A History of the Kalmar Nyckel
and a New Look at New Sweden

an account by John R. Henderson,
written for his father, Joseph R. Henderson,
and any other descendents of passengers
who crossed to America aboard that mighty ship

Joe and Dolly before the Kalmar Nyckkel 2003

Kalmar Nyckel, Old and New

The Kalmar Nyckel was a remarkable ship. She was the pride of Sweden, heavily armed, able to hold a large cargo, yet more nimble and maneuverable than other ships her size. Majestic and seaworthy, this three-masted square-rigger first crossed of the Atlantic Ocean in 1638. Unknown to most Americans, and omitted from all but a few history books, she has the distinction of being the ship that crossed the Atlantic Ocean more times than any other ship before the American Revolution. She only made four round trips, but nonetheless, that was the more than any other ship was able to accomplish.

The modern replica of the Kalmar Nyckel was built 350 years later to become Delaware's Tall Ship. Back in 2001 and 2003, several members of our family sailed aboard her, and my father boarded her once much earlier after the construction was complete but before she was ready to sail. The new Kalmar Nyckel was constructed to resemble the original ship as closely as possible, but much guesswork had to be used. A few contemporary descriptions exist, but no blueprints, plans or drawings of the original Kalmar Nyckel have been found. Like the original Kalmar Nyckel, the replica is painted the same shade of blue as found on the Swedish flag and hosts a golden lion as her figurehead. Unlike the original, and hidden from view, the modern-day ship has a engine for back-up power and a contemporary kitchen for her crew. Both ships were built with a square stern and a high poopdeck, underneath which the ship's captain's quarters could be found. Even if they were almost the same size, in the seventeenth century, her captain would have considered the space large and comfortable, while to a modern eye the modern Kalmar Nyckel's captain's quarters appear to be a bit cramped. Different members of our family spent glorious and fun-filled sunny afternoons aboard the new Kalmar Nyckel on Delaware Bay. In contrast, when some of our ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the original ship, they would have spent over three months in miserable quarters bringing with them all their clothes and other earthly possessions, including, if they were so lucky, livestock.

The first Kalmar Nyckel served her country for more than thirty years. She was a merchant ship that had been redesigned as a man-of-war. The first time the Kalmar Nyckel sailed across the Atlantic, she was under orders to attack any vulnerable enemy ship she might encounter and relieve it any cargo the captain deemed to be valuable -- in other words, in addition to all the other remarkable things about her, the Kalmar Nyckel was also a pirate ship.

Dreams of a Swedish Empire

To appreciate the history of the Kalmar Nyckel, it is important to understand the colonial aspirations of the Kingdom of Sweden. Not to besmirch the Swedes, but Sweden is not the first (or second, or third, or fourth) country you think of as an empire-building world power. In American history surveys, Nya Sverige, or New Sweden, is usually considered an insignificant episode, if it is included at all. However, when the Kalmar Nyckel was setting its trans-Atlantic record, Sweden really was a "Great Power" in Europe. The Thirty Years War was raging, and King Gustavus Adolphus II earned the nickname the Lion of the North as he became the principal military figure of Europe. He was hailed a great Protestant champion and did his best to vanquish the Catholic states and conquer for Sweden as much of Europe as he could. Finland and much of Scandinavia had already fallen under Swedish domination, but he expanded his empire to include Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, plus significant parts of Russia, Poland, and Germany. When trading company directors approached him with a proposal for extending the empire into the New World, he granted them a charter.

The trading company had several different names and was re-organized more than a few times. Names included the General Trading Company, the Swedish Florida Company, Swedish West Indian Company, the Ships' Company, the Australian Company, the South Company, the United South Ships Company, and finally the name we know it by today, the New Sweden Company.

If the directors were pleased to now have a charter, they were disappointed in two other major regards. The king left it up to the directors to find their own funding for an expedition across the Atlantic (or beyond), and he gave them no ships, as he had none to spare while war was being waged. Fortunately for the directors, they did have some experience raising money and organizing an expedition to the New World. Most of them were Dutch, not Swedes, and had been involved in the founding of New Amsterdam. They had only approached the Swedish king because they had had disputes with their royal Dutch patrons and been fired. Good protestant capitalists and disgruntled empire builders, they were looking for a fresh start and a second chance to make their fortune.

The company was first chartered in 1626, but not much progress was made for several years. The waging of the Thirty Years War made it difficult for a trading company to raise money, hire crews of sailors, and find willing settlers with which to establish a new colony. Then, when things finally started to look promising, but before as much as a single ship was in their possession, the king was killed in battle.

The great Gustavus Aldolphus's eleven-year-old daughter succeeded him to the throne. Fortunately for the directors of the New Sweden Company, the young queen, or in actuality the Swedish regency government led by chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, proved to be just as keen on creating a Swedish empire as the king had been. Unfortunately for the directors, setbacks in the Thirty Years War had caused Sweden to lose control over some Prussian ports and the revenues they generated, so the new government was even less willing to part with money from the Swedish treasury to back the project. Oxenstierma would prove to be more helpful, however, in helping the company acquire a ship.

In Steps Peter Minuit

Early dreams for Swedish empire appear to have included Asia, Brazil, African copper mines, and what someone called Magellanland, but the trading company only made progress after Peter Minuit [I've read that his name should be pronounced "min WEE."] joined the board of directors in 1632 and convinced the Swedish authorities to focus on the North America. The trouble with North American was that by 1630 there wasn't any part of it left to discover, or at least that wasn't already claimed. Minuit, however, as the recently fired Director-General of New Netherlands, had knowledge of a solution to that problem. His plan involved secrecy, international intrigue, an almost enlightened notion regarding Indian sovereignty, and, perhaps, thoughts of revenge against the government of the Netherlands.

All this time, the company still was without a ship to its name. It took two years after Minuit joined the New Sweden Company before the deal could be worked out to acquire its first, the Kalmar Nyckel. The Kalmar Nyckel had not been built to be a trans-Atlantic sailing ship. She started her life as a a Dutch merchant vessel sometime in the 1620s. The exact year she was built is unknown. She entered the Swedish service in 1629 when she was purchased to defend the city of Kalmar, a major port on the Baltic Sea. The citizens of Kalmar had been ordered by the king to raise the money themselves, both to purchase the ship and to re-arm her as a fit warship. Her original name is unknown, but she was now christened Kalmar Nyckel, which means Key of Kalmar. In some books the name of the ship is written Key of Calmar. "Calmare Nyckel" was the preferred spelling of the ship by the United States Delaware Valley Tercentenary Commission in 1938. Despite that fact that the Swedish crown didn't pay for her, five years later, in 1634, the ship was confiscated in the name of the queen without any compensation to the good people of Kalmar and presented to the private trading company.

Once a ship was in their possession, the directors still took more than a few years to raise enough funds to outfit her for a trans-Atlantic voyage. They must have been successful in their efforts, because by 1636 a second, smaller ship, the Fogel Grip (or the Griffon Bird), had been acquired by the company as well. Finally, a launch was planned for the summer of 1637. Minuit received secret orders (that he may have written himself) outlining the mission. The ships were to sail to the Delaware River (or South River as the Dutch called it) to purchase land and prepare it for the building the a new colony. The first expedition was also supposed to establish native contacts through whom the company could build a trade in tobacco and fur, and quite importantly, claim for Sweden land that two other nations thought they already had claim to. No permanent colonists were on board, but soldiers would be left behind to defend a fort for the new colony.

