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The Bishop Hill Colony

This guide is for anyone looking to conduct research on the history of the Bishop Hill Colony using Swenson Center resources.


This guide is for anyone looking to conduct research on the history of the Bishop Hill Colony using Swenson Center resources.

The Bishop Hill Colony was founded in 1846 by Swedish pietist Erik Jansson and his religious followers, who were fleeing religious persecution after a conflict with the established Lutheran church in Sweden. Jansson and 400 of his followers who survived the journey to America lived at Bishop Hill for 15 years until the colony disbanded in 1861. In 1850, Jansson was shot and killed in the Cambridge Courthouse by his cousin's husband John Root, over a dispute about whether his cousin, Charlotta Lovisa Janson, and her young child with Root should remain in the Bishop Hill community after Root himself decided to leave. Root was suspected of another murder as well, but he was only tried in court for the murder of Erik Jansson. Following Jansson's death, there was a power struggle for leadership of the colony between Andreas Bergland and Jonas Olson. Bishop Hill is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Less than an hour drive from Augustana, this historic landmark is a tourist destination with gift shops, eateries, and art galleries, as well as museums which help to preserve the history of the Bishop Hill Colony.

Augustana College anthropology professor Adam Kaul also does research on historic tourism in Bishop Hill. 


The Swenson Center is located at Augustana College and is a national and international research center for the study of Swedish-American history and relations.

The Bishop Hill Colony

Keywords / Search terms:

Here are some search terms to try in the library catalog or other search areas.

  • Bishop Hill
  • Erik Jansson
  • Eric Jansson
  • Jansonists
  • Bishop Hill AND history
  • Bishop Hill AND biography

Possible research questions:

  • What was the impetus and philosophy behind the founding of the Bishop Hill colony?
  • How did the colony finally end? What caused its failure?
  • Who were some of the important people affiliated with the Bishop Hill colony? What were their contributions to the colony?
  • How did neighbors feel about the Bishop Hill colony? Did it influence how Swedish Americans more broadly were perceived by other ethnic groups in the United States?

Possible biographies to research:

  • Erik Jansson
    • The founder of the colony at Bishop Hill, and considered the prophet of the Jansonists. 
  • Olof Krans
    • A self-taught folk artist, he lived and worked in the communal society of Bishop Hill, Illinois. The Olof Krans Museum at Bishop Hill (not far from Augustana!) holds many of his works on display.