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The Delaware Finns

E. A. Louhi

Chapter I.  The Finnish emigration to Sweden, from where their path led to the American shores.
Chapter II.  Motives and inducements that led Sweden to establish a colony on the Delaware River.
Chapter III.  A colony established on the Delaware River.
Chapter IV.  The second expedition. The Dutch withdraw from the company. Dutch colonists coming to the Delaware.
Chapter V.  The third expedition. Finnish colonists brought to the Delaware River.
Chapter VI.  The fourth and the fifth expeditions. More Finnish colonists brought to America.
Chapter VII.  The sixth, seventh and eighth expeditions. The Finns beseeching the queen to be permitted to go to America.
Chapter VIII.  The ninth and tenth expeditions. The Finns flocking to get passage for America.
Chapter IX.  The Delaware settlements under the Swedish administration.
Chapter X.  The Delaware colony conquered by the Dutch.
Chapter XI.  New expeditions of Finns arriving at the Delaware River.
Chapter XII.  The first period of the Finnish settlements under the Dutch rule.
Chapter XIII.  England replacing Holland as the ruler of the South River.
Chapter XIV.  The first period of the Finnish settlement under the English rule.
Chapter XV.  The second period of the Finnish settlements under the Dutch rule.
Chapter XVI.  The second period of the Finnish settlements under the English rule.
Chapter XVII.  The third period of the Finnish settlements under the English rule.
Chapter XVIII.  The last stages of the Finnish settlements on the Delaware.

Chapter VII. The Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Expeditions. The Finns Beseeching the Queen to be Permitted to go to America.

After Admiral Fleming's death, Axel Oxenstierna, State Chancellor of Sweden, was the logical successor as head of the colonial enterprise. But he was not a businessman and also found little time for the colonial affair, consequently the colony suffered neglect. John Printz, who now was the governor of the colony, requested in his letter sent with the Fama in 1644, for a large number of soldiers and colonists, but it was not before in May 1646, that the ship Gyllene Haj sailed from Gothenburg to the Delaware. No special efforts had been made to secure colonists, although John Papegoja, who acted in the colony in the capacity of a commander, also requested in his letter of July 15, 1644, to Per Brahe, at times governor-general of Finland, that a lot of Finns should be sent to the colony under the command of an industrious and thrifty man. A soldier, Peter Olofsson, who had been condemned to death was the only recorded passenger on the Gyllene Haj bound to New Sweden.

After a stormy voyage the ship arrived to the destination on October 1, 1646, after she had lost her sails and topmasts. Almost all the crew were sick at the arrival and for the sickness and ice in the Delaware River, the ship could depart for Europe only in the beginning of March 1647. The return trip was safe as usual and the ship arrived tot Gothenburg in June, with returning soldiers, servants and officers and having 24,177 lbs. of tobacco as her cargo.

The seventh expedition did not either have many colonists, with this expedition came however, the Rev. Laurentius Caroli Lokenius, a native of Finland, who preached in the colony for forty years. The ship Swan sailed on September 25, 1647, arriving to the colony safely in the beginning of 1648, and set the sails for the return voyage on May 16, arriving to Stockholm on July 3, 1648, with a valuable cargo of skins. Ten or more of the employees of the company and one freeman returned with the vessel to Sweden, leaving the total number of male inhabitants to 83, besides the women and children.

The Finnish colonists on the Delaware had become prosperous by this time and letters sent to their relatives and friends in Sweden, were full of praise of the country to which they had been brought to. As a result, there are found two letters in the Royal Archives at Stockholm, written by a Finn, Mats Erickson from the province of Vermland in Sweden, on behalf of two hundred Finns in that province, beseeching for permission to be allowed to go to America. In the records of the Council of State it is said that 300 Finns had applied permission to go to America. The writer adds that if they were not allowed to go to the colony, they would then move to Denmark. When the matter was discussed in the Royal Council on June 12, 1649, the queen thought it strange that they should ask for such permission as there was enough land to be had in Sweden.

New Sweden was looked as an undesirable place by the Swedes however and especially by the soldiers, as can be seen of a letter of General Lars Kagg. On July 1, 1648 he writes from Kalmar in the Southern Sweden, complaining to the government that soldiers in his province deserted the army despite during some years the deserters have been hanged. He says from the regiment of Colonel Skytte alone 300 men had deserted. He wished to know what kind of punishment they should have to make it an example for others and adds that as it is known that they have a great dread of New Sweden, it would be profitable that when a ship sails over, some of them be taken there.

The ship Kattan was preparing in Gothenburg for the expedition and some colonists were sent there from Stockholm on the ship Gasen, but most of the Finns had gathered in Gothenburg. Merchandise for the expedition was brought in from Holland as usual. On July 3, 1649 the Kattan set sail for the colony, she had on board more than seventy colonists of which two came from Finland as punishment for shooting elks. These were Israel Petersson from Odkarby and Anders Mickelsson from Aland. The ship had besides twenty-four sailors and six officers, some of the latter to remain in the colony. In her cargo were 4,948 yards of cloth, 224 copper kettles, 160 pairs of shoes, 300 axes and various amounts of other articles. Besides several cannon and a large quantity of ammunition, intended for new forts in the colony. Also provisions estimated for twelve months. It was a pleasant voyage over the ocean, and when they reached the Caribbean Islands they stopped at Antigua, St. Christopher and St. Martin for refreshment. Everybody had money, many of the Finnish colonists had sold their properties in Sweden and had their moneys with them as they were coming to the colony to stay. The salaries of the soldiers, sailors and the officers were paid for months in advance, as there was plenty of money now in Sweden for big war indemnities were coming then in. Even forty-one of the colonists were handed 10 riksdalers each for traveling expenses, on their work in the colony.

