Halfward Bryngelssons Legacy
Written by Karl J. Swenson 1 August 1936
There are photos and source material below Dr. Swenson's article.
My interest in the genealogy of our family is not a sudden inspiration or impulse. It has lain dormant, with occasional spurts of awaking, since I was a youngster, when I used to listen with wonder and marvel at the stories, told by my father and grandparents, of Klefmarken, their old home back in Sweden. Two personalities invariable permeated the legendary atmosphere, one a King, Charles XII of Sweden, the other a farmer, Halfward Bryngelsson from Klefmarken. Making certain allowances for natural ancestral pride, one can easily understand that the farmer was the greater of the two. There was also interwoven in the stories a certain Royal document (Gavobrevet), a deed to the property comprising Klefmarken, which had been somewhere in the family since its issue to Halfward Bryngelsson in 1716.
The stories, however, were not legend, but facts recorded in Swedish history. Neither is the old Royal document any longer a questionable myth. After nearly a half-century repose in the Augustana College Museum at Rock Island, Illinois, it is again back in the family fold.
When King Charles XII, in 1715, had returned to Sweden from his campaign in Turkey and was planning a conquest of Norway, he became acquainted, through General Dahlfelt, one of his Staff Officers, with Halfward Bryngelsson from Klefmarken, who history records, later served the King in various ways as guide, messenger, and spy during the war with Norway. His last services, and the reward for these services, is the theme of the brief story here related.
During the winter of 1715-1716, the King, being quartered with his troops in Christiania [Oslo] and concerned about support from the authorities in Stockholm, decided to send messengers to ascertain if he could rely on Stockholm for help. Five messengers were sent, each with the same message. Halfward was one of them, and the only one to return with an answer. The others were captured by the enemy.
Upon his arrival in Stockholm, Halfward presented his letter to the authorities and waited for their reply. He made notations in a small book, which he carried for that purpose, of the date and time he delivered the letter, as well as the time and date he received the Governments answer, and started immediately on his return. He traveled on foot. When he arrived at Carlstad, he went to the officer in command and inquired of what orders he had regarding the troops, whether to remain where he was or report to the King. He was not satisfied until the officer had shown him the orders. The orders were for the troops to remain at Carlstad [Karlstad] and were dated after he departure from Stockholm. At his first opportunity he made the important notations in his book and was again on his way.
As he neared the Norwegian border, he procured a Swedish uniform and dressed as a Swedish soldier, in order, according to his plan, to be better able to get through the Norwegian lines. From Carlstad on he left the traveled roads and took his way through the woods. After crossing the border he came upon a river that he was unable to cross without help. The cliff-bank was so high and steep that he had to resort to his natural wood-craft to get down to the water. This he did by making a ladder of vines, long enough to reach and strong enough to hold. When this was ready he secured one end to tree and was overjoyed at seeing someone coming down the river in a boat. This proved to be an old Norwegian woman with a supply of home-brew, intended for the soldiers of the Norwegian army, which Halfward was pleased to learn, was encamped farther to the north and on the other side of the river. During the exchange of provincial salutations she wanted to know who he was and what he was doing up there. Halfward answered he was a deserter from the Swedish Army and wanted to join the Norwegians and if she would take him across the river he would pay her well. This interested her. She came closer to the shore and was surprised to see him come down on his improvised ladder. Secure in the boat, he offered to buy a drink, but she said hed have to wait until they reached the camp, but promised that then he should have the first drink. For this promise he gave her a Norwegian coin.
As they approached the other side of the river, Halfward realized that he must not be seen and run the risk of being captured. He resorted to natural wit and strategy. He feigned a sudden severe intestinal seizure and asked to be let ashore for a natural purpose. He begged her not to leave him but to wait his return, and told her not to worry if he was gone some little time. For another coin she promised to wait for him. Once ashore and under cover of the woods, leaving the old woman waiting, he went his way cautiously, avoiding the enemy lines, and in due time arrived safely at the Kings Headquarters in Christiania [Oslo] with the important message.
