Halfward Bryngelsson’s Legacy

Written by Karl J. Swenson 1 August 1936

There are photos and source material below Dr. Swenson's article.

                                 Map of Sweden [Dalsland in red] -- Map of Dalsland -- Map of Dals-Ed & Klefmarken
Table of Contents
His Mission
Avoids Capture
Reports to King
His Reward
King's Visit
His Character
His Legacy
Deed Saved
Deed Recovered
Sweden Dalsland Ed


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.

His Mission

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 Government’s 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.

Avoids Capture

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 he’d 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 King’s Headquarters in Christiania [Oslo] with the important message.

Reports to King

He reported without delay and presented the anxiously awaited letter. When the King had read it he exclaimed:

“Praise God, all is well; I see we will receive help, and so, in triumph, we will soon be on our way.”

“Your Majesty,” said Halfward, “if that is what the letter states, I must tell you that is a downright falsehood.”

“How can you say that?” asked the King.

Halfward produced his notebook showing the notations he had made at Carlstad, of the orders he had seen and read there, with the time and dates.

Confused by this revelation, the King turned to General Dahlfelt.

“Shall we believe the man in all this?”

The General answered: “Halfward might lie to His Majesty’s enemies, but not to His Majesty.” (General Dahlfelt and Halfward had grown up together and were friends from childhood.)

This disturbing yet trustworthy revelation of treachery by the authorities at Stockholm, as revealed by Halfward, of necessity changed the King’s entire plan. He decided, however, to remain at Christiana for the time being.

In the meantime Halfward sought permission to return to his home in order to get at his farming. To this the King replied:

“You have so far been fortunate in your work for us. Some of these times you are certain to meet with misfortune. Remain here with us until we can accompany you; then you will get home safely. If you go now, it is more than likely that you will be picked up by the enemy, and that would be the end of you.”

His Reward

Because of his insistence, however, the King permitted him to go after he had questioned General Dahlfelt as follows:

“What can we do for this man in recognition of his faithful service? Is there any Crown land in his neighborhood that would be suitable for him?”

“Ullerud, in the same district,” answered the General.

Here Halfward interrupted the conversation.

“If His Majesty has in mind such a kindness to me, let me then remain at Klefmarken; there I was born; there my father was also born.”

“Klefmarken,” said Dahlfelt, “is the home of the District Magistrate, and besides is only half of a Political Division, while Ullerud is a whole Division.”

“Even so,” said Halfward, “let the Magistrate have Ullerud and let me stay where I am accustomed and where I feel at home.”

“When one offers the man a whole loaf,” mused the King, “he only asks for a half. Give him a deed to Klefmarken. Have the Magistrate moved to Ullerud.”

When the deed was ready the King said: “It is almost certain to suppose that on your return home you will be picked up by the enemy and for that reason you will not be permitted to take this deed with you. It would surely bring you misfortune should it be found in your possession. In its stead we will give you this ‘proof’ that the deed to Klefmarken has been issued. Let us see now that you can protect it as well as yourself. God bless you. Farewell.”

(He gave him a certificate of ownership to the deed on a small piece of paper, which he might be more able to conceal.)


After commending the King, as well as himself, in God’s 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 King’s 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.

King’s Visit

On the evening of the 26th of June [1716], following Halfward’s departure from Christiania, the King with his Staff of twelve Officers, all mounted, arrived unexpectedly at Klefmarken. Dordi, Halfward’s wife, was in the yard as they rode up. The King greeted her by name and inquired if Halfward were at home.

“Yes, “ she said, “he arrived a short time ago and is asleep, resting from his long journey.”

In the meantime, Halfward, awakened by the commotion in the yard, came out. He was surprised but happy to see the King so soon again. He had come to Klefmarken to assure himself of Halfward’s safe return home. He was interested in Halfward’s description of his arrest and imprisonment at Fredrikshald, and pleased when shown the ‘proof’, which he had been able to conceal and protect from his captors. They rested there for the night and the following morning were on their way, Halfward serving as guide to their next bivouac. This was his last service to the King and proved to be their final farewell.

His Character

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.

His Legacy

Engelbrecht, the youngest son, married to Eli Jansdotter, occupied it after Halfward’s death. He bought his sister’s and one of his brother’s 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. [Editor’s comment: as of 2002, Klefmarken has been in the family now for 286 years.]

Many things of interest pertaining to those early days were kept at the old home and treasured because of their historic connection. The King made several visits to the place and at one time Klefmarken served as his Staff Headquarters. Fire destroyed the house on New Year’s Eve, 1892, when everything there of any interest and value was lost. A new and more modern house now occupies the old site. A commemorative monument to King Charles XII has been erected in the yard by the people of the District, and a Swedish flag waves over this interesting old place.

Deed Saved

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 King’s 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.

Deed Recovered

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 couldn’t 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 father’s Sunday School classes in Kansas and remembered Emanuel Swenson. The exchange of correspondence resulted in father’s receiving the long-absent document.

Father framed it substantially, with glass on both sides, so it can be seen and read with handling. It shows the wear and tear of 220 years. It has escaped destruction by fire three different times. I, in turn, received it from father some time before he passed away.

It has a value only as an old and unique relic.

Deed Document and Photos of Klevmarken

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.

Klevmarken House 1 Klevmarken House 2 Klevmarken House 3 Klevmarke nHouse 4

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.

Klevmarken Stone 1 Klevmarken Stone 2 Klevmarken Stone 3 Klevmarken Stone 4

The text at the top of the stone states:

På detta hemman
Halvard Bryngelsson
år 1716
sitt faltqvarter
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:

Klefmarkens byamän
och fosterlandsvänner
orten reste stenen
år 1908

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.

Deed Page 1 Deed Page 2 Deed in English

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.

Dr. Karl J. Swenson who wrote the story of Halfward Bryngelsson, received the Distinguished Service Cross in WWI. There is a photo of him in the Sunday Oregonian dated December 29, 1918.

This is what I know about the provenance of the historic Deed to Klevmarken.

  • Charles XII (aka Karl XII and aka Carolus) -- Signed Deed April 9, 1716
  • Halfward Bryngelsson (1672 - 1753) -- from 1716 to 1753
  • Engelbrecht Halfwardson (1715 - 1800) -- from 1753 to 1800
  • Maria Engelbrechtdotter (1748 - 1810) m. Sven Asmundson -- from 1800 to 1810
  • Andreas Svensson (1772 - 1850) -- from 1810 to 1850
  • Sven Magnus Andreasson (1812 - 1897) -- from 1850 to 1870
  • Emmanuel Edvin Swenson (1854 - 1931) -- from 1870 to 1883?
  • Museum at Augustana College in Rockford Illinois -- from 1883? to 1928?
  • Emmanuel Edvin Swenson (1854 - 1931) -- from 1928? to 1931
  • Karl J. Swenson -- from 1931 to his death
  • Reed Swenson

When the America Fever Came to Klefmarken - 1936 Article

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.

When Klefmarken was Struck by the America Fever - 1978 Article

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.