Search billions of records on

The Jorgen Petersen Family

Reproduced from an Uncopyrighted 1972 Document
Reproduction Rights Freely Granted
Original Author: O. W. Petersen

Jorgen and Marie Petersen
On their Wedding Day, April 26, 1849

The Jorgen Petersen Family

This is an account of the more interesting events in the lives of Jorgen Petersen, his wife Marie, their known ancestors and their children. It includes only the names and dates of the grandchildren as too much correspondence would be required to include their spouses, children and histories, and assure that the record be complete and accurate. This account is based to a large extent on a family history written by one of Jorgen’s granddaughters, Mrs. Mary G. Smith, of Hudson, Ohio, who was in possession of many of his papers and remembered many of the incidents and the way people lived as told to her by her mother. It has been supplemented by records and recollections of other members of the family, and by information from other sources.

The data in the ancestral records are from an old Danish Bible - Lutheran - which Jorgen copied and translated into English. He also kept a family record which, with property deeds, furnished further data. The earliest records are of Jorgen’s grandfather, Peter Erickson (Ericson) (1729—1811) (Note 1.), who was born in Skane (Skaane, Skaam) (Note 2.), the southernmost province of Sweden. About 1750 he migrated to Denmark and settled in Hornbaek (Hornbeck, Hoenbeck), a small village on the coast about 25 miles north of Copenhagen (Danish, Kobenhavn, or Merchants’ Haven). All of the places in Denmark mentioned herein are on the island of Sjaelland (English, Zealand).

Jorgen’s father, Mogens Peterson (1781—1850), (Note 3.), or Petersen, since they used the Danish spelling, was born in Hornbaek. He was a fisherman and also served for many years in the Danish navy. Jorgen’s mother, Ellen Christine (Christina) Hagelberg (1784—1867), was born in Helsingor (English, Elsinore), on the coast about 20 miles north of Copenhagen. Her father, Andreas (Andrea) Hagelberg (1728—1788), was born in the province of Varmland (Wermland), Sweden, which is on the western border at about the latitude of Stockholm. He migrated to Denmark about 1750.

Jorgen (1822—1904), was the eighth of eleven children, one of whom died in infancy, born to Mogens and Ellen. He was born in Helsingor and was educated in the schools there. In addition to Danish he learned to speak English, German and some French. He later learned to speak Norwegian, Swedish and Russian. Since Helsingor was a port city he was early fascinated by the ships of all nations and descriptions that came there. In 1838, still well under the age of 16, he went to sea. In his sea chest which he took on all his travels, his mother put the old Danish Bible. He first sailed on the English brig, "Susan of New Castle" as a cabin boy and he also learned to cook. This ship sailed to Norway and to the Baltic Sea ports of Sweden and Russia. One winter the ship was frozen in the ice of the Baltic Sea and it was then that he learned to speak Russian.

In 1842 he shipped aboard the bark "Richmont of Plymouth" at Barnstable, Cape Cod, Mass. On one voyage they brought a cargo of rum from Jamaica to New York City. On another they went to China and the East Indies. Alton Wetmore recalls his mother telling of the severe storms they encountered in “going around the Horn” so at least one leg of the voyage was around South America. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean 27 times in sailing vessels and had at least one narrow escape from death. Once while working aloft he fell about 80 feet, landing on his bottom on the deck. He was saved from death or serious injury only by striking the rigging lines as he fell.

In his travels he collected many interesting articles, one of which was a leather tea chest lined with lead and trimmed in brass. Another was a red lacquered box with gold trim. He also gathered pieces of choice wood, including ebony, mahogany and sandalwood. Some of the wood he collected was used to make a model of a Norwegian clipper ship which he named “Odin” for a god in Norse pagan worship. It was 27" long, true to scale, with life boats, anchors and every block and line found on a full rigged ship. The blocks were made of bits of wood with holes drilled in them for the lines. There were no hobby chops in those days to furnish parts. The hull was made of cedar from Florida, the small boats of Spanish cedar picked up at Matanzas, Cuba, the capstan, windlass and pallbit, a device used in raising the anchor, were made of mango wood, cut on the island of Trinidad. The masts and yards were made of cyprus obtained in Norway and the heavy rigging from hemp twine picked up in Limerick, Ireland.

