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Clayton County >> 1916 Index

History of Clayton County, Iowa:...
edited by Realto E. Price. Chicago: Robert O. Law Co., 1916.


Unless otherwise noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.

P. P. Olmstead

On the 13th day of July, 1840, P. P. Olmstead and his brother, David, set out from Prairie du Chien across the Mississippi in search of a home. After one or two days' journey, they concluded to make a claim in what is now Monona township. Returning to Prairie du Chien, they purchased an outfit for keeping house, and then settled on their claim. They were the first white settlers in Monona township. About two miles northwest of their location was an Indian village, with a population of 200 Winnebagoes, whose chief was Whirling Thunder. There was also a farm of about forty-five acres connected with the village and cultivated by the Indians. this farm had been broken and fenced by the United States Government in 1838. They found the Indians peaceable, but never regarded them as very agreeable neighbors. Their first experience concerning the character of their neighbors was derived a few days after they had completed their cabin. Some of the Indians called during the absence of Mr. Olmstead and brother, and carried away all their bedclothes and provisions. The next October, Whirling Thunder and his band moved to Fort Atkinson, where the whole Winnebago tribe of Indians, numbering about 3,400, were being moved, most of them from Wisconsin, for the purpose of compelling them to occupy the neutral grounds, according to stipulation. The Indians often crossed their reservation lines, however, and visited the whites. Speaking of the Indians, Mr. Olmstead says: "We were often visited by the Indians, who were generally friendly and peaceable. On two or three occasions only did they show any disposition to injure us. About the first of August, soon after we had completed our cabin, Brother David went to Grant county, Wisconsin, where he remained about two weeks, leaving me to work on our claim, and during his absence eight or ten Indians, of both sexes, came into our cabin and asked for food. I gave them what I had cooked, but did not appear to satisfy them. One of them commenced searching the cabin for more food, which did not surprise me or cause me any alarm until I discovered that he held in his right hand a butcher knife with blade drawn, which he tried to conceal under his blanket, but which I discovered probably in time to save my life, for as soon as I saw it and noticed the manner in which he held the knife, I was satisfied that he intended to take my live, and I immediately stepped to one corner of the room and caught hold of an ax, which was the best weapon within my reach, and told them to go out of the house, which order was obeyed with some apparent hesitation.

"About the first of the following November, Brother David and myself being at our cabin together, seven strong-looking Indians came from the west, and upon speaking with them we discovered that they intended mischief. The first words spoken by them were threats to burn our cabin. After hearing their threats we bolted the door. They did not show any weapons, and I think they did not intend to injure us, but as soon as we shut the door against them, they commenced trying to break it down by throwing their weight against it. About the time they commenced trying to break down the door, Mr. Schnider, then employed as blacksmith at the mission neart Fort Atkinson, came along with his team, and the Indians withdrew from the house. Knowing that Mr. Schneider had been employed by the Government for several years and could converse with the Indians in their own language, we requested him to stay with us that night and try to persuade the Indians to be peaceable and not further molest us. Mr. Schnider very kindly complied with our request, and succeeded in preventing any further attack upon our premises. What the result would have been had not Mr. Schnider come just at that time, I am unable to determine. Had the Indians persisted in their attack upon our cabin we should have defended it to the utmost of our power, but they might have overpowered us and our lives been sacrificed. I shall ever remember with gratitude the timely aid rendered us by Mr. Schnider, who afterward settled in and became a respected citizen of Giard township."

 [NB: from reminiscences of George Monlux]

