Louise J. Lundberg

Louise Johnson Lundberg

     One of Silverhill's most beloved and remembered teachers is Louise J. Lundberg. She taught the younger elementary grades at Silverhill School throughout her career, sometimes teaching two or three generations of the same family. Many children took piano lessons from her after school and during the summer months. Mrs. Lundberg and her family were a part of many of Silverhill's “firsts”.

     In 1897, Oscar Johnson, one of Silverhill's founders, had begun building his house, the first in Silverhill, when a terrible sickness broke out called yellow fever. The epidemic caused Mr. Johnson to return to Chicago until the end of the year. The quarantine in New Orleans was lifted on November 25th, after the first frost. The quarantine on the railroads would have been lifted at that time. When he returned, Oscar Johnson brought with him the first Silverhill family, Mr. and Mrs. Axel Theodore Westerlund and daughter Ester Lovisa Westerlund (who would later become Louise Johnson Lundberg). The Westerlund family moved into the first Silverhill house with Oscar Johnson.

     Hannah Westerlund, being the first woman, wife, and mother to live in Silverhill, was expected to prepare the meals for everyone in the house. However, the house did not have any furniture, wood burning cook stove, or even a chimney for a stove. Mrs. Westerlund, seeing a big stump on fire in a clearing near the house, immediately grabbed a kettle and coffee pot. She set them on the burning stump and soon there was a meal of oatmeal porridge and coffee. This was the first meal cooked in Silverhill.

     Little Ester, who was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 22, 1896, was the first child to live in Silverhill. In 1898, before any of the churches had organized, Ester's father, Axel Westerlund, started Silverhill's first Sunday School, which met in the Oscar Johnson home.

     In the Wooden Book History Louise writes about her father. “Coming down from Chicago, for his health, Mr. Westerlund was not a strong man, but with a strong desire of winning souls for the Lord, he began Christian services on the first Christmas 1898 and New Year with services fitting for the occasion, even though there were only five people in the colony. As more people came to the colony a Sunday School was organized. Ill health broke his delicate body and death came in 1900.”

     Axel Theodore Westerlund died August 19, 1900, and was buried in the cemetery at the Daphne Methodist Church. Silverhill did not have a cemetery at that time.

     Later, Ester's mother remarried and became Mrs. Theodore A. Johnson and Ester became Louise Johnson (so that she would not be confused with her stepsister Esther Johnson). Mr. Theodore Axel Johnson is famous for building and operating Peoples Supply Company, general merchandise and grocery store, which opened June 1902.

     Theodore Johnson brought three daughters into the marriage, Edlith, Mildred, and Esther, who became Louise's beloved stepsisters. Edlith would later become a nurse in Illinois who never married; Mildred would marry G.M. Elliott and raise a family in Summerdale, and Esther would marry Carl Swanstrom and raise a family in Mobile.

     Theodore Axel Johnson and Hannah Westerlund had only one child of their own, Alida, Louise's half sister, who would marry Rev. Joel Nordlund on June 24, 1936 at the Mission Covenant church by Rev. Nordlund's father, Missionary Victor Nordlund. The Nordlunds ministered to many churches including the Mission Covenant church in Silverhill from 1943 to 1946.

     Louise Johnson grew up in Silverhill and was involved with church work from an early age. Her name appears on the 1900 membership list of the Silverhill Baptist Church. She was confirmed at the Mission Covenant Church in 1910 and joined the church in 1912. While she was a member of the young people of the Sunday School, she helped to organized the Working Band Class, serving as its first president. For many years this class, with different members from year to year, always lived true to its name being a “Working Band” not only in the Sunday School but also in the church, the Sunday School Association and in the community. On a page in her teacher's copy of the Silverhill School annual of 1948-1949, Mrs. Lundberg writes that she was instrumental in organizing Young People groups in the following churches: Mission, Baptist, Lutheran, Christian, and Faith Mission.

     Beginning in 1914, Louise was the Mission Covenant Church pianist on occasion. In 1921, the church began paying her to play the organ for services. In 1925, she became their Sunday School Superintendent. In the Silverhill School annual, she also writes that she was Sunday School Superintendent at Mission Covenant and at Faith Mission at five different times in their history. In 1962, she compiled a sixty-year history of the Silverhill Covenant Church by taking the minutes of their yearly meetings, translating the Swedish writing, typing, and printing it into booklet form for all to read.

