My father, Gustaf Magnuson, came from Urshult, the next parish to the west. His birthplace, a farm in Vesterbotorp, Bosgard, bordered Lake Asnen. Here, grandfather owned an island with the ruins of an ancient castle, said to have been the home of Bo, a Viking chief. Boston, England, was supposed to have been named from this same Bo.
My mother's maiden name was Eva Peterson Fröberg. The family name of Fröberg started in the early seventeen hundreds when Gudmund Josefsson took the name in honor of his birthplace, fröbsjohult. The most noted member of the family Magnus Gudmundson Fröberg, who lived from 1778 to 1842. Born a poor boy, he worked his way up to the position of Director of Economics. The money he made, as a wealthy ship owner, he left to found a home for delinquent boys. This Fröberg Foundation in Kalmar consists of a school and a home. In the garden is a monument in his memory.
Petter Magnus Fröberg, my mother's father, had a family of six children, of which my mother was the second. They lived at Esbjornala, which was also on the shore of Lake Asnen. It was a large and beautiful place, for grandfather was a wealthy farmer. I remember him as a jovial man who loved children.
Kroksjomala was a rundown farm on the shore of a lake, Lilla Kroksjon, when my father bought it. Being a man of vision, father soon began an elaborate plan of renovation. He broke new fields, drained swamps, built roads, constructed stone walls, built a new house and barn, and dug an extensive drainage system. He cut some of the woodland and sold for timber. Some he used for making charcoal. I can still remember this "komila" work., done during the dark, gloomy, winter months. Eventually, our farm became a model in the community and father a man of prominence. Through the years, he held many important positions, one of which was president of the aldermen.
One of my earliest memories goes back to 1876 when we moved out of the old farmhouse. I was only three, but I remember watching the workmen tear out the fireplace, so that the house, which had been sold, could be moved to its new location. Our new home, of two-and-a-half stories, had thirteen rooms, of which six were large and seven small. We had no inside toilet and got our water from a well outside. There was another well near the barn for the cattle. For livestock, we had three pair of oxen, about two dozen cows, pigs, chickens and large flocks of sheep.
My first school teacher was my mother. As my older sister Ida was in poor health and could not attend school regularly, mother had to help her with her reading at home. While mother worked at her spinning wheel and Ida sat on a footstool beside her, I would sneak up behind them and look at the book over Ida's shoulder. Soon I had learned the alphabet and could read as well as Ida. When I was six, we both went to school in Tingsgyrd. Since it was a two-mile walk, we had to start early in the morning. In the winter, we left, and dark when we returned. it was dark when we returned.
I must have been adventuresome, even in early childhood, since the following incident happened when I was two-and-a-half years old. While our new house was being built, I climbed up on the staging of the roof. Suddenly I lost my hold and began to roll down the roof. Luckily for me, my dress caught on a nail before I reached the ground, and there until I was rescued by a workman.
As I grew older, I found many exciting things to do. It was fun to pick the highest tree in the forest and climb to the top, or run along the ridge of the barn roof. Once, when I was picking apples, I ventured too far out on a limb it broke. I fell on a boulder and broke three ribs. On another occasion, I sliced off a piece of my thumb with an axe. I put the flesh back and had no ill effects. Then, there was the "viper", a poisonous snake, said to be on our farm. I planned to kill it when I saw it. One day, when gathering hazelnuts, I heard a noise, and there was a snake, about two feet long. It was reddish brown in color and seemed to be walking an its tail. I dropped my nuts and ran.
It was always fun to take a dare. There was the time I tried riding a two-year-old colt that had never been broken. Bareback, I clung to his mane as he dashed off in a mad gallop. I was thrown, but escaped unhurt. On another occasion, I "dared" to cross an inlet where the ice was very thin. I broke through the ice, but managed to crawl out again. Another time, I got mixed up with a bull. This bull was so vicious that he could only be controlled by a rope tied to a ring in his nose. Once, when I came into the barnyard, he broke loose from his post and came for me, scooping me up with his horns. I landed backwards on his head, but managed to turn around so that I was sitting, a horn in each hand, with my legs dangling in front, covering his eyes. Father handed me a stick and I beat the bull until he ran blindly into a swamp, where he got stuck, and I was able to get off.
My playmates were our neighbors, Alfred and Gottfried Davidson and their cousin Fabian Ryden. Fabian and his sister were living with the Davidsons until their parents, who had gone to America, sent for them. In the winter, we skated. In the summer, we fished and hiked in the woods. Occasionally, we joined the adults in a fox and rabbit hunt, although I never did care about shooting a gun myself. I shot a gun only once in my life and once was enough. My playmates had found an old rusty pistol which they dared me to fire. I pulled the trigger and received such a terrific kick that I was knocked to the ground. They had packed the barrel with powder. The Davidsons had a boat which we used when fishing on Lake Kroksjohn. One day, when my parents were away, we decided to row to the opposite side of the lake, something we had been forbidden to do. When a storm came up, the other boys wanted to turn back, but I taunted them about being afraid, so we went on. Suddenly, my oar slipped out of the lock into the water. As I bent over to grab it, I fell headlong into the lake. Although I was nine years old at this time, I could not swim. A man on the shore, seeing our predicament, shouted to the boys to get the boat closer to me, or to throw me an oar to hang on to. They finally succeeded in getting near enough to grab on to my cap, which clung so tightly to my head, that they were then able to pull me into the boat. Some time later, when I did finally learn how to swim, it was by accident. I had been using a bunch of straw to keep myself afloat. The straw suddenly separated and I found myself over my head. I tried to swim and found, to my surprise, that I could.
