Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley
Concord Avenue at monument in Chester
May 21, 1955
The following year, he died at sea en route to New Sweden on board the Haj and was buried in Puerto Rico. Although the Queen's loyal Finnish soldier never made it to the colony, many other Finns did settle there. Indeed, approximately half of the settlers of New Sweden were Finns.
Few of New Sweden's Finnish settlers, however, received Besk's royal treatment. At the time Sweden ruled Finland, and although some Finns came to the colony voluntarily, many more were transported there against their will. Finns and Swedes alike, deserters from the army, forest burners, insolvent debtors, poachers and others, were all banished to New Sweden as punishment for their crimes.
Some of the Finns had been convicted of violating Swedish laws against starting fires and cutting down trees in Scandinavian forests. The fledgling colony needed skilled lumbermen, however, and the Finnish convicts built many of New Sweden's log houses, forts and trading posts.
When the English arrived in the Delaware Valley in 1682, the Finns and the Swedes had been living here for more than forty years. As the newcomers settled and took control of the region, they named a number of places after the people who were already living in the area, including Finland Cave in Montgomery County.
Finns and their descendants played a major role in American history. A descendant of Finnish settlers, John Morton, signed the Declaration of Independence after serving in the Pennsylvania colonial assembly and was a member of the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and the First and Second Continental Congresses. When his grandfather Morten Mortenson arrived in New Sweden in the mid-seventeenth century, he built a small cabin out of oak logs near present-day Essington, Pennsylvania. In the decades that followed, the family added another log home next to the original and eventually connected the two separate buildings together with stone walls.
Today the Mortenson homestead in Prospect Park is maintained by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Another memorial to the Finns of the Delaware Valley, a pink marble statue carved by Finnish sculptor Waino Aaltonen, represents the first Finnish pioneers in America. Presented as a gift from the nation of Finland to the United States in 1938, it is located in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Sharon Hernes Silverman, "History Lessons from the Morton Homestead," Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine
25, 1 (Winter 1999). Available at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/places/4278/morton_homestead_%28ph%29/472265