THE INFLUENCE OF THE SCANDINAVIANS ON RUTLAND TOWN
A thousand years ago, the greatest sailors in the world were the Norsemen. They made many daring trips into the open waters of the Atlantic. They discovered Iceland and Greenland in the year 1000. The history of the Scandinavian people and their great influence on the development of America has been recorded in the books of history. As early as 1638, fifty emigrants were brought over by a Swedish Trading Company to first settle in Delaware called Port Christiana in honor of the Swedish queen, later changed to New Sweden. At this time, Sweden was a world power having been an ally with Great Britain and the Netherlands in the Thirty Years’ War.
The great influx of these rugged Norsemen in this area came in the 1850’s. Living in the old world was difficult. The people desired a better way of life and hoped they could do so in the wonderful new lands of which they had heard. The common folks felt there was no future for their children in the old country.
Many of the Swedish emigrants came to this area in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Some went to Mineville, New York and then drifted back to Proctor, West Rutland and Center Rutland.
My mother had two aunts and three uncles who came from Sweden in the 1880’s. One of her relatives walked from Proctor to Concord, New Hampshire and founded the Swenson’s Granite Company, one of the largest granite companies in New Hampshire. Some stayed in the area but others journeyed to other parts of America and established themselves in the business and professional world.
In 1901, an aunt of my mother’s went back to Sweden. Her glowing account of America, the great land of opportunity, fascinated my mother and encouraged by her aunt, she left Falkenburg, Sweden in June of 1903 for Goteborg where she took a ship across the North Sea to Hull, England and over by land to Liverpool where she boarded the Carpathia who was returning from her maiden voyage from England to America. (It was the Carpathia that rescued 706 persons when the Invincible Titanic sunk on April 15, 1912.)
Landed at Ellis Island, her label indicated that she should take the train to Rutland, Vermont and then to transfer to the Delaware and Hudson Railroad to West Rutland. There someone would meet her. The young man who her Aunt sent out to meet her never made it. The kind engineer held the train and he walked with my mother to Barnes Street where he knew a Swedish family lived. Then she was brought to her Aunt’s home from there. Mother worked as a domestic for some of the socially prominent families in Rutland Dr. Seaver, a retired Congregational minister, the Pond Family and the Grimm Family. She could recount many interesting stories of these families. In 1909, she married my Dad. She brought ten children into this world. In the early years of their marriage, my Dad traveled all over the country for the Vermont Marble Company and so mother assumed much of the responsibility in bringing up the family.
In 1967, my mother and I spent the summer in Sweden. After sixty five years she re-
turned to the land of her birth. And as the Great Swedish Liner, the Gripsholm, sailed into the harbor at Goteborg, it was a beautiful sight to behold when mother met her sister and two brothers after being separated for sixty five years. They recounted the departure of mother for America, the eldest of the children in the Swenson family. As she bade them goodby hardly seventeen years old and walked down the road – only to be gone for five years to make her fortune and return to Sweden to make life easier for mother and father. She returned sixty five years later having lived a rich and beautiful life in her adopted land. Here she had given much to the community – over fifty years in P.T.A. work, a life member of the Center Rutland P.T.A. In times of sorrow, she was called on to console the bereaved. In happy occasions she was there to share this also. In the early years she was often called on to be with expectant mothers and ushered into the world little cherubs who could not wait for the busy doctor. Her home was a gathering place for the neighbors – the Polish, the Italians, the Hungarians, the Irish – who would share with her a cup of her Swedish coffee with Swedish delicacies which she had baked. To her Barrett Hill family she was known as “Gram”. Her door was always open to all – the very young, the middleaged, and those who were in their twilight years of life. She was not a Swede but an American. She truly represented all ethnic groups who came to this fair land because they found a way of life which was rich and full and beautiful.
Leonard A. Johnson Center Rutland, Vermont July 7, 1975
From Town Historical Book 1976