Jenny Dahlin was born in the little Småland village of Nöttja
in 1877 . Like her three younger brothers she was baptized in the old
Nöttja church where her parents were married. Emma’s mother’s
maiden name was Anderson that was a long established family name in the
village. Her family moved to Ljungby in 1891 and while a teenager she
emigrated to “ Swedetown” USA where she later met and married
a young Swede, from Stockholm, David Gunnarson. Emma became a US citizen
and returned to her homeland on at least one confirmed visit. The
attached photo is of Emma in her wedding dress.
Emma arrived at New York’s Ellis Island October 27,1896. The ship
[Berlin] manifest record indicated she was 19, listed as a domestic, and
was assigned Room B main deck forward. The record also indicated that
she had one piece of luggage and was headed to her Uncle Gustaf Anderson’s
home in Jamestown New York. Gustaf Anderson was the younger brother of
her mother Anna [Anderson ] Dahlin.*
Jamestown is a city located in the northwest corner of New York State.
Its earliest principal settlers were Swedes and by the 1920’s Jamestown
was regarded as the most Swedish in the USA. This claim that earned the
title “Swedetown” was based on the fact that nearly half the
population had a Swedish background. Jamestown’s mayor in 1927,
Samuel Carlson, had a Swedish heritage as well as had seven of his predecessors.
At one point there were no less than forty furniture factories headed
by Swedish Americans¹. The city was once called “ The Furniture
Capital of the World”²
Emma initially boarded with her Uncle Gustaf and his wife Marie who lived
at 17 Center St. In 1903 she returned to Sweden and brought back her younger
brother Gunnar. The 1903-1904 Jamestown City Directory shows Gunnar as
a clerk working at 219 Main St. that was the location of Gustaf Anderson’s
men’s clothing business. The Directory also states that Emma was
working as a dressmaker and both she and Gunnar were living at Gustaf’s
Center St. address.
Anderson was a prominent merchant in Jamestown NY. He served
on the school board for many years and was elected as a city alderman.
He also was a member of the Swedish Men’s Society, Knights of Pythias,
and the Jamestown Choral Society. Further, most interestingly from a Swedish
heritage standpoint, he served as a trustee for First Lutheran Church
for 27 years and was treasurer when the present edifice was built in1901.
Sermons in the church were conducted in Swedish until 1912, in both Swedish
and English until the 30’s and became all English in the 40’s.
An article published in the September 2003 issue of the Swedish Press
not only gives credit to Jamestown for being known as “ Swedetown
“ but it also mentions that the First Lutheran Church is the only
Swedish cathedral in North America. Further, the article notes that the
church has a different trinity in three beautiful long stained glass windows.
These windows depict Jesus Christ, Martin Luther and Gustav II Adofphus.
[1611-1632 Greatest Swedish King and considered one of the greatest statesmen
in European history] Images are of the present church located
on the site of the original church built in 1866 and Gustaf Adolphus.
Courtship and Marriage
In about 1902 two Gunnarson brothers, David Teofilus age 19 and Andrew
Martin age 25 changed their residency from Stockholm Sweden to Jamestown,
NY. Their new living quarters for a couple of years were at 60 Chaplin
St. and the city directory showed David working as a carpenter and Martin
working as a clerk. During that time period Emma Dahlin was listed a dressmaker
and living with her brother Gunnar at their Uncle Gustaf Anderson’s
home on 17 Center. Sometime during that period Emma must have met David
Gunnarson because they were married November 25,1904. David and Emma had
a daughter Elsa who was born July 22,1905. Elsa’s birth certificate
shows David working as a drug clerk.
The 1910 census exhibits Emma, David and Elsa, then four, living at 855
East Second St. and that David’s brother Martin was living with
them as a border. The census also shows David working as a merchant in
a men’s clothing business with Martin working as a merchant in a
hardware business and Emma having no occupation. The 1911-1912 Jamestown
City Directory displays David and Emma living at 57 Charles with Emma’s
youngest brother Carl Dahlin as a border. The Directory also shows David
associated with a gentlemen’s furnishing business called Gunnarson
& Holm located at 112 North Main.
Somehow by this period David made the transition from a carpenter to the
proprietor of a men’s clothing business. How he made that transition
is unclear. Perhaps Emma’s uncle Gustaf Anderson helped him get
exposed to this business and maybe Emma’s experience as a dressmaker
added to the development of the business.
By 1914 David had parleyed his footing in men’s furnishing to team
up with another merchant where they operated a Main Street business called
the “Toggery Shop” or Gunnarson and Cederquist.
