The Andersson Family Reunions


Although there had been occasional talk of a family reunion since Claes Jacobson took special interest in Uncle John Anderson as a Swedish immigrant photographer specializing in the Sioux Indians and their homeland; the real beginning of the event for Elizabeth and me was an evening in late March of this year. Claes and Eva had stopped by on one of their many trips in support of their research and their Indian/Photographic Exhibit touring Sweden.

After dinner we established the basic form and schedule for the event and Elizabeth reluctantly agreed to take on the responsibility for organizing and for spreading the word to as many relatives as we could identify. Throughout the spring and early summer there were letters sent to members of the American and Swedish branches of the family known to us with the hope that the information would be relayed to other members of those branches. To help us with that effort we decided to put together a skeleton family tree of the descendants of Uncle John's parents and to bring in the connection to the Swedish relatives. Ten copies of the draft were mailed out and the response was so great that the tree expanded to 18 pages with 20 pages of supplemental information.

The Rapid City Hilton was selected as the seat of the reunion and they were contacted for reservations and for use of the banquet facilities. Fortunately Gerre and Bill Sellheim were here at the time we discussed and selected the buffet menu and decided on the general pattern for table decorations, name tags and the like. Their opinions and advice were most welcome. Other relatives and Claes made interesting suggestions from time to time, some of which we were able to work into the schedule. Museums in Rapid City and in Valentine were contacted as well as the Rapid City C of C and the two major Indian Reservations to inform them of the impending visit of 50 Swedes and Swedish Americans.

All responded on a positive note and we then could hope for an informative as well as an exciting gathering of the clan. Most of Myrtle Anderson's relatives and some of her friends as well as Sioux Indians who had been close to John and Myrtle were also contacted and invited to join the Andersons and share their remembrances. We had been kept abreast of the plans of the Swedish contingent by letters, phone and itineraries from Anders, Ingvar and Claes and through Anders' son Karl who is at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. This prepared us for the next major event. July 19 the group arrived in New York for two days of sightseeing and the ten of them arrived in Falls Church for two days of sightseeing and three nights of friendship and preparation for Rapid City. Then they went on their separate ways, to meet again Aug. 1 in the Hilton.

Early on the morning of July 28th we loaded up our Taurus wagon with various table decorations, books, papers, posters and pictures, a daughter and three grandchildren and a little baggage and started for the Black Hills. Our trip was rather uneventful with the major emphasis on selecting motels with suitable pool facilities and restaurants that could meet our varied appetites. Three and a half days of travel saw us pulling up to the Rapid City Hilton Inn at noon on the 31st. After a nice lunch we checked into the hotel, moved into our 8th floor rooms and met with Joanne Buck, the Hilton Sales and Catering Manager, to put the finishing touches on our banquet contract and to establish the final count of attendees.

Meanwhile the grandchildren checked out the pool and found that they were on live TV that could be monitored in the hotel rooms. Later we met with Gerre and Bill who were also early arrivals and then finished off the long day with ground buffalo steaks for dinner. Later that evening Gerre called to tell us that Charlotte and Buck Rodgers had arrived with Larry, Laurie and children. We hurried to the lobby to greet Charlotte and Buck and chatted for a while before we all had to retire exhausted from the day’s travel and activities. Morning of the first saw us visiting the Sioux Museum to make sure that they were prepared for the onslaught that we expected the next day and to preview the new wing with the major amount of the artifacts from Uncle John's collection on display.

We found that a reporter from the Rapid City Journal had been there earlier hoping to meet with us. We made contact with the reporter and arranged a meeting with her for 09:00 Aug. 2 at the Museum, one hour before the scheduled group tour for the whole family. Early in the afternoon we dropped down to the lobby hoping to meet each family group as they arrived. As we entered the lobby we were met by Meredith Goodrich who was checking in in company with Walter and Fran Rodgers and Clark Fritz. We were still getting Meredith settled in her 8th floor room when Elizabeth's sisters, Ruth Choisser and Chloe Culver, her brother Bob Anderson in company with our nephew Andy Culver and his wife Dianne came into the hall and informed us that some of the Swedish relatives were in the lobby and might need some help in registering.

