They strike a pose in front of a cluster of tiny log huts, horses collared and chained to sleds for dragging logs out of the woods. One man slings an ax over his shoulder, another reclines on the ground, peering at the camera between the legs of his companions. Although they try to look heroic, there are those amongst them who can’t cover their smirks and laughter. Two teenagers prove their maturity by puffing on pipes. These are workers. The only shirt that boasts a collar out of the whole bunch belongs to a dandy with an upturned mustache and a watch on a heavy strap tucked into the breast pocket of his striped shirt. He also sports new suspenders.
It’s the man in front, with a fixed steely glare, who stands out. He clutches a rifle in the hand that doesn’t hold a braided leash. His open coat drapes over a six-button vest with a watch on a chain tucked into its pocket, reminiscent of Wild Bill Hickok. A white collarless shirt, buttoned to the top, gleams from underneath. But his heavy trousers and workman’s boots mark him as a serious hunter. His two hunting dogs are as serious as he is.
A heavy millstone is mounted on a shaft beside an open workshop with a stone and mortar chimney. A brick chimney rises from a board-and-batten house at the rear. The only other chimney in the picture is sheathed in wooden planks. On exposed bedrock rounded by glaciers in the center of the camp rises a wooden flagpole so tall that the top seems to disappear in low clouds.
It’s a photograph of character and comedy, threat and hope, detail and chiaroscuro, taken long ago by a photographer with the eye of Darius Kinsey or Matthew Brady.
One of the more interesting artifacts of our Swedish family is this photograph of a group of loggers. When I asked him who was in the photograph my father wasn’t able to identify anybody from our family, but he claimed that the man in front was Frank Frolen (he pronounced it Froh-LANE).
If it is Frank Frolen, this photograph would be from the area where my grandmother grew up, Nora Parish in Angermanland, near Sundsvall. It’s an area where the logging industry continues to be an important economic resource. It would make sense that my grandmother’s family, rather than my grandfather, brought this photograph to America. In a previous post I’ve mentioned that we are unsure of when my grandfather arrived and that he might have jumped ship to avoid being drafted into a war against Norway.
Frank Frolen was born in 1887, which makes him of the same generation as my grandparents. That’s a problem for me. The man in this photograph is mature and obviously in control, yet the photograph has the appearance of being from the late 1800s, a period when Frank Frolen would have been a young teen at best. Is it possible that my father saw a resemblance to Frank Frolen, and that the figure in the photograph is one of his ancestors?
Frank and Anna Frolen lived in the Riverton district near Puget Sound south of Seattle, and they were probably amongst the family friends that my grandparents kept in touch with after emigrating. Frank’s naturalization records reveal that he was born in Nora Parish and a bit of poking around in genealogical records shows that his ancestors include some with marital ties to people who share family names with our family: Norberg, Nilsson, etc. It’s certainly possible that he was a relative of my grandmother, who was a Norberg. We will probably never know which of these gentlemen are our relatives, but I suspect a couple are there.