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Oliana's story

Posted by sambr 
Oliana's story
March 24, 2018 10:18PM
Peggy Lee's maternal grandmother, Oliana Anderson, did not loom large in young Norma Egstrom's life. Her grandmother died a few months before Norma's second birthday. Oliana's story is fairly typical of a first-generation US immigrant who arrived in the country penniless in the latter half of the 19th century and braved the extremes of the mid-west.

Oliana’s name is spelled several different ways over the years; Oliane, Oleana. Olina, Anna, Oleane. Her parents were John Olsen and Marie Hermansdatter, married December 16, 1854. John was a house painter. Their first child, Oliane Johnsdatter, was born September 15, 1855 on the Hørland-Hamburg farm in Østre Toten, Oppland, Norway. They rented a smallholding, Paanenghagen, near John's home farm and produced two brothers and a sister for Oliana in the following 10 years, not very prolific for that era. They probably weren’t good church folk, leaving it many months after the arrival of a child before getting the child baptized. They can’t have been too successful as farmers; Marie is described in her burial record as a pauper’s wife. She died young, before her 44th birthday. The children were fostered out separately to live elsewhere. John went back to house painting.

At age 18, Oliana emigrated from Norway, bound for the US. She left on the St Olaf from Kristiania (the current Oslo) on April 30, 1874, calling at Bergen and arriving in New York May 24. She was heading for Red Wing, Minnesota, a community on the Mississippi river that was a common destination for Scandinavian immigrants. Also on the boat were several other people from Østre Toten going to Red Wing. Among them was her uncle, Herman Hermansen, who was emigrating with his wife and two youngest daughters. In 1875 Herman was living in Belvidere, MN (very close to Red Wing) with his family, including a few more who had immigrated earlier. Also living in Belvidere was Olina Johnson with her infant daughter, Josephine M, born on January 23, 1875. The father of the child is a mystery, probably not to be solved. He is listed on the birth record as John Hermanson, born in Norway. Assuming a normal pregnancy, Josephine was conceived around the middle of April, 1874, just before the boat left Kristiania.

So there’s Oliana, living in Belvidere with Josephine, but no husband and still with her (anglicized) maiden name. On September 14, 1879 she married Andres L Anderson in Isabelle, Wisconsin, just across the Mississippi from Red Wing. Andres was American-born of Norwegian parents, had previously been married at least once and had an infant daughter. In 1880 the couple was living in Red Wing with Josephine, their new-born son Leonard, Caroline, Andres’ 18 year-old sister, listed as a servant, and Karen, Andres’ 3 year-old daughter.

The family moved to Volga, SD in 1882. They had a couple of sons who died in infancy. Their last child, Selma (Peggy Lee's mother), was born in 1885. By 1900, Andres & Oliana were living apart, Andres in Gayville, SD and Oliana still in Volga. Andres, who listed himself as widowed, was living with Leonard. Oliana, listing herself as divorced, had Josephine and Selma. She was running a restaurant and Josephine was a milliner. In 1905, Oliana was the milliner, and appears to have made her living with hats for the rest of her life. By 1910, Oliana was living alone, now ‘widowed,’ though Andres was still alive as late as 1924.

A photograph of the 1898 Lutheran Ladies Aid of Volga can be seen in the local museum, 23 Victorian ladies in their Sunday best, and not a smile to be seen. Oliana is probably the saddest looking of all, her face all downward lines, appearing much older than her 43 years.

Oliana Anderson died in 1922 and is buried in Volga with the two infant sons and Selma in a grave owned by ‘A Anderson,’ presumably Andres, though he doesn’t seem to be buried there. The Volga Tribune published her obituary under the headline [b]BUSINESS WOMAN PASSES AWAY[/b].

[quote]Although it was quite generally known that Mrs A L Anderson was in poor health, very few people in this vicinity realized the seriousness of her condition, consequently the report of her sudden passing was quite a shock to her many friends in and around Volga.

For several weeks she had been at the home of her daughter, Mrs Julius Martinson, of this city. The end came shortly after twelve noon last Thursday, age 65 years and 6 months. For years she had been in the millinery business in this city, and she will be missed by the many women who regularly sought her store for that kind of goods as well as many others.

Funeral services were held at the Norwegian Lutheran church in this city Sunday afternoon, the services being conducted by Rev Johnson of Sinai, as Rev Manns was ill. Interment was made in the church cemetery south of town.


Olina Johannesdatter Anderson was born September 30, 1856 in east Toten Norway. She died at Volga, South Dakota, March 20, 1922, being 65 years, six months old. She came to the US in 1877, settling at Red Wing, Goodhue county, Minnesota, where, on September 14, 1879 she was united in marriage to A L Anderson. They moved to Volga, SD, in 1882. To them were born five children, two having died in infancy. The children now living are: Mrs Mathilda Martinson, of Volga, SD: Mrs Selma Egstrom of Jamestown, ND: and Leonard Anderson of Minneapolis, Minn all of whom were here for the funeral.

The Tribune unites with the many friends in extending sympathy to the bereaved children.[/quote]

A couple of the dates in the obituary do not agree with those in the official records. Oliana was an unreliable reporter on the census forms, though she doesn’t appear to have dropped the year from her age until quite late. The obituary adds Josephine to Andres’ column, rather than the elusive Mr Hermanson’s. Josephine M switched her forenames and became Mathilda J in later life. She married Julius Martinson, another Norwegian immigrant, who was a big noise in Volga. They fostered Marvin and Selma Egstrom's last child, Jean, when Selma died in 1924.
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