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The Story of My Grandfather - Swan John Leeburg by Rollie Leeburg

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The Story of My Grandfather - Swan John Leeburg by Rollie Leeburg

Posted: 21 Mar 2004 4:42PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Leeburg/Halberg/Holmquist/Larson/Jones/Shepard
The Story of My Grandfather - Swan John Leeburg
Compiled by Rollie Leeburg

Swan John Leeburg was born 5 Oct 1846 in Ăsgärdet, Essunga, Sweden with the Swedish name of Sven Johannson Lidberg. His father’s name was Johannes Andersson and his mother’s name was Maja Andersdotter. His father and mother were never married.

Swan applied for work permits in Stockholm when was 17 years old and again when he was 18, which indicates that he was working early in his life. Swan lived with his father. His father was a former tenant farmer, where he and his wife, Kirsten Eriksdottor, lived as lodgers in 1873. After the death of his wife, he moved in 1875 to Östra Högelid on Spjutstorp lands also in Essunga, where he owned a house.

Maja Andersdottor was a servant girl at Ăsgärdet when her son, Sven, was born. During her marriages, she lived in a dug-out on Jämnekärr land in Essunga, where she stayed on as a widow.
She first married Anders Larsson who lived with his family in a cottage on Jämnekärr land in Essunga. Around 1858, he is blind and a pauper. They had four children who would be half brothers and sisters to Swan. She was married a second time to Anders Olofsson. He moved in with Maja at Jämnekärr after their marriage. He was a sharecropper from Bjorkas, and she was a lodger from Jämnekärr. Both had been married before.

Swan married Mary K (Maja Katarina Johansdottor) December 30, 1866 in Essunga. Before her marriage, she was a maid at Tumleberg, Hallstorp, and Essunga. Mary’s father Johannes Bryggelsson, was a tenant farmer, and owner of a house at Sandhålebacken, and her mother, Johanna Jonsdottor, was a maid from Västergården. Mary had one sister and three brothers. Two brothers were soldiers. Johanna was widowed and lived with her children for twenty years.

Another child born to Johannes and Johanna was Anna-Stina. She was born 3 July 1854 in Essunga. At age 24 she married Anton (Anthony) Anderson Hurty (Hurtig) 26 Dec 1878. They immigrated to the US in 1882. Anna-Stina is buried in Eastside Cemetery, Hutchinson, Reno County, KS.

More about Maja Katerina’s family -
When Johannes Bryggelsson (b. 13 Apr 1813 in Tengene) and Johanna Jonsdottor were first married, they lived at Högelund on Stommen lands in Essunga and in 1843 they moved to Lundby. They were married 30 Dec 1836 in Essunga. Marriage records report that he was a farmhand from Lafsegården, she a maid from Västergården. He died (no cause listed) 25 Mar 1865 in Sandhålebacken, Essunga. Johanna was a widow living with her children at Sandhålebacken. In 1869 she moved to Dunsasen, also in Essunga, but moved back to Sandhålebacken in 1870 where she lived with son, Andreas and daughter, Anna-Stina in a dug-out. She is still living there in 1880. Children other than Anna-Stina and Maja Katarina:

1. Johann Johansson - born 8 Dec 1837 in Essunga. Moved in 1859 from Sandhålebacken to Tengene.
2. Anders Petter Johansson Lust - born 12 Feb 1846 in Essunga. Moved 5 Oct 1866 from Sandhålebacken to Bitterna. He cam back to Sandhålebacken and in 1869 became a soldier with the soldier’s name Lust and he was soldier #631 of the Skåning company of the Skaraborg Infantry Regiment. Part of his salary was use of a cottage on Dunsåsen lands in Essunga.
3. Andreas Johansson Sandberg - born 10 Dec 1849 in Essunga. He became a soldier around 1871 with the soldier’s name Sandberg. He is listed in Kulling company of the Vastagota-Dal Infantry Regiment. Moved 4 Nov 1871 from Sandhålebacken, Essunga to Folene.

Mary worked in Tengene which is probably where she met Swan. They had a son, John (Johan Gottfrid Lidberg) and a daughter (Amanda Josefina Lidberg). They came to the United States in 1868 and resided in Bureau County, Illinois in a town called Princeton. Amanda died at the age of two and is buried in Wilmington Cemetery, Wabaunsee Co. KS. Swan applied for citizenship in the United States at that time. In 1870, they came to Osage City, Osage County, KS.

Swan John had planned to get a new start in Kansas and the building of the railroad fit right into his plan. The Santa Fe was then building west from Topeka. He secured one of the construction contracts. R.R. Price was the other sub-contractor. Both of them located in Reno County and figured in the later history of the new town of Hutchinson. There was a future, especially along the line of the new railroad and he was determined to get in on the ground floor of the new empire.

He determined not to live near a railroad. He heard enough of railroading while building the new road. He didn’t want steam cars going close by his farm. With the whole vast prairie to pick from, he decided to pick his homestead far from a railroad. As it turned out, the railroad almost hit him. He picked a quarter that was almost a stone’s throw from his home. If there was anybody in Kansas who ought to know just where the railroad was to be built, it was Swan John, as the sub-contractor who was to build it. He had the plans. He had the surveys. A.A. Robinson, the chief engineer who made the survey stayed at Swan John’s home.

After Swan John got nicely settled, word came one day the survey had been changed. It was decided impractical to cross the Arkansas river - the new railway would stay on the north side of the river, and a new survey was ordered. This brought the railroad four miles north - right through his farm!