I finished grade school when I was eleven years old. As this was too young to be confirmed, father sent me back to school for another year. I learned very little during this "post graduate" year, for the teacher paid little attention to me. Then in the summer of 1887, I joined the confirmation class, to receive religious instruction from Pastor Gustaf Mozart. Once a week, ninety of us met in the parish house of Tinsgryd. The emotional approach did not appeal to me. I wanted to know and be convinced. When I was positive the Bible was God's work and His revelation, I found it easy to accept it all in faith. On Transfiguration Sunday the following year, our class was examined and confirmed. That day was a glorious one for me. I was so moved that I resolved to remain ever faithful to my savior and my church. It was a sacred moment when I felt the nearness of the Holy Spirit. I knew then that I was a Christian and God's child.
One other thing happened that same year which was to have a definite effect on my life. All during my childhood I had been troubled with nosebleeds. Finally, we found a doctor who was able to remedy this. But, as a result, I lost my sense of smell.
My happy childhood came to a sudden end the year I was confirmed. Father lost a lot of money by giving security to unscrupulous merchants in the city. He lost 30,000 crowns on one of them, who went into bankruptcy. As we had to dismiss our servants, it fell to me, the eldest boy, to take care of the horses. It was a severe winter that year, with the snow up to eight feet deep. Since the wells froze I had to take our six horses to a running spring a half mile away. During these trips, one of our horses frequently threw me into a snowdrift. The following summer, our farm and house were sold at auction, and our family had to move, temporarily, into the newly-built home of a neighbor. I worked that summer on the farm of my aunt. Then, the next winter, my mother's father came to our assistance, by giving mother her inheritance in advance. Thus, my father was able to buy another farm in Nedanback, Glimarka, in the northern part of Skåne. Moving that winter was a hardship, for we had thirty miles to travel, over bad roads, in cold and stormy weather. My father and I made two trips, alone, with the furniture. Often, to get through the drifts, we had to get out and shovel before we could go on. Once the load tipped over.
On one of these trips, I caught a severe cold. I had high fever and rheumatic pains so intense, that I often fainted or became delirious. For three months, we doctored locally, without success. Finally, my father wrapped me in blankets, bedded me down on straw in the wagon, and drove in to the hospital at Solvesborg. He carried me into the doctor's office and laid me on the couch. The doctor, a congenial man, held a piece of sparkling glass in front of my eyes and said, "Look hard at this and you will be well." I believed, and did as he said. "Now," he continued optimistically, "You are better. Get up and walk!" I tried, but the pain was great, and I fainted. When I came to, he just smiled and said, You did not look hard enough. Try again." When I fell again, he told my father that I would have to stay at the hospital for treatment. Here I was given medication, had my limbs massaged and took daily hot baths. Hemlock needles had been boiled in the water. At the end of three weeks, I was pronounced cured and sent home.
Now, that we could afford only one hired man on our farm, I had to work hard. In the summertime, I was up with the sun, and did not get to bed until late at night. Very often, in the winter months, I had to rise at three in the morning to help with the threshing before sunrise. At that time, we still did all our threshing by flail. After threshing, we went into the woods or fields and worked until sundown. After that, there were always other chores to do.
We had six children in our family. Besides Ida and me, there were Anna, born in 1876, Sven, born in 1880, Karin born in 1884, and Gunnar, born in 1888. Olga was born in 1892, after I left home. Ida was no longer living at home, for she had immigrated to America in the fall of 1888, after my father lost his money. She was now settled in Brooklyn, working as a servant girl for six dollars a month. We figured this out to be about twenty-four kroner, big money from our point of view. Her letters seemed to arouse dreams in me and add to my discontent at home. I had never felt at home in our new environment As we had come from a different province, our neighbors seemed to look upon us as strangers, and they considered us somewhat outlandish. As they were not very friendly, we tended to depend on ourselves a great deal.
Then., in the spring of 1890 it happened! Ida sent me a steamboat ticket to America! My dream of going to America become a reality! I was only sixteen-and-a-half at this time, so it took some arguing on my part, but finally, I was given permission to leave home, too. Besides my ticket, I also had twenty-five kronor, which father game me. My baggage consisted of a homemade trunk and a knapsack. Mother wept when I kissed her good-bye. Then father drove me to the station where I was to take the train to Malmö, and from there a boat to England. There was no sentimentality when I said good-bye to father. "Take care of yourself, Peter, were his last words. At Malmö, I found that I had to wait several days for the boat to England, so I stayed at a hotel where there were some other emigrants. Taking their advice, I bought a bottle of cognac as a remedy for seasickness. On the trip across the North Sea on a small steamer, I was indeed seasick, but I was so miserable, crowded with all the other passengers below deck, that I didn't think of the cognac. When we landed in England, my belongings were being examined by customs, one of the officials spied it. He held it up, and then spoke to me in English, which, of course, I couldn't understand. Then he called to another man in uniform, and the two of them had a discussion. Finally, one of them opened the bottle, took a drink, handed it to his companion who also took a drink. Then he put back the cork and returned the bottle to my knapsack. I don't remember what happened to the bottle after that.
