Submitted by Barbara Gustafson Pate
Re-Dedication Event Scheduled
Where: Zilker Park, Austin, Texas
Parking: Strafford Lane
Swedish Log Cabin History
The Swedish Log Cabin was built by a Scotsman named J. J. Grumbles in the early part of 1838. The cabin’s design was copied after the cabins that were built by the Swedish colonist in Delaware in and around 1638 – the Swedish are credited with bringing the concept of the log homes to America.
In 1848, S. M. Swenson, the first Swedish settler to central Texas, purchased 400 acres surrounding the cabin. He named this area “Govalle” after a dialectal Swedish phrase roughly translatable as “good grazing.”. S. M. later increased his ranch to 1,100 acres which was along the Colorado River in Austin between what is today Hwy 183 and I35. S. M. lived in this cabin until his uncle, Gustaf, came to America. S. M. built his mansion close to where Huston -Tillotson College is today but it was never finished.
In 1853, S. M. Swenson’s uncle, Gustaf Palm, and his family came to Austin and became the second Swedish family to live in the log cabin. When the Palm family arrived in Austin, they had five children and were later blessed with four more children – bringing the total to ten (11) people living in the cabin. Gustaf was a watchmaker by trade and an organist by passion. Gustaf brought his organ with him from Sweden.
When they came to Texas they rode the train from Galveston to Brenham and the organ was carried by ox and wagon from Brenham to Austin. The cabin was enjoyed by many Swedish settlers as they gathered around Gustaf’s Swedish organ to sing. The Gustaf Palm family lived in this cabin until after the Civil War when their new home was built at l4th and San Jacinto. The log cabin was moved intact to this location to be used as a wash house.
When the property at l4th & San Jacinto was sold, Louis Palm, a great nephew to Gustaf Palm, had the cabin disassembled numbering each log. Then he moved the logs to his farm in Palm Valley and the cabin was reassembled by Carl Thornquist a couple of months later at Nelson Park in Round Rock and this was in 1943.
When Nelson Park was sold in May, 1965, the Texas Swedish Pioneer Association, including Carl Widen as President of the Association, made arrangements with the City of Austin to move the cabin from Nelson Park to its present location in Zilker Gardens. The cabin was moved by E. L. Bradford and restoration was handled by general contractor R. J. Lockhart. (HISTORICAL NOTE:THERE IS A MISSING VIDEO OF THIS MOVE THAT WE WOULD LIKE TO LOCATE AND SECURE A COPY.)
The log cabin was awarded the official Medallion of the Texas State Historical Commission in June, 1966.
The interior of the Swedish Pioneer Cabin at Zilker Gardens contains many household articles of authentic pioneer origin. Original contents of the cabin were lost, but descendants have donated treasurers from pioneer days. Among the interesting contents of pioneer origin are…
· A deluxe, illustrated Bible, once owned by the late Captain Anderson of Galveston.
· A homemade reed organ (made by C J. Swahn and used as a trunk for clothing and household goods when he came to Texas in 1867 with the 100 other young people from Småland, Sweden. The railroad from the coast terminated at Brenham, and the group walked the 100 miles to Austin in 4 days. The organ was transported by ox and wagon.
· 2 large paintings of King Oscar II and Queen Sofia Wilhelmina of Sweden (Popular rulers who reigned during the heaviest immigration period of the early 1870’s)
· A copy of the painting showing King Gustaf II Adolf of Sweden at prayer before the Battle of Luetzen in Germany, 1653.
· A framed picture of the Rev. T. N. Hasselquist, one of the founders and the President of the Augustana Snod.
· A Grandfather clock, completely hand-carved and donated by the Swedish cabinet-maker, Gustaf Flodquist.
· A spinning wheel from Barkeryd Parish, the ancesteral area for most Swedish immigrants to central Texas. It was donated by a resident of the Parish, 80-year-old, Miss Anna Johansson, who inherited it from her mother.
· A flax shredder, a gift from Alfred Karlsson who lives on the farm that belonged to Johann Swenson, brother to S. M. Swenson.
· A Swedish Mora clock which disappeared from the cabin in l994.
· The large fireplace, which served for both heating and cooking, is hung with huge and heavy iron pots, an iron dutch oven, tea kettle and skillet.
· 2 wooden flax carders (used to split flax before weaving (one of these is from Johan of Långåsa in Sweden ( S. M. Swenson’s brother).
· Other kitchen utensils include authentic wooden bowls, a butter mold, a meat grinder, a rolling pin, candle holders and a copper milk can.
· A frontier bench with a carding stand attached so the women could sit down and card the wool or cotton.
· A wooden carder from an old home in Sweden, which was a gift from Barkhold Good when he came to Texas in 1867 with the 100 young people from Småland, Sweden.
· There was an old Swedish Mora clock in the cabin that disappeared in 1994 and we were told that one of the garden employees had taken it to be repaired and it never was returned. This was the most valuable piece in the cabin and we sure like to have it back.
Note: Not all the items are still in the cabin as over the years the varmints getting into the cabin at the park have destroyed some of the items.
Barbara Gustafson Pate
See Swedish Log Cabin for more information and photos.