About Thomas the Finn Jacobsson
Among the many Finns arriving in former New Sweden on the Mercurius in 1656 was the family of Thomas Jacobsson from Letstigen, Värmland, which included his wife, three children and a maid. With them was the family of Pål Persson which also included his wife, three children and a maid. New Sweden was then under Dutch rule and the two families decided to settle on the colony’s western frontier at a place on the north side of the Christina River called “Bread and Cheese Island,” located at the junction with White Clay and Red Clay creeks.
By the time a grant was issued on this land in 1666, Pål Persson had died and his eldest son Olof Pålsson and Thomas Jacobsson were named owners of the land. Both were leaders in the area. Olle Pålsson became the clerk of the Swedish church at Crane Hook. Thomas Jacobsson held the title of lieutenant of the militia.
In 1671 Thomas Jacobsson became notorious (among the English) and famous (among the Finns) for his leadership role in the rebellion against Judge Hans Block’s dike. The Dutch judge, desiring better road access between his plantation north of Sand Hook and the capital at New Castle, persuaded his fellow judges to issue an order requiring all freemen to contribute labor to build the road through swampland for Judge Block’s private benefit. Lieutenant Thomas Jacobson, by his mark (“T”) was the first name on the protest against doing this forced labor.
The English sheriff William Tom addressed Governor Andros claiming that “a number of the inhabitants in such a mutinous and tumultuous manner, being led by the priest Jacob Fabritius and others, including Thomas Jacobsson, some having swords, some pistols, others clubs with them,” insisted they would not work on Block’s dike. The end result was that Thomas Jocobsson and his two adult sons (Olle and Peter Thomasson) were each fined 20 guilders for their refusal to work on Block’s dike and Thomas Jacobsson himself was fined 400 guilders for his leadership role in the rebellion.
Thomas Jacobsson was a prosperous farmer who assembled substantial lands for his sons Olle, Peter and Christiern Thomasson. He left his home plantation at Bread & Cheese Island to his son Olle. He acquired land on White Clay Creek in 1676 for his son Peter, and was instrumental in securing land at Tacony in the present Philadelphia area for his son Christiern.
Our last glimpse of Thomas Jacobsson was on 9 January 1679 when an English orphan, Charles Hedges, was indentured to him by the New Castle court, after Thomas Jacobsson promised that his son Olle Thomasson would “larne the boy to read as much as he could teach him.” Thomas Jacobsson died before 14 October 1679 when his son Olle represented the family in signing a mill agreement with other property owners in the area of Bread & Cheese Island.
Thomas Jacobsson left no will. However, four sons have been identified, the eldest of whom became a Lenape Indian chief:
1. Jacob Thomasson, the eldest, born in Sweden, was kidnaped as a small child by the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. He is first mentioned in surviving documents in a letter from Pastor Andreas Sandel to his family in Sweden, written on 17 June 1702: “A Swede, when he was a little boy, went out picking berries in the forest and was taken by the Indians. Now he lives among these wild heathens and won’t return.”
As later described to Pastor Ericus Björk, based on a report by the Swedish Indian trader John Hans Steelman: “Now it once happened at the Christina congregation that two brothers [Jacob and Olof] rambled together away from the house in the woods, of whom the one became lost. The parents couldn’t find the child again, but came to the conclusion that some heathen had kidnaped the child. The parents went around for many years and sought after the child, but could get no news of him, because those Indians were far away. At long last it happened that [John Hans Steelman], who carried on aa large trade with the heathens, comes among the said group and engages in conversation with their king. Then it seemed to him from all the circumstances that he was not of heathen but Christian blood. And as he had heard some discussion of it, therefore he let the kidnaped boy’s brother, Olle Thomsson, know about it. They traveled now to the king and believed they recognized him, but weren’t able to say anything. But finally the king came home to Olle Thomsson, where they so arranged it that they were found to be brothers by that which childhood memory brought to hand. With embraces and tears they heartily rejoiced together. And he had then been king among them a long time. Preparations were made to get him away from there. But the heathens were ill-disposed and became alarmed, and thus would not let their king go anywhere alone. On account of his wise and capable rule among them he was much respected and had accrued a great reputation. Afterwards he was killed there.”
