I pick a random page out of Cecilia’s memory album.
This one has a handwritten poem with the word Kärleks (Love’s) emphasized in larger letters. The page is signed with what I interpret as S. F. En. I am not sure about theS, but what else could it be? I wreck my brain; are there any friends of Cecilia and Augusta whose last name is En (it is a proper Swedish last name) or starts with En? I check the lists of confirmation friends, school friends, members of the secret orders – the Innocence and the Amaranth – that Augusta belonged to. I find nothing.
I then take another approach. I check to see if the poem might have been written by someone else and published. It takes some playing around with Google, like changing the preferred language and searching on various parts of the poem. It works and I find the source!
Oh how I would want to be (for wishing is allowed)
The flower, lush and lovely which sits there on the turf
How I would face the sun and happily open my purple mouth
To imbibe power, light, and warmth out of God’s Well of Love
The poem appeared in a book Lyriska toner (Lyrical Tones) by Wilhelmina and was published in 1843, the year before Cecilia received the handwritten page for her album. The title of the poem is En ung flickas önskningar (The Wishes of a Young Woman) and what was copied was the first of the poem’s five stanzas.
There is an introduction in the book, written by the pastor in Clara parish (1825-1831), Frans Michael Franzén. Besides being a pastor, Franzén was also a famous poet. I can see why Franzén was moved by Wilhelmina’s poems. He wrote similar poems that also ended up in girls’ memory albums. And even the bishop in Stockholm, Johan Olof Wallin, wrote poems that were likewise copied.
At the time, women writers often wrote under a pseudonym, and Wilhelmina simply published under her first name. Later, when she became a rather famous author and translator, she used her real name, Wilhelmina Stålberg.
That is when it hit me. The handwriting of the poem in Cecilia’s album looked like that of an older person. It was definitely not written by someone of Cecilia’s age, someone who had perfected their cursives, dipping the quill in the inkwell and making beautiful letters. If this was a poem that was known by pastors, could S. F. En belong to the clergy?
The answer was staring me in the face! En could mean that the last name started with E and ended withn, not starting with En. Cecilia and Augusta attended Edgren’s school, founded and operated by Pastor Johan Fredrik Edgren and his German-born wife, Lovisa Carolina Wilhelmina Dethmar. And the initials were J. F. and not S.F. Pastor J. F. Edgren had written the poem for Cecilia before she was leaving Stockholm in June of 1844.
Pastor Edgren later became important in Augusta’s life. He officiated the wedding between Augusta and Adolf Nordwall in Morup’s parsonage. I wonder if she also got a poem or if he recited any during the wedding ceremony.
Pastor Edgren’s wife, Mrs. Lovisa Edgren, also wrote a greeting to Cecilia. Hers was written in her native German and was more personal. From some correspondence to Augusta, we believe that Cecilia actually stayed with the Edgren family in Morup after they closed their school in Stockholm.
Mrs. Edgren’s 38-year-old sister also lived with the Edgren family. Eugenia Dethmar was born in Germany in 1806. She too gave Cecilia a page for her album – a poem and a wish, both written in German.
Cecilia Koch was ranked 7 out of the 92 girls who were confirmed with Augusta in St Jacob’s parish in Stockholm in May of 1844.
Two months earlier, Augusta had received a letter from her mother Anna. Augusta had been attending Mrs. Edgren’s school and boarding with the family Edgren, but now the Edgrens were moving to Morup on the Swedish west coast. Augusta and some of her classmates would be transferring to a school run by Miss Andriette Frigel. As Augusta would not board with her new teacher, the letter from mother Anna instructed Augusta to inquire about new boarding arrangements for the coming fall.
Loddby the 23rd, Saturday evening
My beloved child, I have now written to Mrs. Edgren and asked her where and with whom I shall let you stay; we will see if she knows a suitable place for you if you need to remain [in Stockholm]. It is truly a great sacrifice of me to let you stay up there for another year, I need you so much at home.
…It would be helpful and fun for both of you if Cecilia Koch made sure that she came to the same place as you – tell her that. Now ask Mrs. Edgren to find a good place for you and I will take care of the agreement when I come up. By the way, ask how much Miss Hellberg charges and find out what kind of person she is and with what kind of people she socializes, and if she can bring out into society those in her charge. It is very important to find a place that has a good reputation and where people are known for their honorable character. If you can find a place where they daily speak a foreign language, that would be good for you. Tell Mrs. Edgren that. If she knows of such a family and they could take you in, that would be very good. I think she knows many foreign families.
…Write to me soon and tell me what you know, also what Mrs. Edgren has said about you remaining in Stockholm if she thinks that’s what you should do. On Wednesday, I sent you your black everyday dress – I hope you have picked up the package. I hope you like it. There were also a pair of black silk gloves.
God bless you my own child and make you as happy as your mother wishes.
Well, Augusta did find a suitable family to board with – the family of Baroness Jaquette Ribbing. Not a foreign family but certainly one that met all the other wishes regarding reputation, character, and high society.
But what happened to Cecilia Koch who Augusta’s mother mentioned in her letter? And who was she?
Johanna Cecilia Mary Lovisa was born on February 14, 1828, to Michael Koch (1792-1869) and his first wife, Johanna Amalia Fröding (1801-1830) on their estate, Vågsäter, north of Uddevalla on the Swedish west coast. The Koch family was a powerful and wealthy family in Uddevalla. Michael Koch was a major in the navy. He had even sailed to the West Indies. Later in life, he would live in Uddevalla and contribute to the establishment of a cotton mill and a railroad.
Cecilia’s mother died in childbirth in 1830, leaving her husband with 2-year-old Cecilia, a 1-year-old son, and a newborn baby. As was common practice, Cecilia’s father remarried. He and his second wife, Emma Wilhelmina Iggeström (1809-1891), had 4 daughters and a son. The children Koch (those who survived to adulthood) had interesting lives and married well.
Attending Schools in Stockholm
When Cecilia became a teenager, it was time to send her to Stockholm where she would get a good education, be introduced into society, and attend balls and concerts with the unspoken aim of meeting some suitable and eligible young man. Augusta, who was a year older than Cecilia, had likewise been sent to Stockholm in the fall of 1842. Augusta was boarding with the Edgren’s but Cecilia was living somewhere else and just attending classes.
When Augusta started in Miss Frigel’s school in the fall of 1844, we don’t know if Cecilia was still in Stockholm. Augusta studied with Miss Frigel during the fall of 1844 and the spring of 1845. Then she moved back home to her mother at Loddby but stayed in touch with her friends through letters. There is a letter from Lotten Westman in Stockholm to Augusta, written on October 20, 1846, that mentions Cecilia:
You sent me greetings from Cecilia Koch. When you write to her, please send my sincere greeting. She is like a bright spot from our school days. I only knew her for a short time but I liked her so much. Greet her a thousand times. She is such a fortunate girl who gets to be with Mrs. Edgren. She must be so loved by all of those around her. My aunt had heard about it when she was in Varberg.
Does that mean that Cecilia didn’t continue studying in Stockholm but instead moved to Morup to continue studying with the Edgrens? It certainly reads that way. And it sounds like she was still living with the Edgrens in the fall of 1846.
The next letter that mentions Cecilia is from Augusta to Lotten Westman in January of 1847
Yesterday, I received a letter from Major Koch’s wife. Enclosed was the ring that Cecile always wore and which contained a lock of her hair. It was a dear memory of the untimely deceased childhood friend. She was too perfect to live here with us and, therefore, she also left us young. It was very thoughtful of Mrs. Koch to remember me.
Oh no, Cecilia died! I checked the newspaper and found her obituary. It stated that Cecilia had died at an age of 18 ½ years on October 23, 1846. She died peacefully at Vågsäter. I check her death certificate. She died from measles.
