Rev. Albert Dahlstrom, leader of a commune near Granite Falls, is found guilty under the Mann White Slave Traffic Act on March 13, 1914.

  • By Margaret Riddle
  • Posted 10/26/2023
  • Essay 22834
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On March 13, 1914, Rev. Gustaf Albert Dahlstrom (1873-1964), Swedish immigrant and spiritual leader of Mountain View Farm near Granite Falls, is convicted of violating the Mann Act. A jury deliberates for 16 hours and finds Dahlstrom guilty of transporting teenage Edna Englund of Tacoma from Fresno, California to Seattle for immoral purposes. The dramatic court trial and the salacious nature of the case draws extensive press coverage. A polygamist, Dahlstrom has a history of liaisons with teenage common-law wives and has fathered children in Sweden, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington. In December 1913 Dahlstrom had filed for divorce from legal wife Martha, but in a counter complaint, she won the divorce plus $2,000 of community property and custody of their two children. Dahlstrom will be sentenced to five years in prison at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary for violating the Mann Act and fined $1,000 with bail set at $3,000. Commune members will pay his bail and Dahlstrom will flee to Sweden, where he continues his wandering life, dying as a chicken farmer in Huddinge, Sweden in 1964. 

Who Was Albert Dahlstrom?

Held in the Pierce County jail in Tacoma, awaiting trial, Albert Dahlstrom told a reporter: “I am 40. I came from Sweden 20 years ago. I lived in Illinois first and my first trade was steam engineer. For 22 years I was interested in religion in the Orthodox Swedish Lutheran church. I got to reading and thinking for myself. Most religions have a hell and a devil and eternal damnation. I got speaking as evangelist and opposed those things. The preachers attacked me but I kept on speaking and writing and for 15 years I have been lecturing and writing" (“Mutter-in Law”).

What Dahlstrom did not mention was his practice of polygamy with as many as 32 wives, and that he had been pursued by authorities for years on various charges. He also did not mention that he was leader of a religious colony called Mountain View Farm near the town of Granite Falls in Snohomish County and founder of Heliga, a group that advocated polygamy.     

Records show that Gustaf Albert Dahlstrom emigrated to the U.S. from Sweden in 1890 and by 1900, he was living with a wife and child in Chicago where he began as an evangelist, author and lecturer, preaching to Swedish Americans in Illinois and Minnesota. He was outspoken on religion and politics, in 1903 escaping from an angry mob for publicly stating, “It was a noble deed to shoot such a tyrant as the dead president McKinley was” (“Made His Escape”).

A Radical Era

As historian Charles Pierce LeWarne pointed out in his 1995 book, Utopias on  Puget Sound, 1885 to 1915, the region was at that time promising territory for radical thinking and societal change. Labor unions grew as well as labor conflicts and suffragists won the vote for Washington women in 1910. Immigrants arriving in the early 1900s tripled the population in the Pacific Northwest, a large number coming from Sweden and Norway who brought with them ideas of Scandinavian socialism. In his book LeWarne tells the histories of five significant Puget Sound communes: Home, Burley Equality, Freeland. and Puget Sound. As he points out, most commune members were drawn by opportunism and idealism. The Mountain View Farm experiment fits into this time and place.   

Passage of the Mann White Slavery Act in 1910 was significant to the Dahlstrom case. Named for the bill’s author, U. S. Representative James Mann of Illinois, the act was aimed at ending forced prostitution but also allowed for conviction of consensual, noncommercial abuses against women. The Mann Act gave a pursuing mother-in-law and one victim’s family the legal means to convict Dahlstrom.

Mountain View Farm  

Why Rev. Albert Dahlstrom bought land in Snohomish County to begin his commune remains a mystery, but it was an ideal and beautiful location near the Stillaguamish River and the Cascade mountains. Land was available for clearing and farming. Nearby was the small town of Granite Falls, whose economy came from logging, shingle production, and mining. Incorporated in 1903, the town had a population of 714 in 1910. Granite Falls had four hotels, several general stores, two drug stores, and two blacksmiths.  

Dahlstrom purchased a little over 875 acres near the Stillaguamish River in 1908 or 1909, naming it Mountain View Farm, or Heliga. Seventeen families joined the Farm, most arriving in 1910. Edna Atkins was a young girl who came there with her parents that year. In her memoirs she recalls:  

“My parents had somehow got interested in a Swedish religious sect and joined a group who were going to Washington to form a colony. The leader was a very religious man who gathered all these people together and induced them to go to Washington where he had bought land, which was to be divided between each family. There was one whole train car full. Some came from Duluth, some from St. Paul as well as Minneapolis. Two families came directly from Sweden. Others came later from Chicago and places in the east. I remember the night we left. The berths were all made up and we thought they were going to stay that way. I remember Mother as she told her relations "good bye." How she cried. For us kids it was great fun especially getting acquainted with our new Swedish friends who could speak no English.

