Home Sick for Sweden
by Jerry Bates
The tree pictured below is the result of two homesick young brothers who emigrated from Sweden in 1883. After moving to the Woodland area on South Hill in 1897, they wanted a reminder of their home and so the older brother, Carl Swalander, sent a letter to his father in Sweden asking him to send seeds of the Oxel tree (Swedish Whitebeam). The first tree was planted on Rheinhold Swalander’s farm about 1898.
The Swalander sisters stand beneath the old Oxel tree where as little girls they played house around its base and swung from its large, low limbs.
The first part of May it displays large clusters of creamy white flowers. Then in the fall these flowers turn to bright orangey-red berries. It seems the robins know exactly where these berries are and when they are ready to eat, because they converge by the flocks and by now these berries have fermented and it’s “Party Time” for them. They flutter and flounder and quite often fly into the windows.
There had been a fence line on the pipeline west of the farmhouse that the birds rested on where their droppings were deposited. Consequently several Oxel trees grew in the straight line as if they had been purposely planted there.
Carl gave trees to friends in Eatonville, and they can be seen beside the road just before getting to town. He also donated a tree to be planted in Wright Park in Tacoma. Now these trees can be seen in Puyallup, Tacoma, Elma and many other areas.
The limbs grew in patterns that were great for climbing. After our dad, Oscar Swalander, took over the farm and we grew old enough to climb that wonderful tree, our protective dad would warn us, “Be careful – you’ll fall and hurt yourself.” This warning has been passed on to grandchildren and great grandchildren, as they all grew old enough to climb.
This old monarch is beginning to lose some of her limbs but still holds a very special place in the hearts of the Swalander descendants.
This house built in 1895 became the Swalander family home when the Swalander brothers emigrated to South Hill in 1897. This has to be one of the oldest houses remaining on South Hill? Even though the original Swalander farm property has been subdivided over the years, the house is still surrounded by huge old fir trees giving it a surprisingly quiet and peaceful setting on the bustling South Hill. The old Oxel tree blends in with surrounding trees right behind the forward crown of the roof line.