Dressed in his best costume, he somtimes stood there on Sundays, my father, on the doorsteps of the porch, and stretched his braces and said smiling with proudness “ I am Patron’s son”
None of us children took it seriously, we ignored that and ever understood that maybe his intention was to start a dialog with us. I had ever seen the man we thought was our grandfather, because he died before I was born and I can’t remind that we ever talked about him. At the end of 1980, I became interested in amateur-genealogy and after a short time I figured out that my father had a stepfather and that a family named Patron had lived in Hietaniemi parish. The master of the household was Johan Petter Patron and his wife Helena Christina, daughter of Isak Planting in Övertorneå parish, the sons Karl Johan, Isak Wilhelm and Petter Arvid and daughter Maria.
I found that all children except Karl Johan had emigrated to USA.
Petter Arvid’s year of emigration was in June 1888 and my faher was born Dec the same year so my interest increased..could he be a candidate to be my grandfather.
Doing research after a possible grandfather in USA could not be easy, I understood that and nothing happened for a long time, but I wrote a causerie 1991, Chapter 1 down here. I will come to Chapter 2 later.
There is no written evidence showing that Wilhelmina (here called Mina) and Petter Arvid should have had any realtion resulting a birth of my father Petter Axel, just hearsay.
The story at family Patron’s home in 1888 is completely invented but, I know, that husbands left their wifes and children in these emigrant periods.
I will accentuate the fact that i won’t blame Petter Arvid in any way because he can be totally innocent. I have met a descendant to Petter Arvid in USA and they understand it more than well and is just amused in the thought that we could be ‘halfcousins’.
At home with Patron family in Koivukylä village Hietaniemi parish in Sweden, in the year l887.
From upper left: Petter Arvid, Maria Johanna
From down left: Helena Kristina, Johan Petter
"Maybe it´s best if we can get Oskar to marry Mina", said Johan Petter. His wife, Helena Christina, wondered what Johan Petter actually meant, but finally replied:
"You are well aware that it´s our Arvid´s child she´s carrying,so you don´t really mean that..."
"Yes, I mean it", said Johan Petter. "I´m even going to pay him, if it´s necessary", he added.
The year is l888 and we´re at home with Johan Petter Patron, born in l838 and his wife, Helena Christina, born in l832. We are at their farm in Koivukylä. Before Johan Petter married Helena Christina he lived in a room at Grapes´ place.
Helena Christina laid aside her knitting. She went out into the yard, heavy of heart, and sat down on the lid of the well.
There was gossip in the village that their beloved Arvid had made the servant-girl, Mina, pregnant. That he could hardly have done it without Mina´s collaboration was of little consolation. Helena Christina felt sorry for both young people. The circumstances were unfortunate because they couldn´t get married, Arvid being only l9 years of age while
Mina was 2l. This is what was so troublesome and what weighed heavily upon both Johan Petter and Helena Christina'
Her tearful gaze was drawn to the brightest part of the sky where the sun was beginning to set and would soon hide itself behind the Uksberi Mountain. She shivered, though the air was still warm. It was a few weeks before Midsummer and normally she would have been in a happy mood prior to the approaching short but intensive Tornedal summer.
Johan Petter sat in the rocking-chair when Helena Christina came inside. To her surprise she saw that even Johan Petter was in a sorrowful mood. She had never before seen him so unhappy, not even at funerals. It was as if he had been hardened by his work as a church-servant and as parish-keeper, but this was to no avail now.
Helena Christina pretended not to see him. She didn´t want to embarrass him unnecessarily, so she lit a fire in the fireplace and hung up the coffee-pot over the fire. She started knitting again but couldn´t refrain from glancing at Johan Petter now and then.
Johan Petter was deeply religious and this increased his agony over his son´s situation. Helena Christina understood this very clearly and she knew also that Johan Petter only wished for the well-being of the youngsters. He was not bothered by trivial things like village gossip or malicious joy over other people´s misfortunes.