This group was made up of Lars, Mans, Marta and Yngve with cousin Don Hogg standing alongside. Elizabeth helped straighten out the reservations for them and while she was about that other family groups started arriving faster than we could keep up. The Brodahls, Lois and Larry Glasson, Dick and Lillian Smith, and so on. Somewhat after the en masse arrivals began, impromptu room gatherings started to happen. One of these was in the room of Larry and Laurie Rodgers and during this the youngsters found that they were as compatible as their elders and gravitated as a group to the pool for a little splash. Late airplane arrivals were worked out with Gerre and Bill meeting the Kärrdahls and Dick and Lillian meeting his daughter Madelyn Kay and by chance Neil Vincent was on the same flight after an undue delay in his flight. The Anders Andersson family and cousin Christer arrived by car from Minnesota and Claes and Eva from Denver with a stop off to visit with Ben Reifel. The evening was capped with a series of room parties.

Nearly all the relatives visited our rooms that evening and using copies of the family tree we were able to identify our relationships as well as to cement them with friendly discussion and even with song. The party lasted late but since we were registered in a11 the surrounding rooms there was no complaint from the neighbors. After breakfast on Wednesday morning Claes, Eva and Elizabeth kept the 9:00 A.M. appointment with the reporter at he Sioux Indian Museum and provided her with the outline of the research and projects of Claes Jacobson that brought him into contact with many members of the family of John Anderson and inspired thought of a family reunion. She was also given a run down on the development of the reunion and the schedule of events and was invited to that evening’s banquet.

By then the rest of the family had begun to arrive at the museum and it was time to start the conducted tour. Paulette Montileaux, Curator of the museum, honored us by conducting the tour in person, thoroughly describing the origin, acquisition and significance of each display. The displays included not only the beautiful artifacts and costumes but expounded on the methods and crafts used in creating the Indian works. Flash attachments were going off like lightning bugs and various camcorders were running throughout the tour. A cousin of Ben Reifel, Nellie Menard came to the museum to share her knowledge and experiences with us. By that time the Rapid City Journal had sent a photographer to cover the event. After several false starts the news photographer had us all posed on the steps of the museum for a group shot. We stayed more Or less in place while some of the amateurs got their chance at a shot of the whole group.

For most of the family the afternoon was free for rest or for individual sightseeing in the Black Hills area. Many went to Mt. Rushmore. Elizabeth and some others stayed up the decorations and displays in the banquet room in preparation for the social hour and dinner. JoAnne Buck had given us a good layout of tables and settings to work with so by 5:00P.M. all was ready for the evening’s activity. The social hour was not marred by small groups but was a whole family experience with much circulation and interface throughout the family groupings. Fortunately I was in the hall at the collection table so that later on when it came time to say a few words I still had my tongue in my mouth. The banquet hall was set up with eight round tables set for eight and decorated with four by six inch Swedish and American flags in bases ringed with tiny silk roses in the colors of the flags and placed on mirrors in the center of each table. Two large bouquets of silk flowers in the yellow and blue of Sweden and in the red white and blue of our flag decorated the bar since they were too large for the serving table provided for the buffet.

Seating arrangements had not been pre-planned and again there was a mixing of the family groups as people chose their dinner companions. Since the room parties, the museum gathering and the social hour had obviated the need for table by table introductions the introductory remarks were brief, including a short welcoming phrase and an overview of events scheduled for Thursday and Friday. This was followed by a short talk by Claes outlining how his research led to John Anderson and to the living American relatives and how his Exhibit brought forth the Swedish relatives and discussions of a family reunion. We then filed through the buffet line and enjoyed dinner and more verbal interchange.

