Steve Bostrom: Lars and Easter | Columnists
It’s not Easter; but Easter is coming. My great-grandfather, Lars (1855-1937), loved Easter.
Before we begin the humble story of Lars, listen to the words of another carpenter, Jesus. He knew his good news would be cherished everywhere. Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end shall come.”
Lars Magnus Bostrom has a story worth telling to the nations. We know her story through a genealogy, an obituary and stories from her youngest child, my great-aunt Ruth (1899-1985).
Flashback to the late 1800s – a quarter (!) of Swedes left the rigors of Sweden for America.
The Swede Lars and his wife, Martha Wiberg (1855-1920), were born 244 miles apart. Married 5/24/1882, 9/9/1882, they emigrated from Sweden to Hull, England, then to New York on the Republic, arriving 10/11/1882.
So how did they get to Topeka – or was it Lindsborg, Kansas? We have lost track.
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What gifts Martha gave Lars there: 11/6/1885, their first child, Esther Marie; On Christmas Day 1887, the BIG Family Bible. We still have that Bible. And, 1/1890, Martha introduced Lars and Esther with her son/brother, Victor.
Victor’s asthma prompted him to benevolently relocate to the bracing, less humid, mountainous air of Denver, Colorado. How did they make this 450 mile trip?
And what job would Lars find in Denver? Remarkably, he took a job making the large wooden doors for the new Colorado Capitol! What a building! Constructed from white Colorado granite, it would open in November 1894.
Aunt Ruth told me that Lars worked there in early 1893 during President Grover Cleveland’s second term. Then the Panic of 1893 caused the nation’s finances to collapse.
Using a planer to make one of the Capitol’s large doors, Lars slipped, removing the last three fingers of his right hand.
Somehow, Lars succeeded.
But now Lars couldn’t even hold a hammer with his right hand. Martha, pregnant, did the laundry to support the family.
Somehow, the Norse settlers near Kiowa, about 50 miles southeast of Denver, beckoned.
With $25 in savings, Lars, heavily pregnant Martha, Esther (8), and Victor (3) led the wagon horses to Kiowa.
Lars and Martha, 38, staked a 160-acre property seven miles east of Kiowa. My grandfather’s birth certificate lists his birth as “3/31/1893, Elbert County,” Kiowa. Lars and Martha named their son, “Louis” (“Famed Warrior”) “Theophilus” (“Lover of God”).
All his years Grandpa wondered how to snatch/receive life from this farm/ranch. As a boy, I loved the farm which grew into a 640 acre section.
Back to Lars’ story: With no trees to use for construction, Lars and Martha dug a dry creek bank – put a frontage and atop it and called it home – for 14 years. Emil Romandus (1896-1986) and Ruth Naomi were born there. Lars and Martha were 41 and 44 when these gifts arrived. Unfortunately, Victor died there in 1904, at the age of 14.
When funds ran low, Lars saddled up and traveled to Denver to work at the Hallack Lumber Company. Once, when he was gone, cowboys drove cattle over the Bostroms’ crops. When Bostrom’s dogs tried to hunt cattle, the cowboys shot the dogs.
Meanwhile, other Colorado residents thrived. In 1908, to commemorate the Colorado Gold Rush, they covered the Capitol dome with real gold leaf! Inconceivable!
Martha, a trained midwife, helped deliver 60 children in Elbert County. Once, Martha cared for a sick Norwegian farmer for two weeks. After recovering, he paid her a dollar. She said, “Don’t ever call me again.”
Alas, in 1920, Martha died of the Spanish flu. Reverend Bolander, her beloved pastor, conducted her funeral. He praised Marthe as an ardent Christian who often asked him to speak longer of the glory and goodness of Our Lord, the balm of his soul.
For 17 years, Lars will be without his “true companion”.
Two months after Martha’s funeral, Reverend Bolander officiated the wedding of homesteader Louis T. Bostrom and Denverite pianist Esther Marie Lindblom, 04/10/1920.
Flashback to Lars’ firstborn, Esther, marrying a secret Mason, Davies. Years later, with her sons John (5) and Louis (3), she returned to her farm with her boys to find that her husband had disappeared with their savings, the wagon and the hitch. They never heard from him again.
Emil, the first to graduate from high school, won a scholarship to the University of Chicago. Leaving his plans aside, he supported his sister’s family for 13 years. People told him he was stupid to waste his best years. He trusted God.
Eventually, when Emil pursued his own calling, he married, became Colorado’s first Massey-Ferguson dealer, and was elected both an elder of the Presbyterian Church and mayor of Elizabeth, Colorado. Dad, an only child, loved his jovial uncle “Bim”. Me too.
The widower Lars lived on Esther’s farm in a “small” house – a room for a bed, a table and a chair and a small kitchen.
Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, despite Lars’ many potentially heartbreaking sorrows, Easter was his favorite day. His Easter habit was to visit nearby farms early on Easter morning – proclaiming, “He is risen.” In response, Lars heard, “He is truly risen! Alleluia!
What motivated such enduring faith? In Swedish, “Bostrom” apparently means: “bo” – “one who lives near” + “strom” – “a stream”. Lars believed in John 7:37: “Jesus cried” (literally, roared), “IF ANYONE THIRST, LET HIM COME TO ME AND DRINK.” 38HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, AS THE SCRIPTURE HAS SAID, ‘OUT HIM WITHIN WILL FLOW RIVERS OF LIVING WATER.’” Aha, the perpetual refreshing of the soul generated by heaven!
What a surprise, when, in the midst of the Great Depression, on Easter 1937, Lars did not visit his neighbors.
At his home, they found Lars’ seven-day clock rolled up with Lars’ body sitting at the table, his Bible open to the Easter story. As Lars read about the reality-changing resurrection of Jesus, God called Lars, his dear blood-bought son, home!
It is a story worth proclaiming to the nations!
Friend, may God give you such a story!
Steve Bostrom is ordained by the Presbyterian Church in America. To contact him, send an e-mail to: [email protected]