Measles epidemics were common and most started in coastal towns before moving inland. Gothenburg was one of those cities. A provincial doctor in the town of Vänersborg summarized the measles epidemic on the west coast of Sweden in 1846 as starting in the province of Bohuslän and arriving in Vänersborg at the end of October. It spread mainly through the schools and by December, most homes had reported cases.
Maybe Cecilia contracted measles while in school in Morup and died later at home? Morup is located on the coast, south of Gothenburg.
The 1846 measles epidemic was one of the worst in Gothenburg in the 1800s. Young children who had not been exposed during previous epidemics were vulnerable and around 10% of the young children in the city died.
Lotten Westman’s Letter to Augusta, Stockholm, 18 December 1845.
”Lucky Augusta who gets letters from Mrs. Edgren! Greet her a thousand times from me. Tell her that I still worship her as warmly as when I said goodbye to her for the last time, and when I start talking about them, it is always an inexhaustible topic and at those times, I forget both time and place and it takes me back to the happy times when I was educated by them; when a smile and a friendly word by Mrs Edgren sent me to the seventh heaven. Tell her all this, and say that if in the future, whether I get ever so happy or unhappy, I will never forget them. Oh, when I just think of them, I get overly joyous.”
In the fall of 1845, Lotten and Augusta are discussing their previous teacher, Mrs Edgren. Both girls have finished their education and now keep in touch by writing letters. Many letters mention Mrs Edgren. At what school did she teach?
Googling Mrs Edgren (Swedish: Fru Edgren) doesn’t help. There was another famous Mrs Edgren in Stockholm in the latter half of the 1800s (see footnote), but she was younger than Augusta. And no Mrs Edgren shows up in searches in city or national archives. It is frustrating – I know she existed, but there is no record of her.
This is where creative thinking might help. Why was a married woman a teacher? A married woman might only have resorted to teaching if she was a widow. And her husband must have belonged to the upper class if his wife was educated enough to teach in a private school. Could he have been an officer in the army? That could explain Augusta’s family’s connection with the Edgrens. My search has to widen.
Two nights in a row, I read everything I can find about Edgren families in Sweden – genealogy discussion groups and the like. The second night, my search takes me to a digitized book about Swedish families, published in the 1800s, with genealogy of a family Edgren from Åmål, Sweden. I read about the sons, Johan Fredrik and Per Adolph, who were educated in Uppsala. Suddenly, in the middle of the page about Johan Fredrik’s life, I read the following:
“Pastor Edgren … started in 1838, together with his wife, a larger, very famous educational institute for girls in Stockholm; was, according to the speech at his funeral, an accomplished man of the world and one of the diocese’s, not to mention the country’s, most educated priests.”
I have found Mrs. Edgren!!!
It is past midnight and I have to get a glass of wine to celebrate this victory and to slowly read all the details I can now find about Mrs. Edgren.
The paragraph about Pastor Johan Fredrik Edgren continues:
“Married 29 May 1838 in Anholt, The Rhine Province, Germany, with Lovisa Carolina Wilhelmina Dethmar, born 9 September 1802 at Reckenburg, … dead 30 January 1853 in Morup’s vicarage.”
Now I dive into church records, digitized newspapers from 1838 – 1844, and archives of building permits.
Pastor Johan Fredrik Edgren was born in Åmål in 1797, studied in Uppsala and got is his PhD in 1827. He then became a pastor in Stockholm and a private teacher in the af Ugglas family at Forsmark. In 1832, he became a chaplain in the army’s “Andra Lifgardet”.
Edgren’s School: 1838-1844
On 20 August 1838, the following ad was placed in the newspaper Daglig Allehanda:
At the beginning of October, the undersigned aim to open an educational institute for a small number of girls, where teaching will take place from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm in Science, Languages, and Drawing, and during two days a week, from 3 pm to 5 pm in handicrafts. The tuition is 80 Rdr or 100 Rdr Banko for a year. The location is Stora Vattugränden.
