The Beginning of Vasa Order in California
By Ragnar Berg (1906-1983)

Ragnar Berg's The of Vasa Order in California was published as series of articles in Vestkusten 1982. Ragnar Berg was a member of Sveaborg, PDM and a Honorary Life Member of District 12. He joined  Sveaborg 1937 and was active to rebuild Sveaborg after the depression.  It will show the page in pdf format from Vestkusten.

Below is the OCR text of the articles from  California Digital Newspaper Collection.
Notes in [ ... ] and links in the text is from Sven-Ove Westberg  webmaster  of Sveaborg.

The Beginning of Vasa Order in California 

by Ragnar Berg 

Part I

(Ed.s note. Ragnar Berg is Past District Master and Life Member oj Golden Gate District. As Historian he compiled the history of the Vasa Order in California. We thought it interesting enough to share it with our readers.) 

The founding of Nordstjernan [see under Los Angeles, Sjukhjälpsförening] (North Star) Lodge No. 106, on January 15th 1907 in Los Angeles, established the Vasa Order of America west of the Allegheny Mountains. John E. Hammar, the organizer from the Grand Lodge, organized the North Star under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge. [It had over 100 members February 14  1907]

The second Vasa Lodge in California, and first in Northern California, organized by John Hammar, was Fylgia No. 119 in San Francisco, instituted on October 17th, 1907. Hammar was assisted by a group of dedicated Swedish people and Bernhard Anderson, previously a member of Vasa. 34 members were initiated at the first meeting. [The advertisement by Olof Johnston to gather people to found the lodge see "Landsmän, sen hit!", The announcement that Fylgia was created with the names of the first officers. They where active from the beginning,  in Vestkusten Nov 21 they announce a bal Nov. 30 1907 ]

The following year John Hammar organized Tegnér Lodge No. 149 in Oakland instituted on November 2nd, 1908. [Tegnér held its first bal Dec 26 1908. The membership fees 1910 in Fylgia and Tegnér.] On May 13th, 1910 Gustaf V, No. 175 in San Diego was organized. Edward Anderson and members of Fylgia and Tegnér lodges worked on organizing a lodge in Richmond. On April 23rd, 1911, Gustaf Vasa No. 187 was instituted.

In order to hold the five lodges together, the main purpose and most important, was to assist members in illness and have a closer contact with the local lodges. The question was brought up to organize a District Lodge in California Some preliminary work done, a meeting was called and delegates from each lodge in California met in San Francisco on August 6th, 1911, on Fylgia’s meeting night. California District Lodge No. 12 was then organized. Bernhard Anderson was elected the first District Master, Albert Almstedt from Los Angeles was elected Vice District Master and Peter Tengvall District Secretary. [California's second District convention in Los Angeles.]

The third District convention was held in Los Angeles on May 30th, 1914. [Reminder of the meeting.] By this time the district had increased by three lodges: Monitor No. 218 in Sacramento, Skandia No. 247 in Pasadena and Viking No. 256 in San Pedro. With the addition of three lodges and a substantial gain In members, it was decided at this meeting to form two districts, comprising one district in Southern California and one in Northern California. Two weeks later, on June 15th, 1914, a special meeting was held in Richmond to establish a dividing line. The selection of names to be Northern California (known as District Lodge No. 12, Golden Gate) and Southern California District Lodge No. 15. The Tehachapi Mountains to be the border between the two districts. Charles Johnson was elected District Master for District No. 12, Golden Gate. Edward Anderson was elected Vice District j Master and Peter Tengvall District Secretary. Bernhard Anderson was elected to the Grand Lodge convention in Jamestown, New York. [They decided to not have an insurance department within the order.]

The fourth District convention was held in Oakland in May 1915. Edward Anderson was elected District Master, Theodor Erickson as Vice District Master and Peter Tengvall District Secretary. Two lodges were organized, Balder No. 343 in Eureka, on July 1st, 1916 and Svea No. 348 in San Jose, August 29th, 1916. 

