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Olof Persson Stille and his Family

by Dr. Peter Stebbins Craig
Fellow, American Society of Genealogists
Fellow, Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania
Historian, Swedish Colonial Society

originally published in Swedish Colonial News,
Volume 1, Number 16 (Fall 1997)

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:

  1. Ella Stille, born in 1634 in Roslagen, married twice. By her first husband, Peter Jochimsson, she had two children, Peter Petersson Yocum, born 1652, and Elisabeth Petersdotter, born 1654, who married John Ogle, an English soldier. By her second marriage to Hans Månsson, she had six more sons, originally known by the patronymic Hansson but later adopting the surname of Steelman. They were John, Jöns (James), Christiern, Peter, Charles and Eric. Ella died in 1718 in Gloucester County NJ.
  2. Anders Stille, born in 1640 in Roslagen, moved to New Castle about 1658 and married there, by 1671, Annetje Pieters, daughter of the Dutch brewer, Pieter Wolfertsen van Couwenhoven. Soon after his marriage, he moved to Christina Creek, taking up residence next to his niece, Elisabeth Petersdotter Ogle. Later, they moved to White Clay Creek in New Castle County, where he died between 1688 and 1692, survived by two sons, John and Jacob, and one daughter thus far identified, Elisabeth, who married Charles Hedges.
  3. Christina Stille, born in America c. 1643, became the second wife of Marten Roosemond, a Dutch "cleinsmit" (toolmaker), who moved from New Castle to Moyamensing after his marriage. Two landmarks on that property were named Roosemond Creek and Hollanders Creek. Roosemond returned to New Castle before 1671 and served as judge on the New Castle court and deacon of the Dutch church there until his death in 1677. It is unknown whether Christina had any children.
  4. Johan Stille, born in America in 1646, married about 1683 Gertrude, daughter of Mårten Gerritsen and Christina Lom of New Castle County. They had twelve children: Christina (born 1684), Anna (1685), Olof [William] (1687), Sarah (1690), John (1692), Brigitta (1693), Barbara (1697), Peter (1699), Gertrude (1701), Morton (1704), Helena (1705) and Allemisha (1709). Johan Stille inherited the Moyamensing plantation, where he died in 1722. His widow died in 1744.