     The years of work she put into her education and educating others is amazing. Louise began attending Silverhill School (about 1902) when it was at its first location, in what is now the Silverhill Library. When the two-story schoolhouse was completed (she was nine years old at the time), she was in the first group to attend classes there. In the spring of 1907, her mother, Mrs. T. A. Johnson (and other parents and teachers) organized the first parent and teacher organization called the School Improvement Association. Mrs. T. A. Johnson served as their first president. Louise completed Silverhill School in 1910. There was no Robertsdale High School at that time, so she went on to Daphne State Normal School to become an elementary teacher.

     After the county courthouse was moved from Daphne to Bay Minette in 1901, Daphne citizens raised funds for renovation of the old courthouse building and, in 1907, opened a boarding school of higher learning, the Daphne Normal State School. Tuition was free; other expenses totaled $115.50 (board $90; laundry $9; textbooks $7.50; and incidentals $9). The primary and elementary grades were taught in the two-story Annex (the old jail) behind the main building. The Annex became the Model School where seniors, aspiring to become teachers, honed their skills while preparing to sit for examinations for teaching certificates. The Junior High and High School classes were taught in the main building. When State funding was lost in 1940, the school closed. The building was demolished in 1958. This photo was taken about 1910. - Click to Enlarge.

     Louise graduated from Daphne Normal in 1915. In 1916 she attended the University of Alabama, then soon after began teaching at Silverhill School in the same two-story schoolhouse she had attended. In 1921, she was in charge of the Education Department at the first Silverhill Fair Exhibition.

     The 1928-1929 school year was a very important year. The new one-story brick school building was completed, a school bus was “created”, and the Czech children were brought into town to attend Silverhill School for the first time under the leadership of Mrs. Lundberg their principal and teacher. It was also during the 1920s that Mrs. Lundberg organized and coached the first Silverhill basketball teams.

     She stopped teaching for a few years before and after her son was born in 1933. She continued to take classes to further her education; from the University of Chicago in 1929, and Sherwood Music School in Chicago in 1939 and 1944 (some or all of these may have been by correspondence). She continued her education with Troy State Teachers College at times by correspondence (she refers to these as Extension Courses) and at other times in person. Many summers the Lundberg family would move to Troy, Alabama where they boarded in private homes while Louise attended college classes full time. She finally received her Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education in 1957.

     In all, she taught school for a total of 41 years, retiring about 1965.

     Louise was always very involved in the community's groups becoming a member and officer of various civic organizations. Beginning in 1918, Louise became the Silverhill news reporter for three different Baldwin County newspapers, Fairhope Courier, The Onlooker (Foley), The Baldwin Times (Daphne), and later for a limited time the Mobile Press. She reported to the papers on a regular basis Silverhill's social events and family news nearly continuously for the rest of her life, except when she was at college, vacationing, or ill. Then she would arrange for someone else in the community to write and send in the news accounts.

     Louise's husband, George David Lundberg, who was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 31, 1894, came to Silverhill with his parents in 1911. He became a self-employed music teacher and taught music throughout Baldwin County, beginning in the early 1920s also directing the Baldwin County Student orchestra.

     Louise and George were married on July 25, 1920 at her family home in Silverhill. The couple moved to Foley, Alabama to live for a short time, then returned to live in Silverhill at her parent's home.

     Mrs. Lundberg was always very involved in music. Besides playing the piano and organ at church from an early age, in 1925 she began giving music lessons. She was a Counselor of the Music Club from 1930, Choir and Glee club director, also Folk Dancing recreation director. She taught piano lessons to many of Central Baldwin's children throughout the years.

     The Lundberg's first and only child, George David Lundberg, II, was born in Pensacola, Florida on March 21, 1933. Louise had complications during delivery and was taken to Scared Heart Hospital in Pensacola. Mobile's hospital could only be reached by crossing the bay by ferry. George David grew up in Silverhill and went on to become a very famous doctor. Click here to read more about their son, Dr. George David Lundberg, II.

     Click here to see the Lundberg Photo Collection.

Written September 2003 by Debbie Owen.