Swede Lane

Yesterday my neighbor and I went on adventure to the Rio Grande County (we live in Rio Grande County 🙂 ) museum in Del Norte. My friend is Swedish and my grandma was,  so when I heard of a Midsommar Celebration. I suggested we go. It was billed as a celebration of the Swedish heritage of the San Luis Valley. It was an all-day reception with a talk about the handful  of Swedish families who settled in the San Luis Valley.

Behind us, about a mile, is “Swede Lane.” Why? Well, as might be obvious, it’s where many Swedish immigrants settled toward the end of the 19th century.

Hundreds of thousands of Swedes left Sweden for America at the end of our Civil War, like my great-grandparents who settled in Minnesota. Of the families who came, here, one of them struck it rich in a gold mine but used his money to enrich his farm in Kansas. There’s something about those values that is solid and very sweet. Mostly they just put down their roots and farmed their farms.

After the talk, my friend and I wandered around the small and charming Rio Grande County Museum. Like a lot of small town, rural museums it has beautiful displays of things that are meaningful to the people here but that you’d never find in a big city museum. Among them was a huge quilt made of individual squares decorated by women of a Ladies Aid Society for the 50th wedding anniversary of another one of their members.

Only in a rural museum like this one would you find photos of the first doctors and their wives, books containing transcriptions of interviews of early settlers just there for people to read. It’s the kind of place a person could spend half a day to experience everything completely, not the kind of place you rush through. All the exhibits show affection, respect and even reverence.

In her talk, the presenter spoke about the families who have lived in the San Luis Valley for hundreds of years. She is a descendant of these families. Many of the names in the valley are the same names as those settlers — notably the Hispanic names, but not only. She was clearly proud of the deep roots – including Swedish roots – she has here and shares with others. As she talked I thought about human nature. Some of us can’t stay home, whatever that is. I don’t feel I have roots anywhere. Home has always been a base. Even when I thought I was “home” I wasn’t. For me it’s always been temporary. My family roots are in Montana, but I’m not.

Though this might be a rather cringe-worthy image, it seems that some of us are snails, carrying our psychic house with us wherever we go. Some of us are earthworms, digging in deep.

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5 thoughts on “Swede Lane

  1. Funny, I only mentioned to Mr. Swiss today that all americans are immigrants (of course excluding the native American). and they all came from somewhere else. Must have been an interesting museum. got to thinking about my family roots, Huguenots and most likely Normandy in France, although it was only the name I found and never traced it back to the norman invaders. For the rest I have records.

    • Though we don’t think of it, even the “native” Americans are immigrants. It seems there are no indigenous American humans. I thought of the Ritterhaus in Bubikon which is fascinating if you’re into knights and stuff, but it is similar in that it’s small and known only to people who are interested in knights, medieval times or who live around Bubikon. Sometimes the small museums are the most interesting.

  2. This is a lovely tale of the Swedish immigration. Our family, as well, had Swedish immigration to Oregon, and then to the “Big Farm” in Saskatchewan Thanks for sharing

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