Rosalie Emelie Augusta Söderholm, our great-great-grandmother whose writings were our inspiration for Augusta’s Journey, was ranked 10 out of the 92 girls who were confirmed in St Jacob’s parish in May of 1844.
If you have followed Augusta’s Journey, you probably already know Augusta. But if you are new to our project, here are a few lines about Augusta Söderholm.
Augusta was born in Slaka parish outside Linköping in 1827. She was the youngest child of Anna Catharina and Johan Petter Söderholm. When her father died in 1835, Augusta’s brother-in-law, Gustaf Lejdenfrost, took care of the family at his estate, Loddby, outside Norrköping.
In the fall of 1841, 14-year-old Augusta was sent to Stockholm to get a first-class education. She would learn French, German, and some English, and she would meet families in high society. Augusta moved in with the Edgren family who ran a private boarding school in St Klara’s parish in Stockholm.
In 1844, Augusta also had to study for her upcoming confirmation. She was living in St Klara’s parish but we know that she was confirmed in another parish in Stockholm – St Jacob’s parish. Why?
Augusta’s close friend, Cecilia Koch, had also come to Stockholm to study. Both were confirmed in St Jacob’s parish. Was it a joint decision? Did they choose St Jacob’s parish because it was led by Pastor Abraham Zacharias Pettersson, a well-liked and respected pastor? Or did their parents’ have a personal connection with Pastor Pettersson? Or did the families with the highest status in Stockholm live in St Jacob’s parish? What seemed to be unique for this parish was that the pastor listed the children according to their perceived status. So for girls like Augusta and Cecilia, who were sent to Stockholm as teenagers to get educated and making their debut in society, this was probably the parish with the “right” families.
Augusta continued to study in Stockholm for one more year, now in a school run by Miss Andriette Frigel. During this year, she boarded with the family of Baroness Jaquette Ribbing.
After having studied in Stockholm, Augusta returned to her country home at Loddby and kept in touch with her friends in Stockholm. In the summer of 1847, she and her mother made the memorable journey through Germany down to Prague which she chronicled in her diary. After their return, she continued to write in her diary about how lonely she was at Loddby.
But in January of 1849, she returned to Stockholm to spend the social season going to balls, theatres, and concerts. She was 22 years old and she wrote in her diary about her suitors and her exciting and carefree life.
Then in July, she was back home at her “calm, quiet home.” Her brother had contracted tuberculosis and by the end of the year, Augusta was bedridden and coughing. For the rest of her life, she struggled with the disease. But she found love, a man who appreciated her intellect and who didn’t mind debates. Adolf Leonard Nordvall was a doctor of philosophy who also wrote wonderful love letters. They married in 1853 and had a daughter (our great-grandmother) in 1854. Their happiness didn’t last long – Augusta died a year later at the age of 28.
Kerstin and I are often told how lucky we are to have an old family diary as a source and a guide for our travels and research. What I think is more important in life is to have a bosom friend, a kindred spirit, and someone who inspires you and make you laugh. So my answer should be that – how fortunate I am to have a sister who embodies all those traits.
Kerstin has always been my best friend, or at least since the time she could sit still in a chair. I remember the revelation – that I could actually play with my baby sister. Kerstin and I were staying with a family nanny in her one-bedroom apartment while our parents were preparing the move to our new house in Jakobsberg. She was 2 years old and I was 6. And I realized that Kerstin could now partake in my imaginary play. She was the perfect princess, sitting propped up in a stuffed chair. And she had the looks to go with a sweet princess as well.
Soon, of course, Kerstin started to voice her own ideas about creative play and making things. We were very fortunate to have creative parents. Our dad, besides being an engineer, had a wonderful workshop with any tools we wanted or needed, and lots of scrap material of all kinds. Being a hobby photographer, painter, and writer, our dad inspired and encouraged us to create. Our mother inspired our ambitions in making clothes. We had a sewing machine and a full-size loom, and boxes of fabric, ribbons, yarn, and anything we wanted at our disposal.
