Gustaf Unonius

Gustaf Unonius

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Gustaf Unonius was born of Swedish parents in Helsingfors, Finland, in 1810. To avoid Russian rule, the family moved to Sweden and Unonius was educated at Uppsala University. After graduating with a law degree he became a government clerk at Uppsala.

In 1841, Unonius and his new wife emigrated to the United States. The couple helped established the Swedish colony in New Uppsala, Wisconsin. Unonius entered the Episcopal ministry and served the community for seventeen years before returning to Sweden. His autobiography, A Pioneer in Northwest America: 1841-1858, was published in 1861.

Often we had found notices nailed to some tree close to the public road announcing such meetings, and had had private invitations to attend them, especially from zealous partisans of the Democratic Party apparently eager to convert us to their political faith. Notwithstanding these solicitations, we had not as yet even applied for United States citizenship. This would not have prevented us, though, from taking pan in various communal affairs and from voting in the local elections. But we did not consider ourselves well-enough informed in these matters to be willing to take active part in them. Who were to become justices of the peace, road inspectors, constables, tax collectors, and so forth, did not much concern us. We were protected as to person and property and felt fully satisfied with our government, or, rather, we hardly noticed that we had any.

Foreigners are generally inclined to engage in political disputes long before they know what things are all about, and the rashness with which they make use of a citizenship they have gained all too soon is without question harmful to the country.

The American republic will no doubt sooner or later find it necessary to change its naturalization laws. The Germans and especially the Irish have hardly had time to get a roof over their heads before they begin to busy themselves with political affairs of all kinds, become eager partisans, get their hands into everything, and cause no end of trouble and disorder - all of which could be avoided if Americans were left to govern the country alone.

Accustomed perhaps to being of little or no importance before, in a more liberal social order they feel all-important, and the spirit of opposition that led them to political radicalism at home now induces them to oppose almost everything proposed by sane and wise Americans for the good of the country. Many a time I have heard Germans who hardly understood the simplest English sentences say, "We are not going to let the Americans rule over us." Their false conception of liberty and citizenship and that of the Irish gave me an absolute distaste for all politics, and neither then nor later did I meddle with it except in questions where my duty bade me appear quietly and calmly at the ballot box.

I love the democratic social order where the majesty of the people really is a majesty before which a man can stand with the same veneration, yes, with even more, than before a royal throne; and I believe that the American people, left to themselves, will one day reveal that majesty to the world.

The principal site of the city is low and swampy, almost at the same level as Lake Michigan, and most of the buildings were at that time erected close to the lakeshore or on the miry, alluvial soil which time and again was flooded by the river flowing right through the city. Certain other parts consisted of waste expanses of sand without a blade of grass, and from them a floury dust was carried in blinding clouds over the clayey streets, sifting into the houses, making them as dusty inside as the outdoors was muddy and unpleasant. During the rainy season, and sometimes far into summer, the streets were almost impassable for driving as well as for walking. To be sure they were supplied with board sidewalks, but crossing from one side of the street to the the other entailed decided difficulties.

Twelve years have passed, and what a change in its appearance as well as in its population, which is now 120,000. The formerly low, swampy streets have been raised several feet and paved with planks or stone. The river has been dredged and widened; its shores have been supported with piles, evened off, raised well above the water level, and are now occupied by loading piers or used as foundations for gigantic warehouses or factories. It is now a city in which private and public buildings have been erected that compare favorably both in size and style with the most splendid structures in the capitals of Europe. In a single summer, in 1855, 2,700 new houses were built, many of which would be a source of pride to any city.

Swedish American Historical Society of Wisconsin

Friman Family Historical Marker in Genoa City, Wisconsin

Carl Friman (1781-1862) emigrated from Sweden with five sons in 1838 and purchased 80 acres near Genoa City. The Friman family members were recognized as the first Swedes to settle permanently in Wisconsin. Returning to his homeland, Friman corresponded regularly with his sons who remained here. Their letters from Wisconsin appeared in Swedish newspapers, stimulating interest in opportunities and conditions in America.

The Friman family was the vanguard of the 19th century Swedish immigration to the United States. By 1900, over 1.1 million persons of Swedish birth or descent resided in the United States, and nearly 49,000 individuals born in Sweden lived in Wisconsin.

