by Emmett R Smith
WHEN My mother had me take violin-lessons for three years when I was eleven to fourteen, my mother’s father would chuckle and listen dutifully when I sawed out various exercises and tunes, but with no great musical inclination. In just the same way in church, Grandfather would sit with head modestly cast down and humming but slightly to himself while the other Swedish Lutherans at the Grace Church in old Mankato all droned the words to “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”–all in one groaning dull note and quite regardless of the talents of the organist.
My maternal Swedish forebears were not musicians.
Indeed, when my Great-grandfather Anders Peder Jakobsson was a small boy in Smaland his parents would beat him and the other children savagely, if they caught any of them creeping off through the woods to listen to the Gypsies playing music.
This is what Grandfather’s younger sister Huldy Olsen said to me in 1968 when I was nineteen, in the last summer of Grandpa’s life.
THAT Same year–he was ill with cancer and would die in November–that silent old man told me the only two stories he ever spoke to me about his father:
IN The old country before emigrating my Great-grandfather went to an agricultural school to learn something of farming. The people of Smaland lived on poor ground and mainly they were stonecutters, apart from a few gardens, small fields and some cattle. It seemed necessary therefore to learn something more about farming as my Great-grandfather’s elder brothers were already west of Little Falls, MN, around the villages of Uppsala and Swanville and Burtram.
While he was at the school, Grandfather told me, his father ran up against some rich men’s sons who had been told off to go there to learn how to care for horses. This is because these young men were destined for the cavalry–and, heretofore, had been driven all over the place like teenagers, by servants in carriages.
Needless to say some of these gilded youth were hard-put-to-it.
My Great-grandfather was there learning something about horseshoeing, and finally the rich young men who could do nothing with their critters called out, one imagines irritably:
Ja, Landssman! Hyr mycket du hrosset liften?
“Hey, countryboy! How do you make this horse pick up [its foot]?”
The town people were that ignorant–that’s what my Grandfather said to me.
LATER, In Minnesota, my Great-grandfather heard that the ground was better down by Mankato.
Accordingly, he set off to the South and went to work in the quarry at Kasota. During this time he stayed in Cleveland where Grandfather–his eldest son–was born on 13 June 1886. My Great-grandfather’s purpose in cutting stone was to save money to first of all send for his wife Louisa and then to buy land. This he actually did already in 1885 when he walked down from LeSueur County with an iron frying pan and two hundred dollars in a sock, to pay down on ground just a scant mile north of Eagle Lake, MN, on today’s county road 27.
IN 1969, the summer after Grandpa died, my Mother’s brother, my Uncle Emmett, said to me that when Anders Peder Jakobsson (b 1850) journeyed from Taberg in Smaland to Gothenberg to take ship to America at about 1880, and when he landed in New York, he straight away became “Andrew Peter Jacobson.”
And he set out by train to Minnesota to join his brothers.
In Pennsylvania he ran out of money. The fare from New York to Chicago in those days was perhaps only one or three dollars, so you can see that money meant something in those days.
Great-grandfather Jacobson went down the road on foot until he came to a stone-quarry.
THERE He asked the owner for a “yob?”
The American laughed at him and called him “Ole” and said:
“And just how much should I pay you for this ‘yob’?”
“Mister, you can pay anything you want–just so I can write to my wife and tell her I have work,” said my Great-grandfather Andrew Peter Jacobson.
This is what my Uncle Emmett said to me about /his/ Grandfather in 1969 when I was twenty, the year after Grandpa died.
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 15 July 2006]