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Interview with Lloyd Johnson




Beginning in 1998, the City of Duluth (Minn.) Sister Cities Commission collaborated with the Iron Range Research Center to record a series of oral history interviews. Independent scholar Dr. JoAnn Hanson-Stone acted as the lead interviewer. The voluntary, self-selecting participants were second-generation Swedish Americans whose parents settled in northeast Minnesota in the early 1900s. The interviews were initiated to create supplementary material for a planned exhibit, “A Long Way Home: Swedish Immigrant Life in Duluth and Northeast Minnesota, 1890-1940.”





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Use of this oral history is governed by U.S. and international copyright law. Please contact the Iron Range Research Center for more information in regard to this oral history; http://mndiscoverycenter.com/research-center/archive



Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Lloyd K. Johnson



sP.p! ~

SUBJECT : Interview with Lloyd K. Johnson, Duluth, Minnesota
INTERVIEWER : Dr. Joann Hanson-Stone
PROGRAM : Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
City of Duluth Sister Cities Commission

Where did your mother come from?

Vannland, Sweden.

and your father?

The same.

Had they met in Sweden?


Do you know how?

They were family related-the families already knew each other. My dad came over at 4 years

old and my mother came over later. Obviously, they weren't married.

BuUt means that your grandparents on your father's and mother's side, knew each

other. What is your father's full name?

Charles J. Johnson-that was the name he got when he came into the US. His real name was

Carl Yonais in Sweden. It was anglicized when he came into the US.
Your mother?
Anna Carolina Yonais. And she came over from Sweden at substantially later than my father.
Was she a child?
She was maybe 3 or 4 years old.
Your father, how old was he?
4 years old.
Tell me the names of your grandparents?

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Lloyd K. Johnson

Page 2

My grandfather's name was Carl Swante Jonais? and my grandmother's name was -I can't
remember. My grandfather's name was August J. Yonais? Grandmother's name -I can't

When your family emigrated from Varmland to the US where did they go first?


I do not know; I do know that they came in through Ellis Island.

Did they go to Michigan?

My father's family settled in either Manistee or Luddington and they lived there until they
came up to Grand Marais. My mother's family all settled in Chicago, Illinois.

What brought your mother's family to Grand Marais?

My mother visited my father up in Grand Marais and got married and my father's family
followed my dad to Grand Marais and my mother's family followed their daughter to Grand


What did August do in Michigan for a living?

August was a very able man who was an interpreter who traveled over the world as an
interpreter for the steamship lines but he had the -he was an actual drunkard and although he
was sober for 6 months and drunk for 6 months, he established a paper in the interval period
and started a painting business in Manistee and

Your father Charles?

My father went to the fourth grade but he had to work in order to help support the family in
that period on. He became in the course ofhis working a friend of a man by the name of
Charles Ruggles? who was a timberman, and because he liked my father he gave my dad a
job to accompany some trained timber estimators up to Cass County where they were
cruising timber. At the end ofthe cruising period my dad sent all but three dollars ofhis
earnings to his mother in Manistee and was three dollars in his pockets and walking up the
shore without a job and ended up in a took a homestead and when he became came old
enough, justnorth ofLutsen....

How old was he when he began cruising timber in Cass County?

17 years old.

That's when he basically left home?

That's correct.

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Lloyd K. Johnson

Page 3

What motivated your grandparents to leave Sweden?

Well, I think -I am not at all certain but it was either hard times or to get out ofthe draft.

Do you have any idea what language he knew when he was an interpreter?

Hehadno-no I do not. But he was a very very capable man who was a drunkard.

But when he wasn't drunk?

He did a great deal more than most people when they were sober year round.

Did your parents and grandparents become citizens?

Did it take long?
I am sure they did it as quickly as they could. They were very much American once they

came to this country.
What is your birthday?
April 16, 1908. At Grand Marais; there was no hospital and so there was no birth certificates

orrecording ofbirthsornochurchrecordssotheysent-Igotanaffidavitfrommyuncle that
I was born in order to get my passports.

Do you know the circumstances of your birth?
Well, I imagine that I was an only child because ofthe birth certificate. The birth certificate
said I was born at twelve pounds.

So you were an only child?
That's correct.
Any other relatives?
All oftheir brothers and sisters and I was associated with families like the Prink? family in

Cook that came in; they -at that time, and this is rather interesting -there was a man from
the Varmland area that had become employed by the railroad company to entice people to
come to the US so in the area ofnorthern Minnesota there are a great many ofpeople from
Varmland because ofhis propaganda.

Do you remember his name or the railroad?

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No,I do not. It must have -it must have been the Great Northern. Or the Northern Pacific..

There was a man in Minnesota whose name was Hans Mattson who did a lot of
recruiting but I don't know where he was from. He was in the Civil War and then came
to Minnesota and really was instrumental in getting a lot of Swedes to come.

