Nels Holm’s Story

Here is the story of my great-great grandfather Nels Leonard Holm, which a distant cousin had translated back in 1989.  The names of the cousin and the translator have been removed by request.  Nels died in 1944.




These pages were handwritten in Swedish by Nils Leonard Holm probably when he was quite elderly.

D.G. translated the pages for me.

D. told me that some of the words were hard to read and that the sentence structures sometimes seemed to be more like English even though Swedish words were used. It became harder to read towards the end. She tried to phrase the translation for more understanding by us, but she sometimes had to just put the literal translation in. Sometimes the words were smudged or just impossible to read.


Since I have often seen how some people look back on their lives and have more or less ability to express themselves it seems that it is appropriate that anybody can do it. I do not have a great ability to express myself but I know what I have experienced.

I was born September 16, 1850 in Pikstad and Holmedals parish, Varmland of poor parents. My mother’s maiden name was Maria Holm and my parents were married at Helgeboda Fors in Eda parish, Varmland where my father was a miller. My mother was the daughter of Lars and Lena Holm. Lars Holm was a smith there. Later my father and mother moved from Helgeboda fors in Eda parish to Holmedal parish and settled on a farm left by my father’s father in gulds Bondsbyn.

I stayed in my home until I turned fifteen and had been confirmed. In those days it was common that you had to take care of yourself after that and that is how it was for me although I was not very developed physical­ly. I came to a place where I was regarded in a subordinate way. I went bare foot from early in the spring to late fall and in the summer both when cutting the hay and harvesting with my feet all torn. It was no use to complain, just to take things as they came.

In October 1866 I moved to a nail shop where I heated the iron bars which were to be made into nails. It was not much better than the first place. It was in Adolffsfors (Adolfsfors?) in Kola parish. I stayed there only one year but started to grow and gain strength so I could endure more and I also realized that I had the ability to learn a trade, but to become a nail smith really went against my desire so next year I took a new job at a foundry called Noneborg in Eda parish.  I made nails there also and became very good in doing it. I stayed there for two years. My uncle, mother’s brother, was an iron bar master and my uncle found that I was well suited to this profession. I jumped high when I saw that my wish finally would be reality. I stayed for three years and these were my best years as a young man. Both my uncle and aunt treated me as a son in their home and my uncle wanted to leave the place and the position to me but as the method started to become old fashioned it was no sense for me to accept but at this time I was good enough to take the place of the master and it was an advantage to take his place and to do his work.

I left my uncle’s and aunt’s home in 1872 and accepted a position in Charlottenberg where I learned the new method to bring out the best iron and in two years I got a position as master swain and forged for the forging master. There I had the opportunity to make the iron that was going to the World’s Expo in Austria. I stayed at this foundry for three years. After that I moved to Munkfors, Varmland, in 1875, and stayed there for one year. Then I moved to a foundry in Dalarna called Horndal. I hardly started because it seemed repugnant and I was in that case welcome to come back to Munkfors which I knew well and got on well with Reinholdt and Jejer and since my brother died in Munkfors the week before Christmas I went there for the funeral and hired a man to take my place so I could stay in case there would be an opening. Jejer said that if I wanted to stay there were two openings for me – – – -and I took the latter because both the steward and I thought I would be good at doing it so I took the position as co-worker with my cousin Anders Holm until the new hearts were ready which was towards spring of 1877 and then it was not as now when you can get trained people but I had to hire anybody and also have a few extra people along in the beginning to help train new men which was hard in the beginning but went well finally and when I started my responsible position I also had to provide food and lodging for my workers as well as for myself.

I had to hire a maid to take care of the household which I soon realized was too expensive so I thought that it was time to send for the one I had chosen for a companion for life about a year earlier and now was able bring to me without fear for the future. Everything went well and she came to me and also took care of the household on August 1 and we were married on August 18, 1877 and our marriage was the happiest but although everything went so well for me I caught the America fever and wanted to go to the promised land in the West and gave up my good position, sold everything I had, a very nice home and good earnings for the rest of my life and went with wife and children to the unknown and much disappointment but I was in America where I wanted to be and had nobody to blame for my disappointment and I had a good wife worth her weight in gold and double.

I hid my disappointment from everybody and that was the only thing I hid from my wife but you can imagine to take some ?? and to earn my and my family’s bread from it which I had never done before and was not used to it but everything has to go and it will when it has to. I came to the old — woods in Northern Michigan where I had two brothers and in order to meet them I had to go there although I had greater possibilities in the East where my profession was more of use for me but I came to Michigan and stayed there and after I became more used to my situation. I did not have much time to reflect over my miscalculation and as long as I could provide food and clothes for the family, because where I was, was the home of the family and where my family was, was my peaceful home although there was no lack of fights for the existence.

