Oscar Hedstrom and his parents immigrated to America from Sweden in 1880. The Hedstroms could be considered part of a major immigration pattern from Sweden to Connecticut, however, they lived in Brooklyn, NY before moving on to Connecticut. Connecticut was ranked third in the U.S. for the highest percentage of foreign-born residents in 1930 with Swedes following the Italians, Irish, Poles, Canadians, Germans, English, and Russians in number. The bulk of that immigration occurred between 1880 and 1914.
Oscar (born March 12, 1871 in Sweden and died of pneumonia and influenza on August 29, 1960 in Glastonbury, Conn.) and his parents, Anders Pettar (Americanized to Andrew, 1840-1919) and Carolina Danielsdotter Hedstrom (1843-1915), are buried in the Swedish Cemetery in Portland, Connecticut along with other members of the Hedstrom family.
Oscar seems to have been an amiable chap despite amassing wealth over the years. “Outwardly reserved and of a retiring disposition, Mr. Hedstrom is a most companionable, whole-souled man”. His home in Portland was described as one of the most beautiful country estates in Portland. – “The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography”.
Portland, where the Hedstroms lived in later years, was called the “Brownstone Town” because of the many brownstone quarries where large numbers of Swedes found employment.
Unlike some other ethnic groups, the Swedes sought to assimilate themselves into the American culture including learning to speak English. They availed themselves of informal education through neighbors and co-workers as well as evening schools that taught the language and local history.
“The evening schools have taken great care to instruct the foreign born in the local history of Hartford and have sought to arise [sic] in them an appreciation of the fine art of being good citizens and to develop in them a love for the priceless heritage of American ancestry, and all that such a heritage stands for.” – O’Connor, David E. “The Swedish Element in Connecticut”. Oct. 1985.
Oscar Hedstrom married Julia Andersson, herself and her parents Swedish immigrants. Julia had siblings who were also in the area so while the two of them were not American born they enjoyed the closeness and support of relatives from both sides of their family.
The 1900 census is a little skewed, but as a genealogist I know that in those days census takers took what information was relayed to them at each house without questioning it. The census taker might not have entirely understood, when Caroline or Andrew Hedstrom told him they had a son named Oscar, that Oscar wasn’t actually living in their household. Oscar, age 29 is listed in the household of Andrew Hedstrom, but is also listed with his wife, Julia, as a resident in the household of Julia’s father, Alfred Anderson.
In 1900 Oscar’s occupation was mechanic.
By 1910, he was listed as a Vice President in the motorcycle industry.
By 1930, Oscar and Julia owned their own home valued at $25,000, in Portland, Connecticut. Oscar was a naturalized citizen.
When the next census was taken in 1940, Oscar was retired. He had an 8th grade education, and their home was valued at $45,000.
Oscar and Julia had a daughter, Helen, born May 10, 1901, and died March 6, 1990, and a son, Howard, born January 1, 1904 and died September 25, 1910, age six, of infantile paralysis, better known as polio. – Keating, R. K. “Wheel Man: Robert M. Keating, Pioneer of Bicycles, Motorcycles, and Automobiles”. 2014.
Sidenotes: Oscar’s corncrib from his farm now sits on the grounds of the Ruth Callander House, built in 1715, donated by the Mattabeseck Audubon Society who had it moved to the museum grounds.
One of the properties owned by Oscar and Julia is at 400 William St., Portland. The home has 1,352 square feet and sits on 11 acres, with a 17-stall barn and a 50×70 arena. Another Hedstrom property is a 4,000 square feet structure pictured below, left lower corner.