When Karen Became Carrie

By J. L. Starkey

“I figure if a girl wants to be a legend, she should go ahead and be one.”

– Martha “Calamity” Jane Canary

“She’s not actually your third-great-grandmother…did you forget that?”

My little voice was making itself known again, and right on schedule. I thought I had finished telling my step-third-great-grandmother’s story last February. But that’s the thing with certain FAN club members: once you discover them, they set up shop in your imagination and then they refuse to leave.

So it was with Carrie Olson. That Valentine’s Day post hit so close to home, and I wanted – no, I needed – to tell the rest of her story. She was a first-generation American born to Norwegian immigrants, and her family was probably steeped in tradition and faith.

And yet…

As a single 22-year-old woman, she left the security of that family and started a new life in Deadwood, a frontier town so far away from all that she knew. There, she fell in love with my third-great-grandfather J.C. Muehleisen, a married man with a daughter, a string of bad debts, and a penchant for drinking that earned him the nickname Blatz in his adopted hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri.

Carrie arrived in Deadwood via the Pierre-Deadwood stagecoach, pictured here in 1889.
[“The Deadwood Coach,” John C.H. Grabill Collection, public domain image]

Did opposites attract, or did J.C. turn his life around because of Carrie? Though I tried to learn more about her upbringing, finding a clear path to that part of her story was pretty darn frustrating.

Why?

Oh, that’s easy. Carrie was actually two different women…on paper, at least.

So, let me get this straight: my step-third-great-grandmother was a Deadwood pioneer, a bit of a mystery, and a good old-fashioned genealogy logic problem…just waiting to be solved?

Sign. Me. Up.


Clues from Mrs. Hoyt

Carrie settled near Sturgis, South Dakota, pictured here ca. 1890. [Public domain, John C.H. Grabill Collection]

Carrie’s adult life was relatively easy to research. She remarried twice after J.C.’s death, and while the first of those marriages ended in divorce, the second one – to James N. Hoyt – was apparently happy [1].

But who was Carrie before she became Mrs. J. N. Hoyt, otherwise known as the-daughter-in-law-of-the-rumored-onetime-proprietress-of-Deadwood’s-notorious-Bulldog-Ranch? To learn more about the beginning of her life, I started at the end of it.

According to her obituary, Carrie was born on 20 March 1859 in Dane County, Wisconsin. She was survived by three sisters: Mrs. Hattie Hawkinson of Mazeppa, Minnesota; Mrs. John Johnson of St. Paul, Minnesota; and Mrs. Thomas Nelson of Cornell, Wisconsin.

On 19 January 1935, Mrs. Thomas Nelson passed away near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin [2]. The daughter of Mons and Ingeborg Olson, she was born in Dane County in 1861, moved to Crawford County as a child, and married Thomas Nelson in November 1880. She was survived by her son, Tobert, and her sister, Mrs. A. B. Hokenstrom (probably Hattie Hawkinson) of Mazetta, Minnesota.

Who was Mrs. Thomas Nelson? [Chippewa Herald -Telegram, 21 Jan 1935]

Mrs. Nelson’s obituary was certainly thorough (if not 100% correct), but it was missing one very important detail: her first name.

Yes…really.

To find that piece of information, I searched for the Olson family in the 1880 Crawford County, Wisconsin, census. Though the county had more than its fair share of Olsons, only one household was home to two daughters named Carrie and Hattie [3]. Isabella (or Ingeborg) Olson, a widowed Norwegian immigrant, was the head of that household that included three additional children: Emma, Mons, and Bertha. Based on the ages of the Olson sisters, I theorized that Emma was probably the wife of Thomas Nelson.

The Olson family’s 1880 census record [Ancestry image]

Next, I searched for information on Mrs. Nelson’s son, Tobert. According to his obituary, he was born on 6 February 1887 in Crawford County, he was Lutheran, and he was the son of Thomas and Emma Olson Nelson [4]. Those facts led me to his baptism record at Crawford County’s Utica Lutheran Church [5]. According to that document, his mother’s given name was Ingeborg, and his godparents were John and Mary Johnson.

Tobert Nelson’s baptism record [Ancestry image]

Johnson…as in “Mrs. John Johnson” of St. Paul, Minnesota? Was Mary Johnson actually Mary Olson, the sister of Carrie and Emma?

