Olof Persson Stille and his Family
by Dr. Peter Stebbins Craig
Olof Stille was born on the island of SoIö in Roslagen, northeast of Stockholm, the son of Per Stille, a relatively prosperous supervisor of the Penningby estate in Länna parish. By 1627 Per Stille had retired and was granted land by the owners of Penningby on a nearby island called Humblö. Here Olof Stille married and began his family. Although Olof Stille was on good terms with Erik Bielke, who inherited Penningby in 1629, he did not think well of Bielke's wife, Catarina Fleming.
At the Norrtälje fair in 1636, Olof Stille indiscreetly voiced his opinion of Lady Catarina Fleming, who retaliated by prosecuting Olof for defamation and took his property at Humblö. When Olof refused to leave the island, he was imprisoned. After securing his freedom, Olof and his family resettled in Matsunda, where he was joined by one of his former servants named Anders. Lady Fleming, now a widow, had Anders seized on 18 March 1638 and imprisoned at Penningby under the claim that Anders had broken a verbal agreement with the late Lord Bielke to be their servant.
Olof Stille heard the news the next day, entered Penningby Castle by a secret door, broke the lock to the dungeon with his axe and then fled, with Anders carrying the axe and Olof his own rapier. On complaint from Lady Fleming, the Governor issued an order for Olof Stille's arrest on 28 March 1638 - the same day that the first expedition to New Sweden was landing at the Rocks. At the trial on 13 April 1638 Olof Stille was convicted of burglary and sentenced to death by the sword. The appellate court, however, modified the sentence to a fine of 100 daler silver money, the equivalent of 17 months pay for a New Sweden soldier.
Three years later, in May 1641, when the Charitas departed for New Sweden, the passenger list included Olof Stille, a mill-maker, his wife, a daughter aged 7 and a son aged 11/2. Also on board were Olof's younger brother Axel Stille, and the family of Måns Svensson Lom, whose wife appears to have been Olof's younger sister. His older brother, Johan Stille, later pastor at Fundbo, 1644-1672, and his sister Kerstin remained in Sweden.
In New Sweden, Olof Stille settled as a freeman at a place called Techoherassi by the Indians, located between present Crum Creek and Ridley Creek (called Olof Stille's Creek). Joining him at this location were his brother Axel Stille and the Lom family. The Indians were frequent visitors to Techoherassi and liked Olof Stille very much, but they considered his heavy, black beard a monstrosity and conferred a strange name on him because of it.
As the only known mill-maker in the colony, Olof Stille probably was in charge of building the first Swedish gristmill on Mill (now Cobbs) Creek. He also became a leader among the freemen and played a key role in promoting the July 1653 list of grievances, signed by Olof Stille and 21 other freemen, which was submitted to Governor Johan Printz, protesting his dictatorial rule. Printz labeled this action mutiny and promptly left for Sweden. To Olof Stille, however, it was simply exercising the right of free speech. When Governor Rising arrived, Olof asked for a prompt trial. Rising, who took a more kindly view toward the freeman, let the matter drop.
After the surrender of New Sweden, the Dutch governor, Petrus Stuyvesant, agreed to allow the Swedes and Finns living north of the Christina River to govern themselves. The first Swedish court, organized in 1656, had Olof Stille as its chief justice and also included Peter Larsson Cock, Peter Gunnarsson Rambo and Matts Hansson from Borgå, Finland.
During his eight years as chief justice of the Swedes' court, there were frequent policy clashes between the Swedes and the Dutch. Olof Stille proved himself to be an able defender of the Swedes' position and usually prevailed.
Retiring as chief justice in 1664, Olof Stille moved to Moyamensing (later south Philadelphia) with Lars Andersson Collinus (who had married Måns Lom's widow) and his son-in-law Marten Roosemond. Even in retirement, he was called upon to arbitrate disputes among the settlers. He died about 1684. He was survived by his brother Axel Stille, who had no children, and four children who have been identified: