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Celebration of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Founding
of Bishop Hill Colony.
On September 23, 1916, at Bishop Hill, Henry County, Illi-
nois, was held a home-coming and reunion in commemoration
of the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the famous
Swedish communistic colony, called Bishop Hill. Some of the
colony buildings are in an excellent state of preservation and
are in use.
Here one could see the old church just as it was in days
when services were held there under the guidance of Eric
Jansen,* the founder of the colony. The old seats are just as
good now as they were the day they were built. They are all
of real black walnut and were made to stand the wear of
years. The altar and all of the properties of the church are
there intact. For this festive occasion the relics, all that
could be gathered for the day, had been crowded into the
upper floor of the church building and were viewed with much
interest. The paintings of the early settlers, all done by the
late Olaf Krans, were re-arranged for the occasion, and his
interpretations of the early life and character of those who
made Bishop Hill famous were of peculiar interest on this,
the seventieth anniversary.
Some of the old colony buildings were thrown open for the
day and the one main building, wherein lived over 100 families
at one time, found many admirers.
The old Steeple building and the clock, made years and
years ago in Sweden, and which is still running, were of more
than passing interest to those gathered there for the day.
At 10:30 Jacobson's orchestra played a selection, and then
the Bev. A. Gr. Peterson of Bishop Hill offered prayer. A
song by the chorus, and then P. J. Stoneberg, who is the chief
historian of the colony, gave the address of welcome. Mr.
Stoneberg said, in part :
"Seventy years have passed since founding of the Bishop
Hill c olony. It was in July, 1846, that Eric Jansen, together
♦Eric Jansen, born December 19, 1808, in Bishopekulla Parrish, Upland
Sweden; died May 13, 1850. He was shot by John Root.
with his family and a few others, arrived at Victoria. It was
in the following August that two land purchases were made
at Red Oak Grove, in Henry County, while in September the
land was bought upon which the community was located. The
colony was named Bishop's Hill in honor of the parish where
Eric Jansen was born. But afterwards the 's' was omitted
from the name. During its eventful existence the Bishop Hill
colony formed an important part in the development of west-
ern Illinois. A half century and more has passed since the
dissolution of the colony. The men and women who were in
their prime at that time have nearly all passed away from
the scenes of their labors and are resting peacefully beneath
"When the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the
colony was celebrated twenty years ago, there was still a con-
siderable number left of the early pioneers. Since then the
majority have passed away."
Captain Eric Johnson, who is the son of the founder of the
colony, and who is now residing in Clearwater, California,
responded to the address of welcome. Mr. Johnson had come
from his California home for the day.
President John Root acted as master of ceremonies of
For several hours people were given another chance to visit
the old buildings. Several people who are well informed on
the points of interest at Bishop Hill were there to give a little
assistance to the onlooker, and a complete explanation of
everything was made these people.
The old park in Bishop Hill, itself a point of interest, be-
cause of use it was put to in the early days. The old trees,
some of them planted by the original colonists, formed a very
pretty background for the setting where the services were to
be held. The modern speaker's stand in the center of the
park is about the only adornment the park has that shows the
work of the present generation. The old settlers' monument
standing in the park brings to mind all of the deeds of valor
of the former residents of Bishop Hill. No more fitting place
could have been selected for the holding of the exercises than
the park, surrounded as it is by all of the old buildings.
The afternoon session began at 2 :00 o'clock. The orchestra
gave a selection and then the reports of the various commit-
tees were read. P. J. Stoneberg read the necrology record
of the colony.
The main address of the afternoon, which was to have been
given by Attorney C. A. Trimble of Princeton, had to be elim-
inated because of the sickness of the speaker. Hon. Henry
S. Henchen, cashier of the State Bank of Chicago, spoke. Mr.
Henchen is the grandson of a very close friend of the founder
of the colony.
Captain Eric Johnson appeared on the afternoon program
and gave a short discourse, telling of his early recollections
of the colony and colony life ; of the things that had prompted
the break with the mother country and which led to the found-
ing of Bishop Hill. Captain Johnson's address was very
ADDRESS OF HON. HENRY S. HENSCHEN.