In Liverpool, we had to wait several more days before starting across the Atlantic. The small hotel where I stayed was dirty and the food poor, but I didn't go hungry, for when I left Sweden, my mother had supplied me with enough bread, cheese and "korv" to last until I reached New York. At the hotel, I made friends with three young men of about my age. To be like the rest, I invested in a pipe and smoking tobacco. On our ten-day trip across the Atlantic, we had only a day of stormy weather, during which I experienced a slight sea- sickness, although some of the passengers were sick for the entire trip. Land at last! New York Harbor was a wonderful sight, with the Statue of Liberty there to welcome us. At the pier, I waited a long time for my baggage to be examined by customs, but nobody seemed to notice me. Then I discovered that the officer, after examining a piece of luggage, put a chalk mark on it, and it was ready for shipment. Becoming desperate, I searched and found a piece of chalk, made a mark myself, and soon found my luggage through customs. This was my first experience in shifting for myself in a new land.
Because I was an immigrant, I was now sent by boat to the barge office to wait for my sister, Ida. I was placed in a separate room, fenced off with wire netting, and stayed here from early forenoon until four o'clock in the afternoon., when she arrived to let me out of the "coop." During this time, I cried a little, for I felt lonely. Some of the attendants tried to comfort me, but I could not understand them.
When Ida finally arrived, she took me with her to the house in Brooklyn, where she worked as a servant girl. As we rode over on the ferry, she noticed the pipe sticking out of my pocket. She pulled it out, threw it into the East River and said, "I don't want you to smoke, Peter." It was sixteen years before I took up smoking again.
During those first two weeks, I lived in a rented, 6 X 10 hall bedroom, while I looked for work. Of the money father had given me, I now had only two kroner left. This I exchanged for fifty cents in American money. In getting, a job, I was unsuccessful from the start. Everywhere I applied it was the same: "You are only a boy. You are too small. I was five-foot-three. Then, one day, at an employment agency, I learned that a man was needed on a farm on Long Island. I did not qualify as a man, but I assured the agent that I was experienced farmer, so he accepted my sister's two dollar fee and sent us on our way.
We took the train out to Hempstead, Long Island. and then set out walk to the farm. It was a hot day. The roads were my dusty and my heavy Swedish clothes made me uncomfortably warm. After we had plodded along for about half a mile, we met a man in a carriage. He stopped and asked us where we were going. My sister in her poor English, explained that I had been sent to work on Mr. Kosell's farm. When the man heard this, he became angry and spoke so violently that, although I could not understand him, I guessed that he was swearing. This upset Ida so that she started to cry, and I followed suit, because I knew that something must be wrong. Ida then explained to me in Swedish that this man was Mr. Kosell, himself, and he was angry, because he had paid the agency five dollars to get him a man. Instead, they had sent him a small boy. Then, much to our surprise, Mr. Kosell seemed to calm down, and I heard him say in clear Swedish, "Kan pojken köra hasten? (Can the boy drive horses?) I assured him happily, in Swedish, that I had been driving horses since I was nine years old At this, he turned his carriage around and drove us back to his farm. On the way, he spoke kindly to us in Swedish, telling us that he, too, had come from Sweden, as a boy, many years ago. He also agreed to let me stay and work on the farm.
Mrs. Kosell received us rather coolly, but did serve us tea and sandwiches. (She was Irish, not Swedish.) Before Ida left, she asked Mr. Kosell what my pay was to be, but he her off vaguely with "We will see." Then she admonished me to be good, obedient and faithful in all my work so I could "make good."
After a supper of more tea and some bread spread with margarine, I was shown my sleeping quarters, on the second floor of an old wagon shed. The floor where I slept consisted of a few planks placed along side of the wall. The rest was open. Should I get up in the dark, there would be the danger of falling down through this open place to some rubbish below. A rickety ladder led up to my "room." Before I went to sleep that night, I prayed as I had not prayed for a long time. I did not sleep much, for there were rats running all over the place. They seemed to be protesting the new intruder.
Then, on the next morning, I met the other hired men. Two of them were Irish, and one was a Finn, who spoke Swedish. When I told him about my sleeping quarters, he saw to it that I came to sleep with the rest of them on the second floor of an old cottage. I also met the three sons of the family. The youngest, who had the name of George Washington, was about my age, and as he could speak some Swedish, we soon became good friends.
For two months I worked on the farm, driving the cultivator, planting tomatoes, weeding vegetables, picking potatoes, and doing everything the other men did. It was pleasant, work which I enjoyed, and Mr. Kosell treated me well. When the summer was over, I asked him about my pay. He told me that would get five dollars for each month. This made me angry, for I knew that the other men were getting twenty-five dollars a month, and I had worked just as hard. So I told him that I was through and asked him for my pay. He tried to get me to stay, by threatening not to pay me unless I did. That provoked me still more so I told him that I would leave without the pay.
