By Kristen Miller
STOCKHOLM, MN Stockholm, located in the southwestern corner of Wright County, is one of several areas in America that Swedish immigrants chose to call “home.”
It is also among those settlements chosen for a current exhibit, “United Stockholms of America” at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, on display through Feb. 22.
Through photographs, Swedish photographer Charlie Bennet tells the story of the migration of 1.3 million Swedes, who left their homeland in the late 1800s and the beginning of the 20th century to begin a new life in America.
In many cases, Swedish immigrants “maintained ties to their homeland by giving their new American cities Swedish names, including Stockholm.”
Eight American towns across Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, Maine, Texas, and South Dakota are portrayed through pictures in the exhibit.
On its website, the American Swedish Institutes states that the majority of the towns depicted “are now sparsely populated, desolate yet beautiful resorts that do not have much in common with Stockholm in Sweden.”
It goes on to state that Stockholm in Minnesota, however, “is a shadow of its former self.”
Why Swedish settlers chose Stockholm
The first question is why Swedish immigrants chose to leave their homeland?
A lot of it had to do with the American railroad companies promoting emigration in the Scandinavian countries to the US, specifically to the Upper Midwest and the northern states, like Minnesota, according to Cokato Museum Director Mike Worcester.
“One of those companies was the Great Northern Railway, that went through the Cokato-Dassel area,” Worcester commented.
He referenced a steamship ticket from 1892 for a 21-year-old Swedish woman. The ticket has Cokato as the destination.
“That was very common to see,” Worcester said, adding that the ticket was filled out at an agency in Gothenburg, and the woman boarded in Liverpool.
Possibly one of the biggest issues in Sweden was that land was becoming scarce, Worcester said, explaining that the family farm went to the oldest son.
“The opportunities in the US was a tremendous lure,” Worcester said.
The first Swedish settlers to what we now know as Stockholm Township came in 1862, according to “The History of Wright County,” by Franklin Curtiss-Wedge, copyright 1915.
“Once you had a sizable number of people from a particular area, for example in Sweden, settling in Cokato, for example, word got out,” Worcester said.
“That’s how you ended up with immigrant pockets all over the state,” Worcester said. Such examples are the Finnish at Temperance Corner, and the Irish in Maple Lake.
“They went where others spoke the same language,” Worcester noted.
What was previously known as Mooers Prairie before it was divided into Cokato and Stockholm townships, the area also strongly resembled the Swedish homeland, both geographically and topographically, Worcester explained.
Four years later, a large Swedish emigration “was directed to this town,” according to Curtiss-Wedge.
In Feb. 20, 1890, it was reported in the Cokato Observer that the town of Stockholm “can boast of having four saw mills, four feed mills, four blacksmith shops, one post office, and two churches.”
Stockholm had become its own town, which was common, as settlers couldn’t go far.
“You didn’t want to go on a half-day’s carriage ride to take your milk to the creamery,” Worcester said.
This was the same for the general store.
“They could be functional and profitable,” he added.
Though Stockholm was predominately Swede, its population wasn’t only that of Swedish decent.
Worcester noted that the northern two-thirds was Scandinavian, while the bottom part was made up of Polish, Czech, and Bohemian descent a spill-over from Silver Lake.
Lee Titrud, who was born and raised in Stockholm Township, is of Norwegian descent with his great-great-grandparents coming from Norway and having settled in Stockholm in 1868.
“They were somewhat of the outcast because everyone else was Swedish,” Titrud commented.
This made it difficult, since they spoke a different language Norwegian.
Eventually, they did join Stockholm Lutheran Church. Titrud noted that he is actually more Swedish than Norwegian, as there were more Swedes than Norwegians to pick from for potential spouses.
American Swedish Institute
Check out “United Stockholms of America,” on exhibit now through Feb. 22 at the American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis.
For more information, call (612) 871-4907.