Father: Jens Larsen
Born: June 10, 1847 Norway
Died: January 4, 1892 Near Thor, Iowa Age 44
Mother: Bertha Hansen
Born: October 6, 1852 Lete Kvinnherad Norway
Died: October 2, 1933 Eagle Grove, Iowa Age 80
Married: October 31, 1878 for 13 years
Jens Larsen: East Ullensvang Cemetery southeast of Thor, Iowa.
Single plot in the very back row, next to the fence.
Bertha Hansen: Rose Hill Cemetery, Eagle Grove, Iowa.
In the Homer & Julia Spangler plot.
The name on the tombstone is “Bertha Larson”.
Next to nothing is know about Jens Larsen. He most likely came to America as a young man, settling near Story City, Iowa. It was there that he met Bertha.
Bertha left Norway in 1876 through the seaport of Bergen on her way to the U.S. Since she had several cousins in the Story City area, she moved there and two years later was married to Jens.
In 1884 the couple bought eighty acres of land near Eagle Grove. At the time, the family consisted of two sons and two daughters. Another boy and girl came along later. Since farming in those days required a large amount of manual labor, the children were kept busy.
Seven years after purchasing the farm, Jens became ill and finally passed away in early 1892 after being sick for about a year. Since the family could not afford a coffin, the neighbors built one for them while Jens’s body was left outside in a shed to freeze. A bobsled was used to transport the remains to the cemetery for burial. Heated stones were taken on the journey to keep warm in the frigid January cold.
Jen’s death left Bertha with six children to raise, the oldest being around twelve and the youngest barely a year. In addition, there was the farm to attend to. It must have been tempting to simply sell the acreage and/or quickly find another husband. It is a tribute to Bertha’s determination that she chose to continue the farming and family raising and that she did it almost entirely on her own.
While farming, Bertha received assistance from the neighbors in return for the work the Larsen children did for them. The boys would help out in the fields while the girls would earn money by babysitting, milking cows and feeding the pigs. All of this no doubt promoted a tighter community amongst these transplanted Scandinavians.
But there could be challenges. At one time Bertha had to take a neighbor to court because his tiled ditch was draining onto the Larsen land. This was not easy. Money was tight, and laws in those days were often stacked against a single working mother, a fact the neighbor was probably well aware of. Imagine his surprise when the judge ruled in Bertha’s favor!
In 1910, after the children were all raised, Bertha sold the farm, married Lars Tveit and the two moved to the tiny town of Thor, Iowa. It must have been a close knit family since Bertha’s daughter had three years earlier married Lars’s son. Bertha in fact had been living with the young couple and had delighted in spoiling her grandchildren.
Even though she was no longer involved with farming, Bertha continued her hard working ways by raising a garden. Vegetables were kept in the cellar under the house. A stern woman, Bertha would use the Norwegian phrase “chus cotton” when things went awry. In English this means “kiss the cat”.
The two moved again, to Eagle Grove in 1920, to be closer to the children. Later in the decade Bertha began to experience “heart spells” which would trouble her at times for the remainder of her life.
Almost all of the couple’s money was lost when their bank failed during the Depression. Ironically, Bertha’s son-in-law Homer Spangler sat on the bank’s board of directors and could hardly have been unaware of the institution’s distress. His failure to warn Bertha did not endear him to the rest of the family.
After experiencing increasing problems with her “spells”, Bertha finally died a few days short of her eight-first birthday. A better example of immigrant persistence and resolve would be hard to find.
Children of Jens & Bertha Larsen Chris Larsen – Farmer Born: ??Died: ?? Hans Larsen – Farmer Born: 1881Died: 1965 Julia Larsen (Spangler) – Housewife Born: January 5, 1883Died: March 6, 1953 Martha Larsen (Spangler) – Housewife Born: 1884Died: 1967 Martha & Julia married the Spangler brothers Elias & Homer. Nels Larsen – Farmer Born: ??Died: ?? Anna Christine Larsen (Tveit) – Housewife Born: October 27, 1890Died: July 9, 1936