Saturday, July 9, 2011





Edith Holmes Swenson
Edith Maria Johansdotter Holms is the name her mother Lisa wrote in her Svensk-Finska Nykterbets-Forbundet (Teetotaler)  book.  Edith was the oldest child of Johannes Eriksson Holms and Lisa Jakobsdotter Ohlis Antbrams.  She was born 14 May, 1896.  She was their only living child born on the ancient and magnificent Holms Farm near Rokio, Vora, Finland, a farm owned by many wealthy and famous men and women.  Edith said she and her mother lived with her grandmother Brita Hermansdotter Murkais Holms.  They lived in another large and separate part of her house.  I believe it to be the large country estate home but I simply don't know for sure.  Edith often told my mother, Signe Elizabeth, how wonderful and good her grandmother was.  She told of how they regretted leaving Finland because they had it so much nicer there.  Her father had sent for them.  He had immigrated to America three years earlier and it was time to be reunited. 

                This is all we know of her life in Finland.  It's not much, but she was only a seven year old girl when she and her mother Lisa crossed the ocean on a steamship bound for America in the summer of 1903.  Edith said,  "I was a big help to Mother because I did not get seasick.  I loved to watch the waves of the oceans and to play on the ship.  We landed in Liverpool, England."  Edith remembers seeing so many poor children and the big work horses there.  She told her sister Signe about New York and the slums near the water front and the many people who lived there.

                They boarded a training from New York to Frisco.  Somewhere along the way the conductor tried to give Edith a banana.  She backed away and wouldn't take it.  When her mother asked her why, she said "Mama, he is so dirty." It was her first glimpse of an African American or any non-white person.

                Edith tells of how shocked and dismayed she and her mother were when they arrived in Frisco,, Utah.  They thought it was the end of the world.  They had never seen a worse place.  It was so desolate and run down.  The Great Horn Silver Mine had collapsed several years before and covered a large part of the town and closed the mine.  The town was abandoned and most of its people had disappeared.  Her father was one of the two dozen miners who were trying to find the lost ore body at the bottom of a 900 foot shaft they had built.  Her sister Signe was born here in 1904, shortly before the family moved to Eureka.

                The next story we have of Edith is when she was fourteen years old and living in Eureka.  Her mother ran a boarding house and Edith worked very hard helping her.  With her earnings, she had bought a pretty umbrella, a new hat, shoes, stockings and a pretty white dress that she pressed before going to bed.  It was the evening of July 3, 1910.  She placed her clothing neatly on the ironing board but she had forgotten to blow out the candle.  My Mother, now six years old tells of the fire and how Edith woke her up and drug her outside while her father put out the fire,  her clothes were burned.

                Margaret tells about her mother, and Signe were going to a dance.  They were dressed in their prettiest dresses.  With their hair and everything else fixed just so.  To get there they had to ride on the back of their horse, instead of going up the road, Edith headed across the field.  Signe asked "Where are you going?"  Edith replied "We're late and I know a short-cut.  "We better not", replied Signe.  About that time the two girls were knocked off the horse by a clothesline.  They were a mess and there was no dancing that night.

Erik Swenson
                It was pay day and time to buy the two girls new shoes.  It didn't take them long to find the shoes they wanted.  They wanted shoes just like the other girls in school had, but their mother, Lisa didn't like them because they were so flimsy.  "They wouldn't last a week", she said.  "We'll buy these shoes".  Margaret said, "Mother became very angry and said "These won't last either".  And they didn't because Edith kicked everything she came to and drug them across all the rocks and dirt she could find.  When her father heard the story and saw her shoes, he quietly told Lisa "you better let her choose her own shoes next time."