The fifth District Convention was held in San Jose in May 1919. Svea Lodge was the host. Theodore Erickson was elected District Master, Peter Tengvall, Vice District Master and Bernhard Anderson District Secretary. [Only two Vasa brothers died in the war. Vestkusten say the Convention was August 31 not in May see part 1 and part 2 second column from the right ]

[A letter from Balder that they will not be at the convention]

The sixth Convention [part 2] was held in Richmond on November 7th, 1920. Peter Tengvall was elected District Master, Agnes Anderson as Vice DM and Bernhard Anderson as District Secretary. On the seventh convention, held in Turlock on November 12th, 1921, Agnes Anderson, Tegnér was elected as District Master, Adolf Nelson, Svea, as Vice DM and Bemrard Anderson, Fylgia as District Secretary. Membership in the district was 1.079, a gain of 211.

[In September 1921 the district celebrates 400 anniversary of Gustav Vasas liberation of Sweden and the 25 year anniversary of the Vasa Order. ]

The eight convention [part 2] in San Francisco on November 18th, 1922. Adolf Nelson, Svea, was elected District Master, Nels Soderberg, Fylgia as Vice D.M. and Bernhard Anderson as District Secretary. There where now 11 lodges in the district with 1,196 members. [At the 1922 convention a decision was made to move the convention from the fall to March that's why there is no convention in 1923.] The ninth  convention was held in Berkeley on March 29—30, 1924. Nels Soderberg of Fylgia was elected District Master, Gustaf Lindstrom, Monitor, Vice D.M. and Bamhard Anderson as District Secretary. The district had 12 lodges with 1.357 members, and the district itself was 10 years old. 

The first decade of the district established the Vasa Order in Northern California. Eight lodges were organized and an estimate of 400 members in 1914 to 1,357 in 1924. Also the Fylgia Drill Team, initiation teams, folk dance clubs, etc. were formed. 

The opening day of the Swedish Pavilion and Sweden Day, on June 24th, 1915, at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco marked a big day in the history of Vasa. A parade was organized to march to the dedication of the Swedish Pavilion. The participation of Fylgia’s Drill Team in uniform, folkdancers in costumes, Initiation Teams, men and women and children in costumes, paraded for opening ceremonies. As said by people present, “if Vasa had not participated, it would not have been a parade”. [See special edition of Vestkusten for the exposition. Two pages cover the Vasa Order, page 1  page 2]

At that time district conventions were conducted according to ritual. Executive Board meetings were held four to six times each term, where the agenda was filled with such items as reading and approving local lodge by-laws, etc. The District Master and Vice District Master were to make as many as possible visitations to local lodges. 

The question of how to raise money for a retirement home kept coming up in District Master’s recommendations and the Executive Board Meetings. There is no record of when this project started. Most District Masters in their reports stressed the point to organize new lodges and membership drives.

Part II

The first decade of the Vasa Order in Golden Gate district, from 1914 to 1924, had ended. Now a new decade was beginning.

In 1925 the district convention was held March 28—29 in Stockton. Gustaf Lindstrom, Monitor Lodge, was elected District Master. Carl Nelson, Nord, Vice District Master and Edward Anderson, Fylgia, District Secretary. 

The 5th of July 1924 Grand Master Carl J. Rolander, paid a visit to District No. 12. The Grand Master visited Monitor in Sacramento, Fylgia in San Francisco and Tegnér in Oakland. He also visited Grand Lodge Deputy Adolf Nilson in San Jose. 

A recommendation at the Distinct Convention in 1925, that a referendum be taken from the local lodges whether to continue or discontinue the Retirement Horne Fund. The result of the vote was that 702 members voted to continue the fund and 506 voted to discontinue it. 

In 1926 the district convention was held in Oakland, where Carl Nilson, Nord Lodge, was elected District Master, Oscar Söder, Framåt, Vice DM and Edward Anderson, Fylgia, District Secretary. 

In 1926 a Children’s Club was organized by Tegnér Lodge in Oakland which was named Blåklockan

In 1926 there was also a visit by the Founder of the Order, the first Grand Master Nils Pearson and past Grand Master C. W. Malmquist. A meeting was arranged by the Executive Board and held at the Athens Athletic Club in Oakland where the founding fathers were the guests of honor. The same year a mass meeting was arranged of all organizations an the Bay Area and the Golden Gate District, to meet Their Royal Highness Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf and Crown Princess Louise, at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. A large assembly av Vasa members were there to great the Royal Couple of Sweden.[see page 1, page 2, page 3, page4] [Sveadal was inaugurated by the Crown Prins]

Sacramento was the place for the District Convention 1927. Oscar Söder of Framåt Lodge was elected District Master, Allan Johnson, Tegnér, Vice District Master, and Yngve Wolff, Tegnér, District Secretary. 