"We are gathered here today as representatives of; the
second and third generations, to lay a wreath of tribute on
the graves of the first born here, as the connecting links be-
tween an ardous past and, let us hope, an honorable future ;
here, as Americans by birth to honor the memory of our par-
ents, Americans by choice ; here, to learn for ourselves and to
teach our children the history and traditions of our fathers;
here, to remind each other of that little country, with its
mighty history, of which our fathers knew so much and our
children so little; here, to acknowledge that blood is thicker
than water, and that whatever our circumstances or prospects
may be today, we are in spirit and flesh the sons and daughters
of the Olsons and the Jansens of a generation ago.
"To sketch the history and character of the Bishop Hill
colony is not the task allotted to me. Eric Jansen was one
of those unique, rugged prophets, such as John Knox, John
Wesley, D. L. Moody, William Booth and Billy Sunday, of
whom the unregenerate shall ever stand in need. To the
world, a misguided fanatic; to his followers, a God-given
prophet. He founded the denomination at 36; became at 38
the pioneer of an immigration from Sweden which has cost
the mother country millions of her sons and daughters ; and
died at the age of 42, having left his mark on two continents.
Those who knew him best were willing to stake their lives,
their fortunes and their homes on their faith that he was in
the right. Who are we, to say that he was wrong?
"He was a leader, and here where he led his followers, we
have assembled seventy years later to commemorate him and
"When we were assembled here twenty years ago at the
fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Bishop Hill, some of
the pioneers in this movement were still here, among whom
was that patriarch and fellow leader and preceptor of Eric
Jansen — Jonas Olson, then 94 years of age. If he is here
today, it is in spirit alone.
"To me it is a source of great pride and satisfaction to
have the privilege of meeting and listening to the honored
son of an honored father. Himself a part of the history of
this colony almost from its inception, Captain Eric Johnson,
patriot, publicist and public servant. He grew up an Ameri-
can boy, and our hearts beat more quickly when we remember
that when the call to arms came he answered the call of his
adopted country. During his long and varied career he, son
of a patriot, has in public and private life reflected credit
upon our nationality. It was my privilege to introduce today
to Captain Eric Johnson a great-grandson of a man who was
a friend and defender of Captain Johnson's father.
"When, six or eight years before the time Eric Jansen left
Sweden, he was persecuted, imprisoned and suffered for right-
eousness' sake, one man was to him a tower of strength, a
shield and defender. This man was a judge in Upsula, later
a member of Parliament, and he early realized the injustice
and inhumanity of the laws surviving from the Middle Ages,
which made it a crime to worship God in public gatherings
not under the auspices of the Established Church of Sweden.
"Against these laws Eric Jansen and his followers became
chronic offenders, and this justice-loving judge became their
counsel, advocate and mediator in courts before the King's
Cabinet, and even before the King himself. He offered peti-
tions in Parliament at the risk of losing his friends and posi-
tion; he defended the popular 'lasare' and later in Parlia-
ment voted for a measure giving the Swedes freedom of re-
4 'When, in 1846 Eric Jansen's followers decided to seek a
country where they might worship according to the dictates
of their own conscience, the authorities, desirous of blocking
their move, refused them the necessary passes to leave the
country. In their dilemma they again turned to this same
judge, who in their behalf petitioned Svea Hofratt to man-
damus local authorities to grant passes. This was done and
the journey to America was made possible.
"Forty years ago in this village Jacob Jacobson said to
the son of this judge: 'When all others deserted us your
father came to our defense.'
"Although a friend, not a follower of Eric Jansen, he was
asked one day, 'Do you believe in me?' and the answer came,
' I believe you are a good man. '
"The great-grandson of that judge of Upsula is today a
boy of 11 years of age and he is in this audience. I introduced
him today to Captain Eric Johnson, and I am very proud of
him, because his name is Henschen.
' ' Other pioneers who were here twenty years ago and who
gave splendid addresses are the Hon. J. W. Olson, whose
scholarly address I have read time after time and will never
forget. I understand that he is not able to be here today and
has been a patient sufferer for years, but I hope that I may
have the pleasure of seeing him before I go back and to shake
the hand of that scholarly gentleman.
"The literature of this colony is being enriched by the
writings of such men as J. W. Olson, Eric Johnson, M. A.
