A True-Life Story:
On the Surface it was like any early morning in the town of Gotenborg, Sweden. People were opening the windows of their house and some were stepping out of their doorways, ready to begin a day’s work. A horse cart, carrying a large barrel, was rolling along. He didn’t attract much attention, for such a sight was familiar one in that seaport town.
Occasionally the two men in the driver’s seat exchanged cautious glances. But remained silent for fear that even their whispers might be heard.
Reaching the harbor, the men looked around to make sure that they were not being followed, then moved up to reach a vessel which was docked some distance away from the other ships. Glad to find the captain of the vessel waiting on the deck, they quickly but very cautiously removed the barrel and put it down on the ground. Then they started off again as fast as their horse could carry them.
“Lift that barrel abroad and put it on the hold,” the captain ordered some of his crew.“Easy now. Handle it with care!”
The following day the vessel left the dock and started on a voyage across the North Sea to America. At first everything went smoothly. But one evening one of the sailors happened to notice the captain, carrying a lantern in one hand and a bundle in the others, making his way down into the hold. The next morning, when he again noticed the captain acting strangely, the sailor decided to fallow him.
In the hold, from behind a heap of boxes, the sailor watched the captain open her top of the barrel and whisper something softly, as he bent over it. He then saw the captain take some food out of the bundle he had brought and put it into the barrel through the opening.
All that morning the crew saw the captain standing on deck observing the sea with telescope. They wondered what he was looking for, as they were well out to sea and there was no land in sight. Finally they saw him turn and go below. The sailors were surprised when the captain appeared again on deck leading a girl who was about sixteen years of age and was clad in a peasant dress.
“I found a stowaway,” he announced.
The crew looked at the girl with interest, for although she wore a simple peasant dress, her features and appearance were too fine for an ordinary Swedish girl.
“Who is she? Where does she come from?” one of the seamen asked.
“All she would tell me is that her name is Elizabeth. No need to question her any further,” the captain answered.
The sailor who had been asking on him began to open his mouth to say something, but then he thought it was better to keep the secret to himself.
For the rest of the voyage Elizabeth kept herself away from the others and was rarely seen by the crew. But when she heard that they were nearing the New Jersey coast, she came out on deck and stood at the rail eager to have a look at the New world.
“ Go back to your cabin, “ the captain warned her, pointing to the rough sea.
But Elizabeth remained standing there. “I see land!” she cried.
At that moment a huge wave swept across the deck and knocked her down. The last thing she was aware of was violent, terrible crass. When she became conscious again, she found that she had been swept ashore and there nearby was the ship in the bad shape. No one was in sight.
Elizabeth rose to her feet sand began to walk along the shore. On one side of her was the vast ocean; on the other, the dense forest. “Aren’t there any inhabitants beyond this forest?” she wondered, and hopefully went on.
All day long she walked through the woods without finding any sign of human life.
As the sun sank low on the horizon and the night creatures of the forest awakened, she returned to the shore. She felt that staying on the shore for the night was safer. When darkness came she felt soundly asleep.
For several days Elizabeth went into the woods each time deeper and deeper. At nightfall she returned to the shore. In all that time no human sound reached her ears. “Am I to be left alone in this lonely place forever?” she thought. But fortunately, Elizabeth was not a girl who would allow herself to give in to despair.
One cold evening remembering having read about primitive ways of making fire, she thought. “Why don’t I try to do it myself?” Collecting some dry wood she sat down and began rubbing two twigs together. But although she worked hard, nothing happened.
Suddenly the twigs were snatched from her hands. Lifting her head, she found herself looking at a half-clad, brown–skined figure with a feather in his hear. Without a word the man began to rub the twigs in his own way and soon produced a small flame. After handing the fire to the girl, he quickly disappeared into the forest.
Elizabeth quickly thought that the stranger must be an Indian. In Sweden she had heard frightening tales about American-Indians, but this one, she thought, the first she had ever seen, was helpful and friendly.
The following morning, as usual, she walked into the forest again. By now she had become accustomed to the wild surroundings, and fearlessly she entered into even denser woods. Later in the afternoon she finally stopped to wonder whether she should turn back. “I’ll go just a little farther,” she decided. Suddenly she heard a loud crack of branches breaking, and then saw a man with a rifle on his shoulder step out of the bushes. Astonished at the meeting a white man in such a place, Elizabeth stood speechless.
Equally amazed, the young hunter stared at her. For a while he stood still but finally he said. “How did you get here? Have you lost your way?”
Elizabeth told him what had happened to her and that she was trying to get a settlement.
“You came from across the ocean? Sweden, I guess.” After she nodded, the young man continued, “ There are many of your countrymen in Swedesboro, a settlement near where I live. It’s long way from here, but come, I’ll take you there.” A moment later, as they walked on, he said, “I am William Garrison. What is your name?”
“Just call me Elizabeth,” she replied with a smile. Then she told him how she had managed to survive for so many days in the wilderness.
“You were wise not to remain in forest at night,” he remarked. Suddenly he grabbed her hand and made her stand still. “ Do you hear a ratting sound” There’s a rattlesnake somewhere around here. It is a very dangerous and poisonous snake.”
At that moment an arrow flew swiftly nearby, then they saw an Indian appear from out of the bushes. “This snake I killed was a coward. He had to be killed,” he told them and after bidding them farewell with a wave of his hand, disappeared.
“That is the same Indian who made a fire for me on the beach!” Elizabeth explained. “Now, why did he call that snake a coward?”
Carrison laughed, “The Indians have their own ideas about such things.” He went on to explain that when a rattle snake gave advance warning by its rattling sound to an approaching Indian, it would be left unharmed. But when a snake rattled after the Indian passed it, then he considered it a coward that deserved to be killed.
“Besides hat,” Carrison continued, “if we know how to deal with them and they know that we won’t do them harm, the Indians are actually very helpful and friendly. If an Indian intends to help someone in trouble, even if he or she is stranger to him, he will do it without much ado and without expecting gratitude of any kind.”
We don’t know what happened to them afterwards, but about three years later, the two young people got married. Several days before they married, Elizabeth told her prospective husband who she rally was. She was the daughter of a member of the Swedish royal family. When she was fifteen years of age, there was a bitter conflict among some royal houses. The situation became extremely dangerous for her to remain in Sweden. It was her friends who had made the courageous plan of putting her in a barrel and getting her abroad a ship sailing for the New World. “As things turned out, I am a most fortunate woman,” she concluded. “A handsome hunter saved my life and now he is going to be my dear husband.”
Garrison was not too surprised by what Elizabeth told him. He remembered that when he met her for the first time in the forest, he had guessed that the girl had come from a noble family, for she spoke fine English. Although she was dressed in simple peasant dress.
Elizabeth and William lived a long and happy life together, bearing ten children. It was said that by 1860 there were more than a thousand people who were the descendants of Elizabeth from Sweden…..