The Jonas Bronck Center in Sävsjö. Photo: Jonas Bronck Center.

Town celebrates Swedish founder of the Bronx

"In Sweden, no one knows about Jonas Bronck"
5:49 min

This weekend, the tiny town of Sävsjö will celebrate native son Jonas Bronck, who some 375 years ago settled as the first European in what later become known the New York City borough of the Bronx.

Bronck was born and raised just outside of Sävsjö in the region of Småland. He is thought to have been a farmer’s son and set out for the New World in his late thirties, arriving in what was then New Amsterdam in 1639. He settled near the river now known as the Bronx River.

Roy Gustafsson, who co-founded the Jonas Bronck Center in Sävsjö, told Radio Sweden that the Swede bought land from Native Americans in 1639 and signed the first peace agreement in US history in 1642. It was around 1880 that the town of New York named the borough the Bronx after seeing the Swedes’ name on maps of the area. They just changed the spelling – from Bronck to Bronx.

Over the weekend, Sävsjö is planning for concerts, lectures, dinners, visits from the international press, Swedish and American dignitaries and descendants of Jonas Bronck’s relatives. Jonas Bronck never had any children himself.

"Between 5,000 and 10,000 people are coming this weekend and there are only 5,000 inhabitants in Sävsjö," Gustafsson said. 

Gustafsson said Jonas Bronck is well-known in New York City, where there is a memorial plaque dedicated to the man in the borough that was named after him. However, he is largely forgotten in Småland.

"In Sweden, hardly anyone knows about Jonas Bronck," Gustafsson told Radio Sweden. "In Sävsjö, three or four years ago, no one knew about him."

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