In June 1927 the ground breaking ceremonies by the Vasa Temple Association in downtown Berkeley was held, with a large number of Vasa members in attendance. In October 1927 the District Sick Benefit Fund was established with a membership of 75 within three months. 

The District Convention for 1928 [page 2] was held in Kingsburg, March 24— 25. Allan Johnson of Tegnér was elected District Master, Hjalmar Anderson, Tegnér Vice DM and Yngve Wulff, District Secretary. The 1929 District Convention was held in Palo Alto. Elected District Master was Hjalmar Anderson, Tegnér, Albin Westermark, Fylgia, Vice District Master and Yngve Wulff, District Secretary. Turlock was the site .for the District Convention 1930 [page 2] when Albin Westermark, Fylgia, was elected District Master, P.D.M. Carl Nelson Vice D.M. and Wulff District Secretary. In 1931 the District Meeting  [page 2] was held in Richmond. Albin Westermark was again elected District Master, Albert Carlson, Jenny Lind Lodge, vice D.M. and Wulff District Secretary. 

San Jose was the place for 1932 year’s convention [page 2], when Albert Carlson, Jenny Lind, was elected District Master, Fred Anderson, Fylgia Vice D.M. and Wulff District Secretary. In 1933 Fred Anderson was elected District Master at the convention in Petaluma [page 2], with Hjalmar Dahl, Odin, Vice D.M. and Wulff, District Secretary. The convention in 1934 [page 2] in San Francisco saw Hjalmar Dahl, Odin Lodge elevated to District Master, Joseph Larson, Tor, Vice D.M. and Wulff District Secretary. 

The Executive Board for the term o.f 1928 to 1929 held several meetings, some in conjunction with the Vasa Temple Association to solve the financial trouble of the Vasa Temple, as the response from the local lodges on pledges were not sufficient to cover the financial deficit. The Executive Board decided to call a special district convention for August 24, 1929 for the special purpose of solving the financial problems of the Vasa Temple Association. Delegates from all local lodges and interested people from other Scandinavian organizations in the Bay Area were present. 

It was decided to again ask the local lodges for pledges, as well as other organizations and individuals, for enough help to save the Vasa Temple. At the next convention in 1933, a direct appeal was made from the Vasa Temple Organization for the District Lodge to take 2nd mortgage payable in two years. The request was discussed at length but it was denied. (After reading all the minutes of meetings, one can realize the hesitancy of the local lodges to help, as this was in the midst of the worst depression in U.S. history.)  [ In 1932 Framåt moves back to the old meeting place from Vasa Temple. ]

As an example of the 1930’s the bank closed in Bay Point, and Sveaborg lodge lost all its money, and top of that, the lumber mill decided to move to another location. Thereafter the membership dropped  from 90 members to 7 in 1931.

In 1931 the District Lodge published the first annual program book for all local lodges. In 1929 Framåt Lodge in Berkeley formed a folk dance club. Phi Kappa Rho [English speaking] charter was lifted by District Master Albert Carlson in 1931, as the lodge had not paid any Grand Lodge or District Assessments since 1928 when it was organized. 

Exel Unum Lodge [English speaking]  in Oakland was disbanded December 1st, 1932. Ali members transferred to Tegnér Lodge, including all the lodge’s paraphernalia

The celebration of the first Sweden Day (Svenska Flaggans Dag) was held in Turlock on June 6th, 1931. The second Sweden Day was held at Nelson’s new Varsity Park in Palo Alto, June 4, 1932.

In 1932 Fylgia Lodge organized a children’s club with 50 charter members under the direction of Axel Erickson, Children’s Club Intendent. In June of 1932 the Golden Gate District had a visit of Grand Lodge delegates who were on their way home from the Grand Lodge Convention in Seattle. They stayed över in Oakland and San Francisco. In Oakland a large initiation of new candidates was arranged in hotel Whitcomb, at which time the Grand Lodge presented the District Lodge a traveling standard which they had earned for initiating the most new members over the period of three years, 1929 to 1932. The organization of eight new lodges and a gain in membership from 1300 to 2000 marks another successful decade in the Golden Gate District.

