THE MYTH AND
MYSTERY OF ANDREW HANSEN
By Richard Jenkins
Who was this Andrew Hansen who's
early footprints have been erased by the shifting sands of time? The
mysterious part of my grandfather, Andrew Hansen's, past ended in an Idaho
mining camp in 1881. The known part of Andrew's past picks up at that same
time and in the same place. His pre-1881 secrets died with him in 1930.These
early mining camps contained large numbers of men whom came westward to start
a new life, often with a new identity. Many came to escape the memories of
the Civil War in which they had just recently fought, many came to escape
memories of a bad family situation, many came to escape family
responsibilities, many came to escape a criminal past but most came just for
adventure and the hope to 'strike it rich'.
WILL THE REAL ANDREW HANSEN
PLEASE COME FORWARD!
Andrew's post-1881 life was a
classic "Don't ask - Don't tell" situation...He never told his family much of
anything except tidbits of his past and they in turn didn't bother to ask. It
was almost as if his life didn't really start until 1881. His family never
began to think of it as important until it was too late and by then his
secrets were buried with him.
Andrew Hansen number one. Andrew
had said that he was born in Sioux City, Iowa on June 3, 1850. He never
mentioned his father's name nor his mother's name to any of his family. No
documentation was ever known to exist that substantiated this birth date or
Andrew had said that he and his
family returned to Denmark around 1851/1852, at which time the Danish/Prussian
war was in full swing. Again, he never mentioned where in Denmark the family
lived. Andrew had said he returned to the USA around 1864/65 alone. He said he
returned to the Sioux City area and remained there for several years. He never
mentioned what happened to his family in Denmark. He also never mentioned any
of the people he lived with in Iowa after his return to the Sioux City area,
or even if they were any of his relatives. Later in life he did say that he
had a brother Walter, whom died in a farming accident in the general Sioux
City area and a Sister Anna. Nothing was ever known of Anna. Andrew never
said anything of the exact year he left Iowa for the west.
Andrew did mention to his family
that after he left Iowa he went west, and worked in mines and on ranches in
Nevada and Montana prior to appearing in a mining Camp in Bayhorse, Idaho in
the 'land of the yankee fork' mining district around 1881. No documentation
ever existed to verify these travels. His obituary indicated that he "crossed
the Snake River plains in 1877 from Nevada on the way Montana". The 1880 Utah
census lists an Andrew Hanson, who would fit Andrew, but he never acknowledged
any stay in Utah, in fact he never shows up verifiably on any US Census...was
this constant traveling an attempt to elude the census takers and 'rake over
the shifting sands of time'?
Andrew Hansen number two...the
plot thickens. The mystery of Andrew's past was further muddied when the
following query response was posted on the GenForum: "I have a Bengta or
Bungta Anderson Hansen/Hanson who came to America in 1865 with her son (note
singular) Hans Valtmer (Walter) Hansen, Anna Hansen and Andrew Hansen (perhaps
Andrew was not a part of her immediate family?). They went to Utah for a while
and then H.V. and his sister returned to Washington County, Nebraska near a
small, now non-existent, town of Admah. What happened to the mother and
brother (Andrew) is not known". Admah was located some miles south and west of
the Sioux City area. If this Andrew was my grandfather, and many coincidences
point this way, more questions arise.
Why did he make no mention of his
being in Utah? Where did he spend the time after he returned to the USA in
1865...in Iowa or in Utah? If Bengta was not Andrew's mother, what kind of
relationship existed between Andrew and Bengta in Denmark? What prompted her
to bring Andrew with her and Walter and Anna to America? Walter and Anna were
known to have lived in Utah, and Walter also lived in Idaho for a couple of
years. Later Walter returned to Utah and worked for the UP railroad for a
year. One version has Bengta and Andrew going to Utah with them. If so, why
did Walter and Anna then leave Bengta and Andrew in Utah?...or, if Bengta and
Andrew were there at all, perhaps they were the first to leave Utah, returning
to the Sioux City area shortly after arriving in Utah to live with some sort
of family? Or perhaps Bengta and Andrew never went to Utah in the first place,
diverting instead to the Sioux City area while Walter and Anna went on to
Was Andrew somehow a combination
of Andrew Hansen number one and Andrew Hansen number two? Andrew's life before
1881 is nearly all a mystery. Further information indicated that Bengta,
Walter, Anna and even Andrew were born in Sweden, moved to Denmark and changed
their name from 'Hanson' to 'Hansen' because they wanted to be known as Danes.
Could this indicate that Andrew may have been a real or step-brother of Walter
and Anna, or some other relative if Andrew was already in Denmark (see Andrew
Hansen number one) when the other arrived? Also later it was found that this H.V. Hansen died while mowing hay around 1903. This H.V. also had used the
spelling of 'Hanson' prior to settling on 'Hansen'.
A 'skeleton in the closet'? From
around 1881 until about 1905 Andrew spelled his name 'Hanson', but changed the
spelling to 'Hansen' at that time. It would almost appear that Andrew didn't
want his past to catch up to him and didn't want to be found. In this respect
he would have had a lot in common with many men in those early mining camps.
If this was his intent, he did a very effective job, as no one ever knew his
parents names or where they came from. Even the information on his brother?
H.V. Hansen's death while cutting hay didn't have to be acknowledged until
well after 1903, at which time the revelation that he had a brother(?) may not
have mattered at all. In his obituary it was said of him that "he kept his own
council"...he surely did that.