Charles Springer and his Family
by Dr. Peter Stebbins Craig
The dedication of Holy Trinity (Old Swedes) Church in 1699 was a milestone in the remarkable success story for one of its members, Charles Christophersson Springer, who came from Sweden some 22 years after the Dutch seizure of New Sweden. It was he who wrote the 1693 letter asking for new Swedish ministers on the Delaware. It was he who lent his tireless assistance to pastor Eric Björk in the negotiations necessary to accomplish their goal of constructing the new church. And it was he who Björk singled out as the most important reason for the success of this venture.
Unlike his countrymen in America, Charles Springer came from an upper class household. His father was Christopher Springer, who died in Stockholm in 1669 after 40 years of government service. His mother was Beata Salina, Christopher Springer's third wife, who survived her husband for almost 25 years, serving as royal housekeeper for the dowager queen Hedwig Eleonora, widow of King Charles X.
Charles Springer was born in Stockholm in 1658 and seemed destined to follow in his parent's footsteps as a leader in Swedish society. He was sent as a young man to study in Riga, Latvia (then a province of Sweden). Following this he was sent to London to study English and mathematics. About to return home, Charles Springer, then 21, was kidnapped and carried aboard an English vessel bound for Virginia, where in his own words, "I was sold like a farm animal" and held in "very slavery" for five years. Upon his release as a supposed "indentured servant," he walked 400 miles to the Delaware, where he had heard other Swedes lived.
His initial residence, from 1684 to 1690, was in an area known as "New Stockholm," located on the north side of Raccoon Creek in Gloucester County. On 27 December 1685 he married Maria Hendricksdotter, daughter of Hendrick Jacobsson and his wife Gertrude. Around 1690, Charles Springer and his family moved to Oak Hill, located on the east side of Red Clay Creek in New Castle County. This was his home until his death in 1738.
As one of the few Swedes able to read and write the English language, Charles Springer was frequently called upon to draft wills, deeds and other legal documents for his Swedish compatriots. (The courts wouldn't accept such documents in a foreign language.) His reputation was such that he served as a justice on the New Castle court for 35 years (1703-1738) in addition to his manifold duties for Holy Trinity Church as warden, vestryman and trustee. Earlier, prior to the arrival of Bj6rk in 1697, Springer also had served as reader at the Swedes' church at Crane Hook.
Charles Springer's last official act was to travel to Gloucester County to prove in court on 24 May 1738 a deed he had witnessed on 9 May 1685, conveying land in "New Stockholm" to Mårten Mårtensson, Sr., and John Archer, two Swedes of Ammansland in Ridley Township. While crossing the Delaware on his return trip, 26 May 1738, Charles Springer died of a stroke. He was then eighty years old. He was buried in the church that he loved.
Maria Hendricksdotter, the first wife of Charles Springer, had been buried at Holy Trinity Church on 15 March 1727. Three months later Springer married Annika, daughter of Johan and Brita Gustafsson and widow of both Matthias MArtensson and Jonas Walraven.
Charles Springer had eleven known children, all born by his first wife, Maria Hendricksdotter: