Firstly I wish to acknowledge three people whose contribution to the information about the Olsen family is invaluable. Firstly, Gunnar Aabøe who lives in Kragero and is married to a decendent of this Olsen family, Åse. His research and his willingness to share is greately valued. Dawn Curley who lives in Queensland and began her research in the 70s and generously shared with me and more recently Gail Bryant who has created a wonderful blog and Facebook page.
For tourists, Kragerø is the part of town around the shopping centre. With its old-world charm and special architecture, old Kragerø is well worth the time. In the oldest parts of town, the buildings are almost as they always have been, with the clusters of old houses, passage ways and steps. Even though Kragerø has experienced several large fires, one in 1711 and then again in 1886, much of the old architecture still exists. During the age of sail, Kragerø was a centre for trade for many centuries. Trade was initially based upon the export of timber, and later of ice, stone and paper products. On the 1st January 1960, Kragerø was integrated with its neighbouring parishes of Skåtøy and Sannidal to become a united community of 10000 residents. Kragerø becoming its natural centre with a population of 5000. Kragerø has been an important tourist centre since the 1920s and today there are approximately 3000 summer cottages in the area.
Our Norwegian ancestry, consisting of a farming family, dates back to around 1612 in the town of Kragerø, however I will begin this story in 1871, when Ola Jensen and his wife, Elsa Olsdatter left Norway and travelled to Australia with their children:- Anne (30), Ola (26), Jens (24), Maren (21), Elevine Olette (19) and Anund Hartvik (15).
They embarked on the immigrant ship, Lammershagen in Hamburg and arrived in Kepple Bay in September 1871. The journey is described in some detail in an article written in the Rockhampton Bulletin September 1871. Ola and Elsa were 58 years old when they began their journey and left behind two married daughters Gunnild (35) and Ingeborg (33).
In his research, Gunnar mentions that while the two older daughters remained in Norway, Ola and Elsa travelled with four children to Australia. He does not mention Elevine Olette or Anund Hartvik. Gail mentions another male in the family group, Knud Hartvik Olsen who died of complications from a lung condition. The ship had just reached Kepple Bay and the young Knud Olsen was interred at Curtis Island. The newspaper reported he was a labourer aged 22. As Olsen is a very common Norwegian name he may or may not have been a family member.
Among the passengers was a young woman also from Kragero, Anna Marie Thorsen. She seemed to be travelling alone. Ola and Anna Marie met and just one week after the Lammershagen arrived in Rockhampton, they were married. On their marriage certificate one of the witnesses was Ola’s mother, Elsa.
Ole and Anna Marie
In November of 1872, Ola and Anna Marie welcomed their first child, Elsa. According to records held in Charters Towers and procured by Dawn Curley, Elsa was born at the Strathmore Hotel Bowen Downs Road while Ola was a bushman working at Sonoma Station. The registration town was Bowen. The story in the family was that Elsa was delivered by her mother under a wagon on the route to Bowen from Kepple Bay.
Strathmore Hotel, now the Bowen River Hotel is a heritage-listed hotel on Strathmore Station, approximately 34 kilometres from the mining town of Collinsville, towards the Burdekin Dam. The pub was restored in the last twenty years and offers lunch and dinner seven days a week, cold drinks and a relaxed country atmosphere.
Sonoma station is also part of Collinsville and was a large grazing property much of which has now been subsumed by the mining industry. The Bowen Basin is a massive coal mining area – over 60 000 square kilometres, running from Collinsville in the north to Theodore in the south. Mining began in ernest after WW1.
April 1873 and tragedy strikes the family. Ola Olsen dies at aged 66. He seemed to go by the name Ola Jensen.
The following information is from his death certificate. There would be a coroner’s report but I am yet to find it.
The death certificate states that Ola died on 4th April 1873 at a place not decipherable ‘Glen..way’ at crossing Suttor River. (Current info -Suttor River Causeway is a heritage-listed causeway across the Suttor River on the Old Bowen Downs Road, now at St Ann’s Road, Mount Coolon, Queensland. It was built in 1876 by the Queensland Department of Public Works. Old Bowen Downs Road was established in the early 1860s as a teamster route between Port Denison (Bowen) and Bowen Downs Station near Aramac in central western Queensland. The road was in regular use until at least the late 1890s as a communication and supply line between the interior and the coast. While remnants of the road remain visible between Strathmore Station and Mount Douglas, the stone causeway built in 1876 over the Suttor River at St Ann’s remains largely intact as an example of early civil engineering stonework in northern Queensland.)
