- Name: Hans Nadrian Chlarson
- Borm: January 17, 1834 Södraville, Sweden
- Died: November 10, 1910 Thatcher, Arizona
- Related through: Dan's grandfather Heber Otto Langford
Hans was the fourth son of Nils and Anna Claesson. In the early nineteenth century the infant mortality rate was very high in Sweden. If a family had ten children, they would be very fortunate if six lived to reach the age of fifteen. This high mortality rate for infants may have contributed to the custom of christening babies as soon after birth as possible. Most children were christened on the same day they were born. Usually close relatives would participate as witnesses, and often the one carrying the child to the altar would be the grandmother. Two of the participants would be godparents who would take the place of the parents if the parent’s should die. The Lutheran Church was the State Church of Sweden, and all births, marriages, and deaths were required to be recorded in that church. Indeed, in 1834 it was illegal in Sweden for anyone to belong to any church but the Lutheran Church.
Hans’ christening may not have been one of those normal, family-centered christenings. There was no one at the christening close to the family. The parish minister entered Han’s parentage as Nils Claesson and Anna Pehrsdotter. However, one of the most persistent of our family traditions is that Hans was the adopted child of Anna and Nils Claesson and that his real parents were of the nobility of Sweden.
While Hans was still alive he wrote a short history of his life that covered the years from his birth to the time the family left Utah to go to Arizona. His opening paragraph to this history would indicate that the adoption tradition might be true:
I, Hans Nadrian R. (Chlarson) was born in Sodra-Villea, Malmolan, Sweden of G. R. and H. H. on the 17th of January, 1834. 1 moved with my father and mother, Nils Chlarson and Anna Chlarson from place to place for seventeen years. I worked for my living in different kinds of trades. My schooling was very limited. Most of my teaching came from my mother.
This paragraph reveals that he was born of a G. R. and H. H. on the 17th of January. Latter-day -Saint ward records consistently give his birthday as the 17th of January, but his christening record says he was born and christened on the 19th of January in Foglehuset, a house under the estate Rysgard.
The clerical records of the family which were taken in the Malmöhus Lan (county) parishes of Södraville (now Ville), Oja and Oja Garden all give his birth date as the 19th. However, the Lund, Sweden, Branch records, in which his baptism into the LDS Church is recorded, gives his birthday as the 17th of January. Notice, too, that he puts his name "Chlarson" in parenthesis, as if it were an alias. The name of the owners of the estate where he was born was Hallenborg. Was there a daughter of the Hallenborg’s who might have been his real mother?
The story of Hans’ so called "real" parentage as circulated among descendants of Hans is that his mother and father were secretly married, and when the parents of the girl discovered that she was married, they locked her up until Hans was born. When the baby was born, the family wanted to hide the birth, so they sought a "wet nurse" to care for the child until they could decide how to handle the problem. Anna Claesson, who lived in the cottage "Folgahuset", had just had a child who apparently died either at or soon after birth. She became the "wet nurse". Details are blurred, but sometime between his birth on the 17th of January and the 19th of January the decision was made that the child would be adopted into the family of cottager Nils Claesson and his wife, Anna Persdotter. There is quite a bit of evidence to support the theory that Hans was adopted.
Albert Chlarson, one of Hans’ sons said, “I was going to tell you about his (Hans’) mother that raised him. The only mother that he ever knew but it was not his real mother. But he was her favorite son. She stayed with him, and she died at his place (in Granite, Utah) and when she was very sick, he said, "Mother, who was my real mother?" and she looked up all him and kind of grinned and he said, "Was it where we used to go and get the food?" But she just kind smiled and closed her eyes and that was that.
Albert related that Nils Claesson would go away from home for a few days, and when he would return, he would be drunk and loaded with money. The family thought that Hans’ real father was paying for the boy’s support and education. The money apparently went other places. Albert seemed to think Nils Claesson was something of a scoundrel. Albert also said that in later years, after coming to Utah, Hans returned to Sweden to pick up an inheritance.
