Etikettarkiv: Ribbing

10. Rosalie Emelie Augusta Söderholm – Our great-great-grandmother

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.

Augusta Söderholm

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.

Little Baron

”Baron Axel has proposed and I believe, by God, that if he hadn’t stated it with such clarity, I would have considered it an unreasonable dream. Surely Little Baron must have been in a state of confusion if he was insane enough to try to conquer my unconquerable person with his insignificant external and internal qualities. Someone I would regard as my destiny should have his head differently furnished and his visage somewhat more agreeable.

Maybe he thought the Baron title would overshadow the deficiencies of the person who wears it, but pride and simplicity are two unpleasant personalities to have as companions through life, and I have found that these two qualities occupy a rather important place in Baron Axel’s character.

At the same time, he is basically an honest and humble man who I would not like to alienate, a man who has shown me so much friendship and done me great service. I would be really ungrateful if I did not value him. But that he would be stupid enough to take on the role of one of my suitors, I will never understand.

Today, the Baroness collected me in a hired carriage. We would hear ”The Barber [of Seville]” and were invited by Baron Axel. I am relieved that in my polite refusal of his proposal, the little baron is not annoyed with me and quite well it is, because true friends are scarce.” (Augusta’s Diary: Stockholm, 20 March 1851)

When I was a teenager, I just loved the way Augusta described her refusal of the baron’s proposal! Augusta was not swayed by titles or names. What she appreciated were men with whom she could have a serious discussion or debate.

Who was Baron Axel, aka Little Baron, or sometimes just The Little?

Little Baron is mentioned throughout Augusta’s diary, but he is never mentioned with his last name.

”The Little was also here and was perfectly himself: Extremely polite and prudent, impeccable in his expressions and his clothes, a little disdainful with regards to others, and perfectly satisfied with his own little neat person.” (Augusta’s Diary: Loddby, 14 April 1851)


”Last night at 8 o’clock,  Eva came up with the message that the whole yard was full of strange gentlemen. Such a notice produced countless exclamations of wonder from all of us, for Loddby is rarely honored by any visitation in general, and even less by visitations where the masters of creation constitute the plurality.

With surprise, I heard Baron Axel’s voice among those arriving. Mr. Lorichs from Gothenburg, Mr. Bååth, and Mr. Leopold made up the rest of the group. Baron Axel had arrived in Norrköping the evening before and was planning to return to Stockholm the following morning. We could not persuade them to dine with us, and they left after admiring our beautiful Loddby for a while and talking about various things.” (Augusta’s Diary: Loddby, 8 June 1851)

Could I find out who Baron Axel was by the fact that he had arrived in Norrköping by a steamer from Stockholm, and possibly together with any of the other gentlemen?

I turned to the digitized newspapers and searched for the announcement of passengers arriving from Stockholm in June 1851. And there it was: A notice of passengers that had arrived by the steamer Blixten from Stockholm on the 4th June 1851. There were 5 barons among the passengers: Baron Ehrenkrona with family, Baron Stjernstedt with family, Baron Sederström, Baron Ribbing, and Baron Hermelin. I could ignore the ones with family. Then I also detected the name of one of the gentlemen who had visited Augusta: Mr. Lorichs. He was listed next to Baron Ribbing.

Passengers arriving Norrköping from Stockholm on 4 June 1851.

Baron Axel Eric Ribbing af Zernava – A Good Candidate

Of course, the evidence is circumstantial, but Baron Ribbing seemed to be a good candidate. He was the son of the baroness who Augusta had boarded with when she studied in Stockholm.  He was born in 1817 at Stäringe in Södermanland.  When Baron Axel invited Augusta to see The Barber of Seville, it was Baroness Ribbing who fetched Augusta in her hired carriage. It all made sense. But was there more evidence?

Augusta’s Letter to André Oscar Wallenberg

Augusta was a good friend of André Oscar Wallenberg who later in life would found Stockholm’s first private bank and the Wallenberg business empire. Wallenberg would visit Augusta’s home, Loddby, and they kept up their friendship by correspondence. In one of her letters to Wallenberg, she mentions Little Baron Ribbing:

Loddby, 19 September 1850

Dear Wallenberg!

For Your last, rather interesting letter, I heartily thank you and should have answered you a long time ago if it had not been for the thousands of obstacles that came in the way and delayed my decision to send you a few lines and heartfelt greetings from your friends at Bråviken.

But I am forgetting that I have a visitor. I have placed Little Baron Ribbing in an open {?} and I must fulfill my duties as a hostess. Lejdenfrost sends his regards and we all ask You to soon be welcomed to Loddby,


Two weeks later, Augusta writes in her diary:

Baron Axel has been our guest for a longer period of time and notwithstanding he has quite small pretensions in terms of entertainment and is overall not a difficult guest, I still felt an indescribable relief over no longer having to keep company when he returned with [the steamer] Blixten to Stockholm. (Augusta’s Diary: Loddby, 5 October 1850)

I think the letter and Augusta’s diary entry prove that Little Baron is, in fact, Little Baron Axel Ribbing.

