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 Texas : Features : Book Reviews

THE SWEDISH TEXANS

by Dr. Larry Scott

Review by John Troesser

While Swedish Texans are excluded from the pamphlet series, previously mentioned in our main article, it is probably due to the depth and detail of Dr. Larry E. Scottís The Swedish Texans, an informative and entertaining book also published by The University of Texas Institute of Cultures at San Antonio (1990).

Indeed, as Mayor Carlson said, The Swedish Language Newspaper Texas Posten was the history of the Swedish Texans. Published weekly from 1896 to 1982, it continued to feature Swedish news on the front page and at least 25% of the text was in Swedish up until it closed its doors. A competitor, Texas Bladet (1900-1909) started publishing monthly in Hutto, moved to Elgin, went weekly, then Georgetown and finally Austin where it was bought by Texas Posten. The Postenís strength was in its contributing correspondents in every Texas Swedish community.

Elgin and Manor never became predominately Swedish, but served as hubs for the smaller communities that were. Elginís first direct outside telephone line was to Swedish Lund.

Today the Swedish provinces that furnished the most immigrants to the U.S. have the same number of people they had in 1860. Many of the Swedish Texans transmigrated from northern US cities, brought here by Texas Posten, since they enjoyed a healthy circulation outside Texas.

Two Swedish Colleges were formed. Trinity in Round Rock, and Wesleyan in Austin. Trinity, founded in 1906, closed in 1929. Wesleyan raised dairy cattle on land they purchased for 600 dollars in 1912. This land extended from what is now Red River Street in Austin to Waller Creek and from 24th to 26th Streets. The Administration Building became an office annex to the UT Law School when Wesleyan was purchased in 1936 for 135,000 dollars. The building was demolished in 1976. Today, two barn-like structures still stand behind a fence on Guadalupe directly across from Conanís pizza. (There is no evidence of Conan being Swedish or Texan, but itís good to know Barbarians have a place to hang out in Austin, instead of pillaging the drag or barbecuing Bevo.

Govalle was once the ranch of S. M. Swenson, another prominent Swede.

Perhaps the most colorful character in this book is a Swede with the unlikely name of Swante Palm. Although undereducated in Sweden, he did manage to learn English, German, French and Latin before leaving home. This probably helped him when he applied for the job as Postmaster of La Grange. He became Texasí foremost bibliophile and amassed a library of 13,000 volumes. The German sculptress Elisabet Ney carved a bust of Mr. Palm, which stands today at the Eugene Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas, the recipient of the bulk of Mr. Palmís library.

Included in this book, is a chapter on language and cultural borrowing of words, and another chapter deals with how the immigrants adapted to problems that were unknown in Sweden. Fortunately fire ants had not arrived at that time, or Texas wouldíve been left without Swedes and a lot of other immigrant groups.

Our thanks again to Mayor Carlson, for piquing our curiosity.

© John Troesser

 
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