Kerstin took advantage of both the materials and the informal teaching at home. At an early age, she surprised and delighted our dad by wiring her dollhouse – of course, the little dolls had to have some lights in their rooms. She still has no fear of wiring lights in real houses. And she even builds real houses!
One year, we made tiny little horseshoes by melting down tin plates and pouring the melted metal into a gypsum mold we had made. It amazes me that we had no parental supervision in carrying out this creative activity.
And then we made traditional Swedish folk costumes – first weaving the fabric for the skirts and aprons and then sewing it according to traditional documents.
Then Kerstin took up painting and inspired me to do likewise. And one year, we decided to have our first art exhibition: Sisters in Art. It was so much fun that we decided to have a follow up: Sisters at Sea.
And then we got the idea of Augusta’s Journey. It has been the most fascinating journey, not to mention how much we have laughed.
So here is a Happy 60th Birthday to my kind, generous, caring, creative, intelligent, and fun sister!
On October 16 this year, my Facebook feed started to fill up with #MeToo – friends acknowledging that they had at some time been sexually harassed or assaulted. A simple hashtag and suddenly the whole world was talking about how men mistreat women.
It made me think of Augusta and her time period. I can’t imagine that she and her friends, who all belonged to a privileged class, would have been harassed. The men in her social sphere were chivalrous and a few made their feelings known by proposing marriage. The closest to harassment that she experienced was not physical in nature: some men let her know that they were displeased with her voicing her opinion.
But of course sexual harassment and assault existed, just as today, where men had power over women – for example, being the employer. And often, if the harassment became known, the woman was blamed.
I just thought of the maid at Loddby. Was she really as evil as Augusta had described? And who was she?
I had to drop what I was doing in order to find out who this girl was. But first some background from the diary. Why did I think of her?
Loddby, 29 August 1851
”May God forgive both August and the malicious, hateful Eva all the unhappy moments they give us. He is a weak, of alcohol destroyed creature and, therefore, he follows the directions of a bad, vindictive maid’s gossip when his senses are obscured.”
Loddby, 1 November 1851
”Eva, the wretched creature, Loddby’s evil spirit, is finally gone. God be forever praised! And I hope that it now will be a little calmer at home. She was, at the last moment, as mean and rude and deserved a good flogging if anyone had wanted to dirty their hands. She now moves to Mrs Rosendahl and will surely become a common street girl.
The new cook has arrived and looks fairly plain, but I have a panicky fear that there will be new courting, new scenes, new sorrows and more of that nature, which will never end until our Lord delivers us from the source of all evil, and that will likely not happen soon. Thus, patience, life’s most useful characteristic, don’t leave me as you have done so far.”
August is Augusta’s older brother. He does not work, has tuberculosis, and drinks. Eva, the maid, is described as someone with power over August and someone with bad morals (… will surely become a common street girl). Isn’t it more likely that August, being privileged, had power over the house maid?
Anyway, who was she? Maids are just referred to by their first name. How would I find out who, besides the family, lived at Loddby at this time?
The Swedish Household Examination Register
Sweden has had some very unique laws. One was the Swedish Church Law of 1686 which stipulated that the parish vicar was obliged to conduct household examinations, making sure the parishioners knew the Bible and Luther’s Small Catechism. The results, in addition to some other information regarding each household, was then recorded in a parish register. A consequence of this law was eradication of illiteracy as all children were taught to read in parish schools. A curious detail too, is the recording of smallpox vaccinations which were initiated in 1804. It became the vicar’s role to keep track of vaccinations.
The household examination register in Kvillinge Parish, to which Loddby belonged, would definitely have the records for all who lived at Loddby manor.
And it did! And it was available online.
The time period I looked at was 1841-1844. The persons living at Loddby manor in 1844 were:
Gustaf Lejdenfrost (Augusta’s brother-in-law and owner of Loddby), born 1799
Anna Söderholm (Augusta’s mother), born 1788
August Söderholm (Augusta’s brother), born 1817
Augusta Söderholm, born 1827
Stina Malla Kullerstrand (maid), born 1815
Eva Sara Sandberg (maid), born 1818
I had found Eva!
