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Last Letter Home

Vilhelm Moberg

Publication Year: 1995

Considered one of Sweden's greatest 20th-century writers, Vilhelm Moberg created Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson to portray the joys and tragedies of daily life for early Swedish pioneers in America. His consistently faithful depiction of these humble people's lives is a major strength of the Emigrant Novels. Moberg's extensive research in the papers of Swedish emigrants in archival collections, including the Minnesota Historical Society, enabled him to incorporate many details of pioneer life. First published between 1949 and 1959 in Swedish, these four books were considered a single work by Moberg, who intended that they be read as documentary novels. These new editions contain introductions written by Roger McKnight, Gustavus Adolphus College, and restore Moberg's bibliography not included in earlier English editions. Book 4 portrays the Nilsson family during the turmoil of living through the era of the Civil War and Dakota Conflict and their prospering in the midst of Minnesota's growing Swedish community of the 1860s-90s. "It's important to have Moberg's Emigrant Novels available for another generation of readers.”—Bruce Karstadt, American Swedish Institute

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Title page, copyright page

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pp. i-iv

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction to the Emigrant Novels

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pp. ix-xx

"HOT-TEMPERED, easily moved, and changeable" was how the Swedish novelist Vilhelm Moberg once described himself.1 He might have added that in the first half of the twentieth century he was both the most widely admired and the most deeply distrusted of all Swedish authors. A man of humble origins but immense ambition and strong opinions, Moberg spent his entire literary life championing the rights of the common people. ...

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Introduction to The Last Letter Home

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pp. xxi-xxv

MOBERG ONCE estimated that he wrote three-quarters of the manuscript of the Emigrant Novels in California.1 He wrote all of Sista brevet till Sverige in Europe, finishing it in Locarno, Switzerland, in 1959. The Swedish title means "The Last Letter to Sweden." In the 1961 American edition, the series was published as a trilogy, with The Settlers and The Last Letter Home presented as one volume. ...

Bibliography for the Emigrant Novels

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pp. xxvii-xxviii

Suggested Readings in English

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pp. xxix-

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PREFACE: The Country that Changed Them

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pp. xxxi-xxxii

THIS IS the last installment of a story about a group of people who left their homes in Ljuder parish, Sweden, and emigrated to North America. These immigrants settled in the St. Croix Valley of Minnesota, in the land of the Chippewas and the Sioux. It was a wild-growing region, never before touched by ax or plow. When the settlers had built their abodes and secured their daily needs they began also to concern themselves with their spiritual requirements. ...

PART ONE

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1 Old Abe Calls

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pp. 3-12

IT WAS in the beginning of the age of the telegraph. This remarkable invention was in use everywhere in North America in a few short minutes it could transfer important news from one end of the country to the other. The morning happenings in the South were known in every city and village of the North long before evening. The telegraph was a miracle not yet become commonplace. ...

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2 I AM CONCERNED WITH YOUR ETERNAL LIFE

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pp. 13-22

KRISTINA was sewing on her new sewing machine in the living room. Her right hand controlled the balance wheel while her left fed it the cloth. The pedals moved rhythmically, she felt them as a pair of heavy iron soles. She sewed with foot power rather than hand power. This sewing machine, Karl Oskar's gift to her last Christmas, had already saved her many hours of sewing and basting with needle. ...

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3 THE FIRST COMMANDMENT FOR EMIGRANTS

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pp. 23-34

IN THE EVENING Kristina dug around the Astrakhan apple tree under the east gable of the house. With her fingers she pulled out quickroot and other weeds, with the spade she piled a bank of black earth round the trunk. In this way her old father in DuvemaIa had attended to the fruit trees in fall. This tree, grown from a seed from her parents' home in Sweden, was already taking on height and breadth. ...

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4 THE SETTLERS' HOLY DAYS

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pp. 35-46

THAT AUTUMN Karl Oshr cleared and plowed the last of the meadow that had originally stretched from the forest down to the lake. Thus he had turned into a tilled field the entire slope which had at first attracted him and made him select this lakeside for his farm. He had now broken more than thirty acres and no more meadow ground for tilling was available on his claim. ...

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5 THE TOMAHAWKS ARE BEING SHARPENED

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pp. 47-55

THE WINTER of 1861-62—their twelfth in North America—was the most severe Karl Oskar and Kristina had experienced. Heavy snowfalls began early and by November high drifts had accumulated which remained throughout the winter. The cold sharpened its edge every day—the frost penetrated into the houses and painted its white nap on the walls. If they had still been living in their old log cabin they would have been unable to exist through this cruel winter. ...