The North Sea in November and the First Trans-Atlantic Voyage

kalmar sailsThe summer came and went, as did most of the fall, with nothing but delays. Peter Minuit was sick part of that time, and his absence may have enhanced the problems. Finally in November 1637 the Kalmar Nyckel and Fogel Grip set sail from Gothenburg. Minuit led the expedition, but the captain of the Kalmar Nyckel was Jan Hindricksen van der Water (which could be translated as John Henderson of the High Seas). Bleak November is perhaps not the best time to start an oceanic voyage, and after only a couple days of sailing, a violent winter storm in the North Sea nearly destroyed both ships. The ships were separated, and each crew thought the other was lost. However, the Kalmar Nyckel found shelter in the harbor of Texel, a port city on an island that was part of Holland. The survival of the Kalmar Nyckel can be credited to naval skills of Captain Hindricksen and his crew. A full week later the Fogel Grip, also badly leaking, found shelter in the same harbor.

Since the orders were secret, it is quite possible that no one aboard either ship except for Minuit and Hindricksen knew they were about to invade Dutch territory. That would be important information to keep quiet about if you are in dry dock at a Dutch port. To keep the mission a secret, Peter Minuit even felt it necessary to make a deal with a Dutch friend to transport four passengers to New Amsterdam or as close to there as possible during their voyage to "Virginia," as many then called all of North America. The Swedish ships remained in Dutch port undergoing repairs for about a month before setting sail again on December 31. Their route first took them to the Caribbean. This made a lot of sense back then, because of currents and prevailing winds. Of almost equal importance, in addition, was to use the Caribean islands as a source of supplies and goods to trade for. Potentially, if they found themselves in isolated waters, by order, they were to exploit vulnerable Spanish galleons. There is no evidence that the crew of Kalmar Nyckel ever engaged in piracy, but once back in Sweden, Andreas Joransson, the captain of the sister ship Fogel Grip got in trouble for not reporting some Spanish booty he captured. Whether acquired through force or trade, a slave from West Africa was taken aboard the Fogel Grip. Antoni, as he was named by the Europeans, then took residence in New Sweden. Since Sweden had abolished slavery, Anthoni was able to become a free man. He must have become the first, or at least one of the first, emancipated slaves in North America.

In March 1638, Hindricksen and his crew proved their navigational skill once again as the Kalmar Nyckel reached the Delaware Bay. Details of the voyage are unknown since Minuet's diary and log were lost. The location of where in the New World they first landed is one of the details in dispute. A report from the British treasurer in Virginia to the British Secretary of State, dated May 8, 1638 (and published in the Virginia Historical Magazine in 1903) indicates that a Dutch ship commisioned by the Queen of Sweden requested to have free trade in tobacco to carry to Sweden, but that the request was denied. The British treasurer wrote from Jamestown, but where the exchange between the Kalmar Nyckel and the British was made in not clear. Within a few weeks, it is known that the ships entered the Delaware Bay. It is possible they went to shore at Cape Henlopen, and Isaac Acrelaus, one of the earliest historians of New Sweden, states this, but later historans have questioned the accuracy of this account. If the stop was made, the crew did not stay long. Instead they proceeded cautiously for another forty miles up the Delaware River. Caution was necessary both because the river was rather shallow in places and because they did not wish to encounter any Dutch ships or settlers. At last they reached their pre-assigned destination, a western tributary that the Dutch had called the Minquas Kill. Continuing about two miles further, well hidden from traffic on the Delaware, they dropped anchor. As the Pilgrims had Plymouth Rock, the Swedes had "The Rocks," a natural rock formation that could serve as a natural loading dock in what was otherwise low and marshy land.

Trinkets and International Law

The crew did not immediately go ashore. Instead they shot off the ships' cannons. First they wanted to be sure no Europeans were around. Second, they wanted to attract the attention of any nearby non-Europeans. Minuit's secret plan could now be revealed. In a matter of days, five sachem (also known as Indian chiefs) from two distinct tribes, the Lenape (or the Delaware) and the Minquas (known also both as the Mingo and Susquahannock), boarded the Kalmar Nyckel. Members of both tribes were present because even though the Lenape lived in the area, they were at the time subservient to the Minquas. There aboard the mighty ship, an historical agreement was signed. Ownership of the land on the western side of the Delaware was officially and legally transferred from two New World "nations" to the Kingdom of Sweden. Nya Sverige, or New Sweden, was founded.

What Minuit had done was remarkable. From his personal experience as Director-General of New Netherlands, Minuit knew that the land on the western shore of the Delaware River had never been purchased by any European power from any native people. In his mind, that meant it was available for Swedish possession, if he could successfully negotiate with the Indians and receive from them a grant of land. This was not an established and accepted legal justification among the European powers, and both the English and the Dutch both had previously claimed the land as their own. What he also knew from his experience with the Dutch West India Company was that its charter for New Amsterdam did not include a grant of land. This is why years before he had purchased Manhattan from the Indians for the infamous $24 worth of trinkets. In defense of Peter Minuit, he had then taken a step toward recognizing the rights of the native people of North America that few if any other Europeans had ever done. Now when he acted in the name of the Swedish crown, he was taking a giant step further. Although similar deeds had been drawn up between Europeans and Indians, what was unique about the Kalmar Nyckel treaty was that this time the Europeans hadn't already taken possession of the land before making the agreement. Enlightened or not, Minuit, in founding New Sweden, was acknowledging that the people who already lived there were its only and rightful owners. What Minuit and every other European of the time failed to understand was that the Indians had an entirely diffferent understanding of land ownership. The two tribes were only agreeing to share the land with these new people. Land was sacred to them; it was not a commodity that could be bought and sold.

With this first agreement, the territory of New Sweden stretched about seventy miles along the Delaware River. The original deed is lost, so the exact boundary in not known. The northern border was the Schuylkill River, just short of a stretch of wilderness that would become Philadelphia. The southern border was probably that stretch of wilderness that is still a stretch of wilderness, or, at least, a national wildlife refuge -- Bombay Hook. To the west, in theory, at least, New Sweden extended all the way to the Pacific Ocean, since no western boundary was known to have been set. In 1648, when the Dutch and Swedes were embattled, however, Andries Hudde, the commander of one of the Dutch forts (so not an unbiased witness) claimed that the Susquahannock told him that the Swedes bought only a tiny parcel of land -- as much as was contained within six trees -- for the sole purpose of clearing a bit of land to plant some tobacco. The fact that the Swedes enjoyed unusally harmonious relations with their Indian neighbors brings the Dutch commander's story into question.