"How will you get back to Brooklyn if you have no money?" he asked.
"I'll walk the thirty miles," I answered.
When he saw that I was determined to leave, he offered me twenty dollars a month to stay through the winter. This made me more angry, for I realized that if he thought I was worth that much, I really had been cheated. Finally, when he saw that I was determined to return to the city, he paid me the ten dollars and offered to let me ride to Brooklyn with one of his sons, who was taking a load of vegetables to market. The next day I was back in my hall bedroom.
A week passed without my finding anything to do. Nobody seemed to have any use for a boy. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake in leaving the farm. My sister did not approve of what I had done and told me so in no uncertain terms. Finally, I got a job in a label-cutting factory. I worked here for six months, or until the end of February 1891. The first two months my pay was three dollars a week. The next two months it was three-fifty, and then by New Years, I was earning four dollars a week. By careful planning and rigid economy, I managed to get along on this. I paid one dollar each week for my room, spent a dollar for food and ferry fare, and saved one dollar. Half of the money I had received from Mr. Kosell, I sent to my father in Sweden.
My daily fare at this time consisted of corned beef, stale bread and tea, morning and night. I did not like tea, but it was cheaper than coffee or milk. I did, however, get a free lunch every day at eleven o'clock. In the factory where I worked, there were a number of Irishmen who daily sent me to the corner saloon for a pail of beer. I was trusted with this errand because my fellow-workers knew I would not sample their beer. It was the custom then for the saloons to offer free to their customers an assortment of bread, cheese and meats. This free meal helped me out until I was earning four dollars a week and could afford to include butter, cheese milk and some type of meat in my diet.
I always ate better on Sundays, for then I visited Ida and ate my noon meal with her. We went together to prayer meeting on Sunday afternoon and attended church service in the evening. Between the two services, coffee and sandwiches were served in the basement. I had joined the Lutheran Bethlehem Church of Brooklyn the previous September, one week after going to work in New York. The first dollar I saved from my weeks pay I gave as membership fee to the church.
It was through Elias Johnson, one of the trustees of the church, that I received my next job. He invited me home for dinner, one day after church, thus starting a life-long friendship between us. Elias Johnson owned a news and cigar store where he sold papers, books, stationary and steamship tickets. He offered me the position of helper in his store. I joyfully accepted.
As most of our customers were Swedish, one of my jobs was to send money to Sweden. I also established a paper route. Every Thursday, I delivered the weekly Swedish newspaper, the NOERDSTJERNAN from door to door. The publisher gave me a complimentary copy for life. I also experimented with snuff. By putting together various brands, I came up with a mixture known as Peter Fröberg's brand. It became popular with our customers. When Mr. Johnson visited the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, he left me in sole charge of the store. This was the year that I sent my brother Sven, a steamship ticket, so that he could come to America, too. With him came my sister, Anna. As Sven was only thirteen at the time, he was required to attend public school, so I had to support him partially for that first year. Anna found a job as a seamstress. Both Sven and Anna followed my example, by taking the name of Fröberg, my mother's family name. As there is no English equivalent of ö, I substituted oe., spelling it FROEBERG.
When I worked at the store, I made use of every leisure moment to read the books we had there. I owned few books, myself, one being a Bible, which I had bought in Sweden. The books I read helped me to learn the English language. Soon, I was making short speeches and reciting, poems to the Young Peoples Society at the church. Mr. Johnson urged me to go back to school and study, when he saw how interested I was in reading. When Upsala Academy was founded in 1893, in the basement, of the Swedish Lutheran Bethlehem church in Brooklyn, I saw a chance of furthering my education and perhaps becoming a minister, a dream I had had since childhood. The registration fee was five dollars. The tuition for the fall term was sixteen dollars, making a total of twenty-one dollars. As I had only twenty dollars saved, I had to borrow one dollar to begin. On the day of enrolment, I arrived right after the janitor, who was the first person to register. Seventeen persons enrolled that day and we were put into three classes. The faculty consisted of four teachers: Dr. Lars Beek, President, Philip Anderson, Evald Hellander and Dr. Fritz Jacobson, the pastor of the church, who taught only part time.
My first year at Upsala Academy was one of work and sacrifice. I gave up he store job to Sven and supported myself by selling books after school hours. I shared an unheated hall bedroom with another Swedish bachelor, and I earned my half of the rent by caring for the room. I ate no breakfast, but had my first meal at two o'clock in the afternoon. I found a restaurant in Flatbush where the proprietor, a kindly Swedish gave me a meal for only ten cents. She certainly made no profit on me, for I ate heartily. Some days this was my only meal, for, if I ate again often depended on whether or not I sold a book that afternoon. Many times, an apple or two would have to suffice.