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6 KRISTINA DESERTS HER MILKING STOOL

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pp. 56-65

DURING the cold season, Kristina's only chore outside her house was the milking. They now had eight cows, and this winter seven gave milk. She sat out in the stable one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. Karl Oskar tried to help her but his fingers were clumsy and awkward in handling the cow tears. One must learn milking in childhood. Marta was now going on fifteen and had begun with the easy milking cows; the girl was both willing and handy. ...

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7 HAS GOD INFLICTED THIS UPON US?

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pp. 66-75

KARL OSKAR NILSSON sat on the sofa in Pastor Jackson's living room in Stillwater. The sofa was soft and well padded, but he moved back and forth and couldn't find a comfortable spot. He stretched out his legs and pulled them back, he turned and shifted, looked out the window and changed his position every second minute. He was alone in the house, waiting for Ulrika and Kristina, who had gone to see Dr. Farnley. ...

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8 THE LETTER FROM SWEDEN

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pp. 76-

...I will sit down and write a few Lines to tell you that our Mother is dead, which happened the 3rd inst, She left this Life and entered Eternity at half past seven in the Evening of said date, The years of her Life were 67, 2 Months and a few Days, Our Mother's death-suffering was short, as She came to her End by a sudden Stroke. ...

PART TWO: The Astrakhan Apples Are Ripe

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9 THE RIVER OR THE FONT?

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pp. 79-90

THE SWEDISH IMMIGRANTS in the St. Croix Valley had become divided in religious matters. In recent years Baptist and Methodist congregations had been established, and many other sects were proselytizing among the Lutherans. Most numerous were the Baptists, whose revivalist Fredtik Nilsson was very active among his countrymen. ...

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10 THE ASTRAKHAN APPLE TREE BLOOMS

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pp. 91-99

THERE WERE no frosty nights this spring; even, suitable warmth prevailed while the earth was being prepared for seeding, and afterward mild, slow rains fell. All the grasses, herbs, and plants-cultivated and wild-shot up in a few days and grew in such lushness and abundance as the settlers had never before seen. The colder the winter the milder the spring. ...

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11 KRISTINA IS NOT AFRAID

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pp. 100-105

ALONG THE SHORES of Lake Chisago runs a path that has been trod by Indians and deer; here the Indians hunted the deer as the animals sought their way to the lake to drink of its water. The path goes in sharp twists and bends around fallen tree trunks, leaves the lakeshore at moors and bogs where the ground sinks under foot, penetrates deep brambles and bushes, turns sharply away from holes, steep cliffs, and ravines, disappears in the undergrowth with its thorny, pricking spikes. ...

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12 AND A NEW CIVIL WAR BROKE OUT

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pp. 106-119

According to the Mendota Agreement the government was to pay the Sioux in western Minnesota the sum of $70,000 in gold during 1861. By the beginning of 1862 this debt had not been paid. Meanwhile, famine raged among the Indians and their situation was greatly worsened by the intensely cold winter. Their spokesmen several times dunned the government agents for money but were sent away empty-handed. ...

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13 EVERY WHITE MAN MUST DIE!

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pp. 120-130

ON THE AFTERNOON of Wednesday, August 20, Katl Oskat Nilsson was busy shocking wheat on his last clearing. With an iron bar he made a hole in the ground, pushed a pole into it, and leaned eight sheaves against the pole; then he hung four more crossways on the pole as a "hat." ...

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14 WHILE KARL OSKAR KEPT NIGHT WATCH

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pp. 131-140

TWELVE SHEAVES to a shock—eight around the post and four for the hat—eight and four, shock after shock. His hands obeyed and picked up the sheaves and put them in place and bent them for the hat. But the wheat field was broad and the sheaves lay dose and the heat sucked the strength from his limbs. It was the hottest August they had experienced out here. ...

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15 THE ASTRAKHAN APPLES ARE RIPE

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pp. 141-146

THE SUN had just risen; it shone through the gable window and slowly searched its way to the bed where Kristina lay. She had opened her eyes. On her forehead near the hairline drops of perspiration glittered; her complexion was refreshed and rosy. Her cheeks blossomed: A young girl's coloring had returned to her after twenty years. ...

