Friday, October 16, 2015
Swedish Immigrants homesteading in Kansas by Linda K. Hubalek
This past weekend was the 75th anniversary of our Svensk Hyllningsfest, Lindsborg's bi-annual festival honoring the Swedish pioneers who settled in the Smoky Valley of central Kansas. It's been held on odd years ever since 1941. The two highlights for most people are the school children dancing for the opening ceremonies on Friday, and the Saturday parade.
All the school children, grades one through eight, are in Swedish costumes and perform three dances per class. It's fun to watch the timid steps of the little ones, to the accomplished maypole dance of the oldest girls.
You may ask, how is this related to our western blog theme of "Sweethearts of the West"?
Several ethnic groups settled in Kansas after the Civil War, because of the Homestead Act giving free land to anyone who would live on it.
My Swedish ancestors came to America in 1868 and settled in Illinois. A year later, a pastor from Galesburg, Illinois organized a group of over 200 immigrants to move and settle together in central Kansas. They drew by lottery what land they would homestead, and built sod houses or dugouts to live on the prairie.
At that time the railroad were being built across Kansas. For an income source, the Swedish immigrant men worked in teams, one man worked away from home laying the railroad tracks going west, while the other man stayed home working on their homesteads and taking care of two families.
So you may not think of a Swede being a part of the frontier and "wild west", but they, and many other immigrants, were living and working in that important era of western history.
If you're interested in reading about the immigrants homesteading in Kansas, please enjoy the historical fiction book series Planting Dreams, featuring my Swedish ancestors.