Friday, May 25, 2012

Ole Peterson & the Peterson Family (1)

Part One - Before there was Peterson, there was Moe

The Peterson family, their descendants and allied families have lived in the Town of Blue Mounds, the Village of Mount Horeb and other surrounding communities for about six generations. Ole Peterson, who arrived in 1862 would have a large family and thus the Peterson name would be fairly prominent in the area during the later half of the 19th Century and for much of the 20th Century. In the telling of family history, Ole is often sited as the starting point . . . the immigrant who came to America and started a family in this new place.

Ole may be the beginning of the "Peterson" story but the family does not start with him. It might be better to start the story with his father, Peter Olsen Moe who also came to America about the same time. The reason Ole and Peter had different last names was a result of the way Norwegians named themselves and the changes in that naming process as they became American. The Norwegian tradition of naming children after fathers and often adding a place of residence to the end of a name meant that virtually every generation had a different name. For a more detailed discussion on the naming system in Norway, read the post titled, Peterson - Moe, What's in a Name?

Sogn Fjord and Hafslo are located in west-central Norway. This
is the ancestral home of Peter Olsen Moe and Ole Peterson
The Moe Family in Norway

Thanks in large part to family researchers and with help from Norwegian farm books and the Norwegian researchers behind those, a number of family lines and many of the ancestors of Peter Moe have been identified. Peter Olsen Moe (also spelled Peder Olson or Oleson Moe) (b.1818, d.1912) was born in Mohaugen at the Mo farm on the shore of Lake Hafslo in the fjord country of west-central Norway. He married Anna Agundsdatter Lad (or Lahd) (b.1821, d.1888) in 1842. Anna was born on the La farm, also in Hafslo. Peter and Anna farmed, as tenants, on four farms between 1842 and their immigration to America in 1864. The were at a Mo farm at Mobakken, a Hilleskar farm in Sogndal, a Yngsdalen farm in Hafslo and finally at the Kjornes farm in Sogndal.

Peter Olsen Moe was the son of Ole Thorsen (Torsen) Langeteig Moe (b.1792, d.1827) and Gjertrud Kristine Clausdatter Reutz (b. 1792, d.1845). They lived in a cottage at Mohaugen which was actually a sub-farm up the hill from the main Mo farmhouse. They had three children, the oldest son lived to adulthood and married but drowned in Lake Hafslo, their second son was Peter and they also had a daughter Mari. When Ole died, Gjertrud remarried and had additional children. From Ole Thorsen Langeteig Moe, the family line has been traced back another six generations to Erik Berge (b.1600, d.1660). Gjertrud's parents were Claus Rumohr Adamsen Reutz (b.1759, d.1803) and Dorothea Pedersdatter Lomheim (b.1767, d.1840). The line of Claus Rumohr Adamsen Reutz has been traced back another five generation to Erik Jacobson Hauge (b.1570, d.1672).

Anna Augunsdatter Lad, the wife of Peter Olsen Moe, was the daughter of Augund Olsen Lahd (b.1798) and Margretha Larsdatter (b.1798). It seems that Anna's father died when she was a child and she was raised by her mother and her second husband, Erik Olsen. Some of these family lines have been traced back a few more generations, some to the 1500's and there are sub-branches that have been traced back even further and into the European continent.

Peter Olsen Moe and his wife, Anna started out farming at the Mo farm, where he had grown-up. Neither he nor his parents had owned any land at the farm but Peter's mother was a descendant of the farm's owners. The farm first came into the family when a very wealthy Danish Priest named Jens Hanson Orbech purchased the property in the early 1600's. He was the 6th great-grandfather of Gjertrud (Peter's mother). This area of Norway, near Bergen was the home to many non-Norwegians. These were mainly wealthy merchants, headquartered in Bergen, who built summer homes in the picturesque fjord country. Some settled in the area permanently. Thus many of the branches of this family are not "pure-bred" Norwegians and contained continental roots from places like Denmark and Germany.

At the time Jens Hanson Orbech bought the farm, it was by far the largest and "richest" farm in the area. It included lakefront, wooded areas, farm lands and mountain pastures. It is unlikely that Jens ever actually farmed the land but instead, probably rented parts to local families. At some point, the family lost the farm but Peter Olsen Moe's grandfather and family stayed on as tenant farmers. They most likely lived at one of the satellite farms in a small cottage. Peter Olsen Moe's mother, Gjertrud had a sister named Karen who married a wealthy man and they bought back the farm. Karen's descendants still operate the Mo farm to this day.

