Page county was organized in 1851, and named for Captain Page, an officer in the United States' army who was killed in the battle of Palo Alto during the Mexican war. The county seat was named Clarinda. Three brothers from Missouri, George W., Henry D. and David Farrence, made the first settlement in the county in 1841 and 1842. The first postoffice was established in 1850 at Shambaugh's Mill, in the house of Captain R. T. Conner who became the first postmaster. After a year a mail route was established from Captain Conner's residence to Marysville, Mo., and the office was named Nodaway. Postage on a letter at that time was 25 cents for 100 miles or more, payable at either end. The first land entered by Page county citizens was by Isaiah Houstin and Erastus W. Hall, March 28, 1853.
The growth of the population of the county was slow at first. In 1848 not more than thirty families - about 150 persons - were living in the county. In 1856 the population was 1,964; in 1860, 5,202. According to the census of 1930, the population of the county is now 25,904, of whom about 2,200 are of Swedish descent.
When the Reverend B. M. Halland undertook to establish a Swedish colony in southwestern Iowa, he selected two townships in Page county, Fremont and Douglas, as part of the area reserved for Swedish settlers. Here, as in Montgomery county, the first Swedes arrived from Illinois in 1869. Andrew Lindberg is said to have been the first Swede in this vicinity. He was born in Sweden April 20, 1837, and emigrated to Henry county, Ill., in 1862. The Civil war was then raging and, in 1864, Mr. Lindberg enlisted in the Ninth Illinois Cavalry, and took part in several battles on the southern battle fields. At the end of the war he was mustered out of service at Selma, Ala., Oct. 31, 1865. The following year he married Sophia Carlson, and located in Moline, Ill., from whence he removed to Page county, Ia., three years later. Having bought 80 acres of land, he became a successful farmer, and raised a family of nine children.
The Swedish immigration into Page county began in earnest in 1870. In that year arrived John F. Floren, Abraham Lindberg, August Nelson and Henry Wallin, from Geneseo, Ill., and some other families from other localities of the same state. In the spring of 1871 a number of Swedish residents at New Windsor, Ill., held a meeting in the home of P. Heglund where the decision was reached to emigrate to southeastern Iowa. A committee was appointed, consisting of C. A. Johnson, P. Heglund and C. J. Bjorkgren, to obtain rates for transportation. Thirty-three cars were chartered, in which 300 persons with their effects made the journey to Page county. Most of them settled in Fremont township. Additional Swedish settlers arrived during 1870 and 1871 from Andover and other localities in Illinois, and the Swedes soon took possession of the larger part of both Douglas and Fremont townships, paying from $6 to $10 per acre for the land.
On May 19, 1870, the Rev. B. M. Halland organized the Fremont Swedish Lutheran Church, the first church organization in the Halland settlement. Among the charter members were Carl Adolph Falk, Gust Wenstrand, Sven Peter Alfred Wenstrand, Carl Johan Ekeroth, Jonas Peter Nelson and Nels Peter Larson, and their families. Some of them later joined the Mission Church. The first Fremont church was erected in 1872. A country postoffice by the name of Nyman was located at that place in .1887, and the church also became known by that name. Besides the church and the parsonage, a general store and a blacksmith shop are also located at Nyman. The distance from Essex is seven miles northwest. The congregation now has a membership of 392.
A few months after the establishment of the Fremont Church, in December,
1870, another Swedish Lutheran Church by the name of Bethesda was organized
by B. M. Halland in the Page county settlement. Prominent among the charter
members were Johan Fredrik Floren, Abraham Lindberg, August Nelson, Andrew
Lindberg, Clas Henry Wallin, John Wallin, Gustaf Samuelson Hill, and others.
At first services were held in school houses, until in 1877 a church was
erected about ten miles east of Essex. In due time, a store and a blacksmith
shop were added at Bethesda. The nearest town is Hepburn on the Nodaway
Valley branch of the Burlington system. The Bethesda congregation has now
a membership of 240.
