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Manuscripts by Subject - Family / Local History - #11222

Title: Dahlgren Family  

Dates: ca. 1870s-2014

Collection Number:  MSS 11222

Quantity: 4.5 feet

Abstract: Consists of the papers of Swedish immigrants John F. and Maria Charlotte (Erickson) Dahlgren and their children Edla, Helmer, Hilda, Emmy, and Ruth (Hartman), genealogical material, and records of the Swedish Mission Church east of Wilton (ND). The family lived in Burleigh and McLean Counties.

Provenance: The Dahlgren Family Papers were donated to the State Historical Society of North Dakota by Julianne Hartman Cutts on June 24, 2014. An addition to the collection was made by Hartman Cutts on July 22, 2014. A framed hand tinted black and wedding portrait of John F. Dahlgren and Maria Charlotte Erickson, ca. May 27, 1906, was donated to the SHSND by Ruth Hartman on September 26, 1996. It was separated to the collection, transferred to the photo archives, and added back to this collection on April 28, 2016.

Property rights: The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to the collection.

Copyrights: Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs.  Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code and an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.  Permission to use any radio or television broadcast portions of the collection must be sought from the creator.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

Transfer: Artifacts from the collection were offered to the Museum Division of the SHSND, and publications were transferred to the State Archives' Publications in June 2014. See case file for details.

By Hilda Dahlgren

John F. Dahlgren was born May 11, 1872 in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of Mariana Svenson and J. A. Dahl. At 3 1/2 years of age, John was placed in care of foster parents by his father who paid 110 crowns a year until the boy was 15 years old. The childhood years were spent in Varmland province of Sweden.

On November 2, 1889 he arrived at Bismarck, ND with his foster mother to join his foster father who had come in May of that year. When John saw the Bismarck depot he thought it was a suburb to the capitol city of the state. The tram conductor repeated "Bismarck" several times. He assured himself. A Swedish speaking man met and took them by lumber wagon drawn by a team of horses 25 miles north of Bismarck. The foster father had a sod house and two oxen. John was amazed to drive oxen and live in a sod house. He broke land for his foster father. Later settled on a homestead, NE 1/4, S. 30, T. 143, R. 79, of his own four miles northeast of Wilton. Since this quarter land was not sufficient to feed a family, he after some years broke up a quarter of land he bought McLean county two miles from the homestead.

Maria Charlotta Erickson was born January 17, 1876 in Sweden. In 1902 Maria arrived with her father in Wilton (ND). She had grown up on the west side of Fryken River in Sweden, and John had grown up on the east side and had been confirmed in the same church there. They had not met until they came to North Dakota. John F. Dahlgren and Maria Charlotta Erickson were married May 27, 1906 Sunday afternoon m their homestead home. They were charter members of the Swedish Mission Church east of Wilton. In later years it changed to Mission Free Church. Their warm interest and support followed their church and its institutions throughout life. In later years it was with gratitude that I gave active service in choir and church program and knew first hand association with Covenant Headquarters during my accounting career in Chicago.

The pride of a young man in the early days was a horse and buggy. James (nicknamed Svarten) was a chubby, gentle, glossy, black horse with a white star on its forehead. The harness had beautiful three-inch glass half-globes showing a brown horse on bridle temple. The buggy was kept well painted, shiny black with red wheels. Even I (the third child) had the thrill to drive the dear horse. When the horse died at 23 years of age, his fur was made into a robe for a sled or bed. Dad used It on his bed at age 90 in cold winters.

There were no school buses in pioneer days. We lived 1 3/4 miles from Grass Lake School #2. We lived the farthest from school and Dad hauled us by bobsled and picked up children along the way. One girl 1/3 mile from school would come out wraps in hand. "Why do you come so early?" One winter 1/4 mile from the school the horses got stuck in a drift on the road beside a farm barn. We had to get out and walk the rest of the way. In the evening we met Dad with the bobsled west of the snowdrift. The drift carried us but not the horses. Cold days Dad would reach home with ice on his eyelashes and whiskers. We were six children: Edla, Helmer, Hilda, Emmy, Ruth and John Eskil. Dad hauled school children many years. Dad was insistent on no absence from school. Also Dad greatly appreciated voting privileges and duties. On one occasion of severe weather, he went to the polls on stone boat drawn by one horse. When we reached voting age, he urged us to go to the polls. During his lifetime Dad saw the passing of oxen, horses and cars, and airplanes flying over the same road on which he hauled wheat to market at Bismarck as a youth with horse team. The rolling plains east of Missouri River in North Dakota are the residue of a glacier that receded, forming the Red River and flowing into Lake Winnipeg in Canada. To produce farming land the rock surface had to be drilled, packed with dynamite and blasted. Hard work! Then the rocks were hauled on a stone boat or low wagon to piles on the edge of pasture land or for a stone wall along the fence edge of a field. Spring work was followed by rock hauling and fence repair to keep cattle inside the pasture and out of fields. In the fall, Russian thistles and tumbleweed would blow from the waysides and idle ground. They would pile high in fence corners and any obstructions and had to be moved and burned.

How would our nation have been developed had not the pioneer mothers pitched in? Mother was an excellent cook. When Dad was hard at work putting in the crop, she made special effort to have fruit dishes and delicious puddings at the meals. She also took care of the chores with cows, chickens, hogs and colts. In addition, she was an efficient nurse. One winter day a dairy cow was sick. Mother couldn't resist taking a look in the barn on a February day. That evening Mother got chills. I was born prematurely the next morning. I was very tiny. Mother has told me my fingers were like the toes of a small songbird. To keep me from freezing to death in the cold winter, Mother put me in a basket and hung me in the ceiling above the heating stove. A neighbor lady told me when I was a teenager, "I didn't think you would live, but I dared not say so to your mother."

One summer Mother and Dad took a vacation in Yellowstone National Park. What a contrast to  see spruce, pine and evergreens like their childhood communities had, instead of the home on the prairie they now had learned to love.

In 1945 Mother's health was failing. She moved to Bismarck to have more leisure and be close to doctors. On Oct. 9 she passed away and memorial services were on a sunny afternoon. The family loss was immense.

In 1950 Dad with two daughters visited Sweden and saw the schoolhouse where he, as a boy, helped plant birch trees. They were tall trees now. He sat in the third row in the schoolroom. "This is about where I sat." We snapped his picture. He visited a classmate. "We are about the same age, we two 18-year-olds," chuckled the friend as they sat on a bench in front of the house. Dad visited the church, the spire of which he had watched till it disappeared in the distance when he, at 17, left his childhood community. "Would you retire here in Sweden now?" he was asked. "No, I am a United States citizen," said Dad. The land that had seemed so bleak from prairie fires when the emigrant youth arrived, had won his heart.

Dad's mother in Stockholm had wanted to send him to Uppsala University in Sweden in his youth. Dad was well read and had history of United States and Sweden on his five fingers. He was very nearsighted. "You should have done as your Mother wanted and become a college professor," we once told Dad. "But think, then I would never have met Mother," said Dad. "It would have been easier for God to send Mother to Uppsala than to send her across ocean to America," we teased. "Well, that is fulfilled in you, my daughters now," said Dad thoughtfully. We were three daughters teaching public school at that time.

Dad went home to God for Christmas December 22, 1964. He was 92 years and 7 months old. Memorial services, December 29, in Bismarck and at the church east of Wilton gave tribute and beauty to the pioneer. Nature had dressed the community in hoar-frost in a bleak afternoon sun. The beauty and peace of the landscape and service remain cherished memories. As I reflect on Mother and Dad, it seems they lived a century ahead of their time. They both were open-minded, well read and progressive. They never seemed old in mind.

Edla M. Dahlgren was born June 9, 1907 at Wilton (ND) and raised there. After high school she attended Ellendale Teachers College and earned her Standard Teaching Certificate. She then went on to attend the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud State College and Mankato State College. She earned her bachelor of science in education at Dickinson State College. During her 25 year teaching career, she taught elementary school at several communities in ND, MN and WY. She was a member of the ND Teacher's Association, National Education Association, Swedish Club, Garden Club and Wesleyan Church. she died July 29, 1993 in Bismarck (ND).

