The Berggren Brothers of Ishpeming, Michigan, who died together
in an 1889 mine accident, are featured this Tombstone Tuesday.
Lars Erik and Per August Berggren met “their fate in the usual way,” while mining iron ore in the Cleveland mine in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Vendla Larson, my 1C2R, wrote to me at length about the Berggren brothers when I first started family research in 1977. Ninety years after their deaths, it was clear that their loss still reverberated in the family. But it wasn’t quite clear how they were related to my family. Decades later, I am working to clarify both the fate of the Berggren brothers and where they fit on my tree.
Finding Local Records on the Berggren Brothers
In 2010, I visited the Upper Peninsula for the first time, finding some very helpful “yoopers” during my research.
At the local historical society, I found the news article about the mine accident. (Before I left, I contacted them about my research goals, always a good idea.)
Erick and August emigrated from Lindesberg, Örebro, Sweden, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with their widowed mother, Lovisa Persdotter Berggren. Erick married Mathilda Lind, the daughter of a friend, in July 1885, in Ishpeming. August was unmarried.
After the accident, their grieving mother Lovisa, and Lars’s wife of four years, Mathilda, were left to mourn. Matilda was 25 when she was widowed. She never remarried, living with her mother-in-law Lovisa until Lovisa died in 1930. Mathilda died two years later at the age of 61, having lived as a widow for 43 years.
The Berggren Brothers’ Tombstone
The elaborate monument to Erik and August suggests that their fellow miners took up a collection. The inscriptions on the stone are in Swedish, but in addition to the all-important names and dates, all I could make out was “Till Minne Av” (In Memory Of). The Swedish, the deteriorating sandstone, decades of extreme weather, and the lichen obscured the rest.
The women who mourned the rest of their long lives are buried in the same plot, but have no grave markers. But they all rest together in the city cemetery in Ishpeming, Michigan.
Stay tuned for more research on their Swedish records.
This story made me think of the Chilean miners who have been trapped for so long, and of the West Virginia miners who died earlier this year. This accidents have been going on for generations, and are part of many people’s family history.