Friday, January 28, 2011

Forebear Friday – Ella Monsen Christensen

Gabriella Alfhilde Monsen looks like just a wisp of a girl, but she must have been tough.  Born in Bergen, Norway in 1884, Ella was the daughter of Gabriel Monsen and his wife Alvilda Marie Olsen.  Her father, a fisherman by trade, was caught in a violent storm off the coast of Norway when Ella was about 7, and vanished.  After the death of her father, the family lived in a small apartment in Bergen, her mother taking in washing to put food on the table.  By the time Ella was 16, she was helping to support her family by working as a domestic servant. 


In April of 1904, at the age of 20, Ella boarded a ship destined for the United States, to the home of her paternal uncle Rasmus “Rob” Sandene in Miner County, South Dakota.  She would never return to her home country again.  “Uncle Rob”, who had himself left Norway in 1887, helped the new immigrants of the family, one by one, to acclimate to their new culture.  It was there that Ella learned English, and then again forged out on her own, taking a job as a domestic servant in Huron, about 60 miles away.  In the next five years, her brother and sister also left Norway.  Alvilda did not join her children here until 1915.

Ella married Peter C. Christensen, a Danish immigrant who owned Bell Bakery, in May of 1911.  They also spent time farming in rural Beadle County.  She was a farm wife who raised five children – Lillian, Raymond, Clarence, Edna and Sylvia, and later helped to raise Lillian’s children, who lived on a farm just down the road.  Her granddaughter Betty has some very fond memories of her, and what a fun grandmother she was. She was nice to everyone, but she was also stern.


In 1947, they sold their farm in Beadle county and left behind the hard work and brutal winters.   They retired to a lovely home with a park-like corner lot in Gardena, California, where they enjoyed fruit trees and a koi pond.  Their children Clarence and Sylvia married and raised families there as well.  She was just 67 when she died at her home of heart failure five years later.  She is buried at Roosevelt Memorial Park Cemetery.