It is not recorded whether Peter Minuit paid more or less than the $24 worth of trinkets that he is supposed to have exchanged for Manhattan, but it is known that the Swedes brought useful items for negotiating with the Indians -- several hundred knives and axes, hoes, iron pots and copper kettles, and great numbers of lengthy bolts of cloth. Among the standard trinket items, which they brought as well, were mirrors, combs, jewelry, and Jew's harps. Peter Minuit's previous dealings with Indians provided him with the knowledge of what items would be valued. Not all of the trading items the New Sweden Company brought, however, was used to buy land. Much of that stock would have used later to barter for furs and pelts. One sacham claimed several years later to Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant (so Stuyvesant claimed) that for the land itself the Swedes only paid only a "kettle and other trifles" plus some promised goods that were never delivered.

It is not clear how long the Kalmar Nyckel or the Fogel Grip remained in New Sweden on this first voyage. They left at different times. It is possible the Kalmar Nyckel remained longer than six weeks, but Minuit wished to return to Sweden as soon as he could to organize the next voyage. Before he departed, Minuit supervised the clearing of land for a fort and a few acres to be tilled. The insignia of the young queen was raised on a pole for all to see, even if Minuit hoped no European would actually see this evidence or discover, until he returned with more soldiers and the first permanent settlers, that Swedish Crown had claimed the land.

It is likely that construction of a palisaded fort would have been completed before both ships had departed, since until some safe structure was complete, the Swedish invaders would have slept aboard ship. The fort was called Fort Christina. The name may not sound formidable, but it honored the young Swedish queen. Initially the purpose of Fort Christina may have been to protect the Swedes from unfriendly natives, but it was soon determined that the Lenape and Minquas were peaceful people and cooperative trading partners and agricultural advisors. Through the history of New Sweden, the main function of its forts became to protect the Swedes from other Europeans, not from the "savages."

Finally, when Minuit and the Kalmar Nyckel did set sail, twenty-five men (they were all men and included the freed slave) were left behind. The ships had been loaded with 769 beaver pelts, 314 otter pelts, and 132 bearskins, with plenty of cargo space remaining to be filled with tobacco from elsewhere in Virginia. Before heading home, however, Minuit sailed up the Delaware to see the full extent of the new territory. This was not Minuit's most strategic decision, since during the trip, the ship passed by Fort Nassau, a Dutch fort on the east side of the Delaware a couple miles away from the future location of downtown Philadelphia. This blew the secret of Sweden's invasion. [Another account recorded that it was the Fogel Grip, not the Kalmar Nyckel, that sailed up the Delaware past Fort Nassau, so it might not have been Minuit's fault.]

First Encounter in a Bloodless War

Once they saw the invading ship, did the Dutch fire upon the Kalmar Nyckel? No, this first encounter in the great war on the Delaware was bloodless, as would be every other battle between these two colonial powers. The keen-eyed Dutch soldiers on duty observed the Kalmar Nyckel, but, since they knew the Swedes were allies, they simply reported their observation to a superior officer, who, in turn, sent a report to New Amsterdam, where upon its arrival the Dutch governor forwarded the news to Holland, where a key government official contacted the Dutch ambassador to Sweden who promptly submitted a petition to the Swedish crown asking that the Swedes to please remove themselves from Dutch territory. It was all very dignified and diplomatic, and totally ineffective in persuading the Swedes to abandon its new colony.

The Swedes responded, instead, by sending the Kalmar Nyckel back to New Sweden a second time. The response, however, was not swift. Even given the slow pace of the sailing ship era, the Swedes moved incredibly slowly in organizing the second expedition. Tragedy was the chief cause of the delay. Governor Minuit had died at sea while the Kalmar Nyckel was still in the Caribbean. He and Captain Hindricksen had been aboard a Dutch ship, presumably negotiating a trade deal, when a hurricane blew in with no warning, and the ship and all its crew and passengers were lost and never found. The Kalmar Nyckel proved more seaworthy than the ship Minuet was visiting, for though damaged, it survived the storm. The remaining crew of the Kalmar Nyckel spent a long time searching for their leaders, but eventually gave up and returned to Sweden.

The Second Voyage

For the second expedition, the Kalmar Nyckel sailed alone. After returning to Sweden, the Fogel Grip had run aground while on an unrelated voyage and was left to founder. Strapped for cash, the company was unable to purchase another ship, and the crown, still at war, had none to spare. Delays seemed to be unavoidable. As many problems were related to the New Sweden Company itself as to the seaworthiness of the ship. Without Minuit taking the lead, the process of organizing the second expedition crawled. It took several months for the directors to select another governor. Another Dutch citizen, Peter Ridder, was appointed, but, alas, he was a poor choice. He exhibited no commitment to the project and was an ineffectual leader. After the accountants determined that the first expedition failed to make a profit from the sale of fur pelts and tobacco, several key investors withdrew their monetary backing. Even more problematic was recruiting permanent settlers. No kind of enticement seemed to be able to attract more than a handful of Swedish men and even fewer families. The problem was solved only when the Swedish crown offered to supply the company with involuntary settlers -- army deserters. Swedish prisons were full of them. Involuntary, is not quite the right term, although coercion rather than encouragement was probably employed. A law was passed to commute the prison sentences of army deserters to if they emigrated with their families to the new colony. The presence of prisoners did not make New Sweden a penal colony, however, since legally the deserters were emigrating by their own choice and none were transported bound and shackled. They were were even paid to accept passage aboard the Kalmar Nyckel. They would be more like indentured servants than prisoners, and after a limited term of service to the New Sweden Company, they became freemen and were given the choice to continue to live in New Sweden or return to the mother country.

paul and dolly aboard the kalmar nyckelWith this new supply of passengers, somewhere between 35 and 50 men, women, and children, the trading company was ready for the Kalmar Nyckel to weigh anchor. Shortly after she set sail in September 1639, however, the Kalmar Nyckel sprang a leak. She first found harbor in yet another Dutch port, Medemblik, but the captain found it necessary to return to Gothenburg. Repairs were made, but after another launch was attempted, the leaks reappeared, and the Kalmar Nyckel returned to port a second time. Before launching again, an investigation was made, and the new captain, who had replaced Hindricksen, was charged with failure to properly supervise the work. Further investigation uncovered the likelihood that the captain had skimmed money that should have been spent on fixing the leaks properly. Even further misconduct was then discovered. The captain had been overcharging the Company but undersupplying the cargo with key items that included butter and beer. Although Ridder survived as governor, the captain was fired. Troubles mounted when several crew members then quit, either because they were loyal to the captain or in cahoots with him. A new captain and a large number of new crew members had to be recruited, and though this should have been done as hastily as possible, Ridder seemed to take considerable time -- valuable time, in that the rest of the crew still had to be paid, and the passengers and the livestock set to be taken aboard had to be housed and fed. The delays, the costs of repairs, and the fraud almost guaranteed that once again the voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel would not be profitable. Finally, when all was ready, storms delayed the launch date. Having been doubly repaired, the Kalmar Nyckel set sail for New Sweden on February 7, 1640.

Several accounts recorded that the second voyage was more difficult and unpleasant than the first. The problem was not so much bad weather, but the poor skill and lack of discipline of the crew. Animosity arose between the Dutch crew members and the Swedish settlers, especially the colony's first minister and the New World's first Lutheran preacher, the Reverend Reorus Torkillis. The Dutch crew was accused of spending most of their day drinking and smoking and damning the Swedes. When the pastor grew ill, the crew refused him his request for some liquor for his medicinal needs. One positive note was that a healthy baby was born during the voyage, Olle Swennson.

