The Ancestors of J. Ludvig Engdahl

A family report.

by Robert L. Stallard

Report dated Sept. 1992 : Last page revision Aug. 22, 2004

"There will be six of us."
"You take many more. Your descendants are more numerous than you know."
Karl Oskar did not answer. He felt the grief he caused in taking the family from their own country to a foreign land.
"You have not asked the opinion of children and grandchildren," continued the father.
(The Emigrants, Vilhelm Moberg, 1951)
It is estimated that between 1865 and 1930 nearly one- and-a-half million inhabitants of Sweden emigrated to America.
(Discover Sweden, Ingemar Liman, 1989)

The Ancestors of J. Ludvig Engdahl

The Engdahl Name

Hereditary family names were unusual in Sweden until the late 19th century. A male usually received his fathers first name with __-son attached and females, their fathers first name with __-dotter added. Thus the family name changed every generation.

Our first ancestor with the name Engdahl was Anders Nilsson (1802-1860) who was assigned the name Engdahl during his military service (1827-1844). Engdahl is a soldier name, but not a typical one. In order to strengthen Sweden's military force (a major power in the 17th century) and facilitate recruitment, the infantry was reorganized in 1682 into the so called assignment system which remained in effect until it was replaced by compulsory national service in 1901. Under the assignment system, groups of farms or a village were responsible for keeping a soldier in the field. The farmers furnished the assignment soldier with an annual salary, board, lodging and clothing. In the intervals between military practice and war service, the soldier lived a civilian crofter's life (a small tenant farmer). These soldiers were made up mainly of peasants, soldier's sons and the sur- plus population of the farms. Their social standing was lower than that of the independent farmers, but as the King's man, he was often treated with greater regard than other crofters. The soldier-crofter lived in a small cottage typically of hewn logs with a sod roof covering three rooms. Their families were usually large.

Even before the assignment system soldiers took or were given by-names. The renaming of soldiers later became the rule. Such names are sometimes place or trade names but could also be animal names or express something about the personality of the bearer. Often the names are short and give a bold or brave impression. The men were usually named by the company commander. Later these names became associated with the "office" of soldier within the military district and was inherited by each soldier in turn who served in that district. Thus even though the former occupant and the present occupant were not related, they received the same name.

So it was with Anders Nilsson Engdahl. His entire military service was in peace time. He was stationed in his home area of Dalsland on the farm or property called Skolsmon (or possibly Skårsmon Stom) near the village of Rävmarken. Anders was at least the second soldier there to bear the name Engdahl. His predecessor, Hans Andersson Engdahl served from 1819-1825 on the property. Anders successor was also called Engdahl although the three were not related. The retired soldier didn't always keep his service name, although many did and some of these names became hereditary surnames.

Engdahl is not a typical soldier name. The way it is pronounced, äng (meadow), dal (valley), makes one wonder whether it could be a description of the saddle shaped farm Skolsmon which I visited in September 1991.

Anders Nilsson Engdahl 1802-1860

Anders was born August 11th, 1802 in the village of Bomarken in the parish of Nössemark on the lake Stora Le. Bomarken is about half way between Nössemark and Rävmarken in Dalsland. He married Greta Mattsdotter in 1826 who was a descendant of Halvard Bryngelsson of Klevmarken who received his land directly from King Karl XII in 1716 for distinguished service as a spy in Norway during the Nordic War 1700-1721. (The story is still very well known in the region and the museum in Ed is full of Bryngelsson paraphernalia. People there seemed to be impressed when I could show that I was a descendant of him.) Greta was born in Sannerud, Ed in 1800. Her ancestors can be traced back into the early 1500's because some were religious leaders.

Anders was a soldier and tenant farmer at Skolsmon (also called Skårsmon Stom), Rävmarken from 1827 to 1844 where apparently all but one of his ten children were born. It is recorded that Anders was a good soldier and that he once hurt or broke his leg at Skolsmon. After his service, he bought a farm at Övre Vägen, Rävmarken. Anders made his living by horse slaughtering and selling home made medicines which the whole family helped to make.

In about 1854 he moved with Greta and the children to Håvedalen, Bohuslän on the Norwegian boarder near Dalsland. There he moved in with his brother, Olof Nilsson Wennerberg. Olof was four years older (b. 1798) than Anders and worked as a blacksmith for a family in Håvedalen. He had a small house but his children were grown and his wife had passed away so there was room for Anders and his family. When Olof died, Anders bought the house.

Anders died in Håvedalen in 1860 and Greta in 1867. Their son Olof took over the property and bought out his brothers.

Johannes Engdahl 1840-1913

Seventh child and third son of Anders and Greta, Johannes was born on January 19th, 1840 at Skolsmon, Rävmarken, Dalsland. He is no doubt the most famous Engdahl due to his healing powers for man and beast. His mother Greta was interested in herbal medicines and the interest apparently rubbed off on him. In fact his grandson by the same name (b. 1914) showed me a new medicine bottle containing a rheumatism medication made according to Johannes' recipe. Johannes was not a medical doctor but rather a self made healer and was apparently in his day very successful.

Johannes is said to have had blue eyes, whereas his wife Geata Andersdotter had brown eyes which is, I was told, why the Engdals today have brown eyes.

Many stories exist about his ESP and ability to tame animals. When a wild, unbroken horse violently resisted being lead with a rope Johannes bragged that he could lead it anywhere he wanted with only a string around its neck. When put to the test, he did indeed do just that.

Another story tells how Johannes castrated a bull apparently so painlessly that the animal didn't move or make a sound. He preferred to heal with his hands or with ointments.

