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Johan Printz

This striking statue of Governor Johan Printz stands guard at the site of the old Swedish settlement at Essington, Pennsylvania.


For a variety of reasons, men and women from Sweden
established settlements here beginning in the 1630s.
By Associate Thomas R. Kellogg

William Penn and his Quaker settlers arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682, pursuant to a grant made by the Crown shortly before, to discharge a debt owed to Admiral Penn, the Quaker leader's father. These events occured after 1657, but there were some primitive settlements in Pennsylvania within the 50-year time period ending in 1657 within which Founder Ancestors of our Order must have arrived to establish eligibility. The Swedish settlements were established prior to 1640, and there are descendants today in Pennsylvania and the United States of those early settlers.

The Swedish South Seas Company was formed in Sweden under Queen Christina, the daughter and successor of King Gustavus Adolphus, who died in 1632. Its purposes were to plant the Christian religion in the New World, to enlarge the Swedish domains, and to gain trade advantages.

Two ships were furnished to the company by the Swedish Government. Theywere called the Kalmar Nyckel (the "Key of Kalmar") and the Fogel Grip (the "Griffin"). The ships reached Delaware Bay in March, 1638.2 They landed at Cape Henlopen (Hindlopen) and then established a permanent settlement on Christina Creek, which flowed into the Brandywine. Originally the company was owned one-half by Dutch owners and one-half by Swedish owners, but in 1641 the Swedish Government bought all the Dutch-owned shares.

Peter Minuit First Governor
The first governor of the colony was Peter Minuit, a Huguenot, who previously had bought Manhattan Island from the Indians for the Dutch. He was succeeded by Peter Hollander Ridder. The governor with the longest incumbency. however, was Johan Printz, governor from 1643 to 1653. He was said to have weighed over 400 pounds, and was called "Big Belly" by the Indians; he was knighted by the Swedish Government. He stood nearly seven feet tall.

Erected in 1700, Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church is located at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Christian Street in Philadelphia. It was founded in 1642.

His home was built in 1644 on Tinicum Island. It was two stories high, made of hewn logs with a finished lumber interior, and fire places of brick imported from Sweden. Governor Printz and his Swedish colonists made the first white settlement in the area which is now the city of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania. The last governor was Johan Rising, who succeeded Printz in 1654.10 He was defeated by the neighboring--Dutch colonists under Peter Stuyvesant in 1655 which ended the Swedish administration. The Swedes stayed in America, however, and when New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony, fell to the English in 1664, New Sweden fell with it. After the English took possession of the Swedish plantations along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, a census by a Swedish clergyman in 1693 listed 188 Swedish families. Perhaps 1,000 Swedes lived in the Delaware Valley in 1697.

The Swedes were members of the Swedish Lutheran Church, and erected "Gloria Dei" in South Philadelphia in 1700 replacing a log church. The brick structure still exists, and is now a parish of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

The experience of Peter Gunnarsson Rambo may be representative of the typical Swedish colonist. He moved to the Pennsylvania settlement from the settlement in Delaware where he had been cultivating tobacco. After the colony fell, he remained in what had been New Sweden, and held several offices under both the Dutch and the English Governments. He died in 1691, the last survivor of those who came in the first two Swedish expeditions.
Pennsylvania Society Associate Kellogg, a graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School, is a practicing attorney with the Law Department of SmithKline Beckman Corporation. A member of the Swedish Colonial Society, he first became interested in the Colony of New Sweden when, in pursuing genealogical research, he discovered that his maternal grandfather, a Philadelphian, was descended from Peter Gunnarson Rambo and Peter Larson Cock, two original Swedish settlers. Both continued to reside there after the colony's demise. He lives in Malvern.

Got Along With Indians
Swedish relations with the Indians were good. A 1638 report states that Gov. Minuit offered to buy the river and adjoining land. On March 29, 1638, five sachems transferred the land to the Swedes. After a formal transfer ceremony, the arms of Sweden were erected accompanied by the firing of cannons and other ceremonies. The river purchased was Christina Creek in what is now the State of Delaware. The purchased countryside was called New Sweden.