Childhood recollections in Grand Marais? What did you father and mother do for a

Well, my father startedlogging shortly after he hit Grand Marais and by the time he was in
his early thirties he had some 600 men working in the woods and had built a sawmill and then
he had three catastrophic business things occurring in successive years; the first year the first
tornado came in and the logs were all in the harbor and the booms broke and the year's

-----------Ilogging-went-away-se-the-millv,'as dowu-mul-he-lost-eveIything-he-had.-Aml-the-next year he-e----

borrowed some money and got going again and that was the year that the big fire came in and

it burned all his -he had three camps operating and it burned all his timber and destroyed
everything he had and he was bankrupt so there after he had to start from scratch again and he

started the bank and he bought the dock so and he started an insurance company and he

starteda grocery store and as they -some ofhis business began to become less profitable
than logging and he started buying fur and we had -he was very proficient in the Chippewa
language and was very good friends ofthe Indians. He also had an insurance business but he

always -because at that time Grand Marais was so small-maybe only 5 or 600 people-
completely isolated-we had to be sure he had something to make a living at and he was

always very capable ofdoing that.

Did the fire occur the same time of Cloquet and Moose Lake in 1918?

It must have been before 1906 for the tornado and the fires came through the next year.

When was your dad buying furs?

It would be -as long as I can remember from a standpoint; he must have quit buying furs
about 1935 or 1940.

Where did he go to work with the Chippewa people?

He had a store called the Trading Post and he would sell the Indians fur coats and everybody
else as far as that goes. And he made arrangements with ? brothers in St. Paul whereby he
bought fur for them under a very satisfactory arrangement. He was given a blank check and
would buy the fur at their price list and then -it required a great deal of skill to buy a fur
because every fur is a different grade and he was quite skilled at that and he would -some
years he maybe bought in a month January or February maybe $50,000 worth of fur and since
he made a ten percent commission with no expense that was a $5,000 income and by the time
the dollar was worth maybe a tenth ofwhat it is now -there was no income tax-so even the
fur buying was a good living in our home.

Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Lloyd K. Johnson

Describe your house?

Sure. Iwasborninmyfather'sbachelor'shomeand movedacoupleofyearsoldoverto
whatwasnow known astheBirchTerrace. Themainpartofthehousewasbuiltwithlarge
logsmaybe20or25 inches indiameteranda biglivingroomwhichwas30feetby32feetin
dimension with a highceiling anda archedceilinganda fire-placeat oneendthat was
capable ofhandlingapine stump-thenwehadour -thebedrooms upstairsanddownstairs
wasthekitchenanddiningroomanda librarywhichwaslaterchangedbecausemyfather
andmotherdidn't wanttogo downtowntoplayatthepoolhallsotheyputina pooltable
hall sowe hada pooltable inourhome.

How did your parents feel about education?

my the Swedis1rcommunityup-irr6rarntMarais-were-quite-education--mindedd.;-iII------alwayssaythatIamoneofthefewpeoplewhohadmyprofessionfoisted
pickingitbecausetheytookmewitheverythingtothestatefairandtherewasa manthere
whoexaminedthe bumpsonyourheadandhe saidthesebumpswerethat of a great lawyer
sofroma veryearlyperiodIwassuggestedto bealawyerbutIthinkpartofthatwasdueto
thefactthatthedoctors andlawyers wereimportantandsomycollegewasdecidedatan
early age.

What year or what fair?

I don't remember; I was young.

You said that Grand Marais was quite isolated; how did you get around? Supplies?

Well,theGrandMaraiswasonthelakeandhadadockandwasonthe lakeandtherewasa
boatcalledthe Winya?Andlateranother calledthe Americathatwouldgouptheshore
delivering groceriestothedifferent smallcommunities andtakingpassengersandthenthey
wouldbuyfishonthewaybackandsotheprovisions camebyboatduringtheopen season

.;andthewinterwas different. Therewasarailroad some40milesfromGrandMaraisthat
wasaloggingtrain.Theywouldonlytravelonethathadlogsandsometimes youcouldgo
andgetsomethingsat Cramerwhichwasabout40 miles fromGrandMarais; therewasno
roadfromGrand Marais untilIwasmaybe15or 16yearsold.ThefirstroadcameintoPort
ArthurandFortWilliamandthenlateronewasbuilttogotoTwoHarborsandDuluth. The

. winter time the mail was brought in by dog team and my dad sometimes took his -we always

.'.'hadadogteaminouryardandmyfatherusedthedogteamto buyfurandsometimesmy
dadwouldtakethe maildownbutnottoo often.. Otherwise there wasno realwayof bringing
anything induringthewinterseason sowewouldbuya bushelofcranberries anda bushelof
thisandkeepitinthe basement. Andwe-butit -weneverknewaperiodoftimeduringmy
lifetimethat my motherorfathersaidthatweneededtogowithouta mealoranything like

Was your father -the Johnson Trading Post-the main store in Grand Marais?

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Lloyd K. Johnson
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Itwasfora while;thenotherstorescameinandmyfatherhadasmallerandsmallerstore. At
onetime he hada fairlylargestorefor wheretheyhadthetrolleysbringing the moneyinto
the cashierandsoforthbutthat wasnotbuiltfor a townthe sizeof GrandMarais.

