Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Frances C Elge - pioneer Montana Lawyer

Frances Caroline Elge (1906 - 1991) was the daughter of August Elg and Judith Ericsson (see http://elgfamily.blogspot.se/2009/11/children-of-johan-elg-and-mysterious.html ). The following text is posted with permission from the editor of The Billings Gazette. Illustrations have been added by me. I will have more information about Frances´ family in a later post.

For 50 years, she's fought for women


Of The Gazette Staff

Monday, Nov. 3, 1980 - The Billings Gazette

When the beautiful young daughter of a Swedish immigrant entered the rough and tumble of Capital City politics, the opposition screamed "Rape!”

Frances C. Elge's political career has spanned a half century — from her own campaign wars in Lewis and Clark County, her service as secretary-treasurer for the first congresswoman, to her on-going fight for the Equal Rights Amendment.

"Born a feminist," she will be back in Helena if the 1981 Legislature attempts to rescind its ratification of the ERA.

And she will be right at home.

It was in Helena in 1932 when she entered politics.

With the ink still fresh on her license to practice law, she ran for public administrator. Then, as now, it was a minor office, but "Fran" Elge made national headlines when her probate of an old man's estate uncovered a hoard of moldy bills in a tarpaper shack.

"An old man died in the county hospital and $750 in war bonds were found under his mattress," she recalled.

" I went to his home, a tarpaper shack, and a neighbor warned me not to go inside. She said I would find the place crawling with vermin."

Public Administrator Elge padlocked the door, waited for a killing frost and then entered to find $5,000 in an old bread wrapper.

The story made the national news wires and Fran was flooded with letters from heirs and pretenders from across the nation.

She also shared the national limelight as a defense counsel in the famous Baldwin Radio Mail Fraud case. The case involved a stock promotion, the inventor of the Baldwin headset, and a number of salesmen.

Also on the defense team was Sam Ford, a former state Supreme Court Justice and a future Montana governor.

The young lawyer was in good company when she lost after the case went all way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nor was it a disgrace to lose to the man acting as prosecutor: Wellington Duncan Rankin, the state's most noted lawyer, largest individual landowner and perhaps Montana's richest man.

”W.D.” as he was known was young Elge's friend and mentor. His sister, former Congresswoman Jeanette Rankin would become an Elge inspiration and cause.

It was on "W.D's" urging that Fran ran for the county attorney's post in Lewis and Clark County.

That's when the opposition screamed, ”Rape!”

It was clearly a sexist campaign tactic. In those days women were not allowed to sit on Montana juries. "Women were not supposed to be exposed to the lurid testimony of the courtroom," Fran explained.

Her opponent was Undersheriff Walter Nylan, who had been admitted to the bar but had let his license lapse 10 years earlier.

Nylan backers asked, "Do you want to put a woman in the position of prosecuting rapists?"

Before the election, the number of statutory rape cases on the docket began to accumulate, reaching an even dozen before the election.

 Fran countered with a newspaper ad which included the endorsement of a number of the state's most respected lawyers.

"It was plain, I was better qualified," she said. The voters in 1934 agreed.

She clearly was the best looking prosecutor in Montana.

 In two years, she only lost one case.

You guessed it. The defense attorney was the man who lent her lawbooks to begin her career - W.D. Rankin.

"It was a murder case," she recalled. "There had been a highway accident and a woman shot the man who caused it."

At the coronor's inquest, the sheriff reported she had said:

"I shot him and I hope I killed him."

It appeared to be a solid case, but between arrest and trial a few things happened.

First, the sheriff became smitten by his prisoner. The prisoner hired W.D. Rankin and Rankin evolved a couple of new angles.

The sheriff - now a prisoner of love - testified, "She might have said, 'I shot him and I hope I didn't kill him."

In the closing arguments, W.D. told the jury his client was pregnant. "You wouldn't want the baby to be born in prison," he said.

They didn't.

The woman was acquitted.

She never had a baby.

And the sheriff insisted he wasn't the fatter.

But prosecutor Elge had a few angles of her own.

When Kid Jackson, a former boxing champion, sauntered into the "Bucket of Blood" and shot owner Johnny Philips, Fran scrambled to find witnesses.