Following dinner a slide projector was setup and slides were presented by Chloe Culver, Claes and Anders Andersson. Those presented by Chloe included a family dinner attended by many of the Claude Anderson family and John and Myrtle; followed by two pictures of various descendants wearing the Indian costumes that had been preserved by her father. The presentation by Claes portrayed the initiation and progression of the exhibit that he and Eva had created, its acceptance by the Swedish people and the interaction of the Exhibit with the Swedish and American relatives who were fortunate enough to share in its highly successful debut and continuing presentation. The slides presented by Anders showed a profile of life in the Swedish home and the way in which they hosted the American members of the family who were able to enjoy the hospitality of our root stock. Also included were pictures of the visit of John Anderson’s friend and protégé, Ben Reifel.

Following the slide presentations Don Hogg took the microphone_ and described the many exhibits that he had brought to the banquet& Discussions and general chit chat continued among those present until the management made it clear that they had to move us out and clean up the area. Thursday morning the third started with massive elevator problems in the Hilton. It seemed that no one could get up or down in a reasonable period of time and the problem compounded as the time for our trek drew near. When most but not all of our group had assembled in the lobby we made some modifications to cur schedule to include Wall Drug Store and lunch at the Badlands Visitors Center in the schedule. We then left in individual cars and vans hoping that we would all get to the same place at nearly the same time. Most did stop at Wall to shop and snap pictures and moved on at our pleasure through the beautiful Badlands, stopping at will to explore or photograph that historical geological monument. Due to the volume of lunch customers at the visitor’s center, compounded by tables reserved for scheduled bus arrivals, seating was difficult and our family group ended up at a very nice restaurant in a town some 15 miles East of the Badlands.

From there we drove on to the town of Rosebud to visit the Lakota Center for Historical Research. Joining us there were the two cars filled with the Rodgers, Meredith and Clark. We then learned that most of the others were gathered at the Episcopal Church in Mission. When we arrived there Elizabeth called the minister to request that the church be opened for us to visit and view the windows dedicated to Roscoe, John and Myrtle. The minister set a time of six thirty which left us nearly an hour to explore the business block of Mission and to walk to the house occupied by Claude and Lara Anderson during the years that he operated the store and Lara bore their first three daughters, Ruth, Catherine and Elizabeth. On schedule the minister arrived and we entered the church. He gave us a brief historical run down, led us in prayer and answered questions. After locating the windows and exploring the small building our Swedish group sang a hymn for us and in honor of the occasion.

Then it was off to Valentine to register in our various motels. At the Trade Winds it was another fun evening eating pizza at the outdoor pool and watching those who still had enough energy to swim enjoy the cooling water. Later Lois and Larry Glasson ran a preview of the camcorder video that he had taken to that time. There was an amusing sidelight when Lois ran the video on fast forward in order to reach the coverage of the hymn in the Mission church. The fast motion gave the appearance of the jerky movements in the early movies. Claes showed his good sense of humor as he laughed along with the others as the 5creen showed his hands rapidly moved up and down during his presentation at the banquet. All in all the video was of excellent quality and was enjoyed by all. After breakfast on the fourth the Valentine experience swung in full speed with a special opening of the Cherry County Historical Museum.

Nearly the entire reunion group had come, as this was the last pre-scheduled event that had been planned. This museum tour was excellent since our hostess had prepared for us and had set cut many items and documents of interest to the family members. The Museum displays had a very personal touch with all items identified to an original user by name. Mrs. Stewart gave a brief but informative talk and ended by asking for any additional information that we might be able to provide. Between Chloe and Elizabeth she was provided with a picture of the high school graduating class of 1894, Claude Anderson and two young ladies. Anders made a statement on behalf of all the Swedish contingent stating how much they had enjoyed their reunion experience and inviting us all to a Tallow-up reunion to take place in Sweden in the summer of 1991.

As we prepared to leave the Cherry County museum it became apparent that our numbers were eroding more rapidly. Betty Ward had been the first to leave the group, flying home after the social hour in Rapid City to care for Gordon. Neil Vincent and the Sellheims said their goodbyes in the Hilton lobby since other commitments precluded their joining us in the trek to Rosebud, Mission and Valentine. At the church in Mission Andy and Dianne Culver left for North Platte on their way home. After visiting the museum Lois and Larry Glasson were on their way to meet commitments in San Bernardino and the Rodgers, Charlotte, Buck, Walter, Fran, Larry, Laurie, Eric and Amanda with Clark Fritz and Meredith Goodrich all left to gather at the ranch in Wyoming. Those of us remaining headed for Centennial Hall the oldest standing high school building in Nebraska and the one that many of the cousins attended in their younger years.