Mary K. was the only woman in the whole country, and when the Santa Fe crass collar officials came along to see how the work was coming on the surveys or the construction, they found her hospitable home a much better place to stay than the bachelor dugouts or the soddies. Here and there over the prairie were little sod houses or dugouts where pioneer settlers were locating, literally “digging in.” On April 16, 1871, Swan John made formal filing on his homestead claim, the family living on the place two or three weeks before.

“The first woman in Reno County - and the only woman here for months was Mrs. S.J. Leeburg, mother of John G. Leeburg who came here with his parents, settled with them on the homestead of 160 acres in Clay township in March, 1871. If there was any other woman in Reno county then I wouldn’t know who it could be,” remarked son John in an interview in January, 1931 for the Hutchinson Herald. “There wasn’t any Hutchinson when we first located here. The only settlers in the county were a few men, most bachelors, who had located claims and were holding them down, awaiting families to come later. It was a wild prairie, the feeding grounds of buffalo herds and the hunting grounds of Indian tribes.

While Swan John was busy with his construction crew building the railroad westward across the plains, his family stayed alone on the place holding down the claim. His son John remembered the lonesome days and nights, the howling wolves of the prairie, the coyotes, the buffalo herds, the Indian scares, the prairie fires, the hot winds and the blizzards. Swan John’s construction work on the Santa Fe started at Osage City. He built the road on west through Florence and Newton, and Great Bend and on to Dodge City. “A good many of the men working under him on the construction work were Swedes and they located near Swan John, forming quite a little settlement of Swedes. Among them were Pete and M. Nyborg, John and Pete Swanson, Fred Walder and J.P. Talbert.” Son John said, “My father was busy with the railroad work for a year after we came here. My mother ran the farm. Jim Freese and John Shahan took homesteads nearby.”

There is an interesting photograph of a Hutchinson flood, in either 1875 or 1876 showing the big livery building at Second and Main. It was a huge barn-like structure with cattle in the water and a boat with men apparently having a good time as some jugs and bottles can be seen.

During the summer of 1881, Swan John had his picture taken as he was standing on top of a wagon, holding a big sign reading “Lager Beer.” Men and boys are shown in the crowd opening kegs, jugs, and bottles. Sauer’s Saloon was Hutchinson’s last legalized saloon. The state prohibition law had just gone into effect. Orders had just been issued that all stocks of liquor must be disposed of by a certain day. A story remembered by Lois Blanch, great-grandaughter, was that Swan got drunk in Hutchinson and Mary K. went after him in a wheelbarrow and after she got him home, he sobered up and went back to the tavern.

On March 24, 1884, Mary K. petitioned, in the District Court of Reno County, Swan John for a divorce. He was charged with gross neglect and extreme cruelty. He was characterized as an habitual drinker of many years. Swan went back to Sweden on April 2, 1884. The divorce was granted May 7, 1884 as uncontested. The custody of John, who was about 18 years old, was awarded to the mother and the homestead divided. On November 1, 1884, Swan deeded the 160 acres to Mary K. for the sum of $1,000.

On April 8, 1885 in Lyndon, Osage County, KS, Swan John Leeburg, age 36, of Lyon County, KS, was married to Hannah Louise Halberg, age 21 of Princeton, IL. Hannah was born in Sweden on 28 November 1863. They moved to the little farm town of Wilmington, Wabaunsee County, KS, about five miles south of Harveyville. Their house was on the edge of town, but their farmland was on the eastern edge of town. Swan purchased this farm as he had already homesteaded in Reno County. It was a regular farm, but it was next to the town. The farm buildings were within a couple of hundred feet from the other buildings in town. It seemed like they lived in town.

The had five children:
1) Gunnar Amil b. 21 May 1886
2) Axel Edward b. 3 September 1887
3) Lillian A. b. April 1889
4) Ella H. b. November 1892
5) Victor b. September 1895

After the children were raised, Swan and Hannah purchased a home and moved into Harveyville. His son, Axel purchased the farm from his father.

In the spring of 1919, Gunnar had rented part of Uncle John’s farm, Swan’s original homestead east of Hutchinson. He made arrangements for Swan and Hannah to move to Hutchinson to live with him. The farm had two homes about a quarter of a mile from the road. A newer house was built in 1915 for John, Selma, and Mary K. It was built next to the first house in Reno County. Part of the old house was torn down and part was used for the milk separator, etc.

Gunnar was married 3 July, 1920, so Swan and Hannah moved back to Harveyville that summer. Swan died 6 March 1923. He and Hannah’s graves are in Wilmington Cemetery, Wabaunsee County, KS.


There were many people who provided me with the information to write this story. Most of the information on the first marriage was provided by Lois Leeburg Blanche. Lois provided me with the 1931 newspaper article and copies of many documents. She had copies of pictures made and sent them to me. I consider myself very lucky to find a collector of family history of Swan’s first marriage. I had mailed many letters to Leeburg namesakes to find information. I mailed such a letter Linn and Verlene Leeburg living in Boulder, CO. Lyn mailed it to his mother, Rachel Leeburg, living in Bennington, KS. Rachel sent my letter to Lois Blanche who living in Gordonville, TX because whe knew that Lois was the only one still living who knew much about the Leeburg family. Thank you, Lois. You are my dear cousin, once removed.

My brother, Laverne Leeburg and my cousin, Margaret Leeburg Provost provided me with most of the material from the second marriage. My nephew, Bill Leeburg, provided me with the computerized printout on the descendants of Swan John Leeburg. Thank you!

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