Once again the Kalmar Nyckel set anchor at "the Rocks" outside Fort Christina. She arrived on April 17, 1640. Nearly two years had elapsed since the ship had departed from Fort Christina with two dozen soldiers behind. In much less time than that, half of the pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts, had perished, but all the Swedish soldiers had survived. It appears that had the Kalmar Nyckel taken a few weeks longer to arrive, her crew may have found Fort Christina abandoned, since the Swedish soldiers had almost given up and had made plans to relocate to New Amsterdam. Not surprisingly, not a single soldier chose to remain in New Sweden when the Kalmar Nyckel sailed home again. Two civilians from the first expedition elected to remain in New Sweden, however. Claes Jansen, who was a tailor by trade but had been employed as a carpenter, remained, as did Anthoni Swart, the freed slave. The Kalmar Nyckel remained in New Sweden less than a month -- only as long as necessary for Governor Ridder to settle into his new quarters and for fur pelts that the soldiers had traded for could be loaded onto the ship.

The Third Voyage

The record of the third trans-Atlantic voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel is as poorly documented as the first two. A few facts are clear. The third voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel was either the third or the fourth expedition to New Sweden, depending on how you consider the voyage to New Sweden by the Freedenburgh. This ship was employed by an agent for families from Utrech, in Holland, who may have been recruited by Peter Minuit before he died. The ship, with about twenty families, set sail from Holland, not Sweden, and only after several delays due to tense international relations. The colonists's goal was to establish a semi-independent settlement with allegiance to the Swedish crown. The Freedenburgh finally sailed sometime in the summer of 1640, arrived in New Sweden by November, and departed in December of the same year. Names of passengers, the exact location of the settlement, and how long it survived or maintained its semi-autonomy are mysteries.

The third voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel and the third expedition to leave from Sweden began in July of 1641, almost exactly a year after she had returned from the second voyage. The original plans did not include the Kalmar Nyckel, but the other ships were thought to be unfit. The voyage was delayed for some of the same reasons every expedition was delayed, but there was new interest after the Kalmar Nyckel returned. There had been rumors that the Kalmar Nyckel had been captured by the Turks. Once back in Sweden it took less time to organize the next voyage, even if it couldn't be called expedious. There are no accounts of any particular scandals or difficulties in readying the ship for another trip across the ocean. Recruiting willing volunteers to become settlers was still difficult, but the New Sweden Company now had even greater help from the Swedish Crown to fill the quota of the passengers, and plans were under weigh while the Kalmar Nyckel was still on her second voyage. The government was looking for a solution to the Finnish problem. There is estimated that more than half of the "Swedes" that came on the third voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel were actually Finns. For the second voyage, when army deserters were exploited to become settlers, many, if not most, had been Finns. The Finns had been a conquered people for several generations and were legally Swedes, but few were eager to fight for the Swedish crown and so became deserters. This, however, was only a small part of the problem the Swedish government had with is ethnically Finnish popularion. Since the end of the previous century, the Sweden government had coerced Finns, who were now part of their empire, to settle in some previously uninhabited forest lands to produce charcoal. Sweden had no coal, so charcoal was used as the primary fuel for homes and industry. The Finns, using their ancient burnbeating method, were all too successful, and forests were noticeably starting to disappear. Burnbeating was outlawed, but the practice continued. There was still a need for charcoal, and the Finns had few other options to make a livelihood. Pelts and furs were one other source of income, but the hunting methods Finns used was outlawed. The illegal hunting was not the matter of killing the king's deer, as in the old Robin Hood ballads, but for killing deer and elk for their hides in such large numbers that the meat was not needed and the bodies were left behind to rot. The Swedish government tried several means of resolving the issues, but finally attempted to solve the problem by removing the Finns. The Finns fought back and regained a new spirit of Finnish national identity. Therefore, along side those in prison for burnbeating and illegal hunting were Finnish political prisoners. With prisons filling too rapidly, the idea of transportation to New Sweden sounded very attractive.

For this trek the Kalmar Nyckel was joined by a ship called the Charitas. The ships left Gothenburg just under a year after the Kalmar Nyckel had set sail from New Sweden. There was no original passenger list to prove who came on the third voyage or who came on which ship, but since the Charitas carried mostly crew and livestock, it is expected that most of the estimated 64 permanent settlers crossed aboard the Kalmar Nyckel. Amandus Johnson, in his history of the Swedish settlement, names the Claritas passengers, but this is only the list of those who were aboard when it sailed from Stockholm to Gothenburg. Johnson then notes that it is probable the Kalmar Nyckel carried the majority of the settlers to New Sweden because the Charitas was principly loaded with livestock, provisions, and farming implements.

Fourth and Last Voyage

By the time the Kalmar Nyckel made its the fourth voyage to New Sweden, additional ships had been engaged to provide transport between Sweden and its colony. There was now a new governor, the four hundred pound, third governor, Johan Printz, who was also known as Round John. The last voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel was made in tandem with another ship, the Fama. Both ships were commissioned to transport cargo, rather than passengers, and there were only two passengers of record on the Kalmar Nyckel. One, John Pagegoja, was later to become an officer in the New Sweden army, marry the governor's daughter, and serve as acting governor when Round John left suddenly. According to Pagegoja, the last trans-Atlantic voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel lasted two months, and she came ashore the 27th of February, 1644.

Warship Again

While the Kalmar Nyckel was on its voyage home, war broke out between Sweden and Denmark, and upon her return to Sweden, the Kalmar Nyckel was immediately commissioned into military service. The Kalmar Nyckel principally served as part of the fleet that protected the city of Gothenburg. Because of her fleetness, the Kalmar Nyckel was used to spy on the Danish fleet on a few occasions, once getting trapped in Danish waters before she was able to escape. Her most deadly action occurred when she engaged a much larger and better armed Danish ship, St. Peer. Only twelve officers and sailors from the Kalmar Nyckel survived, but with the reinforcement from other Swedish ships, the Kalmar Nyckel captured the St. Peer. A final assault on the Danish fleet was called off when word came that the Danes had capitulated, or at least had agreed to the Swedish peace terms.

War of a Sort

Starting with the second governor, Ridder, the colonists worked to expand the size of New Sweden. Ridder abandoned Minuit's idea to confine New Sweden to the western shore of the Delaware River. Very quickly after he arrived, Ridder purchased territory on the eastern shore of the Delaware, in what is now New Jersey, and beyond the Schuylkill as far north as the land opposite what is now Trenton.

map of New Sweden, modified by Aleasa Hogate Both the Dutch and the English became concerned, although at this early time the English presence along the Delaware was quite limited. In 1640 and 1641 representatives of the New Haven Colony purchased lands on the east side of the Delaware from the same sachem who had also "sold" the same land to the Swedish. An English settlement, however, was abandoned soon after it was started.

After Round John Printz replaced Ridder as governor, he decided not only to extend settlement further along both sides of the Delaware River, but he wished to move the capital of New Sweden to Tinicum Island, in sight of Fort Nassau.