Charlotte Langford said that her grandmother, Johanna Charlotte Scherlin, told her that when Hans was a young boy, his mother would take him to a park where a well-dressed man and woman would play with him.
Class structure is still very tight in Sweden, but it was even tighter when Hans lived there. This "categorizing" of people into classes extends in Sweden even to the giving of names. A Swedish researcher helping the author with her research said that only the middle class and upper class give their children more than one name and suggested that Hans might have been an illegitimate child. She thought is likely that the adoptive parents were paid to take the child as their own and then leave the parish, and that the parish minister was paid to record him as their child in the parish record. This was often done when people wanted to get rid of an illegitimate child.
After much research there is no conclusive evidence on who Hans biological mother was but Hans seemed to be quite sure his real father was the Grefve (Baron) Gustav Hans Ruht, the G. R. of his brief history. Later on in Hans’ life, Baron Ruht helped him to get some schooling.
As for the baby boy being christened on that cold winter day — his station in life was, within two days, reduced from riches to rags if indeed he was adopted. His christening was unusual, too, in that as far as can be ascertained, the usual "family" was missing. Nils Claesson’s mother was dead, but Anna’s mother was still living in 1834. The witnesses and the one who carried the child had apparently all been pulled in from neighboring farmhouses to act as witnesses. But from that day on, as far as church records were concerned, Hans' mother was Anna Pehrsdotter, and his father was Nils Claesson. He came equipped with three older brothers, and from all indications, Hans was very close to his brothers and to his mother.
Anna Claesson was the one who raised him. It was her line, and that of his father Nils Claesson, which Hans followed when he did genealogy work. While the story of his blood lineage is probably true, any woman can give birth. Nurturing is true mothering, and that is what Anna Claesson gave to Hans.
In Sweden if one is born into a certain class, it is difficult to rise above that class. There was only one group of people poorer than the husman (or cottager), which was his father’s vocation, and that was the skögstörpare who farmed the forest (woodcutter, lumbermen). Husman is the term for a farm worker. A husman sometimes owned his own home but no ground. He was a laborer. There is no indication that Nils and Anna Claesson ever owned a home. More likely they belonged to that huge class of workers who wandered from farm to farm seeking work.
The same year that Hans was born (1834) his family moved from the parish of Villie to the parish of Oja, where two more children were born into the family. They then moved to the city of Ystad to find work in the city.
Workers moving into the city from the country usually found life even grimmer than it was in the country. Sweden’s cities and towns were very small during the nineteenth century, and life there was not too different from the farm village, expect for the density of the population, which led to increased problems. The crowded conditions in the cities often forced large families to live in a room no larger than 10’ by 10’, which had to act as the kitchen and eating area as well as the place where the mother and the daughters would do sewing on commission. Also fathers and young boys often worked long hours, leading to child labor laws in 1852.
This change was too late to help Hans and his older brothers who, by that time, had moved with the family to Copenhagen, an even larger city, where conditions could not have been better and were probably much worse. That he worked hard while a youth might be reflected in Hans’ short statement from his history: "I worked for my living in many trades. My schooling was very limited."
Hans may have gone to Denmark around the time he met Grafve Hans Ruht. He writes: In 1851, I went to a foreign land. [Denmark?] On my journey, I met for the first time Grafve Hans Ruht, who gave me means to travel in the foreign lands, where I obtained some schooling. I studied dentistry and after my schooling I returned to the land of my forefathers.
If this G. R. was the one who Hans indicates "he was born of," Grafve Ruht may have at this time made it possible for Hans to improve his lot by obtaining a way to earn a living. Why did this schooling involve "means to travel in the foreign lands"? It looks like Grafve Hans Ruht may have arranged for Hans to become apprenticed to a dentist.
