Way back on April 18, 1988, I sat down with my Great-Aunt Esther Hanson and asked her questions about her life and her memories of extended family and relatives. Esther loved a good story and the more intrigue the better! Her stories were either wildly dramatic or weirdly specific, so let’s take a look at a few of them and see what the facts show.
In our first installment, we’ll take a look at a story about Emma Carolina (Hanson) Carlson. She was the oldest child of Louis (Lars) Hanson and Lisa Stina Hultman. She was the older sister of Edward Cornelius Hanson and thus she was Esther’s paternal aunt. Here’s how Esther and Emma were related:
(Of course Emma and Edward were just two out of eleven siblings.)
According to Esther, Emma had a life full of tragedy. She had nine children from two different husbands; all but three died in infancy. Her first husband died in an accident, and tragedy followed one of her surviving sons as well.
Esther was 22 years old when Emma died, so I imagine Esther would have met Emma a few times (there was a lot of travel back and forth between Esther’s hometown of Ceresco and her father’s hometown of Randolph, Nebraska where the Hanson relatives still lived). I don’t know whether Esther heard these stories from Emma directly or from her own parents or other relatives.
The first story I wanted to track down was the death of Emma’s first husband. According to Esther,
Her first husband was killed in a train accident, when two train cars crushed him as they were connecting. Emma was in the roundhouse and saw it happen.
According to the Hultman Family book, Emma’s first husband was Swan Carlson, born 29 July 1853 and died 28 December 1892. I knew that Emma and Swan had lived in both Kansas and Nebraska but I wasn’t sure where the accident had happened. It took a bit of digging but I was able to find a newspaper article in Randolph, Kansas that told about the accident which had occurred in Brainard, Nebraska. Here it is:
Killed by The Cars
S. Carlson was accidentally run over by the cars near his home at Brainard, Nebraska, Wednesday, December 28, and instantly killed.
Mrs. Carlson at once telegraphed to her father, Lewis Hanson, of this city, and Mr. and Mrs. Hanson went to Brainard by the first train.
Funeral services were conducted in the church at Brainard by the Modern Woodmen, of which Mr. Carlson is a member, and the body was brought to Randolph Friday. Funeral services were held in the Mission church here Saturday afternoon, conducted by Rev C. Nygren and Rev. C. J. Johnson, and the body buried the cemetery near town.
Mr. Carlson’s life was insured for $2,000 in the Modern Woodmen, and the widow and children will be helped by the order of which he was a member when his arms are powerless in death.
The accident was front-page news in Omaha, where additional detail about the accident was provided:
Under the Wheels.
BRAINARD, Neb., Dec. 28. – S. Carlson, section foreman of the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley railroad at this place was run over by the morning freight and instantly killed. He had climbed on a loaded car of lumber that was being switched into the yards for the company’s use, when he slipped and fell under the wheels. Carlson was a sober, industrious Swede, and came here from Wahoo about two years ago. He leaves a wife and three children.
Here’s a photo of the train station in Brainard during this era. This is where Emma’s parents would have arrived the day of the accident to console their daughter.
A few reflections on this story:
Swan’s funeral in Randolph was at the “Mission Church” in Randolph – i.e., what is today the Evangelical Covenant denomination. This is consistent with my Rudeen/Hanson side of the family; they’re all Covenant.
- Swan was indeed buried in Randolph and his grave was relocated to the Fancy Creek cemetery during the construction of the flood control project in Randolph.
- He was working for the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad, which extended from Omaha all the way westward and northward into Wyoming and South Dakota. A section of track between Fremon and Omaha operated as a tourist railroad about 40 years ago.
- Emma’s $2,000 settlement from the Modern Woodmen insurance company would be the equivalent of almost $70,000 in today’s dollars. The company is still in existence today.
- Two of the three children surviving at the time of Swan’s death would have been sons Frank Emanuel and Louis Alphonso. The other would have been either Clarence or Mable. Those names are listed in the Hultman family history but I’ve not been yet able to find them in any of other records.
As far as fact-checking Esther’s story, I couldn’t verify that Emma actually witnessed the accident. Also, it doesn’t seem as though Swan was crushed between two rail cars but rather went under the wheels. Anyway. These are minor details; the basic facts check out.