he left his Fatherland and went into a strange country and settled and the Lord blessed and prospered his faithful servant and at his passing his family tree was branching out with four daughters, one son, four sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, 24 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Source: Princeton Illinois newspaper article June 18, 1936 written by daughter Verna: “Trace Life of Early Swedish Settler Here”

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