At the end of the school year my financial condition improved. Through Dr. Beck, I was offered a position teaching at a Swedish parochial summer school in Naugatuck, Connecticut. There were ninety-one pupils in the school, and my salary for the summer months was to, be forty dollars. I was to live in the parsonage and get my meals free in the various homes. I gladly accepted the job, which later included leading the Thursday evening services. Then, one day, the pastor suggested that I try to preach a Sunday evening sermon. He gave me two weeks to prepare my outline. When the time came, I was so nervous that I walked up to the pulpit in a mental fog. After the first sentence my head cleared. I had an agreement with Rev. Scott that I would talk as long as I could and then he would come up and fill out the time for me. When I stopped, I was surprised to see him step up to the altar and give the benediction. I had talked for twenty minutes; it had seemed like five. After this sermon, I was asked to preach in Ansonia during the month of August, while the regular pastor went on vacation.
When I returned Upsala in the fall, Dr. Beck assigned me to a new mission field in Morristown, New Jersey. Here each week, I conducted a Thursday evening church service for seventy-six servant girls and six coachmen. Besides the five dollars I received each time, I was always given a good supper by one of the servant girls. Also, they usually gave me enough food to bring home to share with my roommate and some friends next door. This Thursday job helped me to get through the year.
The next summer before beginning my work in Naugatuck and Ansonia, I sold books for three weeks and cleared sixty dollars. Thus, I had ninety dollars when I began my third year I now also had the job of filling the pulpit in Ansonia each Sunday. To do this, I had to leave Brooklyn by noon each Saturday, so I could get the boat to Bridgeport, where I caught the train to Ansonia. I could not get back until I P. M. on Monday, so I missed my classes that day. These classes had to be made up. It was another hard year of study, travel and preaching.
One remarkable event stands out in my mind when I think of my work in Ansonia. When I returned that second summer, the members of the church were despondent because they feared they would lose their place of worship. Some years before, they had bought an old church building from the Episcopalians for $12,000. Of this amount, $3,000 had been paid at the time of the purchase. Now, he sum of $6,000 was nearly due and the parishioners had not a cent to pay the debt. I hopefully told the parishioners that God would help us in some way, but I couldn't see how, nor could they.
One day, while I was in Brooklyn, I received a telegram to attend a meeting of the board of trustees of the church. Alfred Nordstrom, the chairman, opened the meeting by announcing, jokingly, "In order not to offend our good friend, Mr. Farrel, I make a motion that we accept his gift of $6,000 to pay off the debt on the church. I then learned that Mr. Farrel, a wealthy member of the Episcopal Church, had been asked by his church to contribute money for a new organ. He replied, "I will give you $6,000, but the money must go to the Swedish Lutheran Church, as a gift, so that they can pay off the debt that they owe us." There was much rejoicing among our people. Then, a rumor was started that the Lutherans were dissatisfied because Mr. Farrel had not offered to pay off the entire debt of $9,000. Mr. Farrell, hearing this, withdrew his offer. The matter was not straightened out until two months later, when Mr. Farrell came back from his Florida vacation.
After a third year at Upsala Academy, I graduated with class of seven, delivering the commencement address. subject was PERSEVERENCE, something I knew a lot about. After another summer working at Naugatuck and Ansonia, I set off for Rock Island, Illinois, to study at Augustana College. This time I had two hundred dollars saved with which to start out.
Three other members of the graduating class at Upsala enrolled with me that fall. Besides my roommate, Oscar Olson, there were Ernest Carlson and Carl Anders. We were allowed to carry as many hours as we could handle, so I signed up for thirty-six. I figured that, in this way, I could take the required amount of courses in two years instead of four, and thus save time and money.
On the day before Christmas, I was coming back to my room, after having spent the forenoon ice skating, when I was told that Dr. Olson, the college President wanted to see me immediately. After asking me if I had had any experience preaching, he asked me if I would like to preach the Christmas morning service (Julotta) in Princeton, Illinois. The minister had telegraphed that he was sick and needed a substitute. As I had to leave on the one P.M. train, there was no time to get my clean laundry. So, wearing a soiled shirt, I stuffed extra clothes and my psalm book in a little handbag, and off I went. I arrived in Princeton, bought a shirt, and reported at the parsonage at eight o'clock. Here I was warmly welcomed by the minister and his family, celebrating Christmas Eve (Julafton) with them. The minister was well enough to be up and about, and he kept me up until midnight, talking. The next morning, with no prepared sermon, and very little sleep I conducted the service.
It was at the evening service that I first saw Annette Anderson, the girl who later became my wife. Arlene and Adele, her two younger sisters sang, while Annette accompanied them on the piano. During the two weeks that I stayed in Princeton, I had the opportunity to meet her and become better acquainted.
The next summer, I returned to Princeton to teach parochial school. Although I had taught summer school frequently in the past, these thirty-two children were, by far the worst. I did, however, have the opportunity of seeing Nettie often and we found that we enjoyed each other's company, although she was only sixteen-and-a-half at the time. When I went back to college, we started a correspondence which lasted until we were married.
