Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday (but not really) - Thompson Township

This Wordless (but not really) Wednesday  I'm gonna show some love to my Olsen Family, of which not so much is known.

    My great grandmother was Hannah "Joanne" Olsen, second wife to AJ Smith. They had 5 Children together before he passed in 1945.
    It appears that every record I have of her, both formal and informal, she is known as "Hannah". But in our family, she is referred to as "Joanne", who my mother was named after.
    Hannah/ Joanne was, as far as I know from research, one of 3 children of Ole Olsen and Hanna Johnson, Who also went by "Annie". The elder Hanna was from Finland. There is confusion surrounding her birth date, as her death certificate lists her birth month as February, and census records list it as January. Either way, she died when her daughter was small. December 5, 1909 in Thompson. It appears she died from Emphysema, which was related to pneumonia she had come down with. From illness to death, it appears it was 16 days.
     Her husband, Ole Olsen, was from Norway, born November of 1870. He emigrated in 1888, but I'm not sure of the way. My guess would be Canada, but I have yet to find any immigration records for him. (Or Hanna, who emigrated in 1895.)
     Ole was a laborer in a saw mill in Thompson. in the decades around 1900, that's what brought people to schoolcraft county.... a booming lumber industry. In fact, the township of Thompson was named after E.L. Thompson, president of the Delta Lumber Company that had set up shop there in 1881.

The pictures I found come to you from Thompson Township Michigan website. It's a nice little site that gives some history on the township, but it's also a work in progress, so some pages are "under construction". But they had some great pictures.

Thompson in the 1890's

Crew of men, working at the mill.

Lumber Mill

This sort of life seems so foreign, and sometimes really rough. But at this time, Americans, new and not-so-new flocked to this small area from all over to take part in this booming industry. I'm sure they all had very high hopes. 3 of the 4 families that came to Schoolcraft county came because of the lumber boom. They all had ambitions to take part in it. (The Smith's, Olsen's and Billing's. As for the Waters', he actually owned a jewelry store and was a watchmaker, so I'm not quite sure yet how the Waters; ended up in Schoolcraft...)
   It seems the labor pains of the Great Depression were felt hard in this area before other areas of the country. In the spring of 1927, it is said that AJ couldn't "sell a stick". He, and the bank that backed him lost everything. The lumber business piddled out after this, which is when AJ bought a pool hall, that he bootlegged liquor out of.
    When all was booming, Thompson had 537 people. (as recorded in 1884). After the industry's demise, the growth seemed to completely stopped. As of the year 2000, there were still only 671 people.

   The aspect of this that I find most, hmm, what's the word I'm looking for........inspiring? maybe? is that this small slice of history in this tiny part of America paints a picture of what made "Americans". You have The Olsen's... brand new immigrants going straight to a place that maybe they'd heard from other immigrants they could make a living. A place that was supposed to have a promising future. This same idea drew the Smith's, the opposite of the Olsen's, to the area. A well established family that had been in America well before the Revolutionary War. They both had the same idea, or "dream" if you will. Both families, from completely different backgrounds partook in this rough and often dangerous life in the northern wilderness with hopes of being successful. They took a chance coming, and worked HARD. Being a lumberjack is by no means an easy job, and going from "farmer" to "lumberman" I'm sure was a huge change. But they did it. They made their way.
     "America" means "industrious"...  and that is exactly what they ALL were. You don't see that too much anymore. People are always depending on others, like the government, to take care of them. To give them a life instead of making one for themselves. It's kind of sad when you think about it.....

Sorry, but I have zero pictures of Ole and Hanna. I hope to come across some someday!

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