Johnson family homesteaded near Cedar Lake
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Erick and Anna Johnson homesteaded near Cedar Lake, not far from Upsala, in the late 1800s. Their granddaughter, Shirley Bergstrom, has written of her family’s experiences in “Eyes In the Woods.” The book is based on notes from her father, Ed Johnson and his sister, Edith. It also incorporates Bergstrom’s memories of summers spent in Upsala.
Erick and Anna immigrated from Sweden, choosing land near Cedar Lake for their homestead. Erick was an accomplished carpenter and built the house.
“Darlene Achman lives there now,” Bergstrom said. “We visited the house, and she showed us an original panel in the front porch that had not been covered. The boards were laid diagonally.”
Erick was also one of the carpenters who built the Borgstrom house in Upsala, now the Borgstrom House Museum.
Erick and Anna had four children: Ed, Helmer, Edith and Victor.
Bergstrom was born in Michigan, but returned to Upsala for summer vacations.
“My aunt Edith had moved to St. Cloud and we’d pick her up to go to the Swedish Church (now Community Covenant Church) and we would always go to the restaurant afterward,” Bergstrom said. “She loved that.”
Life continued on for Bergstrom and it wasn’t until the late 1980s that she thought of writing. Following the Cheboygen, Mich. centennial, she wanted to put her local history down in black and white. That was only the beginning. She has written three books, including “Eyes In the Woods.”
Bergstrom came to Upsala during Upsala Heritage Days for a book-signing at the Borgstrom House Museum.
“I wrote because I wanted to share my wonderful Swedish heritage,” Bergstrom said. “It’s great to be here (in Upsala) to talk to you.”
She reminisced about her family, and told how she came to write about her Upsala roots. One of her Swedish relatives, Jan-Anders Bergman, came to Upsala looking for any members of the Johnson family. He found Edith’s obituary at the Community Covenant Church and in a roundabout way, that led him to Bergstrom.
“He found me and called me on Thanksgiving Day 2002,” she recalled. “It was right out of the blue. He told me that our relatives were dying to meet us.”
Bergstrom and her sister, Beverly Poss, were flown to Borgsjo, Sweden as Bergman’s guests.
“It was a wonderful time. It was ‘midsommardagen’ — the midsummer festival,” she said. “We stayed in the house where my grandma grew up. They showed us her father’s (Bergstrom’s great-grandfather) blacksmith shop.”
Bergstrom recalls that her grandma didn’t speak a word of English to the day she died.
“She always wanted to go back to Sweden, and I represented her there,” Bergstrom said.
Bergstrom was accompanied to Upsala this time by her daughter, Becky Reynolds and a friend. Her time in Upsala has meant more to her than past trips.
“Taking my daughter to the old homestead and letting her see firsthand where her grandpa was raised is very special,” she said.
Bergstrom warmly thanked her audience for the welcome she and her daughter were given, saying that Swedes are a great bunch of people.
“I pray God’s blessing on your lives and on the town of Upsala,” she said.