The Johnson twins, Swan and Pete, did not take advantage of being confirmed with their fifteen year old sister Emma in 1880 when the first Lutheran confirmation occurred in Compton Township, Minnesota. They didn’t budge the next year either when Swan’s future wife, Beda at age fourteen, was confirmed.
Now one might think these two had been confirmed at an earlier date. The custom in pioneer Swedish communities was to confirm around the age of fourteen or so. But in 1880 Swan and Pete were twenty years of age—men by the standards of their day.
In 1874 when the twins were of the confirming age, the family was farming in Dakota County near Rosemount, Minnesota. In 1875 they show up in the Minnesota Census as a part of a small group of forty-four Swedes mixed in among a lot of Irish immigrants, a few Germans, and maybe a couple of Norwegians.
Now there wasn’t a Lutheran church in sight of Rosemount at the time. One popped up in Hastings in 1871. But Hasting was about fifteen to twenty miles from their whereabouts in Dakota County and not a trip to make very often on poor roads and in certain types of weather.
Sweden at the time only allowed one Christian denomination by law. You were either Lutheran or risking incarceration. The twins’ parents, Peter Johnson and Johanna Anderson, were both confirmed Lutheran Christians. Their confirmations were duly noted in the Swedish household examination records of the time along with other particulars such as birth dates and small pox vaccinations.
Once in the new land many Swedish immigrants chartered new Lutheran congregations or joined existing ones. Others however went in search of something novel and now legal. Swedes seeking spiritual change account for the Swedish Baptist, Swedish Methodist, and Swedish Covenant churches throughout Minnesota. Still some Swedes sought some spiritual peace opting to leave faith matters of any kind behind them in the hills of their homeland.
There was a Methodist Church near the family in Dakota County. It was incorporated in 1868 and the building was being built in 1874. The church is on the 1879 plat map of Rosemount way over in the Western corner of section 30. I’m not sure the family had pietistic leanings though. There’s no mention in the family legend of anything of this sort. And being it was a German Methodist congregation (and not a Swedish Methodist congregation) makes me think the family may have shied away from it.
Swan and Pete however as well as their older brother Johan Gustaf and their younger sister Betsey all came of confirming age while living in Dakota County. With few choices, what did the family do? Travel to Hastings? Confirm in the Methodist Church? Or chose to do nothing?
Born February 15th, 1860 in Carver County, Minnesota, Andrew Peter and Svante would have had plenty of opportunity to be baptized. Carver County was an active Swedish community boasting two Swedish Lutheran churches within five miles of each other and within the area the Johnson family was living at the time with another family from home. The twins were born twenty months after their parents landed in Boston, Massachusetts and nineteen months after their brother, Johan Gustaf, was born. Surrounded by family and friends from home, life in Carver County was most likely full of past traditions.
Church records for the East Union Lutheran Church in Carver County are messy and difficult to decipher. However, while not stellar, the church records of the Compton Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church prove legible. The records note the twins were baptized in 1860 in Carver County. Reading on, a small and somewhat messy notation in Swenglish written in these same church records indicate that 1909 was a big year for the twins. At forty-nine years of age Swan, Pete, and Swan’s son Fredie (age fourteen or so) where all confirmed in the Compton Church.
We may never know what prompted this late confirmation. One thought is that their mother’s death the year prior caused the twins to do some thinking on spiritual matters. Perhaps they knew Johanna regretted not finding a way to have her children confirmed in Dakota County. Maybe the twins’ confirmation was fulfillment of their mother’s final wish.
Well that is one thought. My other thought lies within the power of Beda Anderson Johnson.
Beda, according to legend, spoke her mind. She could have nagged Swan at precisely the most aggravating yet effective moment about this confirmation thing. The couple already had one child confirmed in 1907 and now another one was ready to go. Yet here was the father still unconfirmed and living just down the road from the church!
Slowly over time, Swan could have weakened. Can’t a man get any peace in his own home? Maybe not. So Swan could have trudged across the fields over to Pete’s house one evening seeking some brotherly solace. As was their custom, the twins could settled into shooting the breeze around the table at twilight. Eventually after a few Swedish silences, Swan could have raised the topic of confirmation. A few silences later Pete could have nodded and said, “Yah. I tink I vill be yoining you, Svaney.”
Like music I can hear a roll of Compton chuckles spill out over the table, the children listening and Emma smiling as she finishes up the dishes. Then I imagine Swan and Pete sighing in surrender to the matrimonial fates conceding without words that the power of two women in cahoots is not to be reckoned with.
And I think I’ll just leave it at that—a few interesting facts about the cloud of witnesses who came before me rolled into a whole lot of conjecture about another time and another place that makes for somewhat of a passable story to tell.
Federal Census of 1860 for Carver County, Minnesota.
Minnesota State Census of 1875 for Rosemount in Dakota County, Minnesota.
Records for the bark, Minona, accessed at the the Swenson Swedish Immigration Center at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.
Rosemount Plat Map of 1879. Courtesy of the Dakota County Historical Society. Accessed 9/28/2012.
Rosemount United Methodist Church at http://www.rosemountumc.org/about/our-church-history/ Accessed on April 15, 2015.
Swedes in Minnesota by Anne Gillespie Lewis. Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press. 2004.
Swedish-American Church Records: Swenson Swedish Immigration Center at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. http://www.augustana.edu/general-information/swenson-center-/genealogy/church-records/minnesota. Accessed on April 17, 2015.
Swedish Household Record for Petter Johansson and Johanna Andreasdottor. Algutstorp B: 2 (1851-1971) Image 95 (Source: Arkiv Digital AD AB)