Baron Axel Eric Ribbing af Zernava (1817-1876)  (

What Happened to Baron Axel Ribbing?

Well, he didn’t marry Augusta. In fact, he didn’t marry at all.  He worked as a bookkeeper and auditor at the Royal Defense Department (Kongl. Landtförsvars-Departementet).  In 1870, he lived with his siblings at Clara Norra Kyrkogata 5 in Stockholm – right across from what is now Åhlens department store.

Baron Axel died on Christmas Eve, 1876. When his younger brother Fredrik died in 1882, the aristocratic family Ribbing af Zernava died out.

Ribbing af Zernava coat of arms.

Musings on a ball

Stockholm,16 March 1851

Last Friday, I accompanied the Theodors to a dance soirée at The Bourse. It was pretty animated and, in the words of the Ribbings, it was ”la crème de la socialite” who from the gallery looked down on the dancing youth – a colorful crowd of blue, white, red, and yellow ball gowns with matching flower garlands under which one often saw a beautiful face.

Men of la beau monde, with and without uniforms, swarmed around in the richly illuminated, beautiful hall where joy seemed to be the evening’s heavenly patron. It was thus, as it is called in Stockholm, ”a beautiful ball”, but God knows that I did feel a sense of regret when recalling memories from six years ago and saw myself – with a completely different feeling of joy – flying around the hall in a lively Strauss waltz. At that time, in a moment of happiness, I forgot everything around me. In this moment, on the contrary, I felt both hot and tired. At that time, I was close to despair when the final notes of the last dance died away. At this time, I was quite pleased when I finally sat in the covered sleigh on my way home.

Leaving the ball – Illustration in Alexander Dumas La Dame aux Camelias

The poetic rosy light in which I had experienced the goddess of dance had disappeared, and the interesting light in which I had viewed the male courtiers and dancers was, unhelpfully, gone and everything was surrounded by the prosaic reality that, with few exceptions, showed me the flattering men as a mindless and thoughtless crowd, who, like parrots, repeated these flashy, shallow, meaningless lines, which sound pretty good to a seventeen-year-old’s ears, but later sound stupid and meaningless. I danced every dance, was asked to dance even more, talked a lot of meaningless nonsense, heard even more of it, and eventually became tired of all of it.

A Belated Happy Birthday, Fredrik Wahlfelt!

Paul Axel Fredrik Wahlfelt was born 200 years ago, on 19 February 1817.

It is very likely that Wahlfelt might not have celebrated his birthday. The featured image above is one of the few paintings of a Victorian era family birthday celebration. Celebrating birthdays became more common among well-off families at this time, but it was still more common to celebrate one’s namesday.

Lieutenant Wahlfelt in Fritz von Dardel’s painting

Anyway, remember Lieutenant Wahlfelt? He proposed to Augusta in the spring of 1849 and she rejected him. The truth is, she didn’t seem to think highly of him:

12 March 1851 (Augusta and her mother were visiting the Ribbing family)
”Mother and I was visiting Ribbingens today where, marvelously, Baron Fredrik happened to keep company and was as decent and agreeable as he can be when he wants to. We departed early, for I had a premonition that Lieutenant Wahlfelt could get the idea to transport his insipid personality to Clara {where Ribbingens lived}, which definitely would not have been pleasant.”

27 March 1851 (Augusta was invited to a glamourous ball given by Minister Wallensten)

”Lieutenant Wahlfelt was, thank God, resentful of me all evening so I was spared from hearing his stupid reasoning.”

Because Fredrik Wahlfelt (sometimes referred to as Paul or Pålle Wahlfelt) didn’t marry or have children, there is nobody to keep his memory alive. So to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of his birth, here are a few biographical notes.

A little more about Fredrik Wahlfelt

Photographs of Wahlfelt in the 1860s (Source: Riksarkivets porträttsamling)

Paul Axel Fredrik Wahlfelt was the second of 3 children born to lieutenant colonel Svante Fredrik Wahlfelt and Kristina Ulrika Tham. When Augusta met him, he was a lieutenant in Andra Lifgardet. He became captain in 1851 and major in 1862. From 1839, he was a teacher at the Gymnastic Central Insitute (GC) in Stockholm and later also at the military academies, Karlberg and Marieberg, where he taught gymnastics and weaponry. In 1851, he achieved the rank of senior teacher at GC, a title he kept until his death in the spa-city of Wiesbaden, 16 July 1873 (age 56).

Wahlfelt contributed to both theoretical and practical aspects of teaching gymnastics and weaponry. He also developed a bayonet fencing rifle.

Bayonet Fencing Rifle was a rifle modified for bayonet fencing.




One cadet at Karlberg described Wahlfelt in his memoir* :

P.H. Ling teaching in the gymnastics and fencing hall at the Gymnastic Central Institute. Drawing by Egron Lundgren 1839.

“In gymnastics and fencing, we had as a teacher the renowned fencing master Major Pålle Wahlfelt. He, as well as the majority of physical education teachers at that time, were not clear about the meaning of Ling’s admirable educational system and, therefore, taught gymnastics at Karlberg according to a system that was not a system at all. But he had a great ability to fire up us boys with his electrifying command and his energetic shouts.”