In addition to farming, Peter was also noted as a blacksmith. It was not uncommon for a tenant farmer like Peter to also work a "day job" since their small plot of land would not provide a great deal of excess farm products to sell. With the exception of their last child, all of Peter and Anna's children would be born in Norway. Their children were: Ole, Lars, August, Claus, Gjertrud, Dorothea, Anna Margretta, Margaret, Claus, Peter, Mary and Amelia.

Farms dot the landscape all along the north bank of Lake Hafslo, Norway.

At Haflso, Norway, part of the remaining Mo farm can be seen
in the center of the photo, with the lake in the background.
Coming to America

Norwegians began coming to America as early as 1825 and this migration would continue for the rest of the 19th Century. There were many reasons to leave Norway: growing population, shrinking opportunities in agriculture and the promise of land ownership in America. Most rural Norwegians lived a very modest lifestyle, by some accounts poor, but by no means impoverished. It had been assumed that Ole Peterson, the oldest son of Peter and Anna had come to America with them in 1864 but it now seems as if Ole came first, as early as 1862. He may have been sent over to scout out the area and make preparation for the rest of the family or perhaps he wrote home and told his parents and siblings of the possibilities in America, thereby enticing them to follow. For whatever reason, the entire Moe family packed-up and headed to America to start a new life. Ole Peterson had first settled in Black Earth, Wisconsin and that appears to be where Peter Olsen Moe and family headed as well.

As with other ancestors that came over about this same time, the trip was still a harrowing experience. It was very common in the mid and late 19th Century to land at New York but that was not the only place immigrants would arrive. After the 1850's some ships bypassed New York and went to Quebec and although no records of the the Moe family voyage have been found, it is likely they came via this northern route. Even after a long five month sea voyage, their journey still had a ways to go. From Quebec, the family  would travel by riverboat to Montreal, then by canal to Lake Ontario. From there, they could book passage on a lake boat to Milwaukee or Chicago. The final leg of their trip would be overland, by rail and wagon. On their journey across American, they had to be wary of con-men and swindlers of all types.

The 81.41 acre Peter Olsen Moe farm on Section 1 of the Town of Blue Mounds
(listed as P. Oleson). From the 1873 Atlas of Dane County. Peter would acquire
adjacent property and expand the farm by 77 acres sometime before 1890.

The Peter Olsen Moe Family

In 1866, Peter acquired 80 acres of land on section one, in the northeast corner of Blue Mounds. The 1870 census list Peter, Anna, Lars, Gjertrud, Margaret, Claus, Mary, Peter Jr. and Amelia living on the farm. Sons, Ole and August where both married and farming in Blue Mounds as well. By 1880, only Jane (Gjertrud), Mary and Amelia were still living with their parents at the homestead. As the other children came of age, they would marry and raise families; some would stay in the area and others would move farther west.
From the History of Dane County (1880): PETER OLESON MOE, farmer, Sec. 1; P. O. Mt. Horeb; he came to Wisconsin in the summer of 1864, and settled at Black Earth; moved and bought the place where he now lives in 1866. In 1842, he was married to Miss Annie August, by whom he has twelve children, two sons in Minnesota and the balance of the family in Wisconsin. The family belongs to the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church; in politics, he is Republican. He has a fine farm of 80 acres, well watered, and commands a fine view of the surrounding country, first-class improvements, worth $2,500, two miles from Mt. Horeb; he runs his own farm with the help of his children; he made all the improvements himself, and is a first-class farmer.
Peter and Anna had 12 or 13 children of which nine survived to adulthood. The children were:
  • Infant?
  • Ole Peterson, the oldest surviving child of Peter and Anna is discussed in more detail in Part 2 of this report.
  • Lars (b.1844, d.1932) was born in Norway. In 1870, he married Ingri Mennes (b.1849, d.1907), also a Norwegian immigrant and probably the sister of Lars Mennes who married Margaret Moe and Ellen Mennes who married Claus Moe. The Mennes family came over before 1850 and farmed in the Town of Springdale. Sometime prior to 1880, Lars and family moved to far west Minnesota to Lac Qui Parle County. In 1882 Lars acquired just over 150 acres on Section 23 and 24 in the Town of Riverside from the Federal Land Office in Benson, Minnesota . The farm was just east of Dawson, Minnesota. Lars and Ingri had at least nine children: Peter, Ole, Bertha, Albert, Betsy, Maria, Oscar, Ida and Louis. He spent his later years living with his son Louis and family. You can read more about Lars P. Moe here.
The prairie landscape of Lac Qui Parle County, Minnesota.

