While surfing through some old newspapers from around the globe, I happened to find this one buried in the sea of ink that tells the story of an old tramp from the Findlay area, whose good fortune came a little late – too late.
The story begins in January of 1907, on a cold and icy winter’s day where an old man, down on his luck, a bum some would say, died on the streets of Findlay. Clad in rags and known as Alfred Axelson, he had no family and few friends, if any, after moving to this country from Sweden many years before, with hopes of starting a new and prosperous life. Alfred though found out that life here was just as hard as it was in the native land he left. He spent many years tramping around the country working on farms, and working for hand outs. In his later years he was reduced to begging and ended up in Findlay, living mostly on the streets and barely staying alive. In January of 1907, he couldn’t hold on any longer. Found on the streets, nearly dead from exposure, Alfred was taken to a local hospital where in a short time, death’s angels came to visit and Alfred Axelson’s remains were sent to a pauper’s grave to be forgotten and buried.
But not quite.
For what Findlay residents didn’t know was that Alfred Axelson was not just any homegrown vagrant, but was in fact, a man of nobility. Born, Axel Alfred Crondhjelm, Count Alfred Crondhjelm to be precise – the son of one of the oldest families in Sweden. But the family name, however famous, was apparently more formidable than its bank account and the Crondhjelm estate was meager at best. After the death of Alfred’s father, with no promise of any fortune to inherit, Count Alfred left Sweden to pursue a new life in America. As revealed earlier, his hopes were dashed by the realities of the American economy. Life was hard and good luck failed him. The Count eventually changed his name to Alfred Axelson and never revealed to anyone the Swedish roots of his family nobility.
The story could end there–but doesn’t.
What poor Alfred didn’t know was that a few years before his death, one of the wealthier members of his family died in Sweden and Alfred was named as an heir to part of the estate. It was estimated in US currency to be about 70,000 dollars a year, or at least a million annually in today’s dollar value. Poor Alfred. Didn’t know about the death and the inheritance and didn’t know that the courts in Sweden had set out to find him to tell him of his great fortune.
They even sent the administrator of the estate to the U.S. to find the missing Count Alfred in the fall of 1906. Five months later, that administrator eventually did. Two weeks after the Count Alfred Crondhjelm died, as a penniless beggar on the cold winter streets of Findlay, Ohio.