Bayonet fencing positions according to Ling’s system

“Seeing Major Wahlfelt fencing against two opponents was a delight. None of us has hardly reached a similar skill with said weapon.”

The fatal fencing accident of his nephew
Of the 3 siblings Wahlfelt, only Fredrik’s older brother Carl Svante Vilhem (1815-1886) married and had children. His oldest son, Nikolai Axel Fredrik Wilhelm, was born in 1861. At that time, the family lived in Finland. Axel obtained an MS degree and taught mathematics. He married Agata Magdalena Lönnblad. In 1893, he was living in Stockholm in order to work on his PhD in mathematics at the university.

Victorian fencing attire: Cruikshank’s picture of fencing on St. James Street in 1822

Axel was also a good fencer, just like his father and uncle Fredrik had been. On 20 February 1893, he had just finished a fencing lection with his instructor Drakenberg when he and a friend, Lieutenant Fid, continued with some free fencing. They were both wearing face masks as required. Somehow, the tip of Lieutenant Fid’s foil penetrated Axel’s mask between the nose and the left eye and Axel fell to the floor. The eyewitness account stated that there was no bleeding, but because he was lifeless, Lieutenant Drakenberg realized the urgency and called for a doctor. Axel died soon after arriving at the hospital, 32 years old.

Family descendants in the USA
At the time of the tragic accident, Axel’s wife Agata was pregnant with their first child. The child, Bror Axel Svante Wahlfelt, was born on 18 June 1893 in Helsinki, Finland.

What became of him? has the clues.

Thirty-one years later, he is listed as a sailor on the Swedish vessel “Anten” arriving from Shanghai, China to Port Townsend, WA on 25 June 1924. He had joined the crew in Newcastle and is listed as deserted after arrival in the US. On 31 March 1931, Svante then marries Hilja Leskinen in Manhattan, NY. In 1942, he registers for the World War II draft, giving his address as 2301 Wyoming Ave, Washington, DC (in Kalorama, DC, and next to what is now the Embassy of Yemen).

Svante died in 1963. His wife Hilja and her sister Maria Wikberg both lived in Saline, MI until they passed away. Svante and Hilja’s daughter Ruth Ebba Märta was born in 1933, married a Christophersen, and had 3 sons, which are listed as living in Denmark. Her sister Maria, who of course is not genetically related to the Wahlfelts, had a daughter, Ethel Posldofer, who in turn had 2 sons and several grandchildren. Descendants who probably have no idea of their grand family history.


*Source: Kadettminnen av överste Claës Christian August Bratt 1927 (pdf available online)

Balls, theater performances, and concerts

”I spent the winter and summer of 1848 at home in deepest solitude, sometime interrupted by a visit from and to Krusenhof.

In January 1849 I traveled, accompanied by Hanna Schubert, to Stockholm where we stayed with baroness Ribbing. Naturally, we had a good deal of amusement: balls, theater performances, and concerts followed in pleasurable succession. Lessons in singing for Mr. Dannström and dutiful visits in return for the previous evenings’ pleasures occupied our mornings.

Erik Sparre came often and paid us visits and Lieutenant Wahlfelt did not come less often. In the spring he proposed to me, but I have always been told that my heart is petrified, and truth is, I believe that it is made of harder material than those of people in general. Anyway, the amiable Lieutenant’s proposal was rejected and in July I returned happy and free to my peaceful, quiet home.”


Krusenhof was the neighboring estate about 3 miles from Augusta’s home at Loddby. Her best friends, the family Hjort, lived there until December 1850 when they moved to Kungsholmen, Stockholm. More about the  family will come in later posts.


Hanna Schubert (b. 1829) was Augusta’s cousin’s daughter. She married Erik Sparre (mentioned above) in 1851.


Mr. Isidor Dannström was an opera singer and composer who also gave singing lessons. He was very famous in the 1840’s along with Jenny Lind. His portrait (right) was drawn by Joseph W. Wallander.


And who was Wahlfelt, the suitor? Paul Axel Fredrik Wahlfelt (b. 1817) was in 1849 a 32-year-old lieutenant who was an instructor in gymnastics and weaponry. He must have started his military education at an early age as the artist Maria Röhl included him in a drawing (left) of young cadets in 1832 .

In 1844, he was also included in Fritz von Dardel’s painting of the Burgesses’ Coronation Ball (top of page). This was a ball held in honor of the coronation of King Oscar I and Queen Josephine. The painting probably depicts the newly introduced dance – the polka. What is also interesting is that von Dardel tagged the dancers, as we do in today’s Facebook pictures. Therefore, we know that Paul Wahlfelt was the 5th gentleman from the left or the 4th gentleman from the right. It seems like that would be the tall, blond officer in the middle.


And as a footnote, Paul Wahlfelt never married.


Fritz von Dardel’s painting:
Maria Röhl’s drawing of Wahlfelt:
Isidor Dannström:
Hanna Schubert: