Moline Swedish



Moline, Illinois / A Window
to Sweden and the World

Swedes founded many of the businesses in Moline, Illinois. It began with Olaus Bengtsson and his wife, who walked from Chicago to Moline in about 1847. They had three children with them and had to take turns carrying the youngest. In 1848, another Swedish couple came to Moline from Andover in Henry County, Illinois, where they had settled the year before.

Scene from the Ben Butterworth Parkway in Moline of the Illinois-Iowa Memorial Bridge spanning the Mississippi River

These two Swedish families found Moline to be a small hamlet with only a few shanties by the Mississippi River. The town, which was platted in 1843, had only the basic commodities. Word spread. Times were tough but the people endured. Thousands of native Swedes settled in Moline from the late 1840s through the 1920s. For many years they made up the largest ethnic group in the city. They came to work in the plow factories and to join relatives who were here before them. (Excerpts from the book, Swedes in Moline, Illinois 1847-2002, by Lilly Setterdahl.)

Our group, the Moline Swedish Friendship Association (MSFA), was formed to keep those ties to Sweden alive. We would like to hear from you. If you have ancestors from Bjurtjarn and Karlskoga, in particular, send us news about your ties to Moline. We'd like to share those items on this website to help create a dynamic community between us. Contact us. Send email to

MSFA started in March of 1997 with a small group. It officially organized in January 1999 to support activities creating an awareness of Moline's rich Swedish heritage. 

MSFA coordinates and sponsors cultural exchanges and other events. Our research has revealed more about the history of the Swedes in Moline.  In 2002, we sponsored a group tour to Sweden, which included stops in Moline's "twin city" of Karlstad, Sweden. In 2006, we sponsored a musical play by the Bjurtjarn Theatre Group from Sweden. 

The Moline Swedish Friendship Association was dissolved in June 2018.   

Pictures from a full-house performance by Bjurtjarn

 Theatre Group at First Covenant Church in Moline

 July 2006

The performance was based on stories of emigration in 1853-54 from Bjurtjarn-Karlskoga, Varmland, to America with stops in Moline, where some of the immigrants decided to stay. One of the immigrants, Johan Eric Lindqvist, is the presumed author of a song written aboard the ship, Amerikavisan, which became a popular emigration ballad, depicting the optimism and anguish that the emigrants felt and experienced. The song begins with the words, "Vi sålde våra hemman" (we sold our homesteads), which became the title of the musical play. 

The play recounts the true story of three brothers who left Sweden for America to dig for gold in California. One of the brothers, Eric Peterson, didn't make it to California. He discovered his "paradise on earth" on the banks of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.  Having purchased land in Pepin County, he returned to Sweden to convince relatives, neighbors, and friends to come with him and form a Swedish colony. The group sold everything they owned and turned over their money to their leader. The play depicts the travelers' optimism  and shares tales as they left for the promised land. Several members of the group died of cholera along the way. (See link to America letter in Swedish above.) Once they had reached Moline, some began to doubt the need to go farther to Wisconsin and decided to stay. As home to the growing John Deere factories along the Mississippi River the city offerered work to blacksmiths and others who had experience in the Swedish iron industry. Many descendants from those immigrants still live in the area.

Most of the artists in the play are from Karlskoga and the surrounding area. The Bjurtjarn Theatre Group has performed in Sweden on many occasions and has toured Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. By popular demand, the bilingual group is planning another America tour in the summer of 2011. The Bjurtjarn Theater group features about 65 performers, including  an eight-piece orchestra. MSFA is planning a rousing welcome.  More information will be made available as plans develop.   


Alfred Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833. He lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, from the age of 9 until he was a grown man. He bought the Bofors Bruk in 1894 and lived there a few months a year. At his death, he had 355 patents in various countries. His last will and testament was validated in Sweden because he stabled his horse at Bjorkborn. Hence the Swedish Nobel prizes. The Nobel Museum in Karlskoga was founded in 1978.

 Alfred Nobel, his home, museum, and laboratory at Bjorkborn, Karlskoga


The Bjurtjarn and Karlskoga churches

Interior from the old Karlskoga Church

Moline Settlers Traced to Homesteads in Bjurtjarn

Bjurtjarnstorp is where Lars Johan Jonson (Johansson) worked as a farmhand. He was born Mar 10, 1830 in Bjurtjarn, and married Anna K. Larsdotter, whose second husband was  Hjalmar Köler (Kohler). Descendants in the Moline area include Sherry Cosentine, Coal Valley, who helped host the Bjurtjarn players during their stay in Moline in 2006. See also his birthplace and Ullvettern Farm below.

