Thursday, July 25, 2013

On this Date in Minnesota history: July 25

July 25, 1793 or 17951, 2  –  Jacob Fahlstrom, born on this date in Stockholm, is considered to be the first Swede to step foot in Minnesota.1 He left Sweden at age 12 as a cabin boy on a ship captained by his uncle to London, but chose not to return to Sweden. Instead he “followed an expedition [that] Lord Selkirk was fitting out for Hudson Bay, Canada.”1

Once there, he often took “roving excursions into the surrounding country. During one of these he went so far into the woods that he was lost and was unable to find his way back.”1 Trying to find his ship, he accidentally drifted farther south, away from the ship and finally came upon an Indian camp of Chippewas, which took him in. “He continued to live among them for a number of years, [eventually] marrying a Chippewa maiden [named Marguarite Bongo, the daughter of the head chief of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians,1 in 18232].” They had nine children.4

Jacob Fahlstrom and his wife Marguarite

After his marriage, Fahlstrom moved his family to live at Leech Lake and then to Lake Winnipeg. The family also lived at “Sandy Lake, Mississippi and Mille Lacs Lake and other places, all this time [Fahlstrom was] in the service of the American Fur Company for which he acted as trading agent. He finally came as far south as Fort Snelling. The first Americans who located in Minnesota, as Gen. H. H. Sibley, N. W. Kittson and others, who came here in 1832, said that Fahlstrom was here long before themselves and that he was at Fort Snelling already in 1827. At this fort he supported himself by supplying it with wood. He was also mail carrier for some years between Fort Snelling and Superior.”1

Around 1837 he was converted to the Methodist faith and became a member of the Methodist church at Fort Snelling.1 Shortly thereafter, Father Jacob as he was known, became a sort of missionary to the Indians and also to the men of the lumber camps in the north woods. 3

Fahlstrom died July 29, 1859, at 64 years of age and was buried near his last home in Afton, Minn.,5 where he had set apart a burial place for himself and family.1 His wife Marguarite died in 1880.

A memorial for Jacob and his wife Marguarite was placed in the Fahlstrom Family Cemetery in 1964 by the Minnesota Methodist Historical Society. Erroneously, the headstone lists Marguarite’s birth year as 1787; most records list her birth year as 1797.5

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