May 21, 2012: Visit to Skälsarp, Önne Mill and Småöya

Heading to Skälsarp (56.9653, 13.4496), the birthplace of Andrew Ring and most of his siblings, required a 138 km drive from Rödjenäs and over two hours. We traversed winding narrow roads through thick forests, the leaves on the deciduous trees really opening up in the warm, 75-degree sunny day. Their lighter green or deep red was set off by the rich color of the evergreens. Blossoming trees provided accents to the spring pallet.

The western capercaillie (tetrao urogallus) is the largest member of the grouse family. We don’t have them in North America and it was the first one we had ever seen.

All at once a grouse as big as a chicken walked in front of the car. It was a capercaillie (tetrao urogallus), the largest member of the grouse family. Daryl had never seen one since we don’t have them in North America. The bird stopped in front of us and let us snap numerous photos.

Skälsarp is in Unnaryds parish, Halland county. We saw only two houses there, one old, the other newer, a barn and an old crumbling stone foundation where the original Ring house might have once stood. The houses are now being used as summerhouses. A group of residents were shooting at targets with air guns. Daryl and Åke went over to explain why we were looking around and taking pictures.

Barbro and I walked on the road as Barbro tried to teach me how to pronounce Skälsarp. The k is pronounced as “ch” and the ä is like the e in “egg.” I never could say it like she did. We talked about how Daryl was surely walking the same ground where his great grandfather, Andrew Ring, and great great grandfather, Johan Larsson Ring and their whole family had trod.

The yellow villa, built in the 1840’s by Pehr Larsson Palm, Johan Larsson Ring’s brother. Pehr had mysteriously acquired a great deal of money.

We next drove to Önne Mill (56.8941, 13.5593), 15 km southeast, where a large yellow house stands, built in the 1840’s by Pehr Larsson Palm, brother to Daryl’s great great grandfather Johan Larsson Ring. No one seems to know how Pehr Palm became so rich that he was able to build “The Yellow Villa.” Barbro and Åke translated the words written by the priest upon Pehr Palm’s death: “Pehr Larsson became the well-known Pehr Palm in Önne who was so rich but no one knew where the money came from. People say that he was on one of his many Skåne-journeys when he found a collection box.”

Pehr Palm became a squire and had a thriving mill. In contrast, his brother, Johan Larsson Ring, was a soldier and had fewer resources. Johan emigrated to America with his entire surviving family in order to better their lives. Pehr Palm and his descendants remained in Sweden and thrived.

Daryl and Zita, fourth cousins, meet for the first time at her summerhouse in Önne.

A great great granddaughter, Zita Carlsson, has a summerhouse across from the yellow villa. We went there so that Daryl could meet his fourth cousin, Zita. Zita and Ronald Carlsson served coffee to us on their porch while we gazed at the magnificent views. We watched in wonderment as a robot lawnmower groomed Ronald and Zita’s yard. Afterwards, the six of us toured the yellow villa. Once again, Barbro had cleverly obtained a key from the current owner, Björn Jansson.

The house had been in use pretty much constantly since it was built until maybe a few decades ago. The interior showed traces of modernization all the way through, perhaps, the 1950’s. However, there were many original features such as wood stoves, ornate furniture, the food storage cellar, the floors, and the small rooms. Stuffed birds and animals testified to the presence of hunters in the family. Photos hanging on the walls chronicled the lives lived and holidays celebrated within.

Afterwards we strolled outside looking at the old mill and the landscaped gardens. The Palms hosted many garden parties at a time when the easiest way to access the property was to take a boat across the lake, then come up the canal. It is said that even the King of Sweden was a frequent guest at these summer parties. A tourist pamphlet has been written about this area which gives more detail.

Next we drove 6 km northwest to Småöya (56.9142, 13.5787), also in Unnaryds parish, as is the yellow villa. Småöya is where Johan Larsson Ring was born. His father was Lars Andersson. Although Johan was born Larsson indicating that he was Lars’ son, he adopted “Ring” when he joined the Swedish army. His brother, Pehr Larsson Palm, and all the siblings were born here as well.

Probable house in Småöya, Unnaryd parish, Hallands Län, Sweden where Johan Larsson Ring and his siblings were born and raised.

We saw a very old small house that was a good candidate for the dwelling occupied by the Larssons. Barbro showed me the old “Småland fence” that surrounded the garden. It was built of slender branches tied on a slant with strips of bark.

Next we drove to the town of Södra (south) Unnaryd to view the graves of the Palm family. It was a lovely shaded churchyard. Although many of the graves were very old (Pehr Palm’s dates from 1864), they have not been torn down for lack of rent paid. Many of the Palm gravestones have “historic status” and are protected from being razed. In most churchyards that we visited, we had difficulty finding graves that were beyond a few decades old, a disappointment.