By: June Olsson Hess
Before the Swedes came, this was the roughest and toughest town between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was a real “wild west”shoot ‘em up town with bullet holes in every building, seven saloons, and one church. It was the hangout for the out-laws, like Joaquin Murietta, Evans and Sontag, and the Dalton boys…
In 1872, the railroad came throughand the town was called Kings River Switch. Two years later it was Wheatville. When it came time to ship the wheat, the railroad would raise their rates. It made the farmers mad. They were mad at the railroad anyway for taking their land so they would feed and house the train robbers.
In the late 1880s, a group of Swedes who had settled in Ishpeming, Michigan, got tired of the severe winters.
They sent a delegation to the west coast to look for a place with a mild climate and good farmland where they could all settle. This little group was led by Andrew Erickson. In their travels on the west coast, they ran into his cousin in San Jose, but the cousin lived here. His cousin was Judge Frank Rosendahl, a Justice of the Peace and a landscape architect who helped lay out Golden Gate Park and Central Park. He told his cousin, “Don’t de-cide on any place until you check out my town”. Land was cheap, farmland was good, and the climate was mild. They decided this would be a good place to settle. They notified family and friends and sent out brochures. And the Swedes came and cleaned up the town.
Around 1900 Kingsburg was almost 100% Swedish. Then there were seven churches and one saloon and people called it the “HolyCity.” In the 1920s the town was 94%Swedish within a three-mile radius. That’s the story of Kingsburg; the California town with a Swedish accent.