What did your mother do to keep herself occupied?

Well,mymother'sworkwasveryremarkablerShehadinheritedan abilityto paint.Sheused

topaintanddoquiteabitofpainting. Shedidchinaworkandpaintedchina;shehada kiln.

Shegavethefirstpaintinglessons evergivenby anyone alongtheLakeSuperiorandshe

later yearshad a gift shop-wehadthefirstcottages fortouristsandIhadsomeinvoicesthat

myfatherhad, sayingthattheygiventhemlodging inthecabins-theydidn'tthink $I5a

weekwastoo much-I remember that partveryveryclearlybecauseI usedto haveto carry

watertothecabinsandbecauseIwasthesonoftheowners'cabinInevergotatip. Sothat


Date when he opened up the cottages?


Did your father pay you?


Did your mother -it sounded like she was very community -oriented as far as teaching.
Did she help in any civic or social organizations?

Well,Ithinktheyhadtheladies'aidandIamsuresureshewentto church-butno,Iwould
sayshewasnottoocivic-mindedinthatkindofthing.Itsounded likepaintwasher
important part and entertaining my -this is a little off but my father felt that anybody that
cameto Grand Maraiswasaguestand ifhewereto seesomebodythatwerea strangerhe
wouldautomaticallyinvitehimuptodinnerandmymotherwas -shewouldgetacallat

4:00sayingthat4or8peopleare coming outfordinnertonightandshewouldalways have
somethingfor them. ShewasverymuchtheladyofthetownIwouldsay.
Was he involved in any organizations?

importantas Christianityalmostandhewasforatleast40yearsor more, hewas Cook
Countychairman andthereneverwasan officeror governorof Democrat-or-Republicanthat
didn'tstay atourhomeduringthetimeIwasgrowingupandhewould-Icanremember
manycases ofhisdesire ofhavingpeoplefeelcomfortable inGrandMarais. Onetimea
couplewere staying downonthelakeshoreinfrontofourhomeandmydadsawthemand
theywereontheir honeymoon sotheyhadtohaveahoneymoonpartysotheyhadoneupat
ourhouseandthentwo yearslatera planecomeflyingoverandit wasthesepeople coming
togreetusandthentheywould-they happenedtobe ?atthattimewheretheyhadthe
fastestcruisingboatandtheycameupandtookusdownwherewecouldwatchthe cars along

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Page 7

theroadandwewouldbegoingfasterthantheywould;I rememberthatquiteplainly-talked
topeoplearoundtownandfoundthatmydadwasn't a rapist?orsomethingsotheytookthe
roadandthetrainandaboutfivemilesbeforetheycameto aplacewheremydadwashelping
andtheysaidhow is Annagoingto feelabouta strange womancomingandmydad says,
"oh, shewillhaveher shipandshewillget overit." Andwhenshecamein, mymother
greetedherwithopen arms. Theybecamesuchgoodfriends andtheyhadtheirplaceoutin
LaJolla, California, andtheyofferedmy dadan acreoflandinLaJollaifhewouldcome
outandliveinCAandthat wastypicalof myfatherbecausehe wasveryopenwithpeople
andinthemorninghegotup beforemymotherdidandhewouldlookoutandseethesmoke
coming outofthe chimneyandhewouldgooverthereandhavebreakfastwithwhoeverwas

How did the women or your mother bought their clothes?

Wellmy -alot ofthemmadetheir clothes.Inthepictureswehave,generallyspeaking,the
womenareverynicelydressed-mydadboughtclothesformymotherwhen -becausehe
couldn'tgetupto Duluthbecausehecouldn't.Ithinkthatwastypicalofthe people;we had
twoIndiangirlsworkingforusashousekeepers andmydadhadboughttwonicedressesfor
mymotherthat shewasterriblyanxiousto showoffandshehadn't yethadachanceto put
themonsoshewentdownthestreetandfoundthesetwogirlshadtakenoneofthe dresses
andwentparading. Thegirlsstillstayedtoworkforus.

So the women would make their own clothes?

Ithinkthey mademostoftheirownclothes. It was a smalltown.

What languages did you speak at home?

MyfatherandmotheralwaysspokeEnglish.Mydad -bothofthem-tookthepositionthat
theyhadwithoutcompulsion cametotheUStohavetheirhomeandtheyhadoneloyaltyand
thatwastotheUSandmy -GrandMaraishadaCatholicchurchandithadaNorwegian
Baptist-churchanda Swedish BaptistchurchandaNorwegian and Swedish Lutheran church
and all spoketheir own languages in the churches, not English, so my father and grandfather
anda fewpeoplegottogetherandstartedthe Congregational churchsotherewouldbe an
English -speakingchurchintown.TheyonlytimetheyspokeSwedishwaswhentheywanted
to say something they didn't want us to understand.

Did you ever learn.Swedish?

