THE PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES OF THE 19TH CENTURY CENTRAL VALLEY - Swedish Immigrants
Kingsburg has not always been the neat, clean community that it is today. It was once known as "the toughest place" between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The history of the town began in 1872 when the Central Pacific Railroad, which later consolidated with Southern Pacific, began building a line down the San Joaquin Valley. It reached the Kings River in May 1872.
It was the railroad's line through the town that most likely brought in the town's first settlers. Among the first known settlers to the barren piece of land were Josiah Draper and Andrew Farley.
When Draper and Farley arrived in town they split up the territory and each located on a quarter section of land. Draper chose the east side of the tracks and Farley chose the west side. Thomas Cowan took up a half section northeast of Draper's soon afterward. Josiah Draper's brother, Elias, who brought his family to the area about the same time, and Frank Draper, Elias' son, who came from the family's Monterey County property five years later, comprised the rest of the early settlers.
Within two years, the town began to grow. On June24, 1874, a post office was established, and the town was officially named Wheatville.
By 1874, the town consisted of two general merchandise stores, blacksmiths, a hotel, operated by the Drapers and located at the northeast corner of Draper and California streets, and several saloons.
The saloons were said to be the biggest businesses in town, and the place was filled with, what some referred to as "frontier foolishness."
According to old stories and old photographs, there wasn't a building in town that wasn't pockmarked with several bullet holes. This was how "the toughest place" between San Francisco and Los Angeles earned its reputation.
In June 1874, a post office was established under the name Wheatville. Just five months later, the town became Kingsbury, assumed to have been named for Sanford Kingsbury, a clerk in the office of Central Pacific General Manager A.N. Towne in San Francisco.
The name became known by some as Kingsburgh. The present spelling, Kingsburg, first found its way into print in the Fresno Expositor of May 26, 1875, although the name Wheatville continued to be used for some time.
In 1880, the population of the little frontier town was 88. By 1890, after the beginning of the Swedish influx, the population grew to 291. Swedish immigrants are believed to be the ones who cleaned up the town and brought it some decency.
Judge Frank D. Rosendahl was the first known Swede in town settling in Kingsburg in 1878. He had several college degrees in surveying and landscape gardening. He came to the United States when he was 26 and helped design New York's Central Park and the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
He first settled near Fresno but later traded his 40-acre ranch there for property near Kingsburg. He owned and operated a nursery in Kingsburg until about 1900. He was later a justice of the peace. He died in San Francisco in 1915.
Carl Alfred Johnson was born in Hallefors, Vastman, in 1859. His father was a juror. He arrived in Ishpeming in 1878 and ran a diamond drill in the mines for five years and owned a store. He was the second Swede to settle in Kingsburg, on July 25, 1886. In 1887 he bought 40 acres of land east of town, paying $65 an acre for it. He was named postmaster in 1888, a job which he kept for five years. In the spring of 1898, he rented the farm for three years and went to Alaska to work in the mines. In 1899 he went to San Francisco, returning to Kingsburg in 1900. He sold the farm in 1903, bought property in town and started a grocery store,
It was Andrew Erikson is the Swedish immigrant who early residents say was responsible for the Swedish immigration to Kingsburg back in 1886.
Andrew Erikson was a member of the Swedish Lutheran Church and it was his fellow church members who sent him west to search for a new homeland. He was to investigate for them the government offerings in California for homesteading and to choose a suitable location for a Swedish settlement.
Erikson was directed by the government land office to travel south along the coast and then return home via the inland route. His first stop was San Jose where there was also an Evangelical Lutheran Church. At San Jose he unexpectedly met C.A. Johnson and F,D. Rosendahl.
Erikson was disappointed at what he had seen on his trip south. The best government land had already been taken. He decided to look over the valley and was impressed with its agriculture possibilities.
Homesteading was out of the question. There was no government land to be found here. He looked on and traveled as far north as Redding.
There he made his decision. He would return east and tell his friends that they might do as they pleased but he was planning to make Kingsburg his home' Erikson was a convincing man. A little band of Swedes settled in Kingsburg on Nov. 23, 1886.
It was in 1888 that the majority of colonists arrived. They came from places like Dayton, Iowa; Ada and Friends Home, Kan.; Axtell, Neb.; and, of course, Ishpeming.
One of those settling in 1888 was Nils Hanson, whose house was located where Memorial Park now is located. He was a tanner by trade but worked in the mines in Ishpeming after his arrival in 1880 in the U.S. He stayed in Kingsburg for a short time, returning to Sweden for three months. When he came back to the U.S., he worked building bridges in Portland, Ore. In 1989 he moved back to Kingsburg to farm and stay.
Johan Magnus Carlson was another 1888 arrival. He emigrated to America in 1865 and lived in Illinois and Iowa. He was a deacon at Concordia Lutheran Church and a fruit farmer. He and his wife, Anna Stina Petterson, whom he married in 1847, had six children.
Gust Emanuel Carlson came to the U.S. with his parents in 1865. He first moved to Kingsburg in 1888 where he bought 20 acres. After selling the property he returned east but moved back to Kingsburg in 1897 and opened a butcher shop. He married Alfreda Lindell in 1891. After she died in 1895 he married Christina Henrietta Peterson. Their home was located where Town and Country supermarket is today.
Source: Fresno's Past & Present, Vol 30, No. 3, Fall 1988,