Introduction to Oregon and its Swedish Population
by Ernst Skarstedt

"Oregon och dess Svenska Befolkning" was originally published in Swedish in Seattle 1911 (20 p.)

Ernst Skarstedt (1857 - 1929) had a privileged start in life, one that would have opened many doors for him: his father was a professor of theology at Lund, one of Sweden’s two old, prestigious universities, and his mother was the daughter of a famous churchman. But Ernst Skarstedt was a restless young man, an individualist, an independent thinker, not particularly religious, and not at all interested in following his father’s wishes for a Swedish university education. At an early age he was smitten by what was commonly referred to as “America fever,” and in 1878, at the peak of Swedish emigration to the United States, he joined in the exodus to the New World.

In the United States, Ernst Skarstedt soon became one of the most well-known Swedish-American newspapermen, working as an editor or contributor to many of the leading Swedish language newspapers in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. A restless soul, a constant traveler, Ernst Skarstedt nevertheless dreamed of a rural way of life, and his editorial assignments were interspersed with attempts at farming in both California and Washington. He was an obsessive keeper of journals, documenting almost everything he saw or did. These journals would later serve as the source for many of his 13 books, all of which were written in Swedish, and almost all of which deal with the lives and activities of Swedes in North America.

After surviving the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, but losing most of his books and papers in the conflagration that followed, Skarstedt relocated to the Seattle area and began work on an ambitious, three-volume history of the West Coast states. These books told not only the general history of California, Oregon, and Washington, but also carefully documented the Swedish presence there. The books were titled Washington och dess svenska befolkning (1908), California och dess svenska befolkning (1910), and Oregon och dess svenska befolkning (1911). All three volumes are organized in the same way: a series of introductory chapters describe the history, geography, agricultural and urban centers of each state. Following chapters portray Swedish life in America--settlements, churches, newspapers, and organizations. Finally each volume concludes with a large biographical section of prominent Swedes. At the time, the biographical section was probably the best way to create a market for these books, and today it has become a gold mine of genealogical information on the early Swedish immigration to the West Coast. Since Skarstedt occasionally worked as an itinerant photographer, all three volumes contain a great number of historical photographs of people and places.

The volume on the Swedes in Oregon is the slimmest of the three, and in the preface to the book Skarstedt complains that the interest and cooperation of his countrymen has been lukewarm at best. Still, it makes for some very interesting reading. What follows here is an excerpt from Oregon och dess svenska befolkning, chapters 10, 11, and 12, describing the life and activities of the Swedes in Oregon around the turn of the century.