Thursday, July 3, 2014

Think Back Thursday - Theodore Holien

Carl "Konrad" Holien (9/1860 - 7/22/1924) and Kristiana (Bergen) (10/18/1870 - 8/10/1951)  were my great-grandparents. (Konrad was ten years older than Kristiana.) (They both died before I was born - I never got to meet them.) They were both born in Norway. Each emmigrated to the United States, where they met.

Together they had 8 children - my grandfather Theodore Norman (1905-1942), was their 6th child. I never got to meet my grandfather, and this blog entry is an effort to reconstruct a tale of his tragic life. I know that he struggled with alcoholism, and it is my belief that his alcoholism was provoked by depression as a result of his many losses. I will try to reconstruct what I know of his life here.

I will start with the history that I know of his parents' life together.  Konrad and Kristiana were married in 1894, and their first child, Agnis, was born in September of 1894. The 1900 census says they were married 5 years, when the census information was collected, and Agnis was 5 years old. So... there may have been... um... Let's just say that they were married in February, Agnis was a honeymoon baby, and the census information was collected in January of 1900 when they hadn't celebrated their 6th anniversary yet, okay? :)

So, the children and birth dates were as follows:
9/1894 - Agnis
2/22/1898 - Clifert T
3/1899 - Ida
4/11/1902 - Harold
1904 - Martha
1/6/1905 - Theodore
1907 - Mildred
1909 - Nellie

So here are the things I can piece together about the grandfather I never met, my mother's father Theodore (Ted), who died when my mom was nine.

Theodore was the 6th born child of eight children born to Carl "Konrad" Holien and Kristiana Bergen, whom I also never met.Ted was born in Cando, North Dakota, but his parents were both born in Norway. All the children were born in North Dakota -- Kristiana came to America when she was 12. Konrad emigrated five years after Kristiana (in 1893). They were married in 1894, so I suppose it is possible they had already known each other in Norway, but it is more likely that it was a quick meet and marry.

Agnis was born in 1894, so was the equivalent of a "honeymoon baby". I cannot find the documentation of the marriage, so all I have to go on for when they married is a census from 1900 that says, in a column labelled "Years Married", "5".

When Theodore was born, Agnis was 19 years old; Clifert was almost 7; Ida was 5; Harold was 2 and Martha was 1. Mildred was born when Ted was 1, and Nellie was born when Ted was 3.

When Ted was 9, his brother Harold (two years older than Ted) died at age 11. I can find no death certificate, no cause of death, only "Find a Grave" documentation that indicates he was buried in February 11, 1914 at age 11.

Then when Ted was 13 or 14 (a very difficult age, emotionally, I might add, as I currently have a son that age), his sister Ida died. Her death is recorded as July, when they found her remains, but she actually died the winter before. Walking home from work after dark with her sister, where she was living in Washington state, they got separated and she strayed from the path. I have no idea if she had a lantern or not, but she was trying to find her way, ended up on a lake or pond, broke through the thin ice, and died. She called for help, and people could hear her and were searching for her, but there was no electricity, they had very little light, and they could not find her. They never found her until July. How tragic! This was the winter from 1918-1919.

And there is the fact that Martha (Ted's baby sister), who was born in 1907, is no longer there when you get to the 1920 census, which can only mean that she, also, died in that time period between 1910 and 1920. So when Ted was 14, three of his siblings (a brother and two sisters) had died.

In 1924, When Ted was 18 or 19, his father died. He was 63, and I again only have "Find a Grave" and no death certificate, so I do not know cause of death. And then, on 3/27/1927, his baby sister, Nellie, died at age 18. Again, from "Find a Grave" -- no death certificate found, no known cause of death.

So when Ted married my grandmother, Esther, in 9/7/1927, at about aged 21-22, he was, shall we say, carrying a lot of baggage. The Efraimsons (Esther's family) had lived near the Holiens for many years, so Esther knew some of this. But Ted seemed wonderful at the time. Esther's writings indicate, This would have been a great place to insert her words about Ted, but her story to her family is not handy. I'll have to post it at a later time.

To Ted and Esther were born:
Wayne (6/10/28);
Carole (12/19/30);
Ida Mae (3/31/34) and
Larry (3/22/37).
But the time during the marriage and parenting was rocky. Drinking was clearly a problem for Ted, and the Depression didn't help matters. Ted had grand ideas, and would leave Esther and the kids to go off on a trip to speculate on one idea or another. By the time Esther was giving birth to Larry, they were legally separated, and Ted left town to try mining somewhere. Esther (my source of information) would hear from him or hear of him from time to time, but they didn't see him. Then the country got involved in World War II. Esther needed work, and there was work in Washington, DC. With the help of family (caring for the kids) she went to Washington and got  job. When she was able, she brought out the kids, and they all got settled in Maryland. And then, in 1942, they got word that Ted had died of pneumonia with complications. He was 37 years old when he died.

So when I look at his life this way, it is a little easier for me to empathize with his drinking problem. I do not condone it, but I can see what pressure he was under, and how much tragedy he lived through.

He is not the only family member I know of who died with drinking being a large contributing factor. Alcoholism was present on both my mom's and my dad's side of the family. As a matter of fact, Ted's oldest son, Wayne, struggled with alcoholism until, under ultimatum from his wife he chose to stay away from alcohol. And then Wayne's oldest son struggled with alcohol.

So, for me, this is a big issue. I do not want my children to be alcoholics. I warn them strongly about the family history of alcoholism, and I don't drink. Period.

So that is my story of Ted. When I find Grama's notes I will make another entry to give more insight into Ted, in Gram's words.

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