OLOF FORSSE. One of the strongest and most forceful elements in the citizenship of Saline County has been the colony of Swedish people who located there when all the country was a wilderness and out on the western frontier. Anyone who knows the character of that community is impressed with its thorough and forthright Americanism, though in many ways the sturdy characteristics of their native land have colored the activities and customs of the district. One interesting reminiscence of their native land is the Town of Falun, one of the most important centers of the Swedish colony. Falun was named in honor of the capital of the province of Dalarne, a rich mineral district of Sweden often referred to as the treasury of Sweden.
Foremost in this colony have been the members of the Forsse family. Mr. Olof Forsse, who was long engaged in business at Falun and is now living retired, has had a career which makes him an important character in the community, and he is a son of the late Maj. Eric Forsse, one of the strong and big men of his time both in Kansas and in Illinois, where the family lived before coming to the Sunflower State.
Maj. Eric Forsse was born in Sweden March 4, 1819. In 1850 he brought his family to America. Landing at New Orleans, they proceeded by steamboat up the Mississippi to St. Louis, and soon afterward arrived at Galesburg, Illinois. Eric Forsse came to America without money but with experience at his trade as a tailor and with those qualities of character which make success in every circumstance. For a time he worked at his trade at Galesburg at 25 cents a day. Six months later he moved to Moline, Illinois, where he remained about six months and then the family joined the Eric Johnson Swedish colony at Bishop Hill, Illinois, a pioneer center of Swedish colonization in that state and recently the scene of an anniversary celebration. At Bishop Hill the colonists held property in common. However, this communistic plan of ownership was abandoned in 1860, and the holdings were divided pro rata. While living in Sweden Eric Forsse had served twelve years in the Swedish army. This experience made him a valuable man at the outbreak of the Civil war. In 1859 he had organized a company of home guards, and at the beginning of the war this was mustered into the United States service with him as captain. The company became Company D of the Fifty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, an organization made up of the Swedish volunteers of Illinois. The regiment became part of Grant's fighting army in the great Mississippi Valley campaign. At the two days' battle of Shiloh Eric Forsse won promotion to the rank of major. He served 3 1/2 years, finally resigning his commission in October, 1864. He was in the battles of Shiloh and Corinth and a number of other campaigns until the armies reached Atlanta. He was never seriously wounded.
After the war Maj. Forsse bought a farm in Henry County, Illinois, and was actively engaged in its operation until 1869. In that year, coming out to Western Kansas, he bought one section of railroad land in Saline County, one mile east of the present Town of Falun. In 1870 the original postoffice of Falun was established on his farm, and he was its first postmaster and filled that position for twenty years. Throughout the remainder of his life he was distinguished as the leading citizen of the Swedish colony of Saline County. In 1873 his fellow citizens elected him as their representative in the State Legislature. Though a republican, he was chosen as an independent candidate. He was for many years a trustee of Falun Township. His death occurred in a hospital at Topeka April 18, 1889.
In 1841 Major Forsse married his wife, Martha, who was born in Sweden September 14, 1814, and died March 8, 1887. Of their six children Olof was the oldest. Two sons died in infancy. The only other one now living is Elias, who was born May 8, 1853, and also lives at Salina.
Mr. Olof Forsse was born in Sweden July 8, 1842, and was about eight years of age when the family came to America. He grew up and received the bulk of his educational training in Illinois, and was not yet nineteen when the war broke out. He joined Company D of the Fifty-seventh Illinois Infantry, fighting in his father's company and serving until the close of the war. Besides the campaigns in which his father was engaged he also participated in Sherman's march to the sea. Mr. Forsse has long been an active member of John A. Logan Post No. 127, Grand Army of the Republic, at Salina.
He came with his father and mother to Kansas in 1869, and has since lived in Saline County. He was engaged in farming until 1884 in Falun Township, operating his father's original homestead. Success has attended his every effort, and again and again his fellow citizens have called him to positions of trust and responsibility. In 1880 he was elected a member of the board of county commissioners of Saline Connty, and served for three years. In 1883 he was elected sheriff, serving two years, and later for two years was under sheriff and jailer. In 1886 Olof Forsse with others platted and founded the Village of Falun, and has since lived there. For a number of years he owned and conducted a grain elevator and was an extensive buyer of grain, but retired from business in 1913.
In 1908 he was elected a member of the board of county commissioners, and has filled that office with credit and efficiency for the past eight years. Mr. Forsse is a democrat and a member of the Knights of Pythias.
On April 13, 1868, the year before he came to Kansas, he married Miss Segrid Naslund, who was born in Sweden December 26, 1847. They are the parents of four children: Ida M., born September 16, 1869; Jennie, born February 4, 1873; Gustave A., born May 9, 1877; and Ellen Irene, born June 1, 1882.
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by Trevor Glover, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 9-7-99.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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