This article continues a series I am planning about final resting places for some of our families. Today we will visit my Grandpa Olsen’s family and some of their graves in the South Sidney Cemetery.
Fred Olsen’s family
Aden Loyal Springsteen died in 1941 at 45 years of age. Verda Springsteen, his wife, was left with a farm to run and six children ranging from ten to twenty years old. Dad was sixteen when he lost his dad. During the next few years Grandma sold the farm in Section 1, Fairplain Township, south of Sheridan, Michigan. She moved to Lansing, Michigan where she worked in the office of State Treasurer D. Hale Brake of Stanton. Fred O. Olsen, who was active in Fairplain Township government, helped Grandma in some of these arrangements. After Fred lost his wife Carrie to death in 1944, he married Grandma on 22 July 1945. Fred and Verda were my Grandpa and Grandma Olsen from the day I was born.
Fred Olsen was the son of Hans and Sophie Olsen, immigrants from the island of Zealand (Sjælland) in Denmark. Their marriage entry in the records of St. Thomas Lutheran Church of Trufant, Michigan provides a glimpse of their origins:
Hans Kristian Olsen, Son af Ole Hansen og Hustru Kristiane Hansen, fodt i Udby, Holbæk Amt, d. 27 Februar 1855, og Pigen Ane Sofie Andersen, Datter af Anders Jensen og Hustru Kristine Jensen, fodt i Svallerup, Holbæk Amt, d. 26 September 1858, agteviedes i Gowen Town af Montcalm, Montcalm Co., d. 20 November 1882.
This record can be found on Ancestry here. With the help of Google Translate and a Danish-English dictionary at the Flat River Community Library in Greenville, Michigan this is rendered in English as follows:
Hans Kristian Olsen, son of Ole Hansen and wife Kristiane Hansen, born in Udby, Holbæk County, d. February 27, 1855, and the girl, Ane Sofie Andersen, daughter of Anders Jensen and wife Kristine Jensen, born in Svallerup, Holbæk County, d. 26 September 1858, were married in Gowen, Town of Montcalm, Montcalm Co., d. 20 November 1882.
A note in the record indicates (Ikke af Menigheden) that they were not of the church. The record image also indicates that they were married in Gowen, Montcalm Township, not at the church in Trufant, Maple Valley Township. Both communities are in Montcalm County, Michigan.
Notice that Hans Kristian Olsen was the son of Ole and Kristiane Hansen (he was the son of Hans) and that Ane Sofie Andersen was the daughter of Anders and Kristine Jensen (son of Jens). Family surnames, passed from generation to generation, were not yet in common use in Denmark.
Hans and Sophie, or Sophia, as the spelling of her name was anglicized, lived on a farm east of Amsden in Fairplain Township where they raised their family. Their property can be found in Section 14 on page 43 of Ogle’s 1897 Standard atlas of Montcalm County, Michigan. In later years, they moved into Greenville. Hans and Sophie had four children, all probably born on the family farm in Fairplain Township:
- Frank Olsen was born 10 September 1883. He married Jenny Petersen on 4 April 1911 in Gowen. They had a stillborn daughter 27 January 1912 in Birmingham, Oakland County, Michigan. Jenny died in Birmingham 29 March 1914. Frank next married Mary Logan on 30 July 1918 in either Rochester, Oakland County or Rochester, New York. Mary was granted a divorce in Oakland County on 21 October 1921. Frank finally married Bertha May Bell in Southfield, Oakland County on 16 April 1924. Bertha, the widow of Joseph Alexander McClelland, brought daughter Evelyn and son Drayton McClelland to her home with Frank Olsen. Frank and Bertha lived in Oakland County for the remainder of their lives. Bertha died 22 December 1959 in Birmingham. Frank died 25 October 1962 in West Branch, Ogemaw County, Michigan near a cottage he had built with his brothers on Harrison Lake. He was buried with Jenny in the South Sidney Cemetery.
- William G. Olsen, known in the family as Will, was born 26 March 1889. He died 13 November 1947 in Pontiac, Oakland County. Will married Bessie Mae Bell on 17 May 1912 in Birmingham, Oakland County. Bessie’s father John Alexander Bell was a brother of David William James Bell, Bertha Bell’s father. Bessie’s mother Adriana Beebe was a sister of Justina Beebe, Bertha Bell’s mother. Bessie’s sister Anna married John C. McClelland, brother of Joseph McClelland, Bertha Bell’s first husband. Will and Bessie Olsen had the following children:
- A stillborn son on 12 August 1912.
- Merritt William Olsen, born 27 September 1915 in Birmingham, Oakland County. He married Marjorie Canever on 18 July 1938 in Birmingham. Merritt and Marjorie had one daughter of which I am aware, Mary Lee. Merritt died in Pontiac, Oakland County on 27 October 1989. I remember Merritt’s visits to Grandpa and Grandma Olsen’s house here in Sheridan. I enjoyed his music on the fiddle and especially the hammered dulcimer.
