Where Did Early 20th Century Bethel Students Come From?

Next week I’ll have lots more to say about how the people of Bethel and other Swedish-Americans experienced World War I, in light of the “100 percent American” nativism of that time. But while I was working on those posts, it occurred me that I could pretty easily visualize just how much of an immigrant school Bethel still was in 1917-18.

Using the “Class History” section of the school’s yearbook, I recorded the place of birth for each graduate of Bethel Academy between 1909 (the first year we have a yearbook available) and 1919, the class whose members started their senior year while American forces were on the offensive in France and finished it while the postwar peace conference was wrapping up at Versailles.

It’s an imperfect system: Birthplaces were missing for a handful of students, and other locations were hard to track down. In particular, Swedish parishes and provinces have changed names over time — in about nine or ten cases I had to substitute the most likely county as they’re divided nowadays. With one exception, children of missionaries had no birthplace more specific than the country.

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