The town of Essex is located on the Red Oak-Nebraska City branch of the Burlington Lines, 13 miles south of Red Oak and 6 miles north of Shenandoah. It was platted September 15, 1870, by J. N. Dennison, and got rail connection the following year when the railroad was completed to Essex. Robert B. Wood erected the first house where Essex now is in the spring of 1870, and when the railroad was completed he became the station agent and postmaster. Some Swedes located in town the same year. Adolph Falk, Nels Peter Larson and John Anderson were among the early ones. Owing to the extensive Swedish settlement in the vicinity of Essex, many Swedes moved into town during the following years, and Essex soon became known as the Swedish center of that part of the county. The town was incorporated in 1876. Of its 806 inhabitants about 90 per cent are of Swedish descent, and nearly all its business men and professional men are of that nationality. Both the business houses and the residences of Essex present a neat and prosperous appearance, and bear eloquent testimony to the progressiveness of its citizens.
The oldest church in Essex is the Swedish Lutheran, organized in 1876 by the Rev. P. M. Sandquist from Woodhull, Ill., with 13 charter members. A schoolhouse served as meeting place for the first 15 years, but acquisitions from the Fremont and Bethesda Churches increased the membership greatly, and a church building was erected in 1892. This building being destroyed by lightning in 1923, a magnificent new brick church was erected at a cost of $70,000. The congregation now has 350 members.
A Swedish Mission Church was organized in Essex in 1904, and reorganized in 1905 with six members. Additional members from the Fremont Mission Church, a few miles distant, joined later, and a church was erected. The present membership is 105. Formerly, the Swedish Methodist and Free Mission denominations also had church organizations in Essex, but both of them are now dissolved. A Swedish Mission Church, named Fremont from the township in which it is located, was organized in 1875, and a church erected, six miles east of Essex. Its present membership is 93.
The Essex Swedish colony has produced a number of men who have become prominent in their respective vocations. William Osterholm, noted Chicago engineer and inventor, and Mr. Martin Osterholm, an eminent educator who died in Tiffin, Ohio, in 1927, were both brought up in Essex. Their father, a Swedish watchmaker and jeweler from Jönköping, Småland, emigrated to America in 1881, and practiced his craft in Essex until his death in 1902. A third son, August E. Osterholm, is still operating a blacksmith shop in Essex. Ovel Quist, a member of the editorial staff of The Des Moines Register for several years, grew up in Essex where his father, Will Quist, is owner and operator of a drug store. The father of the latter, John Quist, left Sweden in 1852, and emigrated to Illinois, from whence he later removed to Page county, Ia. Another Swedish descendent from Essex, Walter A. Lennart, son of Mrs. A. Brodeen, who still lives in town, is American consul at Bremen, Germany.
The Wallin family came originally from Kinneved, Västergötland.
Of thirteen brothers and sisters some died in their native land, but most
of them emigrated to America in the sixties and located first in Illinois,
from whence they removed to southeastern Iowa about 1870. Clas Henry, John
and Ben took active part in the religious and civic affairs of the Halland
settlement. From the Bethesda vicinity they later moved to Stanton, where
Henry and Ben are still living. The former had a large family of nine children,
of whom some have become noted as educators in American universities. Dr.
Ivan E. Wallin is professor of anatomy in the Colorado state university
at Denver, and his brother, Dr. J. E. Wallace Wallin, has won national
renown as 4 psychologist and lecturer at various institutions in the eastern
states. Since the fall of 1930 he is professor of psychology at the Atlantic
University at Virginia Beach, Va. A sister, Miss Florence E. Wallin, is
instructor in French at a high school in Cleveland, Ohio.
Shenandoah is located in the western part of Page county, at the junction of the Red Oak-Nebraska City and Keokuk-Shenandoah lines of the Burlington system. The Wabash railroad from Council Bluffs to St. Louis also runs through Shenandoah. The distance from Red Oak is 19 miles, and from Council Bluffs, 48 miles. Shenandoah was platted in 1870 by J. N. Dennison. Its original name, Fair Oaks, was changed to Shenandoah when the town was laid out, the Burlington railroad being completed the same year. In 1871 the town was incorporated, and was made a city of the second class in 1877. It is now a well built and progressive city with a population of 6,500.
The Swedes have never been very numerous in Shenandoah. Some Swedish residents were found there as early as 1890. Mr. John Paulson from Norrunga, Elfsborgs Län, Sweden, arriving that year, found some of his countrymen there before him. About 100 Swedish families now have their homes in Shenandoah, and a score of its business men and professional men are of Swedish descent.