He reported without delay and presented the anxiously
awaited letter. When the King had read it he exclaimed:
Because of his insistence, however, the King permitted
him to go after he had questioned General Dahlfelt as
After commending the King, as well as himself, in Gods care, Halfward left and started on his home journey. But what happened? At Fredrikshald [now Halden, Norway] he was arrested on suspicion of being a spy in the Kings service and taken to the Military Headquarters. Here he was severely questioned and so rigidly searched for evidence that his clothing and even his shoes were cut into strips, but to no avail. They did not find the little paper, concealed on his person throughout the whole ordeal, that would have convicted him and cost him his life. He was finally released, went his way, and returned safely to his home.
On the evening of the 26th of June , following
Halfwards departure from Christiania, the King with
his Staff of twelve Officers, all mounted, arrived
unexpectedly at Klefmarken. Dordi, Halfwards wife,
was in the yard as they rode up. The King greeted her by
name and inquired if Halfward were at home.
Halfward Bryngelsson was 44 years of age at this time. He was married to Dordi Johsdotter and had a family of six children, five sons and a daughter. He was an interesting person with many attributes of character that won for him confidence and recognition. He was a farmer by birth and inclination; crafty, cunning, intelligent, honest, and trustworthy. He distinguished himself for fidelity, initiative, and courage. He had a naïve sense of provincial humor that made him cheerful and agreeable, and a natural poise that enabled him to carry out successfully the various duties he was called upon to perform. It was these qualities in his personality that won for him the high regard and esteem, and the sincere attachment and lasting friendship of his Monarch.
Klefmarken was an extensive tract of land, comparing in size with some of our National Forests, and like them, owned by the Government or Crown. It comprised an area somewhat over 500,000 acres. It lies between Big Lee Lake and the Norwegian border, about ten miles west of the Church of Ed, in Dahlsland, Sweden. It was this property that Halfward Bryngelsson received in recognition of his faithful services, from King Charles XII. It was the home of the District Magistrate. Up to the time he received it, Halfward had been a renter on the place, as had been his father before him. He now became its sole owner. It was, in time, divided among his children, and subdivided through the generations that followed.
Engelbrecht, the youngest son, married to Eli
Jansdotter, occupied it after Halfwards death. He
bought his sisters and one of his brothers
share. This then went to his daughter Maria, married to
Sven Asmundsson, and in turn to their son Andreas,
married to Maja Svensdotter, then jointly to their two
children, Johanna, married to Jon Johansson, and Sven
Magnus Andreasson (our Grandfather), married to Katarina
Andersdotter. These two families lived on the place
together until 1870, when grandfather sold his interest
(100,000 acres) and came to America. It has been in the
family now for 220 years. [Editors comment: as of
2002, Klefmarken has been in the family now for 286
The original deed to Klefmarken is an interesting document. It measures approximately 8 x 12 inches and it written on both sides of the paper in a somewhat flourishing handwriting that is clear and distinct, despite its age. It is dated April 9th, 1716, at Christiania. The Royal Seal is quite well preserved, and the Kings signature CAROLUS is also clear and distinct. It is made out to Halfward Bryngelsson and his heirs, to have and to hold forever, or as long as they paid the required taxes. The deed was in possession of the owners of Klefmarken up to and including Grandfather Andreasson. When he had sold his interest and was preparing to leave for America it came near being destroyed and forever lost. When going through his books and papers, discarding everything he considered of no value, he came upon the deed. He studied over it some little time and decided it could be of no value in America. He was about to toss it into the fire when my father, then 16 years of age, asked if he could have it. He could, and so it was brought to America. Father kept it for some time but found difficulty in taking care of it, as it was showing signs of wear and weather. He was in Rock Island, Illinois, at this time. There was a museum there in connection with Augustana College. Here he asked permission to leave it until such a time as he could properly care for it. This was granted.
