Sjolander; most people in Baytown are familiar enough with the name of the road, but do not know much about the person it is named for, so for the next few weeks we’ll look into the life of this most interesting man. First things must go first, so before we begin; it is pronounced “Show-lander”.
Jonas Petter Sjölander was born in the town of Hudiksvall, Sweden on the Baltic seashore in March 25th 1851. His father Olof Sjölander was the son of a village smith and his mother Margreta Larson was the daughter of a tailor. The couple had grown up in the country but when they moved to Hudiksvall they became members of a new religious sect which, like John Wesley and the Methodists, was influenced by the Moravian movement. After the birth of Jonas Petter they wanted him baptized according to an old book no longer used by the Swedish church. The Swedish church refused the request so they had the boy baptized by a fisherman friend of his parents and for the next two years the parents and the fisherman were involved in court battles with the church. They were fined fifty Dalar in silver for mocking the sacrament and were threatened with prison. King Oscar I upheld the verdict but eventually pardoned the parents. A brother, Erik Olof who was born December 17, 1853 and the brothers would be lifelong friends and companions. Olof owned a small sailing vessel, but the boat was wrecked in a storm and he drowned when Jonas Petter was just five years old. One month later another brother, Nicholas August was born, but he tragically died at the age of 3. Jonas was denied admission to state schools because of his father’s beliefs so he and his younger brother Erik Olaf were home-schooled by his mother, Margreta. She was an educated woman and conducted the classes in Swedish, German, and English on alternating days. By the time he was eleven, Jonas was reading poetry and when he was fourteen wrote his first poem, “Vinter Kvällen” which soon became a Swedish folk song.