Model of Norwegian Clipper Ship "ODIN"
Made by Jorgen Petersen about 1848

He spent much of his leisure time for 2 1/2 years in completing the model and later presented it to his bride as a wedding gift. It was enclosed in a glass case and made a beautiful gift. It adorned the home until his death when it was given to his son Charles. It is now in the possession of Charles’ grandson, Lawrence C. Bliss, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In his later years Jorgen made many smaller model ships.

In 1847 Jorgen settled in New York City and in 1852 he became a naturalized citizen of his adopted country. He found employment with a fine cabinet maker who taught him his craft. Jorgen made for himself several pieces of furniture which remained in use long after his death. He made many friends among the people from his native Denmark, including his future wife, Marie Veronica Petrine (Petrina) Miller (1828—1915). She and her mother, Johanna Elizabeth Kroel (Krael, Kroll) (l791—1879) were born in Copenhagen. Marie’s father, Carl Frederick Miller (Moller, Mueller) (1793—1842), was a locksmith and was born in Roskilde, about 18 miles west of Copenhagen. In 1832, due to unsettled conditions in Denmark, the Miller family, including Marie and her sister Caroline, migrated to America. They spent nine weeks on a 90 foot sailing vessel in crossing the Atlantic Ocean and settled in New York City. Marie was educated in the public schools there and always prized her diploma which was signed by Ezra Cornell who later founded Cornell University.

Marie’s mother was a tailoress and taught her the art of fine sewing, all of which was done by hand. The sewing machine had been invented but was not in general use. It was a very arduous task to make a man’s suit by hand. Marie also learned the milliner’ s craft, even to braiding fine straws for making hats and bonnets. Her beauty and many fine qualities were very attractive to young Jorgen. His good habits, adventurous spirit and wide travels made him an interesting companion. They fell in love, were married in 1849 and set up housekeeping in New York City. Daguerreotypes taken at their wedding show them to be a very handsome couple. Many of their descendants have copies of these pictures. In Jorgen’s papers there is a doctor’s receipt for $6.00 covering “Attendance during confinement and subsequent”. The date corresponds to the birth of Charles.

About this time gold was discovered in California and there was a great movement of people westward, many going only as far as Ohio. The Ohio Canal (Note 4.) had been built along the Cuyahoga River which flows into Lake Erie at Cleveland. This canal left the Cuyahoga valley near Akron, went over the Portage Summit and down the valleys of the Tuscarawas and Muskisgum rivers to Dresden, from which point the rivers were navigable to New Orleans by way of the Ohio and Mississippi. This hastened the development of the area since it made markets more available for agricultural and industrial products. The canals flourished since there were few railroads, and canals could haul freight more economically than wagons drawn by horses, mules or oxen over the primitive roads of that day.

Altho the need of better transportation was quite apparent it took about eight years to get a canal bill through the state legislature. This was largely because most of the members wanted the canal routed through their districts. An education bill was before the legislature at that time and the canal bill was finally passed by getting the pro-education members to vote for it if the pro-canal members would support the education bill. The leader of the canal drive was the youngest state senator in the state’s history, Mr. Alfred Kelly, and by many the project was known as “Kelly’s Canal”. He served as an inspector of construction and his health was broken by being on the job in all kinds of weather and by the effort he put into fulfilling his duties. He prevented much work from being done that was not in accord with the specifications. He was later to perform similar duties on the first railroad built between Cleveland and Cincinnati.

It was hoped that contractors experienced in other work of this kind, such as the Erie Canal, would submit bids for the Ohio Canal but they did not as they believed that local contractors would bid so low that they could not meet the specifications. The contracts were let to local firms and they started work on the 36 mile section from Cleveland to Akron, with about 5,000 men, many of whom came from the farms in that area. The second summer was a rainy one and many became ill from working in such weather and there was also a small-pox epidemic. Many men died and many more left for their homes. Some of the experienced contractors had been hired as foremen by the local contractors and when the latter failed they submitted bids and took over the work. For laborers they brought in Irish men, many of whom used their wages to repay for their passage from Ireland. Many of then stayed in the area after the canal was completed and established Irish Town in Akron, three other settlements and two cemetaries between Akron and Cleveland.

