May 22, 2012: Visit to Länghems and Finnekumla

On May 22, 2012, we traveled to Länghems and Finnekumla. Langhems was the birthplace of Charles John Hallquist and his father, Andreas Petterson Spetz. Finnekumla was the birthplace of Andreas’ father, Petter Mattiasson Sable. For Daryl, Petter would be his 3-great grandfather.

Länghems parish church, built 1831, is the church where Charles John Hallquist was baptized.

We first came into Länghems (57.6096, 13.2631) and as the church came into view we recognized it at once. Rhoda Hallquist’s parents made a trip to Sweden in the 1990’s and we had seen a picture of the church. At the time of our visit the steeple was being refurbished so scaffolding surrounded it. Before visiting the church, we drove around the area looking for Guldsmedgården (goldsmith’s farm) where Charles John Hallquist was born. Åke was not satisfied that he knew where it was, so we were just happy to know that we were near where Charles John was raised with his four siblings. Then we returned to the church.

The church was locked so Barbro went in search of a key. Of a group of men on a nearby porch, one of them turned out to be the caretaker and youth minister of the church. He was a young (compared to us) man wearing shorts. He spoke excellent English and told us about the difficulties of attendance and support for the church. He had led a youth group on a U.S. performance tour.

Interior of Länghems parish church looking towards the altar and pulpit.

There were fresh flowers in little vases at the end of each pew. Barbro said that they were in honor a recent confirmation ceremony. The wooden ceiling was painted a beautiful blue. There were coats of arms on the wall. We were told that noble families who had contributed money to the church were allowed to display their coats of arms. They also could sit in the pews that had place of honor near the front of the church, numbered one or two.

After viewing the Länghems church, we departed for Finnekumla (57.8167, 13.1000) about a 40 km drive to the northwest. This was the birthplace of Petter Mattiasson who later adopted the “soldier name” Petter Mattiasson Sable. Barbro did research on the Finnekumla area and was told that a man living on the farm, Hans Petterson, was the person most knowledgeable about the area. As she communicated with Hans, he invited all of us to his home for lunch before we would tour the Finnekumla church.

Hans Petterson (on right), historian of the Finnekumla area, entertains Daryl, Anne, Barbro and Åke (taking picture) with lunch in his home.

Hans served a special sausage from that area that contained cheddar cheese. He also served several salads, bottled drinks and beers and a dessert of butter brickle ice cream. Hans regaled us with stories of his travels in the U.S. He had even traveled and worked near Whitefish, Montana and Nevada, Iowa, places near where we have lived. He told the story of a female relative of his who, during her travels in the U.S. carried a jar of instant coffee with her to supplement the strength of the pitifully weak American coffee.

Interior of Finnekumla church. Fresh wildflowers were brought in and candles were lit especially for Daryl and Anne’s visit. Notice the extensive faux painting on wood and plaster.

Later we went to the Finnekumla church where Petter Mattiasson Sable must have been baptized and attended services. Outside the caretaker, a young woman named Marina, who had been mowing the graveyard with a riding mower, greeted us. She was smiling big smiles and seemed so excited to have us visit. When we entered the church, we found that all the pew vases were filled with forget-me-nots and spirea, wildflowers of the area. The candles were lit and the sound system was playing an orchestral version of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune.” This church had candles in all its chandeliers and wall sconces as well as on the altar. The effort that Marina had made to welcome us was extraordinary.

Baptismal font from1100’s with runes along the base. This dates from early Christianity in Sweden.

Barbro told me that the main part of the church dated from the 1100’s. Since then a steeple or bell tower had been added. Daryl measured that the walls were 28 inches thick. Inside, there was a lot of decorative faux painting of columns and marble. The stone baptismal font also dated from the 1100’s and, although it had been on display in a Gothenburg museum for a time, was now returned to the church. Barbro said it was definitely here during the time Petter Mattiasson Sable would have been baptized. The base of the font had runes carved into it. Sweden officially became a Christian nation in the mid 1000’s. Christianization usually marked the transition from the runic alphabets to the Latin-based alphabets. There was, of course, overlapping of the use of the different alphabets and this is an interesting example of this overlap.

It is difficult to wrap one’s mind around the extremely old age of this church building. It is representative of some of the very first Christian churches in Sweden. Up until the 11th century, Swedes adhered to Norse paganism. The center of Norse paganism was in a temple in the Uppsala area. The temple existed until it was destroyed in about 1087.