Trailblazing Helen, one of the first European women to embark on a journey to the New World, was enterprising from birth to death. To escape the depression and persecution of 17th Century Värmland, she, her husband Jan Grelsson, and their three children would board a disease-ridden ship, battling treacherous weather, to London toward the American Colonies. Helen would temporarily call this horrid ship their home, with no space, little food or water, and death a far too commonplace occurrence. Helen, pregnant with her fourth child, would miraculously keep her family positive and healthy. After the tumultuous months of travel, Helen’s family arrived on the Delaware River, boasting a mere population of some 350, and discover the Swedes had just lost their undeveloped colony to the Dutch. With the ship anchored and their destiny unknown, the innovative and strong-willed Helen would find ways for her family to survive in this unpredictable world, which has brutal winters, hostile Natives, few crops and limited shelter. She would outlive Jan, marry a local widower Mortonson and outlive him as well, all while maintaining a primitive cabin in Ammansland, planting food, caring for her young ones, attending Lutheran church, and supporting her community. With love, devotion, and determination, Helen raised her children and over forty grandchildren, providing them the better life she envisioned. Stalwart and intrepid even at the grand age of ninety-seven, she was buried at Gloria Dei Church, a testament to her power, fortitude, and love.

Helen’s daughter Anna was also a trailblazer, surviving a challenging youth in Varmland and the disease-filled, food-lacking months-long trip to the New World at age four. Anna helped her mother raise her siblings, married fellow immigrant Jan Van Ceulen. She’d support her husband’s vocational and community efforts while tending to the home, farm, children and all other aspects of life. Anna allowed her children and grandchildren the opportunity they deserved to prosper in the fledgling America.

American Pioneer Chronicles:

Colonial Women: the heart, sweat, soul—the foundation of our Nation

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