Because of the renewed fighting in Europe, Sweden basically abandoned its colony for almost five years. As a result, New Sweden almost collapsed on a couple of occasions. The matter wasn't helped by what became known as the "battle of the forts."  The nature of the battle was one of constructing them, not attacking them. Perhaps to prove that Sweden had the right to colonize on both sides of the river, Round John built Fort Elfsborg near the mouth of the Delaware on the east side of the river. For some reason, however, it was quickly abandoned. Then Round John built a fortified trading post along the Schuylkill River just further inland than any Dutch trading post or fortification.

As the bloodless war was escalating, Round John requested that the Kalmar Nyckel be sent with arms and supplies. The queen approved the request, but when it was realized the amount of damage she had received in naval battles, the admiralty deemed her unfit for further ocean crossings. In 1651, the queen signed the papers that decommissioned the Kalmar Nyckel and allowed her to be sold to an individual, Cornelius Rolofson. Alas, the identity of Cornelius Rolofson, even to his nationality, has not been discovered, and there is no further record of the great ship, the Kalmar Nyckel. There are two conflicting reports of her ultimate fate. One report says she went down off the coast of the city of Kalmar; another report says she sank in the North Sea, off the coast of England. It is also unclear whether she was sunk on purpose or as the result of another leak or an accident.

Meanwhile for the government of New Sweden, things weren't going so well. The new governor of New Netherlands was Peter Stuyvesant, and he first escalated the battle of the forts by having a Dutch fort  erected even farther inland on the Schuylkill than the Swedish post. The Swedish governor responded by building a Swedish fort opposite the river from the Dutch fort. Responding on a different front, the Dutch then built Fort Casimir on the Delaware, six miles south of Fort Christina, in effect giving the Dutch control the Delaware again.

This warlike bluffing was brought to a halt when Round John made a hasty return home to Sweden. His autocratic rule had led to a petition for reform signed by 22 freemen. The governor fumed that this was "mutiny," but almost immediately afterward, on the excuse that he needed to make a personal appeal to the Queen for renewed assistance, he left New Sweden on the next ship.

In 1654, the colony's last governor, Johan Risingh, arrived, and recommenced hostilities immediately. On his way to his new home, he thought it would be a good time to lay siege to the new Dutch Fort Casimir. Although the Dutch had cannons to defend themselves with, alas, they had no gunpowder. Without either side firing a shot, the Dutch surrendered. Governor Risingh claimed it for Sweden and re-named it Fort Trinity.

When headstrong Peter Stuyvesant got word of the Swedish action, however, he became furious. Instead of sending off a biting petition like previous governors had done, he decided to deal with the Swedish problem once and for all. The following summer, he put together a great armada of seven ships, three of which were real warships. Aboard were over 600 musketeers and other soldiers, which was probably more than three times the population of New Sweden, women and children included. This time, as a precaution Stuyvesant made sure his soldiers had both arms and ammunition.

When the Dutch fleet reached Fort Trinity, Stuyvesant ordered the captain to surrender. There were fewer than 20 Swedish soldiers to defend the fort. but the captain responded to Stuyvesant's ultimatum with an appeal for delay. Since he was not authorized to abandon the fort, he asked that he be allowed to send word to the governor concerning what action to take. Oddly or not, Stuyvesant did not agree, but threatened to commence firing. The poor captain had to now realize that resistance was useless, and rather than taking on seven ships and an army of 600, wisely, he surrendered. Once again in the contest for the control of New Sweden, not a shot was fired, not one casualty was suffered by either side. Upon conquest of the fort, Stuyvesant, nobly, did allow the Swedish captain and his company of soldiers to keep their arms. This was none the less noble, just because the Dutch discovered the Swedes hadn't resupplied the fort with any ammunition after they had taken it over the year before.

Pumped up by his military success, Stuyvesant then sailed down Christina Creek and lay siege to Fort Christina. This was the center of the Sweden empire in America. Here was the stronghold of Swedish might and power. It took a full two weeks for the negotiations to be completed, but once again with no shots fired from either side, the Swedish governor agreed to final articles of surrender. On 15 September, 1655, New Sweden no longer existed. Within a matter of weeks Risingh returned to Sweden with several of his soldiers and a tiny number of settlers. However, more than ninety percent of the Swedes and Finns decided to stay. They appeared quite willing to take an oath of allegiance to the Dutch government, especially when they learned that they could retain possession and ownership of their land.

In 1655, Governor Stuyvesant formally established Upland Court as both a judicial and administrative body to provide former Swedish colonists a certain degree of autonomy and independence. Through Upland Court, the Swedish colonists could hold their own court, practice their own religion, and even form their own militia. The Dutch honored their their land and trading rights. It was called Upland Court because its court was held in the town of that name, which later became Chester, Pennsylvania. The English continued to recognize the autonomy of the Swedes through Upland Court after they took over New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664 until Pennsylvania was established in 1681.

Life in Early New Sweden

Only after the second voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel did New Sweden really begin its life as a colony, and only after the third crossing of the Kalmar Nyckel were the numbers large enough for New Sweden to be considered anything more than a trading outpost. In the history of New Sweden, the number of colonists never surpassed six hundred, and for most of its history the population was closer to two or three hundred. A large number of settlers belonged to the military. Others worked for the New Sweden Company in the fur trading business or served the governor in a civil service capacity. Some indentured laborers were employed to plant a tobacco crop, but even those with previous farming experience were unfamiliar with this crop. Their efforts were never very successful, and after a few years they went on to other occupations or to more productive farming. The colony expanded as more land was cleared outside the fort, and houses were now built. The colony became widely scattered, as land was cleared for plantations further and further away from the forts, but colonists never settled far from the shore of rivers or the bay. The settlers built no roads but relied on boats and canoes as their principal form of transportation.

Records indicate that women did a marvelous job of bearing healthy babies. Families with twelve or thirteen children were common. In addition to childbearing, rearing growing families, and the everyday household chores of cooking and baking, which included hauling water and building and maintaining fires, the women were expected to milk cows (what few there were) and tend the other livestock, spin wool and flax, weave, and sew and handstitch every seam in the clothing they made. It was the women who worked the gardens for food while the menfolk tended the cash crops, were away on trading missions, or worked other occupations. Also included as women's work were mending fishing nets and brewing ale. Only the governor's family and a few others would have servants, so the only help the women would have would be from their daughters.

For several years, New Sweden peacefully co-existed with its neighbors, the Lenape -- perhaps because the settlers were generous traders and weren't very threatening. Since the New Sweden Company was interested in a profitable fur trade, they did not try to disrupt the lives of the Lenape, as some other Europeans had by removing them from their land or destroying their villages. The Finns continued their burnbeating practices, but they clear-cut land no further than about three miles from the Delaware River, so it was not threatening to the native people. Their relations with the Dutch were also favorable, even if their governments were feuding, and in the absence of supplies from the homeland for as long as two years at a time, the Swedes relied on trade with the Dutch to survive.

