Monday, June 17, 2013

Autobiography of John Herbert Wessman, Part 1 of 5

Many thanks to Wessman cousin Dave Clawson, who sent this history. It includes lots of new and amazing information about the family.

John Herbert Wessman, born Oct. 14, 1882, Goteborg Sweden. Experiences of my life from the age of three years on.

It was meant for me to live and to come to this land of liberty that is blessed above all other lands of the earth. I have had many unusual experiences and I am grateful to my Father in Heaven that my life has been spared and I suppose it was to be. I had the raising up of a wonderful mother and thank God for this. If I can live an honorable life and graduate with honors in a life to come --in a life hereafter, I owe it mostly to the training of my dear mother.

At the age of three years there was a terrible epidemic of diphtheria. My older brother and sister died with it. Mother left me with a young girl to get medicine for me. I was choking and would have died but she picked me up by the feet and shook me. This broke the membrane in my throat and I recovered well thereafter. There was no diphtheria vaccine and it was almost sure death to have it.

Oscar II of Sweden. Wikipedia.
My first remembrance of school at 7 years old, I was given a lesson and King Oscar the 2nd was there with his [grand]son, now the present king of Sweden. He congratulated me and shook my hand and also the young prince. We were born on the same day. I met the prince when we were about 30 years old and shook hands with him, he remembered me.

When I was eight years old, my father took me on a sea voyage up the Baltic sea. Our first stop was at Copenhagen Denmark. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen was entering the harbor there. The sea was as smooth as glass, and the beautiful white buildings and the steamers with the smoke coming out of the tunnels, and the sails on other boats, I can remember to this day. We visited in Copenhagen and the greatest attraction was a building, round like a tower. In the second story was a large room with a large round table. This king had walked around the table and he had done so for 25 years and wore a deep groove in the table, which was made of stone. His people imprisoned him for his tyrannies and murders and wickedness. He made war on Sweden and killed all of the Swedish Kings family but one, a prince Vasa. He escaped by being cornered in a load of hay. The Danes pushed their lances through the hay, one of the lances injured his leg and Vasa was lamed all his life through this. The Swedes were fighting the Catholics in the thirty year war. It was the last of the Catholics in Germany. (This was not the king I met years before) (King Oscar was a descendant of Vasa)

A view of the Baltic Sea from a ship. Flickr (symmetry_mind).
We continued on our voyage up the Baltic sea, stopped at two ports in Germany, and took a small boat (I think it was the Oder River). We returned to the sea and we continued north to Estonia and Latvia, now taken over by Russia. We continued to Saint Petersburg, now called Leningrad, and to Helesingfors in Finland, now called Helsinki. We left the gulf of Finland going Northward and stopped at 2 smaller ports in Finland and arrived at Haparanda, Sweden. This is the most northerly city in Sweden. I was asleep in the cabin, my father came down. He called me, said “come up on deck, I want to show you something”. It was 12:30 at night, he said “read this news Lakes, you will never forget it.” I did just that, really the land of the midnight sun. I shall never forget it. It is called the ‘northern lights’. We started South on the Lapland coast and also stopped at Sundsvall and Gavle and to Oland and to Stockholm and Karlskrona, back to Goteborg.

When I was nine years old, I was baptized by Louiseutices Dahlquist and confirmed by him. It was about June 1st 1891 or 1892. I can remember it so well, we had to be baptized at night because people knew that this spot was where the Mormons were baptizing. A large steamer went up the river and the waves tossed up and down and it was cold. I remember the ice on the edge of the bank as we stepped on it. July 1st 1893, I and my brother Henry left Sweden for America. My father took us to Copenhagen. We were there for two days and took a steamer for Hull, England, and from there overland to Liverpool. I remember an incident there. There was a fight of several men, and a squad of bobbies was sent to bring them in. It became a general fight between bobbies and civilians. They were dragged to the jail. We stayed in Liverpool for five days, and we then boarded a vessel called the ‘Alaska’ for America. When we were 2-3 days out, three large whales came to the surface for air. Many flying fish followed the steamer to get the offal for food, and when we got to the banks of Newfoundland, the sirens and the horns kept blowing continuously that we didn’t get much sleep that night.

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