This serene looking church in Naverstad, Västra Götaland County, Sweden is the parish where August Julius Olson was born on 17 January 1866 to the maiden Oleana Nilsdotter. No mention is made of Gus’s father in the parish record.
On his marriage license Gus gave his father’s name as Ole Bryngel (circa 1896) and his birth place as Norway.
The Naverstad parish records indicate that Gus’ mother, Oleana, left the Naverstad parish in 1868 to travel to Norway. Gus would have been around 2 years old when his mother left him.
Contrary to what a researcher from the Latter-Saints Genealogical Department reported to the family in 1985, the records in Sweden indicate that Gus was not thrown in the poor house at the age of 3. He was raised by his mother’s parents and remained with them until he was a young adult, when he left to apprentice as a shoemaker. Gus told his children and grandchildren that he was a shoemaker to the princesses of the Swedish court but he stopped this line of work when he grew tired of seeing his lovely shoes ruined in one night of dancing. The records show that he was never near the Swedish court, so this was probably a story Gus told his children to explain why he made them such sturdy (and to them unattractive) shoes.
In 1887, the 22 year old Gus decided to leave Sweden and try his luck, like so many others, in America. Swedish historical researcher Laila Falk told me that, “on Digitalarkivet, the Norwegian site for emigration, August is together with two other boys from Naverstad on the ship Rollo 1887, April 15 going to Duluth Minnesota.” The boys travelled by way of Norway en route to America.
I have not found any definitive records for Gus in the Duluth area. The name August Olson in included in some local records but I can’t determine yet if it is actually him. Further research needs to be done to determine whether Gus lived in Minnesota and/or Iron Mountain, Michigan where his future wife was living as of 1892, and/or some other town in the Northwest before moving to Washington state.
Several entries for the name August Olson are listed in the Tacoma directories at the time but I have not yet been able to identify which is him. Whether Albertina came to Tacoma with Gus or came on her own, the first record I found for her after leaving Michigan was in the City of Tacoma directory of 1896. She is listed as Albertine E. Satelin and her residence as 944 South E Street, Tacoma. Her occupation is Domestic. She is by then divorced from Karl Oskar Gädda and is living with her four year old son.
August and Albertine, now both residents of Tacoma, married on May 1, 1896 at the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Seattle. Another Swedish immigrant, the Reverend Martin L. Larson performed the ceremony. Mrs. Larson was a witness as was August Johnson, a Swedish stone cutter who lodged with the Larsons (1900 Federal Census.)
The following photographs were likely taken to commemorate their marriage. In the first photo, Gus is wearing a different suit and tie than he is in the second photograph, which was likely their wedding portrait, so it was possibly taken on a different day, but the style suggests the same professional photographer took the picture. Albertina and Gus both look proud to be photographed in their lovely American clothes. Undoubtably they sent copies of these photographs back to their family in Sweden to show how well they were doing in America.
The studio name is not included on the copies I have obtained. If anyone has information about professional photographers in Seattle and Tacoma area in the late 1890s I would very much be interested to attempt to identify the photographer.
True to his word to his beloved wife, August Olson adopted Albertina’s son, renaming him John Peter Olson. They then sent passage money for Albertina’s first son, Frederik Satelin. There is one directory record for Fred using his mother’s surname but later on all of the records show his name as Fred Johnson. Gus and Albertina also had five children together, Ester Elvira, Henry G., Anna Marie, Phillip W., and Arvid Howard.
After finally saving enough money to buy land Gus and Albertina became farmers in the Tacoma – Puyallup river valley.
Gus built the barns and a rough log style house in the old Swedish tongue-and-groove style woodwork / building technique. They had cows and other farm animals and grew a variety of crops, but berries were their basic cash crop. Eventually Gus built a lovely white farm house for his large family and they moved out of the rustic building, which was used in future years to house seasonal berry pickers and occasional farm help.
This charming family photograph was taken on the Olson farm in 1911. Gus and two of his children, Phillip and I think it is Ester, share a rare moment of rest on the farm. Sadly, Phillip died 8 years after this photo was taken, at the young age of 17.
Taken two years before she died in 1931, Albertina was about 64 years in the following picture.
She is seated contentedly on the railing of her porch. She is wearing a simple print housedress and has her apron on. She looks like she has just taken a break from cooking to catch a cool morning breeze coming off the nearby river. Albertina has the patina of age from a combination of hard work and happiness thanks to her ever loyal and loving Gus and devoted children. Neither Albertina nor Gus ever regretted their decisions to leave Naverstad to make a new life for themselves in America. And though they each left Naverstad separately and for different reasons, it amazes me how they had unknowingly in those early years been travelling not only steadily Westward but also toward each other.
Many thanks to Cathy Cunningham of Washington and to Laila Falk of Sweden for your invaluable research assistance, photographs, and interest in the Sätelin – Olson family history.