The Irish were rugged men as required for this kind of labor. Most of the earth moving was done by men with shovels and wheelbarrows. After two years of hard work this section of the canal was opened in 1827 and played a vital role in the development of Cleveland as one of the leading cities of the country in the 80’s and 90’s. When completed south of Akron it would be the largest engineering earthwork in the world at that time.

The canal was 24 feet wide and 4 feet deep with many locks to raise and lower the boats from one level to the next. Portage Summit was 395 feet above Lake Erie, requiring 42 locks, having an average lift of about 9 1/2 feet. To maintain the canal and repay the money borrowed to build it, all boats using it were required to pay toll. They were usually drawn by mules that walked on a “towpath” on the bank of the canal. Since the boats seldom stopped at night the mules worked in shifts, spending their off hours in a stable on the deck of the boat. Their speed was limited by law to four miles per hour, probably to prevent the waves produced by the boats from seriously eroding the banks of the canal.

Life on the canal was rugged since all loading and unloading was done by hand. The families of many of the operators lived on board their boats which gave their children little opportinity to attend school. Many could not read nor write and many were bound out at an early age. Some were bound out to strangers. They grew up to be hard working but rough mannered. There were many brawls but little crime. Whiskey was plentiful and there was much drinking among canal people.

Jorgen had a friend, John F. Hansen, who had migrated from New York to Peninsula, Ohio, a small village on the Cuyahoga about 20 miles south of Lake Erie. His wife became very homesick and they decided to return to New York. At Hansen’s invitation Jorgen visited Peninsula in 1855 and decided to move there and build boats. He also purchased Hansen’s home at 1648 Orchard Street. It was a 3 story house, built into a hillside so that the lower story, which included the kitchen and dining room, was exposed only on the downhill side. The upper floors were reached by two black walnut open stairways, having banisters which were often used for quick descents by the younger generation.

The family had several months to prepare for moving. Marie had heard a great deal about the new country, and decided to be well prepared. She purchased large quantities of fabrics, pins needles, thread, buttons, etc., trunks and boxes full. Even after her family had all grown up she had material left in her store room. They made the journey by canal boat, up the Hudson River to Albany and across New York to Buffalo on the Erie Canal. From Buffalo they went across Lake Erie to Cleveland on a steamboat and then by a canal boat to Peninsula. In addition to the four children, the family included Marie’s mother, who was then a widow. She was a great help in caring for the children and in sewing. She saved the combings of the girls’ hair and by an intricate process wove them into switches to build elaborate coiffures. She also braided hair into watch chains and similar articles. She walked with a cane due to an injury received as a child while playing with other children. She often used her cane to enforce discipline. She was very short, not much more than four feet tall, but what she lacked in stature she made up in determination.

For many years Jorgen worked in the boat yard of L. Waterman, one of the several yards in the village, which was the principal canal boat building town in Ohio. In 1854 Jorgen had enlisted in the New York State Militia and during the Civil War he was called into service. Due to the large family he had to support he was not required to serve at the front but instead was sent to Camp Perry, near Sandusky, Ohio, where he cooked for the soldiers who trained there. His experience at sea enabled him to prepare food in the large quantities required. His military certificate was endorsed by his captain on May 20th, 1865, to indicate that he had “regularly and faithfully done duty to this date.”

In the hard times fo1lowng the Civil War it was very difficult to support a large family and on one occasion Jorgen had to take part of a sack of flour in payment for some work he had done. In 1864 he was able to purchase a canal boat of his own, the “Scandinavia”, at a cost of $950.00. His records show that $500.00 was paid at that time, $200.00, plus interest in 1865 and the balance in 1867. His first trip was to somewhere south of Akron for a load of coal to be hauled to Cleveland. The host had a maximum capacity of about 80 tons of coal and the freight rate was 75 cents to $1.00 per ton depending on the distance hauled. Tolls were $12.00 to $18.00 depending on the distance. If the coal was delivered to a ship in the harbor there was a charge of about $1.50 for the tug to spot the boat alongside the ship and about $5.00 for unloading. On his return trips he brought merchandise to the stores along the canal. He was evidently able to handle the boat with only one helper as his records indicate that he paid “his man” $10.00 to $16.00 per month and that his net return was $34.00 to $50.00 per month.