Helmer Dahlgren was born March 24, 1909. He farmed with his father and married Verrell Harris on April 14, 1951 in AL. They lived in Horton (AL) and had one daughter, Jellette H. Helmer died June 2, 1982 and is buried at Nixon Chapel, Marshall County (AL).

Hilda E. Dahlgren was born February 6, 1911. Hilda was educated in Wilton and became certified as an elementary school teacher in 1941 and taught in rural schools in McLean County from 1941-1945. Hilda was interested in a business career and attended the business school at the North Dakota State School of Science at Wahpeton, where she earned a certificate of proficiency in bookkeeping and business practice. She continued her education in Chicago, where she attended and graduated from the junior college of North Park College. In 1950, after a trip to Europe with her father and sister, she sought employment in the Chicago area and worked for various firms as an accountant for 25 years. During that time, she attended evening classes at Northwestern University at Evanston (IL).  Hilda died July 29, 2000 in Bismarck and is buried at the Mission Cemetery, Wilton (ND). In 1975, Hilda retired to Bismarck, where she resided until July 1993 when she became a resident of the Strasburg nursing home.  During her retirement in Bismarck, Hilda continued her interests in birds, flowers, trees and nature. She was a member of the Garden Club and the Three Crowns Swedish Club.

Emmy Dahlgren was born June 2, 1913. She attended Wilton schools and moved to Bismarck in 1945, where she worked at local restaurants, Anderson State Fur and Capital Publishing Company. She also worked at Mesa National Park for one summer, Glacier National Park for two years, and at Camp Grassick as a cook. She died July 7, 1988 at Bismarck and is buried in Mission Cemetery in Wilton.

Ruth Olivia Dahlgren Hartman was born on May 26, 1916 and grew up on the family farm near Wilton (ND) and later moved to Bismarck (ND), attending local schools in both areas. In 1944 Ruth attended the State Normal and Industrial School in Ellendale (ND). Ruth taught for four years in rural ND towns. She traveled with her father and sisters to Sweden in 1950. Upon returning to ND she graduated from Minot State College in 1951 with a bachelor of science in elementary education and a minor in Library Science. From 1951-1956 Ruth was the Valley City school librarian and from 1956-1960 she was a librarian for the Glendale Public Library System in CA. In the spring of 1960 she earned her AMLS Masters Degree in Library Science from the University of Michigan. She subsequently worked as a circulation and reference Librarian at the University of Nevada in Reno from 1960-1961 and was Reference Librarian and Documents Librarian at Fresno State College in CA from 1961-1965. Ruth moved to Ellensburg (WA) to become Head of the Documents, Maps, and Microforms Department at Central Washington University (CWU) until her retirement on June 30, 1985.

She married the love of her life Donald Austin Hartman, a local WA rancher, on August 19, 1967 and they made their home in Ellensburg (WA). Ruth and Don enjoyed traveling worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. Ruth was a lifetime member of the North Dakota State Historical Society, and in recent years the state legislature honored her for her family's support of this organization. She was also a reviewer for American Reference Books Annual and also wrote and presented professional papers at national organizations, including those she published.

Ruth was an active member of the First Lutheran Church of Ellensburg from 1965-1988 and since then of the Central Lutheran Church in Yakima. She was also a member and leader of the Ellensburg Christian Women Club.  She passed away May 3, 2014.