Miss Sherry Cosentine with her father and brother. Mrs. Cosentine was a Kohler and a direct descendant of Anna K. Larsdotter.

Ullvettern Farm . Anna Catarina Larsdotter, born Jan. 29, 1831, was the maid at this farm. She married the hired man Lars Johan Jonson of Bjurtjarnstorp and emigrated with him from Bjurtjarn to Moline in 1854. (See farm above). Four daughters were born in Moline before Lars Johan died Oct. 31, 1862.  The daughters were Charlotta, born in 1854, Anna Sofia, born in 1856, and Mathilda Abrahamina, born in 1859, and Elida, born in 1862.  

Frövetterstorp where Lars Johan Jonson was born.


Johan Erik Lindqvist and his wife Carolina Jakobsdotter lived in this house at Herrsjötorp with their baby boy before emigrating in 1854.  Carolina was born Dec. 25, 1835 in Bjurtjarn. Upon the death of her husband and baby, she lived in Jamestown, New York, and Detroit, Michigan, where she married E. Conrad Holmgren. They divorced and Carolina moved to Stockholm, Wisconsin before returning to Sweden with her two sons to become a midwife. She then settled in Moline where she practiced her profession. Her great-grandson, Charles Holmgren still lives in Moline and was present at the play in 2006 together with his daugher, Judith Sanberg. Charles has another daughter, Janelle Sammarco, and many grandchildren.

From right to left, Charles Holmgren, Moline, his daughter, Judith, and the actor who played Carolina Jakobsdotter.


The Gustafson family came from Bjurtjarn Gård, formerly Åsjötorp. The children of Maria Stina were: Emma Mathilda, born Feb. 6, 1863, Gustaf Alfrid, born Jan. 4, 1865, and Julia, born Nov. 13, 1868.


Anna Lovisa Olsdotter married to Anders Johansson had her home at Östra Tåbäcken. She was was born Sep. 14, 1834 in Bjurtjärn. 

 The Bresäter home of Sara Maria Nilsson, wife of Erik Johan Johnson  

  Moline settlers from Karlskoga with large families:

Bjorndal, Anders, born Mar. 30, 1828 in Karlskoga, married to Sara M. bornin Karlskoga, Jul 19, 1826, had the following  children born in Karlskoga: Axelina Mathilda (Ericson) born Mar. 23, 1854,  Carl August, born Sep. 9, 1859, Christian, born Nov. 3, 1865, Maria Fredrika, born Feb. 19, 1856, moved to Denver, CO in 1882, Olof Fredrik, born Sep. 22, 1862. (See Bjorndal link above.)

Carlgren, Anders (Andrew), born Aug. 17, 1832 in Karlskoga and his wife Maja K. and their children  born in Karlskoga: Anders Gustaf, born Aug. 8, 1863, moved to Dakota in 1882,  Erik, born Aug. 23, 1868, Johan, born May 21, 1865, and Olof, born Oct. 18, 1861.

Peterson, Olof and Christina. Their tombstone at Riverside Old Cemetery, block 24, shows Olof's date of death as Oct. 1, 1886 at the age of 57. The backside of the stone shows that Mrs. Olof Peterson died Feb. 7, 1910 at the age of 78. They had 12 children, six of whom were living in 1900. According to records at First Lutheran Church, Moline, Olof was born June 27, 1829 in Karlskoga and arrived in Moline in 1853. His wife, Christina K. (Stina Kajsa Pettersdotter?) was born Feb. 3, 1832 and arrived in 1854. Their married children were: Sophia, born Aug. 9, 1857 in Fulton, IL. Her married name was Anderson. In 1932, she lived in Savonburg, KS, but moved to Iowa; Emma Mathilda, confirmed at FLC in 1882, married Oscar F. Swanson in 1890. She died Jan. 23, 1932 in Moline, survived by her husband Oscar and two children, Ms. Frances Swanson at home, and a son, Wallace Swanson (who had no children).  Emma Mathilda had two grandchildren, Lucy and Lloyd. Lloyd England lived in Seattle in 1961; Charles P. Peterson, bookkeeper at Public Power Company married Lillie G, born in Iowa in 1871. Two or more children, Ethel born in 1898 and Charles J, born in 1904. Charles J. Peterson lived in San Diego, CA in 1932.