Mikkelsen, E. W. Olson, Charles Nordhoff and your own his-
torian, P. J. Stoneberg. These are conscientious historians
of events in which, in the case of several, their fathers have
been chief figures. To us and to future generations their
literature is of increasing value.
"Some time ago President Andreen of Augustana College
at Rock Island visited King Oscar, and King Oscar said to
Professor Andreen: 'Is it not sad that so many thousands
and hundreds of thousands have left their native lands to go
to America V And said Dr. Andreen: 'Is it not wonderful
God should have chosen so many of our race to go out and
possess these new lands and to make them their own, and to
extend to the ends of the earth our language, our ideas, our
history, our traditions, our faith. Is it not wonderful that so
many of our people have been chosen for this great task and
good fortune!' King Oscar looked far away, and answered:
'Ah, yes, I see; I see.' "
THE ADDRESS IN PART OF CONGRESSMAN E. J. KING.
"As I stand on this historic spot, my heart goes out in grati-
tude to those who have so graciously permitted me to be
present on this great day, and the past achievements of those
sturdy yeomen who left the homes of their native land, braved
the hardships of voyage and by their own efforts made the
history of Bishop Hill, rise before me in strong array.
"Bishop Hill is the cradle from which sprang that mighty
impetus of Swedish immigration into the west and northwest
to its great development and to the benefit of our entire com-
mon country. True, the original purpose of building a New
Jerusalem, which would spread its force and control through-
out the civilized world, failed of realization; nevertheless
their efforts succeeded in a field of endeavor never dreamed
of by them.
"Emigrants from nearly every province in Sweden settled
at Bishop Hill, and their letters home to their friends and
relatives, describing the advantages of America blazed the
way for that long line of emigrants who now living, including
their descendants, number in the United States to 1,334,239
souls. How inviting would be an incursion into their accom-
plishments, but time forbids, and I hesitate to enter those
fields which ought to be reserved for my illustrious friend,
Judge Trimble, the speaker of the day.
"Somewhere back of the conception of Bishop Hill colony
was the man with the idea, and back of him was the one who
prepared conditions of fertility where the idea might grow.
John the Baptist was such a man. John Ericson's inventions
prepared the ground work for Edison the Wizard of Menlo
Park. I have but a moment to address you, and in my allotted
time I wish to speak of the man who cleared the underbrush
and prepared the way for that great preacher, leader and
genius, Eric Jansen, leaving to the others the merited praise
of the virtues of Jansen. Without disparagement of the great
services rendered the colony by Stoneberg, Jacobson, Nor-
berg, Bergland, Swanson and many others, I plead permission
to pay a humble tribute to one who was the Alpha and Omega
of the colony, and whose life runs through its history like a
strong cord— Jonas Olson, a typical Swedish- American of a
type whose influence for good has made a most lasting impres-
sion not only upon the younger Swedish- Americans, but upon
the entire nation as well.
"Helsingland, the home of so many of the colonists, with
its iron, timber and flax ; its landscape dotted with red painted
cottages, surrounded by beautiful patches of flowers, was the
native province of Jonas Olson. He was born on the 18th day
of September, 1802, the son of peasants. History states that
his father was a drunkard, and that one day when the young
Jonas, who was desirous of learning to read, write and cipher,
was using his writing materials, this father grabbed them from
him, saying as he destroyed them, that such things were not
for peasants ' sons. At 15 he was compelled to shift for him-
self. He became a farm laborer and a fisherman on the banks
of the Gulf of Bothnia. He disposed of salmon on the Stock-
holm market to advantage and became a well-to-do and re-
spectable citizen of the parish. The year 1825 brought him
to a turning point. Intemperance prevailed among the peas-
antry. The clergy even had become lax. The pastor always
danced the first round with the bride, drank as deeply as his
parishioners and transformed the tithes of grain into liquor
by means of his own still. Up to that time it had not dawned
upon Jonas Olson there was something far better in life. At
a dance on a winter eve in 1825 liquor was passed around in
sacreligious mockery of the Lord's Supper. It made a deep
impression upon Olson. He became converted and resolved
to lead a new life. And so, like Simon Peter, the fisherman
of old, he dropped his nets and became a follower of his Lord.