After Hans returned to Sweden, he practiced dentistry. I tried to find out what dentistry was like in the 1850’s but I was unable to find any descriptions of this field. But if it was similar to dentistry in the U.S. it largely consisted of extraction of teeth. If dentistry was as lucrative an occupation as it is today, it may have been during the next three years while practicing his profession in Lund that he acquired a knowledge of photography and was able to purchase the equipment to pursue that hobby, which must have been expensive as the science of photography was in its infancy. Hans later earned his living as a photographer. He says of his activities since his return from Denmark to Sweden:
Three years later I met two Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who explained the scriptures to me. The Lord, God of Israel, acted on my soul so that I decided to lead a better life, and in the month of April, 1857, I was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins and received the gift of the Holy Ghost under the hands of the Elders. This was in a place called Lund, Sweden, and soon after that I was sent out to preach the gospel as an Elder.
His brothers, Nils and Pehr were baptized on the same day as Hans- April 18, 1857. His mother was baptized in Copenhagen by Elder Bergenstule on September 21 of the same year.
The church emigration system had been set up and in order to make the adjustment to living in a foreign land, the missionaries had started English classes throughout the Scandinavian mission because the Saints had been instructed to gather to Utah as rapidly as they possibly could. This may have been where Hans learned to speak English.
When he was called on a mission, Hans gave up his work as a dentist, packed his bag, and departed for his field of labor. In 1861 he was laboring in the Karlskrona, Bleking Lan area.
Meanwhile, Hans’ brother Pehr had moved to Vestervik, Kalmar Lan, Sweden, where he worked as a cooper or barrel maker. He apparently was successful as he hired several men to work for him. He did missionary work as a member in the surrounding countryside teaching the gospel. He was of great help to the missionaries who were called to labor in his area. He emigrated to Utah in 1879, which was 15 years after his brother Hans and his mother Anna had emigrated.
It was when he was on his mission in Karlskrona that Hans met his future wife, Johanna Charlotta Scherlin. Johanna and her mother were receptive to the message of the restored Gospel. However, the "Mormons" were not looked upon with any more favor in Karlskrona than other places where the missionaries served. When the Schelin brothers found that their mother and their sister wanted to join the Church, they absolutely forbade it. They threatened to send the women to an insane asylum if they persisted with their foolishness. Nevertheless, Johanna was baptized February 1, 1861 and her mother, Ulrika Lovisa Scherlin, was baptized January 22, 1862.
Johanna was 29 years of age; Hans was two years her junior. The young couple must have fallen in love while Hans was teaching the gospel to Johanna and her mother, because they were married on September 20, 1861.
The young couple and Johanna’s mother left Karlskrona and moved to Rbnneby, Blekinge. It was there that their first child was born, Heber Otto. (Our ancestor.) Soon after Hans sent is family to Utah and he stayed to earn more money for the trip.
According to Hans’ sons Albert and Hyrum Rudolph, after Hans sent his mother-in-law and his wife and son to America, he went to Germany where war had begun with Denmark over the possession of Schleswig-Holstein. His purpose was to earn enough money to go to Utah by taking pictures of the war and selling them to newspapers. The war between Denmark and Germany did not end until 1866 when the province of Schleswig-Holstein was given back to Germany in the Treaty of Vienna. But Hans had apparently accomplished his purpose by July 1864, for soon after he left for America.
Hans had also sent his mother, Anna Claesson, to America. She sailed on the ship "Monarch of the Sea" May 16, 1861. Ulrika Scherlin (mother-in-law) left the Skane Conference in the spring of 1862 and sailed on the "Athena" from Hamburg on April 21 the same year.
Hans’ personal history says of his trip across the Atlantic: In Feb. 1864 I went to Germany and back again in July the same year. Soon after I left for America . . . We had a shipwreck and were put ashore in Ireland. I started traveling again and finally in October, 1864, I arrived in New York after many harrowing difficulties.
What Hans did not realize at that time was that his "harrowing difficulties" were not over. We do not know what hotel he went to in New York City, but hotel room was broken into, his valise cut open, and his hard-earned savings of $2,000 were stolen. He was stranded in a large metropolitan city without any money.
Hans had a friend who had immigrated to New York City. Somehow he found his way to this friend, who assured him that he could get him a job with the Union Army as the Civil War was being fought at this time in America. This "friend" felt that since Hans spoke so many different languages, he would be useful as an interpreter to the Union Army. Hans was put on a troop train and told that the Army would tell him what to do when the train got to its destination.