One day father was telling about it and said he
guessed it must still be there. I became curious as well
as interested and suggested that he write back there and
see if he couldnt reclaim it. There did not seem to
be much of a chance, since more than 40 years had elapsed
and it would be difficult to establish ownership.
Nevertheless, father wrote a letter. It so happened that
the President of Augustana College at that time was once
a boy in one of fathers Sunday School classes in
Kansas and remembered Emanuel Swenson. The exchange of
correspondence resulted in fathers receiving the
Dr. Swenson used the historic spelling of Klefmarken in his above article, but the modern spelling is Klevmarken.
I visited Klevmarken in 1977, 1997 and 2012. Halfward Bryngelsson is my 6 times great grandfather. [Halfward is modern version of Halvard.] His descendant, my great grandmother Clara Christina Svensdotter, was born at Klevmarken in 1849. She immigrated to America 20 years later. The historic house she was born in burned down on New Year's Eve in 1892. In 1977, it was an emotional event to see the remains of the foundation of that historic house. It is the physical link to my Swedish heritage. The replacement house was built nearby. Read Clara's story.
In 2012, I took photos of the replacement house and the 1908 Memorial Stone. This house replaced the original house burned down on New Year's Eve in 1892. The house is in a forested area with lakes and grey granite outcrops.
The Memorial Stone memorializes the visit of King Karl XII (aka Charles XII) in 1716. The King arrived on June 26 and brought with him the Deed to Klevmarken. The King signed the deed when Halfward Bryngelson visited him in April 1716 in Christiana (Oslo). Dr. Swenson's article explains why it was too dangerous for Halfward to bring the Deed with him in April when he returned to Klevmarken. So the King brought the Deed in person to Klevmarken for Halfward. This is ironic because the King arrived very near his 34th birthday, and was giving instead of receiving a gift.
Reading about Charles XII's military situation, it is clear that this was a very turbulent period for him. To quote from Wikipedia: Charles was forced to retreat from the capital [Christiana (Oslo)] on 29 April after inflicting significant losses of men and material. Mid-May following the retreat from Christiania, Charles invaded the border town Fredrikshald, now Halden, in an attempt to take the fortress of Fredriksten. The Swedes came under heavy bombardment from the fortress and were forced to flee from Fredrikshald when the town was set on fire by the Norwegians. Swedish casualties in Fredrikshald were estimated to 500.
It is impressive that the King kept his word to Halfward and brought the Deed in spite of all of his military reversals.
The text at the top of the stone states:
På detta hemman
Konung KARL XII
sin sista strid
Sveriges riker fiender
The meaning in English is: This homestead of Halvard (aka Halfward) Bryngelsson was used by King Charles XII in 1716 as his field quarters during his last battle against the enemies of the kingdom of Sweden.
The text at the bottom of the stone states:
orten reste stenen
The meaning in English is: Klevmarken's patriots erected this stone in 1908.
King Charles XII died in 1718 just 2 years after his 1716 visit to Klevmarken. He was only 36 years old. He was shot in the head during a battle near the Fredriksten fortress.
Karl XII was viewed as a romantic figure during most of the 19th century. In spite of his military losses, as the text of this stone illustrates, King Karl XII was still viewed by many Swedes as a great historical figure in 1908.
I do not know why the memorial stone was erected in 1908. The two hundred anniversary of the King's visit would have been just 8 years later in 1916. My guess is that the trigger may have been in 1905 when Sweden gave independance to Norway. Norwegians voted 99.95% in favor of disolution of the Union with Sweden. This is the most lopsided referendum in history.
Looking at the map, Klevmarken is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border with Norway, so the feelings in Klevmarken may have been stongly patriotic at this point. In any case, this memorial is a useful historical marker not only for our family's history, but for Swedish history and Norwegian history.
Deed Document and Translation
This is the original deed to Klevmarken. It was granted and signed by Charles XII (Carolus) on April 9, 1716 in Christiana (Oslo). It is written on both sides of one piece of paper. It has survived 3 fires.