The Freed Slave

Antoni, the slave brought to New Sweden aboard the Fogel Grip in 1639 after he had been captured in the Caribbean, appeared to have found a home in New Sweden as a free man. His name appears in all three lists of New Sweden settlers created from1644 to 1655. I don't know how the name might have been spelled or rendered in the original Swedish, and that could change some understanding about his status in the colony. In different English language sources that have reproduced the lists, the name appears differently each time and is spelled variously as Antoni, Anthony, Anthoni, and Antonius. Swart, Swartz, and Black are listed along with the first name in 1644 and 1654/55, but not in 1648. It is not clear if Swart was used as a surname or a description in the earliest list, but it appears to be a last name by the third list.

According to the 1644 list, he was living on Tinicum Island in service to the governor. In the version of the list found in Amandus Johnson, his entry is "Anthony, a negro." In the version of the list found in Myers, he is Antoni Swart. If the first is a more accurate translation, that may indicate he had yet to take on a surname, which may or may not indicate an inferior status. However, several Swedes were listed without surnames as well. He was listed third among four "laboring-people who are appointed to cut hay for the cattle, and also in the meantime to follow the governor in the little sloop." Since the others were all Swedes, and since slavery had been abolished in Sweden, his service appears to be that of a free man or at worst an indentured servant working for his freedom. I have no idea what the job of "following the governor in the little sloop" means, but it does not appear to be attending the governor as a personal servant. That the job might have included navigational skills is suggested by the fact that another of the four, Per Andersson, became the skipper of the Governor's sloop in 1648. It probably did not include military service, since soldiers were specifically named on the list immediately above the group of four laboring-people.

Antoni's entry in the roll list of 1648 is both brief and mysterious. In the list of "Soldiers, Freeman and Servants," which includes everyone except for Officers, his entry is "Anthony, a Morian or Angoler, who was a purchased slave, brought here on the Grip in 1639." This is the translation, at least, as found in the Amandus Johnson version. The list was presented chronologically, so Anthony appears second. He was not specifically listed as a freeman, but the reference to his slavery was given in the past tense. A footnote by Johnson explains "'Morian [negro] or Angoler' indicates that he came from Angola, the Portuguese Colony in West Africa near the river Kunene."

By the 1654/55 list of officers, soldiers, servants and freemen in the colony, Swartz does seem more like a surname, and a note that he "made several purchases from the company in 1654" can be seen as evidence that he was now a freeman, if he was not before. There is one other Swartz listed in 1654/55, Lars Swartz. However, it is unlikely that he was related to Antoni, since he had only arrived in New Sweden in 1654 aboard the Örn (the Eagle).

There is no further mention of Antoni in any records once the Dutch and then the English took over the colony of New Sweden. Whether or not he was treated as an equal; whether or not he married and had children; or whether he remained in a settlement on the Delaware River, returned to the Caribbean, or moved west as did many former New Sweden colonist did is all unknown and subject of great speculation.

Holstein, Rambo, Cock, and Svensdotter

Our family, through my father's mother, traces its roots to New Sweden through the Holstein line back to Matts Holstein. It is not clear that anyone named Holstein was a passenger aboard the Kalmar Nyckel or arrived while New Sweden was still in existance. Anna Holstein, a nineteenth century genealogist, wrote that according to family tradition the first Holstein, Matts or Matthias, was a carpenter who was born in New Sweden in 1644 whose father had arrived on the Key of Calmar with Peter Minuit. There is some evidence for this being true. The one passenger on the first voyage of the Kalmar Nyckel (the only voyage with Peter Minuit aboard) who remained to settle in New Sweden was named Claes Jansen. He was a carpenter. The custom at the time was for children to derive their last name from their father's first name, so Claes Jansen's children would have been named Claesson. Indeed, Matts Holstein's original last name was Claesson, and if they were both carpenters, the shared occupation might suggest a family link. However, there are problems with this story. The reason the surname was changed from Claesson to Holstein was most likely because the family was from Holstein, which was then part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Claes Jansen, however, was from Niewkerck, in Holland. A contemporary genealogist, Peter Stebbins Craig, has found a church record indicating Matts Holstein's birthplace as Dittmarschen, in Holstein, in 1642. That pretty much settles things, except for two other church records that appear to provide potential contradictory evidence. I have seen reference to a record in the Old Swedes Church that indicates Matts was baptized there in 1642. The record referred to may be the 1683 Gloria Dei church census (it is not certain because several churches were known as the Old Swedes Church). Stebbins cites that record for determining that Matts Holstein was born in 1642, but he doesn't mention the baptism record. Not having seen the document, I can only guess that difference might be in accuracy of translation. The other record is from a 1693 Gloria Dei church census, where old Matts Holstein is listed, but not marked as a member who was born "in the homeland." If "in the homeland" meant back in Europe, that suggests he was born in New Sweden, but if "in the homeland" meant specifically Sweden, a person born in Holstein would not have been included. Craig also indicates that Matts Holstein came in 1663 to New Amstel, which means he came after the Dutch had incorporated New Sweden into New Amsterdam. New Amstel was the Dutch name for the place that started out as Fort Casimir, then became Fort Trinity [Trefaldigheets], but as New Amstel was then an expanded settlement. One year later, when the English took over, New Amstel became Newcastle [or New Castle]. Craig does not indicate his source for the date nor the name of the ship on which he might have been a passenger. There were two ships that arrived in New Amstel in 1663. The St. Jacob came in July with over a hundred passengers, only a handful of whom were listed by name. In December the Purmerender Kerck arrived with over 150 passengers, only four of whom were named.

It is through the wives of several generations of Matts Holsteins that we can trace at least five ancestors who came to New Sweden aboard the Kalmar Nyckel: Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, Peter Larsson Cock, Sven Gunnarsson, his wife [whose name is not known], and their daughter Gertrude Svensdotter, who was only a year old when she traveled to New Sweden. Three of Peter Larsson Cock's daughters married three of Peter Gunnarsson Rambo's sons, and oldest of these men's granddaughters, Britta Rambo, married Matts Holstein's son, who was also named Matts Holstein. Our connection to Gertrude Svensdotter and her parents is through her great granddaughter, Magdalen or Maudlin Hulings, who married Matthias Holstein, the third in that line with the same name. There most likely were additional ancestors of ours aboard the Kalmar Nyckel, but the records are too incomplete, especially in providing women's names, to provide clear evidence.

There is controversy about the first Matts Holstein's wives. In 1892, Anna Holstein named Britta Gostenburg as his wife. Craig's research, with some speculation, pointed instead to Lasse Cock's eldest sister, who was probably named Helena, as Matts' first wife, with whom he had four sons. After his first wife died, again according to Craig, Matts married his housekeeper Catharina Månsdotter, daughter of Måns Pålsson and Elisabeth Pålsdotter, both of Finnish ancestry. Catharina bore two sons and a daughter.

Tracing Elisabeth Pålsdotter's line back further, her parents Margareta Andersdotter and Pål Jönsson Mullica had come to New Sweden in 1654, a year before New Sweden came to an end. Pål seems to have been a good law-abiding citizen, but Margareta was a bit of a trouble-maker. It was she, not her husband, who made a legal complaint against a neighbor in a land dispute, and after she had became a widow twice, she was found guilty and fined 100 guilders (meant to be a devasting amount so as to discourage potential rebels) by the English government for being a conspirator in the Long Finn Rebellion.

