Around Swedish America in 548 Days

Day 489 - Salt Lake City

Brigham Young advised the first large party of 300 Nordic immigrants (one- third of whom were Swedish) who arrived in Salt Lake in October 1853 to settle in the Sanpete Valley west of the Wasatch Mountains and south of Salt Lake City. Swedish immigrants subsequently populated communities including Mount Pleasant and Spring City. Other Swedes settled in Salt Lake City (which by 1885 had a “Swede Town”) and in Cache County, north of Salt Lake City, particularly in Brigham City and Logan. Scandinavian farmers helped make Sanpete and Cache Counties the granaries of Utah.

The Mormon leadership pushed immigrants to learn English quickly and put away their European culture. Despite rapid assimilation, Nordic meeting groups did exist. Resenting Danish domination, Otto Rydman advocated Swedish meetings within the church and became editor of Utah Korrespondenten, founded in 1890. Swedish Lutherans arrived after the Mormons, but Lutheran congregations were largely confined to the larger urban areas.

On the grounds west of the State Capitol, 350 N. Main, is a plaque honoring the 86,000 settlers who peopled the valleys of the Rocky Mountains between 1847 and 1869. Västergötland-born Hilda Anderson Erickson, recognized at her death in 1968 (age 108) as the last of the early Utah pioneers, arrived in Utah at age six on foot and by oxcart from Nebraska with her mother and two brothers.

On the grounds east of the Capitol is a plaque honoring the Mormon Battalion that served during the Mexican War. John Eric Forsgren was a private in the battalion’s Company D, and his name is listed on a plaque near the monument.

The large Daughters of Utah Pioneers Memorial Museum, 300 N. Main. across from the State Capitol (801-538-1050), is dedicated to the memory of the LDS pioneers. The museum contains a considerable variety of memorabilia, with numerous ones belonging to early Swedish Mormons. Names of Nordic pioneers are found throughout the museum.

In the early years, the Mormon Church maintained a works program in Salt Lake City to help the immigrants find employment and to take advantage of their skills. Nordic carpenters and builders were involved in the construction of such structures as the Mormon Temple, the Mormon Tabernacle, and Brigham Young’s Beehive House.

In July 1882, the Reverend Johannes Telleen of Denver with five charter members organized the Zion Lutheran Church, the first one in Utah. Leaders of the Augustana Synod believed that Swedes nominally converted to the Latter-Day Saints would be willing to rejoin a Lutheran church, but despite much zeal, Lutheran success was limited. The Zion Lutheran congregation constructed its first church in 1885. Six years later a second structure was built; it remained the sanctuary until 1956, when the present building at 1970 Foothill Drive (801-582-2321; was completed. At the northwest corner of S. Second and E. Fourth is a plaque noting the location of the earlier churches.

If you are looking for a modern Swedish landmark you could go to the restaurant Absolute! (at 52 West 200 South, Tel: (801-359-0899) that was created and owned by Staffan and Kimberley Eklund. Here you can still feast on Scandinavian specialties, whille the Eklunds have moved on to manage five restaurants at the Solitude Ski Resort and run the cooking club. Kimi from Croswell, Michigan, met Staffan from Norberg, Sweden, when she was skiing in Alta with her boyfriend. Staffan and Kimi got married and while Staffan managed the Glada Fisken restaurant in Göteborg, Kimi took a B.Com at Handelshögskolan in the same city. Later in Salt Lake City they worked as realtors before running their very successful Absolute! restaurant and the Dijon Bistro where they even served the King and Queen of Sweden during the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. Kimi also headed the Utah chapter of the Swedish-American Chapter of Commerce.

Many Swedish Americans come to Salt Lake City to look for their ancestors. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have microfilmed all Swedish church records, so in the Salt Lake City archives you can do your research in peace and quite inexpensively. The Swensson Swedish Immigrant Research Center (Day 338) in Rock island IL organize an annual tour,

The artist behind the biblical scenes in the Book of Mormon for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the Swedish descendant and Mormon Arnold Friberg. He is also well known for his 15 “pre-visualization” paintings for the Cecil B. DeMille film The Ten Commandments, which were used to promote the film worldwide and for which he actually received an Academy Award nomination. Nowadays he is perhaps best known for his 1975 US Bi-Centennial painting The Prayer at Valley Forge, a depiction of George Washington praying at Valley Forge that can be found as a reproduction above fireplaces all around the country.

Arnold Friberg was born December 21, 1913 in Winnetka, Illinois, and maintains to this day his studio in Salt Lake City. His Swedish father Sven and Norwegian mother Ingeborg had emigrated to America three years before he was born. When he was three, the family moved from Chicago to Arizona, where they were converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. By the time he was eight, Arnold was drawing original cartoons for a Phoenix newspaper. By eighteen, Arnold enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. For 36 years Friberg created nearly three hundred pictures for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that resulted in a commission of a portrait of Prince Charles with his horse. The Prince was so pleased with the painting that Arnold Friberg was asked to come and stay at Buckingham Palace for six weeks to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth with her favorite horse.

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