Edwin Olson is one of the substantial and progressive farmers of the younger generation in his native township and is a representative of one of the sterling Scandinavian families that have played an important part in the development and progress of this prosperous and attractive section of the Hawkeye state. Mr. Olson was born on the home farm of his parents in Marion township, and the date of his nativity was March 8, 1895. He is a son of Ole K. and Isabel (Gulsvig) Olson, who were born in Norway and both of whom passed the closing years of their lives on the well- improved farm in Marion township, where the father established his residence upon coming to this county as a young man. Both were earnest members of the Norwegian Lutheran church and they lived righteous, productive and unassuming lives, secure in the respect and good will of all who knew them. Of their five children the first-born, Cornelius, died in infancy, and to the second son likewise was given the name of Cornelius, he being a prosperous farmer in Marion township, and Edwin, subject of this review, being the next in order of birth; Melvin is now a resident of Forest Lake, Minnesota, as is also Jetina, the youngest of the children. That Edwin Olson did not neglect the educational advantages that were afforded him in his youth is indicated by the fact that he continued to attend the public schools of his home township until he had attained to the age of eighteen years. He gained in the meanwhile equally valuable discipline through his active and effective association with the work and management of the home farm. In initiating his independent career he rented a farm in his native township, and under such conditions he continued his energetic operations as an agriculturist and stock-grower until he was fortified for the purchasing of his present farm, which he obtained in the year 1915 and which comprises one hundred and sixty acres of fertile and well-improved land, in Section 12, Marion township, with service on rural mail route No. 4 farm the village of Elgin. Here Mr. Olson is bending his energies to progressive enterprise as an agriculturist and as a raiser of good grades of live stock, and he is one of the substantial and prosperous young men of his native county, with high reputation for sturdy integrity of purpose in connection with all the associations and responsibilities of life. His political allegiance is given to the Republican party and both he and his wife hold membership in the Norwegian Lutheran church. On the 23d of February, 1915, was recorded the marriage of Mr. Olson to Miss Bertina Gunderson, who was born in Fayette county, this state, and who presides most graciously and effectively over the domestic economies and social activities of their pleasant home.

Thomas J. Olson, one of the representative agriculturists and stock-growers of Clayton county, owns and stages his activities on the old homestead farm, in Section 10, Marion township, that figures as the place of his birth, the date of his nativity having been May 14, 1874. He has inviolable place in the confidence and good will of the people of the community that has ever represented his home, and is now serving as township trustee and as a member of the school board of the district in which he himself gained his early educational discipline. He has been the zealous and efficient incumbent of the position of township trustee since 1912 and as an executive has put forth earnest efforts to further the measures and enterprises that have been projected for the general good of the community. His political allegiance is with the Republican party and he and his wife are communicants of the Norwegian Lutheran church, their attractive and hospitable home receiving service on rural mail route No. 4 from the neighboring village of Elgin. Mr. Olson is a son of John C. and Rachel (Holstenson) Olson, the former of whom was born in Norway and the latter in Clayton county, Iowa, where her parents settled in the early pioneer days. John C. Olson was a young man when he came to America and established his residence in Clayton county. He began his farming operation near McGregor, and about the year 1870 he removed to Marion township and purchased a tract of land in Section 10, where he eventually reclaimed and brought under effective cultivation a fine farm of two hundred acres. Here he continued his residence, a sturdy and honored citizen, until his death, which occurred in 1890, and his venerable widow still remains with her son Thomas J., of this review, on the old homestead. He to whom this sketch is dedicated is the eldest of the eight children; Ole resides at Clermont, Fayette county; Mary is the wife of Elling S. Houg, of Marion township; Tillie is the wife of John H. Olson and their home is in North Dakota; Emma is the wife of Henry E. Rear, of Fayette county; Adolph is a successful farmer in Wagner township, Clayton county; Henry is now a merchant in Hillsboro, North Dakota; and Josephine is the wife of Conrad Reinhardt, of Chandler, North Dakota. The public schools of his native township afforded to Thomas J. Olson his early educational advantages and he continued to assist in the work of the home farm until he was twenty years of age. Thereafter he passed about ten months in North Dakota, and then he resumed his association with the work and management of the homestead farm. In 1897 he purchased this valuable property, which comprises one hundred and ninety-five acres of fertile land, excellently improved with good buildings and maintained under effective cultivation and as the stage of successful stock-raising enterprise. June 24, 1894, recorded the marriage of Mr. Olson to Miss Mary H. Olson, who likewise was born and reared in this county and who is a daughter of the late Hans and Sarah (Knudson) Olson, the former of whom died December 4, 1915, and the latter of the 6th of July, 1906. Of the children the wife of the subject of this review was the second in order of birth; Charles, Ole and John are residents of North Dakota, as is also Emma, who is the wife of Ole Kuppon; Henry is deceased; Louis is a resident of North Dakota and the youngest child, a daughter, died in infancy. Of the children of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Olson the eldest is Henry, who is associated with his father in the work and management of the home farm; John died in childhood; Selma was born April 15, 1901, and remains at the parental home; Elmer was born May 24, 1903, and is still attending school; Thalmer is deceased; and the three younger members of the happy home circle are: Myrtle, born February 14, 1907; Agnes, born February 4, 1910; and John, born October 10, 1913.