The translation was prepared by Dr. Karl J. Swenson from the original deed which his father, Emmanuel E. Swenson, had saved from destruction when the family came to America in 1870.
One historical detail on the Deed is the name "Sam. Åkerhielm" under the seal. This is Samuel Åkerhielm, the Younger. There is a Wikipedia article on him in Swedish.
Provenance of the Deed
The story of Halfward Bryngelsson explains the basic provenance of the Klevmarken Deed. The Swedish King Charles XII (Carolus) bequeathed and granted Klevmarken to Halfward Bryngelsson and to his descendants.
The list below shows the generational transfer of the Deed assuming it passed at death to the next generation. There may have been some intergenerational transfers not shown.
On May 17, 1870 Sven Magnus Andreasson registered his departure to North America with the local authorities in Klevmarken (aka Klefmarken as spelled then). As he was packing to leave, Sven Magnus was burning old documents not needed in America. As he was about to burn the Deed, his 16 year old son, Emmanuel Edvin Swenson, asked to have it. Emmanuel wanted to bring the Deed to America.
In America, young Emmanual Swenson kept it for some time but found difficulty in taking care of it, as it was showing signs of wear and weather. So he took it to the Museum of Augustana College in Rock Island for safe keeping. It was there over 40 years, but less than a half century. Augustana College started in Rock Island in 1875 and Emmanuel Swenson passed away in 1931. Thus the deed was at the Augustana College Museum from the time period of the early 1880s to the late 1920s. I used 1883 to 1928 in the table below as roughly right guesses.
Thus the President of Augustana College at the time the Deed was deposited there for safe keeping was its Founding President, Rev. Dr. Tuve Nils Hasselquist. The President of Augustana who returned the Deed to Emmanuel Swenson was Dr. Gustav Andreen. Many years earlier Emmanuel was Gustav's Sunday School teacher.
When Emmanuel Swenson died in 1931, the Deed was inherited by son, Dr. Karl J. Swenson, who supplied the translation of the Deed and who wrote the above story of Halfward Bryngelsson.
Karl Swenson wrote the story as part of his genealogical work all the way back to Halfward in Sweden and all the way forward to include all of the known descendants of Sven Magnus Andreasson in America. This included my mother, Herdis Anderson, who was 21 years old when Karl published his work August 1, 1936.
This is what I know about the provenance of the historic Deed to Klevmarken.
Click to view a 6-page typed copy of a published article (pdf file) discovered in the papers of Karl J. Swenson by his great granddaughter, Heidi Timberman.The Svenska Oregon Posten published the article "When the America Fever Came to Klefmarken" on May 14, 1936. The author is unknown, but some of Karl Swenson's material is included in the article. Perhaps he collaborated with one of his relatives in Sweden. The Oregon Posten was published from 1908 to 1936 to serve the large Swedish American community in Portland.
The America Fever article was published about two months before Karl wrote his Halfward Bryngelsson article above. Karl noted the name of the newspaper as Svenska Posten on his typed copy. He wrote the Halfward Bryngelsson article for relatives in America and Sweden. It was not formally published.
In 1978, Johannes Klevenmark sent me a copy of his article When Klefmarken was Struck by the "America Fever" published in 1978 in the The Bridge Vol. 10 No. 2. I met him and several other relatives during my initial visit in 1977. His surname was created from the ancestral village's name.
Click to view Johannes Klevenmark's 6-page 1979 Bridge article (pdf file).
This 1978 article is fascinating reading. It contains some of the same material Dr. Karl J. Swenson explained in his 1936 Halfward Bryngelsson article above, and covered in the 1936 Svenska Posten article. It also has new information. These three articles re-enforce each other. And they prepare the reader to appreciate the story of my great grandmother, Clara Christina Svensdotter, descendant of Halfward Bryngelsson, and her husband Otto Peterson.