David was associated with the Toggery Shop until at least 1926 [The 1928
City Directory suggests he may have had a new partner and business name]
David and Emma changed residences during those years but by 1927 they
were living in a very nice two- story home at 423 Crossman*. That residence
was still a very nice home and neighborhood in 2010.
Emma was active in the Zion Mission Church for many years and organized
its Deborah Society, of which she was the first president. She was also
identified with musical circles as a singer. Her mother Anna at age 80
immigrated from Sweden and moved in with the Gunnarsons in 1925.
. Elsa graduated from Jamestown High School in 1922 and later graduated
from college. Elsa is shown
in the 1930 Directory as a teacher at the
Willard Street School. She later married Milton Bissell who graduated
from Jamestown High School in 1924 and later became a respected Jamestown
attorney. Milton served as Chairman of the Democratic City Committee for
five years, was assistant corporate council and was a past president of
the Jamestown Lions club. * Photo shows David and Elsa with Emma holding
their greyhound dog next to Anna.
Sometime in 1928 or 1929 David, Emma and Emma’s mother Anna Dahlin
moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. How and why they ended up in South
Dakota is unclear but surprisingly David, rather than being in the men’s
furnishing business, the 1931 city directory identifies him as a Sales
Manger at the Sioux Falls Gas Company living at 1004 W 10th St. Further,
the 1930 census shows David age 47, wife Emma age 50 and mother- in- law
Anna Dahlin age 83 all with Swedish backgrounds and that David was employed
as a commercial manager at a gas factory.
During late 1931 the family moved to Richmond Indiana. This move was likely
based upon David getting a better job opportunity because the city directory
shows David as Manager at the Indiana Gas Utilities Company.
Note: Gas processing plants from heated coal were common in European
and USA cities dating back to the early nineteenth century. Initially,
the gas was used for lighting and with the availability of electric lights
cities began to use gas for heating. When natural gas pipes lines from
the southwest were introduced in the late 1940’s most American cities
abandoned the more expensive gas processing plants.
Slow Trip Home
Richmond’s Tuesday February 14, 1933 newspaper identified that Mrs.
Emma D.Gunnarson, 53 years old, died on Sunday night at her home, 24 South
Twenty-First Street. Mrs. Gunnarson, a native of Sweden, had resided in
Richmond for about a year and a half. Her obituary indicated that the
body would be shipped to Jamestown for services and burial.
Emma’s obituary in the Jamestown Evening Journal indicated that
she had been ill for about two months and that her daughter Mrs. Milton
A. Bissell from Jamestown was with her at the time of her death.
The pastor of the Zion Mission Church officiated at the funeral service
and members of the Deborah society attended. David’s older brother
Martin Gunnarson was one of the bearers.
The paper also mentioned that her husband David Gunnarson and her brother
Carl Dahlin from Syracuse were present.
Emma is buried in Section 15 lot 16 of Jamestown’s Lakeview Cemetery.
Her Uncle Gustaf Anderson, son in law Milton Bissell and brother in law
Martin Gunnarson are also buried in Lakeview
Anna Dahlin moved to her son Carl Dahlin’s home in Syracuse NY after
Emma’s death. Anna died in 1937 at age 92 in the Swedish Old Peoples
home of Frewsburg. The bearers at her funeral included her son Carl Dahlin
and her son in law Milton Bissell. She is buried in Frewsburg New York’s
Maple Grove Cemetery [See inset]. Maple Grove is a small, well kept, cemetery
about five miles from Jamestown. Her grave is among a bunch of Swedes
from the Old Peoples Lutheran home [Cemetery records list it as Middle
East Conference]. Anna does not have a headstone.
Elsa and her husband Milton Bissell moved from Jamestown to Phoenix Arizona
in the late 1940’s. The 1949 Jamestown Directory suggests that Milton
Bissell owned the West Side Liquor Store but his residence was in Phoenix
Arizona. Milton died June 4, 1963 in that city. His obituary said he practiced
law in Phoenix since moving there 17 years ago.
It is unclear how long David Gunnarson remained in Richmond Indiana but
his memorial card indicates he died February 8, 1952 in Phoenix Arizona.
He is buried in Greenwood Memorial Park.
David’s brother Martin remained in Jamestown and he died February
19,1955. Both he and his wife Esther are buried in Jamestown’s Lakeview
1. “Jamestown” Swedish Press Magazine 79 Sept. 2003:18-19
2. “Jamestown News York “ WWW. Wixipedia .org