Old Swedes'
Christ Church (Old Swedes') is situated in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania near Norristown. The Swedes moved to this area from Philadelphia in the early 1700s.

The Indian chieftains deeded "as much . . . of the land in all parts and places of the river, up the river and on both sides" as Minuit desired. The colony's policy was that the Indians were to be given fair and equitable treatment at all times. The first established settlement was built at what is now Wilmington, Delaware, and called Fort Christina. They then spread out to what is now Pennsylvania, and a few lived on the east side of the Delaware in New Jersey. The Jersey Swedes lived at Fort Elfsborg near Varins Kill. The fort was nicknamed "Myggenborg" or "Mosquito Castle." The settlements in Pennsylvania were called the Skyllerkill Plantation and the Upland Plantation (the latter situated at what is now Chester, a little south of Philadelphia). Swedes also lived at Tinicum Island, an island in the Delaware below Philadelphia.
The colony engaged in trading in pelts at first, but that proved unprofitable. It then turned to growing tobacco at Upland and other places. New Sweden never had apopulation of more than 400.23 Some Finns had also accompanied the Swedes to America. In his Report of 1644 to the West India or New Sweden Company, Governor Printz reported that there were a total of 121 colonists, including people who had died or returned to Sweden. He said that 34 people lived at Fort Christina, 17 were at Fort Elfsborg, 8 were at Skyllerkill, 14 were at Upland, and 17 were at Tinnakumgh. Governor Rising's Report of 1655 reported trade with the English colony at Hartford, Connecticut.

John Hanson

Colonies Did Not Survive
The colony's demise was brought about by the Dutch. Although the Swedes were the first settlers in Pennsylvania, the Dutch had, in fact, established a nearby settlement called Fort Nassau across the Delaware in New Jersey. Fort Nassau was opposite League Island, the present location of the Naval Base in Philadelphia. It was named by Peter Lindestrom, a Swedish military engineer, who guessed it to be about a league in circumference in 1654.
English colonists from Virginia and New Haven tried unsuccessfully to establish colonies in the area. They were thwarted by the Dutch. New Haven purchased a tract which included parts of New Jersey and Passyunk in Philadelphia. New Haven colonists appeared on the river in 1640, but their settlement did not survive. Gov. Printz mentioned incursions by the Puritans as well as the Dutch in his Report of 1644.

This statue of John Hanson stands in the yard of Gloria Dei in Philadelphia. Long active in politics. he served as President of the United States in Congress Assembled under the Articles of Confederation.

Gov. Rising reported that New Haven laid claim to a large part of the colony in 1654.
The colony was ignored by the Swedish Government for the most part, and was undermanned. The Dutch had also bought land titles from the Indians who had little concept of land ownership. They built another fort in 1648 at Passyunk, and in 1651, Peter Stuyvesant, Governor of New Amsterdam, built Fort Casimir at New Castle, Delaware. The new Dutch fort was seized by Governor Rising in 1654 on the way to take charge of the administration of New Sweden, and renamed Fort Trinity. In 1655, the fort was surrendered to a Dutch military force under Gov. Stuyvesant with no bloodshed.

The Dutch then proceeded up river and besieged Fort Christina, which ultimately fell. The Dutch, in turn, capitulated to an English force in 1664. On October 31, 1674, all Dutch lands from New England to Virginia were ceded to the English by the Westminster Treaty. At the time of the Dutch capitulation in 1664, there were about 1,000 Swedish colonists and 10,000 Dutch col-mists in what is now the Middle Atlantic states, while there were 100,000 English colonists to the North and South. The Swedes built the first American log cabin, and that style dwelling is said to have been their most unusual contribution to American

Plaque commemorating the landing of the Swedes
This plaque commemorates the landing of the Swedes in 1638 near Wilmington, Delaware