Hans Mattson was born in Sweden in 1832. After serving in the Swedish Army he emigrated to the United States. In his autobiography, Reminiscences: The Story of an Emigrant (1892), Mattson tells how he arrived in 1851 and travelled from New York to Buffalo by rail, took the lake boat to Toledo, where he caught a train to Chicago. After a short stay in the city he went by canal to LaSelle and then by wagon to Galesburg. Now out of money, Mattson worked as a railroad labourer for a $1 a day. After two years Mattson had saved enough money to buy land in Minnesota.
Mattson was a strong opponent of slavery and during the Civil War became a colonel in the 3rd Regiment of the Union Army. After the war Mattson he worked as a farmer, newspaper editor, and a land agent for several railroad companies. He was director of the Minnesota state immigration office before serving as Secretary of State of Minnesota (1870-72). Hans Mattson, who was U.S. Consul General in Calcutta (1881-1883), died in 1893.
We put our little emigrant trunk in father's old cart, and with many tears and the breaking of tender heart-strings we bade farewell to our brothers and sisters. Mother went with us as far as to the churchyard, so that we could say that she had followed us to the grave. When we were a little past the farm called Branslan, I turned to take a final look at our village, Norrback, and I felt as if my heart was being torn from my bosom. When we passed the dear old church, my soul was again stirred to its depths as I recalled that it was here I had been baptized and confirmed and had taken part in the worship, and now I would most likely never see it again.
Looking back to those days, I see the little cabin, often with a sod roof, single room used for domestic purposes, sometimes crowded almost to suffocation by hospitable entertainments to newcomers; or the poor immigrant just landed from a steamer, in his short jacket and other outlandish costume, perhaps seated on a wooden box, with his wife and a large group of children around him, and wondering how he shall be able to raise enough means to get himself ten or twenty miles into the country.