Peter Gunnarsson Rambo was both typical and extraordinary among the New Sweden colonists. Since he was the longest living of the original settlers, he later became known as the Father of New Sweden. It is not known for sure whether or not he came to New Sweden voluntarily. He was indentured by the company to plant tobacco on the New Sweden Company's plantation just outside the fort. It is also not known whether his ethnicity was Swedish or Finnish. He was living in Gothenburg before he came to New Sweden, but many Finns were living there then, and his wife was from a Finnish region of Sweden, although he did not marry her until he had been in New Sweden for eight years (and three years after he had become a freeman). In 1644, upon his freedom, he had relocated to the eastern shore of the Schuylkill River in what is now West Philadelphia [If you are interested in seeing the old Rambo haunts, you will likely be disappointed, since the land is now occupied by a Sun Oil refinery]. He became a prosperous farmer, orchardist, and something of a land speculator. He made his mark rather than sign his name on some legal documents, but that does not necessarily mean he could not read and write. His mark on one document was simply the letters P R B, and in another a very stylized X:
Peter Rambo's mark
The senior Rambo was honored and trusted enough that he served as a ruling judge of Upland Court even as the control of the colony changed from Swedish to Dutch to English. When Upland Court was finally ended when the colony of Pennsylvania was created, Rambo continued to serve as a judge. He didn't always get along with the authorities, however. In 1654, he was charged by Governor Printz for illegally selling grain to the Dutch, and in turn, he was one of the twenty-two freemen who signed the petition of complaint against Governor Printz. Peter Rambo's word was also valued by his Indian neighbors, and through his actions an armed conflict with the Indians was prevented. In 1668, Rambo met with members of the Mantas Indians after two members of the tribe had murdered three settlers. Rambo convinced those he met with to pledge to capture the two fugitives and return them to justice in the English courts. Only one was caught and returned, but the crisis was averted. As part of the settlement, Rambo informed the English authorities that the "Indyans in those parts have desired that there be an absolute prohibicon upon the whole River on selling Strong Liquors to the Indyans." After his long life and public service, Rambo was so revered by his church that after his death, when a new building, the Gloria Dei, was constructed, instead of moving Rambo's grave, they built the church around his remains.

Information about old Peter Rambo is found in an addenda of notes to a supplementary diary published as an appendix to Peter Kalm's Travels in North America. Kalm's travelogue of his adventures from 1748 to 1751 has been available in English since 1770, but his supplementary diary was first translated in 1937. In an entry on the early Swedish settlers, Kalm reports on a conversation with Peter Rambo, grandson of Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, on 30 January 1749. The grandson told him that the elder Peter Rambo told the English that his hands had been the very first to sow seeds in the settlement of New Sweden. He also spoke of apple seeds and other tree and garden seeds that old Peter brought with him in a box. The Rambo apple is now a rare variety, but it was once very popular, especially in the mid-Atlantic states. The first Rambo apple tree might have been grown from a seed in that box. The seeds may have come from Sweden, but it is also possible that he had picked up seeds while in port in Holland, since he resided there for most of a year waiting for repairs and the hiring of a new crew. If the tree grew from a seedling, the variety would be new, since apples do not grow true from seeds. It is also possible that Rambo brought apple scionwood with him from the old world, and the grandson got the story wrong when he mentioned apple seeds, or, perhaps, the translation is inexact. If grown from scionwood, the Rambo apple tree would be a clone of an old Swedish or other European variety. Many varieties of the Rambour apples were developed in France about a century before Peter Rambo and had spread widely before the time Rambo left for New Sweden, definitely to Holland, and possibly to Sweden. It is possible that Gunnarsson was familiar with one of the Rambour apple varieties before he crossed the Atlantic, and took some seeds or scionwood from one of them. There is a long history of confusion between the Rambo and Rambour apples. The Summer Rambo was originally called the Rambour Franc, and the common name only became Summer Rambo well after the Civil War. A genealogist many years ago speculated that Rambo took his name from Ramberget, a mountain that overlooked the city of Gothenburg, and that explanation appears not have been questioned. The grandson wrote that the family name was first Ramberg but was changed to Rambo. It seems a bit wild to speculate that a man might have named himself for the apple, but I still wonder about the connections. It is not definite that Peter Gunnarsson Rambo developed the Rambo apple. It is just as likely that a later member of the Rambo family developed the Rambo apple. There was orcharding in the family for several generations. The conversation between Peter Kalm and Peter Rambo did not mention any specific varieties of apples. The first written documentation for the Rambo apple is not until William Coxe's 1817 treatise, A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees, and the Management of Orchards. In the section on the Rambo, he writes, "This apple is much cultivated in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New-Jersey; taking its name from the families by whom it was introduced into notice." The Rambo apple could easily have come after several generations of plantings and orchard development.

Peter Larsson Cock was a passenger on either the Kalmar Nyckel or her sister ship the Claritas when the Kalmar Nyckel made its third voyage. He was likely one of those Finns who had been making lots of trouble back in Sweden. He was described as an "imprisoned soldier from Smedjegarden" who "must serve as a soldier for penalty, and is to receive necessary sustenance and clothing." If his name doesn't sound Finnish, there are several reasons. First for official records, the Swedish government used the Swedish version of any Finn's name. More importantly, Cock, or Kock in some records, was the name Peter adopted only while aboard ship, after he had become the ship's cook (Kock being Swedish for cook). Later generations changed the name to Cox or Cook. He married a year and a half after he arrived in New Sweden, but while still in servitude. After he became a freeman, he moved with his family to an island at the mouth of the Schuylkill. He and his wife eventually had twelve children who reached adulthood. Cock continued to be a troublemaker of sorts. He was accused of trading guns with the Indians. Even though a jury of his peers found him not guilty, the governor sentenced him to three months of hard labor. This may indicate a personal feud between Cock and the governor, rather than lawbreaking, for later on, Cock joined Rambo as a ruling judge of Upland Court under the Swedes, the Dutch, and the English, and as a judge of the court in the colony of Pennsylvania. His public service and trust can also be seen by the fact that in 1663, Cock was appointed Collector of Tolls on Imports and Exports. On documents he also made his mark, which was not always identical.
Peter Cock's mark appears one time, but later it was written in a slightly different form: Kock's second mark

One incident involving a Rambo son and a Cock daughter (not in our direct family line, however) reveals something of the social mores of the time. In 1685 Peter Cock and his daughter Brigitta (Bridget in the court record) took John Rambo to court for fornication and "criminal intercourse." On the night before Christmas the previous year, John had pulled off a plank of the Cocks' house [in the roof, I am guessing] and jumped down to the floor of the loft. He then entered the room where three teenaged Rambo daughters were sleeping. John awakened Brigitta by getting into bed with the sisters and declaring loudly that he wanted to marry Brigitta -- just as his brother had married Bridget's older sister. Bridget's sisters left the bed and slept the rest of the December night on the cold floor. The court fined both John and Brigitta ten pounds and ordered John to marry Brigitta "before she be delivered" or make payments to maintain the child. Peter Cock was also fined five shillings for swearing in court. He had cried out "By God" at one point during the hearings. The relationship between John and Bridget appears to have been a bit strange, because in a subsequent trial that year Brigitta sued John for breach of promise (the first such case in Pennsylvania). John was fined one hundred and fifty pounds. Nonetheless, John and Bridget did marry eventually (after the birth of their first child), and together they had ten more children.