Fr. Edgren (Batallion Chaplain) L. Edgren (born Dethmar)
Stora Vattugränd, N:o 3.
In 1842, the address of the Edgrens, and presumably their school, is House No. 12, Stora Wattugränd – close to Clara Church.
Augusta started school in the fall of 1841. One could presume that this is the school she attended until the summer of 1844.
In February of 1844, there was an official bulletin in the daily papers announcing the appointment of Pastor Edgren to vicar at Morup’s parish in the province of Halland. That meant, they had to close the school and move from Stockholm to the west coast of Sweden. I search Morup’s church records and find that they were registered as becoming members of the parish on 1 July 1844.
And that put’s Augusta’s mother’s letter of 23 March 1844 in a new light. She was probably searching for a new school and new lodging for Augusta if she was to continue her education in Stockholm in the fall of 1844 (which she did):
Loddby the 23rd, Saturday evening
“My beloved child, I have now written to Mrs Edgren and asked her where and with whom I shall let you stay; we will see if she knows a suitable place for you if you need to remain [in Stockholm]. It is truly a great sacrifice of me to let you stay up there for another year, I need you so much at home.
… It would be helpful and fun for both of you if Cecilia Kock made sure that she came to the same place as you – tell her that. Now ask Mrs. Edgren to find a good place for you and I will take care of the agreement when I come up. By the way, ask how much Miss Hellberg* charges and find out what kind of person she is and with what kind of people she socializes, and if she can bring out into society those in her charge. It is very important to find a place that has a good reputation and where people are known for their honorable character. If you can find a place where they daily speak a foreign language, that would be good for you. Tell Mrs Edgren that. If she knows of such a family and they could take you in, that would be very good. I think she knows many foreign families.
… Write to me soon and tell me what you know, also what Mrs. Edgren has said about you remaining in Stockholm, if she thinks that’s what you should do. On Wednesday, I sent you your black everyday dress – I hope you have picked up the package. I hope you like it. There were also a pair of black silk gloves.
God bless you my own child and make you as happy as your mother wishes.”
*Lotten was living with Miss Hellberg.
Augusta’s whereabouts in 1844-1845
In November 1844, we know that Augusta is still studying in Stockholm and is now living with the family of Baroness Jaquette Ribbing. Not a foreign family but certainly one that met all the other wishes regarding reputation, character, and high society.
There are no records of her schooling from this time, but based on correspondence, it seems like she studied in Stockholm through the spring of 1845.
Another school to find!
What happened to Mrs Edgren and her family?
The Edgren family consisted of Mr and Mrs Edgren and their 3 children:
Carl Gustaf Julius Edgren was born in 1839, received technical training, and later worked in various industries in Scotland, England, and Sweden.
Albertina Amalia Sophia Theresia Eugenia Adelheid Emilia was born in 1840 and married a medical doctor, Professor Adolph Kjellberg.
There is a much more famous Mrs Edgren: Anna Charlotta Edgren (1849-1892), born Leffler. Anna Charlotta and her 3 brothers grew up in an intellectual home in Stockholm. Their father, Johan Olof Leffler, PhD from Uppsala, became a teacher and principal of boy schools in Stockholm. Anna Charlotta got her early education at the Wallin School, married Gustaf Elias Edgren, and became a famous writer. She later divorced him and married an Italian mathematician. Her oldest brother, Gösta Mittag-Leffler, became the first professor of mathematics at Stockholms Högskola (which later became Stockholm University) and started the Institute Mittag-Leffler.
Anna Charlotta’s father-in-law, Per Adolph Edgren, an army medical doctor, was Pastor Johan Fredrik’s younger brother. So Anna Charlotta’s husband’s aunt was Augusta’s teacher, Mrs Edgren.