- Elizabeth Ann Olsen, born 5 March 1919 in Birmingham. She married Werner Gustave Schettling on 10 September 1945 in Birmingham. They apparently lived in or near Birmingham until her death in Pasco County, Florida on 28 April 1993.
- Frederick John Olsen, who lived for only a few hours after his birth in Birmingham on 7 March 1921.
- Virginia Ida Olsen, born 15 March 1923 in Birmingham. She trained and served in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps from 1944 until at least 1947. She married Curnell Lee Stanger on 10 February 1947 in Birmingham. They lived in Clawson, Oakland County in 1993. They were living in Hartford, Wisconsin at the time of his death there on 12 November 2010. Virginia died 16 November 2014, presumably in or near her residence at Hartford.
- Fred Oscar Olsen was born 20 January 1891. He married Carrie Matilda Mason on 5 June 1918 at Gowen. Fred died 19 January 1975 in Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida. Carrie Mason was born on 21 July 1886, the daughter of Christian Mason and Ane Dortha Larsen. Fred and Carrie had three children:
- Marie Arlene Olsen, born with her twin sister Marian in Greenville on 23 July 1924. Marie died in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan on 29 May 1999.
- Marian Eileen Olsen, born 21 July 1886. Marian and Marie lived together in Grand Rapids most of their adult lives. They were active in state and national organizations for twins. Marian and Marie were married for a short time to twin brothers from Wisconsin named Don and Delos, but I don’t know which of them was married to Marie and which to Marian, nor do I know their surname.
- Ronald Erwin Olsen, born 16 May 1930 in Montcalm County. He died at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids on 27 July 1946.
- Fred and Carrie also took in a girl named Rosemond Blodgett, born 3 October 1912, sometime in the early 1920s before Marian and Marie were born. Rosemond married Donald N Jensen in Greenville on 29 November 1934. They had three daughters and one other child. Rosemond and Donald divorced on 7 August 1944. Rosemond married Merle Billings on 7 December 1945. They moved to California by 1954. Rosemond died in Mendocino, California on 15 January 1995.
- Ida Christine Olsen, perhaps known as Edith, was born 10 August 1899. She moved to Greenville with her parents by 1920. Ida married Seaver Mendun Perkins in Greenville on 17 August 1921. She died at West Branch, Ogemaw County on 12 January 1964. Ida and Seaver had five children. Because they have not all passed on, I list only their names:
- Anna Belle Perkins
- Dorothy Lee Perkins
- Kenneth George Perkins
- Betty Jane Perkins
- Delbert Gene Perkins
Here are a few pictures of the Olsen family, primarily from Marian and Marie Olsen.
Fred and Carrie raised their children on Fred’s parents’ farm east of Amsden. When Verda Springsteen married Fred Olsen, she moved to his farm with her youngest children. Although most of Fred’s and Verda’s children were at or near adulthood, they effectively became one family, maintaining a close relationship through the ensuing decades. When Fred and Verda built a house on Pearl Lake in Sheridan in the late 1950s, their home became the gathering place for family reunions and holiday gatherings.
Ron Olsen, after whom I was named, and my uncle Harold “Hud” Springsteen were the same age and attended high school together in Greenville. Mom has told me that for a time she was informally dating both Ron and Hud, and she never knew which one would show up at the door to take her out. On one occasion they sent Dad, and the rest is history. Ron contracted polio in late July of 1946. His friend (and mine) Eugene Rydahl has told me that he and Ron had been working on someone’s farm on a particularly hot day when they stopped for a swim in the cold creek on the way home. Ron fell ill that night and was taken to hospitals in Grand Rapids, where he died. Apparently, several cases of infantile poliomyelitis occurred in late summer every year at that time. Daily accounts of Ron’s illness and decline can be found in the Greenville Daily News at the Flat River Community Library:
- Monday, 22 July 1946, page 1, column 4
- Tuesday, 23 July 1946, page 1, column 5
- Wednesday, 24 July 1946, page 1, column 5
- Thursday, 25 July 1946, page 1, column 7
- Friday, 26 July 1946, page 1, column 6
- Saturday, 27 July 1946, page 1, column 3
- Monday, 29 July 1946, page 1, column 3
- Wednesday, 31 July 1946, page 1, column 5
Fred Olsen represented Montcalm County in the Michigan House of Representatives for the final ten years of its part-time legislature. I sat with him on the floor of the House on my sixteenth birthday. He was a man of evident integrity, and I am confident that he wouldn’t think much of the state of governmental affairs today.
Olsen family in the South Sidney Cemetery
The South Sidney Cemetery and Dannebrog Lutheran Church are located on the south side of Muskrat Road in Section 31 of Sidney Township, Montcalm County. Several of the Olsens are buried there. Verda Olsen was buried in the Sheridan Cemetery with her first husband, Aden Springsteen.
This exercise has helped me become more acquainted with Grandpa Olsen’s extended family. As much as our society seems to be increasingly focused on individual accomplishment and responsibility, which are good, we were placed in families and communities for a reason. We are members of a greater body, and we can’t understand ourselves or our ancestors well without looking around at people who have or had a personal impact on our lives and theirs. I am grateful to be related to the Olsen family.