In 1851, she was 33 years old and August was 34. Would she have used #MeToo about the drunk man who she had to serve on daily, or was she, as Augusta suggested, taking advantage of August. We will never know.
I guess my next task is to find out more about Eva’s life. There are more digitized records online …
Of course, today we usually don’t get letters – we get emails and text messages. But this could have been a letter – and it was so significant.
Kerstin and I received an email from a 5th degree cousin who had stumbled upon our blog. That is, our respective grandparents’ grandparents’ fathers were brothers – Augusta’s father (Johan Peter Söderholm) and Carl Adam Söderholm.
Our cousin belongs to the family Schubert whose members are frequently mentioned in Augusta’s diary. The Schubert family lived in Norrköping and also had a country home, Fullerstad, close to Söderköping. Kerstin and I visited those places earlier this spring and wrote about two of the sisters Schubert, Mina Schubert and Hanna Schubert.
What is so significant is that we have, in parallel, been researching our families’ lives! I am sure we all have unanswered questions about our families.
One question I have been trying to answer is how Augusta’s sister Amalia met her husband Gustaf Leidenfrost (several different spellings of his last name exists. )
Fredrik Gustaf Leidenfrost was born on Christmas Eve, 1798, in Vimmerby. His parents were Christian Friedrich Leidenfrost (1748-1823), an apothecary, and Birgitta Maria von Sydow (1768-1810); he was one of their 7 children.
From his birth until he marries Augusta’s sister Amalia in 1832, at age 34, we don’t know much about his life. We know that when they got married, he was one of the successful textile-mill owners in Norrköping and that he had bought the estate, Loddby.
An interesting coincidence is that on the Schubert side of the family, Augusta’s close cousin, Carolina, also had married one of the leading textile-mill owner in Norrköping – Johan Jacob Schubert – in 1824.
Norrköping must have been a very small, although increasingly important town in the mid-1800s, with textile-mill owners even being connected by family ties.
Maybe we will find out more about the connections between our two families over coffee with our new-found cousin tomorrow!
From a distance, through the trees, you can discern the yellow mansion that is Loddby. Loddby was owned by Gustaf Leijedenfrost who was twice Augusta’s brother in law. After both her sisters and her father had died, Leijdenfrost became Augusta’s wealthy benefactor and Augusta and her mother made Loddby their home.
Kerstin and I are finally going to visit the home of Augusta, or at least walk around the house with Augusta as our guide.
”We have, God be praised, spring and the most wonderful, sunny days. Nature has awakened from its long winter slumber and, in its rich diversity, one sees once again evidence of the Creator’s greatness, power, and kindness. The lark sings so elaborately and happily from high among the clouds; the Cuckoo’s monotonous, but all so dear and longed for, ho ho, ho ho, can be heard from the forest; the butterfly flutters around with its mottled wings and gives the welcome kiss to the little blue and red flowers, just sprouted from the ground; the swallows, the little travelers from foreign countries, rebuild their nests under Swedish roofs and cheerfully soar towards the clear, blue heaven. It is really lovely in the country this time of the year; one breathes so easily and feels so happy and so grateful to the One who created the sun, the air, the flowers, the light, and the little winged creatures who give life to this wonderful painting. Worries cannot really get a foothold in our chests when the sun shines so kindly and clearly and everything around us is renewed and rejoices .” (Loddby, 25 May 1851)
Yes, that is how it feels today; the sky is blue, the trees have little bright green leaf buds, a single fly is buzzing around, and high up in the sky there are a few soaring birds. Of course, one can also hear the humming from traffic on E4 close by, but we ignore that.
We park the car behind the mansion and decide to first walk through the woods down to the shores of Bråviken. This is where Augusta’s family would arrive if they took boats for their travels. It was customary to announce the arrival of the boats by firing a cannon.
