ITEM: Sophie Simmons autobiographical
SOURCE: Mr. and Mrs. Loren Simmons
(copies courtesy Gerald Sanders)
Sophie Simmons was the daughter of
Soren Hansen Simmons and Portha Marie Swenson, born in Faurbo, Sjelland,
Denmark on October 28, 1855. She emigrated to Fairwater with her family
in 1866 and remained a resident of Wisconsin until her death on October
This brief autobiography and a briefer
second version are in the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Loren Simmons, with
whose kind permission they are reproduced here. They were apparently written
for her son, Marvin Hansen.
A BRIEF OUTLINE OF MY LIFE WRITTEN FOR MARVIN AT
SOPHIE SIMMONS HANSEN----SISTER OF JOHN H SIMMONS
I was born October 28th, 1855,
in the township of Faurbo on the island of Sjelland (called Zealand in
our geographies), Denmark.
My parents at that time lived on a few acres
of land containing peat. People in the surrounding country would come
there and for a price would dig and dry their peat for fuel.
One of my earliest recollections is seeing the
pits and the arrangements used to draw out the water.
When I was four years of age my father sold the
place and bought another of about ten acres not far from there where we
lived about five years.
At the age of seven I was sent to school and
continued there about three years. I learned to read and write and also
the rudiments of arithmetic and bible history, including a brief history
of the great reformation and rise of the Lutheran church, which was the
state church of Denmark. I also committed to memory a number of hymns
and Luther's little catechism.
While studying these subjects as a child I remember
thinking that I would rather die a martyrs death than be anything but
a Lutheran. That was the only religion I had ever heard of at that time.
When I was ten years of age my people again sold
their home and in the spring of 1866 our left our native land for America.
My fathers reason for emigrating was that his children might have better
opportunities in life than was possible in Denmark at that time.
We left Denmark in company with my Cousin Ann
Lisbeth and her husband and four children. I was next to the oldest of
five children in our family. We sailed from Copenhagen to Hamburg, Germany
and from there across the North sea to England. We landed at a place called
Hull and from there across England by train to Liverpool where we waited
a few days for the Steamer which was to take us across the Atlantic.
After a voyage of six days we arrived in Quebec,
Canada, and from there we came by boat and train to Fairwater, Wisconsin.
During our journeys we fell in with a few other families and single young
men who, while bound for America, had no special place in view and so
when we arrived at our destination there was quite a large company.
In this company was one Niels Johnson and family who had a brother in
this country, who had come over a few years previous, so we all went to
his home a couple of miles south of Fairwater. They lodged us in their
barns and small house as best they could for a few days and assisted us
all in finding places to live and work to do.
I was not 10 1/2 years old. I remained at home
the following summer arid attended school the next winter. The teacher's
name Frank Sessions. I did not learn anything hut managed to pick up a
little of the English language. In the spring of 1867 I was sent to work
for a fami1y named John Chapman. I was with them that summer and late
fall. My wages was to be my board. I milked their cow, tended their baby,
carried water, washed dishes and anything that I could. I was to stay
with them and go to school the next winter, but as there was always so
much to do that I seldom could get away I went home and finished the winter
term. The teacher was a fine Christian man named Burch. In the spring
I returned to the Chapman's and was to have 50 cents per week, but they
were poor and money scarce so they never paid me. After three months I
went to live with a Mr. & Mrs. Hites at 75 cents per week and in the
fall I went to pick hops together with others in a field near Fairwater.
The next winter I stayed with Mrs. George Jones and two children while
her husband went north to work in the woods. I cared for a horse, two
cows, some sheep, pigs and young stock and helped in the housework. Wages-75
cents. The following spring I went to work for a widow named Louise Tolcott
who ran two farms in the township of Alto. I was there one year and 8
months, wages $1.25 per week. I was now 14 years old and could now do
all the housework, washing, ironing, baking and sometimes helped in the
At the age of 16 1/2 I entered the Brandon High
School where I attended the fall and winter term. I wanted more education
as I had found that I was not strong or robust and the work of a maid
was hard in those days. I attended high school again the following fall
and winter and in the spring I took the examination and was given a certificate
to teach a district school. I applied for a school and got it and taught
Soon after that I met James Hanson and we were
married (18 1/2) in Brandon by Rev. G. F. Reynolds, May 23, 1874.
