The Kallman/Abrahamson Family: Exploring my Swedish-born grandparent's and siblings immigrant journey to "Amerika". Searching for cousins everywhere to share family stories, pictures, thoughts, ideas and new discoveries about our Swedish heritage and our family today.

~ This blog, like my family tree, is always a work in process. Please stop back now and again! ~

Kallman Family Story

My grandfather Rickard Severin Kallman was born to a poor factory worker in Grytol, Hallestad Sweden. He was the fifth child of six. They owned no land but lived in crowded factory owned dwellings. His mother died of Tuberculosis when he was twelve. and an older brother a few years later. I have not one photo of my grandfather as a child, or of any of his family for that matter. That was one expense not even considered in a family struggling to merely feed their children. For many reasons,among them the smallpox vaccine and declining infant deaths, the population in Sweden was booming. Unfortunately the 1800's had been a time of bad weather conditions and hugh crop failures/hunger throughout Western Europe. The United States was on the rise industrially while Sweden lagged far behind. There was little work and even less future in Sweden. The United States in earlier years had courted and encouraged young Swedish families to settle in the Western areas with the Homestead Act. That land was now occupied but stories of "riches in America" still circulated among the desperate young people. The "Industrial Revolution" now gave young Swedish men the hope of a good life in the booming cities such as Chicago. Another draw was that there was a large Swedish population in Chicago. It is said that in 1910 more native born Swedes lived in Chicago than in Stockholm. 




My grandmother, Lydia Abrahamson's life in Sweden had been far different. Her family was even larger. She was the fourth child of nine born to a landowner. She grew up in a stable, loving, sheltered, country environment. Her family home was closer to an estate. The many professional photos of the family show them to be well dressed and well fed. But..........she was a woman. A woman in Sweden at that time did not inherit the family property and could not marry without the approval of her father or guardian (an uncle, or even younger brother). There were no "careers" for women. You married or became the charity charge of a kindly brother, if you had one. Until 2000, Lutheranism was also the state religion. At the turn of the 20th century one must be confirmed in the state church to marry. Lydia's parents had converted to Seventh Day Adventism sometime after the birth of their second child. Lydia had not even been baptized in the state church. This was duly noted on all official documents. Dissenters could marry dissenters but in the small area in which they lived how many eligible dissenters, who met the approval of her father, could there have been for her and her sisters to marry? In reality her future was not much brighter than Rikard's had been. She could marry a poor farmer that no other baptized and confirmed "proper" Swedish girl wanted or she could become essentially a maid or childcare assistant or milkmaid on the property of one of her brothers.

The trip to the United States was long and involved for the Swedish immigrants of that day. That is a story in itself which I will tell on the page "Coming to America-Richard and Lydia's Journey".
During the late 19th and early 20th century many young Swedes came to the Quad City area. That area before WWII was known as the Tri city Area and encompassed Moline and Rock Island Illinois and Davenport Iowa on the Mississippi River. John Deere had moved his plow business to Moline and the young Swedish men now immigrating to the United States were not necessarily farm boys anymore but factory workers well suited for working in the Deere factories because of their ability to work with steel. The new immigrants didn't understand much English. Taking the train to Moline when the conductor called out "John Deere town" it is said that all the Swedes got off!  

Rikard Källman, now going by Richard felt he could have a future here. Richard had immigrated in 1906. On leaving Sweden he had stated his occupation as a blacksmith and in the 1910 US census we find him working at that same John Deere factory. The same census shows Lydia working as a servant. Swedish servants were highly desired as the young immigrant girls were hard workers, educated (they could read and write), took pride in their occupation and readily adjusted and blended into the American culture. 


I don't know how Lydia and Richard actually met but my cousin told me that she had heard that Richard hid behind a bush just to see the pretty blond Lydia walking by on her way to work. This picture of Richard and Lydia was given to me by that same cousin and appears to have been taken about the time of their engagement/marriage.