  • August or Augund Peterson (b.1846, d.1878) was born in Norway. Like Ole, he dropped the Moe from his name. He married Bertha (Betsy) Anderson (b.1846, d.1929) in 1867. She was born in Norway and may have lived in the Town of Vermont prior to their marriage. They operated a farm in the Town of Blue Mounds and had at least six children: Delia, Andrew, Peter, Samuel, Anna Marie (Mary) and August. August Sr. died before his 32th birthday. In the 1880 census, Betsy (a widow) was still listed as living in Blue Mounds. After the death of August, Betsy married another man named Peterson (no relation) and they settled in South Dakota. August is buried at the East Blue Mounds Lutheran Church cemetery.
August Peterson is buried with his parents at East Blue Mounds
Lutheran Church Cemetery. His name is on the back side of Peter
and Anna's Gravestone and here he is listed as August P. Moe.
The name below his, August I. Moen, is a mystery.

  • Claus (b.1848, d.1848) died as an infant in Norway. 
  • Gjertrud (Gertrude) (b.1850?, d.1915) was born in Norway and went by the name Jane. In 1881, she married Oscar Fredrik Johnson (b.1855, d.1923) who went by Oscar Larson in America. They farmed on Section 35 in the Town of Vermont and after her death, Oscar remarried. The farm was just south of present day Stewart Lake. They raised at least five children: Lydia (Alida), Emil, George, Arthur and Amelia.
  • Dorothea (b.1851, d.1862) died as a young girl in Norway.
  • Anna Margretta (b.1853, d.1854) died before her first birthday in Norway.
  • Margaret (Anna Margrette Pettersdatter) (b.1855, d.1932) was born in Norway. In 1875, she married Lewis (Lars) Mennes and they farmed north of Mount Horeb in the Town of Blue Mounds on Sections 1 and 12. Lewis was born in Wisconsin of Norwegian parents. They had at least nine children: Ole, Annie, Mary, John, Peter, Joseph, Lawrence, Bertine and Milo.
The Gravestone of Margaret Peterson (who married Lewis Mennes),
at Union Cemetery in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

  • Claus (b.1857, d.1921) was born in Norway. Like Lars, he migrated to Lac Qui Parle County, Minnesota. He may have started off farming but eventually settled in Madison, the county seat. It is noted on the Madison website that its name was suggested by C.P. Moe in memory of his former home, Madison, Wisconsin. He married Ellen Mennes (b.1859, d.1930) in 1879. They raised at least four children: Anna, Charles, Arthur and Clara. The first settlers did not arrive in that part of Minnesota until the 1860’s so much of the area was still wilderness and sparsely populated even by 1880.
The Gravestone of Clause P. Moe at Faith Cemetery in Madison, Minnesota.
There are at least 17 Moe family members buried at Faith Cemetery.

  • Peder (or Peter) (b.1858, d.1941) was born in Norway. By the 1880 census, he was 21, boarding with a Thompson family in Blue Mounds and listed as a Blacksmith. He married Anna Marie (Mary) Gesme (b.1867, d.1953) in 1887 at Mount Horeb. In 1905 they headed west to homestead in Keystone, Dickey County, North Dakota. Peter and Mary had at least three children: Arthur, Emil (or Amil or Peter Amil) and Clifford.
  • Anna Marie (Mary) (b.1860, d.1922) was born in Norway. She married Charles Steinhauer (b.1859, d.1934) in 1884. Charles’ father, Dietrich, emigrated from Germany and farmed on section one just west of the Moe farm. Charles would take over the farm and it is still in Steinhauer hands today. They raised at least four children: Cordilia (Delia), Anna (Aura), Henry and Mae. Mary Moe may have also been known as Mary Ann.
Mary Ann Moe, Charles Steinhauer and family
  • Amelia Petra (or Ella) (b.1867, d.1924) was born in Wisconsin. She married Christian Finke (b.1868, d.1952) in 1889. He was born in Wisconsin of German immigrants. They would take over the Moe farm and it stayed in the family into the 1950’s. They raised five children: Clarence, Elmer, Irwin, Roy and Myrtle. It seems that all of the Moe daughters lived on farms within about one mile of each other.
The Gravestone of Amelia Moe (who married Christian Finke),
at Union Cemetery in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.

As noted above, Lars, Claus and young Peter all ventured farther west. Claus and Lars to Minnesota and Peter to South Dakota. In the 1880's and 1890's, these areas were still sparsely settled. Many would head farther west to take advantage of the Homestead act which allowed for free land if you could make a go of it. Many would fail but the three Moe boys seemed to have succeeded. Lars and family picked Lac Qui Parle county after his sister-in-law returned to Wisconsin and enticed them west. Claus supposedly brought horses to Minnesota and then stayed-on.

