By 1885, the Hultman and Hanson families were reunited once again, living on farms near Randolph in Riley County, Kansas. The Hultmans were in Swede Creek Township and the Hansons were in Jackson Township, their farms separated by only a few miles.
Sometime after 1885, my great-grandfather Edward Cornelius Hanson left Randolph, Kansas and found work with the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska. I speculate that he probably started working for the Kansas Pacific Railroad (a Union Pacific subsidiary), which had the line running through nearby Manhattan, Kansas.
His daughter Esther told me that he worked as a “section hand” near Shelby, Nebraska. A “section hand” is part of a team of workers that maintain a section of track. They transported themselves up and down their assigned section of track with a handcar.
Handcars were mainly used by section gangs. They maintained a section of track that for mainline use was 4-5 miles long, or for branch lines was 10-12 miles long.
Handcars carried tools that included a spike removal claw, spike hammer, shovels, picks, track wrench, rail cutting chisels, signal flags, water, and oil cans. They had a small tool box in the gallows where smaller tools such as a hack saw, files, monkey wrench, and other small tools were kept. Some handcars also carried a long narrow wooden tool box on the platform. For night travel the handcar carried a white lantern to the front and a red lantern to the rear.
A branch of the Union Pacific railroad extended from Shelby down into Stromsburg – so Edward would have had no trouble finding fellow Swedes upon his arrival in Nebraska. If he was looking for a wife, he could have easily made the rounds to Swedish-American churches in the area. Coming from a Mission church in Randolph, perhaps he scouted those churches first. In time, he met the lovely Anna Martinson from Swedeburg.
Anna was one of the middle kids of the John Martinson family. She was the first child in the family to be born in America; her three older siblings were born in Sweden. She had three younger sisters, too – Matilda, Hulda and Ida. Her father John (Jöns in Sweden) had come to America in 1869 and successfully homesteaded a farm near Swedeburg. He was a founding member of the Swedeburg Mission Covenant Church and acquired a great deal of land and wealth in the late 1800’s.
If Edward had dropped in on the Swedeburg Mission Church, the Martinson clan would have been noticeable prominent members.
Edward and Anna married in December, 1891.
Edward and Anna had two daughters – Mabel Ethel born in December, 1892 and Ruth Luella in November, 1896. They lived in the Swedeburg area, and I believe Anna’s father was happy to help Edward leave the Section Gang behind and return to farming with an 80-acre farm along present-day Highway 77 north of Ceresco. Their happiness would not last.
Ruth was still a tiny baby when Anna took sick with “brain fever”. This Victorian-era term could mean several different conditions: meningitis, encephalitis or scarlet fever. Whatever it was, it was fatal to poor Anna. She died on February 11, 1897. A few weeks later, her youngest sister Ida wrote to sister Matilda with all the details. (I think Matilda was living in Chicago at the time.) I have retained all the misspellings in this letter; it makes it all the more tender (Kleenex alert.)
Swedeburg, Neb. March 2st, 1897
Dear Sister Tilda,
In God we trust.
Your verry welcome letter was recieved last Sunday and read with much pleasure, Thanks.
Will now try to anser it.
I feel so lonsum now fore all the folks went to Church but me & Anty every thing is quiet, The Luterins have a fest in there Ch. today. They asked the Missions to come & take part with them.
We have little sweet rememberns here at home from sister Anna. We have her little Ruth here. She is such a sweet and good baby but she is sleeping now. When she is awake she makes us all laugh at her fore she is allmost allways laughing & tryes to talk with us. Mabel went with Em & Lou to Kansas, they were upp to the funeral.
Should mension some about Anna’s sickness but is heard to tell of it. She got sick on a Wensday. Momma went there on Thursday. I & Anty were all allone at home so I didn’t get to go there till on Saturday. I & Pappa went down. When I & Pappa went over to the bed where she layed Mamma said to her *here is Pappa & Ida do you know them’ she couldn’t anser but bowed here head & ment she knew us. I & Gustaf Anderson stayed up with her all night. She was quiet and still the most of the night but once she asked me where her baby was. She cry cryed & wanted it, but Ella had it so we couldn’t give it to her.