He studied the Great Book and all the devotional literature
assiduously. He bought books and visited the libraries in
Stockholm and became a well educated man. At Stockholm
he met Rosenius, the representative of Hellian Pietism, and
also George Scott, the founder of Methodism in Sweden. They
found in each other warm and sympathetic friends. Jonas,
over the greatest of opposition, first began to organize tem-
perance societies in his own and neighboring parishes, but
later with the aid of the Crown he met with great success.
Not only did he engage in temperance work, but immediately
upon his conversion began to preach in the conventicles of the
Devotionalists, who were then just beginning to appear in
Helsingland. After the loss of his wife, about a year and a
half after his marriage, he threw himself with additional vim
into the church work, and he is the man to whom it is due
that Devotionalism was carried to every quarter of Helsing-
land. The Devotionalists were a pious people who were dis-
pleased at the absence of real piety in the Established Church.
They did not seek to overthrow the church, but to purify it
from within. They were called Devotionalists because they
assembled in private houses to hold devotional meetings and
because they read their Bibles and books of devotion assidu-
ously in their homes. Devotionalism produced no great na-
tional leader after whom it might be named. It spread under
Jonas Olson and other local leaders. Its stronghold was Norr-
land, one of the great political divisions of Sweden, of which
Helsingland was a subdivision. Under its influence a radical
change in the condition of the people took place and they be-
gan to read and to take up habits of industry and sobriety.
"For seventeen years Jonas Olson was the leading lay
member among the Devotionalists in Helsingland, whose mem-
bership consisted largely of peasants and independent arti-
sans. He enjoyed the respect and confidence of the com-
munity, representing them in a public capacity as juror to
the district court. During this time Jonas Olson and his
Devotionalists assembled in their conventicles and read their
Bibles and books of devotion unmolested and enjoyed the con-
fidence of the Established Church.
"The ground was now prepared for the seed. The minds
of the people were attuned to the idea. One night a flour mer-
chant asked for lodging at the home of Jonas Olson. It was
quickly granted. The stranger was Eric Jansen. His devout-
ness inspired even the devout Olson. He brought Jansen to
the conventicles and introduced him, and by reason of the
high standing of Olson he met with instant success. Jansen
was powerful and eloquent. With his advent into Helsing-
land Jansenism began. The conditions were favorable to the
reception of his doctrines. He advanced the idea that too
much attention was given to devotional literature and not
enough to the Bible. His preaching was forceful and of the
John Wesley type, and the results of his revivals rivaled those
of Moody and Sunday of more modern times. Persecution
began. His followers were mobbed and their meetings dis-
turbed. When their conventicles were prohibited they assem-
bled in the woods. They praised the God who permitted them
to be persecuted. Finally, the followers burned the books of
devotion in the market place, the news of which soon spread
throughout the kingdom. You are familiar with the arrest
of Jansen, his escape and flight to America, eventually reach-
ing the town of Victoria, Illinois.
" Jonas Olson remained at home. He had work to do there.
He was heavily fined for participating in the burning of the
books and was summoned before the House of Bishops to
answer for his religious opinions. Naturally, as did the
Pilgrim fathers, the Jansenists, under persecution, turned to
America as a place where they could worship God as they
"Bishop Hill having been selected for a colony, Jonas
Olson, along with Andreas Bergland and Olof Stoneberg, were
appointed to conduct the immigration. The communistic plan
of ownership having been decided upon, Jonas, having the
courage of his convictions, put his property into the common
fund for the benefit of all. So did they all, the sums ranging
from 25,000 crowns downward.
"When the time for departure arrived Jonas and his asso-
ciates had gathered together 1,100 willing souls, who for their
religion's sake were willing to embark for an unknown land.
As they were about to leave their passports were withheld,
until Jonas Olson made a personal plea to King Oscar I, who
"They left their native shores at different times and in
different ships. Some were lost at sea. Others starved to
death. Others died of cholera. Across the sea to New York,
by Erie canal and great lakes to Chicago, and mostly on foot
to Bishop Hill from Chicago, was the trip they made.
"Jonas Olson arrived safely with his party on October 28,
1846, where two log cabins and four tents invited them to
enter for the winter. He was then 44 years of age and had
already accomplished what most men only succeed in doing
in a whole lifetime. Did he stop? Not Jonas Olson. He im-
mediately proceeded to live another lifetime of fifty years
more in work and honest endeavor.
