Tag Archives: 1850s

The Olsens in the Old Country

Niels Olsen and Juliane Sophie Hennike spent the first twenty-two years of their married life in their native Denmark before venturing together to America.

They had married on 30 July 1852 in Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark. A nineteenth-century stereoscope image of what appears to be the church at Haraldsted was handed down through descendants of their second son, along with a stereoscope image that preserves the view of the village itself.

Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

The couple resided in Osted, ten miles or so northeast of Haraldsted, in the early years of their marriage; this is where their sons Ole and Johan Henrik were born and baptized in 1853 and 1855. Niels, Juliane, and Ole appeared in the 1855 census here with two servants in their household, prior to the birth of Johan Henrik. Niels was a farmer.

The family relocated to the Orslevvester district five miles southwest of Haraldsted, near the village of Gyrstinge, within a year or two. Here their children Karen Sophia Dorthea, Karen Kirstine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederik, Anders Christian, Jens Christian, and Anders Julius were born and baptized between the years 1857 and 1871.

Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

The 1860 and 1870 Danish census records raise questions about the family’s living situation. In 1860, Niels and Juliane, by then the parents of three children, lived only with their youngest child at the time, daughter Karen Sophie Dorthea, age three. Where were their sons Ole and Johan Henrik? Ole, age seven, lived in Osted with his maternal grandmother. Johan Henrik’s location is less clear, but a census index indicates that a “Jens” Nielsen, age four, born in Osted, was a “foster child” in Jyrstup, located roughly between Osted and Orslevvester.

Although it seems odd that the Ole and Johan would not have lived in their parents’ household, it should be noted that Juliane was in the late stages of pregnancy in early 1860. One could speculate that she might have been unwell and therefore her older children were placed with relatives or friends for a temporary period.

There was no census in 1865 to give an idea of the family’s household structure, but in 1870, Niels and Juliane continued to reside in Orslevvester with five of their seven surviving children: Johan Henrik, Karen Kristine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederick, and Jens Christian.

Olsen Family Home, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

Their oldest son Ole, sixteen, and oldest daughter Karen Sophie Dorthea, twelve, resided in a household in Haraldsted where they were recorded as foster children. Three servants, ages sixteen, eighteen, and twenty also resided in the household, so it is notable that their statuses differed from those of Ole and Dorthea; however, the sixteen-year-old servant was female, and one possible theory is that males might not have been considered to be grown men and therefore actual servants until an older age. It seems plausible that the brother and sister may have worked in exchange for room and board, if not yet for a wage; whether they had left their family home for work experience or due to space constraints or poverty is unknown.

In any case, a nineteenth-century stereoscope image of what is believed to have been the family home, presumably in Orslevvester, has also been preserved by descendants. It appears to be an example of a u-shaped housebarn, a practical structure that connects the barn and the house and allows for protection from the elements in a cold climate.

In 1873, sons Ole and Johan Henrik immigrated to America, and in 1874, Niels, Juliane, and their six younger children, namely Karen Sophie Dorthea, Karen Kristine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederick, Jens Christian, and Anders Julius, followed. Their youngest child, Helena, would be born in Dakota Territory in 1875.

Family lore indicates that Niels purchased his farm near present-day Yankton, South Dakota for five hundred dollars; perhaps the sale of the family home in Denmark allowed him to make this cash purchase of good farmland at a time when many other immigrants opted to homestead for a nominal filing fee.

Niels and Juliane made a comfortable life for themselves and their children in America—and it can easily be imagined that they may have gathered around a stereoscope from time to time to view these very images and reminisce about their old home in Denmark.

Copyright © 2020 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Fatal Scratch: The Death of a Pioneer Woman

Anna_Margaretha_Poesch_Thoma_Obituary“After almost a week of extreme suffering, caused from blood poisoning, Mrs. Margaretha Thoma, one of Garnavillo’s oldest residents, passed away at 4:00 o’clock last Saturday afternoon. About two weeks ago the lady accidentally scratched the back of one of her hands with a pin. The scratch at the time was a mere trifle and was given no further thought by her until a few days after when the hand began to swell and cause more or less pain. A physician was called and found it necessary to lance the hand, but desired results did not follow and twice later the lance was employed, and still no relief came to her sufferings, but instead the wound continued to grow worse and the swelling commenced extending into the arm. Everything possible was done to allay the pain and comfort her in her unendurable suffering, but nothing could be administered that would combat with the situation and the result was death came as a relief after nearly a week of incessant torture.”1

Anna Margaretha (Poesch) Thoma was born in Weißenstadt, Wunsiedel, Bavaria, the daughter of Wolfgang and Barbara Poesch.2 She came to Iowa with her family at a young age, and was later deemed “one of the venerable and loved pioneer women of Clayton County.”3 Margaretha married William Henry Thoma, a local merchant, in 1857, when she was still in her teens.4 They had eleven children before his death in 1876; Margaretha never remarried, and in fact continued to operate his mercantile in the years following his death.5 Perhaps it was this role in her community that brought her the recognition to be remembered so fondly in the years following her death from blood poisoning on 9 November 1907.6