It seems certain that Jacob Thomasson, the Lenape Indian chief, had surviving descendants, but recorded history does not provide proof. However, there is strong circumstantial evidence that he not only had children but also that his descendants remained prominent among the Lenape or Delaware Indians. This was the opinion of my mentor Dr. C. A. Weslager, the noted historian, who wrote several books about the Delaware Indians and their westward migration. His principal source for interpretation of Lenape words was the late Nora Thompson Dean (known as “Touching Leaves”) whose grandfather Joseph Thompson was one of the signers of an 1860 letter by leaders of the Delaware Indians seeking lands in the Indian Territory (present Oklahoma). Dr. Weslager related to me that “Touching Leaves” claimed that the family tradition included the story that they had a Swedish ancestor.
2. Olof Thomasson, the second son, was also born in Sweden. As presumably the eldest son of Thomas Jacobsson, he inherited his father’s 200-acre plantation at “Bread and Cheese Island.” In 1689 he added 200 acres more, half of which he sold to Bengt Pålsson (son of Pål Persson) in 1697. After the arrival of Pastor Ericus Björk in 1697, Olle Thomasson became a stalwart supporter of the new church. He gave £5 for its construction, transported lumber by canoe to the building site and volunteered his service and two horses for hauling other materials. In June 1699 he and his wife Helena were assigned pews in the new Holy Trinity Church.
Illness struck in 1699. Olof Thomasson wrote his will on 4 November 1699, by which he left one of his plantations at Bread & Cheese Island to his eldest son Peter, his plantation on Mill Creek to his second son Paul Thomasson, and his home plantation on Bread & Cheese Island to his youngest son Olle Thomasson. He died before 1701, when his widow was listed owner of his properties. His widow Helena was still living in 1704 when she was granted £4 by John Hans Steelman, but she died soon thereafter.
The 1693 census had shown nine persons in his household. This probably included Charles Hedges and his younger brother Joseph Hedges. Three others were his own sons. Only one of two presumed daughters has been identified. The four known children were:
Peter Thomasson, the eldest son, died unmarried and without issue. His brother Paul Thomasson inherited his land. Paul Thomasson married Hileke, the daughter of John Boyer of New Castle about 1700. He wrote his will on 4 February 1707, declaring himself a resident of Red Clay Creek Hundred, New Castle County. He gave his lands to his only child Eleanor. She married John Twiggs, 16 February 1721, and had eight children: Abraham (who married Sarah Bird, 24 September 1747), Anne (who married John Ferguson), Mary (who married 1st Eric Stalcop in 1746 and 2nd Joshua Watson), Sarah (who married Matthew Glenn), Eleanor (who married John Marten), John, Rebecca and Hannah (who married Nathan Scothorn in 1759). Olle Thomasson, Jr., survived his two older brothers. On 28 June 1721 he sold his 135 acres at Bread & Cheese Island to Charles Justis, Jr., of the Wicaco congregation. Not further traced. Maria Thomasson, the only known daughter, married Bärtil (alias Bartholomew) Johnson of Elk River, Cecil County c. 1712. He was the son of Simon Johansson, one of the first settlers of present Elkton, Maryland. They had three children: Anna (who married Cornelius Clements & Henry Pennington); Maria (who married Conrad Garretson) and Susanna. 3. Peter Thomasson was fined 20 guilders in the 1671 dike rebellion and in 1676 was granted a patent for a plantation on White Clay Creek. He died unmarried and without issue before 4 December 1682 when his brother and heir Olof Thomasson sold one-half of the land.
4. Christiern Thomasson, the youngest son, turned his attention to the northern Swedish community in present Pennsylvania. On 25 October 1675 Walter Wharton surveyed for Eric Mullica, Olle Nilsson Gästenberg and Christiern Thomasson a tract of 950 acres at Tacony. On division of the land, Christiern Thomasson secured 160 acres for himself. In January 1683 he was naturalized by William Penn. He appears to have confronted economic misfortune, as in 1685 he sold a meadow to Anna Salter and owed her money at her death in 1688. In the next year he sold his farm to Henry Mallows, but both parties died before the deed was executed. The May 1693 census of the Swedes on the Delaware listed Christiern Thomasson’s widow with six in the household. She died before 1697.
