Union county was created in 1851, and was first named Mason, which name
was later changed to Union. The county was organized in 1853, and the county
seat located at Afton in 1855. The first permanent settlers in the county
were Norman Nun and Joseph B. Nun with their families who came there from
Indiana in 1850, and located at Pisgah. Before that time a company of Mormons,
on their way to Utah, established in 1846 a temporary station at Pisgah,
which was maintained until 1852. About 3,000 Mormons formed the colony
at Pisgah, arriving there June 17, 1846. In the spring of 1852 the last
of them left for Utah, but their cabins remained at Pisgah for many years.
The first survey for the Burlington railroad was made in 1855. In the fall
of 1868 the first train was run into Afton, the county seat. Union county
has now a population of 17,435. The number of Swedes in the county is about
In 1869 the Burlington railroad was extended from Afton west to Creston, which town was laid out the same year. The principal division of the road in Iowa and machine shops were established at Creston, and it eventually became the county seat. Its population in 1870 was 411. Creston was incorporated in 1871. Thanks to its importance as a railroad town and the county seat, Creston has grown to a town of considerable proportions, and has now a population of 8,615, and presents today the appearance of a progressive and up-to-date community.
Swedes began to arrive in Creston with the Burlington railroad in 1869. In that year came John Benson who served as water boy for the construction gang, building the road. He was from Rydaholm, Småland, where he was born in 1854. From 1876 to 1873 he lived in Ottumwa, Ia., but, returning to Creston the latter year, he made his home there until his death. Andy Johnson, engineer for the Burlington, ran the first engine over the new bridge at Plattsmouth, where the Burlington road was extended into the state of Nebraska. Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, he emigrated to America in 1854, and located first at Galesburg, Ill. Coming to Creston in 1869, he continued in the service of the Burlington for many years, and died there in 1897. His son, Chas. E. Johnson, has operated a blacksmith shop in Creston during the last 14 years. Another of the early Swedish settlers, C. G. Johnson, conducted a boarding house in Creston in 1871. After the completion of the railroad several Swedish families located in Creston and the surrounding country, coming mostly from New Sweden and Mt. Pleasant, Ia., and Henry county, Ill.
Reverend B. M. Halland from Stanton visited the settlement in its early days, and gathered the Swedish families for religious services in their homes. On August 13, 1871, he organized a Lutheran Church at the home of Mrs. J. Sandahl, when 24 charter members were enrolled. After a few months a hall was rented over 119 West Adams Street, where the meetings were held. The first resident minister, Rev. D. Rehnstrom, came to Creston in 1883. The first church was built in 1879, and dedicated in 1880. The present church was constructed by S. P. Nelson, Omaha, in 1903. The congregation has now a membership of 154.
In 1885 a Swedish Baptist Church was organized in Creston with five charter members. Meetings were held first in private homes and then in 105 East Mills street. In 1886 a frame church was built. After some years this congregation was dissolved. Another church was organized by the Swedish Methodists, and a church building erected, in which services were carried on for some years, but the organization was dissolved about 1905. The Swedish population of Creston hag been greatly diminished during recent years, principally because of a considerable reduction of the force employed by the Burlington company at that place. Only seven or eight of the business men of Creston are of Swedish descent.