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Washington's Scandinavian Connection and Annual Sharon Book Signing
Washington's Scandinavian Connection
Did Washington have a big Swedish population?
You’re not likely to find Swedish meatballs on the menu at The Mayflower Inn, but like the rest of Washington it has a Scandinavian connection. By 1910, Washington had one of the highest number of Swedish immigrants in the state making up more than 22 per cent of the population, or close to 400 of the more than 1,700 residents. While most Scandinavians immigrating to the United States headed West, lured by the Homestead Act of 1862, some settled in Washington as well as Roxbury, Bridgewater, and Sherman.
The Gunn Museum’s current exhibit, “Coming to America: Washington’s Swedish Immigrants,” draws from parish records, census information, and oral histories to explain. The first settlers largely came from Sweden’s rural south, and the first Swedish resident may have been Simon Johnson, a railroad worker. Johnson was one of a million Swedes who immigrated to the United States during the late 1800s. The wave was significant considering the population of Sweden then was about 5.5 million. Immigrants fled due to famine, conscription, dissatisfaction with the Lutheran Church, lack of voting rights, and to seek new opportunities and freedom.
For Simon Johnson, that opportunity came in building The Shepaug Railroad. When the rail opened, more Swedes journeyed to Washington joining relatives and friends and taking jobs as maids, gardeners and drivers at The Gunnery, The Mayflower Inn, and at lavish estates built by New York industrialists.
Two Swedish churches were built, located across the street from each other not far from School Street, referred to as Swede Street. Immigrants assimilated, and little evidence remains of the influx: gone is William Gustafson’s former grocery store; both churches have become private residences; herring isn’t sold on the corner, and the benefit spaghetti suppers feature Italian meatballs. But many descendants of the original settlers are long-standing members of the community: Quist, Johnson, Peterson, Anderson, Lundberg and Locke, among them.
Annual Sharon Book Signing
What’s the Sharon book sale?
Litchfield County’s popular literary event, the Annual Sharon Summer Book Signing (Friday, August 2, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.), hosted by the Hotchkiss Library of Sharon, is known for hosting a bevy of talented local and nationally known authors, editors, and illustrators. This year, it’s more family-friendly than ever, featuring an expansive line-up of children’s authors—recording artist Suzzy Roche, New Yorker illustrator Giselle Potter, four-time New York Times Best Book Award winner Barbara McClintock, and artist Wendell Minor. There’s grown-up fun, too: poet Rose Styron, Jane Malcolm, biographer Edmund Morris, Roxana Robinson, James Patterson, and Nava Atlas. It is $30 a ticket, and the authors will be signing books, which are available for purchase.