Among the religious organizations of Shenandoah are two small Swedish ones. The Lutheran Church was organized Jan. 22, 1883, by the Rev. J. E. Rehnstrom with 44 charter members. A church was erected in 1889. The present membership of the congregation is about 100. The Swedish Mission Church was organized in 1882 with 18 members. Ministers from neighboring congregations have served this church most of the time, and Pastor H. Hultman at Essex is now caring for its spiritual needs. The enrolled members number between 30 and 40.
Some of the largest nurseries and seed houses in the Middle West are located at Shenandoah, and extensive areas near the city are devoted to the production of garden and flower seed and nursery stock. The Shenandoah Nurseries, now covering about 800 acres of ground, were started in 1870, in a humble way, by Mr. D. S. Lake who later took his two sons, Bert and Ralph, into the business as partners. This firm devotes all its activities to the wholesale trade. The Mount Arbor Nurseries were established in 1875 by Mr. T. E. B. Mason, and later (in 1891) acquired by Mr. E. S. Welch through whose energy and skillful management the business grew to immense proportions, so that the planting grounds now cover 1,200 acres. The Mount Arbor being coordinated with the Earl E. May firm, much of its stock is distributed through the sales effort of the latter. Several smaller nurseries are also located at Shenandoah, such as The Welch, The Iowana, and others, which devote themselves to the retailing business, and the city is known as the principal nursery center in this section of the country.
In late years Shenandoah has become widely known for its two radio broadcasting stations, KFNF and KMA. The former is owned and operated by Henry Field in conjunction with The Henry Field Seed and Nursery Co., another of Shenandoah's large nursery enterprises, started by its present owner in 1907. The station was opened in 1924. In connection with the broadcasting station Mr. Field has built, up an extensive mail order business, extending over a wide territory. Through direct sales in the local store and mail order shipments to distant places not only seed and nursery stock, but all kinds of wares, are disposed of in large quantities. The annual volume of the business is about $3,000,000. Nearly $200,000 are expended yearly in postage, and employment is given to some 300 people. Branches are now operated in York and Norfolk, Nebr. From the studio daily programs are broadcast in connection with the advertising announcements, and every Sunday afternoon, between 4 and 5, a Swedish religious service is broadcast, which, during the last three years, has been in charge of H. Hultman, Pastor of the Swedish Mission Church at Essex. The Iowa Lutheran Conference of the Augustana Synod has recently made arrangements with the station KFNF at Shenandoah for a Lutheran Vesper hour every Sunday afternoon from 5 to 6. A Radio Commission, appointed by the Conference, has charge of the services.
The KMA station is owned by the Earl S. May Seed and Nursery Co., who
also conduct a mail order seed and nursery business, started a number of
years ago by Mr. May in conjunction with E. S. Welch of the Mount Arbor
Nurseries. The radio station, opened in 1925, has at its disposal a magnificent
and capacious auditorium where daily programs are given in connection with
the announcements of bargains offered by the firm. The evening and Sunday
programs are attended by large numbers of visitors, many of whom come long
distances by automobile from the surrounding countryside.
Clarinda, the county seat of Page county, is located on the Keokuk-Shenandoah railroad, 22 miles east of Shenandoah. Other Burlington lines connect it with Villisca on the north and Tarkio, Mo., on the south. Clarinda was designated county seat in 1852, but the town was not platted until 1857. One of the Insane Asylums of the state is located at Clarinda, where it occupies a number of large buildings some distance from the city. The population of Clarinda is now nearly 5,000. Only a few Swedish famines live in the city. About a dozen of the business men are of Swedish descent. Among them is J. A. Swanson, president of The Citizen State Bank, and secretary of The Swedish Mutual Insurance Association of Southwestern Iowa. Joseph Anderson, druggist at Clarinda, is of a pioneer Swedish family, and his brother Emit Anderson was the first Swedish boy born in Page county. F. O. Swanson who with his two sons, Paul and Donald, conducts a grocery business in Clarinda, is also of pioneer stock, his father, John Swanson, being one of the early settlers in Page county, arriving in the Bethesda vicinity in 1869.