The first Swedes arrived in the territory of Minnesota in 1850, settling in Scandia. By 1920 nearly a quarter of Minnesota's foreign-born residents were from Sweden, making it the home of more Swedes than any other state. About half lived in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Beginning in the 1850s, Swedish immigrants disembarking at New York or Montreal headed for Chicago, where they could go by train to Rock Island, then by steamboat up the Mississippi. They were seeking to reestablish their farming way of life on American soil. The first Swedes reached the Chicago Lakes area in 1851, and it subsequently became the most Swedish area of the nation. Other early settlements developed in Goodhue and Carver counties.
In the 1860s Minnesota lured Swedish immigrants here to purchase railroad land grant tracts. Swedish settlements sprang up along the rail lines, westward toward Kandiyohi county and northward towards Moorhead.
The farmers supplemented their incomes by cutting timber or helping build the railroads. As the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul burgeoned in the 1870s and 1880s, thousands of Swedish men found work there, particularly in the lumber mills and construction industry. Women worked as domestic servants, cooks, laundresses, janitors, or seamstresses in the garment factories.
Among the most literate of immigrants, Swedes soon published newspapers in their native tongue. People tended to settle with others from the same region of Sweden. Large concentrations came from Smäland, Skäne, and Dalarna. Churches were the center of most Swedish settlements, whether Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist or Mission Covenant.
Swedish Americans have made significant contributions to education, business, industry, government, civic affairs and cultural life in Minnesota.
Looking around from this vantage point in one of the several large concentrations of Swedish settlement in the state, one could say that Swedish author and traveler Fredrika Bremer's often quoted prediction has come true: "Hvilket herrligt Nytt Skandinavien kunde ej Minnesota bli!" "What a glorious new Scandinavia might not Minnesota become!"