James Peter Larson
BORN: October 7, 1872, in Sieby, Hjorring, Denmark
DIED: January 25, 1947, in Emmetsburg Twp., Palo Alto County, Iowa
AGED: 74 years, 3 months, 18 days
BURIED: South Walnut Cemetery, Walnut Twp., Palo Alto County, Iowa
FATHER: Christen Larsen born 1839, in Albaek, Hjorring, Denmark
MOTHER: Inger Patrea Peterson born November 25, 1832, in Vot, Hjorring, Denmark
MARRIAGE: to Theresa Marie Jondall on January 26, 1910, at the Lars Jondall farm in Lost Island Township, Palo Alto County, Iowa
1. Chris Larson born January 5, 1911, in Emmetsburg Twp., Palo Alto County, Iowa
2. Myrtle Elizabeth Larson born March 13, 1913, in Emmetsburg Twp., Palo Alto County, Iowa
3. Theresa Marie Larson born September 3, 1917, in Emmetsburg Twp., Palo Alto County, Iowa
4. Mamie Amanda Larson born October 6, 1918, in Emmetsburg Twp., Palo Alto County, Iowa
5. Lloyd Peter Larson born September 14, 1926, in Emmetsburg Twp., Palo Alto County, Iowa
My maternal grandfather, James Peter Larson, was born in Sieby, Hjorring, Denmark, on October 7, 1872. He was the fifth child born to Christen and Inger Larsen and the first boy. He would spend the first eleven years of his life in Denmark. In 1881, Christen came to the U.S. and bought a farm in Palo Alto County, Iowa. In 1883, he was joined by his wife and two sons.
The Larsen family isn't listed in the 1880 census, and the U.S. Census for 1890 was destroyed in a fire, so the first accounting of the family is the Iowa Census for 1895. It doesn't give much information about James Peter Larsen outside of the facts that he was born in Denmark, was a single man, 22 years of age, and he attended the Lutheran church.
The U.S. Census for 1900 adds some information, but not much. It lists his immigration year as 1883, so he had been in the U.S. for 17 years. It also points out that he could read, write, and speak English. One column also states that Christen and the two boys had been naturalized, but not Inger.
The Iowa Census for 1905 lists all the family members except for Christen, who died on August 1, 1902. After that, not much is available on Pete Larson until 1910, when he married Theresa Jondall. The marriage took place on January 27, at the farm of Lars Jondall. For some reason, I can't find any reference to J.P. or Theresa Larson in the 1910 census. Nor can I find anything on Inger Larsen. I have a feeling that they were passed over somehow in the enumeration that year. However, J.P.'s brother, James Christian Larsen, is listed in the census.
Chris Larson was the first child born to Peter and Theresa. He was born on January 5, 1911. He was followed by my mother, Myrtle Elizabeth Larson, who was born on March 13, 1913. On September 3, 1917, Theresa Marie Larson joined the family, with Mamie Amanda Larson showing up on October 6, 1918. Mamie was the last addition to the family for the next eight years.
The U.S. Census for 1920 shows all of them living on the farm, along with J.P.'s mother, whose name was recorded as Enger Larsen. In the columns concerning occupation, it's interesting to note that Pete Larson is listed as being a laborer, working on a farm. Maybe that's because Inger still owned the farm until she passed away on March 16, 1924. According to Inger's will, made out in 1904, the farm was to be left to the two sons, Peter and Chris. As it turned out, however, the matter of farm ownership was taken to court.
Peter Larson wasn't the best farmer. He may have had bad soil, encountered bad luck, or maybe he didn't possess the proper skills. But, whatever the reason, he was always having financial problems. As I mentioned before, in Inger's will that was made out in 1904, she left the farm to both of the two boys. In July of 1922, however, Peter's sister, Larsina, along with his brother, Chris, secretly got Inger to sign a second will. In it, Inger declared that Peter wasn't running the farm properly and that when she died, it would be left just to Chris Larson. She also declared that Larsina should be the administrator of the will. Inger died almost two years later, on March 16, 1924. On May 3, 1924, Peter filed an objection with the court declaring that the original will was the proper one, and that the second one was signed while Inger wasn't of sound mind. Larsina must have had second thoughts about the lawsuit because she withdrew as administrator on May 5. Eventually, the court declared the original will of 1904 to be the proper one. I don't know if Chris forfeited his half of the farm to Peter or not. He doesn't seem to enter the picture after that, although he did live on the farm for awhile again after his wife died in 1916. Apparently my mom knew all about this, because she never had anything good to say about Chris or Larsina.
The last child born to J.P. and Theresa was a boy named Lloyd Peter Larson, who joined the family on September 14, 1926. His birth was a difficult one, and Lloyd suffered some aftereffects from it for the rest of his life.
The U.S. Census for 1930 shows J.P., Theresa, and the youngest three children living on the family farm. The oldest two children, including my mother, were out working on neighboring farms. My mother absolutely loved school. However, my grandfather wouldn't let her continue beyond the eighth grade. He said that she had to go to work and earn money for the farm. Mom cried when she found out that she couldn't continue in school. My grandfather's attitude, in my opinion, wasn't in keeping with the vast majority of immigrants to our country. Most immigrant parents were very strong advocates of education, and worked hard so their children could continue in school. They wanted their sons and daughters to have a better life than they did. But, my grandfather said no, and Mom had to go to work. She was never bitter about his decision. She always said that that was the way things were done back then. I'm not as forgiving on that point.
By the mid-1930s, Theresa Larson had been in poor health for several years. She had tuberculosis and took treatments in Iowa City. She finally died on the family farm on August 26, 1936. My mom and her sister, Theresa, had moved away by then and were living in Ames. Chris was already out farming on his own. So, Mamie, who was 18 years of age, had to take care of the family. Mom always said that Mamie was just like a mother to Lloyd, who was only 9 years old when Grandma Theresa died.
Pete wasn't in the best of health either. He was in Mayo Clinic between June 24 and July 25 of 1927. I think he was treated for gout and had surgery for cancer. By the late summer or early autumn of 1946, he was slowly dying from cancer. Grandpa's condition gradually worsened that winter. Our family had moved to California by that time, so Mom came back to Iowa on the train when everyone thought the end was near. Pete lingered on, however, and Mom had to go back to California. My grandfather eventually died on January 25, 1947, while Mom was either on the train back to California, or shortly after her return there. James Peter Larson is buried in South Walnut Cemetery, Walnut Township, Palo Alto County, Iowa.
I have almost no personal memories of my grandfather. I was only three years old when he died. Mom said that her dad was a mild-mannered person. He was widely known and well liked. Physically, he was a big man with very large hands. Pete towered over other people in photographs. He could play the violin, and he smoked pipes and cigars. At one time he either owned or ran a steam tractor. He used to load it onto a flatcar, and the railroad would haul it out to South Dakota so he could help with the wheat harvest every year. Mom said that Pete and Theresa were always “betting” on things. After they put in the highway to the south, she said they would sit on the porch and bet on whether the next car would be going east or west. They also liked to play checkers and dominoes. After Theresa Larson died, Mom said that her dad used to go to town and attend trials at the courthouse. He seemed to be a man of varied interests.