Part III

The third decade in Golden Gate District started with 18 lodges and about 2000 members. One lodge, Strindberg in Hayward, was disbanded by the end of 1934. 

In 1935 Joseph Larson, Tor lodge, served as District Master and Agda Galli, Fylgia, as Vice District Master. Ernest Erickson, Fylgia, District Secretary. Agda Galli became District Master in 1936 and Dave Erickson, Gustav Vasa, Vice District Master. John O. Peterson, Fylgia, was District Secretary. In 1937 Ernest Nystrom, Framåt, served as DM and A1 Johnson, Nord, as Vice DM. John O. Peterson as District Secretary. A1 Johnson became DM in 1938 and John O. Peterson moved up to be Vice DM. Ivar Menton took his place as Secretary. In 1939 John O. Peterson served as DM aud Axel Berglund, Tegnér, as Vice DM. Olga J. Soonson, Tegnér, was District Secretary. 

Axel Bereland, Tegnér, served as DM in 1940 and Ivar Menton, Framåt, av Vice DM, Olga Soonson as Secretary. In 1941 Ivar Menton  became DM and Gust Newberg, Tor Vice DM with Olga Soonson as Secretary. She was elevated to District Master in 1942 and Daniel Birgers, Fylgia, served as Vice DM. Ernest Erickson, Fylgia, came back as Secretary. In 1943 Daniel Birgers served as DM with John Hallvar, Jenny Lind, as Vice, and Harold Blomquist, Fylgia, filled the Secretary’s chair. In 1944 John Hallvar, Jenny Lind, acted as D(M and Anders Kilström, Tegnér, as Vice DM. Olga Soonson, Tegnér, was back as District Secretary. And in 1945 Anders Kilström served as District Master with J. E. Hedquist, Framåt, as Vice District Master. Harold Blomquist, Fylgia was District Secretary. 

During the years between 1934 to 1944 it became apparent that the members of the second and third generation of Swedish Descent could not speak or understand the Swedish language. The Grand Master gave permission to the District Lodge to permit local lodges to use the English ritual under one condition, that the opening and closing be conducted in the Swedish language. This was practiced for a few years, but by 1944 twelve (12) lodges were using English ritual and writing and talking the minutes in English. By 1945 and 1946 all lodges, and also the District Lodge, conducted the meetings in English, and most of the correspondence and minutes were in English. 

Sweden Day 1933 was also held at Nelson Varsity Park in Palo Alto. Sweden Day 1934 through 1946 was held at Björnson Park, Crow Canyon near Hayward. 

In 1934 a recommendation to send an invitation to the Grand Lodge to hold the 1938 Grand Lodge Convention in San Francisco was made. This recommendation passed. The District Secretary was instructed to send an invitation to the Grand Lodge convention in session in Winnipeg, Canada, June 1935. 

The Executive Board held several meetings with City officials in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Tourist Bureau, to plan for the Grand Lodge convention. The Tourist Bureau made hundreds of California Poppies (Vallmo in Swedish) the purpose being to give them to delegates and visitors. They also donated two large banners in Swedish colors with the inscription “San Francisco welcome you in 1938”- . The City of San Francisco paid the duty and freight charges to send these paraphernalia to Canada. If the invitation to hold the Grand Ledge Convention would be accepted, the City would assist with financial help. The Civic Auditorium was also reserved for one day. 

Telegrams were also sent to the following California dignitaries Gov. Merriam, Mayor Rossi, the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourist Bureau and the Scandinavian Civic League, as well as Golden Gate District Lodge No. 12. The telegrams bore welcome to San Francisco in 1938. But everything was made in vain. The Grand Lodge Convention in 1938 was held in Philadelphia, PA! 

At the District Convention in 1936, hosted by Fylgia lodge in San Francisco, in marched 15 Past District Masters, of whom one was a lady. It was announced that at that weekend a Past District Masters’ Club was organized. 

