Andreas popped up on my family research radar this past week when I received an email from Micheal Kirchmeier of the Jackson County Historical Society. Imagine my surprise when Micheal informed me that he had been contacted by someone with a family photo of my 2nd Great Grandfather, Andreas Nielsen Jessen.
Andreas Nielsen Jessen b. Sept 22, 1851 in Gråsten, Aabenraa, Denmark
As it turns out, Jo Kelsch, a resident in Bismarck N.D., had recently discovered a hand drawn charcoal sketch of “a gentleman named Andrew Jessen”. The photo had been hidden for decades behind another framed photo. Jo had contacted the Historical Society and asked for their help to find a living relative that would like this picture. Michael saw a posting I made many years ago on a genealogy website trying to track down information on Andreas. Six years later, that post paid off.
As someone who is passionate about genealogy, this picture is such a rare blessing. It is difficult to find photos from the 1860’s. I had seen a small wallet-sized original of this photo when I visited my Great Aunt Francis Garian a few years ago. I believe that since Andreas died young, his widow and six children made sketch copies of the original photo so that the family could remember him. I’m guessing it was the only picture they had of him.
Andreas Nielsen Jessen was born Sept 22, 1851 in Gråsten, Aabenraa, Denmark. Gråsten is a little town (just over 4,000 people) on the eastern coast of the Jutland peninsula in southern Denmark. Gråsten is located in the center of the region known as Southern Schleswig. The Danish Royal Family has their summer residence, Gråsten Palace, in the town. Here is the church book entry of his birth (out of wedlock) to Marie Catherine Nielsen (b. 1831) and Hans Jessen (b. 1821):
In 1866, Schleswig was subjected to universal conscription. A three years term of service was compulsory for everyone. In 1867, Schleswig became part of the Kingdom Prussia and was ruled from Berlin. However, people were given the chance to to choose Danish citizenship. From 1870 – 1871, Prussia was a war with France. The Schleswig people realized they would never have a state of their own. A rise in the number of emigrations ensued. Family oral history says that Andreas emigrated to avoid continued military service under the Kaiser. The picture from Jo depicts Andreas in his Prussian military uniform. He would have been about 20 years old.
Andreas departed from Liverpool on October 23, 1873. He arrived in Quebec on November 3, 1873. From there, he went to Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin where he married Sophia Swensen on October 18, 1874. They had six children:
Marie (Winslow) 1874, William (1876), Charles (My Great Grand father) 1878, Anna (Crom) 1881, Edward (1884), and Elsie “Alice” 1886.
Andreas & Sophie moved their young family to Jackson County, Minnesota in May of 1885.
They settled on the east half of the south east quarter of section 18 in Belmont Township and lived in a little old log cabin for six years. From a letter written by my Great Grandfather Charles Jessen,
“The log house was very poor and so was we. Ma used to stuff old rags between the logs to keep the snow out of the house. My dad died when I was eight years old, but took sick when I was seven years old. He was an invalid for a year before he died and left us without money and very little property or live stock.”
Andreas died October 4, 1886. His widow, Sophie, then married Andreas’ half brother Christ Henriksen (b. 1863). Sophie was 40 and Christ was just 23 years old. Sophie had one child, Ella Johanna (1889 – 1962), with Christ. Sophie died April 27, 1931. She apparently had dimentia at the end of her life. Christ had to put a lock high up on the door of their home to keep her inside. Sophie was very short. In this photo, she is barely taller than the chair. She had big hands.
Andreas’ grave was never documented. It is assumed he is buried on the first homeplace in Belmont Township. Despite the Prussian control of Gråsten, Andreas always considered himself to be Danish.