She found Alice Shahaha, a Yakima Indian, who enterprized as a roller of sheepherders and "lady of easy access," in the mental hospital at Warm Springs.

Alice had been sent there by Billings Police on a trumped-up-charge of drug use, Fran recalled.

The prosecutor knew Alice was straight because months earlier Ms. Shahaha and one of her "sisters of the night" had come to Fran's office to ask for a jail term to kick their narcotics habits. Fran obliged with 30 days for vagrancy and watched the pair gain weight as their earnings began to go for food instead of into their pusher's pocket.

Alice was given the full treatment at a beauty salon before taking the stand. She made an excellent witness.

A second prostitute took the stand wearing fine white gloves. She, too, gave credible testimony. Fran was grateful - grateful that the gloves she had given the witness hid the needle tracks on her hands.

Justice prevailed and Kid Jackson was convicted.

Justice took various forms during her tenure as prosecutor.

When a 70-year-old woman was brought in on a shoplifting charge, the Sheriff asked, "What are you going to do with her?"

Fran replied, "I'm going to give her a talking-to and turn her loose."

The sheriff, who profited from feeding prisoners, left muttering, "She ought to be taught a lesson."

Fran said, "If she hasn't learned by now, she isn't going to."

Juveniles were lectured on Saturdays and their parents made to pay for their vandalism. "I never sent a kid to reform school," she recalled.

In 1939, Fran was lobbying the state Legislature for the passage of the Women's Jury Service Act.

As county attorney, she had faced only all-male juries. ("Of course," she said, "that inurred to my benefit.")

In the course of the battle, she enlisted the aid of FDR's Butte campaign manager, a woman with political savvy and clout who lined up a labor-farmers union coalition in support of the bill.

After the bill had passed and women became peers sitting in judgment, Fran was in the presence of two judges when one turned to the other and said, "Say, Judge Downey at Butte has ladies on his jury.

"And do you know, they are showing 'remarkable judgment."

Fran Elge, considered a lawyer, not a woman, by her collegues, never batted an eye.

In 1940, she became Jeanette Rankin's campaign secretary-treasurer.

Rep. Rankin was the first women to be elected in 1916 to the U.S. House of Representatives. She lost her bid for reelection when she was one of only a few to vote against America's entry into World War I.

The war machines were loose again in Europe when Miss Rankin took the the campaign trail in 1940.

Fran served as ghost writer for pro-Rankin articles that appeared in the Montana Catholic Register. Rankin's opponent was Catholic but in trouble with his constituents over a bad debt at Carroll College.

"We carried the Catholic vote," Fran recalled, "although Jeanette was probably not Catholic."

Congresswoman Rankin returned to Washington. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and she stood alone opposing the U.S.'s entry into World War II. That vote cost her a career.

Fran left Montana for Washington as Jeanette's administrative assistant and later held "a number of very good jobs," including a post on the Admiralty Claims and Litigation staff of the Maritime Administration.

In the nation's capital she met the same sexual discrimination she had first encountered in her race for county attorney.
She used "political connections" to fight discrimination and resented having to do so. "Being better qualified than the men I served with should have been enough."
In 1954, she returned to Montana and served as an administrative law judge for the Department of the Interior in Billings until her retirement in 1970.
She was back in Helena in 1971, lobbying for feminist legislation.

On the list was the repeal of a law that made it illegal for women to work more than 8 hours a day - a law that gave employers a handy excuse not to hire women.

A second law which banned discrimination on the basis of race, color or creed was amended to bar discrimination on the basis of sex as well.

But a third piece of legislation in the package, Fran avoided.

Feminists were being smeared as "a league of baby killers" and Fran refused to dilute her influence by taking a stand on an abortion bill.

A charter member of the Montana Council for the Equal Rights Amendment Ratification, she has testified at every legislative hearing considering adoption or rescission of the ERA.

"And I will continue to testify at every hearing," she vowed.

Anyone attempting to debate the ERA with Fran will find her dipping into her purse for a card that carries the full text of the amendment in three paragraphs.

"That's what it says. And that's all it says," she will tell them.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Swedish invention ?