"You can´t do anything about it now - what´s happened has happened. If it´s God´s will, then Mina will give birth to Arvid´s child. That´s the honest truth" said Helena Christina, without looking in the direction of Johan Petter.
Johan Petter got up. In this frame of mind, he suddenly felt several years older than the 50 he had recently celebrated. He walked heavily out to the stable where his horse, Brenda, turning her head, peered at him inquisitively. Johan Petter looked deeply into her large, consoling eyes, and for some reason, he felt a sense of peace just being with this faithful servant who had been born and reared on his farm. He saw to it that she had water, and he spread out some straw in her box before he left. The water in Torne River gleamed, shining like a mirror in the pale evening light. If it hadn´t been for a few floating logs you wouldn´t have noticed that the water was on its way through the valley, down towards the sea -- a sight that made Johan Petter even more tranquil.
He stood there a long time, with his hands in his pockets, gazing at Pappilanhieta, Selkäsaari and Nittysaari, the islands which would soon be populated by harvest-folk, including himself, since he used to help his neighbor in return for a few stacks of island-hay as thanks for his work.
When Johan Petter entered the house he saw that Helena Christina had set the tablewith freshly-baked coffee-bread, coffee cooked over a birchwood fire and the fine coffee cups she had inherited from her parents.
"Johan," she began, when he had seated himself and taken a lump of sugar. She called Johan Petter just "Johan" when she wanted to be especially intimate. In the presence of guests she always said "Johan Petter" and this was also the case in front of their children: Their oldest son, Carl Johan, born in l860; Isak Wilhelm, born in l865; Petter Arvid, born in l869; and their daughter,Maria Johanna, born in l872. The only ones still living at home were Petter Arvid and Maria Johanna.
Now it was the year, l888. Isak Wilhelm had emigrated to North America in l881. Carl Johan had married Maria Hedberg in l887 and they had moved out to their own household. Their son, Carl Bernhard, eventually had a son, Erik with whom your reporter received an interview.
"Johan," repeated Helena Christina. "Yes" answered Johan, "what is it you want to say?"
"Maybe it would be practicable to write to Isak Wilhelm and ask if Arvid could come over and work until he comes of age. We could let Mina serve as our housemaid during that time."
Johan Petter showed no facial reaction and he also remained silent. Even Helena Christina was quiet. She knew that Johan Petter, true to his habit, must have time to think. He must always digest what she said, especially when he felt that her words were in the form of advice. Even when he took her advice he never thanked her. Instead, he reinterpreted her advice so as to make it apparent that he, himself, was the instigator, thus making it possible for him to receive praise. This didn´t bother Helena Christina. She was used to Johan Petter´s peculiarities and was able to praise him for the suggestions that she, herself, had put forth. It could take up to several days before Johan Petter was able to accept her suggestions as his own.
They had gone to bed but were not asleep when they heard Petter Arvid come in and go to his room. They said nothing. Johan Petter was not keen on marital niceties. They did, indeed, have four children, but not through the will-power of Johan Petter. Without exception, Helens Christina had been the one to take the initiative. So it was, also, at this late hour. She got Johan Petter to embrace her, but not much more. Through experience she knew that it would be easier to come to terms with him the next day. And that day they would be forced to have a serious talk with Petter Arvid.
Helena Christina awoke when Johan Petter came in from the barn. He always went to the barn first to feed the cows and then to the horse in the stable. When she came to "pörtet" (the large Tornedal kitchen) there was already freshly-made coffee and Johan Petter was pacing back and forth. That he had anxiety about the coming talk with Petter Arvid was obvious to Helena Christina.
Unaware of his parents´ thoughts, Petter Arvid slept soundly. He had kept company with the servant-girl, Mina, for nearly a year. He was good looking and the favorite of the girls in the village. Mina and he met in secret so as to avoid gossip. Mina lived and worked in the household of a rich farmer in a neighboring village. She was a good worker, faithful and things went well for her.
