The Sandgren sisters and their immediate family

During the last two years, I set out in an attempt to pay heed to Women’s History Month by researching the lives of some of the “lesser known” women from Manistee’s past…women whose names were not as locally well-known as people like the Ramsdells or the Filers are today.

Hilda (left) and Hannah (right) Sandgren pose for a photograph (in the museum’s archives labeled as Costume Portraits Album 11, Photo 455) in 1911 in Manistee. The Sandgren sisters and their immediate family were struck by the loss of several family members.

As the museum is filled with photo after photo of people who we really don’t know much about, but are a art of the county’s history, I thought it might be interesting to pick a random album or folder, flip through it and with my index finger land on the first photograph of a woman that it willed and attempt to write an article about that woman employing the museum’s various research resources.

So with that in mind, I am continuing that same process again this year. For this third article in the third volume of the series, I picked an album from the museum’s collection titled, “Costume Portraits Album 11” and sorted through the photographs at random falling on the page that included two photos…that of Hilda C. Sandgren and her sister Hannah Sandgren.

In researching the life of a particular person or persons, one usually can comes across several different stories. There’s the life story of the person you are researching (i.e. when they were born, where they lived, etc. etc.) and there is also the larger story of their mom, dad, brothers, sisters, etc. In regards to the Sandgren sisters there is the small amount of information that we have at the museum that tells us about their time here in Manistee. But the other, wider narrative, is the tragic story about their immediate family.

Hilda (Hildur) Carolina Sandgren was born in Sweden in February 1890 to the parents of Nels and Lovisa (Louisa) Sandgren. Two years later, another daughter, Hannah was born to the couple. Records show that in 1894, the family (which included older brother Helmar/Elmer) immigrated to the United States and eventually found their way to Eastlake where Nels was employed in the R.G. Peters lumber mill.

Over the next several years three more children were added to the roster of the Sandgren family…sons Tennys, Emil and Harry.

Tragedy first struck the family when Nels passed away from tuberculosis on January 14, 1906. With Nels deceased the family continued to reside in Eastlake. Over three years later, the Sandgrens were hit by another tragedy in November of 1909 when oldest son Helmar passed away from injuries received on the Manistee and Luther Railroad near Hoxeyville. While working on the train, Helmar caught himself in telephone wire and was badly mutilated resulting in his death.

Sometime later, Louisa moved to the city of Manistee and settled at 17 Magill St.

Records show that by the early 1910s, Hilda Sandgren and Hanna were employed as domestic servants in the city. Somewhere along the way, Hilda met a former local man Victor Swanson (who at that time was living in Detroit) and some time later the two were married. An article describing their wedding was published in the Manistee News Advocate on October 13, 1916. A portion of the original article follows:

“One of the pretty weddings of the early fall took place Wednesday evening at the home of Mrs. Louisa Sandgren, 17 Magill St., when her daughter, Huldur Carolina, was united in marriage to Victor Swanson of Detroit, formerly of Manistee.

“The marriage rites were ready by Rev. Carl A. Tolin of the Swedish Lutheran Church, in the presence of 50 intimate friends and relatives. Under a canopy of bright autumn leaves and ferns the ceremony took place. The bride was attended by her sister, Miss Hannah Sandgren, as bridesmaid and the groom was attended by his brother. Wilford Swanson.

“Miss Sandgren made a very charming bride in her lovely gown of white georgette crepe. She wore a tulle veil arranged in cap fashion which was held with orange blossoms. Her arm boquet was of bride’s roses and ferns. The bridesmaid was attractively gowned in light blue crepe de chine and carried a bouquet of pink roses.”

Roughly one year later Hannah, who had worked at a the millinery store of Mrs. Emma Peterson, had a stroke due to a pulmonary disease and, stricken with paralysis, she became homebound at the family home. Prior to her illness, she became engaged to Arvid Johnson of Manistee.

In the late fall of 1917, Hilda and Hannah’s brother, 15-year old Harry, contracted scarlet fever and was quarantined at the family home which in turn meant that Hannah had to be moved to another location. This other location happened to be on Kosciusko Street at the home of Edwin Johnson, her fiance’s parents. Harry passed away on Dec. 22, 1917 and one month later, Hannah succumbed to her illness and passed away on Jan. 14, 1918. Her funeral services were held from home and she was laid to rest in Oak Grove Cemetery next to her father.

As the years passed, Louisa, continued to live in Manistee eventually moving to Sixth Street. Hilda lived out her days in Detroit and raised a family with Victor. Tragedy hit the family again in 1930 when 34 year old her brother Tennys passed away due from complications due to a surgery, he left behind a wife and three children.

Lovisa Sandgren passed away in Detroit in 1947 and was laid to rest in the family lot in Oak Grove Cemetery. Hilda Sandgren Swanson, the last of the Sandgren sisters, lived out her days with her husband and children in the Detroit area and passed away at the age of 84. She was survived by her brother Emil.

 

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Posted by Mark Fedder

Mark Fedder is the executive director of the Manistee County Historical Musuem. He can be reached at (231) 723-5531 ormanisteemuseum@yahoo.com.

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