Brobergs & Lundborgs: Swedish Immigrants Killed in Kandiyohi and Swift Counties

Share your story submitted by: P. LUNDBORG | Olympia, WA

     I, Paul Lundborg, have written a more complete account of this story in a book released this last March entitled Death of a Dream, and it is currently available at
     My great, great grandparents--Andreas and Maja Lena Lundborg--were the unofficial leaders of an extended family of Swedes who came to America in the summer of 1861 and settled near what is now Sunburg, Minnesota, twenty miles northwest of Willmar. They had all lived near one another for generations in the Swedish province of Vastergotland not far from Vargarda, and they had strategically planned for this new start in a new land in an effort to secure the future for their children. By the summer of 1862, after surviving their first year on this far western border of the United States, their group numbered 21--2 households of Brobergs and 2 households of Lundborgs, ranging in age from 52 years to 10 months. The weather was beautiful, their first crop of wheat was harvested, and on Wednesday morning August 20th they welcomed their Lutheran pastor, Rev. Andrew Jackson, as he came to the Lundborg home to conduct a religious service. The youngest children remained at one of the Broberg cabins a bit more than a mile away under the care of Uncle John, and neighbors from the area joined the remaining Lundborg and Broberg families for a time to sing Swedish hymns and hear the Scriptures also read in their native tongue. It was a beautiful day, there was conversation about an upcoming wedding, and they were thankful to be together fulfilling their dreams in their new home in America.
     As the singing and praying came to a conclusion, Pastor Jackson prepared to say farewell to his congregation and proceed to his next scheduled service, but he was interrupted by 8 year old Peter Broberg, who had walked from the Broberg cabin to tell his parents he was frightened because Indians had come to their home and were scaring all the children. Within moments the sacred assembly dispersed, and nearly all were on their way to rescue the children. Some walked through the woods, and others boarded a wagon to circle around the woods, but all were intent on the same purpose, to rescue their little ones. How could they have known these Dakota Indians had destruction and mayhem on their minds? In a plot that began less than two days earlier, maverick, young Dakota warriors living forty miles to the south chose to go on the warpath against the White settlers. Not all the Dakota were ready for war, but enough of them began a terrifying war that would last for 6 weeks, leave 650 civilians dead, divide members of the Dakota nation against each other, and add fuel to a White/Indian conflict that still hasn't completely cooled.
     Three of my great grandfather's brothers, all in their early 20's, were shot dead on the spot, and his 9 year old little brother was seriously wounded. The two Broberg families were nearly annihilated. 5 adults and 5 children were either shot or tomahawked. 16 year old Anna Stina Broberg and her 8 year old cousin Peter were the only survivors from the two Broberg households. In a 30 minute killing spree 13 members of this extended immigrant family lay dead on the ground, and the 8 survivors began their new struggle to stay alive and find safety. Stories like this were taking place in a number of rural settlements, and with so many able-bodied young men already serving their country in the Union Army far to the south and east, there were few soldiers or organized militia to offer protection. Fear drove people to flee for their lives, but few knew where safety could be found.
     I'v wondered if any other family lost as many as 13 lives in this war. It took months for my surviving relatives to find refuge, and from those 8 people came 4 lines of ancestry--Brobergs, Lundborgs, Lundquists, and Paulsons. Each family group eventually put their lives together enough to move on, and each succeeding generation has chosen varied ways to deal with this horrific story. Interviews were granted, stories were told and written, monuments were erected, and some remained silent. Some generations witheld the story in order to forget it, but others like this writer--who didn't even know this story until his late 30's--have been determined to tell it, write about it, and talk about it so that it is not forgotten. Family tragedies are not pleasant to recall, but even if we haven't known about them, they have somehow shaped us. Is it not better to have them known so we can seek to learn from them? In August of 2012, the Sesquicentennial Year of this war, descendants of the survivors from these four families came together at Monson Lake State Park near Sunburg, the memorialized location of these murders, to meet one another, retell the family story, and express gratitude for the lives of our courageous ancestors. Nearly 150 were there, and our family bonds were strengthened.
     I long for the day when descendants of the settlers and descendants of the Dakota will tell their stories to each other, listen to each other, and value each other.

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.