Monday, June 25, 2012

Ole Peterson & the Peterson Family (2)

Part Two - The Petersons, a First Family of Mount Horeb
If you missed Part 1 of the story, go here . . .

The family of Peter Olsen Moe and Anna Augundsdatter Lad were farmers from the fiord's of Norway. They would leave their home and venture to America between 1862 and 1864, settling in the Town of Blue Mounds in south-central Wisconsin. Son Ole came first, but he was not an early settler to Blue Mounds. The first settlers had come as early as the 1830's and were mostly "easterners" that were heading west after America's independence. Later, starting in the 1840's and accelerating in the 1850's and 1860's, European immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, Norway and other places began to populate the Blue Mounds area.

When Ole Peterson purchased 200 acres at, what is now, the western third of the Village of Mount Horeb, the area was just fields with a small cluster of buildings about 1/2 mile to the east. As the years went on, Ole and his family would put their imprint on the emerging community.


The Peterson farmhouse; built in the late 1870's or early 1880's. It still
stands today on what is now Grove Street in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.

Ole Peterson, Patriarch of an American Family

When Ole first arrived in America, he spent a couple of years in the Village of Black Earth. Black Earth is located just a few miles north of Blue Mounds and by the late 1850's was already a bustling community. Nothing is known about Ole's time in that community but in early 1865, he would enlist in the Union Army.
Enlistment Information: "Ole Peterson, Black Earth, Dane County, Wisconsin. Enlistment credited to Pleasant Springs, Dane County. Born in Norway, Age 20, farmer, unmarried, blue eyes, light hair, light complexion, 5'-6". Enlisted for one year on February 9, 1865 at Madison and began service on February 15, 1865. Private, discharged on May 28th, 1865 at Nashville, Tennessee."
The war was winding down and had all but ended by the time Ole got involved and he spent his few months of enlistment on guard duty in Nashville.
Ole Peterson (back row - center) with other members of the Grand Army
of the Republic - Lorenzo Dixon post 191 at Mount Horeb (1890's)
After the war, Ole returned to Wisconsin and in 1866 he married Martha Hansdatter Breisnes (b.1841, d.1883). Family tradition had her as Martha Bredenson from Boscobel, Wisconsin but with that name, information on her was never found. Family researchers have just recently uncovered her past and family history. She shows up as Martha Kjeldson (Kjelson or Kjellson) or Martha Hansdatter (in various American records). The Wisconsin Marriage index listed her as Martha Kjelson. She was the daughter of Hans Kjeldson Breisnes Indrelid and Kari Heldgesdatter Breisnes. Both Breisnes and Indrelid are Norwegian farm names. She came to America in 1858 and it is known that at least four or five of her nine siblings also came to America and settled near Kenyon, Minnesota. How she ended up in Wisconsin or met Ole Peterson is still a mystery.

Ole and Martha first farmed 80 acres on Section 10 in Blue Mounds. The family would move to a larger, 200 acre farm on Section 11 sometime around 1880. They would have 10 children and Martha would die in childbirth on Christmas day. After that time, it is thought that some of the younger children were raised with the help of a neighboring widow named Betsy Peterson (no relation). Ole served as treasurer of the Town of Blue Mounds and was a founding member of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). He also was a founding member of the East Blue Mounds Lutheran Church (Norsk Evangelisk Kirke) which was built in 1868. Ole, his wife and parents are all buried at the East Blue Mounds Lutheran Church Cemetery.

The Norwegian Lutheran Church in eastern Blue Mounds.
The Church is gone now, but the cemetery still exists.

