SAC P:143 Rolf Johnson diary clippings, 1876-1897, 1939-1941 and undated
Rolf Johnson diary clippings
1876-1879 (dates of description), 1939-1941 (dates of creation) and undated
Phelps County (Neb.)
Newspapers--Sections, columns, etc.
Frontier and pioneer life--Nebraska
Indians of North America--1860-1870.
American bison hunting
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.
Born in western Illinois in 1856 to Swedish immigrant parents, Rolf Johnson wrote a diary about his move to Nebraska in 1876. The bulk of this collection is 95 newspaper clippings of a printed, serial version of Johnson’s diary (written January 12, 1876 to July 9, 1879) describing his life as a pioneer in Phelps County, Nebraska and surrounding area. The series appeared in a Nebraska newspaper, the “Holdrege Citizen,” from November 18, 1939 to September 20, 1941. The collection also contains other newspaper clippings from “Holdrege Progress” (undated) related to general Nebraska history.
RIGHTS AND ACCESS
Conditions Governing Access:
Collection is open for research.
Reproduction and Use:
Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the Swenson Center and the copyright holder.
[item identification], in SAC P:143 Rolf Johnson diary clippings, Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center, Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.
ACQUISITION AND RELATED MATERIALS
Received by Augustana College library in 1940s. Transferred to Swenson Center on December 14, 1983. Accession no. T-xx47.
Source of Acquisition:
Robert C. Johnson (Rolf Johnson’s brother) of Holdrege, Nebraska to Mr. O.L. Nordstrom of Augustana College.
Location of Originals:
Original diaries are believed to be still held with the family, per donation correspondence.
Location of Copies:
The “Holdrege Citizen” and “Holdrege Progress” newspapers can be found at the Nebraska State Historical Society Library in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Aside from this printing in the “Holdrege Citizen,” donation paperwork indicates that the diary may have also been reproduced in the Historical Society of Nebraska magazine.
Formerly cataloged in Immig. As 917.8239 H793. Also formerly MSS P:143.
Received by Kermit Westerberg in 1983. Finding aid written ca. 2006. Revised by Lisa Huntsha in July 2020.
CONTENT AND STRUCTURE
Born in western Illinois in 1856 to Swedish immigrant parents, Johnson wrote a diary about his move to Nebraska in 1876. He and his family left for the journey on his 20th birthday. His diary account starts with meeting land agents in Illinois who were organizing a colony in Phelps County, Nebraska, making the decision to move, and having friends and family try to convince him otherwise. It goes on to describe his life as a pioneer in Nebraska, including breaking land, hunting buffalo, and fear of encounters with “Indians.”
Of note to Augustana College, Rolf mentions that he was once the sweetheart of Emmy Evald Carlsson.
Rolf married Ellen Brunsberg on September 1, 1884. He died on January 22, 1922 and is buried at Moses Hill Cemetery in Loomis, Phelps County, Nebraska.
Scope and Content:
This collection contains 95 newspaper clippings of a printed, serial version of Rolf Johnson’s diary (written January 12, 1876 to July 9, 1879) describing his life as a pioneer in Phelps County, Nebraska and surrounding area. The series appeared in a Nebraska newspaper, the “Holdrege Citizen,” from November 18, 1939 to September 20, 1941. The series ran on Saturdays under the heading “Holdrege – Fifty Years or More ago.” This reprinting only includes topics of interest to Phelps County. The original diaries evidently include more descriptions of people and places that were not reprinted in the newspaper.
The diary entries include descriptions of the journey to Nebraska from Illinois, building the Emigrant House and other dwellings and wells at Phelps Center, breaking land, the names of other settlers, descriptions of places (Phelps Center, Kearney and Lincoln, Nebraska), a brief mention of the death of Frank Loville an Augustana student and connection to Emmy Evald Carlsson (October 1876), his stint as a school teacher, a humorous anecdote about snuff, very little about religion, a brief description of new newspaper “Vårt Nya Hem” (January 1877), shoot-out with “Crazy Miller,” political races around September to November each year, strange characters, a 1-month long buffalo hunt (October to November, 1877), slaughter of Pawnees by the Sioux in 1873, crops, prairie fires, panic over Indians, the execution of murderer Stephen D. Richards at Minden, Nebraska, Rolf’s journey to South Dakota, as well as more usual life of the pioneers. Diary also include many descriptions of encounters with animals and wildlife including buffalo, oxen, antelope, his dog, rattlesnakes, birds, jackrabbits, wolves, and prairie dogs.
The collection also contains other newspaper clippings from “Holdrege Progress” (undated) related to general Nebraska history. These include the following titles: “Early Account of Omaha Chief,” “A Reminder of Frank North,” “Cowboy Monument,” “Weeping Water Physician Contributes Large Archeological Exhibit,” and “Pawnee Burnt Village.”