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Marie Magdalene "Mary" Peterson Mathison
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Birth: Mar. 7, 1848, Denmark
Death: Jun. 13, 1947
Humboldt County
California, USA

Mary is the daughter of Peter Mikkson Peterson and Gertrude Marie Krog.

A Mother's Courage in Early Humboldt

In 1872 Marie Magdalene Peterson received the ring from far off America. She had been engaged since she was 13 years old but in the old country these things took time. Now, at 24, she had scrubbed and chored and harvested for ten years as a hired girl on the farms of wealthy Danes near her birthplace, Mangstrup, Denmark. And all the while her sweetheart, Nis Mathison, sailed the high seas with the cold salt spray in his face and his wages accumulating against the day when he could send for his beloved.

Nis was almost 28 when he sent the ring. Marie finished her current six month period of contract October 31 and retired to her home to wait. Before winter had done, the money arrived and on Mar 22 she sailed for New York in the company of her betrothed's mother and sister, Katherine.

The ship raised the Manhattan shoreline 17 days later and on April 25 Marie and Nis were together in San Francisco. They were joined in holy matrimony at the home of the groom's sister, Mrs. John Wilson, at Tomales April 30, 1873

And that was the American beginning of the story of a pioneer mother who brought her old country husbandry skills and her native love of the soil to the new world to help the man of her choice carve a hearth and a homestead from the western wilderness.

She adopted this country with all her heart, wholly and consciously, even changing her first name from Marie to Mary which, the thought, would sound less foreign. She made one trip back to Denmark in 1902 to visit her mother who was living with her Uncle Hans and remembers now how they all sang "America" together.

But Uncle Hans sang in Danish, Mary in English and her cousin in German. For that part of Denmark had fallen to the Germans in the war of 1863 and '64.

In California, the newly-wedded Mathisons repaired to Mendocino County, near Fort Bragg, where Nis had established himself in the carpentry trade. Here Mary helped by milking cows and making butter for sale and here she saw her first specimen of that strange and savage American phenomenon, the Indian. Mary's Indian must have been a good hearted fellow, however, for he brought her a ham of venison.

By fall they had set their minds on Humboldt. December 2 found the Mathisons attending the wedding of Nis' sister Kate, to Peter Jenson, in Tomales and on the 19th they were awaiting a Eureka bound steamer in San Francisco.

In Humboldt the couple stopped first near Rohnerville and worked the farm where C. H. Farrar home now stands. Here their first child, Ellen Christine, was born February 12, 1874.

In November they moved to Hydesville where the Danish ex-sailor turned his hand to making pack saddles in the saddle shop of Jeff Campton besides following his carpentry on the side. Together, Mathison and Campton bought the shop from Dave Brush.

Son Peter was born July 28, 1875, in Hydesville and was carried by his mother horseback when the family moved to Blocksburg where Nis had filed on a homestead.

"Father carried me on his horse," recalls daughter Ellen, now 72, who has cared for her mother through her declining years. "The road to Blocksburg was built that summer, but by December, when we went there, the slides had come."

The family lived on the adjoining Frances place while Nis Mathison built his own home, all of milled lumber, and his own hands.

Mary helped with everything, churning butter and raising vegetables and strawberries on the side. Although a son, George Nis, was born in October, 1877, and another daughter, Gertrude Mary, arrived when the snow was on the ground in the winter of 1879, the pioneer mother had worked steadil;y, even helping to clear the ground for her house and garden patch.

Through the three years beginning with 1877, the main income of the family was dervived from the sale of hay, raised on their own homestead and on the Franceses ranch, to the stage company while the overland route was under construction. When they moved out of their log cabin and into their own new house in August of 1879 they owned two ranches, their own new homestead and another 160 acres near Fort Baker through a preemption deed dated July of 18575.

The Blocksburg homestead was the birthplace of four more of the Mathison children, John, Fred, Harry and Emilie, all born between 1882 and 1888.

But those were busy, prosperous years. Nis kept his four horse team on the road most of the year hauling wool from the ranches to Hooktown and freight back for the stores and his neighbors. Summers he managed time off to harvest crops and, in the late fall and winter, he sewed his grain and built fences.

In the meantime, Mary and the children milked the cows and churned more butter which the children carried in kegs to town on their way to school.

Besides operatin his ranch and his freight run Nis found time to serve five years as a road overseer and part of a term as a school trustee. He was a school trustee at the time of his death in 1890.

Those were two years of tragedy for Mary Mathison. In 1889 she lost her youngest son, three year old Harry. And in February of 1890 her husband was taken in the prime of his life. he was only 45 years old.