Gertrude Svensdotter traveled on the Kalmar Nyckel when she was one year old. Her father Sven Gunnarsson was one of the army deserters who had been rounded up and sent with his family to help settle New Sweden. Her older brother Sven was three, and while on board her brother Olle was born. After his servitude was completed, her father prospered. He joined Rambo and Cock the others in signing the petition against Governor Printz, and like Rambo and Cock he later purchased land north of the Schuylkill. Gertrude was a real frontier woman in spirit. She married a soldier, Joen or Jonas Nilsson, who after eleven years of army service in New Sweden, quit to marry and become a farmer. When Gertrude was pregnant with their first child, her husband left her to return to Sweden. She was a single mom for almost two full years before her husband returned. It is unknown if she cleared land and began farming or lived with relatives. The only reason known for her husband's departure was to collect unpaid wages but it seems there must have been something more. Once reunited, Gertrude and her husband moved to Kingsessing (near some of the Holstein, Rambo, and Cock family members), while her brothers took over their father's 1125-acre plantation that bordered the Delaware River several miles east of there. In 1683 her brothers ceded most of that acreage to an enterprising English Quaker named William Penn, who used the land to build a city of brotherly love. Downtown Philadelphia was built on land once owned by our forebearers.

Success or Failure?

New Sweden was probably doomed from the start, not because of a military failure, but because of undersettlement. During seventeen years, only thirteen Swedish expeditions were launched, and several of them brought few or no permanent residents, and during some others ships sank or were captured by enemies. To contrast the populating of New Sweden with that of New England, in the same time the Swedes sent twelve ships, the English sent over two hundred.

Under Dutch rule, however, the Swedes flourished as a semi-autonomous "Swedish Nation" governed by a court of presidents/judges whom the Swedes chose themselves. The Dutch Governor Stuyvesant even helped organize a few more expeditions to bring more Swedish immigrants.

Five years later, when the English brought an end to New Netherlands, the Swedes and Finns yet again proved most willing to swear an oath of allegiance to yet another crown. Once more they were allowed to keep their land and independent court. When William Penn arrived to create Pennsylvania he did not confiscate land but he recognized the already established deeds and bought land from Swedish landowners to build Philadelphia. The Swedes and Finns quickly assimilated into the English culture, dropped not only their native tongue, but largely abandoned their Lutheranism.

Although the sauna never took hold in America, the Finns of New Sweden were responsible for establishing one icon of America, the log cabin, which appeared in the new world for the first time in New Sweden. Their particular method of building with logs was not practised elsewhere in Europe, but it was so well suited to the early frontier that it was copied by pioneers from all ethnic groups. The Finn's practice of their burnbeating to clear forests was also very effective and also widely copied, and in only a few generations much of the wilderness of eastern America had disappeared.

Even if New Sweden ultimately ended in failure for its crown and company, it proved itself to be one of the most remarkable adventures in the history of American colonization. New Sweden has the distinction of being one of the smallest and shortest lived of all of the European settlements of North America. Founded on false premises (according to European law, at least) on territory already claimed by two other countries, and perhaps the most ill-conceived and poorly conducted colonial attempts, the Swedish settlers themselves became remarkably resilient. Rather than cower before the obese governor Johan Printz, the colonists stood up and petitioned against him and forced him to return to Sweden. The colony was perhaps the most peaceful in the history of colonization and established the best goodwill between the native peoples and the settlers. In matters of war, great powers could learn from New Sweden, that when it is clear that a war cannot be won, no death or injury to soldier, sailor, or civilian should be risked. The losers in this bloodless battle were the Swedish Crown and investors of the New Sweden Company. One person might have learned a lesson. In 1648, seven years before Sweden lost its only colony, Queen Christina, against the advise of some of her closest advisors, decided to end Sweden's involvement in the Thirty Years War. She was quite criticized at the time and grew discontent with her regency. In 1654, the year before the Dutch took over New Sweden, she abdicated her throne. The winners in the attempted conquest were the Swedish and Finnish settlers themselves, who were able to adapt and thrive. Willing to swear an oath of allegience to any who demanded it, they continued to enjoy a high degree of local autonomy, owned their own lands, practiced their own religion, and even maintained their own court and militia.

Sources Consulted

Weslager, C. A. A man and his ship: Peter Minuit and the Kalmar Nyckel. Wilmington: Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, 1990.

Craig, Peter Stebbins. The 1693 census of the Swedes on the Delaware: family histories of the Swedish Lutheran Church members residing in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West New Jersey & Cecil County, Md., 1638-1693. Winter Park, Fla.: SAG Publications, 1993.

Ferris, Benjamin. A history of the original settlements on the Delaware: from its discovery by Hudson to the colonization under William Penn; to which is added an account of the ecclesiastical affairs of the Swedish settlers, and a history of Wilmington, from its first settlement to the present time. Wilmington : Wilson & Heald, 1846.

Johnson, Amandus. The Swedish settlements on the Delaware, 1638-1664. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1911.

Kalm, Pehr. Travels into North America; containing its natural history, and a circumstantial account of its plantations and agriculture in general ; with the civil, ecclesiastical and commercial state of the country, the manners of the inhabitants, and several curious and important remarks on various subjects. 3 volumes. London : Printed for the editor, 1770-1771.

Peter Kalm's Travels in North America (Wilson Erickson, 1937) translated by Adolph B. Benson, however, is the version that includes the Appendix with additional notes that include the interview with Peter Rambo about his grandfather Peter Gunnarsson Rambo.

Linn, John B. and William H. Egle, eds. Papers relating to provincial affairs in Pennsylvania, 1682- 1750. (Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, Vol. 7.). Harrisburg, Lane S. Hart, State Printer, 1878.

Myers, Albert Cook. Narratives of early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey and Delaware, 1630-1707. New York, Scribers, 1912.

Includes: "Account of the Swedish churches in New Sweden," by Reverend Israel Acrelius, 1759; Affidavit of four men from the "Key of Calmar," 1638; Report of Governor Johan Printz, 1644; Report of Govern John Printz, 1647; Report of Governor Johan Rising, 1654; Report of Governor Johan Rising, 1655; Relation of the surrender of New Sweden, by Governor Johan Clason Rising, 1655.

Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians; a history. New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1972.

Links for additional information

Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, online home of Delaware's Tall Ship

Greetings from Gothenburg, a brief, illustrated history of the Kalmar Nyckel from Jan-Erik Nilsson of Gotheborg

Swedish Colonial Society, information about forefathers, Old Swedes churches, and maps and a brief history of New Sweden

Swedish Heritage USA, sponsor of the new New Sweden Centre, located, information for researchers, galleries, table of events, and links

The Delaware Finns, a history of Finnish emigration and settlement by E. A. Louhi

Rambo, Beverly Nelson, and Ron Beatty. The Rambo Family Tree. 2nd edition. 2007. [downloadable file.]


This page written and maintained by John R. Henderson (jhenderson@ithaca.edu),
Last modified: 4 March 2014
Photographs by Paul E. Henderson and Ed Lyness
URL: http://www.icyousee.org/kalmar.html