These events predate the Elg family by about 600 years, but since iron-making plays such a large role in our family history, I think this may be of interest:

From the early middle ages until the late 19th Century, the charcoal-fired blast furnace was the mainstay of the iron-making industry (see http://elgfamily.blogspot.se/2010/07/role-of-blacksmiths-in-ironmaking.html ). It has long been thought that this technology was imported to Sweden from Germany in the 14th Century.

However, a 10-year research project involving both historians, metallurgists and archaeologists has now overturned this view. The study has shown that blast furnaces were in use in Sweden as early as the 11th Century, and since these are the earliest findings of this kind, it is not unlikely that the technology was in fact developed here.

And the Swedish tradition of exporting high quality iron and steel started already with the vikings, as production capacity exceeded what the local market needed.

The study, Bengt Berglund et al "Järnet och Sveriges medeltida modernisering" (Iron and the medieval modernization of Sweden), is currently only available in Swedish, and has been published by Jernkontoret, the Swedish Steelmaking Industry Association, an institution which itself dates back to 1747.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

More on Louis Elg - icehouse fire

The Caldwell Tribune, June 27, 1896, p. 1

I came across this notice while searching the digital newpaper archives of The Library of Congress ( http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ ).  The loss to Mr Elg of USD 1500 translates to at least 36 900 USD today – or as much as 1.6 MUSD, depending on the method used to compute the current value. For the complexities of understanding the historic value of money, see http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/ .

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Per Gustaf Bork – blacksmith and narrow gauge pioneer

When the Skyllberg Iron Works planned to introduce steam power on their railroad in 1881, master mechanic Olaus Bork (see “A railroad builder in the family” ) did not have to go far for advice. Since 1875 his younger brother Per Gustaf Bork was employed as a locomotive engineer, and later master mechanic at the Hjo – Stenstorp Railroad (HSJ).

Per Gustaf was born in 1844 at Liljendal, Rämen parish, eight years younger than his brother Olaus. He is only seven when his father dies in smallpox, and their mother remarries his father´s assistant Olof Johnsson Roth. Per Gustaf starts to learn the blacksmith trade, and in 1865 he moves to Rönneshytta. This is a blast furnace which delivers pig iron to the rolling mill at nearby Skyllberg, where Olaus has just been appointed superintendent. Brother-in-law Gustaf Elg (married to Maria Sophia Bork) also moves to Rönneshytta where he is a master blacksmith.

In Rönneshytta Per Gustaf marries Amalia Persdotter, and daughter Tekla Olivia is born in 1869, the couple´s only child. In 1870 the family moves to Arboga. Per Gustaf´s profession is now listed as “machinist”, perhaps a sign that he has taken a first step from blacksmith to the new mechanical engineering industry.

In 1872 the young family moves again, this time to Karlskoga. Here Per Gustaf´s career takes a new turn. He is trained in the high technology of this new era, and next time the family moves, Per Gustaf´s profession is listed as “locomotive engineer”.

In 1872-73, the first parts of the Nora – Karlskoga railroad opens for business, and we can safely assume that it is here that Per Gustaf learns his new profession. In 1873, brother Olaus also oversees the construction of a railroad from Skyllberg to the new standard gauge mainline at Lerbäck – although his line will initially be horse-drawn.

 The boom spirit of Karlskoga is broken by a deep recession in late 1873. By 1875 Per Gustaf moves his family to Hjo, a small town in southern Sweden, located on the shore of lake Vänern, one of Sweden´s largest lakes. Here he is employed as an engineer on the new Hjo-Stenstorp railroad (HSJ.

HSJ engine at the railroad shops in Hjo.  Per Gustaf Bork in the cab. Source www.hsj.se

HSJ was one of the first common carriers on narrow gauge rails in Sweden. The gauge, 3 Swedish feet or 35 1/12”, was the most common narrow gauge in Sweden. Like many other such projects, HSJ was built by local businessmen in Hjo, to connect a town which had been bypassed by the main trunk lines.

The pier in Hjo. An HSJ train and passenger steamer steamer ”s/s Trafik”.  Source: Swedish Railway Museum ( www.samlingsportalen.se )  Jvm.KDAA03023:

Since 1855, Hjo also had one of the best harbors on Lake Vättern (Sweden´s second kargest lake), and while the railroad was seen as a threat to the harbor, the harbor also came to account for a fifth of the freight shipped on the railroad. Shipments included aspen wood for the matchstick factory in Tidaholm, raw liqour for a liqour factory in Hjo, and beet sugar for a sugar refinery in Lidköping.