The 1912 strike forced the family to leave Eureka and return to Frisco.  This is where Edith met Eric Swenson and married him the following year.  She was eighteen at the time.  They were married 20 May 1914 in Beaver, Utah.  Edith's father had worked with Eric and knew him long before the couple met.   Eric was born in Rejpelt, Vora, Vasa, Finland, he was the second child of Greta Andersdotter Gammal and Johan Gustav Eriksson Svens, he had an older sister, Beata Lovisa Gustavsdotter Bergsten who married Johan Bjons and emigrated to America.   Erik's step-brother Johannes Bergsten was killed in the war in 1940. 

                Very little is known of Eric's early life.  None of his children knew who his parents were or what part of Scandinavia he came from.  It was in April, 1996 that Rolf Ronquist from Finland was able to find the Svens family in Finland.  Eriks Grandparents were Erik Johan Gustavsson Jafs and Beata Isaksdotter Ollus.  Erik emigrated to America in 1903, returned to Finland and emigrated here again in 1908. 

Margaret, Virginia holding Eugene, Edith, Walt 
                During their seventeen years of married life, six children were born to them.  The first three were born n Frisco and the others were born in Eureka:

Helen,    born  6 March 1915
Edith,    born 14 November 1916
Margaret, born  6 December 1918
Virginia, born  2 January 1920
 Walter   born 29 January 1911
Arnold    born 12 July 1931

                Edith loved to dance and every Saturday night the whole family would go down to the Swedish Hall.  Eric didn't like to dance so he would watch the children while Edith danced.  Margaret didn't understand why because he was so musically inclined.  He could play many instruments.  Little Edith said, "I have always wondered what happened to his violin and Harmonica". 

Grandma A. Homes,  Edith, Signe
Edith & Margaret  in Eureka
                Margaret said he was a good father and always brought his money home and never ever drank, with one exception.  He stopped off at Tones Place on the way home from work.  One drink led to another and in a little while, he was gambling with the boys.  The boys soon had all of his money.  Edith had been waiting for him and knew something was wrong.  She asked him "Where is your money and how much do you have left."  "Nothing, Tony has it all" he said.  Edith put her hat and coat on and went down to Toni's.  If only you could have known my Aunt Edith when the Swedish came out in her, you would know why Tony gave her the money back.  Tony was threatened with jail and many other terrible things.  Eric was never allowed to come in Toni's again; Tony made sure of that.

                On the ninth of December 1931, Eric died of Silicosis at the age of forty-two.  Edith woke up this morning to find her husband had died in his sleep.  She left Arnold who was only a few months old who was still sleeping next to his father and ran to her mothers for help.  There wasn't much for Christmas that year nor for may years to come.  Aunt Edith was still a young woman of thirty-five but she had three teenage daughters who could work and bring in some money.  As the others grew older, they  had to work.  I remember Aunt Edith bringing washing into her home to earn money.  Eric suffered for a time and was unable to work at times before his death.  Lisa paid Edith to do her washing.  Wally said, "Mother worked for the city cleaning up the city hall.  Little Edith said, "I went with her many times helping her clean it and I also done an awfully lot of the washing and ironing.  Helen went to work for the Tintic Hotel, for a Mr. Lindsey.   I'm sure she did many other things but I'm not sure what they were.  On top of this she was caring for her brother's (Vanner's) baby "Little Dorothy" whose mother died at birth.  Edith did took care of Dorothy for little or no compensation. 

Ramon & Edith Archabal
Aunt Edith knew Sisu because she was born in Finland, Sisu was taught to the people there so that they would be able to endure any hardship. (war and occupation)  Life can and will go on no matter what.  They can't be told to do it, but if they desire to do it, there is nothing that is impossible to accomplish.  For six years the family held together and endured.  Then on 14 April 1937, Edith married Ramon Archabal.  He was a Basque from the mountains of Spain.  He came here as a young man to herd sheep.  He never lost his accent and was hard to understand when he was excited.  Everyone who knew him loved and respected him.  Edith, his stepdaughter said, "Ramon was a wonderful man, not many men would ever marry a woman with six children and be such a wonderful father to them.  I remember he took me to town to get me a Graduation Dress, "Take any dress you want", he said. 

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