Margaretha’s unfortunate plight might remind some of Caroline Ingalls’ encounter with a rusty nail in a particularly drama-filled episode of Little House on the Prairie. Indeed, albeit tragically, little could have been done to relieve Margaretha’s suffering at this time and place. Her age, estimated at near seventy, might also have contributed to her susceptibility to infection, whether she in fact suffered from sepsis or tetanus. Although not soon enough for Margaretha, it would be just a matter of time before the use of penicillin – and the tetanus vaccine – would become widespread. 

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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The Country Store: Family Groceries, the Best of Brandy, and Excellent Beer

The Bavarian William Henry Thoma of Garnavillo, Clayton County, Iowa, was a businessman by the age of thirty.1 In 1859, the Clayton County Journal reported:

“William Thoma, Grocer, Main Street, Garnavillo, Iowa, keeps constantly on hand all kinds of family groceries, such as Coffee, Sugar, Tea, Milasses, ice, &c. The best of Brandy and excellent Beer is also always to be found at this establishment.”2

William must have found success as a grocer and purveyor of alcoholic beverages, as his business was apparently in operation for at least two decades. He was named a merchant in the 1860 census,3 and in the 1870 census it was noted that he was the keeper of a “country store.”4 This must have allowed him to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his wife and eleven children; in 1870, he owned real estate valued at $12,000 and personal estate valued at $3,000.5

William_Thoma_1870

1870 U.S. census, Clayton County, Iowa, population schedule, Garnavillo, p. 13 (penned), dwelling 87, family 86, Wm Toma; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 April 2014), citing National Archives microfilm M593, roll 383.

After William’s death in the summer of 1876,6 his widow, Anna Margaretha (Poesch) Thoma, with a handful of young children still at home, took over as merchant. She maintained the business for a number of years, while her eldest son assisted as a clerk in the store.7

I like to wonder whether William’s store was anything like that featured at Iowa’s Living History Farms, which boasts the fictional 1875 Town of Walnut Hill. Images of the picturesque Greteman Brothers General Store can be seen here. It’s well worth a visit if you find yourself in central Iowa and have ever wondered what life was like for your Midwestern ancestors in the years following the Civil War. The impact of the Industrial Revolution on rural communities is visible, although, according to the Living History Farms, “The railroad will always be a few years away for Walnut Hill.”8

Of course, I also have to wonder whether William and Anna Margaretha (Poesch) Thoma were anything like Nels and Harriet Oleson of Little House on the Prairie. Let’s just hope that their children weren’t as spoiled as the infamous Nellie and Willie!

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The FAN Principle: Finding Family in Southern Illinois

Isaac_Hall_Probate01

Washington County, Illinois, Isaac Hall probate file, Box 22, County Court; Illinois State Archives, Springfield.

Of course, it would have been too easy if Isaac Hall of Washington County, Illinois had named all of his surviving children in his last will and testament. Although probate records can be excellent resources for genealogists, they don’t always provide all of the details that one would hope. When Isaac dictated his wishes to two witnesses in January of 1852, he stated only that his “eldest son,” Jonathan Hall, was to receive all of his lands, goods, and chattels.1 He named this same son as the sole executor of his estate. Isaac made his mark, and went on to live less than two months more; his will was filed on 15 March 1852.2

Fortunately, there are other resources that provide clues as to who at least some of the other children of Isaac Hall may have been. Among them is the 1850 U.S. census for District 20, Washington County, Illinois, which counts three Hall households in a row. In the first lived Elathan Hall, thirty-seven, a farmer from Tennessee.3 In the second lived Isaac Hall, forty-five, also a farmer from Tennessee.4 In the third lived Jonathan Hall, fifty, a farmer who was a native of North Carolina,5 as was the only other adult male resident of the household, Isaac Hall, seventy-four.6 Although relationships between members of a household were not recorded in the 1850 census, based on the information provided, it seems logical to assume that the senior Isaac was Jonathan’s father, and that they were, in fact, the same Isaac and Jonathan of the aforementioned probate record. Their living arrangement suggests why Isaac may have felt so indebted to his eldest son when it came time to pen his will. Perhaps he had spent many years in the care of his son’s family.

And what of the younger Isaac Hall and Elathan Hall who lived next door, or, rather, on neighboring farms? No, they had not been born in North Carolina – but Tennessee falls between North Carolina and southern Illinois, making it a likely stop for a family that may have gradually migrated west. The thirteen-year age span between Jonathan, the younger Isaac, and Elithan suggests a possible sibling relationship. An exploration of additional records indicates that these families were closely linked for decades.

