The Biography of John Oberg
By Helen Oberg, October 1940
John Oberg, commonly known by his middle name Olaf, is next to the oldest of twelve children born to Helena Hanson Oberg and Per John Oberg in the little town of Edsbyn, in northern Sweden. The date of his birth being March 21, 1885. The large family included six brothers, Olaf, David, Robert, Jonas, Helgar, Joseph and Elver (the latter four dead), and five sisters, Olga, Hulda, Elna, Dorothy, and Swea (all living). His mother and father both died young, but his great grandfather lived to the age of ninety-nine years and seven months.
Olaf came from an industrious family who have carried on the cutlery trade for several generations. More of this trade will be mentioned in the next chapter.
II. Olaf’s Youth
Olaf entered school in Edsbyn, at the age of seven and continued for seven years. Reaching what is probably our seventh or eighth grade.
At the age of fourteen, he began working in his grandfather’s cutlery factory *, doing small jobs and gradually mastering the trade. This factory, like the other industries in that region, obtained its power from the many mountain streams and rivers. Their chief products were axes and knifes. All work was done by hand, although these handmade species are now becoming extinct, as machines are now in more common use. These axes were not only sold in Northern Sweden, but were also shipped to the lumber camps in Norway, Finland, and Russia. (At the present time, one of his uncles owns one of the largest axe factories in Sweden.)
Olaf continued to work in this factory for three years, or until his grandfather’s death. After this, his father built a new axe factory and here Olaf worked for two years. Do not get the opinion, however, that his boyhood was nothing but work. He cherishes many memories of days spent fishing, hunting, and playing in the beautiful woods and by the lakes of his native lands.
About this time (1904) Olaf, like a lot of other foreigners, got the urge to come to America. America was a land of better advancement, and here he hoped to become rich and return home. As yet, this has never happened, and with Europe in its present condition, I’m sure his desires to do so, are vague.
He sailed from Gotenberg, Sweden on the White-Star liner, “Republic”, and landed in Boston, Massachusetts in September, 1904. He journeyed directly to Boone, Iowa where he began machine work, which he also carried on in Des Moines and Chicago at later dates. After six years at this trade, he studied auto mechanics and went into this field of work while cars were in their infancy. This trade he continued for twenty-six years. While doing this work, he often repaired cars belonging to the members of the East High faculty **, one of which belonged to the late Miss May Goodrell. He also taught Miss Goodrell to drive.
When the depression came, working conditions of the automobile trade, as well as many other trades, changed, so Olaf returned to machine work, manufacturing auto-hoists and elevators at the Globe Hoist Company,
In 1907 he became acquainted with a young Swedish girl, Clara Lingblom (she later became his wife). The peculiar circumstances of their meeting, I will try to relate here. He was lying ill with typhoid fever and because this young girl was from his native land, she went to see him. At that time it must have been love-at-first-sight for in 1909 they were united in holy wed-lock. They made their home in Des Moines and have raised a family of three children, two daughters and a son.
Although Olaf has not become a very wealthy man during the past years of his life, he has become an American citizen, lived as a good American citizen should, and has been happy with his family. He hopes to live for many more years and continue his life of felicity.
Thanking those who have provided me with the above information, and hoping it will be of interest to all who read it, I close this biography.
~ Helen Oberg
* Urafors Yxabrik
** Des Moines, IA
[Biography was hand-written by Helen Oberg, daughter of John Olaf Oberg, at age 16 in 1940, apparently for a school project. Typed by Diana Starr, great granddaughter of John Olaf Oberg.]