On Saturday evening, August 26, they were ready to leave the Island of St. Martin, but one of the men, employed as servant for the company's plantations, had fallen so much in keeping good time in the town that the ship had to leave him on the island after having waited for him late to the night. All night and the next day they were sailing with a favorable wind, all sails set, but about two o'clock the next night the ship received a shock from a cliff, then another one. A third shock and a cliff had penetrated the prow and the ship remained there. As day approached they could see at the distance of about thirteen miles a small uninhabited island, about 80 miles from Porto Rico. The women and children were brought to the island in the life boats, but the sailors remained on board the ship until the next day, when a storm arose, and to prevent the ship breaking up, the masts were cut down and thrown into the sea. The provisions were brought to the island, but their water supply had been thrown to the sea in the attempt to refloat the ship, and fresh water could not be obtained in the island. After five days a small bark passed within a mile or two of the island and the victims fired two distress signals for help, however the skipper of the bark thought them to be a shipwrecked pirate party and did not dare to come to their rescue, but proceeded to Porto Rico to notify about the prize. Soon after two Spanish ships were sent to the wreck and on their arrival the Spaniards asked what people they were, and when the Swedish pass was delivered, they declared never having heard of such country before. The victims were challenged to fight or surrender, after which the Spaniards robbed the cargo and searched the victims for money and valuables. The ship was burned and the victims were brought on the third of September to Porto Rico, where they were led to the market place of the town with drums and great noise. A bonfire was built and all the books the victim carried were burned as heretical. When the victims protested against the treatment accorded to them, the Governor de la Riva promised that they should be set free, but their goods could not be restored. Thereafter the people were compelled to make their living by working in great misery. Shortly after their arrival, they were permitted to dispatch letters and two representatives, the Rev. Nertunius and Joachim Lycke, to Sweden to report their condition and to request the government to send a vessel for their aid. After some time a Dutch captain Didrick Didricksen arrived at Porto Rico with his ship, the Prophet Daniel, loaded with slaves. The shipwreck victims implored him, to release them from their misery. He agreed to take them either to America or Holland, but as he was about to leave, the governor made a prize of him, took his money and sent his ship to the King of Spain as a gift. A Finnish captain, Hans Asmundson Besk, who had served in the Swedish navy and was sent to the colony in the capacity' of commander, had proved troublesome for the authorities in Porto Rico, he was therefore put on board the Dutchman's ship and sent to Spain.

The monks in Porto Rico were trying to convert the victims into the Catholic religion, by promising them money, new clothes and other good things. Many also became "converted," but the monks proved to be liars, the promises of worldly remunerations were not kept.

In the course of time many of the sailors, soldiers and some colonists, among the victims, found means for leaving the island, but the colonists with wives and children had to stay there.' However in April 1650, the city captured a little bark and with the permission of the governor some of the victims bought it. The governor supplied some provisions and issued a passport and about the first of May the remnants of the shipwrecked people, twentyfour souls in all, left Porto Rico, their object being St. Christopher, where they hoped to get on board some Dutch ship going either to America or Europe. After sailing that day and the following night, a French bark met them near the island of St. Cruz and captured the ship of the victims, brought the people to the island where they again were robbed of what they had. On the island the victims were submitted to the most cruel torture at the hands of the French. First they were conducted to the governor, who searched their clothes for money and valuables and then for his amusement caused some of the men to be bound to posts and commanded his soldiers to discharge four shots by their sides. Later the governor caused four men, Johan Rudberus, Joran Dufva, a colonist called Andreas and the mate of the ship Kattan, to be bound with their hands on their back and suspended on hooks about a yard from the ground, for two days and two nights. Others had their fingers screwed off with pistol locks and the feet of the women were burned with red hot iron plates. A certain woman, with whom the governor had forced relations, was killed by the command of the governor.

At this time a Dutch bark arrived to St. Cruz to get a supply of fresh water. The bark was made a prize by the French, but later it was returned to the skipper, who set sail for St. Christopher. At the time two brothers, Johan and Anders Classon from Holland, were trading with tobacco at the latter island and the skipper related them the sufferings of the victims. The brothers were touched by the story and requested permission to go to St. Cruz to bring away the victims. The governor granted their request and gave them a passport together with an order for the release of the prisoners. One of the brothers provided the ship and the other supplied the provisions and the sailors. When they arrived at St. Cruz only five of the victims were still alive, a man, two women and two children. The two women and the children were put at once on board the ship, but the man, Johan Rudberus, had been sold to a captain for 500 lbs. of tobacco. He managed to make his escape, however, and was brought on board the ship at night, but he was discovered by his master, who demanded and received his 500 lbs. of tobacco for the claim of his slave. They left the island on the same day and on the following day the two women and the oldest child died of exhaustion and the other child soon afterwards. Rudberus was taken to Holland from St. Christopher by Captain Johan Classon and arrived at Stockholm in the autumn of 1651 to tell the sad story.

In all nineteen of the colonists, besides some soldiers and sailors, who had been able to escape from Porto Rico, returned to Sweden. About fifty colonists, in great part Finnish women and children, had found their graves in the islands of the West Indies.

Publication: E. A. Louhi: The Delaware Finns or The First Permanent Settlements in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West New Jersey, and Eastern Part of Maryland. New York, The Humanity Press Publishers. 1925, 331 pages.

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