They were married by and in the home of a cousin of Lydias father. The Dr. Rev. L.G. Abrahamson had immigrated to the United States as a young boy with his parents and siblings in 1853. He had attended Augustana College and was ordained in the Augustana synod of the Lutheran Church. He was a respected pastor in the Swedish American community having started congregations among the newly immigrated Swedes throughout Illinois and Chicago. He now was a chaplain at Augustana college. The notice of Richard and Lydias wedding in the society column was more a reflection of his standing in the community rather than that of the young, hard-working couple just starting out. 

from the Rock Island Argus - Friday 12 May 1911 Society Column page 6 (seen above)

                                                         Kallman-Abrahamson
"The home of Dr. L.G. Abrahamson, 4216 Eighth Ave, was the scene of a pretty home wedding Wednesday evening when Miss Lidia Abrahamson, cousin of Dr. Abrahamson, became the bride of Richard Kallman of Moline. The simple but impressive ring ceremony was performed at 8 o'clock by Dr. Abrahamson, the brides aunt, Mrs. Abrahamson giving her away. The attendants were the brides cousin, Miss Florinda Abrahamson and Miss (Tekla) Kallman, the bridegrooms sister, and F. Beckstrom and G Samuelson. The bride was charming in a gown of white embroidered mull. She wore a bridal veil and carried a shower bouquet of white roses. The bridesmaids were gowned in pretty white robes and carried pink carnations. The house was decorated in green and pink and the ceremony was performed in the parlor before a bank of palms. After congratulations, a wedding dinner was served. The young couple will make their home in Moline upon return from a short wedding trip."

Nine months later their first child, Albin Richard was born in Davenport. After a return trip to visit her parents in Sweden with her young son, Richard and Lydia had their second child Eva Lydia Dagmar in 1915. Shortly after, the young family moved to Chicago. They never again lived in the Quad cities. 

Between 1915 and 1816 the Kallman family of four, Richard Lydia and their children Albin and Eva, left the Tri city area for Chicago.  US census records, family photographs and genealogical documents are some of the puzzle pieces that give me a bit of a picture of their life as Swedish immigrants in Chicago.




In my post of August 27 I listed some of the addresses where they lived. Mainly it was in the largely Swedish neighborhoods of Lakeview and  Andersonville. Just like the immigrant neighborhoods in Chicago today, Richard and Lydia lived with those of the same backround and religion as they. It was possible to live most of your life in chicago speaking only Swedish, reading Swedish newspapers, shopping in Swedish stores for Swedish style food, worshipping in churches that preached in Swedish etc.  My father, Carl Melvin, their third child, was born in Chicago in 1916. Melvin didn't speak English until he went to school. This was very common.

In the 1920 Census the Kallmans lived on 3056 Clifton Ave. Richard worked as a blacksmith in a wagon shop.Both he and Lydia could read and write and Richard had signed his papers of intent to be a citizen. Baby Ebba Rebekah, their fourth child,was born 6 days after this census was taken.


The family seems to be doing well if we can judge from this photo. This was a picture postcard sent back to family in Sweden showing them in their Model T Ford with their new baby. My father Melvin is the little blond boy just behind his father, Richard.


In the 1930 Census the Kallmans lived at 3215 74th street in a house they now own worth $6,000 and they have a radio. A radio! big time apparently if it was noted in the census. With the changing times Richard's job has evolved into a mechanic in an auto repair shop. Richard has become a naturalized citizen (1925), later this year (1930) Lydia will also become an American.



Standing in back is Albin and Eva
Front from left to right is Lydia, Laverne, Ebba, Melvin and Richard


The next years no doubt were difficult financially for the Kallman family as well as most everyone due to the Great Depression. The 1940 census specifically asked where families had lived in 1935 to gauge the effect of the Depression. In 1935 the family was in Chicago but the census records them in 1940 on a farm which was located just north of what is now Lake Zurich. Albin married in 1938 and lives in Chicago with his wife and baby daughter. Eva is living in Chicago working as a stenographer.

I believe Richards dream was to run a family farm. The US was entering WWII and Melvin would soon join the Army. It may have been the depression or his health or both sons being gone and unable to work the farm or a combination of many reasons but the farm was a failure.

Chicago Daily Herald, October 16, 1941 section 2 page 7 this ad ran .


It saddens me to see that all was lost, down to even their furniture, lamps and dishes. Now with just Ebba and Laverne at home, the Kallman family returned to Chicago. Eva married William Slimm in 1946. Laverne married Howard Johnson. My father Melvin married my mother Grace Sevald in 1949. Ebba never married.




Lydia remained close with her sisters Ruth and Anna and their families. Richard less so. His sisters Sarona, Olga and Tekla had all moved to the west coast with their families




Richard and Lydia remained in Chicago the rest of their lives. They owned a home on 1616 Hollywood that no longer is there. The Edgewater Hospital expanding in the 1960's (now closed) bought the property. 

Richard died in 1968, Lydia 10 years later. They both suffered and were severely crippled for a good portion of their lives by rheumatoid arthritis. The drugs available today were not there for them at that time. They are buried in the Rosehill Cemetery of Chicago. 

**clicking on photos or documents will enlarge them for easier viewing*