Friday, July 6, 2007

Peter Gunnarson RAMBO 1612-1698

Peter Gunnarson Rambo was born about 1612 in Hisingen, Sweden. He arrived in America on 17 April 1640 aboard the ship, Kalmar Nyckel, which reached port in "New Sweden" after a far from pleasant journey; the voyage is described in a letter he wrote to his sister in Sweden which has been preserved in Sweden. Peter brought apple seeds with him that were named for him: the Rambo Apple which was the apple distributed by Johnny Appleseed. Peter was well-known by William Penn and served in many official capacities. He was the founder of the first Swedish Lutheran Church in the colonies located originally on Tinicum Island and later moved to Wicaco where it is known as Gloria Dei (Old Swedes Church). Following the Revolutionary War, the congregation became Anglican. It is located near Penn's Landing in downtown Philadelphia.
On 7 April 1647, Peter married Brita Mattsdotter, who was born about 1630, a Swedish girl born in Swedish-occupied Vasa, Finland. Nothing is known of her family apart from the family name, Mattsdotter, meaning she was Brita, the daughter of Matt. She was most likely named for one of her grandmothers or aunts. First daughters were named for the mother’s mother; second daughters were named for the father’s mother.

Brita Mattsdotter would not stay in Vasa, unlike most Swedish daughters in the seventeenth century. She probably made the voyage to America before her eighteenth birthday, before the arrival of the ship Swan in January of 1648. She was not listed on the passenger lists after that date. According to historian, Dr. Peter Craig, she may have been an unnamed servant girl arriving in 1641 (see the Swedish Colonial Society Archives).

It is easy to imagine a Scandinavian girl: fair-skinned, rosy red cheeks kissed by winter’s icy breath, heaven spilling over into eyes of blue. Brita would have danced with delight in springtime as the snow melted--freeing her from winter’s heavy clothing. She would have rejoiced when the sun’s golden orb increased the days of summer seeming to say, “Brita Mattsdotter, I am sorry for my long winter’s absence, come, enjoy me to the fullest for I cannot stay with you long.” She inhaled summer to the dregs, knowing autumn would send her scurrying to prepare for snowfall.

During winter, the family likely dwelled in a home built into the earth for warmth. Without sunlight, Brita’s mother would have taught her handwork at a very early age, learning how to card wool, turn it into fabric, and create clothing embellished with fine embroidery.

In early June, the women's job was to move the animals to the seter (a portion of the farm higher in the mountains) for the greener pastures. Housing on the seter was primitive requiring strong women to manage such conditions. (Scandinavian men are good-looking and the women are strong!) Here the women made the richest cream and sweet butter from the lush grasses. Without doubt, Brita ate heartily when her mother served sockerkaka (sugar cake) with wild strawberries and heavy cream.

We may never know why Brita left Vasa for the New World. Had her parents died young leaving her an orphan? There are so many questions that remain my imagination takes flight seeking stories behind the historical facts.

Peter was eighteen years older than Brita at the time of their marriage in 1647. She was likely less than 18 and he was 35. How did they meet? Was he so ruggedly handsome she thought he hung the moon? Was he totally besotted by her eyes so blue? Did they take an earthy delight in each other - with love and laughter? Soon my mind is spinning another story!

Peter and Brita had eight children. Brita died on 12 October 1693 at the young age of 63 and Peter died 12 January 1698 at age 86.

Fortunately, a wonderful new book on the Rambo family is now available in print(authored by Ron S. Beatty); perhaps you will discover insights that can be informative for me. Information about the book and an accompanying CD can be found on this link:

If you think you might connect to this family, you might want to investigate the website of the Swedish Colonial Society and look in their archives; I would encourage membership in this fine organization:
Or you can join the rootsweb Rambo List:

Send an E-mail to the link and add Subscribe in the subject of the E-mail.

If you know any great stories about Peter and Brita, write to me!


Ron Beatty said...

AttaGirl Cynthia. You are a marvelous storyteller and know how to sparkle the imagination.
Now I'll have to redo my web page again to link over to yours here.

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Ron Beatty said...

Smooch. That's probably the long & short of the story of their romance.

Ellawinn said...

I am a descendant of Peter Jr. Thank you for this lovely story.
Tara Timmerman, MD of NYC

Ron Beatty said...

Thank you for your kind words, EllaWinn!