Project Canterbury

A Pioneer in Northwest America
The Memoirs of Gustaf Unonius

Translated from the Swedish by Jonas Oscar Backlund;
Edited by Nils Williams Olsson.

Published for the Swedish Pioneer Historical Society
by the University of Minnesota Press, 1960.
Reproduced with permission on Project Canterbury, AD 2003.


THE Swedish Pioneer Historical Society, a direct outgrowth of the 1948 Centennial of Swedish Immigration, sponsored in 1950 the publication of Volume I of the memoirs of Gustaf Unonius, translated by Jonas Oscar Backlund. The basic translation of Volume II was also made by Mr. Backlund, but after his death extensive revision was undertaken by several scholars, especially Conrad Bergendoff of Augustana College, Karl A. Olsson and E. Gustav Johnson of North Park College, and Nils William Olsson of the United States Department of State. The Editor's Notes are largely the work of Nils William Olsson and E. Gustav Johnson, and these two men have also done the major work on proofreading and making the index.

Volume II in the original Swedish differs from Volume I in that the author introduces lengthy descriptions of and comments on American life in the 1850s. Much of this material was drawn from secondary sources which might at the time have been of interest to the reader in Sweden, but which would have little value to the modern reader. Unonius's position as a clergyman of the Episcopal church put him on the defensive in explaining his position to most of his readers, who were Lutherans. Hence he apparently seeks to justify his action and to uphold the viewpoint of the Episcopal church. He is influenced by his church, and shows bias in his judgments on other Protestant denominations. Needless to say, he has scant sympathy with the Roman Catholic church.

It has been deemed best, in view of the length of this second volume, to omit those sections which are not closely connected with the personal experiences of Unonius. Nothing of autobiographical interest has been omitted, for it is his own work that justifies publication. But generalized pictures of American political, economic, social, and ecclesiastical conditions before the Civil War can be found in the writings of more competent and objective observers.

Together these two volumes present an interesting account of the experiences of a Swedish immigrant in Wisconsin and Illinois a century ago. They add valuable material to our store of knowledge of how the wilderness rapidly developed into a promising civilization. The Society is grateful to be able to offer this volume, and is particularly grateful for the continuing interest of various members of the Unonius family--especially the grant in support of publication given by Unonius's granddaughter, Baroness Gunhild Hermelin of Torsvi, Sweden.

E. Einar Andersson, PRESIDENT



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