In August of 1937, the Grand Master, Bernhard Krafft, made a one day visit to Golden Gate District. There was a breakfast meeting with the district officers present, also a lunch meeting with the East Bay lodges and a dinner meeting with Fylgia lodge, which was followed by a joint initiation of new members, hosted by Tor lodge. 

Joseph G. Karlson was appointed to look into the possibility of starting a circulating library, which was eventually done, with Albin Westermark as librarian for several years. 

At the World’s Fair on Treasure Island, August 5th, 1939, was designated as Sweden’s Day. The participants were Vasa Dance Club, Fylgia Drill Team and Children’s Clubs from Golden Gate District. Other Swedish organisations in the Bay Area also participated. The Executive Board had 3000 fly leaves printed which were distributed the same day at the Fair Grounds. These leaflets gave information about ali the Vasa lodges in the district —location, meeting time, reasons why one should be a Vasa member etc. A recommendation that 10% of the net income from Sweden Day be donated to Sweden to support Finnish people, who are seeking asylum in Sweden, was also passed. In 1941, a year later, it was decided to send this money directly to District No. 19 in Sweden, as they would be in the best position to judge where the money were most need.

In 1940 a recommendation that the annual program book for 1941 be printed in English for all local lodges was made. 

In 1942 all Vasa members in the Armed Forces were relieved of paying dues and per capita tax, but could not draw sick benefit. But they were entitled to funeral benefits.

Sweden Day in 1944 and 1945 was arranged to be held in Jenny Lind Hall in Oakland, due to gas rationing during the war years.

Part IV

In 1944 the Grand Master, Carl W. Johnson — asked the Golden Gate District for a history to be printed in the Golden Jubilee booklet for the years of 1896 through 1946. Ivar Menton was appointed to write the history. 

In 1945 a recommendation passed that the two following members of the District Lodge be added to the Executive Board: The Junior Past District Master and the Vice District Master. 

During the years 1946 and 1946 the local lodges and individuals had donated a total of $340.00 towards adoption of war refugee children through “Säve the Children” (Rädda Barnen in Swedish). At a cost of $96.00 per child per year the district adopted 3 children — 1 boy and 2 girls. $288 was forwarded the ‘Säve the Children International Union” , of which “Rädda Barnen” was a member. 

In 1946 at the District convention a motion was made and seconded that the district go on record to have a Golden Jubilee Festival sponsored by the Golden Gate District No. 12.

On April 11th, 1943 a resolution was sent to the President of United States with the following message: "Whereas the Golden Gate District Lodge No. 12, Vasa Order of America, is fully aware of the immense importance to all democratic and liberty loving people that the great war now being waged by the United Nations against the Axis powers leads to the complete destruction of the Axis; and whereas the Golden Gate District Lodge No. 12, Vasa Order of America, fully understands and appreciates the measures taken by the administration in Washington, D.C. in concert with the governments of the other United Nations to effectively wage this war; be it therefore resolved that the Golden Gate District Lodge No.12, V.O.A. in convention assembled herewith expresses to the Hon. Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, it’s loyalty to the administration and its full and unanimous support of the war effort, with the hope and confidence that the combined efforts of the United Nations will soon render us victorious; and be it further resolved that this resolution be spread upon the minutes of this convention, and that one copy be  forwarded to Hon. Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United !  States.” Signed: Elin Carlson, Arthur Pearson, Inez Christianson Santos, Committee on resolutions.

Two years later, the committee, who was to present the jeep to the Army, was informed that the government could not accept gifts from organizations or individuals, but suggested that our organization buy war bonds for the price of a jeep. This was carried out.

It was then moved that the resolution to the President be followed by action and that each member be assessed 50 cents toward the purchase of a jeep to be presented to the government. The motion was then amended as follows: “The Executive Board shall be authorized to request the local lodges to solicit voluntary contributions from the members amounting to at least 50 cents per member, or to raise a similar amount by some other means.”

The third decade of the Golden Gate District ended with 16 lodges with 1,642 members. 65 members were in the United States Armed Forces. 

Ragnar Berg, Historian 

(Ed:s note: Hére endis Ragnar Berg’s history. It is our understanding that the history of the following decades of Golden Gate District is being under research.) 

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