Not more than a few words.

Your father also knew Ojibwe. Did he learn any other language?

No, I don't think so.

What was it like for you growing up in your home?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Lloyd K. Johnson


Aboutas pleasanta homea personcouldhave.Myfatherand motherwereutterlycongenial
with eachother;I neverheardmyfatherspeakonecrosswordto mymotherwhenI was
growingupandmy -ourhomewascompletely open.Iwouldhavethefreedomofinviting
anyoneovertothehouseorany -orboyscoutstothehouseforthetroop.My motheralways
actedlovelyandpleasedtohaveit.Wehadadequateareatoplayin -becauseGrandMarais
wassoisolateditreceivedtelephone muchlaterthaninDuluthoranywhere else;itreceived
powermuchlaterandsothatwehadnophonographs exceptawind-uponeuntilEdison....
-wehad -therewasnotelevisionorradiothere.Therewasnothingelectricitywouldbring.
Therewas outsideplumbing andeventhoughourhousewas beautiful insidewehadto heat it
bybirchlogsandsojustasacorollaryonthis mymotherhatedthe ideaofgoingtothe
outside toilet-just hatedit-andaftermuchgrindingwithmy fatherwho didn't givea damwe
putinaseptictankandindoorplumbing butyouwanttorememberthereisnopowersothat

_________meant.thateverytimetherewerefonrorfiveflushes Elwood orIwouldhavetogodownto
thebasementandpumpthewaterwiththeairsowelikedthe outdoorplumbingmuchbetter
thanwedidtheindoorplumbing. Becauseyouhadtogopumpthewaterwithtwo

Wehadourlovelysociallife.Therewere32cousins andunclesandaunts.32birthdays we

celebrated. Christmascameandduringtheholidays everydaywewouldgoovertoonehouse

orthe otherhouseduringthatwholeholidayperiod.I canstillremember vividlybeforethe

ChristmasEvewewouldhaveallthepresentsinagreatbigclothesbasketona sledand

Elwood,-hewas myunclewhowastwo yearsolderthan I was,wouldgowiththat and

deliverallthepresentsto the different placesbecausewe all livedwithinwalkingdistance

witheachotherandthenwewouldcollectandwe alwayshopedwe got morethan we gave

whenwegothomebutandonsomeChristmases whenwewererealyoungone ofthe

grandfatherswoulddressupasSantaClausandholidayseasonswereawonderful and

growingupwithyourcousinsthatwaymadeaverycloserelationship. Ibelievethatandthe

sister-in-lawswere very, verycongenial-thechildrencameandIwastheoldestandmy

uncle Benwhocameayearlaterandthenawhole-Warrencameayearlatersothebabies

wereyoungandevery single daymyAuntElawouldgetthe sister-in-Iawstogetherforcoffee

youknowandtalkovertheproblems andsoforthbutitwasadifferent -andthen ofcourse

thisbeingthe case.we.wereallparticipatinginthings;forexamplewhenwe-afterdinner


sitaroundandsinganditwasalovelythingto doaftereatingandIthinkitwasmore

pleasantbeforeallofthesanitarythingswhereyouwerejust a spectatorandnotaparticipant.

Ihavehadnothingbutpleasantmemories ofmygrowingup.

Whl\t kind of songs? .

Englishsongsandmy -youwouldsing-Ican'trememberwhatwouldgofirst,butwewould

besingingthe songs1914waryouknow; "theYanksarecoming"anditwillallbeover

prettysoonalltherestofthatsongandhymnsanditwasa -whatevertheywere.

Who played the piano?

Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Lloyd K. Johnson
Page 9

Everybody except in our family we didn't have anybody who played the piano. I had a little
bit... ....

What organizations or school did you belong?

We went to school about 10 blocks and we used to take home to lunch and I had a friend who
was a Indian boy and he would drop by and we would run the ten blocks to school so we
would have time to play and he was itmarvelous athlete and a very fine person and the school
was -they had one large assembly room for the high school and the 9, 10, 11, and 12 grades
to study and generally speaking each school had a teacher and one class.

So one school from grade 1 to 12?


For example if! got reprimanded at school never in my life would I let my family hear a

word about it at home. I would have gotten a second reprimand, definitely worse, at home.

The teacher was always right. And the discipline in the schools was good but the teachers

they wouldn't employ a teacher who smoked and that was not ladylike and the ....they had to

stay on the straight and narrow when they were teaching. Morals was important in that day

and they had to stay on the straight and narrow when they were teaching or they would run

into difficulty and I can remember up at Maple Hills a very good friend ofmine -Mr,

Hedstrom-a wonderful family -he was on the -chairman ofthe school board for Maple Hill

and every year he would go down and interview the women who were going to be the

teachers and then he would board the women in his home and marry them offto his sons so

when his sons were all married -the wives were all picked by the father when he picked the

schoolteachers. They're a very very fine family. For example I will give you one in the 8th

grade -that was a special grade. Mrs. Blackwell was a teacher and her husband was a printer

and so we had a yearbook and that was about 14 or 15 in the class; we had a yearbook and he

printed it out and showing about our activities ofthe year and then we had a party -another

thing she organized; the different families that we had a trip around the world and each

family would have one country that they would dress to and serve dishes on and our family

had Swedish of course and the neighbor had Indiasand but she was a very devoted, fabulous

teacher. They all were very -teachers who thought a great deal-I can't remember any bad


All women?