Villa Olga, around 1900
I have not been able to uncover many details about Per Gustaf Borks career at HSJ, but he seems to have done well. His job title advances from “engineer” to “engineer foreman” and eventually “master mechanic”, and in the final years of the century he is able to purchase Villa Olga, located in a park in Hjo. Today the building is a historical landmark. Bork passed away in 1927.

Relations between the two railroading brothers were perhaps not entirely without frictions. In 1873, HSJ orders their third locomotive, “Tidaholm”, from Henry Hughes in England. Already by 1877, HSJ tries – without success – to sell the locomotive to the Lidköping – Skara – Stenstorp railroad, another 891 mm gauge line which connected to HSJ at Stenstorp. In a document dated October 1883, the locomotive is described as “totally unsuitable” and should be sold immediately. By the autumn of 1885, what appears to he the same locomotive is found on brother Olaus Bork´s Askersund – Skyllberg – Lerbäck railroad, but again meets with little enthusiasm. Among other problems, the short wheelbase makes it prone to derail, in particular when clearing snow. The Skyllberg company tries to sell the loco already in July 1891, and it is finally scrapped by ASLJ in 1903.

Villa Olga today

Location of Hjo, in southern Sweden

Friday, January 3, 2014

Young man with a horn

When other kids my age listened to the Beatles, I walked around with a feeling of being born 30 years too late: My music was the big bands of the 1930´s and 40´s, and to my ears the high point of music history was Benny Goodman´s performance of “One O´Clock Jump” at his legendary Carnegie Hall Concert on January 16, 1938 (listen to the rideout at the end of the song and you will get the meaning of swing). My teenage Walter Mitty dream was standing in a white tuxedo in front of my big band, with young ladies fainting  from excitement right and left. Of course it was not to be..

So I was delighted when I discovered that our family history does after all include a young man with a horn.
Nellie Elge, daughter of emigrated gold miner Frans Otto “Francis” Elg(e), married James Austin Gordon, a dentist in Helena, Montana.
This was a musical family: Dr Gordon was also a clarinet soloist, and Nellie a pianist. With a number of musically inclined children, the formed a family orchestra led by their father. They performed as the staff orchestra for a local radio station.

 Photo: Tei Gordon collection

One of the children, Claude Eugene Gordon (1916-1996)  was given his first cornet at the age of five, and three years later, while in fifth grade, was featured as a soloist playing with the Helena High School Band! While he was still in his early teens, Claude was already a professional player and was teaching for both cornet and accordion.

During the era of live radio and television, Claude distinguished himself as one of the most successful studio trumpet players and gained a reputation as "the trumpet player who never misses." He performed with the studio orchestras on many popular shows including, Amos and Andy, and I Love Lucy. During the 1950s Gordon emerged as one of Hollywood's frequently sought-after jazz trumpet soloists. Claude later formed his own big band which was named the "Best New Band in America" in 1959. Perhaps his timing could have been better – this was a period when young men with guitars were set to take over the popular music industry..

Claude Gordon passed away in 1996. Today, he is best remembered as a teacher. He authored a number of method books. The "Claude Gordon Method" has influenced most of today's top trumpet players, and is still used by teachers across the world. The Claude Gordon Personal Papers and Music Instrument Collection is housed at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

https://www.purtle.com/claude-gordon-approach  About Claude Gordon´s approach to teaching

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blacksmiths going west, part 2: The new country

This two-part article was first written (in Swedish) for a Swedish family history journal. In the first installment, we followed the lives of Gustaf Elg and Maria Sofia Bork in Sweden, leading to their decision to emigrate. Part 2 is partly based on American archives, but mainly on material and photos from the family historian Todd Lindahl, grandson of Franz Gustav "Gust" Elg..

In January 1892 emigration agent August Larsson, with offices at Götgatan 7 in Gothenburg, responds to a request from Gustaf Bork, Ferna Mill, about the cost of a one-way trip to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, United States of America.

