By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.
When I passed by the park Saturday, I thought about how it came about. Mr. Bergland, who was a foreman at the railroad shops, donated the land with the hope that it would become the courthouse square. When that didn’t materialize the city decided to make it a park and the only recognition Mr. Bergland received was a street named for him.
He made a trip back to his native Sweden and encouraged several skilled mechanics to come back with him for better paying jobs and a much better life. The Swedes assimilated into their new country and were accepted into the community, where they became model citizens.
They wrote to friends and relatives in Sweden about the better life and more families came to Water Valley where most settled northwest of what is now the park and for years the area was call “Swede Town.”
People also came from Norway, but to the locals they were all Swedes. Most had been Lutherans in the old country and since there was no Lutheran church in town, a majority became part of the Episcopal congregation.
In addition to Mr. Bergland there were the Ericsons, the Aunes, the Vanderbergs, Hylanders and the Jernbergs, to name a few. Since the first ones originally went to work for the railroad, many followed in their foot steps. Levy Vanderburg was a conductor in my dad’s day and Butler Vanderburg became a railroad official.
His son, Charles, and I were friends through school and graduated in the same class.
In the late 19th and early 20th Century, Water Valley was a real melting pot. In addition to the ones from Sweden and Norway, immigrants came from England, Ireland, Scotland, Bohemia, Alsace, Lorraine, and Germany.
To me they represent what built this country; poor, hard-working immigrants determined to make a better life for themselves and their children. They learned English and were proud to be Americans. I’m proud to have descended from an English immigrant, but more than anything else I’m proud to be an American because we’re the best in the world. Some might say that’s arrogance but to paraphrase the late Babe Ruth, “It’s not bragging if it’s true.”
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P. O. Box 613189, Memphis, TN 38101, and have a great week.