Almost all women and the principal was a man..

So they allowed married teachers?

Yes. They couldn't get people to come up

What year did you start school?

Well, I must have started about 1914.

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Lloyd K. Johnson

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So in 8th grade you would have been 13 or 1922?

I wouldsayso. Butthe gamesweplayedwere all-we couldn't have enough peopleinhigh
schooltogetafootballteamtogethertoplayanybodybutwedidplaybasketball andwhen
wewereyoungerweplayedkingofthehillandwhentherewasasnowfall, weplayedangels
inthesnowandclapourhandsinthesnowandweplayedmarbles andweplayedallthe
gamesthatthechildren play-rollinga hoopandmy -it'skind ofacongregationofthe
childrentoaslightdegree. MyfathercameandwenttoDuluthandcamebackontheboat
andbroughtabouta nicepairofhorsesformymotherinthecarriageandthesleighandhad
boughta muleandapairofShetlandponiesformyselfandIcanstillrememberthemuleas
stubborn asmulesarebut it wasgentleas anydog,wewouldputthreeorfourontop ofhim
and it wastoo manyhewouldjuststandandthenfourorfivethekidswouldhaveaholdof
himinthe frontandthe samenumberfrombehindandhe still stooduntilsomebody couldget
off, andwhenhewasreadytogohewouldgoandnevereverevermadetheslightestmean
motion ....-theShetlandponieswerecuteasadickens.Imusthavebeenabout6or7when
wegotthemandtheywere -theyhadtheirownmindandyougetupontopofthemof
course; weneverhada saddleandtrytorideandiftheydidn't like it orfeellikegivinga ride
theywouldjust standupandonedaywehadamusicplayingontheporchandwe looked out
andherewerethetwo Shetland ponieswalkingontheirhind feet;theyhad beencircus ponies
andthey had beentrainedto marchontheirhind feetsowe couldunderstand then howeasily
togetusoffthemquickly;to marchtomusic. ButImeanhowcoulda youngboyhavea
better life?HI'couldn't.

You told me about a pet that your father had?

Apet moose.Thatwasbeforeme. Mydadhada-beforehewasmarriedhehadsupporters
andhehad itprettynicetoo because he hada Japanese coat and ithada greatdealof
entertainment; oneday60peoplecametovisithimfordinnerbeforeelectionandtheyserved
60mealsatthehouseandhiscookmusthavegonecrazyandhedidhavethispet moose and
mydadwouldtellmethatthe moose wouldlovetoplaywiththehorsesandthattheywould

.raceyouknow -the moose wouldwalkawayfrom the horses-itwasthat muchfaster -and
the moose developedatastefortobacco andeverytimethewhistlewouldblowforthe

Americacomingin-themoosewouldgoandsitdownatthedockandtherethen if-and

begfortobaccoand iftheyweren'tpayinganyattention to himhe wouldgivethem a nudge

andtakethatgreatbigheadandgiveyouanudgeandscarethe daylights outofyou ifyou

weren'tusedtoit,youknow. Hehadfreereinaroundtown.

Any other stories about the moose?

No,not toomuch. Hewouldgoandbegatthestoreatthedifferentdoorandsomestranger
whodidn'tknowhim sawhimcomeinthedoorandshothimwhenhecametothedoor,but
bethat as it may,I havea pictureof my mother withthepair ofmoose that theyhadup in
Canadaandnevertalkedaboutthoseat all.

Iwouldliketotalkaboutmyrelationship withtheIndians.

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Igrew-wehadan IndianreservationintownrightnexttoGrandMaraisandofcourseI
wenttoschoolwiththeIndiansandtheIndiansaresmartbut -andtheywereverygood
friends butmydadonNewYear' Daywe -thetraditiontotheIndianswastogofromhouse
tohousetovisitandtheywouldalways getacookieorsomethingbutit becametraditionalat
ourhousebecausethesizeandmyfathertoothattheir final celebrationonNewYear'swould
beinourhouseandmydadwouldalways havea bushel ofapples andmymotherwouldhave
alotof cookiesandcoffeeandtheywould-contrarytowhatwhitepeoplelookdownonNewYear'stheywerealwayssober-
andIcanneverremembersinglecaseofit -butmydadwouldgreetthemandreadandtalk
tothemintheChippewalanguageandwasagenuine friend. SoIknowafew Chippewa
words butnot many. Myfathertoldmethattheoriginal ChippewaIndianthat beforetheyhad
enteredmarriage wereabsolutelyresponsibleandhesaidthat ifthey promised to do
somethingtheyliveduptotheir promise. Alotoftimesweenter marriagewithmarriageof
theIndiangirlstoawhitemanwouldbethosewhowereboozersandsothe half-breedswere
nowherenearthequalityofalltheoriginal Indians, beforetheygotmixedbreeds.