If I had stayed in Sweden I had probably been better off in some ways because I was very trusted even with important jobs. I was one of those who was asked to make the Iron for the Expo in Philadelphia in 1876 and after that I got the title ironmaster and I had good chances to get even a better position even though the one I had was as good as I could wish. In those days it was just that everyone wanted to go to America and so did I and that year many persons emigrated. I left Munkfors on the third of May 1880 and the trip lasted to May 20 when I went ashore in Philadelphia and then had to continue the trip to the mining town of Ishpeming and was well received by a Norwegian whose name was Graverack? whom my brother Sven had asked to meet us and there were not many jobs available in that town but together with some other people I had the opportunity to travel to a mining town named Smithsmine where I had worked for a month when I got a letter from another brother who asked me to come to a place further south where there were plenty of jobs and I did not like the job in the mine. I got close to a wall and was hit by a large and a small stone so it was no place for me.

This job south was where my other brother had a farm but he worked in the forest and worked on his farm in between and I also got a job there for one dollar and fifty cents for twelve hours of work and you can imagine that it was (not) easy for me because I had earned seven to eight crowns in six hours in Sweden and the crown and the dollar had just about the same buying power. I had to decide to do the best of the situation and there was no time to quarrel and that would not have changed the situation any ways and my wife and I worked well together and then the heavy load seems lighter although it seemed unbearable sometimes and I did not get any encouragement from the outside but at home I often heard that we were young and strong and that we did not have anything to start with and now we had these little ones who would grow up and we would be old. Up ‘til now things have gone well for four sons and two daughters (were) still alive and they are doing well and I do not worry about them.

The place we went to in Michigan was Wallace a sawmill with plenty of jobs and a new settlement and I was a little more used to the job and have never feared much so everything was well. I went into debt to the mill for building my house and had to get credit while I built the house in the wild forest and I built it myself as well as I could and we lived in that house for nine years and there were somewhat normal conditions and worked with whatever available. In the spring of ?? (ink spot covering the date) I got a telegram that there was a job for me in Escanaba Railroad Shop. The telegram came at 11 a.m. and at 6 p.m. I was in Escanaba and started work the following day. I stayed there only a short time but because of good friends and a good supervi­sor I learned rather much that was of help for me for the many years I worked as a machinist.

After I finished there I went to Marinette, Wisconsin, where I got a job through a friend to work with machines and I learned much both technically and straight work and I learned both to set up machines and to turn and file and since I thought that it would be a year around job I decided to bring my family there and I exchanged my farm for a house and moved my family there but I was soon out of a job again and then went to West Superior and got a job again in a rolling mill and worked there for a while.

Then I got a letter that there was a job for me at home and I got a job again and it lasted until the spring and the next day a man came up to me and asked me if I wanted to come and repair his steam engine which I promised to do so and I got it into good condition and then I drove the machine for thirteen months to the good satisfaction to the owner. I got a job in the shop again but it lasted only a short time. After that I got a job in small shop for Wash-Mich Rail Road and was with that company for three years and then went to Menominee, Michigan and got a job in a shop called Electrical Mechanical Shop and stayed there for some time and during that time the Swedish Mission Church was organized in Menominee, Michigan. I was a charter member.

I stayed there from 1897 to 1905 and during those eight years I had three funerals, first for my youngest then for my mother in law who had been with us for 22 years and in 1903 my wife died and that was the most severe loss. Sometime later I got a job at a place called Rama? Michigan and there I rebuilt three locomotives for a lumber firm called Oceanta Lumber. I finished before Christmas in 1905 and was without a job again and my youngest daughter was very ill and she took all my ?? and I had the idea to go to Minneapolis because there were more opportunities for work and just after Christmas of 1905 I went to Minneapolis and arrived in the coldest time of the winter, no money and everything unknown. The first day I stayed inside but the next day although it was very cold, I went out and found work immediately at the Union Iron Work and worked there until the first of April when I got a telegram saying that my daughter at home was very ill and I had to give up my job and go home and was at home for a month while I got my daughter to and from the hospital and she became strong enough to move. So we moved to Minneapolis and when I came back to Minneapolis I got a job at Electric Machine Company and stayed there for 20 years and did my job to satisfaction until I was 75 years. The first year, 1905, I transferred my church membership to the Mission Society (Covenant Church) in Minneapolis and have been there ever since and now I am here. (last sentence very unclear)

Translated from a hand written copy by D. G., June 1989.

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