Gustaf Unonius Memorial in Nashotah, Wisconsin

Gustaf Unonius (1810-1902), a graduate of the University of Uppsala, Sweden, immigrated to Wisconsin in 1841 and established a settlement at Pine Lake. In 1842, Unonius encouraged to enter Nashotah House Seminary to study for Holy Orders.

Unonius, Nashotah House’s first graduate, was ordained in 1845 and served congregations in Pine Lake, Ashippun and Manitowoc before moving to Chicago in 1849. He helped found St. Ansgarius Church there and remained until returning permanently to Sweden in 1858.

Reference: Forsbeck, Filip A., New Upsala, the first Swedish settlement in Wisconsin. Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1936

Rambo Apple Trees at Old World Wisconsin, Eagle, Wisconsin (planted 2008)

When Swedish immigrant Peter Gunnarsson arrived in America on the second sailing of the sailing ship Kalmar Nyckel in 1640, he brought the seeds from his favorite apple tree. Changing his name to Peter Rambo his life and career flourished in American and his Rambo apple trees still grow in the Pennsylvania and Ohio. To honor Swedish immigrants who have settled in Wisconsin, Swedish American Historical Society has sponsored the planting of two Rambo apple trees on the Finnish farm grounds at Old World Wisconsin.

Reference Bev Wenzel presentation – Annual Meeting – 10/11/08

Update from Jeanne Christensen OWW Historic Gardener 8/11/2019:

“There are two Rambo apple trees growing in the Ketola orchard (1910’s Finnish Area). Both are quite healthy and are approximately 8-10 feet in height. Each have a bit of cedar apple rust spotting on the foliage but nothing major. Pruning is needed and will be done at the appropriate time.”

Gustaf Unonius - History

Stephenson, George M. (George Malcolm), 1883-1958 / Letters relating to Gustaf Unonius and the early Swedish settlers in Wisconsin

Stephenson, George M.
Historical introduction, pp. 7-39 PDF (8.0 MB)

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How to Cite

For the purposes of a bibliography entry or footnote, follow this model:

Birth Records Index Citation Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Genealogy Index: Birth Record Entry for Racine County, Reel No. 0248, Record No. 002578 viewed online at on [insert today's date here] Marriage Records Index Citation Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Genealogy Index: Marriage Record Entry for Kenosha County, Volume No. 02, Page No. 166 viewed online at on [insert today's date here] Death Records Index Citation Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Genealogy Index: Death Record Entry for Dane County, Volume No. 02, Page No. 257 viewed online at on [insert today's date here]

Unonius, Gustaf (1810 - 1902)

Gustaf Elias Marius Unonius also referred to as Gustav Unonius, Gustave Unonius, Gustavus Unonius, or Gustov Unonius (25 August 1810 – 14 October 1902) was a pioneer and priest in the American Midwest. Unonius served as a catalyst for early Scandinavian emigration to the Upper Midwest.

Gustaf Elias Marius Unonius (25. elokuuta 1810 Helsinki – 14. lokakuuta 1902 Hacksta, Ruotsi) oli Suomessa syntynyt pappi, konsuli ja amerikansiirtolaisten olojen kuvaaja.

Unoniuksen vanhemmat olivat Israel Unonius ja Maria Juliana Gardberg. Helsingissä syntynyt Unonius muutti jo lapsena vanhempiensa mukana Ruotsiin Grisslehamniin, jossa hänen isänsä toimi postimestarina ja tullinhoitajana. Unonius opiskeli Karlbergin kadettikoulussa 1823-1830, mutta ei ryhtynyt upseeriksi, vaan kirjoittautui Uppsalan yliopistoon. Hänen Frans Mikael Franzénille omistamansa runo Gustaf eller den finske flytktningen (1829) on tuolta ajalta. Koleran vaivatessa Ruotsia 1834 Unonius opiskeli hetken lääketiedettä, kunnes päätti muuttaa Yhdysvaltoihin 1841. Siellä hän teki elämäntyönsä siirtolaispappina, opiskeltuaan 1843-1845 episkopaalisen kirkon papiksi. Chicagossa asuessaan 1856-1858 Unonius toimi Ruotsin ja Norjan konsulina. Ruotsiin 1858 palattuaan hän pyrki evankelis-luterilaisen kirkon papiksi, mutta ei tullut hyväksytyksi. 1861 alkaen hän jatkoi isänsä ammatissa Grisslehamnin tullipäällikkönä. Hänen siellä kirjoittamaansa muistelmateosta Minne från en sjuttonårig vistelse i nordvestra Amerika pidetään yhtenä parhaista Amerikan siirtolaisolojen kuvauksista. Teos ilmestyi kahdessa osassa vuosina 1861 ja 1862 ja se käännettiin myös englanniksi.

