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Iowa Families:

The Myths and Legends


 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'. 


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 location.

           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 Utah?

 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.


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