This page contains data about the immigrant Pioneer Families who settled the area in the first 5 years. The time span addressed is July 1867 thru the end of 1872. These are the people who came here when there were no roads, few trees, tall prairie grasses, and lots of rattlesnakes and mosquitos.
Many came overland from the Swedish settlement called Swedebend which is near present day Stratford, Iowa. Some of these had earlier come from northern Sweden to western Illinois and southeastern Iowa and up the river valley northwest to Swedebend. Some had come from the Misterhult area of Sweden in 1865 and came inland to Swedebend which was as far west as the railroad was built. Here they worked as farmers in the Swedebend area.
They came in groups putting what physical possessions they had in wagons pulled by oxen. Some walked. There were no horses. Later arrivals from Sweden came by rail directly to Denison. Then they frequently walked the distance from Denison to the Kiron area.
Deloit was a major point of 'civilization' at that time and had a post office. Their first letters home were sent from there. The first marriages were conducted there by a justice of the peace. In the area was a small saw mill on the Boyer and a small flour mill on the Otter Creek. More plentiful supplies were available in Vail or Council Bluffs.
Railroad construction was a major source of livelihood for these pioneers in their early days in Crawford County. After securing their land by land contract, many were too poor to afford building a home. So, they lived at the dwelling of the railroad boss in the various railroad camps that sprung up as the railroad came through especially in the Vail area. Many Swedes lived in Irish dwellings. Language must have certainly been a problem! Life in the railroad camps was very rough. Henry Jönsson was robbed and killed.
A few of these immigrants set to work creating a shelter on their land. Lumber was scarce. The cost of shipping it in by rail was prohibitively expensive. So these brave people adapted themselves to their new environment. They did have some trees 3 to 4 miles away in plots of land they owned down by the Boyer river. And someone must have had a spade or shovel and an axe and tree saw. So, the new land owners selected sites on their land close to springs or streams for water and on south facing slopes. They dug squarish holes in the side hills, chose some appropriate trees for poles, and proceeded to make themselves a 'home' in these holes which they covered with tree poles for structural support and topped off with layers of prairie sod. These were the legendary "dug-outs" about which many a family story have been passed down to succeeding generations.
For several years these farmers did their 'sod-busting' with crude plows pulled by oxen. Their objective was to grow their food and have a little left over for trading. They planted wheat for flour. Every year they would expand their cultivated acres. Eventually, they had enough grain that they could spare some for horses. Thus, the days of the oxen which existed on a 'grass' diet were drawing to a close.
Although it is recorded that some families remained in their "dug-outs" for many years, the trend was to get an above ground living structure built as soon as practical. Economic factors dictated that these first structures were built more like animal barns than houses. Single wall construction was common. An example of the building techniques can be seen in the Sparfeldt dwelling which still stands in Stockholm section 20. In this dwelling, access to the loft was by circular stairwell which wrapped around a tree trunk placed about 3 feet inside a corner. At least one log house was built in Stockholm section 19.
It is not known if the first above ground dwellings had any sort of basement. They probably did after the tornado of Easter Sunday in 1877 in which John Larson(Otter Creek Sec. 25) was killed when the tornado leveled his house and Mrs. Olof Larson(Otter Creek Sec. 25) was injured by flying debris. The Weberg (Stockholm Sec. 19) and Sparfeldt (Stockholm Sec. 20) homesteads also suffered damage to their structures. There were brick factories down by the Boyer River near Deloit and some Swedish immigrants worked producing bricks in Denison. So the materials were there for those "cellars" under the houses which materialized as small brick lined holes in the ground.
During this period, most of the country schools were being built. Most roadways were being established according to the property boundaries. The 'Old Kiron' crossroads was developing as the commercial area for the Swedish settlement. A post office was established for the community. A number or above ground houses had been built. The Kiron cemetery existed. Sickness probably picked up on the ocean trip resulted in several deaths including a number of adult farmers. The delayed payments on the original land contracts were coming due resulting in some farms being divided and selling off the extra to pay the debt. Too many tragic drownings and rattlesnake bites occurred. Some pioneers moved on to where available land supply allowed acquiring larger farms in Ida county. Swedish was the common tongue although the schools taught their children English. The influx of Swedish immigrants continued. The German wave into Crawford County was getting closer to the Swedish settlement.
Read the story of why these pioneers left
Sweden at this site: The
Path to Your Swedish Roots .
Revised 22 March 1999