When the train arrived (probably in Virginia), in October 1864, the men, including Hans, were told to line up and names were called out. Hans’ name was not called. He was left standing alone. When they found his name on the rolls, he discovered that his "friend" had sold him as a "substitute" for a rich man’s son for $2,000 or so dollars. You can imagine his fury. The officer in charge was sympathetic. He told Hans he could do one of two things: he could serve his time or he could desert. If he went out West, they might never catch up with him. Hans did not want to start his American experience as a deserter, so he went into the Union Army.
Congress had passed the first conscription law for the United State on March 3, 1863. "It was a most imperfect law." A draftee could commute service in any particular call for $300. Or he could evade service during the entire war by procuring a substitute to enlist for three years no matter whether the substitute died or was killed or deserted the next day. The system was inequitable for the poor. Riots occurred in New York City. Before they were quelled, hundreds of lives had been lost. An already busy army restored order. "Substitute" brokers came into existence. The brokers would line up poor men to act as substitutes and then encourage them to desert as soon as possible and start the process again. These were called "Bounty Jumpers" and sometimes were enlisted thirty times or more before being caught. Sometimes the brokers would go to Europe and line up poor men who were willing to serve in the Army as a means of emigrating to America. It the South the situation was as bad or worse. The brokers even kidnapped men off the street. By 1863 the Confederate Government outlawed substitution. The Union Army, however, continued the practice until the end of the war.
Hans’ personal history described his experiences in the Civil War as follows: In New York I was put into military service to fight in the Civil War between the North and South. I stood in many bloody fights, thousands and thousands fell on both sides in battle. I was promoted from Private to Lieutenant. As Lieutenant I was in command of the 8th Co. 7th Reg. 3rd Brigade, lst Divn. I was wounded in my left leg and left shoulder and in April 1865 I was taken to a Washington Hospital where I stayed until August; leaving there on crutches I went to New York in Sept. where I worked as a dentist.
He was enrolled in October 1864, in Company H, 7th Regiment, N. Y. Vols. This was an infantry regiment. He was discharged honorably at Washington, D.C. in December 1865. He further states that he was "unable to earn a support by reason of an injury of the left leg or thigh supposed to have been caused by a fragment of a shell which struck me in battle at Southside Rail Road rendering me insensible." Hans limped as a result of his wounds the rest of his life.
After getting out of the service Hans went back to New York, and found his Swedish "friend" and beat him soundly. For this satisfaction, he was jailed for several days.
Hans’ life story says that he worked as a dentist in New York after his army service. He may have realized that it was too late in the year to catch a Church emigration oxen train for Salt Lake City. The last train would have left by the time he was released from the hospital. He records in his personal history:
In December I went to St. Joseph, MO., and then from place to place all over America. I went to Jackson, Co., Missouri, and to Nauvoo, Illinois, where I met Joseph Smith’s wife, who had fallen from the church. Finally I came to Salt Lake City, Utah on the 6th of October, 1866, and embraced my wife and son for whom my heart had longed.
The next year the Union Pacific Railroad pushed farther west, and 1866 was the last year that the Saints had to walk across the plains from St. Joseph to Salt Lake City.
Within ten years after arriving in the Salt Valley Hans had made and lost a fortune. He entered into polygamy which both he and Johanna looked upon as a commandment of the Lord. When persecution against the practice of polygamy became acute in Utah, he moved his families to Thatcher, Arizona, where he owned a sawmill business and also built homes throughout the area. The high point in his life was being called to be Stake Patriarch in 1900. He died November 10, 1910, and Johanna Charlotta died August 15, 1915. They are buried in the Thatcher, Arizona cemetery.
This history was researched and written by Ida-Rose Langford Hall. Taken from her paper, THE VIKING IN US From Sweden to America (1832-1866): The Life Story of Hans Nadrian Chlason and Johanna Charlotta Scherlin. It was rather long so I abridged it, but you can read the whole thing here.