When Arvid had awakened and come to the big kitchen his father and mother sat at the table. Johan Petter cleared his throat -- "Well, ah -- Arvid -- there´s a rumor in the village that you and Mina ..." It wasn´t necessary to say any more, thought Johan Petter. Petter Arvid blushed and at first didn´t know what to reply.
"Yes, father, that´s the way it is, just so.
Johan Petter appeared to be relieved by the straightforward reply from his son.
"Since you have not come of age, I think you should pay a visit to Isak Wilhelm in North America. You can live and work there until you are old enough to get married."
"We shall take care of Mina and let her help us with the household until you return," added Helena Christina. No more was said about it that morning.
The next day Petter Arvid saw his father seated at the table in the parlor, writing a letter to his oldest son, Isak Wilhem, far away in Ironwood, Michigan. in North America.
Arvid met Mina as usual but didn´t dare to tell her about his parents´ plans for him. The young people were both entirely clear about their situation and they often worried about it without daring to think about the future.
The farm where Mina was employed was one of the largest in the area. Many young girls and boys earned their living there. Work in the springtime was nearly as heavy as in the fall. Now scythes and hay-rakes and other implements must be put in order for the spring harvest. Fields were to be harrowed and sown. Potatoes would be set. And, in addition, that never-ceasing laundry in the ice-cold river. Boats must be tarred and salmon-nets mended. There was no lack of work on the farm. Mina felt tired, and she couldn´t talk about it with the mistress of the house. One day she saw at a distance that Petter Arvid´s father had come for a visit. The day after she knew why.
During the morning milking of the cows, the mistress of the house called her aside and in a low voice said: "Mina, we have talked to Petter Arvid´s father and he promised to take care of you when you´re no longer able to work here on the farm. I´m going to give you lighter chores from now on, so you won´t have to worry about your work.
It wasn´t anything unusual for unmarried servant-girls to have children. But it was unusual that the master of the house was not the child´s father. This was perhaps the reason why the mistress was so helpful. It was widely known that her husband had made several servant-girls pregnant. He had subsequently paid farm-hands to marry the unhappy girls and had given them money with which to buy land.
Mina eventually found out that Petter Arvid was to be sent to America. when Arvid related this to her she broke into a flood of tears. Petter Arvid tried to console her: "When I turn 21 we´ll get married". he said. You have my promise. I´ll send you a ticket so that you can come over."
Mina appeared to be calmed for the moment, but when Arvid had gone anxiety once again took hold of her. She sobbed until she finally fell asleep. The days before Arvid´s planned departure were difficult for Mina. As in a trance, with tears running down her face, she said farewell to Petter Arvid at the gate.
"You shall come over after me -- I´ll send you the ticket!" called Petter Arvid several times as he, waving to her, walked slowly backwards and then vanished.
This day became historic through the notation of Hietaniemi´s pastor, who in the parish-register wrote: "Petter Arvid Patron departed for North America this 12th day of June, l888."
Mina sat down on the roadside, holding the flowers Petter Arvid had picked for her. Her entire existence had been shattered. If it hadn´t been for her sister, Mathilda, who also worked on the farm, anything could have happened. Mathilda had begun working there before Mina, and she kept company with Anders. It was difficult for Mina to see the happiness of Mathilda and Anders. Sensing this, they, in the future, kept to themselves.
Things didn´t turn out the way Arvid´s father, Johan Petter, or, more correctly, his mother, Helena Christina, had planned. Of course, Johan Petter bore the expense of Mina´s trip to Boden to give birth to the child. But nothing came of the plan to let Mina work as housemaid for the Patrons. It was said that Petter Arvid wrote letters from America. Mina´s daughter-in-law found them in the attic and showed them to Mina, who threw them into the fire.
Thus another child had been born into the village and been given its mother´s last Name. In the parish-register it was also written, in smaller letters, the standard phrase: "Father unknown".
Set down on paper by Herbert Wirlöf, Stockholm l991-07-15.