Box 1:
1 Maria Charlotta Erickson Dahlgren - correspondence from her sister, immigration/travel papers (mostly in the Swedish language), 1889-1944
2 John F. Dahlgren - correspondence, 1889-1959
3 John F. Dahlgren - correspondence (post cards), 1950s-1960s
4 John F. Dahlgren - certificates and passport (marriage, immigration, citizenship, homestead documents), 1889-1950    
5 John F. Dahlgren - farm record and stallion service book, ca. 1890-1951               
6 John F. Dahlgren - miscellaneous (biography in Swedish, funeral materials, obituary, cards, clippings, notes, documents in Swedish), 1899-1964
7 Edla Dahlgren - diplomas and certificates, 1923-1968
8 Edla Dahlgren - miscellaneous (correspondence, obituary, autograph book, funeral book, Bismarck-Mandan Retired Teachers' Association 1990-1991 membership list), 1939-1993
9 Helmer Dahlgren - obituary and obituary of his wife Verrell, 1982 and n.d.
10 Hilda Dahlgren - miscellaneous (birthday cards, obituary, correspondence, funeral guest book, school reunion material, Grace Lutheran Church [Bismarck, ND] 1981 directory), ca. 1950-2000
11 Hilda Dahlgren - miscellaneous (VHS memorial and trip diary), ca. 1950s-2000
12 Emmy Dahlgren - miscellaneous (obituary, notebook, copy of birth certificate, funeral guest book and program, World War II ration books and cards, school report cards and diploma), 1928-1988
13 Ruth (Dahlgren) Hartman - miscellaneous (correspondence, oral interview on              cassette with transcript, school records, news clippings,  Golden Air News [Strasburg Care Center]), 1929-2014
14 Genealogical records, n.d.
15 Sunne Evangelical church and Swedish Evangelical Church, Slaughter (ND) records, 1898-1949
16 Miscellaneous notes and published material in Swedish, n.d.
17 Miscellaneous (desk calendars/diaries, 1993-1999, handwritten book of recipes, commencement information), 1938-1999

Box 2:    Photograph album (11222-001-032)

Box 3:    Photograph album (11222-033-073 and 074-075 [loose])

Box 4:   
Photograph album (11222-076-387)
Photograph album (11222-388-414)
Photograph album (11222-415-434)
Photograph album (11222-435-468)
Photograph album (11222-469-507)

Box 5:    Photograph album (11222-508-652)

Box 6:    Photograph album (11222-653-877)

Box 7:    Photographs (11222-878-890)

Box 8:    Family history recorded in two bound booklets acquired by Ruth (Dahlgren) Hartman when she became a member of the SHSND Foundation in 1996


11222-001-032   Photograph album with unidentified carte de visite portraits of individuals and groups, most taken in Sweden, ca. 1870s
11222-033-073   Photograph album with unidentified carte de visite, cabinet card, prints and tintype portraits of individuals and groups, most taken in Sweden, ca. 1870s-1900s
11222-074            Probably Maria with Helmer Dahlgren, ca. 1910
11222-075            Unidentified family portrait, probably in Sweden, ca. 1890s
11222-076-387   Images around the farm, farm equipment, photos of the Dahlgren family, neighbors, holidays, pets and animals, Grass Lake School No. 2, Swedish Mission church, Asbury Camp Tabernacle, scenes in Bismarck (ND), Sunne Lutheran Church at Wilton (ND), the State Training School at Mandan (ND), John E. in World War II uniform and wedding, death of Maria Dahlgren, Bismarck's diamond jubilee, Falkirk school, Bucyrus school, Dunn Center school,  ca. 1920-1950s 
11222-388-414   Students and faculty at high school, probably Bucyrus High School, 1940s
11222-415-434   Photographs of family and friends: Maria Dahlgren baking, John’s 75th
birthday, Knott’s Berry Farm, Sweden, North Dakota State School of Science at Wahpeton building, ca. 1933-1952
11222-435-468   Images around the farm, farm equipment, photos of the Dahlgren family, animals, home interiors, 1930s               
11222-469-507   Images of Private John Eskil Dahlgren at Fort Bliss (TX), camping in the deserts of NM, Camp Beasely, ca. 1942-1943 
11222-508-652   Images around the farm, Fourth of July, the Grass Lake School #2 and its students, Lignite coal mine, Mission Church, farm equipment, photos of the Dahlgren family, friends and neighbors, animals, Sweden, ca. 1923-1940s
11222-653-877   John F., Hilda and Ruth Dahlgren’s trip to Sweden, 1950
11222-878-890   Family portraits, ca. 1930s-1950s
11222-891           Framed hand tinted black and wedding portrait of John F. Dahlgren and Maria Charlotte Erickson, ca. May 27, 1906 (on shelf)

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