They didn't have the same kind of up -bringing?

It couldbe. Itwouldbe -mymotherwouldwhowasaverydaintyperson, really,wouldgo
withmyfatheronhistripsandwouldgointotheIndiancabins andstayandbeperfectlyfine
withthe Indiansandperfectlyat homewithany groupofpeople-mymotherwasn'tas
completelyoutgoingasmy father; shewouldneversuggesttocomeonuptothehouse
withoutknowingoranythingbutmydad-buttherelationshipwiththe Indians-nowtogo
backalittlebit,myfatherwasinpoliticsandhecouldhave shown Tamany manytricks,I
attentiontothembutcomeelectiontimehewouldlineupthe30 Indians andgorighttothe
boothandtakeovertheelection. AndthetricksthatheusedtoplaytowinelectionswereTamanywouldhavehadproblems.
no particularreason excepthe wantedto win, so anyway, he went up to a religious campthat
werethereforsix months andhefiguredthattheelectionwasgoingtobeprettyclose-hehad
togetsomemorevotes-sohewentupthereandhesaid,"you know, thisisawonderful
thing,butyoudon'thaveany chapel ,"andtheysaid,''well,it'd bekindaniceifwehada
chapel allright"-well, mydadsaid,"I'll seeyougeta chapel ifyou'llallcomedownand
vote."Sohewonthe election.

Nowthesewerepeoplewholivedinthe county?

Theylivedinthecountybuttheywerenotrealresidents buttheyweretherelongenoughto
qualify. Theelectionswereverypersonal andIcan rememberasayoungsterputtingup
postersfor Republican candidates andI evenrepresented CookCountywhenI wasinmy23
terriblebecauseCharleshastheCookCountyconventions andheandhissecretarywereall
the people who werethere. The Democrats weren't any better-Steve Murphy was the

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Page 12

democratic chairmanandhewastheonlyonebecausehe didn't havea secretarysotheywere
prettyautocraticas far as the organizations were concerned.

What political positions did your dad hold?

Hewasacountycommissioner, chairmanonthe countyboard.Thatwaswhentheybuiltthe
courthouse andthenhe wasalsothe countytreasurerbutnot forlong.

TogiveyousomeideaofmyDad,Governor Pricewasthegovernor ofthe stateandhewasa
verygoodfriend ofmydad's andhehadthe decisionto makeasto whethertotakeaposition
ofasenatorwhowoulddieandhaveto appointanotherlieutenantgovernorandhavehimself
appointed senator or whetherto run outoftermasgovernorandappointsomebodyelseto be
senator. Itwasquiteimportantdecision forhim.Thenightbeforehehadto makethe decision

_________hedroveall.thewayfrom.St.Paul.upto Grand Maraistovisitwithmyfatherandmyfather
andhespentthenighttryingtodiscuss politicalsituation, whichshowsthefeelthegovernor

It was more at a party level.


Did your father participate -photographs of Commission of Public Safety-

Yes,thatwasbefore Iwasborn.-Iwas too youngto know.

You mentioned a Congregational church-is that the church you attended, growing up?

Yes, it was.

Is it still in Grand Marais?

Yes-wereyouconfirmedinthatchurch? Eitherthereorinthehouse.Thereareno records
ofmybirthoranythingelse.Nobody'swere.WhenIhadtogetapassportIhadtoget my
uncleto swearthathewaspresentat mybirthwhenIwasborn.

Were you aware of any Swedish organizations?

TheyhadaMasonicoverthereinGrandMaraisbutnothingthatwasethnic. Everybodyjust

Do you remember other church -related holidays?

MayDay.Mygrandfather, during aperiodofsoberness, decidedthatweshouldhavea

Protestantchurch-thefirstone-heformedagroupandstartedtheMapleHill Churchupat

MapleHillandtothisdaytheyhavea Maplecelebration.

Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
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That church is not the Congregational church?

No,anearlierchurch, non-denominational.

Do you have knowledge about the Maple Hill -the founding of that community?


Ineverheardanything atallabout it. Iknowmostofthepeoplethat founded it but you see

myknowledge oftheGrand MaraispeoplegobackbeforeIleft Duluth. Iknowmostofthe

peoplewhowerethe veryearlypeoplewhocamein betterthanI knowanyofthe people

there now.

Was Maple HiII-a lot of Swedish families were the first settlers other than the
---------XmerlcanIndIan people?

Yes.Whenyoucouldalmostdrawaline;the fisherman wereNorwegian. Thewoodsmen or
farmers wereSwedesandtherestofthepeoplewere there.

So Midsummer celebration was a holiday?