Widowed at 41, Mary Magdalene tooke her remaining brood to Hydesville where she saw George, Mary, Frank, Fred and Emilie through grammar school. Besides caring for her large family, she augmented her income by working as janitoress in the I.O.O.F. hall and in the schoolhouse.

After her six weeks visit to Denmark in 1902 Mary Mathison returned to Hydesville and kept house for T. Reidy until 1904 when she movede out on her homestead on Fort Seward road.

Five of her children, Ellen, Peter, George, Frank and Fred, all had taken advantage of that astonishing pioneer phenomenon, peculiar only to America, the Homestead Act, and were busy proving up on ranches of their own.

In 1912 she went to keep house for Fred on his ranch along the banks of the upper Eel River. Here again she churned butter and helped with the garden and with her son's young pear and walnut orchard.

The railroad was being built then and Mary used to enjoy watching the logger and construction crews slash the right-of-way. prepare the road bed and lay the hard steel rails.

Winter floods always facinated her and she never tired of watching the drift rush down the river during high water.

Later she lived on son Frank's Dobbins Creek ranch before moving to Alderpoint where she has made her home with her eldest daughter, now Mrs. Ellen C. Smith, since 1936.

When Mary Mathison joined the Grange in 1937, the truly surprising part was not so much her joining and going through five degrees at the age of 89 as that she had not somehow been a Granger all her life. The words of the Grange song, "I love the dear old farm...," must have come as naturally and joyfully to her lips as "My country 'Tis of The..."

In 1941, this cheerful and surprising survivor of our pioneer world made the trip to the Grange convention at Santa Monica with her daughter, Ellen, a delegate, and there she took the sixth degree at the age of 93.

Age has never pinned Mary Mathison down to any one fire-side until the last year. A serious fall the day before Thanksgiving compelled her to abandon the two canes she depended on for support and resort to a wheel-chair.

But in these last few years she has made trips to visit her daughters in San Francisco and Concord, California, and in Sparks, Nevada, and to her grandson, Ernest Baxter, in Albany.

With the coming of springtime, Mary Magdalene will start living in her 100dth year for she will have 99 years of life behind her on March 7, 1947. And still she remains unbowed by the tragedy which has colored most of her later years. She has seen her husband and six of her eight children precede her to the grave. Even as she was assisting her eldest, Mrs. Ellen Smith, prepare the facts for this simple story of her life, Mrs. Mathison learned of the passing of Mrs. Mary Benton, the first daughter born to her on that Garberville homestead.

But Mary Magdalene Peterson Mathison is upheld by a sustaining faith. The strength in her which enables her to withstand the onslaught of sorrow and travail is the same irresistible power that lives in the tiny case of a seed that enables it to burst its bonds and produce life no matter how rigidly confined. In her must live some of the force of a desert tree which cracks mighty rocks with its slender roots in its never ending struggle for sustenance and life.

Her love of nature is part of her love of God. A Lutheran in Denmark, her religion found formal expression through the Congregational Church when she found herself in Hydesville. In Alderpoint she became a Presbyterian.

"Mother used to go with us children to Sunday School and church regular...," daughter Ellen remembers.

Now, bearing patiently the burdens of her great age, Mary Mathison centers her prayers on her simple heart's desire, that she be united with her family in heaven before too long.

Throughout her life she has always loved to watch Nature through all its manisfestations- the ocean dashing on the Mendocino shore, the first tender plant leaves thrusting through the loose soil, the whimsical wind straying in a field of grass. Last week, after looking outside for a long time, she announced to her daughter, Ellen, as though noting the fact for the first time, "There are no two tree-tops alike."

The ebbing tide of life, to her, is merely another of these natural phenomenon. It is something that happens to everything that is born to grow and live and love. It means to her not the end but the fulfillment.

Family links: 
  Nis Mathison (1844 - 1890)
  Ellen Christine Mathison Smith (1874 - 1965)*
  Peter Mathison (1875 - ____)*
  George Nis Mathison (1877 - 1947)*
  Gertrude Mary Mathison Benton (1879 - 1947)*
  John Frank Mathison (1882 - ____)*
  Fred Andrew Mathison (1884 - 1921)*
  Harry Mathison (1886 - 1889)*
  Emilie B Mathison Williams (1888 - 1945)*
*Calculated relationship
Barnwell Memorial Cemetery
Humboldt County
California, USA
Created by: Deborah (Baxter) Fink
Record added: Nov 05, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 79947316
Marie Magdalene Mary <i>Peterson</i> Mathison
Added by: Deborah (Baxter) Fink
Marie Magdalene Mary <i>Peterson</i> Mathison
Added by: Leah P
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- Deborah (Baxter) Fink
 Added: Apr. 16, 2013

- Deborah (Baxter) Fink
 Added: Nov. 5, 2011

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