We lived a short time on a farm near Fairwater,
then on a small farm near Brandon, where my two oldest children were born.
We then sold and moved to Neenah. My two youngest children were born there.
My husband died in 1891 from typhoid fever. Since then I have supported
myself and children until they became self supporting by raising fruit,
selling milk and as a substitute rural mail carrier for 8 years.
I united with the M.E. church in Brandon in 1872.
Should have mentioned that my father became blind soon after coming to
this country so he could not work to support his family, hence we were
all thrown on our own resources while young which, though hard, taught
us to work and made us self reliant.
This, in brief, is a synopsis of the life of
a little Dane girl, details being ommitted to make a long story short.
Some think her life has been hard, but I do not think so. God has been
good to me. My needs have been supplied and strength has been given me
to carry on. I am now 74 years of age. The fast coming evening of life
promises fair and its pathway grows smooth to my feet.
LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF A LITTLE DANE GIRL. (WRITTEN
On October 28th, 1855,
a little girl was born on a small farm in the County of Holbeck, Island
of Zealand, Denmark. In due time she was taken to the Lutheran church
and christened, given the name Maren Sophie (Marn Sofee) for her two grandmothers.
At the age of four, her parents sold their farm
and moved to a near by cottage where they reside about one year. One of
her earliest recollections is that while her folks were moving she assisted
by carrying a small house plant from one house to the other. Her parents
again bought a farm not far away and again they moved.
At the age of seven she began to go to school
which she continued until the age of ten. She there learned to read, write
and spell, also the rudiments of arithmetic and some European geography
besides a few hymns, some Bible and church history (Lutheran) and the
Her father had for some time desired to emigrate
to America that his children, of whom there were now five, might have
better opportunities in life and escape the hardships of the laboring
class in Europe at that time. Her mother, dreading the voyage, had with-held
her consent until one day her neice Lisbeth came and said, "We have
sold out and are going to America and wish you would go along." So
It was agreed to leave the home land and seek their fortunes in the new
world. Accordingly preparations were made and the two families sailed
out from Copenhagen in the spring of 1866. A stop was made in Hamburg
of a couple of days, from there across the North Sea to Hull, England,
then across England to Liverpool, from Liverpool, they sailed to Quebec
and from there overland to Fairwater, Wisconsin. This journey was quite
an adventure to Marn Sofee who saw many new scenes and met many strange
people whose language she could not understand.
On the boat crossing the North Sea she saw for
the first time an orange and her father was so extravagant as to buy one
which was divided among the family so that each had a taste and thought
it delectable beyond words to express.
They settled near Fairwater and the following
year, at the age of eleven, Marn Sofee went out to service to a family
named Chapman. Her wages were to be her board. She could speak no English
and her skill at housework was limited, however, the language she soon
acquired and her time was fully taken up by tending baby, washing dishes,
sweeping, carrying water, milking the cow and sundry other duties. She
was, with the Chapman's about eight months. Then, wishing to go to school,
she asked the privilege to work for her board and go to school, which
was agreed to, but finding the duties too numerous to ever get to school
she gave it up and went home to her folks for a couple of months and at
the close of the winter term, she again went to the Chapmans, being now
considered so effecient that they agreed to pay her 50 cents per week
(which they still owe her). After about three months she took another
position at 75 cents per week with a family named Hites where she remained
about 6 months when she resigned to take a job picking hops. At the end
of the hop season she hired out to a family named Jones where she did
the chores, caring for two cows, one horse, a flock of sheep and some
pigs for about three months while Mr. Jones went into the pineries to
work. Besides these chores she also did the biggest share of the housework
for 75 cents per week.
During these early years among strangers she
suffered from loneliness and home-sickness, but accepted it as the inevitable.