August Larsson is the general agent for the Inman Lines Royal English & U.S. Mail Steamers, one of the major emigrant lines. At this time, emigration has developed into a major industry. The Inman Lines´ modern steamers regularly make the journey between Liverpool and New York in six days, and the shipyards are building ever more modern vessels to meet demand. In New York, Ellis Island has just opened, a giant terminal where the immigrants are examined before they are released into the new country.

August Larsson´s letter is a pre-printed standard form, supplemented by hand-written answers to the passenger's specific questions. From this we learn that the journey from Gothenburg to Fergus Falls will cost 189 kr - but out of this the boat trip Gothenburg - New York is only 75 kr. We can also see that Gustaf asked about the cost of upgrading to second class, and that his wife can bring her knitting machine without having to pay customs on arrival.

On April 1, 1892 the family board a ship in the port of Gothenburg to begin the journey. Direct service to to the U.S. is still a couple of decades into the future: The first leg of the hourney is a boat trip to Hull in England, and from there they travel by train across England to Liverpool, and the Inman Line´s pride and joy, the s / s City of New York.

The Inman Lines´ “City of New York”

The City of New York was a modern ship, built in Scotland in 1888, where she was baptized by Lady Randolph Churchill, famous socialite beauty and mother of Winston Churchill. She was the first large ocean steamer with twin propellers, which meant that she did not have to be equipped with sails as backup (breaking the propeller shaft was not uncommon on the first large steamers ..). In the autumn of 1892, she sets a speed record from the U.S. to Europe with 20.11 knots. 560 feet long, she can take 1740 passengers, of which 1000 - mainly immigrants - in steerage.

The party consists of Gustaf and Maria Sofia Elg, with daughters Emma, Johanna, Alma, Sofia, Frida and Ellen and son Frans Gustaf. The party also includes son Johan Wilhelm (John) Elg,. who had traveled back to Sweden in February to help the family on the journey, but also to fetch his bride to be, Johanna Karolina Winkler.

On the same ship is Harald Axel Söderkvist, a former seaman, born in Södertälje, but residing on Svartensgatan in Stockholm. His destination is also Fergus Falls, where he will later marry Gustaf Elg´s daughter Emma Elizabeth. It is an interesting mystery how a blacksmith's daughter from the deep forests came to know a nine years younger sailor from Södertälje?

Their destination, Fergus Falls, is an outpost in western Minnesota, on the border between a moraine landscape of forests and lakes that reminded of home, and an endless ocean of prairie grassland that stretches westward.

Barnesville, with the railroad shops in the distance

A few miles north is Barnesville, with railroad workshops where the brothers Elg found jobs. The railroad was now part of the Great Northern Railroad, the northernmost of the great trans-continental railroads, and railroad construction reached its final destination, Seattle, in 1893. By 1890, the city of Barnesville had grown to 1069 people, and had repair shops and a roundhouse. At one time, the railroad employed 75 to 150 men, largely immigrants from Germany, Sweden and Norway. By the turn of the century there were five hotels, five churches, two breweries and the City Hall and Opera was newly built. In 1907, the railroad shops were moved to Devil´s Lake, North Dakota, and the golden era of the railroad in Barnesville comes to an end.

In 1901, the Elg family moves to Brainerd, another major railroad junction along the Great Northern RR, a little further east. Two of the brothers, Aaron and John Elg, try their luck as merchants, and between 1901 and 1904 they run the "Elg Bro's Store," a food / general store in Brainerd. Their success as merchants is limited, and in 1904, they are forced to sell the store. Aaron goes back to the railroad workshops, while John is listed in the 1905 City Directory as a clerk at a competing general store, "K.W. Lagerquist" (also Swedish owned).

The Elg Brothers Store. John and Aaron in the center.

Elg Brothers letterhead

Emma Elizabeth, now Mrs. Soderquist, stays in Fergus Falls, where Harold has become foreman of the linemen at a telephone company. As true Americans, the family buys their first automobile in 1902.

Harold and Emma with son Herbert show off their new automobile

Sisters Johanna / Hannah and Alma become housekeepers for Mr Rank, a director of the Great Northern Railroad, in St. Paul. In her old age Alma becomes deaf and blind, and sister Hanna learns to communicate with her by writing on the palm.