Carlgren, Anders/Andrew, born Aug. 17, 1832 in Karlskoga. Wife Maja K. Children born in Karlskoga: Anders Gustaf, born Aug. 8, 1863, Erik, born Aug. 23, 1868, Johan, born May 21, 1865, Olof, born Oct. 18, 1861.

Engstrom, Anders, born Mar. 2, 1839 in Karlskoga. Wife Johanna. Daughter  born in Karlskoga: Anna Lovisa, born May 6, 1864

Engstrom, Erik (Erikson), born Dec. 29, 1834 in Karlskoga.

Nyquist, Carl Oscar, born Oct. 8, 1882 in Karlskoga. Wife Emma. Nyquist/Nyline, Axel Fredrik, born Sep. 3, 1869 at Sund, Bjurtjärn. Emigrated in 1888. Five uncles on the Nyquist side of the family had emigrated earlier and lived in Moline: Per Alfred (Peter), arrrived in 1879, Frans August in 1880, Eric Emil in 1881, Anders Fredrik in 1885, and Karl Henrik in 1887, all married with children.  The family joined the Swedish Methodist Church in Moline. One of Axel's brothers, Karl Johan Nyquist also emigrated to Moline and worked for Deere Comp.  Axel and his family moved to Rush City, MN., where he died in 1954.  His youngest son was Bennet Philip, who had a daughter Joan Nyline Morrison, living in Charleston, Maine in 2003. Other relatives may live in  Kansas,  Minneapolis, and Hinkley, MN.

 Anderson, Carl, born in Sep. 1826 in Karlskoga, emigrated from Karlskoga in 1854, married to Caroline Olsdotter, born in Aug. 1834 in Karlskoga. Their children born in Moline: Maria born in June 1856, Mathilda, born in Jan. 1859. Married Charles Ford. The Andersons  also lived in Paxton, IL and Chisago Lake, MN.

Others with unusual names:

The Hinnersson Widholm Family. Mrs. Widholm, Maria Nilsdotter, was born Mar. 11, 1828 in Karlskoga and emigrated in 1854,  She was married to Carl Peter Hinnerson Vidholm, who was from Grythyttan. He wrote letters to home complaining about Eric Peterson's behavior. Son Carl was born in Karlskoga in June of 1852. Sons born in Moline: Erik Wilhelm, Apr. 25, 1856, Frans Oscar, Jan. 27, 1860, and Victor, 1862.

The Rosendahl Family. Johannes Johansson Rosendahl was born in Nov. 1829 in Karlskoga. Died Jan. 1, 1869. Married to Anna Lisa Olsdotter, born Aug. 31, 1829 in Karlskoga. Their sons born in Moline: Carl Johan, born in June 1858, Emma Eugenia, born in Feb. 1860, and Alfred born in Mar. 1862. 

Rosensjö, Erik Ersson, born Sep. 11, 1821 in Karlskoga, married to Anna Johansdotter, who died in Jul. 1854. They had a daughter Anne Lise Ersson, born in Nov. 1847 in Bjurtjarn, and a son, Carl Johan, born in Nov. 1849 in Karlskoga. Father and son served in the Civil War.

Sjostrom (married name), Sofia Mathilda, born Dec. 16, 1844 in Karlskoga. Emigr. 1854. She was the daughter of Carl Peter Anderson, born in 1814 in Karlskoga and his wife Anna Stina Peterson. Sofia had a daughter named Olivia born in in Jan. 1860. Oliva's married name was Krentz.

Wickstrom, Andreas, born SEp. 15, 1829 in Karlskoga. Marrried Christina Sundquist May 18, 1862, probably in Moline.

Emigrants from Bjurtjarn who joined First Lutheran Church in Moline came from the following farms: Bjurtjärn, Björkeberg, Björkhöjden, Bokärr, Bresäter, Etala, Herrnäs, Herrsjötorp, Kattängen, Kväggestorp, Löfnäs, Nolby, Näs, Sands, Säfviken, Ullvettern, Åsjöhyttan, Åsjöhyttetorp, Åsjötorp, Ökna, and Östra Tåbäcken.


First Lutheran Church, Moline, founded in 1850. The current edifice dates back to the 1870s.