Tin type photograph, ca. 1884/1885. Malla Vikesaa Larson (left),
with possibly her sister, Karin (Vikesaa) (Larson) Pedersen.
Probably taken in Chippewa CO., Minnesota.
Years ago on a trip visiting cousins in Minnesota, I borrowed a faded crimson velvet-backed cabinet card photograph album that once belonged to my maternal great-grandparents, Ole Martin and Malla (Larson) Johnson, of Leonard, Minnesota. Some of my cousins seemed to remember that there had been a second album--one with a greenish-yellow cover. Until last year, its whereabouts were unknown. It was assumed that the album had been destroyed during a basement flood years earlier, or was simply lost. But, the album with the greenish-yellow backing finally surfaced in the possession of another Minnesota cousin, who had held it since her own mother's belongings were distributed among family members some years ago.
My mother remembers seeing the two photograph albums as a child, but since she was not allowed to pull them from the cabinet where they were kept to look at them as she pleased, she was not intimately familiar with the photographs they held. As a young adult, she left her grandparents' farm and never laid eyes on the two photograph albums again until I was able to place them in her hands recently. Over 65 years had passed. What a feeling it was to be able to do that!
The second cabinet card album that I awaited last year was the last known place to search for an early photograph of Malla (Vikesaa)(Larson) Johnson--my mother's paternal grandmother. The earliest known image we had of Malla was her wedding photograph, taken in 1886, when she was nineteen years old. In addition, none of the family had ever been able to obtain her birth records. We were certain of her birth date: April 20, 1868, but the location was always generically mentioned as "somewhere near LaCrosse, Wisconsin." I have deduced that her birthplace was likely in Coon Valley, where her parents lived briefly among other Norwegian immigrants before relocating to homestead in Chippewa County, Minnesota. I longed to find further proof of her early life, or a photograph of a date earlier than her wedding.
Sitting loose in the second cabinet card album was an old tintype photograph, badly scratched, but still fairly clear. When I picked it up and held it to the light, I immediately recognized the girl in the plaid dress as my great grandmother, Malla (Larson) Johnson--the woman who raised my own mother. Though she is no longer a child in the photo, perhaps a youth of 14-16 years of age, I felt a sense of accomplishment at identifying one more piece of Malla's earlier life for posterity.