May 26, 2012: Kråksmåla Church and Community
Marc and Tanya accompanied us on this visit to Kråksmåla, the birthplace of James Johnson, Daryl’s great grandfather, and the place from where he emigrated in 1870. This was our first ancestral visit without Barbro and Åke and we really missed the in-depth research that they had done for us at the other sites. If they had come with us, I feel certain we would have seen Lindehult, the actual home of James Johnson, but as it was, we saw the strikingly beautiful wooden church that was built in 1761.
The drive to Kråksmåla revealed just how much the forest had leafed out during the ten days we had been in Sweden. As we drove on the winding, narrow road we could barely see into the interior of the forest. So many different wildflowers were popping out including the magical lupines with their many colors. I thought lupines were flowers that had to be planted in a formal garden and carefully tended, not just growing wild along the roadside.
The church was unique among the churches we visited in Sweden. The construction was all wood and was covered in red wooden shingles. The effect was as if the church had been built by shipbuilders. A chapel had stood on this site since the middle ages but was replaced by the church as the community grew larger. A beam from the original chapel is displayed in the welcome kiosk that stands in the churchyard.
In the interior of the church one can see the hand-hewn timber construction which is now whitewashed. In 1766 the artist Zelander covered the entire interior in colorful religious scenes. In 1860 the church interior was judged to be too colorful and maybe a little gruesome so everything was painted over. Now the only remaining painting is the rococo crucifixion scene behind the altar. Even it was covered by a more toned-down painting for about 100 years.
The treasures in the church include a wooden carving of St. George slaying the dragon, probably made by a German master and carried back after the 30-years war in about 1648. There is also a cabinet containing a wooden carving of St. Birgitta, Sweden’s only native saint who had relatives living in Kråksmåla. This carving was done by the German artist Stengrath in the late 1400’s. One of the bells hanging in the bell tower was given to the congregation by the Swedish queen Kristina in the 1600’s.
We looked around the churchyard and found plenty of gravestones for various spellings of Johnson—Jonsson, Johansson, Jonasson and others—but none that were readily identifiable as Daryl’s relatives. Here, as elsewhere in Sweden, the gravestones were relatively new.
The surrounding farming community was very lush and beautiful. Across the road we spied an extremely handsome stallion prancing and dancing in his little pasture.
We then drove up to Oskarshamn to do a little sightseeing in that seaside city. There was a festival going on there that made it difficult to park. We finally found a restaurant and Marc and Tanya treated us to dinner. This was our first time eating in a Swedish restaurant and we found a format that was repeated many times in subsequent restaurants—there were choices of about six entrees representing Swedish, continental and Asian cuisine. We enjoyed sitting on a sun porch and watching high school students decked out in fancy evening clothes lining up for a promenade through the streets on the way to their prom.