Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hans Larson (52 Ancestors, week 10)

Hans Larson - a man of mystery

Hans Larson > Emma Larson > Daniel Erickson

His Name
The information I have on Hans is filled with discrepancies and contradictions. Even his name is a bit of a mystery. From my family, I have always heard his name as being Hans Larson and each census record lists him as “Larson.”

The confusion comes at Hans’ death. His obituary lists him as Hans Larson Opsahl. Hans and much of his family are buried at the Grace Lutheran Cemetery in French Lake, Minnesota. Hans’ and Mary’s headstones simply say “Father Hans” and “Mother Mary.” Their unmarried daughter is buried as “Louvisa Hanson,” and “Anna Larson” (possibly Hans’ mother?) is nearby. These 4 stones are lined up in a neat row, all the same size with same writing, suggesting they are all of the same family. The family stone that appears to go with these markers, however, reads “Opsahl.” If you think his death certificate may answer some questions – nope. His death certificate has no name what-so-ever!

His Birth Date
Hans’ birth date, according to his obituary and Grace Lutheran church records, is September 11, 1852; his death certificate says September 5, 1852; his headstone says October 11, 1852. He died on June 20, 1932 (his obit, gravestone, church records, and death certificate all agree). According to his death certificate, he was 79 years, 7 months, and 19 days old which puts his birth date as November 1, 1852.

Marriage and Immigration
His obituary says he and his wife, Mary Torenson (also Thorson or Thorsdotter) were married in Norway on March 5, 1876 and Hans arrived in America on December 15, 1880. Census records agree. Mary came the following year, I assume with their two young daughters.

Coming to Minnesota
The family lived in LaCrosse, Wisconsin for a few years. Their daughter Emma was born in Wisconsin on September 30, 1884 and the family was in Minnesota by May 28, 1885 for the state census. (Some of the records say they came as early as 1882). The family settled in French Lake, Minnesota, an area where some of their descendants still live today.

Additional Information
These sources also tell us Hans was born in Eidsvold, Norway (today: Eidsvoll) and was the son of Lars Anderson. Hans owned and worked his farm in Minnesota. In 1898, Hans and his family were among the first families of the newly formed Swedish Lutheran Church of French Lake, later renamed Grace Lutheran, and Hans served as a deacon for several years. He suffered from heart problems for a number of years, which eventually lead to his death. Of course, it is possible that other accounts may give a different story of Hans!

Sources: Census records; obituary at Wright County Historical Society; death certificate at Cokato Museum; cemetery stones; Grace Lutheran Church records, Cokato Museum.

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