The Peterson Farm and Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

The Peterson homestead was just west of a small cluster of buildings originally known as "the corners" and later Horeb's Corners or Mount Horeb. The town had established itself on the military road that connected forts on Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. The road was an early stage line west and a rail line later followed the same route through western Dane County. Ole took an interest in the town and when the railroad came, he donated a slice of land to help insure that Mount Horeb would have rail service. Businesses moved from their original location, at the corners, to about 1/2 mile west to the place on the ridge where a depot was established. Mount Horeb and the Peterson farm became close neighbors and part of Ole's property was platted. As such, he might be considered one of the founders of the present day Village of Mount Horeb. A number of Ole's children would build houses on the property and Ole himself, would eventually move to a Victorian home on Main Street (the house still stands but has been altered considerably). Ole's eldest son, Peter would take over the farm for a while but he would relocate and over time the farmstead would be fully absorbed by the growing community. Ole was reported to have ongoing health problems and died in 1902 at the age of 60.

The Village of Mount Horeb about 1890 showing the two original plats.
The Village of Mount Horeb today and the original Ole Peterson farm
overlayed with a red red dashed line and the farmhouse (star).


A horse drawn threshing operation on the Ole Peterson farm, circa 1880's

The Children of Ole and Martha Peterson
  • Daughter Lena (Lina) (b.1867, d.1894) who shows also up in some records as Caroline, married John Vilberg and had two sons, Clarence and Frederick but she died as a result of complications of childbirth at the age of about age 27. John was born in Norway and census records indicate that he was a postmaster and later worked in real estate. He remarried after Lena’s death and had at least three more children.
Lena Peterson's sons, Clarence and Fredie.

  • Son Peder O. (Peter) (b.1869, d.1950) married Julia Thompson in 1890. She was the daughter of Andrew Thompson and Guri? They initially farmed part of the Ole Peterson farm in Blue Mounds/west Mount Horeb. Sometime between 1900 and 1905, he and the family moved to Rice Lake in Barron County, Wisconsin where he farmed and lived out the rest of his life. They had four children, Maybell, Gladys, Thelma and Orville.
Peter Peterson's three daughters.

  • Daughter Anna Mathea (Annie) (b.1870, d.1934) married Albert Lewis in about 1894. They had no children and lived on Main Street in Mount Horeb. It is said that Annie worked very hard to support her alcoholic husband. At one, point, he took the papers to their house and sold it without her knowledge. After he spent the money, he was found drunk somewhere and Annie brought him back home. Despite all of that, she could not live without him and died soon after him, reportedly of a broken-heart. In census records, Albert’s employment was listed as laborer or “odd jobs.”
Annie Peterson and Albert Lewis.

  • Son Henry (b.1872, d.1938) married Gena Lewis in 1907 and farmed in Blue Mounds. Gena was a cousin of Albert Lewis who married Annie. They had five children, Martha, Harold, Curtis, Morris (Maurice) and an infant. Both Henry and Gena fell victim to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic and developed Pneumonia. Gena was pregnant at the time and neither she or the baby survived the childbirth. Henry was heartbroken and although he did eventually recover from his illness, it is said that he was never the same again. He seemed to have a death wish and often talked about wanting to have died with his wife. Twenty years later he did die as a result of injuries from an explosion as he was trying to blast out a tree stump on the farm. Their son, Curtis Peterson gained local notoriety as the wrestler named Spike Peterson and was killed in the ring in 1951.
Henry Peterson

  • Son Olaus (b.1873, d.1876) died at the age of about three years old. The family would use the name again two years after his death when Olaus #2 was born.
  • Daughter Gjertrud Marie (Mary) (b.1876, d.1902) married Deforest Blackney (b.1876, d.1974) around 1900. He was born in Mineral Point. His parents had come there from Pennsylvania and his grandfather had emigrated from Cornwall, England. Mary died in childbirth at the age of about age 26 but her daughter, Mary survived. She was reportedly raised by her paternal grandparents in Nebraska. In 1900, just prior to their marriage, Deforest was a border in the Town of Springdale and listed as a telegraph operator. Sometime before 1920, he went to Saint Paul, Minnesota where he reportedly lived out the rest of his life having never remarried.
Mary Peterson and DeForest Blackney