Alma, Emma and Hanna Elg

The youngest sister, Ellen, became the first telephone operator in Fergus Falls. One day, one of the city's merchants arrived at the telephone exchange to receive a call. Ellen pointed to the phone booth, and the man, who had never seen a phone before leaned against the door and called out "hello?" at the door handle. In 1912 Ellen travels with her family in the automobiles to Minneapolis. There are no road signs on the small dirt roads, and people along the road do not know where they lead, because you take the train if you need to travel. Whenever they encounter a horse cart, they must run off the road and shut the engine. The trip takes four days, with several flat tires. Today, the route takes less than three hours, on 178 miles of highway.

Aaron and Adolph in the D&IR shop

Three of the brothers, Adolph, Aaron and Gust (Franz Gustaf) eventually move to Two Harbors, a small town on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. Here they are employed in the workshops of the Duluth & Iron Range Railroad, a road pulling heavy iron ore trains to the docks in Two Harbors. And this is where – a century later - I meet Gustaf´s grandchildren, and take part of their history. Two Harbors also had a radical labor movement with several Swedish agitators.


Gust (top right) on the running board of D&IR #70


The Elg family, gathered in Brainerd, October 1906

Gustaf Elg dies in 1909 in Brainerd, 75 years old. His wife Maria Sofia survives him by almost 20 years. The oldest daughter Emma Soderquist dies in 1915, Harold moves further west to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and remarries, but after his second wife passes away, he is reunited with his former brothers-in-law-in Two Harbors. At 70, Aaron Elg makes a trip to Sweden. He was traveling alone and we do not know the purpose of his journey. He returns to New York on Aug. 26, 1931 on the Swedish American Line´s "Kungsholm".

Gustaf Elg, with Emma, Harold and Herbert. Notice the picture on the wall behind Gustaf!


The picture enlarged: A painting based on the photo of Liljendal which Gustaf and Maria Sofia brought to Minnesota (see part 1). Liljendal is the place where Gustaf became a blacksmith, and where Gustaf and Maria Sofia met and married.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Blacksmiths going west, part 1: Life in Sweden

This two-part article was first written (in Swedish) for a Swedish family history journal. In this first installment, we will follow the lives of Gustaf Elg and Maria Sofia Bork in Sweden, leading to their decision to emigrate.


The 19th century´s industrial revolution was made possible by new and more efficient methods of producing iron and steel, and demand for these products skyrocketed. But the new technology also came to mean the end of the wood-fired furnaces and forges that for 200 years had provided the world with iron from Sweden.

The Industrial Revolution also laid the foundation for the mass emigration to the United States, and many blacksmiths chose to emigrate, rather than to seek work in the modern industrial mills.

This was also the case for my Elg family, with roots in Säfsnäs / Gravendal (and going back to Finnish slash and burn farmers who first settled in the area around 1600). At least 20 Elgs emigrated to the United States, and I have contact with about 40 descendants, from Maine to Seattle and Los Angeles

In the early 1800s, a number of blacksmiths from our Elg family moved a few miles west, to Liljendal in Rämmen parish. This is also where most emigrants have roots. In this story, we will follow one of these emigrant blacksmith families. The family's life in Sweden is traced from parish records and other historical sources. The family's fortunes in America is partly based on American archives, but mainly on material from the family historian Todd Lindahl, grandson of Franz Gustav "Gust" Elg.

Liljendal abt 1860.
Gustaf and Maria Sofia brought this photo to Minnesota.
Todd Lindahl collection

Gustaf Elg, blacksmith

Gustaf Elg was born in 1834 in Gravendal, the youngest son of my great-great-grandfather Lars Elg (1789-1853) and Lisa Gråberg (1792-1873). Lars Elg was a master blacksmith, and introduced what was known as the German method of forging at Gravendal. An older sister of Gustaf, Christina Elg (1820-1902) also came to emigrate, but that's a different (and interesting) story.

At the age of fifteen, Gustaf moves to Liljendal in 1849, where he begins to learn the blacksmith profession as a helper to his older brother, Johan Elg (1817-1896). In 1852 Gustaf moves again, this time to Gustavsström, Gåsborn, to continue his training with another brother, master hammersmith Peter Elg (1814-1890).