This is a perfect example of the importance of Cluster Research, also called the FAN Principle – an awareness of an ancestor’s Friends, Associates, and Neighbors – explored by Elizabeth Shown Mills.7 I should note that my dad stressed the importance of this principle to me in my research long before we knew that it had a name! How have you used the FAN Principle in your research?

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An Iowa Farmer: Clues from the Agricultural Schedule

When Hiram H. Hammond of Postville, Allamakee, Iowa died in 1896 at the age of eighty-three, the local newspaper stated, “By constant application to his farm and frugal habits, Mr. Hammond acquired a comfortable competency.”1 Although it is believed that he was born in Belmont County, Ohio, little is known about Hiram Hammond before his debut as a farmer in northeastern Iowa.2 It is there that the paper trail begins, and agricultural schedules, an underutilized resource, offer fantastic detail about his experience.

HiramHammondAgriculture1850

1850 U.S. census, Jackson County, Iowa, agriculture schedule, Jackson, p. 299 (penned), line 29, Hyram Hammons; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 October 2013), citing “Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880.”

An 1848 land transaction placed Hiram Hammond in Jackson County, Iowa, which is located along the Mississippi River.3 In 1850, Hiram, 37, was recorded as a laborer in another household.4 He did not own any land, but he had five horses and one milch cow, together valued at $260. His farm machinery and implements were valued at $20. Hiram had harvested 100 bushels of wheat, 60 bushels of Indian corn, 75 bushels of oats, 10 bushels of peas and beans, and 6 tons of hay. He had also produced 100 pounds of butter, and the value of his animals slaughtered came to $20.5

By 1854, Hiram had moved on to nearby Clayton County, Iowa, where he married a German immigrant, Eva Margaret Stöhr, and started a family. In the years to come, Hiram saw success as a farmer,6 and, although seemingly absent in 1860, he appeared in the 1870 and 1880 U.S census and agricultural schedules.

In 1870, Hiram, 57, lived with his wife and five children under the age of twelve.7 His farm was valued at $2500 and his livestock at $1400; he possessed 180 acres of land, the majority of which was woodland. Hiram also owned fourteen sheep, eight horses, seven swine, seven cattle, and six milch cows. He produced 300 pounds of butter, and 75 pounds of honey.8 In 1880, his farm was valued at $3240; although his acreage was smaller than in 1870, more land was in use. The value of his farm productions of the past year came to $1461.9 All told, this was a far cry from Hiram’s first appearance in the agricultural schedule.

Hiram continued to farm throughout his seventies. Eventually, he and his family moved to nearby Fayette County, before, as Hiram neared eighty, he and his wife retired to town.10 In 1893, he advertised the sale of his farm, “comprising 200 acres, situated two and a quarter miles from Postville on the Clermont road.”11

How can you learn more about your ancestor’s farm? Agricultural Schedules were recorded from 1850-1880, and provide a wealth of information about the land, livestock, crops, and other farm productions, from butter and cheese to maple syrup and honey, of your ancestor. Search for your ancestor through “Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880” on Ancestry.com. Be aware that the agricultural schedules may span two pages, and consider comparing your ancestor’s farming operation to those of their neighbors. How did they measure up?



SOURCES
1 “Gone to Their Rest,” The Graphic (Postville, Iowa), 27 August 1896, p. 1, col. 3; digital images, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 23 October 2013).
2 “Gone to Their Rest,” The Graphic (Postville, Iowa), 27 August 1896, p. 1, col. 3.
3 U.S. Bureau of Land Management, “Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov : accessed 23 October 2013), entry for Hiram Hammond, Dubuque land office, doc. no. 4358.
4 1850 U.S. census, Jackson County, Iowa, population schedule, Jackson, sheet 294-B, dwelling 187, family 187, Hiram Hammons; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 October 2013), citing National Archives microfilm M432, roll 124.
5 1850 U.S. census, Jackson County, Iowa, agriculture schedule, Jackson, p. 299 (penned), line 29, Hyram Hammons; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 October 2013), citing “Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880.”
6 “Gone to Their Rest,” The Graphic (Postville, Iowa), 27 August 1896, p. 1, col. 3.
7 1870 U.S. census, Clayton County, Iowa, population schedule, Volga, p. 6 (penned), dwelling 39, family 40, Hiram Hammond; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 October 2013), citing National Archives microfilm M593, roll 383.
8 1870 U.S. census, Clayton County, Iowa, agriculture schedule, Volga, line 28, Hiram Hammond; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 October 2013), citing “Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880.”
9 1880 U.S. census, Clayton County, Iowa, agriculture schedule, Garnavillo, p. 7 (penned), line 7, Hiram Hammond; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 October 2013), citing “Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880.”
10 “Gone to Their Rest,” The Graphic (Postville, Iowa), 27 August 1896, p. 1, col. 3.
11 “Farm for Sale,” The Graphic (Postville, Iowa), 29 June 1893; digital images, Newspaper Archive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 23 October 2013).