Yes.The4thofJulywasabigholidayandwe -mydadhadalittlestoreandheletmyuncle

andIhavetheconcessionofsellingthe4th ofJulythings.Ihaveacute story. Iwassellingon

SaturdayEvening Post,someLadies'HomeJoumals-anawfulheavy magazine, andIwas

deliveringthat.IdeliveredpapersandIwassellingmarbles andI earnedenough moneysoI


intown-for 25 centsanhour-and it wasahorriblepricebutIgotthe secondbicycleandthen

IgotthethirdbicycleandnowIhadthethreebicycles intownandthisisoneofthefinest

financial moves Ihaveevermadeinmylife.IwenttothecommitteeswhosetupprizesandI


thrillofa bicycle raceandseehow it comesoutmilesperhourdownthe roadandthey

thoughtwellthat wouldbeprettygoodtoo, sotheysetuptwo prettygoodprizesandI liketo

thinktheywere15,10and5dollars, whichisalotofmoneyformeandnowIhavetwoother

kidsridethe othertwobicycles andofcourseIhavetheprizemoneyandsoI gottheprize

moneyforfirst, secondandthirdplace.Absolutelyassuredfromthebeginning;the onlything

wasIneverchargedthemforridingthebicycles intherace.Theydidn'thaveto pay

anything. Andtheydidn'tgetanyprize money.

4th of July?

Itwasabigcelebration andon4thofJulywenormallywouldhavea speakerfromDuluth

come andgiveapatrioticspeechandthenwecometotheracesandwewouldhaveanormal

racebetween the boys-young boysandolderboys -andgirlsandwomenandthenwe would

alsohavea racewithgunnysacksoveryourlegs-yourtwolegswouldbeputtogether-and

afterwehadsomeprizesandthe streetswereall linedupwithtreeshad beencut andput

alongthe streetandthen wewouldhavethe baseballgameandthe baseballgameusuallyput

themenintownversusthe fishermen, andthatwouldbeabigeveut,andthenafterthe

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baseball,therewouldbeatug ofwarandthatwould bemaybethesingle menversusthe
married men and the day was all a big highlight for a child coming in. For a youngster; we
not only made some money but there was much activity -it was one that stays very clearly in
my mind.

You were able to set up shop in front of your dad's door?

Yes, we sold firecrackers, rockets and flags and everybody was very patriotic and I think
immigrants are more patriotic than native-born Americans.
We talk a lot about what you have done. The Swedish heritage or identification in your

family. You said that English was spoken in the household and that your parents felt
very strongly about being American. Do you remember any specific times when your
mom or dad talked to?

No, they never did.
When they were meeting with their relatives and friends what language did they speak?
English. After I became older, too, to notice; they must have spoken Swedish for awhile.
Did they ever share their feelings about their immigration to you?
Never did. They just -my dad was planning ahead more than thinking behind.
Did your family go back to Sweden? .
I haven't, but maybe some cousins I have at sometime.......But I haven't or my mother and

father. ..

Did your parents have sisters and brothers?
No, they were-immigrated -yes, my father had a two sisters and two brothers and my
mother had I think six brothers and twelve? sisters and they all came to the US. Except my
mother's brother Elwood was -came twenty years after the last ofthe family as a big surprise

and his mother and father died when he was six and he came to live with me as a brother for
the rest ofhis life.
That was good for you as an only child?
Oh, yes.
Do you remember if your mother or father wrote letters to Sweden?
I don't think they thought they had anybody left in Sweden.

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When you were growing up do you remember any Swedish traditions?

I can remember onethingwithnopleasure andthatwasa traditional thatwe havelutefisk for
Christmas EveandIhatedlutefiskand during mywhole livingit cameon Christmas Eve.
AndI married a girl-myfirstwife,whodied -fromEnglish descentand shefeltthat if! had
donethatthatwastraditional inourfamilythat it hadto alsobetraditionalat home andwe
tookthetwo children andmyselfa life-timealmostto get herawayfromthat damn lutefisk
on Christmas Eve.

Any other Swedish food?

Oh,she-theSwedishcookswerewonderful.Thepastrieswereexcellent.My motherwould
makeanangelfoodcake;thatwasoneofher prides andjoys-andthenshe'd makethe
Swedishpastries -andmydadwouldmakebouillon, French;butI thinkthat weneverdid
havethe smorgasbordtype ofmealthattheyhavein Sweden.

You said that nobody played the piano? Did any of your immediate family members

sing,weaving,wood carving?

Myfatherwasveryveryopenwiththesmallgroup,buthedislikedpublic displays. My
grandfatherwasinsistentthatthebrothersandhimselfsingduringtheChristmas seasonandI
canstillremember mygrandfatherwhowasshortwithabeard-openinghis mouth wideand
bellowingout-andthebrotherswere always verymute-singingand

So he liked to sing? August?


Do you know of anyone in your family that practiced any of the medical traditions from
the old country?

Nonethat I knowof.

Ifsomeonewas ill what would happen?