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16 THE THIRD COFFIN

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pp. 147-150

IN THE OLD LOG CABIN where the family had lived during their first years as settlers there now shone a night light. This cabin had been built to serve as a home but after the completion of the new house it had been used as a workshop. A large carpenter's bench stood against one wall. Now a man stood at the bench and worked in the light of a candle lantern which hung from a beam in the ceiling; he was making a coffin for his wife. ...

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17 SONG UNDER THIRTY-EIGHT GALLOWS

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pp. 151-153

FORT RIDGELY and New Ulm were relieved during the last days of August; the two portals to the Minnesota Valley remained dosed to the Sioux. Little Crow was finally defeated at Wood Lake on September 23. His warriors were scattered and disarmed later in the fall. ...

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18 ONE MAN DID NOT WISH TO SUBMIT

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pp. 154-162

THE UNFORGETTABLE YEAR of the Sioux uprising came to its close and another began its cycle. In the oldest homestead on Chisago Lake, they were one less in the family there was no longer a wife or mother. The survivors tried to divide the chores of the dead one among them, but all the things she alone knew how to do remained undone. They were, and remained, one less in the house, a wife and a mother. ...

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19 THE LETTER TO SWEDEN

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pp. 163-164

First I want to tell you that the War is over and the Enemy beaten. The hard-necked Rebels are giving up everywhere. On the Battle Fields all is Stillness and Silence, all soldiers are going back to their homes. 100,000 Dollars has been promised to the one who can catch President Jefferson of the South. Much destruction has taken place but the Union between the States is safe for time to come. ...

PART THREE

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20 THE FIRST CHILD TO LEAVE THE HOUSE

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pp. 167-182

IT WAS Mr. C. A. Persson who had persuaded Karl Oskar to buy it. The storekeeper ordered all kinds of new inventions and displayed them in his shop, and one after another he palmed them off on the settlers. But this one appeared to be a most useful invention. Klas Albert promised to assemble it himself and show how to use it. He brought it one dark fall evening and everyone gathered around the rectangular wooden box. ...

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21 THE BRIDAL CROWN WITH PRECIOUS STONES

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pp. 183-192

WITHIN THE SPAN of a few years the Swedish population at Lake Chisago had doubled. Every spring new immigrants arrived, driven from Sweden by pure hunger, victims of the great famine. They came by the thousands from Starvation-SmaIand, where they had chewed on bread of lichen, chaff, and acorn. Their intestines were ruined, their throats sore and sensitive from famine bread. ...

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22 THE FARMER AND THE OAK

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pp. 193-202

STRONG, well-muscled young men were growing up at Lake Chisago's oldest settlement. Four sons had grown into men. Two were as tall as the father, two taller. Anyone of them could manage a job requiring a full-grown man. All were broad across the shoulders, strong in limbs, keen and handy. Their growth into manhood was the greatest change that had taken place at this settlement. ...

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23 THE LETTER TO SWEDEN

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pp. 202-203

Changes have taken place since I Last wrote. I want to tell you that last year I left my farm to my Oldest Son, you must remember Johan. He was 4 years of age when we left Sweden. Now he has taken over, the Son picks up where the Father leaves off, the other children are still at home except Harald who has gone to St. Paul to work for the railroad and Frank who Sits in the Timber company's offis in Stillwater. ...

EPILOGUE

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I. THE MAP OF LJUDER

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pp. 207-228

CHARLES O. NELSON, a Swedish-born farmer in Minnesota, was lying quietly on his back in his bed in his house at the Nelson Settlement. It was midday, midweek, at the height of the harvest season. In the fields the crops were ripe, or drying in shocks; innumerable farm chores waited to be done. But they no longer waited for him; he stayed inside, in his bed. ...

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II. THE LAST LETTER HOME

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pp. 229-230

...Being an old neighbor to your Brother Charles he has on several occasions asked me to write to his Sister in Sweden and let her know when he died. No one else could do this for the reason that your Brother's children have forgotten Swedish and write English and this might cause trouble for his relatives to read. Therefore I promised to write. ...


E-ISBN-13: 9780873517164
E-ISBN-10: 0873517164
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873513227
Print-ISBN-10: 0873513223

Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 1995

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Minnesota -- Fiction.
  • Historical fiction. -- gsafd.
  • Swedish Americans -- Fiction.
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