In the morning I & Hulda & Martin Martinson intended to go up to church fore I should go home, but she got worse so we didn’t go. She was verry heard sick all fornoon. Dr. cloreformed her then she was still fore a while, about 12 o’clock or a little after she came to some cense and talked to us all and asked us all to forgiv her. She wanted to see Pappa & Mostrom. Hulda drove up & got them. When Hulda was gowen she called on me & wanted me to sit down in the bed with her. She told me so many times to greet you sure & ask you to forgiv her. She asked me Ida shall they take me away from here?’ I said if it is God’s will to do so if she was willing to go, she said yes but it will be heard to leave the small onse. I said we would take good cair of them. She said I know you will but it is worse fore Ed.’ I told her he would not be alone. God would be with them & we would pray fore each others, so she said yes.
Ida mentioned that Mabel had gone with “Em & Lou to Kansas”. These would be Emma Caroline and Louise Juliana, sisters of Edward. I don’t know how long Mabel stayed with them, but I think they enjoyed spoiling her. Here is a picture of Mabel in lots of curls wearing a pretty white dress. The photo was taken at a studio in Blue Rapids, Kansas – about 20 miles north of Randolph.
Mabel’s little sister Ruth stayed back in Nebraska. Ida’s letter states that Ruth was staying with “Ella” when Anna was sick – that was probably Anna’s older sister Ellen Carlson. Ellen was probably still nursing her own baby Agnes and would have been able to provide for her 3-month-old niece Ruth.
Poor Edward! I suppose he stayed on the farm, no doubt devastated by the sudden loss of his beautiful young wife. It had to be pretty awful, with one daughter in Kansas and the baby staying with the in-laws.
Eventually, Ed took the same path that his own father had many decades before. He married the younger sister of his first wife. I believe this was actually a common custom back in the day. Usually it was due to the prevalence of women dying in childbirth.
This second wedding is a famous one in our family history. It was a very grand double wedding, with sisters Hulda and Ida (the author of the above letter) both marrying on February 8, 1899. Hulda married Edward and Ida married Charles Mostrom.
The wedding took place at the home of John and Nilla Martinson. The brides wore matching dresses.
The big event was disrupted when the mother of the brides was called away to help a daughter-in-law who was in labor. Hulda’s and Ida’s brother Nels became a father for third time, with little Rosalin Ida born that same day.
Meanwhile, back in Kansas…
In the mid-1880s, Jonas Peter and his wife Anna Christina had pulled up stakes in Illinois and moved to Kansas to be near their daughter Lisa Stina and her family. This had to be quite a move, made when Jonas was in his early 70s and Anna in her late 60s. However, the move was made with four of their children still living with them: Joseph, Edna, Andrew and Louis.
Within a few years, however, Jonas’ wife Anna Christina, mother of Lisa Stina, passed away. The date of her death was February 20, 1890. I suppose Edward had already left home by then.
Following her death, the children who had remained at home eventually married and moved away – with the exception of their son Joseph. Joseph was the last of their children to have been born in Sweden. He was only two years old when the Hultman family made the journey to America on the sailing ship Eleonore. In Sweden, his given name was Joel Fritjof, but in America he came to be known as Joseph. We find him with his parents on every census record.
In the 1995 Kansas State Census, he and his father are alone on their farm in Swede Creek Township. And we find them again in the 1900 Federal Census, still on the farm. But this time we see something interesting; the 1900 census was the first to inquire about the literacy of Americans.
The entry for Jonas Peter and Joseph shows that both of them are “landlords” (meaning, I suppose, that although they live on the farm, others are doing the farming). Joseph is listed as the “Head” of the family, but off to the right edge, there are two “no” inscriptions for Joseph. These indicate that he can neither read nor write.
But things are not what they seem...stay tuned!