Well, wehadadoctorintownbuthewouldnotcallveryoften. Youjustlivedthrough them.
Imean-Mymotherusedmustardrolls?-And shewasabelieverinanotherthingthatgave
menopleasureat all-codliver oil-ifyouhadacold-you hadtohavecodliveroil before
andafterthecold-basica1lytherewasno special Swedish remedies.

Doyourememberanybody havingleechesput onthem?

.No. Notfor medical. Iknowofhavingthemonmebutnotfor medical!

Any wood carving or weaving?

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Mycousinshadtrainedandtheyareallwoodcarvers.Mymotherdid -shemadeladies'hats,

shedid etching, watercolors, oils,shedidchinaandshehada kiln, andwhenshedieda

bunchof?cameinandshehadboughta wholewoodworking set:a lathe, tablesawandshe

wantedto get into woodwork.

How old was your mother when she passed away?
In her 60's.

Did you have any of her painted plates?


Myfather-kindofaninteresting story: whenmygrandmotheronmyfather'ssidewas
dying, sheaskedhersontocomein to seeherandshesaid,"son,you're nowtheoldestofthe
familyandyouknowtheproblems Dadhas;wouldyoupromisemethat you'llnevertakea
drink?"andtomyknowledgemydadlivedup tothatpromise;hedidn't minddrinking-he
wouldsneaka drinkoverto Motherandshe'd haveonedrinkandhe'dfinish theglass.... and
but I meanhejustlivedup tothepromise,sothereforeweneverhadanyalcohol inthe

Do you remember if there was a Temperanee League in Grand Marais?

No at all.

Were there any family heirlooms from Sweden?

I understand that you were married twice? Who was your first wife?
Marianne Bennett. Children? No, we adoptedtwo boys. Tom and Don.

Your first wife passed away; how.old was she?

In her 40's.

What is your second wife's name?
Dorothy Jeannette?-Hughes -married? ..

Did you have any children?
Iacquired7children.Theirnames? Harold,?,Theodore,Rina,Harry? Dorothy,David.

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So there were 9 altogether?


Were they all at home at the same time?

Theyareallscattered. Theywereolderchildren.

Yonknewyonweregoingto bea lawyerbecausethe bumps onthe head saidso;what
have you done in your adult life?

IpracticedlawinMinneapolis andwasthinking ofgoingintopatentlaw.My father was
----------amaeus-feHlle-te-1le-in-GfllllEl-Mamis lleealJSe-euf-Rllatienship-waS-S9iJeed--se-anyway-w~e


thecountyattorneydied-beforehediedandwithoutmyreallyknowing aboutit-therewasa

veryfineattorney-HenryEliason-anattorney at GrandMarais -veryfineattorney-bythe

nameofHenry, but anywaythecountyboardwasgoingtoreplacethecountyattorneywho

haddiedandmyfatherpresented mynameandHenryEliason wasthe proper choice but

therewerethree Swedes onthe countyboardandtherewerethreeNorwegians .and one

Englishmanwhomydadhad known verywell,soIwasappointedbyvirtueofmy

nationality,notbyvirtueofmyabilityandthen -buttogiveyouaconcept;thiswas during

theDepressionandIhonestlyfeltIhad reachedfinancial security. Mysalarywas $800.00a

year.SoIpracticedlawthenforanotheryearandI resigned-Ijustdidn'tgothroughthe

election.Igotinvolvedin -therewasno legalbusinessintown;exceptthefederal

government startedbuying landandhadto getthetitlesinshapeandmyuncle handled

abstractcompanysituatedto workontitlessoIhada lawofficeandI ranthat lawoffice for

manyyears-abouttenyears.Ididn't tryacaseorpracticelaw myself.

What was the-name of your law office?

Johnson, Chapman, Johnson, Chapman, Ruse, Johnson, Ruse.Johnson, Boyd?, Johnson,
Ruse, Boydand Davis.

It changed with the attorneys working with you?


Do you remember your uncle's?

Olgoma ? Land& Abstract Company.

When you stopped being an attorney then what did you do?

I got into naturalresources and I was in real estate for a longtime and natural resources in

timber. Istarteda shoppingcenterdown hereandIwastryingto-',Iwasveryproudthere

weretwootherfellows andwebothweremanufacturingfurniture? fora whileandthenwe

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wenttothemanufactureofhard-boardandwesoldthefirm becausetheotherpartnerscame
into?money-andto GeorgiaPacificandat thetime wesold it we wereproducing34 percent
ofallthehard-boardproducedinthe US.WehadplantsinSuperior.Wisconsin,plantsupin
Michigan, Bemidji,Phillips,WIandinLittle Rock, ARand

Was that under the name of SuperWood?
Yes,underthe nameof SuperWood.
What years?
Thiswasalongtimeaftertheperiodyouaretalking about. 1945when it started.

What do you do?
So you are still very active in the business world?
1wouldn't saythat. But1enjoy it very much.
When you think back on your family history and parents coming to MN from, how

does that make you feel?
1amachildofAmerica.1certainlyrespectmy Swedishheritage. I'ves beenin Swedenafew

End of interview