We started our Anderson family research in the Wisconsin county of Shawano. The county roads are alphabetized so we were delighted to find we were on County Road X as we left Outagamie County and entered Shawano County, searching for the town of Lessor and our family roots.
Part of the fun of tracing your family stories is whether or not they live up to the real truth of the past. We’d heard stories of how the Anderson and Svendson/Svenson families were farmers, raising cattle for butcher and dairy. The landscape around us was certainly representative of diary and cattle farming. Vast fields in their late spring greenery stretched out over flat and slightly rolling hills. Farm houses of various shapes and sizes sat next to tall silos awaiting the fall harvest.
Some homes were huge, easily able to accommodate the 12-14 children many of these families had in the past. Others were small, which made you wonder, for most of the families is our late past were huge, or at least tried to be huge as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, flu, and other epidemic and highly contagious plagues swept through the closely knit communities.
My mother kept commenting on how peaceful and restful the area felt, with big open spaces and a slow, calm way of life. Trees blew in the breeze around the farm houses and lining the pasture lands, with small ponds or lakes tucked in places.
We know that this peaceful exterior will be humming and buzzing around harvest time with tractors and heavy machinery, blocking roads and blasting dust into the air, but for now, it looks like a farming paradise.
Town Lessor, Shawano County, Wisconsin
Lessor. Lessor Town. Lessor Township. Township of Lessor. Town of Lessor. And Elmdale. These are the various name combinations of the town where our family spent several generations after their arrival from Norway.
Andrias (Andreas, Anders, And, Andrew) Anderson (1812-1895) arrived via New York in 1851 and moved immediately to Manitowoc Rapids, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, for reasons we’re still guessing at. At the least, he brought with him his children, John Christian Anderson, Hans Anderson, Andrew Anderson, Mary Anderson, and O? Anderson along with his wife, Fairiey or Tierney. They are found in the 1860 and 1870 US Census in Manitowoc Rapids.
Our ancestor, Hans Anderson, is next found in La Crosse, Wisconsin, marrying Sarah Olson, also known as Sigrid or Siri Ystabakken, also of Norway, in 1867. They leave promptly after their marriage, according to family stories, to the new Dakota Territory, where the newly established Dakota Territory is up for land grabs. They move to the new state capital of Yankton, seeking cheap farm land. Unfortunately, legends of cheap land versus the reality of extreme conditions and poor soil quality make it impossible to succeed without great money and effort.
About 1875 when the rumors of Black Gold began to spread and the Black Hills Gold Rush begins, the Hans and Sarah Anderson family gave up on their life in the Dakotas and headed back to Wisconsin, ending up in Outagamie County, next to Shawano County, in the village of Cicero, starting over again. They brought with them their first five children born in Dakota: Louis Anderson (1868-1882), Johan (John) Christian Anderson (1870-1955), Otto Anderson (1870-1916), Caroline Anderson (1871-1891), and Gena Anderson (1873-c1958).
In Cicero, Wisconsin, they have Mary Anderson (1876-1890), Ida Anderson (1878-1971), and Anton Anderson (1880-1969). Before 1882, they move to Lessor, just north in Shawano County, where they add to the family with Sophie Anderson (1882-1883), Amelia Anderson (1884-?), and Hans M. Anderson (1887-1901). Their family of 12 children, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren, made their home in Lessor for most of the rest of their lives.
Among these names, most of them are buried in Our Savior’s Lutheran Church Cemetery, at the intersection of Welhaven Road and County S Road.
Across the street and south a tad was the Svendson/Svenson farm where the family all came together in later years. Hans Anderson moved with his family further west on County S Road, not far.
As we drove through the area, we tried to identify landmarks to help us locate properties on the various plat maps from 1898, 1911, and 1920 of Lessor Township, Shawano County, Wisconsin. We stopped in at one farm to visit with two ladies, to find one of them was a 97 year old woman who had lived here most all of her life. Unfortunately, she couldn’t remember the Andersons or Svendsons. We found out later that this was the property of John Christian Anderson, son of Hans, until it traded hands before 1920. It now belongs to the Naparilla family.
Over the next few days, we explored the Our Savior’s Lutheran Cemetery, finding most of our relatives, spent time in the Shawano County Courthouse and Family History Center digging into the dates and papers of our past, and met with a few local experts on Lessor history, most of whom ended up being related to us in some twisted fashion or another. Amazing. Stay tuned.
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