“After many days of traveling we arrived in Granite Falls, Washington on April 9, 1910. It was a nice day and as we came nearer our destination, Mother fixed our curls and put clean clothes on us. We were met by a group of men who had gone on ahead, my brother Ernie being one of them. There was a one-horse buggy which they put Mother with Bert and another lady with her baby. The driver was our leader. Then there was the two-seated surrey with the fringe on top. There were five women with their little ones in it. Then came in what they called the Boxwagon. They had put boards across it for seats. Dad was with the rest of us kids and somehow they got us all down to this big ranch on the Stillaquamish River.

“There was one two-story house. One little new house had been built. There was a bunkhouse for the men. And a big revival tent had been put up with a kitchen as a dining place. By evening it was raining and cold. I really don't know where the men all slept but they made beds on the floor for the women and children. It rained and it rained so there was much unhappiness.

“Our furniture had been shipped by freight and when word came that it had arrived all wagons were sent into town with orders to bring beds and mattresses first. In the meantime one carpenter with the help of all the men had built a few more little houses. Each house was to be shared by two families and we were to eat at the cookhouse. Different women were appointed to do the cooking and kitchen work. The men were all to assist in clearing land, planting crops and in return when the land was all cleared each man was to get forty acres for his home. This religious leader, whose name was Albert Dahlstrom, was the boss …” (Atkins memoirs).

Edna Atkins wrote much more about her family’s experience there, daily life, the dissolution of the commune in 1913-1914, her attendance at public school, and her family’s choice to stay.

Albert and Martha

According to multiple accounts, while Dahlstrom practiced polygamy himself, he did not preach it in the pulpit. He spoke of it, however, in private to young girls, pointing out that legal marriage was manmade and that nowhere in the Bible is polygamy condemned. Most of his relationships were brief but he fathered children and abandoned them, along with their mothers.  

Albert’s relationship with Martha Pederson of Rockford, Illinois was different, a legal marriage that lasted nearly seven years. She became Albert’s partner when she was 17 and her disapproving parents had Dahlstrom arrested. Martha stood by Albert and the couple legally married in 1907. She bore him three children. Martha and the kids accompanied Albert to Mountain View Farm. A daughter would soon die there of polio.  

According to Martha, in the summer of 1913, Albert brought Edna Englund out to the Farm, where she stayed for two weeks. Edna and Albert shared a bedroom while Martha and their two children slept on a living room couch. Soon Albert rejected Edna in favor of her sister Hilda. On December 10, 1913, Martha left Albert and she and the children went to live with her mother.

Martha recalled other women before that who shared their Mountain View home. Her mother Marie Pederson pursued Albert for six years, having him arrested several times, but each time he was able to escape charges. The Mann White Slave Traffic Act of 1910 and an increasingly angry Englund family would bring Dahlstrom to justice.   

Interwoven Trials

Charging her with abandonment, Albert initiated divorce proceedings in the case Albert Dahlstrom, Plaintiff vs. Martha Dalstrom, Defendant, in the Superior Court of the State of Washington in and for the county of Snohomish. He sought to cut ties with Martha and her mother Marie Pederson, who he believed were plotting to obtain the Mountain View property. Martha made a counter complaint and on March 8, 1914 was granted a divorce, a sizeable property settlement, custody of the children, and child support. In addition to the Farm, the couple owned a home in Everett. Of the original 875-plus acres, Dahlstrom’s portion, after dividing with 17 familes, was 70 acres.

Before the divorce was granted, Emil Englund, a brother of Edna and Hilda, filed a case, U.S. vs. Albert Dahlstrom, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Northern Division, Seattle, claiming Dahlstrom had violated the Mann White Slave Traffic Act by transporting Edna Englund of Tacoma from Fresno to Seattle for immoral purposes. Dahlstrom was arrested in Everett on December 20, 1913 and transferred to the Tacoma, Pierce County jail to stand trial in federal court in Seattle. Dahlstrom’s attorney in both cases was O. T. Webb (1883-1957) of Everett.