During the summer of 1864 he spent about two months in Pennsylvania hauling coal to Erie and iron ore from Eria to New Castle. To reach Pennsylvania he went east from Akron through Warren and Girard, Ohio. Coal was loaded at Connoquenessing, near Butler, and the route passed through or near New Castle, Sharon, Hartstown, Conneautville and Fairview. Above Hartetown there was a stretch of shallow slack water and quicksand where boats were often delayed for several days waiting for the water level to rise enough for them to get over the quicksand. On one trip Jorgen hauled only about 37 tons of ore, probably to reduce the delay in getting through this section of the canal.

On the Ohio Canal he could sometimes arrange his schedule so that he could stop at Peninsula overnight, leaving about 3:00 A.M. in order to arrive in Cleveland in time to start unloading in the morning. He did not allow any of the family to live on the boat except during the summer when one of the older girls would sometimes keep house and cook for the crew. Sometimes the younger children would be allowed to go along for a ride. During the school year they all had to live at home so they could attend school. They learned their lessons well and four of them passed the necessary examinations in order to become schoolteachers.

In 1882 Jorgen purchased a tract of land between his home and the river and later sold a 60 foot strip across it for the Valley Railroad, later to become a part of the B. and O. system. Although this road was chartered in 1870 there was considerable delay in financing it and in settling a controversy over the guage to be used. Some people wanted narrow guage as they were interested mainly in using the road to haul coal to the steel mills of Cleveland. Akron industrialists wanted standard guage so the oars could be transferred to other lines and thus facilitate the shipment of other freight as well as coal. Standard guage was finally chosen. As railroads were extended across the country business on the canals declined, largely because canal boats could deliver freight only to the banks of the canal while the railroads could, by switchtracks, deliver almost anywhere within reason. In the diary Jorgen kept during the years he operated his boat is the last year’s rather sad entry, “Two pay trips all summer”.

On the land mentioned above Jorgen built a large 2-story shop and did carpentering and painting. He also kept a supply of glass and had a diamond glass cutter. People came from miles around to get glass for their windows. He also made rowboats and rented them at 25 cents per day. Many young people rented them for outings on the river. He also built larger boats, including a 25 foot sailboat on which he once took the entire Sunday School of the Methodist Church on a picnic up the river. This boat was later sold to three young men from Cleveland who took it up the canal, across to the Ohio River and down the Mississippi to New Orleans.

In 1865 Jorgen was admitted to the Masonic Lodge and always enjoyed his affiliation with it. In 1899, in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary, the lodge presented to Jorgen a gold watch and chain with a Masonic emblem and to Marie a gold thimble. Altho their parents were Lutherans neither Jorgen nor Marie belonged to any local church. There was no Lutheran church in or near Peninsula. Some of the family belonged to or attended the Methodist Church and Jorgen often had long talks with the minister. He was also a consistent reader of the Bible and the Apocrypha. At Christmas it was his custom to dress as Santa Claus for the celebration at the Methodist Church. He would enter through a window carrying a string of sleigh bells and distribute the children’s gifts. He enjoyed this as much as they did and they all called him “Grandpa”.

He served for 26 years as clerk of Boston Township, which was divided into seven school districts. He kept supplies of books for all the districts. Before the days of gas or electric lights, Peninsula had kerosene burning street lights and Jorgen was engaged to care for them. Every morning he went out with his ladder, oil can, and cleaning cloths to put out the lights, fill the bowls and clean the chimneys and wicks. Early in the evening he made the rounds again to light the lamps. The children were always glad to see him coming for he usually had candy in his pockets for them.

He had at least one harmless diversion in building and riding a water bicycle. Pictures were taken of it at that time but, unfortunately, none of them are known to still be in existence. It would be interesting to compare his design with the designs of similar vehicles now available at some recreational areas.

He was not a wealthy man but he left a rich heritage. He lived a life of honesty, industry and sobriety. He taught his children the value of truth, honor and the satisfaction of things well done. He was especially kind to Marie, helping her in every way possible for she was a very special person to him. Marie was also very kind and generous to other people. One day as she went to the spring she heard a neighbor woman praying for food for her family. Without being seen or heard Marie hurried back to her kitchen, took a loaf of bread and a pan of beans and left them on her neighbor’s kitchen table, thus giving a quick and practical answer to her prayer.