I reviewed the 1880 Crawford County census and found John and Mary Johnson living just a few houses away from Isabella Olson’s family [6]. While that fact did not prove anything, an edit in Mary Johnson’s Ancestry census record certainly got my attention. A researcher noted that Mary Johnson was also known as Mary Munson.

An Ancestry edit leads to a breakthrough!

If Mary was the sister of Carrie and Emma, she was probably the daughter of Mons Olson. Did the family use a patronymic – such as Munson or Monson – on some documents?

A baptism record from Utica Lutheran Church provided support for that theory [7]. In July 1891, John Johnson and Marie (or Mary) Monson baptized their newborn son, a baby who was born less than three years after Carrie Olson lost her son Carl to typhoid fever.

I still wasn’t ready to say that Mary Johnson was Carrie Olson’s sister, but that document provided a pretty amazing clue to support my theory.

You see, John and Mary Johnson named their son Carl.

Was Carl Johnson named in memory of Carrie’s son? [Ancestry image]

Census Records and Surnames

I concluded that Carrie probably had at least five siblings: Bertha, Hattie, Emma, Mary and Mons. Using that information, I searched the 1870 Crawford County census and found Emma/Ingeborg Munson listed as the widowed head of a household that included children named Christene, Mary, Ole, Mons, Carrie, and Anna (probably Emma). Bertha Munson was listed on the same page, though she was living in the household of James Finley [8].

Carrie Olson in the 1870 census. Note that Bertha was living with the Finley family at that time.[FamilySearch image]

Since Carrie and Emma were both born around 1860 in Dane County, I searched for the family in that area and found them living in Dunn, a community in the McFarland district [9]. There, they were members of Koshkonong Lutheran Parish, where Mons Olson Junior was baptized in 1855 [10]. His baptism record gives his mother’s maiden name as Baardsd, an abbreviation of the patronymic Baardsdater.

Once I found a baptism record for Mons, I just knew that Carrie’s information would be easy to locate. How difficult could this be? I knew her date and place of birth, her parents’ names, and her parish name. All I had to do was look through those 1859 records, and then –

– yeah…wouldn’t that have been great? But it didn’t happen that way.


Carrie Becomes Kari…Or Was It Karen?

A headstone leads to a new theory. [Find-A-Grave image]

Mons Olson Senior died in early 1866, shortly after the family moved to Crawford County [11]. Though his Find-A-Grave memorial was brief, it included the missing piece in the Olson family history puzzle: a headstone photo.

The name on that headstone was not Mons Olson, but Mons Olson . (If you’re keeping track, we have officially reached the-land-of- way-too-many-surnames for the Olson family!) As I inspected the photo, I wondered if I might find Carrie’s parish records under the surname “Monsdatter Bö” instead of Olson. Was I reaching too far with that theory?

It was time for a page-by-page search of Koshkonong and Utica parish records. Time consuming, meticulous, frustrating…and so very worthwhile, in the end. Because there, on digital image 17 of the records of Utica Lutheran Church, I found the answer.

Carrie’s sister Emma was confirmed on 17 October 1875 as Ingeborg Monsdatter Böe. Her date of birth in that record matched the information recorded in Koshkonong parish in 1861 [12].

But where was Carrie? Surely she was confirmed in the same parish, but I could not find a listing for anyone named Carrie or Caroline. I inspected the image again, and suddenly I saw it…hiding in plain sight. The last member listed for the 20 Jul 1873 confirmation class was Kari Monsdatter Böe, born 20 March 1859.

Carrie Olson’s confirmation record [Ancestry image]

I reviewed Koshkonong Parish documents and found Carrie’s baptism record, which indicated that she was born on 20 March 1859, as I expected [13]. What was unexpected was that her given name was not Carrie, or Caroline, or even Kari.

Carrie’s baptism record indicates that her given name was Karen. [Ancestry image]

To my great surprise, my step-third-great-grandmother was originally named Karen Olson. Somewhere along the way, though, her name was changed to Kari, and then to Carrie, as she would be known in Deadwood.

Was there a hidden meaning behind the name change? Did Carrie herself insist on it, perhaps to honor the memory of someone dear to her family?

Karen Monsdatter Olson Böe, the woman who would one day become the daughter-in-law-of-the-rumored-onetime-proprietress-of-Deadwood’s-notorious-Bulldog-Ranch…may have done just that.


