Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden will celebrate the 375th anniversary of their country’s first permanent settlement in America this weekend.
The New Sweden colony included Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland; but, it was in Wilmington where Swedish settlers first set foot on land.
In March 1638, the Kalmar Nyckel dropped anchor at ‘The Rocks,’ in what is now Wilmington’s Fort Christina Park, named after Sweden’s Queen at the time.
“They were here for roughly 17 years, with the flag flying. When I say that, the Swedes never left Delaware, but after 1655 they no longer had the Swedish flag flying and they were no longer in control of the colony. It then had become a Dutch colony,” Rebecca Wilson explained. Wilson is the executive director of the Old Swedes Foundation.
While 17 years is not a long time, the Swedish footprint remains in the First State.
“They didn’t leave and go home. They stayed here,” Wilson said. “They owned large chunks of land and they weren’t going to give up 4, 5, 600 acres worth of land and go back to Sweden. The families were on second and third generations at that point.”
Frances Allmond brings a new meaning to Delaware native. Her earliest and oldest ancestor was among the original Swedish settlers who came over on the Kalmar Nyckel.
“It’s pretty awesome to think that, yes, I did have a relative who really did come over on that ship and that the heritage is there,” Allmond said.
Several events are scheduled in Philadelphia and Wilmington for the monarchs’ visit May 11, including a luncheon hosted by Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, D-Del, and wife Carla, who happens to be a Swede.
“From my perspective of my own heritage, the only one I’m absolutely sure of is the Swedish side. So I’ve always connected with it the most,” Markell said.
The first lady says her great grandfather initially planned to scope out America alone back in 1912.
“[He] decided he was going to come over on the Titanic… And I think he even had his ticket, and then I guess after a little bit of time, his wife came to her senses and said, ‘You’re not going there without us,’ so they sold that ticket and they bought tickets on the Lusitania,” Markell shared.
In addition to the luncheon, a reenactment of the Kalmar Nyckel landing at Fort Christina is scheduled, as well as a Jubilee Dinner at the Chase Center on the Riverfront.
Speaker of the Parliament of Finland Mr. Eero Heinäluoma and his wife Ms. Satu Siitonen-Heinäluoma are also making the trip. Finland was a part of Sweden in 1638 and Finns helped the Swedes establish the colony.
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