The Swedish Connection

By the Olde Forester, Emmett A. Conway, Sr.

"It's a small, small world" is the song we can't get out of our heads after the ride at Disney World.

The Swedes have an ancient iron region of world renown. It is the Province of Gastrikland, a state lying midway up the east coast at the border of the northern bog and forest land and southern farm land - "The Gateway to the North". They call it "Jamriket" - The Iron Kingdom. It has survived, whereas the Hanging Rock Iron Region of the Nineteenth Century has not.

The mill communities of the Southern Ohio iron region would have been similar to those in Sweden, with a major dependence on the iron and forest industries. Ours are mostly ghost towns in a forest with an occasional stone furnace stack remaining - an archaeological site.

Our most recognizable connection to the Swedish iron industry is evident in the picture of the young Conway family out to cut a Christmas tree. It is safe to say that billions of live Christmas trees have been harvested in America with bow saws, like the Sandvik saw my son is holding in this picture.

The popular Sandvik bow saws are made in Sweden. Every "Pick 'N Cut" Christmas tree farm keeps dozens on hand. The Olde Forester has used one since 1948 and still prefers it instead of his chain saw for harvesting trees on his small Christmas tree farm in McArthur, Ohio. With about four strokes of a 30" Sandvik bow saw you can fell a three inch diameter Scotch pine. It beats carrying around a chain saw while a prospective buyer looks over the whole field.

The Sandvik bow saw first came to our attention shortly after World War II. It was ready to replace the old reliable American cross-cut saw for cutting lumber logs when the newfangled gasoline chain saws roared into the burgeoning timber market. We recall one of the first logging shows in 1950 (predecessors to the Paul Bunyan Show) at The Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station, Wooster, Ohio, where contestants were competing with the new Swedish bow saws. They used them in the woods until chain saws were brought down to practical size and reliability.

My wife's father, Iver Lundgren, was born in Gastrikland, Sweden, probably at one of the iron communities. His parents were married at Forsbacka, an iron community (a "Bruksamhallena") and came to America about 1880. His mother might have been one of the Walloons who were imported from southeast Belgium as expert iron makers. Her name was Amelia Pierrou, French, not Swedish as is Lundgren. Iver Lundgren became a skilled pattern maker for a foundry in Youngstown, Ohio.

Any answers to the Amelia Pierrou riddle can be sent E-mail to

Return to Iron Furnace History In Ohio

Return to The Olde Forester

E-mail The Olde Forester

Webmaster: Daughter Sandra Conway Morrissey