In 1926, the Swedish American Patriotic League purchased 110 acres of beautiful mountain property for a potential retirement home that soon evolved into a summer resort. It has a beautiful Clubhouse, recreational facilities including a swimming pool, tennis courts, playground, ball field, picnic and camp grounds, two creeks and two out door dance floors. There are 49 private cabins and 10 rental units. Alfred Celander, one of the early dedicated Swedes who worked so diligently to make this a charming place is being honored this year for his many contributions to create this Swedish enclave in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Anniversary Dinner Dance will be held in Sveadal on July 26th.
Alfred Bonde Celander was born in Kågeröd parish in Skåne on 30 November 1870. He was the son of Magnus Celander the local blacksmith. In 1886 the family moved to the Kågeröd church station where his father became a bricklayer. Alfred helped his father build a forge and machine shop which perhaps laid the groundwork for his later calling in life. He stayed there for 7 years and learned important information about the maintenance of railroads, machinery and farming equipment. After fulfilling his military service he decided to travel to America to further his skills in his chosen profession of mechanical engineering. His father had died several years before and mother remained active until she was 89. There were four brothers and six sisters in the family, several of them came to America.
Alfred was now 23 years old. He came to Chicago in 1893 in time to see the World’s exposition there. His first job was at an oleomargarine factory, then moving on to work in a bicycle factory. In 1900 to 1907 he was employed by a typewriter company in Kenosha, Wisconsin, eventually becoming the shop superintendent. From 1907 until the end of war, he was employed by an automobile manufacturer, Jeffery’s (Nash Motors) as the head of their tool shop.
While in Kenosha, Celander met and married Linnea Johnson from Eksjö, Småland in 1898. They had four children Hazel (Morrison), Alvin, Edith (Parker/Bergstrom) and Evelyn. The balmy climate of California attracted him and he moved the family to Oakland in 1918. He was soon employed by Hall Scott Motors. This company was perfect for Celander’s mechanical skills. The company was very prominent in developing engines for railcars, automobiles, trucks, buses, fire engines and other assorted industrial uses. He later served as a consulting engineer for Westinghouse.
Celander was very active in many Swedish organizations in the East Bay. He was president of the SAPL Branch No. 1 Oakland in 1926-27, and a member of Political Club, Swedish Society-Oakland, Tegnér, Svea Glee Club and the Shriners. Celander filed the first papers with the League to build a cabin in Sveadal on November 24, 1928. The location of the cabin was on the north side of Uvas Creek where a small dry wash comes down from the steep canyon side. Unfortunately, after some road work was done on the property above, a rain storm in January 1967 washed the cabin away. The only remnant of the cabin on the property is the masonry remains of the chimney and fireplace.
Celander had the foresight to keep a log book in his cabin that is full of interesting comments and information about what was going on in Sveadal during these early days. The old book was removed from the cabin and a new one started which went down with the cabin. Entries in the Tomtebo Log started July 1931. It is the only existing written record of the activities in Sveadal during those early years. The similar registry log book that was kept in the Clubhouse was destroyed in the fire of 1979. The last special thing I want to mention is the Janel redwood carving. Emil Janel, a well-known Swedish woodcarver, visited Celander’s cabin and carved the redwood stump in 1948. It is still there between two large Redwoods complete with a gleeful and impish expression. The Tomte/Troll that Janel carved is a very precious reminder of our deep and abiding Scandinavian heritage. I thought all the Sveadal trolls all lived at Yngve’s cabin under all those old stump creations that he collected. I was careful as a child to not walk by there at night.
Celander’s devotion to Sveadal was awesome. It is obvious that he dearly loved this place and took it upon himself to improve it. He had a group of compatriots who did the work that he outlined. They called themselves the Sveadal Improvement Club. Most of them were from the East Bay area. Some of the names most prominently mentioned were Frank Lockner, A.W. Gustafson, Ed Bergstrom, John Arnell, P.T. Erickson, Nils Eric Johnsson and others. A list of his projects is very impressive. Mimer’s Källa is the most spectacular. It took several years to complete his plan. In 1932, the League designated part of the area above the spring as a park, to try to keep the spring water in pristine condition. At the site they constructed drainage ditches, a rock wall with lily cup for the spring water, a pond, plants of all sorts, pathways up to the road and eventually to a foot bridge across the creek. The bronze dedication plaque has a poem inscribed there that Celander wrote himself.
Stendös, byggd att give Tusen Årig Mimer’s Källa Livskraft
Dig att svalka glädja Drick och njut i druvansdal
My rough translation is something like … This rock wall (dolmen) built to last a thousand years; Mimer’s Spring gives life’s sustenance those who quench their thirst gain strength and happiness, Drink and enjoy in the valley of the grapes.
It is not exactly what is said. But that is the substance of it. The Swedish is old and difficult to translate. One of the features that he had was a dolmen on top of the wall. A dolmen is three stones…two upright and one across the top (lintel) … similar to the Stonehenge arrangement. It was a very ancient and typical formation for a memorial graveyard or hallowed place. I think the word stendös means a dolmen…but it has been dropped from the language and I am making a guess. Mimer is from Scandinavian mythology, a character that possessed great wisdom. He lived near the root of a magical tree Yggdrasil, the fountain that flowed there was the source of all wisdom. Odin wanting to become very wise paid the required price for a few drops of this precious flow … and the price was the sight of one eye. The spring has now been condemned as a source of drinking water, contaminated from the area above … the wisdom today is … do not drink from this spring. Despite this, the area is a charming and lovely place to enjoy the solitude and peace in this beautiful redwood grove.
He was in charge of laying out all the private cabin lots and the park areas. He did some survey work early that showed that our neighbors to the west had encroached on our land. Recently, the County Park, our present neighbors to the west, has settled the boundary issue and purchased the acres involved. The Sveadal holdings are now 108.2 acres.
This man, Alfred Bonde Celander, was one of Sveadal’s great heroes. He certainly left his footprints in Sveadal to be admired by all of us for his skill, charm and devotion to the Swedes of this area, reminding us of our rich heritage in the folk lore and memory of Sweden.
Written by Muriel Nelson Beroza
Other articles on Traditions /
Lingon, tyttebaer, the lingonberry
The American Thanksgiving
Finns All Steamed Up Over Saunas
Strong Icelandic women: A true Saga
'Ich bin ein New Yorker'
59º25' North, 39º51' West
East Meets West
An Ode to the Crayfish