My second year was another hard one, because I had so little money and because I was carrying a heavy schedule. At one time I remember, I lived through a whole month with just one cent in my pocket. Because of the extra courses I had taken the first year, I was able to complete the freshman sophomore years in one. I did the same the next year so I was able to complete the four year college course in two years. This heavy schedule prevented me from taking part in many extra activities but I was a member of the Phrenocosurian Society, the Ling Gymnastic Club and the Messiah Oratorical Chorus. I always regretted, later, that lack of means had necessitated rushing through academy and college. I felt that I did not get a thorough knowledge of some subjects.
A few weeks after graduation, I received a call from Ansonia to continue my work as student pastor. This suited me fine, for I had planned to continue advanced studies at Yale. Before actually enrolling, I attended, as a visitor, one course called Religion and the Bible Interpreted. The professor, who was Jewish, interpreted the Bible in a way that did not agree with my ideas, so I did not enroll. I did not attend Yale at all, for about this time I developed a persistent cough, and fearing tuberculosis, I consulted a doctor. He found no evidence of tuberculosis, but he advised me to give up studying for time. Thus, I went to Ansonia and spent a happy, carefree year.
While in Ansonia, we raised money to have the church renovated and repainted. I also held mid-week services in Thomaston and organized a church in Torrington. I enjoyed the work so much that I made up my mind that I would go back to Rock Island and enroll as a theological student. In September 1899, when I was twenty-six years old I went back to school. For the next two summers, I worked as Dr. Johnson's assistant in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I preached twice on Sunday, and twice during the week. I also taught summer school from nine to three, five days a week. At one time, I had 119 children enrolled. As I had only one woman assistant, this was very strenuous.
I shall always remember the oral examination that I took in church history at the end of the third year. Three days previously, I became sick with severe stomach cramps, after riding my bicycle out in the hot sun. Two days were spent in bed with hot towels on my stomach to relieve the pain. The day of the examination, although chilled and shivering, I resolved to go through with the examination. Dressing in heavy winter underwear and wearing a heavy suit and overcoat, I had two classmates help me to walk the third of a mile to Dr. Forsander's home. The old professor did not seem to notice my condition, but proceeded with the four-hour examination. I received good marks. During those four hours, I passed the ordeal with I perspired so much, that it seemed as if I had taken a Turkish bath. This must have been what I needed, for I felt so much better that I was able to walk home by myself.
Later that spring, in the year 1902, 1 graduated from Augustana with the degree of B. D. Then, on Sunday, June 15th, our class of twenty-one was ordained in Ishpenning., Michigan. During my years at Augustana, I had seen Nettie at various times during vacations, and we had corresponded regularly. At Christmas, during my last year, we had become engaged. As I was two hundred dollars in debt when I was ordained, however, I thought it best to wait a year before getting married. This year, I spent in Orange, Massachusetts, where I had my first pastorate.
On June 3, 1903, Nettie and I were married in Princeton, Illinois, at the Lutheran Church, just across the street from the bride's home. We had eight attendants: Arlene, the bride's sister, as maid of honor, Amy Peterson, Minnie Velander and Elva Peterson as bridesmaids, and Oscar Olson, Julius Hulteen and Emil Pearson as groomsmen. My brother, Sven, who had just graduated that year from Bethany College in Kansas, was to be my best man, but was prevented from coming because of flood conditions, which kept the trains from running. We stayed in Princeton until the fifteenth of June before starting on our honeymoon. This took us first to Chicago, where we visited a classmate of mine, the Rev. Gustaf Elliot, and went sight-seeing. The next stop was Niagara Falls. While en route, two cars of our train were derailed, but no one was hurt. In New York, we visited my sister, Anna, who had come to America in 1893, and also my old friend, Elias Johnson. In Connecticut, we stopped with friends in Ansonia and Naugatuck and finally, on July 2nd we arrived in Orange, where we were welcomed with a reception at the church. The church was beautifully decorated, and a huge sign in front bade us "Welcome" The congregation presented us with a wedding gift of $159.00.
We remained in Orange for three years and three months. When I started., my salary was $840.00 a year. When I left it had been raised to $900.00. We lived in a five-room, second-floor tenement for $15.00 a month,, furnishing our own heat. Our first purchase was a coffee pot. We managed to pay cash for our furniture, but our piano was bought on the installment plan. While I was in Orange, the interior of the church was renovated, and money was raised to pay off the $3000 mortgage. As I had always enjoyed mission work, I went to various towns, where Swedish people lived, attempting to organize congregations. I managed to start churches in Athol, Greenfield and Pittsfield. The first time I visited Pittsfield, it was a cold, snowy day in February. By going from door to door, where Swedish people lived, and inviting them to a service that evening, I managed to get sixty persons to attend that first meeting at the German Lutheran Church. Although I did not get any money from the conference for my mission work, I managed, through collections, to meet my traveling expenses.
Our first child, a daughter, Arlene Linnea, was born on July 5, 1904, a year after our arrival in Orange. In the summer of 1905, I accepted a call to the Salem Lutheran Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut. These next seven years were the happiest of my ministry. The people were very good to us, and we liked Bridgeport as a place to live. Three of our children, Signe, Margaret and Theodore were born then. While we were here, the church grew in size from 129 to 480 members. The church was renovated and a parsonage was bought. I continued my mission work in East Bridgeport, Black Rock, South Norwalk, Georgetown and Danbury. During the summer of 1908, I traveled throughout New England in the interest of Upsala College. My aims were to awaken interest, gather funds and get new students for the school. I was a member of the Board of Directors of Upsala, and served also as its secretary.