Citations

  1. “Obituary, Carrie Olson Hoyt,” Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, South Dakota, 19 Apr 1929, p. 8, col. 4. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
  2. “Mrs. T. Nelson of Huron Dies,” Chippewa Herald-Telegram, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, 21 Jan 1935, p. 4, col. 5. Retrieved from newspapers.com.
  3. 1880 United States Federal Census, Freeman, Crawford, Wisconsin; Roll: 1420; Page: 54A; Digital image 21 of 32, lines 2-7, entry for the family of Olson, Isabella, Enumeration District: 044. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from ancestry.com.
  4. “Nelson,” Chippewa Herald-Telegram, 2 Dec 1982, p. 4, col. 3. Retrieved from newspapers.com. (See also: “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DBGW-WQD?cc=1325221&wc=9B7P-S5S%3A1030921601%2C1031205701%2C1033761001 : 5 August 2014), Wisconsin>Crawford>ED 15 Haney town>image 4 of 18; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).; and “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YBM-9H55?cc=1727033&wc=QZZH-BQX%3A133639501%2C134818601%2C133646801%2C1589088871 : 24 June 2017), Wisconsin>Chippewa>Colburn>ED 65>image 2 of 18; citing NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, n.d.)
  5. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 for Tobert Nelson: Congregational Records>Wisconsin>Mt Sterling>Utica Lutheran Church, image 49 of 241. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives; Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Congregational Records. Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois.
  6. 1880 United States Federal Census, Freeman, Crawford, Wisconsin; Roll: 1420; Page: 54A; Digital images 22 (lines 46-50) and 23 (lines 1-2) of 32, entry for the family of Johnson, John, Enumeration District: 044. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from ancestry.com. (See also: “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DBGW-QP6?cc=1325221&wc=9B7P-S5C%3A1030921601%2C1031205701%2C1033758501 : 5 August 2014), Wisconsin>Crawford>ED 13 Freeman town De Soto village>image 18 of 34; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, n.d.)
  7. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 for Carl Johnson: Congregational Records>Wisconsin>Mt Sterling>Utica Lutheran Church, image 53 of 241. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives; Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Congregational Records. Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois.
  8. “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DCY9-P59?cc=1438024&wc=92K2-6YL%3A518654501%2C518879301%2C518978301 : 12 June 2019), Wisconsin>Crawford>Freeman>image 1 of 32; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, n.d.).
  9. “United States Census, 1860,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9BSN-JQ3?cc=1473181&wc=7QK5-T6P%3A1589422311%2C1589437050%2C1589437315 : 24 March 2017), Wisconsin>Dane>Dunn>image 13 of 27; from “1860 U.S. Federal Census – Population,” database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, n.d.).
  10. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 for Mons Olsen: Congregational Records>Wisconsin>Stoughton>Koshkonong, image 335 of 1056. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives; Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Congregational Records. Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois.
  11. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 31 January 2020), memorial page for Mons Olson (1818–1866), Find A Grave Memorial no. 125534482, citing Utica Lutheran Church Cemetery, Mount Sterling, Crawford County, Wisconsin, USA ; Maintained by Steven & Karen (contributor 48338926).
  12. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 for Ingeborg Monsdat Bóe and Kari Monsdat Böe: Congregational Records>Wisconsin>Mt Sterling>Utica Lutheran Church, image 17 of 214. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives; Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Congregational Records. Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois.
  13. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 for Karen Olsèn: Congregational Records>Wisconsin>Stoughton>Koshkonong, image 383 of 1056. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Archives; Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Congregational Records. Ancestry.com. U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. ELCA, Birth, Marriage, Deaths. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Chicago, Illinois.

5 thoughts on “When Karen Became Carrie

  1. I had no doubt you would work your way through this patronymic puzzle.

    “If you’re keeping track, we have officially reached the-land-of- way-too-many-surnames” – you totally crack me up!😂

    I’ve been trying to imagine my gold rush company of ten riding a stage from Richmond, Indiana, to Cincinnati. Your lead photograph is excellent! I see at least a dozen people and there must be a few more inside.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I keep trying to picture Carrie’s arrival in Deadwood. I found the news clipping that announced the stage passengers, and from what I found, she was traveling alone. No family or friends with her…and she was just 22. Brave woman!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wonder if she was formidable in a physical sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I thought the same thing, but I’ve found a photo of her sister, and I don’t think that was the case. She must have had a way about her that made people take notice!

        Liked by 1 person

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