In addition to the four children born in New York City, seven more were born in Peninsula. Three of these died in infancy and one girl in her teens. The descendants of the others are scattered over the length and breadth of our country. It is hoped that they will cherish the memories of this pioneer family that lived in a time far different from theirs and that had a part in the development of our great nation. Following is a brief account of the children and grandchildren of Jorgen and

I. Charles Mogens (1850—1949), lived on the next street in a property that adjoined that of his parents at the rear. Their homes were separated by a slight hollow in which was located a spring that supplied water for them and some of their neighbors. During the Civil War Charles worked at one of the boat yards. After completing his education in Akron he had various occupations, including carpentering, painting, paperhanging, gardening, banking, and selling insurance. He enjoyed talking “Politics” and held many public offices — mayor, councilman, village and township clerk, school board member and clerk, real estate assessor and appraiser. He was married to Rosalie Rumage (1850—1917), and they had six children:
1. Frederick Waldo (1873-1925)
2. Harriett Marie (1875-1924)
3. Carrie May (1877—1951)
4. Sylvia Ellen (1882—1967)
5. Rosalie Alice (1887- )
6. Ada Frances (1889-1942)

II. Emma Ericksine (1851—1942). worked as a domestic while completing her education in Akron to become a schoolteacher. After the Civil War many of her pupils were young men who had served in the armed forces but were unable to find work after getting out of the service. They caused her some problems but her wits pulled her through. She was married to Harrison Clay Wetmore (1848—1925), who was a schoolteacher in Ohio and Iowa. They lived on farms in several locations, near Hancock, Iowa, and near Clearmont and Lamer, Missouri. They had no children of their own but adopted a daughter, now Mrs. Edna Elizabeth (Bess) Howell (1889— ).

III. Ellen Johanna (1852-1859)

IV. Frances Eliza (1854-1934), met her husband, John Henry Wagner (1850—1889), while both were working on her father’s boat. John later operated a boat of his own but they lived on a farm where the older children did most of the chores. His last occupation was at a stone quarry near Peninsula where after only two weeks he and another man were killed by the fall of a derrick. Altho Eliza received some compensation from the quarry and the railroad she had great difficulty in supporting her family, taking in boarders, doing sewing and any other work available. She later married James Martin ( -1920) and they had a daughter, Ellen (1896-1898). John and Eliza had five children:
1. Emma Verona (1873-1934)
2. Lillie May (1875—1943)
3. Ernest Bernard (1876-1920)
4. Mary Gladys (1882- )
5. John Parker (1888—1968)

V. George Frederick (1856—1859)

VI. Albert (1858—1920). In 1875, at the age of 17, migrated to the mid-west and worked on railroad construction and maintenance on a road which ran from Joplin, Missouri, to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He first shoveled dirt into dump wagons, and later worked on a rock drill. This was in the days before jack-hammers, and drilling was done by two men with sledgehammers pounding a drill held by a third man. During the winter he homesteaded (Note 5.) 160 acres of timber land near where the Civil War battle of Pea Ridge was fought. He cut ties for the railroad, receiving 35 cents each for oak and 70 cents each for osage orange. In 1877 he moved to Kansas and homesteaded farm land between Hutchinson and McPherson. In 1882 after 18 months without rain he gave up the homestead and started for Iowa. At that time railroad fare in Kansas was 10 cents per mile and he and his pardner walked the first 100 miles in order to have enough money to finish the trip by train. In Iowa he first lived with his sister Emma on a farm near Hancock, a small village about 30 miles east of Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1890 he married Annie Elizabeth Martin (1865-1951). Her father, Robert Martin (1832—1880), a weaver, was born in Ireland but migrated to America and at one time lived in Philadelphia. Her mother, Martha McBride (1838-1914), who was also born in Ireland, once worked as a seamstress for the John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia. Robert was rejected for army service in the Civil War due to tuberculosis, probably caused by the lint and dust from weaving. It was thought at that time that living in the pine woods was a beneficial treatment for this ailment and they moved to Stratford, Ontario, Canada, where Annie was born. In 1872 Robert went to Iowa and bought a farm near Hancock and the next year moved his family to Iowa. They made the trip across the state from Clinton, Iowa, in a covered wagon.
Albert was a farmer, carpenter, painter and schoolteacher. The scholastic rating on his teaching certificate of 1893 shows an average of 97% for the nine subjects required, the highest average in the county that year. He taught in the village school of Carson, about 10 miles south of Hancock. For many years he was secretary of the school board of Valley Township, Pottawattamie County, and his duties included the selection purchasing and distribution of library books for all of the districts. He was a member of the I.O.O.F. Lodge of Avoca, about 7 miles north of Hancock, and at one time was Noble Grand of this lodge. He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge.
In 1892 he purchased a 100 acre farm near Hancock and later enlarged it to 160 acres. In 1911 he traded this farm for a larger one nearby which is now the seat of the family estate. On both farms he built or remodeled all of the farm buildings, including a modern home on each one. They were among the first farm homes in that area to have electric lights, a water supply system and sewage disposal. In the farm land he established a 5-year plan of crop rotation to conserve and improve the soil fertility. The plan included two years of corn, one of small grain, one of meadow and one of pasture. It has been since modified to include soy beans and other crops. Albert and Annie had five children:
1. Robert Waldo (1891— )
2. Oliver Wendell (1893— )
3. George Martin (1896- 1973)
4. Lucy Elizabeth (1898- )
5. Mary Marie (1905— )