Sometimes Johannes healed people too. One story tells of a sick woman who the doctor said would soon die and there was nothing he could do. They then called Johannes who prescribed a chest poltis made of sifted rye flour, cream and wax. It was to be applied to the chest as hot as possible and changed when cold. Blood and puss came from the woman's chest after which she recovered. When the doctor came by to ask what time the woman died, he was informed that she had been healed by Engdahl. The doctor replied, "Yes, Engdahl knows more then other men!"

It is said that Johannes predicted both world wars and claimed that in the future it would be possible to listen to the church service without going to church. All you would need would be a little box which received sound-waves from the air. Many people considered him a fool.

There were other occasions where he was able to predict the location of objects such as the presence and location of an alcohol bottle in someone else's cupboard.

Once Johannes saw a man approaching him. Before the man arrived, he predicted correctly that the man had a sick cow in a particular stall of his barn.

When Johannes was old and on his death bed, he suddenly had a vision of a dead man caught on the cow catcher on the front of a train approaching Ed. This turned out to be true even though he was bed ridden. Of course these stories don't really prove that he had the ability of clairvoyance, but it is certain that his fame spread far and wide. His great granddaughter Rose-Marie Engdahl Woldberg told me that his portrait hung in the primary school at Ed where she went to school.

Johannes spent all his life in and around Ed, Dalsland moving frequently and living in many different villages.

He and Beata had nine children over a period of 21 years, which was not uncommon.

For many years Johannes wasted most of his money on liquor. Eventually he stopped drinking, founded a temperance organization called "The Hope of Rölanda" and also became a vegetarian. In 1913 the Engdahl family moved to Kårud near Bäckefors to a farm they had bought earlier. Johannes knew he was going to die soon. He wanted to die in midsummer at sunrise in Bäcke all alone. Sunday June 14th a neighbour visited him, wondering if Johannes could help him with a sick cow the following day. "No, tomorrow your cow will be dead and so will I", replied Johannes. Just as he wished, Johannes died just before sunrise June 15th, 1913. He was buried just inside the Bäcke churchyard gate. Beata lived until 1928.

Johan Ludvig Engdahl 1871-1929

Ludvig was the fifth child and second son born to Johannes and Beata on December 26th, 1871 in Skötterud, Rölanda near Ed. Unfortunately, nothing is known about his youth in Sweden. Ludvig's Swedish emigration record shows that he emigrated from his birth place Skötterud to America. The document was dated April 5th, 1889 which means that Ludvig was only 17 when he left! Probably the adventure and possibility of success in America was the major motivation in leaving his family and friends rather than hunger or poverty. All his life he seemed to be a restless traveler.

It is not known how Ludvig ended up in Great Falls, Montana. There he married a Swedish girl named Ida Sabina Asplund. She had immigrated as a child about 4 or 6 years of age in 1880 or 1882 with her parents and Aunt and Uncle from Norra Råda, Värmland. Her father Jan Goran Asplund had a dairy farm on the banks of the Missouri River in Great Falls.

Ludvig and Ida homesteaded on land behind Belt Butte outside of Great Falls, about seven miles from the town of Belt where all of their six children were born. It seems that Ludvig was not the farmer type and the family went through hard times, but they loved him just the same. Sometimes Ludvig would leave his family evidently to find work elsewhere. In December 1905 he wrote a letter to his brother-in-law Larenzt Jansson in Sweden from Peshtigo, Wisconsin where he worked in a railroad car manufacturing plant. In the letter Ludvig mentioned that his family was with him in Wisconsin. They probably weren't there long. During the school year, the family lived in Belt so their six children would have access to school. Ludvig and Ida spoke English at home with their chil- dren so that they would grow up as real American citizens.

Ludvig had a tendency to exaggerate the truth. This is evident in a letter he wrote to his sister Maria in Sweden in which he describes his farm, business and wealth. He may have had something to do with the building of a road near Armington, Montana at one time. His exaggerations may have lead to the idea today that Ludvig practiced engineering. The strong bridge at the Methodist Church camp at King's Hill, Montana, at the site where previous bridges were repeatedly washed out, has been attributed to him. He may also have had a hand in the designing or building of a bridge in Longview, Washington.

A good example of Ludvig's tendency to make things sound better than they were is found in the following story: In about 1923 or 24 he and Ida were living in Kelso, Washington where he had some kind of job. Ida became very sick with a kidney disease and they sent for their daughter Nora who had recently finished her training as a nurse. The three returned to Montana on the train where Ludvig bragged about the special nurse he had for his wife, forgetting to mention that the nurse was his daughter.

Ida died November 4th, 1924 in Great Falls and in March of the following year Ludvig took a steamer from New York to Göteborg to visit his mother and siblings. He had wanted to return for a visit at least since 1909 but as far as I have heard, the 1925 visit was the only one he made. Ludvig planed to arrive the 10th or 11th of March in Göteborg. He took the train to Ed, Dalsland where his brother Svante picked him up with a horse drawn sleigh and brought him to his home in Uddalen near Rölanda about 7 miles south of Ed. During Ludvig's stay in Sweden, pictures were taken at his brother Ale's home in Ödskölt near Bäckefors. He arrived back in Great Falls, Montana August 28th, 1925.

After the death of Ida, Ludvig traveled all the more including to parts of Canada. He is remembered as an avid reader, as a sort of traveling evangelist for the region and it is said that he had a wonderful out look on life. He was very much loved by everyone.

Ludvig died February 1st, 1929 in Great Falls, Montana of what they called spinal meningitis.

Ludvig had 6 children:

I am a descendant of Nora, my maternal Grandmother.

Ludvig and Ida had:

for a total of 145 desendants currently known (Sept. 1992).


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