Swedish Americans are Americans of Swedish descent, most often related to the large groups of immigrants from Sweden in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. A few small towns in the U.S. have retained a few visible Swedish characteristics. One such example is Gothenburg is a city in Dawson County, Nebraska. Gothenburg is proud of its Swedish heritage.
Gothenburg was founded in 1882 by Olof Bergstrom, a native of Hassela, Sweden, who worked for the Union Pacific Railroad and was settled largely by Swedes and Germans. Names of businesses, mail boxes and school rosters show that their descendants are still prevalent today. Gothenburg, Nebraska, and Göteborg, Sweden, are the only two Gothenburgs in the World.
Bergstrom selected the site that was to be Gothenburg and located a farmstead about a mile north. The Union Pacific Railroad laid out the original town of eight blocks. The town was laid out parallel with the railroad tracks but not with the world, which accounts for the bend in the citys streets. Mr. Bergstrom returned to Sweden and enticed a number of people to migrate to Gothenburg.
Bergstrom was not only was he an influential colonize, but also a colorful personality. He told settlers that land was so cheap that they would soon be very independent. They would not have to learn to speak the English language because there would be just Swedes from Sweden. They could possess their own beautiful valley, he said, the wonderful Platte Valley, the greatest agricultural valley in the world excepting the Nile in Egypt. To homeseekers he made the statement “The Early Bird Catches the Worm”.
He was married twice, he said, would have been married the third time but he left the bride waiting at the church. His first wife was a very cultured woman. He had a beautiful daughter by this marriage. The daughter had a winning personality like her father. She studied music in Boston and Chicago. His second wife was very homely but a fine dresser. She was an opera singer from Stockholm, Sweden.
In 1890, a shooting occurred in Bergstroms home during a social gathering. The victim, Ernest G. Edholm, died. Bergstrom was charged with murder; the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Bergstrom was so popular locally that after the acquittal, the Gothenburg Silver Cornet Band escorted him home. In later life Bergstrom lost almost all his wealth accumulated in his years of business in Dawson County and died in Tennessee. Elements of his life have crept into Nebraska folklore. Tales of the Nebraska strong man, Febold Feboldson, are said to be based on Bergstroms life.