VII. Ada May (1869-1917), was a schoolteacher. She was married to Edwin F. Wetmore (1852—1938), a farmer and a distant cousin of Harrison Clay Wetmore. Due to Edwin’s health they moved from Ohio to Tennessee and lived on a farm on top of a mountain near Dayton, where they raised fruit trees. In order to obtain better schooling for the children they moved to Missouri and lived on a farm near Cabool. Later they moved to a farm near Peninsula, Ohio. Edwin and Ada May had four children:
1. Myrta (1883-1989)
2. Mildred (1890- )
3. Alton (1893- )
4. Carrie (1896—1937)

IX. Caroline (1862—1878)

X. Sarah Elizabeth (1864—1939), was a schoolteacher. She was married to Richard Hart (1860-1921), who was a builder of homes in east Cleveland, They had two children:
1. Richard Waldo (1889—1973)
2. Ina (1891—)

XI. Edith Eline (1870-1962), was married to Luen Conger (1870-1924), who was a carpenter and painter and also worked at a paper mill in Boston, Ohio. Edith did paperhanging and sewing to help support the family and spent the last days of her life in the Methodist Home in Elyria, Ohio. They had five children:
1. Alice Blanche (1895—1917)
2. Marie (1896 - )
3. Gladys Elizabeth (1901-1956)
4. Kathryn (1908— )
5. Edith (1914-1954)

Through the years Jorgen’s descendants have been predominately feminine. Altho Charles had a son he left home at an early age and there is no record that he ever married. Albert, the only other son of Jorgen to have children, had three sons. One of them, Waldo, has a son who has no children of his own but has an adopted son. Another, Oliver, has two sons who lived to maturity and each has one son. They are Eric Richard (1951- ) and David Eric (1955— ). Assuming that Peter Erickson was named patronymically, both of these descendants bear a part of the name of Jorgen’s great-grandfather, Eric_______?, and on them rests the responsibility of carrying on Jorgen’s line of the family name of Petersen.


1. The spelling of proper names varies in some of the records due to the three languages involved. Some may also be due to errors in copying from one record to another.
2. The spelling of the names of places is as shown on the latest maps available. Other names and spellings, where shown in the records are included in parentheses.
3. At that time the naming of sons was patronymic, that is, the son’s family name was formed by adding “son” to the father’s given name. This custom was discontinued in the next generation and sons took their father’s family name.
4. The Map and Profile of the Ohio Canal and much of the information about it and the Valley Railroad are from a book, “The Cuyahoga”, by Win, D. Ellis. It is one of a series on American rivers. This book is no longer in print but a copy was found in the Central Library at Arlington, Va. Note that in the profile the elevations of the various levels are greatly exaggerated in relation to their lenghts.
5. Homesteading is a process by which a citizen is able to obtain title to a tract of certain public lands by paying a small fee and occupying the land under specified conditions for a stated length of time.