“We grew up together in the same Nebraska town…. buried in wheat and corn… burning summers when the world lies green and billowy beneath a brilliant sky… blustery winters with little snow, when the whole country is stripped bare and gray as sheet-iron. We agreed that no one who had not grown up in a little prairie town could know anything about it.” ―Willa Cather, My Antonia
I recently wrote about my great-grandfather Frederick (F.I.) Wallin and his wife Christina, my Swedish “gateway ancestors” on the Wallin branch of the family tree. Here is the family in Nebraska around 1903. In the back are Aurora, Ray, Isador, Ithel, and Inez; my grandfather Sture Nels is standing in the middle; and great-grandpa Frederick, young Leonard, and great-grandma Christina are seated in front. Such fine Swedish names!
Unlike the Peterson branch of the family, the Wallins all lived to adulthood to marry and, in most cases, have families of their own...
Isidor Hilmer (1879-1977) was called “Ike.” He and his sister Inez were born when the family was still in Chautauqua County, New York, before they went west to Nebraska. Ike was married twice and had five children with first wife, Selma Nyberg. It is said he lived long enough to see six generations. He died in Idaho at age 98.
Inez Christine (1884-1960) was married three times, the first time at age 16. Her second husband, John Wade, was a steam railroad bridge builder. Inez had two daughters, and she died in Los Angeles at age 76.
Frederick Iranus (1886-1944) was called “Ray.” He was a carpenter. He married twice—first to Esther Dahlberg, with whom he had four children, and then to Dorothy Farnum Kaiser, a widow who was his housekeeper after his first wife died. Dorothy lived only four more years, leaving Ray a widower for the second time at age 54. He died four years later.
Ithel Georgianna (1888-1944) was married to Ellis Passmore when she was 20 and he was 33, and they had three children. Ellis was a civil engineer for the Burlington Railroad and later the CB&Q. After Ithel (pronounced “ee-thel”) died at age 56, Ellis moved to California.
Aurora Linnea (1890-1976) was a schoolteacher, both before her marriage (in Nebraska) and afterwards (in California). She and her husband Elmer Levene had no children, but Aurora’s mother Christina lived with them after her father Frederick died.
Sture Nels (1892-1979) was the only one to move east—to Illinois—which he did after the Great Depression and the droughts of the 1930s took their toll on the Great Plains farmers. Sture was in a near-fatal car accident in Iowa in September 1940, while making final arrangements for the move. Sture and his wife Sara had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood.
Leonard Carl (1898-1977) and his brother Sture both served in World War I. Leonard and wife Helen Carmichael had two children. Leonard ran a general store in the hotel that his father built around 1920. Later he later moved to California to take a job with Boeing Aircraft, where he died at age 78.
So the first generation to come were Nebraska farmers; and the second generation moved beyond the Nebraska prairie to other places and things; and the third generation went to college, if they were willing to work hard; and my generation grew up believing that we could achieve anything we wanted—in no small part, I now know, because of the path blazed by those who came before.