  • Son Andreas (Andrew) (b.1876, d.1924) who was the twin to Mary was noted as a drifter, might have been called “the fiddler” and reportedly worked for a time with the circus. His wife was said to have run off with a farmhand. One story says he come back to Mount Horeb a sick man, perhaps having contracted tuberculosis. Another story says he came back, after being allegedly cured in a sanitarium in Milwaukee. He died of pneumonia in a hospital in Madison. These are family stories and there accuracy is not assured. He was married in 1899 to Emma Gilbertson (b.1882, d.?) and in 1900 they were living on or next to the Gilbertson farm in the Town of Perry. Two of Emma’s brothers seemed to be running the farm. By 1910, Emma was living on Blair Street, off the square in Madison with her mother and her two children but still listed as married. Andrew is hard to track after that and it is unclear if he is listed in any further census records. Their children were Grace, Orville and Esther (who died as an infant).
The grave of Andrew Peterson at Union
Cemetery in Mount Horeb.

  • Son Olaus (b1878, d.1961), sometimes called Olaf will be discussed in Part 3 of this series.
  • Daughter Lovina (b.1880, d.1963) may have actually been named Bethilde Rowena. She married John Bakken (b.1883, d.?) in 1904 and lived on Wilson Street in Mount Horeb. John, whose formal name was Olaf John was born in the Town of Vermont, Wisconsin. John’s family has been traced back to the 1600’s to Sor Aurdal, Norway. Lovina reportedly used her inheritance to send John to barber school and help set him up in business. In various census records, John is listed as working in insurance and owning a barber shop. They had no children and Lovina was noted to be "very prim and proper."
Lovina Peterson and John Bakken

  • Son Alfred, (b.1882, d.1971) shows up in more than one source as Albert and was apparently baptized under that name. He took some inheritance and headed west to homestead in South Dakota. There he met and married Mary Stevens in 1909. They lived in a sod hut and after many crop failures, returned to Mount Horeb. He was noted in census records as a painter and manager of a theater – the Parkway Theater and Dance Hall at the corner of Grove and Main Street. They had four children, Wallace, Waldo, Kenneth and Dorothy.
Alfred Peterson

  • Son Martin, (b.1883, d. 1884?) died in child birth or soon after. His mother, Martha, just 45 years old, would also perish during the birth.
Ole would spend his last years living on Main Street in Mount Horeb. His health was bad and he would die in 1902 at the age of only 59. He did not live the long life of his father (who was still alive in 1902) but in his years in eastern Blue Mounds, he lived long enough to see his family and his town grow up.
The Obituary of Ole Peterson: Veteran at Rest - Ole Peterson passed away last Saturday at his home here, after a long and painful suffering covering a period of many years. Thought at times he was apparently on the gain, yet the changes were usually of short duration, and his sufferings were great. Deceased was 59 years and three months of age when death relieved him. He came with his parents from Norway in 1862 and while a new-comer enlisted in the rebellion, where he served his new country on the union side with fidelity. He was a charter member of the Ren Dixon Post of this place. Mr. Peterson leaves a large number of relatives to mourn his death. His aged father still survives. He leaves there brothers, P.P. Moe of this place, L.P. Moe of Dawson and C.P. Moe of Madison, Minnesota, four sisters, Mrs. Larson, Mrs. Charles Steinhauer, Mrs. L.O. Mennes and Mrs. Finke. Eight of his children are living, Peter, Henry, Olaf, Andrew, and Alfred (spelled Albert in the actual obituary) and Mrs. Albert Lewis, Mrs. Blackney and Miss Lovina at home. All have the sympathy of the entire community in their sorrow. The funeral was held Tuesday, and was largely attended. The remains were interred at the East Blue Mounds cemetery. Reverend Gunderson officiated. the pall bearers were comrades of the deceased, "Old Glory" being prominent in the decorations.
The Peterson and Moe Gravesites at East Blue Mounds Lutheran Church Cemetery
in the Town of Blue Mounds. The two stones to the left are Ole and Martha and the
obelisk shaped stone to the right marks the Peter and Anna Moe grave.

Part 3 - The story of Ole's son Olaus and his family can be found here . . .

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