The Story of Patrik Strömblad
Written by, Linnea Andersson of Helsingborg, Sweden
For me it all started when I found a photo of a young man in an old box at my aunt’s place. On the back of the photo one of Patrik’s nieces had written: “Mother’s brother, left for America and wasn’t heard from. The last time was when he wrote to our father and asked him to send the last money he had left in Sweden”. The photo and some letters, which I found in the same box, aroused my curiosity and I decided to find out what happened to Patrik. Some older relatives knew that he went to America to dig for gold but they had no idea what happened to him. So I had to start from the very beginning.
Patrik and his twin brother Oscar were born in Jonstorp, Sweden June 3 1869. Their mother, Catharina Kullenberg, had been widowed by a sailor, and she also had a little daughter named Hilda from her first marriage. After her husband’s death she married another sailor named Christian Strömblad and the twins were the couple’s first children. Later, they also had three daughters: Betty, Ida and Hanna and one more son, Nils. Little Ida died from scarlet fever at the age of four.
The father was out on the sea for long periods, working to earn a living for the growing family. Catharina got a lot of help to take care of their children from her mother Bolla who lived near the family and was a dear and important person to her grandchildren.
Patrik’s twelfth Christmas became a horrible event. His father, who had suffered from pneumonia for some time, passed away on Christmas Eve. Some years later, in March 1887, his mother died from consumption and left six children, between 11 and 22 years old, without any parents.
Patrik was 17 years old and now had to make his own living. His brother Oscar decided to follow in the footprints of their father and became a sailor. But that didn’t tempt Patrik. He had heard about the gold in America and decided to try his fortune. A month after his mother’s death Patrik left his home district for good. April 7, 1887 he got on a Danish ship and left for Portland, Oregon.
The first of the preserved letters, which I found in the box, written in Astoria, August 1887, was sent to Patrik’s sister Hilda. Patrik says that he likes America and believes that he can get a good life there. But he also writes that there are a lot of temptations to give way to and that he doesn’t like the rainy Astoria. He would rather like to go to Portland and work for an American because then he would learn English. But he changed his mind and instead he stayed in Astoria for some months and then left for Douglas City, Alaska in the winter 1888-1889. There he worked in a goldmine, first by cleaning the steam engine and then as a stoker. Patrik finds the job okay but he is a bit frightened by the Indians and thinks that he has come to a real wilderness. In August 1889 there is a strike in the mine and Patrik writes that if it continues much longer he will leave and try to find a job somewhere else.
It seems like the strike didn’t continue much longer because Patrik stays in Alaska until December 1890. Then he travelled around the country for four months before he settled down in De Lamar, Idaho. He enjoys living in a more civilized place with a nicer climate and now works in a silver mine. Hilda wants to know if he will ever come to Sweden again and he writes that it could be nice to see the place where he was born again but everything has changed and he doesn’t think that he could be satisfied living in Sweden anymore. He also tells her that he has given up his civil rights in Sweden and instead taken the oath of alliance to America.
In all of his letters Patrik writes about the family and people in Jonstorp and he always sends his special greetings to his old grandmother. He writes that he would really like to meet her one more time but that never happened because she died late 1891 at the age of 83. Two years later his 18-year-old brother Nils, who was a sailor, died from typhoid in Savannah, Georgia.
In one of the letters, when Hilda has told Patrik about several deaths in their home neighbourhood, he writes “Well, we will all come to that point. There is no help from that, but we are seldom prepared for it, it always happens when we least expect it”.
When he wrote those lines he had no idea that his own death would come very suddenly. He lived and worked in a mine in Lundy, Mono County, California. In the winter of 1911 there fell very much snow which at midnight, March 7, came down from the mountain. The big avalanche caught the concrete house in which Patrik and some of his companions slept and the house slid about 300 yards before it finally stopped.
It took almost three days for the first rescue workers to go from Bodie to Lundy in these bad conditions. When they got there Patrik and the other men were dead. Their bodies were taken to a farm nearby, where they lay for a couple of weeks until the road was opened so it was possible to transport the coffins from Bodie. The people who had tried to rescue the avalanche victims and later worked hard to open the road between Lundy and Bodie also gave Patrik and the other victims a dignified funeral ceremony and gravestones with their names on them. Patrik Strömblad died as a bachelor at the age of 41.
After a long time of wondering, the mystery about Patrik’s disappearance was finally solved. I found the Mono County GenWeb and decided to e-mail the web mistress Denise S. Flynn and ask her if she could help me to find out what happened to Patrik and it didn’t take long before she gave me the answer.
Patrik was the brother of my grandfather’s grandmother.
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