Christian H. Overbeck has been a resident of Clayton county since his boyhood, is a scion of one of the sterling German pioneer families of this section of the Hawkeye State, and he has contributed his share to the civic and material development and progress of the county as a successful farmer, as a merchant and as a loyal and public-spirited citizen. He is now living retired in the village of Luana, where he was formerly engaged in the hardware business, with which he continued to be identified until 1904, when he sold the same to the present proprietor, Rudolph J. Stoehr. Christoph Henry Overbeck was born in the Province of Hanover, Germany, on the 9th of June, 1843, and has been a resident of Clayton county for more than sixty years. He is a son of Adam and Louise (Wagman) Overbeck, both of whom were born and reared in Hanover, where they continued to maintain their home until 1852, when they immigrated to the United States, their son Christoph H. having been at the time a lad of about eight years. The family remained about six months in the State of Indiana and in the spring of 1853 came to Clayton county, Iowa, and became members of the fine German pioneer colony in and about the present village of Guttenberg. There Adam Overbeck obtained a tract of government land and instituted the development of a farm, the same having comprised forty acres. On this old homestead, which he made one of the productive farms of the county, both he and his wife passed the remainder of their lives--folk of prodigious industry and sterling character, and well worthy of the high esteem in which they were held. They were honored pioneer citizens of this county at the time of their death, and both were earnest communicants of the German Lutheran church. Of their children the subject of this sketch is the eldest; Louisa is the wife of Bernhard F. Schroder, of Postville, Allamakee county; and Henry resides at Elgin, Fayette county. Christoph H. Overbeck was reared to the sturdy discipline of the pioneer farms and in the meanwhile did not in the least neglect the advantages afforded him in the schools of the locality. He soon initiated a virtually independent career by finding employment at farm work aside from that of the home place, and at the age of twenty-three years he became associated with his father in the renting of a farm which he later purchased. To the work and management of this farm he continued to devote his attention about 5 years, and after selling the property he purchased a tract of two hundred and seventy acres in Grand Meadow township. This large landed estate he developed into one of the model farms of this section of the State by bringing it under effective cultivation and by making the best of permanent improvements, including the erection of substantial farm buildings. There he won distinctive success in connection with diversified agriculture and the raising of good grades of live stock, and he continued his residence on the farm until 1894, when, with a substantial competency, he retired from the arduous labors and manifold cares that had long been his portion, and established his home at Luana, where he owns an attractive residence and where he was for a number of years engaged in the hardware business, though he has lived retired from all active business since 1904, as previously intimated in this article. His career has been that of a quiet, unassuming, persistent and successful worker, and his character and achievement have been such as to make him fully entitled to the unqualified popular confidence and esteem in which he is held. His political allegiance is given to the Republican party and he has long been a zealous and earnest communicant of the German Lutheran church. For eleven years he served as treasurer of the church of this denomination at Luana. On the 4th of July, 1874, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Overbeck to Miss Caroline Bierbaum, daughter of Gerhardt and Caroline (Walker) Bierbaum, who were honored pioneers of Clayton county. Mrs. Overbeck passed to the life eternal on the 16th of July, 1899, a devoted wife and mother and an earnest communicant of the German Lutheran church. Of the children of this union the first, Catherine, died in childhood; Caroline remains at the paternal home; Louise is the wife of John Goerges and they reside in South Dakota; August and Anna are deceased; Benjamin and Margaret are twins, the former being a substantial farmer in Monona township and the latter being the wife of William Loeske, of Denver, Colorado; Eleanora is deceased; Amelia remains at the home of her father; and Emma, Esther and Nora are deceased. On the 24th of December, 1904, Mr. Overbeck contracted a second marriage, when Mrs. Minnie (Springborn) Neverman became his wife, she having an adopted daughter, Bertha. Mrs. Overbeck was born at Garnavillo, this county, on the 3d of June, 1858, and is the eldest of a family of four children, the second of whom was John, who died young; Elizabeth is the wife of Fred Lempke, of Allamakee county; and Frederica is deceased. John and Elizabeth (Saaso) Springborn, the parents of Mrs. Overbeck, were born in Mecklenburg, Germany, and came to America about the year 1856. They became pioneer settlers near Farmersburg, Clayton county, where Mr. Springborn developed a good farm, to the operations of which he continued to give his attention until a short time before his death, his wife likewise being deceased, and both having been communicants of the German Lutheran church.