May 20, 2012: A day in Vänga, Home of Andrew Swanson

On May 20, 2012, we visited Vänga, Sweden, home of Andrew Swanson and the birthplace of his daughter, Anna Charlotta Swanson, Daryl’s great grandmother Hallquist. This is located at the approximate coordinates (57.8577, 12.9269) and is 143 km and 2 hours drive from Rödjenäs, our Swedish abode for the month. Daryl drove and Åke was the navigator, having expertly mapped the locations and figured out how to use the GPS in the rental car. Anne and Barbro sat in the back seat. Barbro gave Anne lessons in Swedish pronunciation.

The “new” Vänga church, finished in 1905

The first destination was the Vänga kyrka (church). Since this church had been completed in 1905, it was not the same building where Anna Charlotta was baptized and confirmed. It did, however, have the pulpit, altar and baptismal font from the original church. The old church had been torn down in 1905 and there was a stone marker showing where it had stood. By the way, the k’s in kyrka are pronounced as “ch” so kyrka almost sounds like church.

The new church interior, built 1905, photographed May 2012

Although the day we visited was a Sunday, we found the church locked. These days most Swedish congregations are not large enough to support a minister for each church, so services and a pastor are rotated among several nearby churches. Barbro was able to contact a person who came with a key and let us in to view the interior. Here we were able to see the gorgeous old pulpit, altar and baptismal font.

Nearby red home and barn, which we visited later, can be seen between the left and center tree. Åke determined that these were likely on the site of Andrew Swanson and daughter, Anna Charlotta’s home and barn, no longer standing today.

The site was lovely, overlooking a small lake surrounded by meadows, red farm buildings, ducks, geese and cows. Beautiful wild flowers were beginning to bloom among the graves in the churchyard. Åke, an amateur horticulturalist, told me the common and Latin names for the flowers. Barbro filled me in on the Swedish tradition of tearing down gravestones unless there was rental payment from still-living family or friends. A few of the gravestones had yellow tape to announce that they were soon to be torn down.

Here is the home and barns we could see from the churchyard. There were five Västergården Vängas (west Vänga farm) but Åke selected this site as the most likely for the Swanson homestead. Notice the old foundation and the green door on the barn in the rear. This was the door that had the year 1855 carved on it. The cellar may be the cellar of the original Swanson barn.

After the visit to the church, we looked at Västergården Vänga (The western farm of Vänga), which was where Anna Charlotta was born, but Åke said there were five of them, so we drove around and looked until Åke chose the most likely site. Evidently the original house has been torn down because we couldn’t match the old pictures handed down in the Hallquist family. When we finally decided on the place, Barbro walked up to talk to a man standing on his front porch. He invited us all to come and view his house and barn. First he showed us that the date 1855 had been carved on the cellar door of his barn. Then he showed us around his house that had been built around 1890, after Anna Charlotta’s emigration. The man spoke excellent English and was a lover of all things “American.” The house was beautifully restored and he and his wife had furnished it in beautiful antiques. Among his treasures were many American Indian artifacts. Out in the barn was a large American motorhome.

Although we were unsure of the location of the original house and barn, we knew we were walking on the ground where Andrew Swanson and his daughter, Anna Charlotta Swanson had walked many times.

Åke caught us all chewing in this photograph outside the old Vänga mill restaurant. We sit beside the millstream.

Later we drove to the Vänga mill, a large old mill that had served the local farmers. They had processed barley, rye, wheat and potatoes into flour. Currently they have a charming restaurant serving healthful foods with outdoor seating along the millstream. When we crossed the bridge over the stream, a loudspeaker was activated which told the story of  “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” in Swedish, complete with whimsical wooden figures representing the troll and the goats.