“… four cannon shots announced that Leijdenfrost was in the vicinity. Mr. Lindgren went out in the boat to pick him up and Mom and I welcomed him on the shore.” (Loddby, August 1850)
”August is home! These words are a goodbye to the joy; they are the Pandora’s Box from which all my pain and discomfort emanate. At 17 o’clock, the ship Göthen anchored and four sailors in red outfits rowed August to shore, but no happy physiognomies met him on his return home.” (Loddby, 23 april 1851)
The still surface of Bråviken reflects the birch trees and willows along the shore and we try to envision the commotion of anchoring ships and firing of cannons; sometimes bringing dear visitors and sometimes Augusta’s not-so-welcome brother.
Walking back up from the shore gives us a view of the back side of the mansion. In 1847, could you see the water from the second floor of the house? Was there a garden on this side?
”The rain has come down as if the sky was wide open and the storm is shaking the windowpanes; it is impossible to travel to Fullerstad. Nature has created a revolution and it is very depressing and sad to see how the garden is like a lake and our tall, beautiful maple trees are losing one branch after another.” (Loddby, 29 August 1851)
And looking at the house, there are two chimneys – how many tile stoves (Swedish: kakelugn) were used to heat the house? And which one did August destroy?
”Yesterday evening we once again had a scare by one of the shocking events that time after time happens at Loddby. Malla had put a bag of gun powder by a tiled stove in which August threw a lit letter. Suddenly everything exploded – the entire tiled stove collapsed, all windows broke, and August himself had his whole right side burned. Doctor Åberg has been here today; there is no danger although it is extremely painful.” (Loddby, 28 July 1851)
We walk around the house and view it from the front – it is quite small under the tall trees that seem to have been planted in rows, long after Augusta’s time.
The mansion has two matching wings that create a small courtyard. This is where the guests would have arrived in their carriages. And that was Augusta’s life at Loddby: Who came? Nobody came? How long did they stay?
”They left a while ago; everyone is now asleep. There is a deadly silence in the house, and I sit in my lonely chamber, writing down a few lines from my memory of a day that will never come again.” (Loddby, 25 August 1850)
And when nobody came, Augusta got consolation from her religion.
”Almost a whole sad month has passed since I last wrote a few words in my diary. I have nothing but gloomy days and sad events to write off. We have clothes, we have food, we have health (undoubtedly great gifts of God, who deserves all our gratitude) but there is a saying that when the beggar gets cheese, he also wants to have it fried and this unbelieving beggar is me. 0h! I would so much also have a little peace and joy. When our Lord takes away our calm and peace, he gives us hope as compensation and consolation, but hope finally fails us when we cannot see any end of our battles.” (Loddby, 26 September 1851)
There is another old road that leads from the house, passed an old, red, farm building –maybe a granary? This one could also be from Augusta’s time.
We follow the road, and it is possibly the old road that would lead to Krusenhof. The surroundings are beautiful – maybe this is one of the small fields where Augusta’s mother was growing peas?
When the sun goes behind a cloud in the sky, the March weather is still chilly, and I wonder how it was during the long winter. That is when visitors were scarcer and the loneliness probably felt more acute.
”The sun is now bidding farewell to our earth, engilding the sky and the tree tops with a blood-red shine. The north wind rages in the branches of the leafless trees and gusts around the corners of our house with a howling sound. It lifts the dry leaves with whirling speed up against the black, rainy clouds, chasing each other over our heads and then dies down to rest as to gather strength to start again with an increased rage. When during such a dark and stormy autumn night, one is in one’s own warm room in front of a nice fire, one values the good life – in contrast to when nature is calm.” (Loddby, 2 November 1850)
”Outside, the pleasant autumn is already in full color, and I have a fearful vision of the cold winter, when one is, in a way, frozen solid to Loddby.” (Loddby, 28 August 1850)
Kerstin and I turn back to the house and our parked car. A snake basking among the sunbaked rocks make us jump. Blue scilla and white anemones are already dotting the meadows. And Augusta’s words summarize our visit to Loddby:
”… the sun shines so kindly and clearly and everything around us is renewed and rejoices.”