Gustaf Elg and Maria Sofia Bork
Todd Lindahl collection

Two years later, Gustav moves back to Rämmen, to work as an assistant to master blacksmith Jan Bork at Heden, an annex to the Liljendal mill. In 1856, at age 22, his apprenticeship is over, and Gustaf marries Maria Sofia Bork (b. 1838 in Liljendal). Maria Sofia is the daughter of Jan Bork's deceased brother Petter Bork (1812-1851) and Lisa Stålberg. (While there were a number of Elg-smiths in Rämmen parish the Bork family was even more numerous, and I have found several marriages between the two families).

Gustav is now an assistant master, the master blacksmith´s number two man, and leads the crew when the master is not in place. At least in the early years, the couple lives with Maria Sofia's family, where her mother has remarried the 15 years younger assistant master Olof Jonsson Roth. Marrying a blacksmith's widow, and taking responsibility for supporting the family, was not an unusual way for a blacksmith apprentice to obtain the resources needed to advance to assistant master and master blacksmith.

In 1864, after fifteen years of training, Gustaf could finally call himself a master blacksmith. In Liljendal Maria Sofia also gave birth to six of the couple's total of 14 children: Emma Elizabeth (b.1857), Carl Gustaf (b. 1859), Aaron (b. 1860), Johanna (b. 1862), Francis Edward (b. 1865), and John William (b. 1866). Francis Edward died only 17 months old.

Rönneshytta, Lerbäck

In 1867, after three years as a master blacksmith, Gustaf moves with his growing family to Rönneshytta in Lerbäck parish in Närke. The move also includes helper Erik Johan Elg, a son of Gustaf´s brother Johan who once trained Gustaf in Liljendal. Rönneshytta delivers pig iron to the nearby Skyllberg mill where the iron is processed in a newly built rolling mill.

At the Skyllberg mill, Maria Sofia's brother Olaus Bork is master mechanic since two years, and is responsible for an ambitious expansion program. He will eventually build the narrow gauge railroad connecting Skyllberg to the outside world, and is a master mechanic for 32 years (see http://elgfamily.blogspot.se/2013/09/a-railroad-builder-in-family.html ).

In Rönneshytta three children are born, Adolf Fredrik (1868), Alma Justina (1870) and Lambert (1875).

Emigration begins

In 1876 it is time for the family to move again, this time to Fagersta Mill, Västanfors. The oungest son, Lambert, dies shortly afterwards, just 17 months old. Three years later, the first step on the way to America is taken, as the eldest son Carl Gustaf Elg emigrates, 20 years old, in July 1879. Two years later, his brother Aaron moves to Eskilstuna as an apprentice at Bolinder Munktell, but soon he follows his brother's trail, and emigrates to the U.S. in August, 1882. Both brothers find work in railroad workshops in Minnesota.

In 1884 daughter Emma Elizabeth leaves the nest. She travels to Gävle to become kitchen maid to Colonel Carl Bror Munck. Munck is not only commander of the Helsinglands Regiment, he also belongs to King Oscar II's staff, and his wife is lady in waiting to Queen Victoria.

Aaron is visits Sweden in 1885, presumably to discuss further emigration plans. Next year brothers Johan Wilhelm and Adolf Fredrik also emigrate.

Two of Olaus Bork's sons, Carl Gustaf and Leonard Bork, also emigrate to Minnesota, in April 1887. I have written about Carl Gustaf´s tragic death in a previous article ( http://elgfamily.blogspot.se/2013/09/a-railroad-builder-in-family.html ) Leonard returns to Sweden and Skyllberg after his brother's death. Adolf stays a year in Montana before moving back to Minnesota. Possibly he brought with him the remains of Carl Gustaf Bork, as he is buried in Barnesville, Minnesota.

Hannah and Adolph Elg, at Carl Gustaf Bork´s grave in Barnesville, 1939
Todd Lindahl Collection

The family is not yet ready for the big leap. While Johan Wilhelm and Adolf Fredrik emigrate to Minnesota Gustaf Elg moves his family one last time in 1886, now to Ferna Mill, Gunnilsbo, Västmanland. While at Ferna a decision is reached, and sometime 1891 - 1892 Gustaf writes to an emigration agent to inquire about the cost of moving the family to Minnesota.

The blacksmith shop at Ferna, abt 1880


In a following article, we will follow the family across the Atlantic, and their life in the new country.