"He saw the birth of the colony. He saw it in the busy
hum of its prosperous days. He viewed with sadness its de-
cline, its decay, its death and its final obliteration.
"On more than one occasion in Sweden had his judgment
and ability in handling men been of service to the Jansenists,
and these same characteristics were brought into play on a
larger scale during his life in America, and as a resident of
Bishop Hill. He must have been a man of splendid physique.
One can almost see him now, coming down the street, pro-
ceeding here and there attending to the duties as one of those
upon whom the responsibility of providing for others rested.
On July 22, 1849, cholera broke out in the colony and raged
until the middle of September, carrying away 143 persons in
the prime of life. The horrors of it all have never been re-
lated, yet one must know that rugged and heroic character
of Jonas Olson placed him in the thick of the disaster, where
day and night he nursed the sick, prayed for the dying and
buried the dead. His influence with the colony must have been
great, and it is not related that this confidence was ever mis-
placed. Under the advice and counsel of this great old patri-
arch, Bishop Hill shown as a bright example to other immi-
grants as to what could be done in America, not only along
material and religious lines, but in love of their adopted
country and her institutions. It was not long before a teacher
of English was at work at Bishop Hill. The laws of the land
were always obeyed with respect and veneration. Patriotism
in its full sense imbued their hearts, and when the great con-
flict of '61 came on and the nation's life was in danger, these
faithful people — these Devotionalists— these pilgrims to
whom liberty was a vital issue, rose as a man, followed the
Stars and Stripes and spilled their blood and died upon the
Southern fields, that free institutions should not perish from
the earth. And it is due to these colonists to say that their
example has had a tremendous influence upon every Scan-
dinavian who has ever come to America, translating him at
once into a strong, patriotic citizen of the American republic
and who will fight the world in her behalf.
"Had it not been for the early devotional work of Jonas
Olson in his native land, the brilliant efforts of Jansen to
arouse the people must have failed and with its failure immi-
gration to America from Sweden would have been postponed
for many years, and the aid of the Swedish- American in work-
ing our national destiny. So for this reason in awarding
the benefactors of the nation, the distributor of laurels must
not overlook the brow of Jonas Olson, the typical Swedish-
American of early Bishop Hill.
' * There are many foundation stones in the colony, but none
supported a greater weight of its structures than did this man.
He was faithful to his trust. He accepted no thirty pieces of
silver. His dependability was certain and continuous. If an
Indian assassin was hired to kill the leaders, he must not over-
look Jonas at the head of the list of proposed victims. If a
colonist is kidnapped, Jonas heads the party of rescue. If
gold is necessary to replenish the coffers, Jonas Olson braves
the dangers of the overland trip to California at the head of
the expedition. When the leader of the colony lies stiff
and stark in death, it is Jonas Olson who rushes back to take
charge of the affairs of the colony. He it is who is
among the leading spirits on the board of trustees after
"In his later days he continued his preaching in the old
colony church — feeble in limb, dim of eyesight ; his congrega-
tion dwindled to a handful, he went on with his work. No
doubt the enthusiasm of his early devotional work in the con-
venticles of his own Helsingland was upon him and he saw
before him the vast audience which greeted his youthful work.
And even this small congregation under his kind guidance
one by one lay them down in the community graveyard, where
peace reigns and the true community of good prevails. He saw
nearly all pass to the beyond. He saw dissolution approaching.
The edifices crumbled about his ears, yet Jonas Olson, like
the Roman centurion of Pompeii, when the hot ashes of the
eruption fell about him, awaited his orders of release which
never came, stuck to his post until the end.
"His body lies in yonder cemetery, but it is pleasant to
think that perchance his great soul with its fine strength of
devotion alism, adventure and service, with his old friend, Eric
Jansen, and in joyful company with Stoneberg, Jacobson,
Norberg, Bergland, Swanson and the rest, is engaged in that
Greater Colony to which all mortals, one by one and in their
turn, must emigrate.' '
RELICS AT THE COLONY CHURCH.
