Joe Hill was born Joel Emmanuel Haggland in Sweden, the ninth son of a railroad worker. His father died when Hill was eight years old, and he went to work in order to help support his mother and six siblings. When Hill's mother died in 1902, he emigrated to the United States. Until 1910 practically nothing is known of where Hill lived or what he did. It is known that he was in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake, as Hill sent back an eyewitness account of the horror and devastation caused by this disaster to Sweden, where it was published in a local newspaper. Somewhere along the line he changed his name to "Joseph Hillstrom," possibly to avoid arrest. By the time Joe Hill finally surfaces in San Pedro, CA, in 1910, it is clear that he had been working a long time as a migrant laborer, and was on intimate terms with the suffering and misery experienced by the families of his fellow workers under the conditions of this era.