Day 481 - Stockholm
Early Swedish immigration to Saskatchewan was via the United States. Many who came directly from Sweden came because other family members had already settled in Canada. The Swedish settlers to Saskatchewan of the late 1800s and early 1900s were attracted by the Canadian government’s offer of free land. Immigrant farmers, known as homesteaders, were offered 160 acres of land (1/4 section) for the nominal fee of a $10 registration fee.
The first Swedish settlement in Canada was established at Stockholm, Northwest Territories, District of Assiniboia, in 1885, twenty years before Saskatchewan became a province. This colony quickly grew and sponsored sister colonies. It sponsored a settlement in 1889 at Percival. A number of Swedish families settled west of Yorkton near what is now the village of Willowbrook starting about 1899. This group had close ties with a later Swedish settlement north of Yorkton at Norquay and Hyas. Other Swedish settlements included Canora, Shellbrook - Parkside - Canwood, Wadena—Hendon, Admiral—Shaunavon, and Lunnar-Fairy Hill in the early 1900’s.
There are as many as twenty places and one mountain named Stockholm in Canada and the United States according to the book Swedish Place Names in North America. Stockholm Saskatchewan was likely given its name by the emigration promoter Emanuel Ohlén in Winnipeg. He (1861-1931) was born in Övergren in Uppland and had emigrated to Canada and there worked on filling many Swedish-related settlements. In 1888 he informed the Agriculture Minister of Canada that “the New Stockholm colony on the Canadian Pacific Railway main line, 250 miles west of Winnipeg, got some 33 souls in 1887. This colony which was founded by me in 1885, consists of fractional Townships 18 and 19 A, Ranges 1, 2 and 3 west of the 2nd meridian. The people in this settlement consist chiefly of emigrants brought out by me from Scandinavia and some from the United States. The settlers have organized amongst themselves a society named “the Scandinavian Colonization Society of New Stockholm” with the object to further the progress of the settlement and to protect the settlers’ interests. The directors are Emanuel Ohlen, honorary president, Chas. Sahlmark, president, Nels. Johanson, vice-president, Alex. Stensen, secretary, and Wilhelm Soderbery, treasurer. The society has resolved on the organization of a school district and made arrangements with the Scandinavian congregation of Winnipeg for a semi-monthly visit of a Swedish missionary. A post office named “Ohlen” has been established in the centre of the colony and was formally opened on the 1st of October last.”
Most of the immigrant Swedes came as homesteaders to farm, others obtained jobs as farm labourers, domestics and railway workers. When the Saskatchewan Legislative Librarian wrote about them in 1924, this is how he described them: “These settlers of the early years were, speaking by and large, men not only of fine physique, but of high character, law-abiding, clean-living, religious, industrious. Unless we have misread him there is one great feature in which he is pre-eminent, not only among European settlers, but among all settlers. Most of our citizens would like to get rich quick if they could, and so they turn over more sod than they can cultivate properly; buy adjacent land which is an incubus-for the land they cultivate is expected to pay principal and interest on the land which is lying idle; they take chances which leads in many instances to a millstone of debt. Not so these early Swedes. They were not and are not speculative farmers; but farmers who bend their efforts to making a comfortable living. When the settler had replaced his original house by a roomy and comfortable dwelling; when he had as many cows as could be fed, milked and cared for without making slaves of his household; when he had as much under cultivation as he could properly cultivate without being harassed periodically by the problem of hired labour, he was apt to be philosophically content. When his grain, his butter, his hens, his surplus young stock were sufficient for his wants, with something to spare for a rainy day, or rather for a dry season, he was apt to plod along in a condition of more or less philosophical content, not killing himself, or his women and children, in any wild adventures to attain riches.
Today Stockholm is a village of over 300 people strategically located at the junction of Highway 9 and Highway 22, approximately 70 km south of Yorkton in east central Saskatchewan, It is located in a grain and livestock producing area, north of the scenic Qu’Appelle Valley. The first Swedish pioneers arrived to this area in 1885 and started to colonize New Stockholm in 1903. Stockholm and nearby Percival was not the only area that attracted Swedes. In southern Saskatchewan, there were many Swedes in Admiral and Shaunavon in the Swift Current area. Closer to Regina, there were Swedish baptists west at Earl Grey. Other cities and villages with a Swedish immigrant population was Kamsack, Hendon, Wadena, Elfros, White Fox, Meath Park, Canwood, Broadview, Buchanan, Prince Albert and Melfort. The Lutheran and Swedish Mission Churches of Ohlen and Ordale that were established in 1896 never sprouted the Swedish communities that were hoped for and are no longer towns in Saskatchewan.
Today, there are not many Swedish immigrants to Saskatchewan, with one remarkable exception. Britt Holmström was born in Malmö and arrived in Canada in the 1970s. She took a visual arts diploma in fashion design and several university degrees in microbiology before settling on writing as her true calling in life. Since the early 1980s, she has lived in Regina. She is the author of three novels in English - The Man Next Door, The Wrong Madonna and Claudia - and one in Swedish, Peppermint Gin published in Sweden in the late 1960s. The Man Next Door and The Wrong Madonna have been finalists for several Saskatchewan Book Awards.
In a Swedish Press interview she lamented: “It is a bit lonely to be a Swedish writer in Saskatchewan. But, maybe it is easier to write away from where you grew up and look at things from a distance.”