Biography of Peter Olson, great-grandfather of Bill Price

written by Marvin Wicks

Peter was born at Heimveg Farm near Snaasa, Nord Trondelag, Norway 16 May 1864 to Christian and Marit (Petersdatter) Olsen. He was the oldest of seven children. He was christened Peter Olaus on 24 Jul 1864. His mother died in 1876 when Peter was 12 years old and his youngest sister was only 3 months old. Their father was killed in 1878. The seven children were separated and were raised by relatives and neighbors. Peter reportedly was raised by his father’s brother and had little or no contact with his brothers and sisters while in Norway.

On 13 May 1883 just before his 19th birthday Peter bade farewell to his native land. He arrived in Burr Oak, Iowa on 6 July of that year. His mother’s sister, Serianna (Sarah Anna) and husband Erik Olsen Kjoblitro had come from Heimveg farm to the Hesper/Burr Oak area in 1866, and Siri, another aunt, joined them in 1870 so Peter had relatives nearby. Erik, Serianna and their son Ole (b. 1870) moved near Arlington, South Dakota some years later. Peter spent some time with his Aunt and Uncle in South Dakota and writes about visiting his brothers and sister there. "We had an enjoyable few days that I could be with them." Peter’s brother Anthon who lived in Arlington, wrote that Peter returned to Iowa in May of 1889.

Mary Julia Emery was born 19 April 1871 in Bluffton Twp. to George Reid and Diantha (McIntire) Emery. Julia, as she was called, was the 10th of their children. George had one child from a prior marriage. The Emery family came to Massachusetts in 1635. Julia’s father came to Bluffton Twp. in 1850. Her mother Diantha was a daughter of Aaron and Emeline (Bates) McIntire.

Peter C. and Mary Julia, both of Bluffton, Iowa were married 8 Oct 1890 in the presence of Henry Emery and Maud Wemet by R. F. Gibson, Justice of the Peace, Decorah, Iowa.

Peter worked as a blacksmith, the same work that his father had done at Heimveg farm in Norway. The first years of their marriage they lived in Cresco, Iowa where their first daughter Lottie (m. Henry Price) was born 8 Feb 1892. From there they moved to Bluffton into one of the old stone houses along the river where Olive (m. Claude Wicks) was born 19 Feb 1894. Their 3rd daughter, Mamie Isadore (m. Lester McIntire) was born 27 Dec 1896 in Burr Oak. They farmed near Burr Oak for several years, approximately 1906 to 1914, while Peter continued to work at the blacksmith shop in Burr Oak. They had 3 horses, 9 pigs, 9 cows and 100 hens with Julia doing all of the farm work in the winter. In a letter to his sister in Norway dated 7 Feb 1910 he wrote "In 1908, or two years ago, I rented 75 acres with crops. The 20th of June there was a severe hailstorm that took all of our crops. I must pay $360 of rent money and it has been hard to live. I believe in a year’s time if we do not have more bad luck that we will get it all paid." In 1911 he writes "I have shod horses all the time until four years ago when I got my left knee hurt by a horse. There was a long time I could hardly walk." Peter continued to work as a blacksmith until he was forced to give up this work for health reasons.

The family moved into Burr Oak about 1914 and Peter did carpenter work. They kept chickens and at least one cow in a pasture along Silver Creek where flooding was common with water coming up around the barn and chicken house. Julia always did the milking and took care of the chickens. In the years round 1924 Peter and Julia lived in Dubuque, Iowa where he did carpenter work.

Peter had joined the IOOF lodge in 1892 and remained an active member until his death. He served many years as secretary of the lodge. He was also a Mason and a member of the Rebekah lodge. Julia was a member of the Usona Rebekah lodge as early as 1898. She worked several years as cook at the dance hall north of the old creamery building in Burr Oak. They were members of the Burr Oak Methodist Church and Peter was reportedly a very good singer.

Peter did not relate information about his family to his children and he did not speak Norwegian with any of his family as "he was an American now." In about 1898 he took his wife and 3 daughters to Arlington, South Dakota to visit his brother and other relatives. Lottie recalled clearly the family home they visited. All of Peter’s brothers and sisters came to the U.S. The youngest daughter, Marie Berg and her husband Tobias, returned to Snaasa. Peter wrote some letters to his sister in Norway, to cousins in Seattle and a niece in Oregon but did not keep close contact with any of his siblings.

Peter died at the hospital in Decorah on Armistice Day 11 Nov 1938 of heart problems and complications. He is buried in the Burr Oak Cemetery. Julia continued to live in their home in Burr Oak but did spend some winters with her sister Melissa Groat. Julia passed away on 24 Jun 1950 at the Decorah hospital after a short illness. She is buried beside her husband at the Burr Oak Cemetery.

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Biography of Peter Olson, by Marvin Wicks
Copyright 1999 by Bill Price
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