Nils Peter Gustafson, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Nils Peter Gustafson


More than one hundred years ago in the rural area of Sweden near Goteborg there was a very disturbed young man: Nils Peter Gustafson. Here he was almost forty years of age with a wife and eight children with what seemed a very dull future before him. He was a farmer but there was little chance of his ever owning his own farm due to the land purchasing system then in use in Sweden. Besides, poor crops were plaguing the farmers. Reports coming from America were so bright. Government land was to be had. And hadn't America been good to his brother, Adolph? Adolph had arrived in Chesterton, Indiana in 1857 where he taught school. At Bailly Town he helped build the first church and served as its pastor. Besides this he farmed the Fred Linderman farm just south of Chesterton. Later he had a store in town. He married and raised a family of fourteen children. He stumped the country for Lincoln and organized the Scandinavian Clubs to support him. Later Adolph served in the 73rd Indiana Volunteers in the Civil War.

With such reliable first-hand reports, Nils decided to try his luck in America near his brother. Naturally his wife's people heartily disapproved of this move but to no avail. Another obstacle was in store for Nils and his family. In converting his Swedish money to American, Nils was short changed. So instead of the whole family sailing together to the new land, Nils and the four older children (Andrew 11, John 10, Christina 9 and Charles 7) arrived in New York on August 24, 1868 leaving his wife, Anna Louise, and the four younger children (Mary 7, Adolph 5, Anna 3 and Clara 1) to come later.

Nils worked and sent passage money for the rest of his family. During the voyage little Anna became very ill -- so ill that her mother held her most all of the time for fear the sailors would think the little girl was dead and would bury her at sea.

Supplies ran low on the long trip. Adolph with his little pail could always get extra water rations for the family since the sailors found him cute and amusing and would give him more.

America proved to be a great disappointment to Anna Louise since she ended up living in her brother-in-law's granary. This first home in America was a far cry from her dream of a country whose streets were "paved with gold." She died broken hearted after a few short years in the new land. This left young Christina to mother the growing children.

Soon a young lad, "Hod" Babcock, came courting Christina. He came from Babcock Station just down the B & 0 tracks to the farm Nils had bought for himself and his son John. (In later years John's son Edward would live here so that the land is now known as the Ed Gustafson farm.)

Hod farmed and then tried homesteading in Kansas. Heat, insects, and water shortage caused him to return to Indiana. He settled in Porter where he was a contractor who moved buildings. He moved the first building into Gary -- a small railroad office. He also moved buildings for Frances Howe who was a descendant of .Joseph Bailly. Bailly -- the first white pioneer of the area -- had established the Bailly homestead in the early 1820s.

Two of Hod and Christina's children died in infancy. Those that lived numbered nine: Virgil, Roy, Charles, Loyal, Camilla, Dean, Winona, Dewey and Wayne.

Andrew Gustafson married Hod's sister, Lenore Babcock. They farmed the land on the corner just north of the present Dewey Babcock farm. Andrew and Lenore had two girls: Frances and Inez, and three sons: William, Art and George. Lenore died and Frances was now the 'mother'. Later Andrew married a widow, Olia Carlson. They moved to the 300 block on Greenwich Street in Valparaiso where they ran a rooming house for the Valparaiso University students. Oliva's daughter lived with them. Later they had a daughter, Althea.

In those days there was little work for young men except farming, so John Gustafson went to work for a young widow, Laurie (Stauffer) Robbins who lived in the house on the corner of Robbins Road and Highway 149 with her daughter, Olive. John later married Laurie and they had two children -- Edward and Blanche. After John died his brother, Adolph, helped Laurie farm and there he met Inez McConkey, teacher of the Robbins School who boarded with Laurie. They were married and for many years farmed the "Od" Gustafson farm south of Valparaiso. They had three sons: Robert and two who died in infancy.

Charles became a railroad man and lived in Port Huron. He lost his hand in an accident on the railroad He married Elizabeth Mitchell. They had no children.

Mary Gustafson went to work on the Morgan farm. The Morgans were pioneers who settled east of Chesterton -- the original name of which was Morgantown. From the buildings and school house still standing, we know that they were a very prosperous family. Mary must have been a diligent, responsible person for she worked in the 'main' house.

On this same farm a young neighbor, Willard Friday, worked. Willard and Mary met here and were soon married. They lived on the Friday farm where several children were born to them with only Grace and Russell growing to adulthood. Russell lived with his father until the father's death (Willard had been born on this farm, lived there all his life and died there at the age of ninety.) Russell then farmed alone.

Anna was only six when her mother died, so she lived with a brother until she was ten. Then she went to work on a farm where she would be furnished board, clothes and six months of school. After several years she worked for John Eglin west of Valparaiso. For five years of service she was to receive a cow and a set of dishes. When she was seventeen, she got the cow, the dishes and a husband, Frank, John Eglin's son. Anna and Frank lived with the Eglins becauseJohn was blind. They had several children but Marchie and Tracy were the only ones to live to adulthood.

For many years Marchie lived in the East with her former pastor and his family. Tracy was a very conscientious night policeman for the city of Valparaiso. He often boasted that he was the one who discovered the courthouse fire.

After Frank and Anna Eglin moved to Valparaiso, they ran an ice cream store and later, a hitch barn which was a block-long building across the street from the present Post Office. Due to the weight of snow from a severe storm the roof collapsed. Marchie and her father ran a neighborhood store on the corner at Lincolnway and Napoleon Street.

Clara Gustafson died in infancy and Emma Gustafson -- the only one of Nils' children to be born in America -- died at the age of twenty.

Nils Gustafson lived alone in later years in a comfortable little cabin and died at age 58 from a heart attack.

It was too bad that Nils and Anna Gustafson could not have lived to see their descendants thrive in this new land, becoming successful farmers, fine homemakers, good teachers, skilled mechanics, wise business men and outstanding military people. They would have been proud to see them helping to build a strong America.

Source: American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of Porter County. 1976. A Biographical History of Porter County, Indiana. Valparaiso, Indiana: American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of Porter County, Inc. 180 p.
Page(s) in Source: 113-115

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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