Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sloan (Slaaen) & the Civil War

On Saturday, I hop on a plane again to visit my mom, Doris, and sister, Becky, who live in Oxford, Alabama. This time, I am planning a drive out to Marietta National Cemetery near Atlanta, where I hope to find the grave of Thor Paulsen Sloan (Slaaen), an uncle of my great grandmother, Anna Marie Sloan Berge. Thor P. Sloan died as a Union soldier in June 1864 at the town of Big Shanty (now called Kennesaw) Georgia.

I was not aware that any part of my mother's family had arrived in America early enough to participate in the Civil War, until I found a website detailing Thor's experience as a Union soldier. The Sloans arrived in Wisconsin in the 1850s and settled in Dane County, along with many other Norwegians. Thor, a bachelor farmer in his prime, accepted a call for volunteers in December 1861. He became part of Company E (Odin's Rifles) in the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, also known as the "Scandinavian Regiment." After an amazing two and a half years of surviving the war, Sargent Sloan was mortally wounded while making coffee at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.  A copy of his photograph is owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society.

I had quite a surprise in September 2004 when I visited Dale Finch of Brainerd, Minessota. Dale is a grandson of Anna Marie Sloan Berge. In his possession was a photo of Thor P. Sloan in civilian clothes. The handwriting on the mat of that family-owned photo matches the handwriting on the mat of the unretouched Civil War portrait  of Thor that is now owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society. This is proof that Thor was a member of my great grandmother's family.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Welcome, Family and Friends

This blog is for keeping track of, and sharing my family research and discoveries. I hope it will also increase the level of sharing and contact between family members, both near and far. If you leave a comment, you'll want to avoid putting any really personal information or dates here, to protect your privacy.

I have been researching my mother's Norwegian-American family for several years now. In 2003, I finished compiling the biographies of my Minnesota-born grandfather, Ernest Johnson, and his nine brothers and sisters (Bennett, Cora, Thea, Odin, Mabel, Oral, Ruben, Carl, and Frank), plus their descendants. A Johnson History, Part II was a rather costly product, since it was put into a format that could be added to in future.


In the spring of this year I began a project to repair the broken 1888 Winje monument at Scandia Cemetery in Duluth, Minnesota. Although the bushes/trees alongside the base were cut to ground level last summer, the roots continued to grow and pushed the monument over soon afterwards. As the very first marker on the family plot, the five-foot granite stone records the deaths of three children born to Eric and Thibertina "Bertina" Winje:  Hattie, 5, and Annie, 2, both died from diphtheria within days of each other in the spring of 1888, and Louis drowned in a tragic boating accident at age 18 in August 1893. There have been delays with the monument company, but after several phone calls, I am told to expect an estimate shortly. In the meantime, the Duluth summer is ticking away.

Winje monument after the damage
(Photo by Gloria Conrad, April 2006,
Scandia Cemetery, Duluth, Minnesota.)

A BIG "thank you" to those who have sent donations. A portion of the money was used to do the final engraving on Emma T. Winje's flat marker stone, also at Scandia. When she was buried in Duluth in 1970, after passing away at a nursing home in Fridley, Minnesota, the year of her death was not engraved. Emma was born on her parents' Chippewa prairie homestead in Granite Falls Township in 1879. During her long life, she was a teacher, millner, care-taker, piano-instructor, stenographer, and election clerk, among other things: truly a female "jack of all trades." She was also a beloved daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to many. Because of family cooperation, we have now been able to complete that final task for Emma. That feels REALLY good, doesn't it?

Emma T. Winje
(Photo taken in Peoria, IL.)

In 1909, while living in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Emma and her older sister, Lena, were invited to accompany friends to a pow-wow at the White Earth Reservation. Their adventures are described in Chapter 3 of Kate Opened the Gate, memoirs written by Elsie Peterson Johnson, who was a young girl at the time.