Biography - August Berggren

A. W. BERGGREN is emphatically a self-made man, having risen by his own efforts from an apprenticeship to exalted stations of honor and trust. He was born in Ockelbo parish, Sweden, Aug. 17, 1840, and is the son of John and Karin (Hanson) Berggren. His father, a self-educated man, held several minor offices and looked after cases in courts, administering estates and the like. For thirteen years he ran a flouring mill. Afterwards he purchased a farm, on which he lived until he emigrated to this country in 1856.
The subject of this sketch is an example of the accomplishment of much in spite of limited educational advantages. He attended the village school in Sweden until he was fourteen years of age, living at the same time on a farm. Then he was apprenticed to learn the tailor's trade. When the father decided to emigrate to this country he was obliged to pay the master tailor fifty riksdaler for the release of his son from the apprentice's contract.
Mr. Berggren first came to Oneida, Knox county, and then went to Victoria, where he found employment in the tailoring establishment of Jonas Hallstrom. He then came to Galesburg and worked at his trade, where opportunities were presented. In 1860 he moved to Monmouth, Warren county, and worked for Captain Denman, a merchant tailor of that place.
About the close of the war he returned to Galesburg and became a solicitor of life insurance. During these years he devoted considerable attention, with fair success, to music. He played the violin, became a leader of string bands in Galesburg and Monmouth, and arranged music for them.
Mr. Berggren, for no fault of his, lacks a military record. At the first call for volunteers to put down the Rebellion he went to Knoxville and joined the Swedish company, commanded by Captain Holmberg. Two companies were there: one composed of Americans; the other, of Swedes. The former was mustered into service; the later disbanded. He then went back to Monmouth, where he remained until his return to Galesburg in 1864.
Mr. Berggren has held many important offices. In 1869 he was elected justice of the peace in the city of Galesburg. While holding that office he was nominated by the Republican convention for the office of sheriff, and elected in the fall of 1872. With great credit he held the office for four terms. In 1880, while yet sheriff, he was nominated and elected senator from the Twenty-second district, composed of Knox and Mercer counties. Four years afterwards, he was reelected from the new district, composed of Knox and Fulton counties. When the senate was organized in 1887, he was chosen president pro tempore of that body. On May 1, 1889, the governor appointed him warden of the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet, which position he resigned in 1891, to take active supervision of the Covenant Mutual Life Association of Illinois, with principal offices in Galesburg.
His public spirit is fully shown by his connection with various public enterprises, such as the Galesburg Stoneware Company; the National Perefoyd Company; the Galesburg Paving Brick Company. He was a member of the firm Berggren and Lundeen, later the J. A. Lundeen Company, and still later the Berggren Clothing Company. From its organization, for twenty years, he was president of the Covenant Mutual Life Association, and after that its treasurer, until it was merged with the Northwestern Life Assurance Company of Chicago in Dec., 1899. He was one of the organizers of the Galesburg National Bank in 1884; continuously one of its directors and at present its vice-president.
Mr. Berggren is both an Odd Fellow and a Mason, joining the former order in 1868, the latter in 1869. He is a member of the several Masonic bodies in Galesburg, and in the Order of Odd Fellows has taken a very active interest, filling every office of the subordinate bodies, and the principal offices of the Grand Lodge. He was Grand Master and presided over the deliberations of the Grand Lodge at Danville, Ill., in 1880, and represented the Grand Lodge in the Sovereign Grand Lodge at Baltimore, Md.
Mr. Berggren has broadened his life and added greatly to his store of information by quite extensive travel. He has visited almost every state in the Union, and in 1882 took an extensive trip through England, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland and Ireland.
His charities have been of a practical kind. He has given to the Swedish M. E. Church and parsonage; to several other churches; to Knox College, Lombard Gymnasium and Cottage Hospital.
His religious affiliations are with the Swedish M. E. Church, although in 1856 he was confirmed in the Lutheran Church in Sweden. He served as lay-delegate in the General Conference at Cincinnati in 1880.
In politics, he is a stanch Republican. He is not only a worker, but has been one of the leaders in his party.
Mr. Berggren was married March 8, 1866, to Christina Naslund, born Feb. 10, 1845, whose parents came to this country in 1854, joining the Bishop Hill colony. Six children were born to them: Capitola Maud, married to Rev. F. E. Jefferey, a missionary to India; Guy Werner, married to Minnie Belle Flanders; Ralph Augustus, killed in a railroad accident in 1887; Claus Eugene; Jay Valentine, married to Bessie Sears, and Earl Hugo.
Jan. 1, 1900, Mr. Berggren withdrew from active life and has since lived in retirement at his home, 529 Losey st.

Extracted 17 Sep 2016 by Norma Hass from the History of the Swedes of Illinois, published in 1908 by Engberg-Holmberg Publishing Company, Part 2, Knox County, pages 30-48.

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