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Swedes in Kansas

Kansas has been home to many people of Swedish ancestry. Small numbers of Swedes began to settle the central part of Kansas Territory before the civil War. However, large groups began to emigrate to what was by then the state of Kansas in the late 1860s. This wave of emigration was partially driven by a famine in Sweden. Between 1870 and 1880 the number of Swedish-born Kansans increased significantly. By 1890 there were 17,096 residents of Kansas who had been born in Sweden.

The first significant settlement of Swedes in Kansas Territory made their home in the Blue River valley, north of present-day Manhattan. They named their community Mariadahl in honor of the mother of the first settlers. After statehood, the most concentrated area of Swedish settlement was in the Smoky Hill River valley of central Kansas. The first Swede, Anders Bengtson Carlgren, arrived in 1864. He persuaded several young Swedes to file claims for land in the area, which is now Lindsborg.

Immigration companies in eastern cities placed agents in Europe to encourage settlement in the American West. Some Swedes came to Kansas because of such promotions. The railroads also encouraged Scandinavian immigration. The Santa Fe and the Kansas pacific railroads both developed Swedish publications to promote Kansas as a good place to settle.

Many Swedes came to Kansas through the work of Swedish land companies. The First Swedish Agrilcultaral Company of McPherson County, Kansas, was organized in Chicago in 1868. The purpose of the land company was to settle Swedes in a single community with a strong religious focus. The company purchased land in southern Saline and northern McPherson counties from the Kansas Pacific Railway. Settlement in central Kansas was then promoted among Swedish emigrants who could purchase land from the company. Other land companies similarly engaged in the promotion of Kansas among Swedes. The area around Scandia in the Republican River valley was settled through such organized activity.

Swedish immigration has also existed in other parts of the state in a less organized pattern. Marshall, Clay, Allen, Wilson, Pawnee, Morris, Osage, Wallace, Logan, Decatur, Trego, and Rawlins counties all have seen significant Swedish immigration over the years. Noticeable populations of Swedes reside in the cities of Manhattan, Hutchinson, Topeka, Kansas City, and Salina.

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Entry: Swedes in Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2011

Date Modified: April 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.