Learning of his imprisonment, Martha stated: “When I heard that my husband had been arrested, I was so glad I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Then I decided to laugh. I’m through with crying ... When I think of all the grief and tears that man has brought to girls and women through his preaching and practicing polygamy, it makes me desperate” (“Real Wife of Preacher”).     

Martha knew of 16 wives he had taken since 1910 and rumor had it there were as many as 32 in his past. In 1899, while legally married to a woman in Chicago, he married Martha. She recalled another in St. Paul who bore him a child, one in Denver that he abandoned after three months, two sisters, three others in Minneapolis, and others in Chicago and Denver.

Attorney Webb followed Dahlstrom’s opinion of Marie Pederson and defended his client by showing Dahlstrom as a victim, saying this was a case of “Too much mother-in-law” and describing Dahlstrom as an “a poor, half-baked itinerant preacher” and a “poor idiot”  (“Dahlstrom is Found Guilty”). In jail, awaiting trial, Dahlstrom told a reporter:

“Somebody takes a girl to another state to marry her and then they arrest him. If the judge finds me guilty, I will take my medicine ... Wherever I have gone to preach, my mother-in-law has been after me ... And everywhere she has made trouble. Now these fellows here in jail with me are nice fellows. They’re not really criminals. We talk about religion, politics and such and get along real nice. It isn’t so bad to be in jail” (“Mother-in-Law ...”).

Courtroom Drama

Tall, thin and composed, Dahlstrom by all accounts looked haggard in the courtroom. After three months in jail, he was described as stoop-shouldered and looking older than his 40 years. While seemingly calm, he broke into tears when the plaintiff’s lawyer read the names of his children, one reporter stating that it did not seem to be for dramatic effect but out of embarrassment.

Edna Englund testified against Dahlstrom and also broke down under attorney Webb’s aggressive questioning, asking her if she knew she might also be criminally liable. In tears she left the witness stand and, with her hands covering her face, collapsed on the courtroom floor. She was escorted to a nearby room to regain composure. Her sister Hilda testified in support of Dahlstrom.


Deliberating for 16 hours, the jury found Albert Dahlstrom guilty on March 12, 1913 of violating the Mann Act. He was sentenced to five years at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary, fined $1,000, with bail set at $3,000. Commune members paid his bail and upon release from jail, Dahlstrom fled to Sweden. Swedish police received tips about his arrival and began following him. He bought a farm in Västerhaninge, where he ran a dance hall in the summers. He settled in the area around Västerhaninge and Huddinge south of Stockholm. Dahlstrom lived to be old, dying as a chicken farmer in Huddinge, Sweden in 1964.

The commune ended in 1914. It no longer had its leader and there were big financial troubles with liens on the property. Some members moved on while some stayed in Snohomish County. Martha Dahlstrom married Carl B. Martinson in 1917. Carl had emigrated from Sweden in 1911 and possibly joined the commune. The 1930 and 1940 census listings show the couple living in Outlook, Snohomish County, west of Granite Falls, going by the names Carl and Martha Martin. It appears that the commune land stayed with Martha Dahlstrom/Martin for some time.

Bringing the Story Home

Given the large amount of press coverage the Dahlstrom trial received, spread through Associated Press dispatches, it is hard to imagine that Granite Falls residents were unaware of what was happening at Mountain View Farm. Both the divorce and White Slavery trials were covered in the Everett Herald. Yet the commune near Granite Falls left no trace in written or oral Snohomish County histories. It came to recent attention when a young woman whose ancestors had lived in the colony uncovered the story. She had done considerable research and contacted the Granite Falls Historical Society, sharing what she had found and hoping to learn more from the museum’s collections. No photos, journals, or artifacts were found, and local newspapers prior to 1922 have not survived. Placing the story online brought no response. 

What the museum did have were digital overlay historic maps, created and shared by Fred Cruger of the Granite Falls Historical Society. These allowed comparison of the property over several decades. (It is of interest that Dahlstrom Road, originally Nelson Road, exists today as well as a school building, now in new use.)    

From contemporary accounts, it is unlikely that others practiced polygamy at Mountain View Farm. They were immigrants directly from Sweden or Minneapolis and had followed a religious leader in 1910, most likely hoping to plant roots in their new country. Granite Falls historian Fred Cruger writes:

“But it’s even more fun to make note of the neighbors’ names, all of which show up in the 1920, 1930, and 1940 census data -- Erickson, Swanson, Nelson, Carlson, Peterson, Gustafson, Engstrom -- . How many of those families have heard the story behind the ‘Swedish Commune in Granite Falls’ and the conviction of Gustaf ‘Albert’ Dahlstrom for his crimes? How many of those families ended up taking root in Granite Falls because they joined that early Swedish community. (“A Commune in Granite Falls”).