During the summer of 1910, I took off for a trip back to Sweden. the congregation gave me time. This was the first time I had been back since I had left at the age of sixteen. Besides visiting my parents, I toured Denmark, Norway, Finland and Germany.
In 1910, Dr. Lars Beck, who had been president of Upsala College since its founding in 1893, resigned. For two years, the college, which was now located in Kenilworth., New Jersey, was without a president. Then, in 1912, the New York Conference held its annual meeting and nominated three candidates: Dr. Fritz Jacobson, Rev. Alfred Appell and me. Several ballots were cast in the morning, and although I received the most votes, they were not enough for election. Then, in the afternoon, another vote was taken and Dr. Jacobson was elected. He refused to accept the call, so the conference met again and changed the constitution, giving the power of electing the president to the Board of Directors. At the next meeting of the board, I was elected president of Upsala College. I told the board that I did not wish to accept, but I was told to think it over.
The college, at this time, was in a precarious position. A man named Hallenbeck, who held a mortgage of $8,000 on the school property, had given notice of foreclosure in two weeks. While I was debating what to do, I received a letter from two friends, Elias Johnson and the Rev. Gustaf Nelsenius. They promised me that if I would accept the position of president of Upsala College, they would see to it that the school could borrow the money to pay the mortgage. I accepted, received the $8,000 and the school was saved. The money was loaned by the Scandia Life Insurance Company, of which the Rev. Nelsenius was president, and Elias Johnson was secretary.
Resigning my good job in Bridgeport, I moved to Kenilworth in the fall of 1912. It was a cheerless arrival, I remember. We found the door to our house locked, so Signe, who was then six years old, was boosted in through a window to unlock it from the inside. Dr. Axel Wallin soon learned of our coming, however, and we were invited to supper. The next day, the students and faculty gave us a grand reception, which included speeches and a torchlight parade.
I had been told that the school debt was $23,000, but I soon found that it was actually $30,000. The board said to me, "it is up to you to raise the money." To do this, I decided that I would make visits to congregations in the New York and New England Conferences to solicit funds from church members and others. Of the thirty pastors to whom I wrote asking permission to come, all refused except the Rev. Bernhard in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He said that I could come, but he did not think that I would get much from his people because they had just concluded a campaign of their own for the church. During the four years of my campaign, I managed to cover most of the churches in the two conferences. The two churches which resisted most were the church in Brockton, Massachusetts, and Rev. Stolpe's church in New York. This last puzzled me, because Rev. Stolpe was chairman of the Board of Directors of Upsala College.
At the beginning of the campaign, it was especially hard because I worked alone. When I was not traveling, there was teaching to do at the college. During the second summer, I had eight helpers, members of the faculty and student body. The total sum subscribed was $32,722.68. When I left Upsala College in 1918, $25,822.38 of this amount had been paid. However, so much of this money had to be used for current runnning expenses, that only about $18,000, plus the $8,000 mortgage, was paid off the old debt. During the campaign, I walked a total of 4,000 miles. This I knew, because I always carried a pedometer in my pocket. In addition, of course, there were the miles of riding on trains and on electric cars.
Many times, I was ready to give up, but for love of Upsala and a faith in God, I kept going. I remember one cold and rainy night, when, after collecting about $100.00 in the vicinity of Montclair,, New Jersey, I went to the outskirts to visit one more family. Coming upon a group of eighteen-year old boys, I asked them to direct me to the address. They were so sure of where I was going that I asked how they knew. One replied, "We know who you are, and what you are out here for." When I told the man of the house about these boys, he suggested that I not return the way I had come, for these youths might be the ones who were responsible for the series of teen-age hold-ups in the neighborhood.
Thus, I took another longer route back, and as a result, I missed the last street car back to Kenilworth. I had to walk the mile-and-a-half home after midnight. It was so cold that when I arrived home and took off my overcoat, it stood upright on the floor. Before going to bed that night, I sat down at my desk to read the mail, discouraged over my difficult task and hard life. I opened the letters, but there seemed to be nothing but bills and loans. Then I opened a letter postmarked "Portland, Maine, and read that a Mr. Anderson, now deceased, had left a sum of $1,000 to Upsala College. The ice around my heart melted, and the overcoat that had stood on the floor went to sleep. So did I, and I slept soundly. I felt that there was much good in the world, after all.
After spending two months in the fall of 1912 trying to gather subscriptions for the college, I came home to learn that there was no money to pay the salaries for the month of December, The Board of Trustees suggested that I borrow the sum of $1,000 from the Union Trust Company, in Elizabeth New Jersey. The president of the bank refused, however, with the remark, "You know that Upsala already owes us money and has made no effort to pay it back."
"The Board is back of you, I answered."
"But, see who your officers are, he said sarcastically. The head of your board has nothing but debts. The treasurer has a big mortgage on his house, and your secretary is careless about paying his bill."
I felt quite taken aback, and asked him desperately, "What shall I do. I must have some money to pay my teachers!"
