Grandfather Emil’s Sister Emma

One of the sad notes among the stories Aunt Clara Cook tells in her family history, Homestead, is the fate of our grandfather Emil’s sister Emma. (In a recent post, I had included a photo of her.)

Emma was born in 1879, about seven years younger than Emil and the fifth of six children born to Elias and Kari Borresen. We have known little about her except that she married Carl Olson in 1907, and the couple moved to the Dakotas. Two years later, Emil has the sad duty, Clara tells us, of going to “the Dakotas” to assist Carl in bringing back the body of his young wife for burial in Pigeon Falls, Wisconsin. The Whitehall paper reports that both Emil and brother Charlie both made this trip. On March 9, 1909, she had fallen into on open well or cistern (from which she was pulling water) and drowned. That’s about all we have known.

I’d done some searching on but without success. Then recently I returned to my search in this source and, surprise, it had automatically connected me with a page from the South Dakota Death Index, 1905-1955. There was Emma Olson’s death recorded – AND the county where it had occurred: Kingsbury. So we add one more fact to her story: she and Carl must have settled in this county and there she died.

Kingsbury County is in the center of eastern South Dakota, a lightly populated county even today – just over 5,000 residents. The county seat is De Smet, of some note because it was the childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Whitehall Times & Blair Banner, I found later, reported March 18, 1909 that Carl and Emma’s home was actually in De Smet.

Of the sisters who were able, two of them – Selma and Emma – married and left Wisconsin for points west: Oregon and South Dakota. (Syverine, of course, had special handicaps.) Of the sons who grew to adulthood, both – Emil and Charlie – remained in Trempealeau County. (Bernt died as a ten-year-old.)

An interesting sidelight to this story is that ten days after Pastor Christophersen conducted the funeral for Emma, he himself suffered a “paralytic stroke” and died shortly thereafter at the age of 53 years. Perhaps Emma’s was the last funeral over which he presided, certainly one of the last.


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