The relics on exhibition at the Colony Church were numer-
ous and interesting. Among the things to be seen were:
Swedish Bible printed in 1618, Swedish Bible printed in 1737 ;
various manuscripts, including parts of a scriptural outline,
dated 1845, possibly written by Eric Jansen; autobiography
of Eric Jansen ; message from E, Jansen to his friends after
the death of his first wife in the cholera at Rock Island ; let-
ters from E. Jansen, in 1850, in handwriting of Mrs. Pollock
Johnson; letter to A. Bergland, 1850; autobiography of E.
Jansen; letters written by J. Olson; contract between the
captain of a vessel and a party of Jansenites, 1850; certificate
with accompanying passport 5 Jansen 's hymn book, original
edition, 1846; revised edition, 1857; Jansen 's catechism, 1846;
English-Swedish dictionary, 1846; Lutheran prayer book,
1840 ; Swedish geometry, 1784 ; manuscript, Jansenistic tract ;
pedigree herd books, 1861 ; old Swedish watch ; old American
watch; spectacles; Swedish snuff box and brass comb; candle
stick and snuffers; pepper-box revolver with case, tac.; Swe-
dish hand loom and shuttle for weaving garters ; Swedish bal-
ances with weights, dated 1834 ; pitchers of willow ware, used
in the colony; plate used in the colony; old) cups; candle
moulds; candle sticks; money chest; sewing cabinet; towel
and table cloth, made in the colony ; skirt made of cloth woven
in the colony; painting of the last house in Sweden (Lingo
garden, Dalarne), where E. Jansen stopped on his way to
America; part of bed curtain from room in which he slept;
cloth on his bed in the same room ; centerpiece painting from
ceiling of this room; old Swedish kerchief; brass-lined ruler
used in the building of the Colony Church ; ox-pins ; ox-horn
tips made in the colony; two ox-yokes; horn from first ox
dehorned in Weller township ; Swedish hand-bag, embroidered
with steel beads; seal more than 100 years old; framed list of
the twenty-one men and one woman who came to the colony
in February, 1847; two marriage pictures, dated 1842 and
1850, respectively ; Swedish plate money, 1721 and other dates
and other coins; colony paper money; fractional currency,
lunch basket, colony made; market basket, made in Sweden;
copper kettle, 200 years old ; colony-made fork, grain and flax
forks ; primitive hemp machine ; hand mangle, 1798 ; shoe last ;
coffee mills; laundry paddle; school slate; Swedish rolling
pin, 1774; old flax knife; fire tong; axe used in 1846; bullet
mould; plane; bread roller, 1774; potato masher; two cheese
moulds ; reel ; two colony spinning wheels ; one Swedish spin-
ning wheel; cooper's tools; two cradles; saws, chest, 1837;
rope bedstead ; quilting frame ; camping device ; rope making
machine; device for carrying water; flail; coffee roasters;
hair rope; branding iron; copper dipper ; milk pail; lard oil
lamp; lanterns; pulley; meat cutter; Swedish hymn book,
1836; copper frying pan; Psalmodica cow bell, 1789; copper
coffee pot; mangle; large copper kettles; cow bell, 1789; lunch
box, 1820; army canteen; rifle used in Civil War; pole for
suspending hard tack ; plows ; cultivators ; trunk, 1784 ; prize
silk flag, won by Company D, Fifty-seventh Illinois Regiment
in Civil War ; clock from Sweden, used as model in making of
clock in Steeple building; shears; broom made in colony;
broom corn scraper (outside of church) ; Indian spade; Swe-
dish "pumpa," a very large bottle.
The principal exhibitors were J. A. Bergren, P. J. Stone-
berg and Dr. A. F. Benson.
An interesting person present was Mrs. Christina Helstrom,
aged 93, who was the only surviving member of the original
colonists that came September 23!, 1846.
The presence of three young ladies, dressed in ancient
Swedish costume, also attracted considerable attention, with
their bright colored aprons and white caps. One of them, Miss
Evelyn Swanson, aged 18, the daughter of the postmaster, was
a particularly interesting character. Being a natural blonde
and dressed in a complete outfit that was brought over some
years ago by her grandmother, the makeup was typically
Swedish in every way. The grandmother, Mrs. Mary (Mal-
grem) Olson, who was also present, was the first child born
in the colony. The date of her birth was December 27, 1846.