The building is being restored for use as a specialized museum and provided many interesting features depicting the life and studies of the young people of earlier years. We then followed each other to the Visitor’s Center at Fort Niobrara where Don Hogg gave a brief overview of the Fort and its place in local history prior to our viewing the excellent displays of natural life and the early military lifestyle presented in the Visitor’s Center. Viewing the display of the early days of the Fort reinforced the sense that it had been one hundred years ago that Uncle John had received a commission as an official photographer from and for the Fort. Leaving the Visitor’s Center we played follow the leader again through the game reserve and past a group of elk to a viewpoint of the Fort Falls of the Niobrara river.

After viewing the falls we gathered at the cars to bid each other farewell as we split into smaller groups to pursue more personal objectives. " Elizabeth and I, with Candy, Carrie, Eric and Jesse, joined sisters Ruth and Chloe, brother Bob and Miriam, and Loren Brodahl for lunch at the Peppermill in Valentine. After saying goodbye to Miriam and Loren our two cars returned to Mission for a closer look at the chapel in what used to be St. Mary’s School, where their mother had taught before marrying Claude Anderson. From the chapel we drove to the neighboring town of Winner to find the nursing home in which Hattie Marcus is spending her last years. We soon found the home and I stayed in the car with the children while the others visited Hattie. Although nearly 101 years old her mind was active and her memory clear. Hattie was an early resident of Mission and lived for a time in Rosebud. Her long time home was right across the street from the big house that was home to the Claude Anderson family while they lived in Mission.

After a long drive back to Rapid City and to the comfort of our rooms at the Hilton we all met for dinner. The Hilton dining room was able to provide a cake with candle so that we could celebrate Ruth’s birthday, a fitting end to a day of family remembrances. After breakfast Saturday the fifth we saw Chloe and Bob off on their way to Southern California and moved Ruth in with us. We then proceeded to do some local Black Hills sight seeing starting with the Norwegian church and visitors center in the hills. We then drove on through the mountains to the mining town of Lead and found the mine closed to visitors. We then did the usual tourist swing through Deadwood, the saloons and stores and up to Boot Hill to view the graves of Wild Bill Hitchcock and Calamity Jane. On the way back we spotted a herd of buffalo and managed a few pictures and added to Candy’s video.

That evening Claes and Eva returned to Rapid City and dropped by our rooms to fill us in on the further travels of the Swedish members of the family. From Valentine they had returned to Rosebud for more detailed sightseeing and then all but Ingvar and Gunilla headed to Pine Ridge to catch as much of the Pow Wow as possible before heading on to Sioux City or to Minnesota. The Kärrdahls accompanied Don Hogg to Lincoln, Nebraska. Our last day of note was to be Sunday the sixth and as we cheeked out of the motel and loaded the car we had another chat with Claes and Eva recapping the events and success of the week. We were intending to take in the Pow Wow at Pine Ridge but delayed our arrival there by driving through Custer State Park on route A16. A beautiful drive over winding mountain roads with a couple of special delays: one for a herd of wild burrows that was standing stubbornly in the middle of the road and wouldn't move even when nudged by the car.

After we got through them the next delay was caused by a large group of buffalo, which grazed up to and crossed over the road in front of and in back of our station wagon as we sat there taking pictures. From there we continued on to Pine Ridge and the noise, excitement and visual splendor of the Sioux Indians dancing_ parading and celebrating in their traditional manner. Tired and sated from the activity of the past week we returned to the Trade Winds motel in Valentine for our final night of the reunion events.

It was enough--- that is, it was enough to whet our appetite for Sweden in 1991. Hope to see you all there!

please send comments to the webmaster