The children of Christiern Thomasson were:
Anna Thomasson, born 1674, married Swan Rambo, son of Peter Rambo, Jr., c. 1700. In 1713, she and her husband joined her three surviving siblings (Maria, Thomas and Lawrence) in executing a deed to Henry Mallows’ widow Sarah for the land sold by their father in 1689. Anna died by 1719 when Swan Rambo married 2nd Barbara (surname unknown). Swan Rambo moved to the Swedish settlement on the upper Schuylkill River where he died at Cacoosing Creek in Lancaster County in 1730. Anna had eight children, at least two of which lived beyond infancy: Christian Rambo (born 1708, died in 1748 in Virginia) and Lawrence Rambo (born 1713, died in Abbeville, South Carolina). On 2 February 1773, Lawrence Rambo of Granville County, South Carolina, executed a deed to Gloria Dei Church conferring rights which his grandfather, Peter Rambo, Jr., had owned for the benefit of the church. Maria Thomasson, born 1676, married Lawrence Boore, Jr., son of Lars Larsson and Elisabeth Bjur in 1699. Born in 1678, Lawrence Boore lived his entire life at Pennypack in Lower Dublin Township, Philadelphia County. He served as a warden and vestryman of Gloria Dei Church and one year (1733) as a justice of the peace in Philadelphia County. His will of 12 October 1745, proved 16 August 1746, named six surviving children: Andrew (who married Gertrude Cox in 1731 and died in 1765), Joseph (who married Elizabeth Paxton in 1743 and died in 1748), Peter Boore (who married Mary Hall in 1755), Mary (who married John Chamberlain), Thomas (who married Elisabeth) and Benjamin. Thomas Thomasson, born c. 1679, married Elizabeth [parents not identified]. In 1704 he donated 15 shillings toward the cost of completing the side porches at Gloria Dei Church. He served as a church warden at Gloria Dei in 1709-1710. In 1713, under the name of Thomas Thompson, as son and heir of Christiern Thompson, he received a patent for 160 acres in Oxford Township, paid 40 bushels of wheat as settlement for overdue quitrents (taxes) on the land since 1689 and, with his siblings, conveyed the land to widow Sarah Mallows in 1714. Thomas Thompson of the City of Philadelphia wrote his will on 27 April 1734, naming his wife Elizabeth executrix and sole heir. He was buried the next day in the “Stranger’s ground” at Christ Church. Lars Thomasson, born c. 1682, also donated 15 shillings in 1704 toward the cost of completing the side porches at Gloria Dei. He subsequently married Grace Smith, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Smith of Darby Township, Chester County. On 16 April 1711, as Lawrence Thompson, he purchased 200 acres in the Manor of Moreland from Nicholas and Priscilla Moore for £80. Lawrence and his wife Grace mortgaged the latter property in 1713. The mortgage was satisfied in 1723. Their first child, Sarah Thompson, was remembered in her grandmother Sarah Smith’s will of 8 July 1715. This family has not been further traced. It is probable, however, that they had two sons who followed their Rambo in-laws to Lancaster County and then to North Carolina: Lawrence Thompson, Jr., married Sarah Finney c. 1735 and wrote his will in North Carolina in 1790 after having eight children, the eldest of whom was baptized at St. Gabriel’s Church in Amity Township in present Berks County, Pa. Thomas Thompson married Ann Finney c. 1738, and died in North Carolina c. 1795 after having eight children. Ingeborg Thomasson, born c. 1685, was living in the household of Peter Rambo, Jr., in 1697. She apparently died without issue before the sale of the family farm in 1713. Helena Thomasson, born 1687, was living in the household of Peter Rambo, Jr., in 1697. She apparently died without issue before 1713.