Gustaf John Johansson

Gustaf John Johansson was born December 26th, 1829 in Tryggrop, Rydaholm Socken, Smaland, Sweden. After service in the compulsory Swedish military, Gustaf was married on March 25th, 1855 to Stina. Between the years 1858 and 1866 they had four children together Emma Maria, Anders Johan, Anna Mathilda, and Jonas. In their journals it was evident they were comfortable with regards to home and food, but there was a general resentment against the government and the Church of Sweden. There was no land reform and it was believed that the State Church was not an example of good Christian leadership. The Church leaders were more interested in the contact with the upper classes and society and there was little Christian fellowship in the Church. There was also a threat of future military conscription for their boys and little opportunity for advancement in the developing industrial revolution. Trying to find work in the newly emerging industries was difficult for Gustaf. He did find some work in the factories at Tabergand. Around this time Gustaf heard from migrants who had immigrated into America and the tales of their opportunities. Word had also traveled about the freedoms found there, specifically with regards to religious freedom. Gustaf made the decision to go to America in 1869. He had a sale of his property and arranged for the money from the sale to take care of his family until he could send back some money from America. He kept only what he needed for the passage and expenses. There would have been enough for Stina but the man in charge of the sale absconded with the money and she was left in dire need. She had to take work wherever she could to obtain a little money for feeding her children. In the meantime Gustaf had gone to New York, most likely Jamestown, where most of the Swedes went first in America, but soon he left for Lockport, Illinois where he found work in a factory. Though he could read a little he did not trust himself to write the letters and send money to Stina so he had a fellow worker do this. The tragedy was that this man kept the money and did not write to Stina. On April 25th 1871, the family obtained their emigration documents and set sail ready to go to America. With brief stops, Stina and the children landed by train in Lockport in May, 1871. Gustaf was able to provide a nice frame house for the family. The next stage of the Johansson’s journey came by encouragement for Swedish settlement in a newly opened homestead tract in now Phelps County, Nebraska. In 1863 a boost from the homestead act allotted each person who applied 160 acres of land to develop. After some meetings several families came together and decided to move to Nebraska. Not seeing much of a future in working in the factories of Illinois, the Gustaf family saved up enough money to purchase lumber and supplies for building a home in Nebraska, buying livestock, and grain. In April 1876 they set out for Nebraska. Opting to ride in the freight section of the train, they arrived at Fort Kearney, Nebraska without incident and went by wagon, and foot, to the emigrant house at Phelps Center, staying there until they had completed a house on the land allotted to them. 

Gustaf John Johansson story is very familiar to many Swedish migrants coming to America. When applying Lee’s theory to Swedish migration, there are a multitude of Push and Pull factors. Both a very strong Push and Pull factor was religious freedom. The Push factor was state’s union with the Swedish churches. Where as a counter to that, the Pull factor was America’s openness to religious freedoms. A second factor was a lack of land reform in Sweden, favoring noble classes over others. Where as, in America, a strong Pull factor for many was the availability of cheap land to be settled and farmed. The Intervening Obstacle for many Swedes was a lack of available funding and leaving behind friends and family who were too elderly or otherwise unable to make the journey. Other influencing factors that Djetti’s model would point to would be Swedish populations lived in relatively higher populations than that of the undeveloped Midwest. The denser population moving to a less population region would be a positive effect in migrating. One of the biggest henderenses for migration in the Dejetti model is the massive distance between Sweden in America. However, innovations in transportation by boat greatly decreased the risks involved in the transatlantic voyage.

Written by Micah Huyser

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