Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ancestry trip in Nebraska. Part 1, Mom's Mother's Swedish side

My great-grandparents, Carl and Hilma Smith had lived in Stromsburg since 1902 until their death. My great-grandfather had been born in Nebraska (both, actually) to parents who had immigrated from Sweden. He was born Erik Erikson then changed his name to Carl Erikson then to Carl Smith because there were so Eriksons in Stromsburg and he became the only Smith. So, armed with lots of information and photos, my mom and I showed up in Stromsburg just a couple of hours west of Omaha the day after Silver Bella ended. Fortunately and unfortunately it was the first day I had felt myself since we had left Maryland. I had gone to bed the night before about 7:30. I missed telling everyone at SB good bye and have one last evening with them but I physically could not do it. So, I was finally fresh and only had a few hours of easy-going driving to do, we were off. The weather was beautiful, in the 70's and sunny. As soon as we drove into town I knew I was home. We drove around looking for a house that looked like the one in the pictures. My mom has visited there many times in her adulthood but it had been a long time so memories weren't fresh. Her cousin goes almost every year so he knows what's what and had given her a lot of the info we had. While we were driving around I saw this man at the side of the street with his daughter. Something/Someone, a little voice, said to pull over. The man turned out to be Kyle Johansen with his daughter, Hannah, above. And Kyle turned out to be our angel. We showed him the picture and he immediately said that the house was on the south side of the street, about the same time of day as then, etc. He thought he knew which house it was but said if we'd give him 5 minutes he'd make one call and find out for sure. A town of population of 1200, he was back in 3 minutes with the facts. He'd called someone and said, "Where's Carl Smith's house?", and had the info. It was the house he'd been thinking it was and he gave us directions. Before we had time to get the car started, a truck pulls up driven by Wesley Larsen. Wesley tells us that my great-grandfather had cut his hair when he was a boy. Carl Smith was the town barber. It was one of those life moments like none other.
Here's Wesley; he doesn't look old enough for my great-grandfather to have cut his hair, does he?
So here's the picture we had of the house with my great-grandparents and my grandmother in front and...'s the house today. The town of Stromsburg has been almost totally preserved. It's a beautiful, pristine, time-frozen town. Perfection. I had to get out of the car and sit across the street for a while and try to soak in as much as I could. Imagining my grandmother and her brother running around the yard, then my mom and her sister as children visiting their grandparents running around the yard. The second story right window was the one to my grandmother's room. Mom didn't want to knock on the door so I respected that one decision but it was hard.
Sadly the barber shop is no longer there but here's where it was, now a vacant lot.
This is the house across the street from the 'rents and is our future home. Doesn't it scream Doojie? Paul is not wearing down at all so far and it's been almost a month. I was honest enough with him to let him know that I really had wanted to pull a "California" on him. If you want to review "30 Year Legacy Comes to an End" post you'll know or I can give you the cliff notes here that after I went to California "just for the summer", the first time I went to Big Sur I went home and wrote to my parents and told them I wasn't coming home. Same deal here except over the phone and I'm not 19 and single with no kids anymore ergo not the same results.
Dragging me away from Stromsburg kicking and screaming, we headed a few miles out of town to Swede Home where there used to be a small community but only a few houses are there, lots of huge farms, but also the original church where my great-grandparents and grandmother attended and across the street the cemetery where we go back several generations.
I won't bore you all 578 photos of the dead relatives but here's the Smith area. The originally named family was there too, the ones who came directly from Sweden. We spent that night in York where my great-grandfather was born. The next day we drove through Lincoln where my grandmother attended the University of Nebraska and was a Kappa Delta.
We went to the Kappa Delta house and went in but we knew it didn't look much like it had inside when she was there but the outside is the same. I realized, fully, that Matt being a Cornhusker was the perfect compromise between Texas A & M and Penn State. Paul's still not impressed...YET.
Mom in front of the Kappa Delta house.
Cornhuskers football stadium. I think Matt will like it.


Maija said...

I got chills reading your family history! I can only imagine how cool that must have been!

Jill said...

Ok... this is really something! I was a Kappa Delta... my mom was a Kappa Delta 1950-1953... when was your grandma there?
I was at Silverbella.... I am from Omaha...
Do you suppose we have any connections?
It is so fun seeing scenes from Nebraska... looks so much like my parents' home towns!

Doojie said...

Hey Jill, As far as we could calculate not having the exact info with us is that she was there starting in 1923 as she was born in 1905. We can't read Roman Numerals but it kind of looked like that was the year the KD house was built, can you tell from the photo of the historical plaque? I just love small world stuff!