Gustaf Unonius -->

Gustaf Elias UNONIUS (n. la 25-an de aŭgusto 1810 - m. la 14-an de oktobro 1902) estis la fondinto de frua sveda kolonio en Nord-Ameriko, konita kiel Nova Upsalo, proksime al la urbo Merton en la kantono Waukesha. Tiu kolonio rapide fariĝis modelo por la posta, amasa skandinava elmigrado al Usono.

Gustaf naskiĝis la 25-an de aŭgusto 1810 en Helsinko, en la grandprinclando Finnlando, kiu tiam apartenis al Rusio. Lia familio transloĝiĝis al Svedio, kiam li estis ankoraŭ knabo. Li sekve vojaĝis al Usono, kaj aventureme esploris la okcidentan amerikan limon. Sian vivon li poste raportis en siaj duvolumaj memuaroj, titolitaj Pioniro en Nordokcidenta Ameriko 1841-1858 (angle Pioneer in Northwest America 1841-1858). Unonius cetere skribis leterojn al svedaj, danaj kaj finaj gazetoj pri pionira vivo en Ameriko : tio kaŭzis amasan skandinavan elmigradon al Usona Mez-Okcidento.

Unonius studadis en Nashotah, Viskonsino, kie li obtenis diplomon. Li poste fariĝis episkopala pastoro, revenis al Svedio en 1858 kaj mortis tie la 14-an de oktobro 1902.

Saint John's Lutheran Church ELCA

St. John&rsquos Evangelical Lutheran Church is proud to celebrate over 170 years of history. On March 3, 1844, a group of Swedes and Norwegians organized St. John&rsquos, then called Pine Lake Scandinavian Parish. On the same day, the local Bishop consecrated their cemetery, which can still be found as &ldquoHoly Innocents&rdquo on Highway C. A local Swede and early parish leader, Gustaf Unonius, entered Nashotah House Seminary to be ordained as its first pastor.

In August of 1847, many Norwegians members of Pine Lake Parish left to organize a new Norwegian Lutheran congregation in Johnson&rsquos Mill, now Stone Bank. The congregation was officially named St. John&rsquos Lutheran, though it was referred to as Pine Lake Norwegian Lutheran Church for many years.

In 1885, the original wooden church was replaced by the present brick church. In 1924, it was raised to add a basement and front addition. In 1980, after years of debate, the congregation moved the entire church building from the cemetery next to Kuhtz&rsquos General Store, across the street to its current location, adding at the same time a larger basement for Sunday School rooms and fellowship. Many fine pastors have served the congregation over the years.

St. John&rsquos has been a caring and mission-minded congregation that proclaims the Word of God while educating youth and adults. It has been a rock to Stone Bank and its surrounding neighborhoods. As a congregation we look forward to the future in excitement along with Pastor Karen Jost, as we continue to be a welcoming Christ-centered community of believers.

Return to Sweden

Unonius returned to Sweden in 1858, having lived in the United States for 17 years. The stories of his travels to the United States and the trials and tribulations of life on the frontier were the subject of his two-volume memoirs, published in 1862. A partial translation of his memoirs, A Pioneer in Northwest America 1841-1858: The Memoirs of Gustaf Unonius, was published in 1960 for the Swedish Pioneer Historical Society by the University of Minnesota Press. [ 2 ]

Jan Gustaf Unonius

  • Elias Carl Unonius 1794-
  • Christina Unonius 1796-1839
  • Jan Gustaf Unonius 1798-1820
  • Johanna Gustava Fredrika Unonius 1802-1809
  • Pehr Otto Fredric Unonius 1806-
  • Adolph Wilhelm Unonius 1807-1878
  • Bernt Magnus-Christian Unonius 1809-1809

Unonius Family Tree Databases

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