Inspired by the Swedish immigrants who flocked to Texas in the mid-1800s, East Austin’s Govalle neighborhood got its name from Swen Magnus, who immigrated to Central Texas in the 1850s. Magnus established his home and ranch in the East Austin area, and named it “GaValla,” a Swedish term that when translated means "good grazing land."

Swen Magnus

Swante (Svante, Sven, Swen) Magnus Swenson (Svenson) (1816-1896) was the first Swedish immigrant to Texas and the founder of the SMS Ranches of West Texas. He came to America in 1836, where he worked as a store clerk in New York and a railroad bookkeeper in Baltimore, Maryland, before settling in Texas in 1838. Swenson worked for John Adriance, who operated a large-scale carriage delivery service of general merchandise. It was during this employment that Swenson met Dr. George Long who, due to his poor health, requested that Swenson tend to him and his plantation. The doctor died in 1842, and Swenson took control over the estate, and one year later bought a neighboring plantation as well. In 1847 Swenson began a crusade to bring more Swedish immigrants to Texas, possibly because of his disapproval of slave labor, and footed the bill for several immigrants to move, in exchange for one year of work on his plantation. Swenson continued this venture for the rest of his life, and with the assistance of his uncle, Swante Palm, and brother, created what became known as the "Swedish pipeline," bringing many Swedes to Texas.

Swenson, who had moved to Austin by 1850, opened a mercantile business, invested in the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, and soon became a wealthy landowner. He founded the SMS Ranch on West Texas lands in 1851. He served two terms (1852 and 1856) as county commissioner and became the first treasurer of the State Agricultural Society (1853). He aided Governor Sam Houston in an attempt to stave off Texas secession by forming an independent Texas army. Despite his unionist tendencies, Swenson continued to help sell Texas cotton abroad. Eventually, fearing for his life, he fled to Mexico. He remained in Mexico until 1864, when he visited his mother in Sweden.

Swenson returned to the U.S. and by 1865 had set up a mercantile business in New Orleans and purchased a sugar plantation. He moved to New York City in late 1865, where he founded a finance firm, Swenson Perkins Company. Later he started S. M. Swenson and Sons banking company, and became a large stockholder in the First National City Bank of New York. Swenson kept deep ties to Texas, however, maintaining his land, cotton, and mercantile interests there. He died in New York in 1896.