Some of the Peter Olsen Moe Family from the 1890's. Top: Mary Moe,
Ole Peterson, Amelia Moe, Clause Moe. Bottom: Lars Moe and his wife
Jens Mennes, Peter Olsen Moe, Margrette Moe and Peter Moe.
Mother, Anna died in 1888 and by that time, son August was dead, Claus and Lars were in Minnesota, Peter Jr. was married and would soon be off to North Dakota, three of the four Moe daughters were married and living in the area and the youngest child, Amelia was about a year away from her marriage. In his old aged, Peter Olsen Moe went blind and is said to have refused to get out of bed. He was reportedly bed-ridden for over 10 years and lived at his homestead with the Finke family until he died in 1912.

Peter Moe and later Christian Finke farm. The farm is located on section one
 (north of Mount Horeb on US HYW 78) in the Town of Blue Mounds.

The Obituary of Peter Moe from The Mount Horeb Times: Peter O. Moe was born in Sogn Norway, June 22nd, 1817, and passed to the realm of his forefathers January 22, 1913; aged 95 years and 7 months. He was married to Miss Ann Dorothea Lad in 1840 and he emigrated to this country in 1864 settling first at Black Earth where they resided for two years then bought a farm in the town of Blue Mounds where they resided until his wife died 26 years ago. Two years later, he sold the farm to his son-in-law, C. A. Finke and he has since resided with Mr. and Mrs. Finke and the last 16 years has been confined to his bed and helpless. His daughter, Mrs. Finke, was untiring in her efforts to care for him these many years and for which she is truly entitled to much praise. Deceased was the father of eleven children, seven of whom survive him; they are, Lars Moe of Dawson, Minn.; Jane (Mrs. Oscar Larson); Margaret (Mrs. Lewis O. Mennes) of Mt. Horeb; Claus Moe of Madison, Minn.; Peter M. Moe of Monona, North Dakota; Mary (Mrs. Chas. Steinhauer) and Amelia (Mrs. C. A. Finke) of Mt. Horeb. 48 grandchildren and 80 great grandchildren and seven great great grandchildren survive him as evidence of an upright family according to Rev. Gunderson's statement in his funeral sermon. His last illness lasted about a week and his ailment was the grippe which in his feeble condition, he was unable to combat. The funeral was held Saturday in the Lutheran Church in this village and was very largely attended by relatives, neighbors, and friends. Revs. Gunderson and Mostrom officiated. His pastor, Rev. Gunderson, paid a high tribute to the deceased for religious life and of him as a man, husband and father, after which the remains were taken to the East Blue Mounds Cemetery for burial, with brief services at the grave. The pall bearers were six of his grandsons: Olaus Peterson, Henry Peterson, Clarence P. Finke, Henry Steinhauer, Alfred Peterson, and Milo Mennes. That he had his full share of trouble and trials in life and especially during his 16 long dark years preceding his death is true, but he could but rejoice to learn that his splendid family was prospering and gaining in respect as the years passed on.
Oldest son, Ole, who took the name Peterson had been on his own since his arrival in the early 1860's. He married and raised a large family in Blue Mounds and Mount Horeb.

Part 2 - The story of Ole Peterson and his family can be found here . . .


  1. Moen is still one of our family names in Norway. John Torstensen Thompson Moe was born Mo/Mohaugen farm Hafslo No. in 1863. He immigrated to Mn. in 1881. They farmed in Potlatch ID. until his death in 1939. G-grandmother Christina took over the farm until she passed in 1946. Interesting overlap of families.

    1. Gary,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. FYI - you had sent me four comments with some duplication so I approved two. Agree, interesting overlap. The current operator of the Moe farm at Hafslo is Clause Moe and family and he is my 1st cousin, 5 times removed. I do not believe you and I are related but read my comment below for more info – thanks.

  2. Lars E. Oyane Luster County Historian Geilo, NORWAY, who is related to our family was the Norwegian historian who connected our family to Hafslo Mo farm and our Norwegian family still there and in Voss. He published a book in 2014 and did extensive work of the Luster Commune, Hafslo area. He is related to us through that farm from 1863.

    1. Gary,
      Most of my information – Norway connections - is from a cousin, John Peterson and he has been working with Lars Oyane as well. Do you know John (he has stated a relationship to Lars Oyane on his mother’s side)? I can put you in-touch will him, get you access to his private website and/or if you want to talk more off-line, click on one of my contact buttons and send me an e-mail – thanks.