If Granite Falls and other county residents knew the Dahlstrom story, they kept it quiet, choosing to forget it, maybe partly out of shame, or more likely as a gesture of support for good neighbors there. Over time, those who stayed on became part of the larger Granite Falls community.


“A Commune… in Granite Falls … Featuring White Slavery?,” Granite Falls Historical Society, accessed October 5-7, 2023, (Commune.pdf (; Fred Cruger, “2023 Granite Falls History”, emailed manuscript to Margaret Riddle, October 10, 2023; Online Encyclopedia of Washington History, “Granite Falls - Thumbnail History,” (Janet Oakley,) (accessed October 5, 2023); Charles Pierce LeWarne, Utopias on Puget Sound, 1885 to 1915, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995); Kelli Ann McCoy, “Claiming Victims: The Mann Act, Gender and Class in the American West, 1910-1930s,” eScholarship website accessed October 5, 2023 (Claiming victims : the Mann Act, gender, and class in the American West, 1910-1930s (; Edna Olivia Johnson Atkins, “My Life Recollections,” Chapter 2,  Ancient Faces website   accessed October 4, 2023 (Atkins Family History: Last Name Origin & Meaning (; “Made His Escape,” Albert Dahlstrom Sought By an Angry Mob Last Night, Vanishing Through Window,” The St. Paul Globe, September 19, 1903, p. 2: “Free Lover Weds Girlish Witness,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 31, 1907, p. 9; Summons in the Superior Court for the State of Washington in and for the county of Snohomish, Albert Dahlstrom vs. Martha Dahlstrom, Labor Journal, November 14, 1913, p. 2; “Alleged Slaver Held for Jury,” Tacoma Daily Ledger, December 24, 1913, p. 5; “Happenings on the Pacific Slope Investigated, Finds ‘Saint’ Much Married. Special Agent Declares He Deserted Twenty Wives,” Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1913; “Albert Dahlström – preacher, woman seducer, slave trader,” accessed October 10, 2023, (Albert-Dahlströms-liv-nät.pdf (; “Married to Score, Detective Charges – Minister Watched Since May, Government Agent Says,” The Pioneer (Minnesota), December 26, 1913, p.1; O. Sawyer, “Real Wife of ‘Preacher”Declares Dahlstrom Had Sixteen Wives,” Tacoma Times, December 24, 1913, p.1; O. Sawyer, “Real wife of ‘preacher’ declares Dahlstrom Had Sixteen Wives,” Ibid., December 24, 1913, p. 1; Call Pastor Modern Bluebeard,” Seattle Star, December 23, 1913, p.1; “Mrs. Dahlstrom is Given Divorce,” Everett Daily Herald, March 13, 1914, p. 8; Fred L. Boalt, “Wife Reveals Life with Cult Preacher,” Ibid., December 23, 1913, p. 1; “Free Love Plan Alleged; Man Arrested,” Tacoma News Tribune, December 22, 1913, p. 6; “Dahlstrom is Found Guilty,” Tacoma Daily Ledger, March 14, 1914, p. 12; “Pastor Guilty Under Mann Act,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 1914, p. 5; “Dahlstrom is Found Guilty,” Tacoma Daily Ledger, March 14, 1914, p. 12; “Real Wife of “Preacher” Declares Dahlstrom Had 16 Wives”, Ibid., December 24, 1913, p. 1; “Mother-In-Law Beat Every Detective,” Tacoma News Tribune, December 29, 1913, pp. 1, 4; “Blessed is Man with Nothing He Declares,” Ibid., December 26, 1913, p. 3; “Pastor’s Wife Gets Divorce,” Seattle Star, March 19, 1914, p. 1; “Dahlstrom Guilty on One Count,” Everett Daily Herald, March 14, 1914, p. 3; “Pastor Guilty Under Mann Act: Rev. Albert Dahlstrom, the Founder of Religious Sect, Convicted in Seattle,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 1914; “Dahlstrom Collapses on Stand,” Tacoma Times, March 12, 1914, p. 1; “Pastor’s Past is Revealed,” Ibid., December 24, 1914, p. 1; “Mutter-In-Law Was the Cause of Evangelist Dahlstrom’s Expose,” Ibid.. December 27, 1913, p. 7; “Victim Revealed Life With Cult Preacher, Ibid., December 23, 1913; “Divine With 32 Wives is White Slaver,,” Ibid., March 19, 1914, p. 1.

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