He then looked me straight in the eye, and asked, "Are you willing to sign the note yourself?"
I immediately answered, "I surely will." He then gave me the money I needed, on my personal signature. After three months, I paid $200.00 back on the loan and had no trouble getting another $800.00. Several times later, I got loans just as easily. I was always punctual in paying or renewing the loan, however, in order to keep my credit good.
Six years later, when I was about to leave Upsala College and was straightening out my affairs with the Union Trust Company, I asked Mr. Lewis, who had become my good friend and benefactor, why he had trusted me and not the Board six years previously. His answer was, "We were interested in Upsala, and when you accepted the call to become its president, we investigated you with Dunn and Bradstreet. We found that you did not owe anything. Also, we found you were punctual in paying your bills. That was enough for us. You see, we go by character more than anything else. I was surprised, but felt happy to know that I was considered a "good risk."
From the very beginning, when I came to Upsala, I felt that there was a lack of interest, even a strong opposition, on the part of many of the leading pastors in the conference, to the college. They did not believe that Upsala had any future, and openly said that Dr. Beck had been a failure. They were of the opinion that a college in the east was unnecessary, and that we should concentrate on Augustana College, in Rock Island. This opposition continued through my six years at Upsala. Finally, I decided that, as soon as the school was on a sound financial basis, I would leave. The opportunity came when I received a call to become pastor of the church in Brockton, Massachusetts. There still remained some debt to be paid, but I planned to collect this by selling Opportunity Bonds. I now felt that my work for Upsala College was done. I could leave Upsala with the satisfaction that the school had been saved financially. I accepted the call to Brockton, glad to be back working with a congregation again.
Before we left, the college celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. At this time, the board honored us with a reception, at which they presented us with an engraved silver coffee service. Another honor which the college bestowed on me was to award me the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
October 5, 1918, our last day in Kenilworth, New Jersey, was one to be remembered, for it was also the date of the terrific explosion in Perth Amboy, not far away. A TNT. factory had exploded, killing 100 persons and wounding 150 others. We could see the red glow and feel the concussions all through the night. As our furniture had all gone the day before, we all slept in the men's dormitory, where the explosions caused the beds to skid across the floor. Some of the windows were broken.
The next morning, we piled our family of eight and our suitcases in our Model T Ford and set off for Brockton, Massachusetts. Our family at this time included, besides Nettie and me, Linnea, Signe, Margaret, Theodore, Dorothy and Joseph. Dorothy and Joseph had been born in Kenilworth. Joseph, baby, was a year-and-a-half old. I had bought this car, my first one, for $450 the year before. It was a touring model, had a folding top, was lit by two kerosene lamps, and had to be cranked. It gave me much pleasure, but it also gave me some trouble. The tires frequently became flat, so that I always carried along a vulcanizing set to fix the tubes. I became an expert in changing a flat tire, and could do it in fifteen minutes.
We arrived in Bridgeport that first day without any trouble. After staying there over Sunday, we continued on Monday morning, arriving in Brockton that evening. As this was at the height of the influenza epidemic, all theaters, schools and public gatherings were closed or suspended. That first evening I visited the home of one of my parishioners where five of the children were in bed with the flu. The distressed mother was walking the floor with the sixth, a four-month-old baby. The next day all of my own children were sick in bed with headaches and dizziness, and I feared that they were all coming down, too. Thank God! It was not so. We found that it was caused by coal gas that had filtered up from a faulty furnace. Many of my parishioners died that winter. Between October and Memorial Day, I officiated at twenty-eight funerals.
The following incident took place during the winter of 1918-1919. One stormy Thursday evening, as I came into the parsonage after prayer meeting, I found a man waiting for me. He wanted me to come to his home and give his wife communion before she died. I went with him. I found the woman seemingly unconscious, and I told the man that I did not think it would be possible to administer communion to her. He begged me to try, adding, "You see we are Lutherans, and I want my wife to have communion before she dies." I prepared the elements and sat down by her bed and prayed silently that God make it possible for her to receive the sacrament. Then I proceeded with the usual form and read the Words of Institution. She showed no signs of consciousness, although she breathed naturally. Finally, I took the wafer, and after touching her chin with my finger, I placed the wafer to her lips, pronouncing the words, "Jesus Christ, whose body you now receive, strengthen and preserve thee to eternal life." To my surprise, she parted her lips and received the bread. Then, with my left hand under the pillow, I raised her head and put the cup to her mouth. She swallowed the wine. All this time, her eyes were closed. As I lowered her head again, I noticed that the color came to her pale gray cheeks. Then she opened her eyes and looked at me with a faint smile. I ended the ritual with a prayer and benediction and returned to the dining room where her husband was sitting with his elbows resting on the table, weeping with his face in his hands.
I said to him, "Your wife is not going to die, now."
"Oh, yes," he said, "The doctor said she will not live until morning."
"You go in and look at her," I said to him.
He went, and she smiled at him. He fell down on his knees and wept for joys thanking God.
In two weeks, the woman was out of bed, and in a few months, returned to her home in Milwaukee. I never did learn her name or address.