He died of ‘L..’ fever which he had for 6 weeks. This could possibly be Lassa fever or more likely Dengue fever. The informant was John Clarke who made his mark ‘x’ which was witnessed by the Registrar Waldrow Burrowes.
The date that the death was registered is about seven weeks later. The distance between Suttor River Crossing is more than 400km. If they were teamsters, this would explain the time it took to get to Bowen.
The witnesses were probably fellow teamsters, John Clarke, I Connolly, L Roberts and R Roberts. The streets in towns like Bowen and Charters Towers were ofen wide enough to allow for teams like those pictured above to turn around.
Deceased was born in Kragero Norway and had been in Queensland for 18 months. He was married to Elsie Olsen and leaves three children. Ole Olsen 26, Ellveine Ololette 19 and Anund Hartvik 16. Two males and three females predeceased him.
I wonder if they buried Ola where he died. I wonder how much English Else had and what happened to her. I believe she died in Bowen but am yet to confirm that with a death certificate.
So many questions.
Ola and Anna Marie – settle in Charters Towers
By 1874 most of the Olsen family had settled in Charters Towers. Seven of the children were born in the booming gold mining city and many married and brought up their families in the area.
I think these are the people in the photo. Assuming the photo was taken in 1893- Standing centre, Olette (16), Seated L to R Sophie (12), Rebecca (4) Anna Marie (41), holding Thor Jens (2), Ole (41) holding Ole (7), Annie (9) and Elevine Tina (14). Elsa is not pictured as she married in 1890. .
- Eilsa Olsen married Olaf Emil Anderson on 13 September, 1890.
- Anna Florina Olsen died as a small child in 1876 in Queensland.
- Oletta Maria Olsen married Richard Elgey on 5 January, 1898.
- Elvine Albertine Olsen married Thomas James Graham on 1 July, 1899.
- Sophie Olsen married William Hector Glover on 7 September, 1901.
- Ole Olsen married Rose Ellen White but married Dorothy Turner.
- Annie Margaret Olsen married Charles Gough on 30 May, 1907.
- Rebecca Thomine Olsen married Bernard Lynch on 9 August, 1911.
- Thor Jens Hartvig Olsen married Lillian Dorothy Condon on 21 October, 1915.
- All married in North Queensland and went on to have their families in Queensland.
By 1895 Ole and Anna Marie had purchased the Millchester Hotel in Millchester, a suburb of Charters Towers. While there were well over 60 hotels for the miners to choose from the name Olsen seems to be synonomous with hotels in Charters Towers in the 1890s. There was an Andy Olsen and his wife who owned the Brilliant Hotel and in December 1896 Olsen’s Defiance Hotel was opened with acolades from the press. I am not sure if our family were also associated with these operations. (Ole had a brother Anund, ten years his junior. I wonder if he was Andy Olsen?)
In March of 1896, Ole Olsen died. He died at the Millchester Hotel of accute diarrhoea and exhaustion. Anna Maria was left with eight children to raise in a time and place where the world was not set up for women. She was remarkable. At the time the children were Elsie 23, Oleta 18, Christina 16, Sophie 14, Ole 12, Annie 10, Rebecca 7 and Thor Jens Hartvig just 3 years old.
The image above was most probably taken in Charters Towers at the time of Sophie’s wedding to William Hector Glover in 1901. I am guessing a few- particulaly Elsie, Tina and Annie. Standing L to R Sophie 19, Ole 17, Olette 24, Elsie 29. Seated L to R Tina 22, Thor Jens 9, Anna Marie 49, Rebecca 9 (My grandmother said she had her head shaved as a result of head lice) and Annie 17.
The following is an obituary submitted by her daughters which appeared in the Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947), Thursday 9 January 1941, page 11
LATE MRS. A. M. OLSEN WAS NORTHERN PIONEER -Grandma Olsen
Mrs. Anna Maria Olsen, of Hope Street, South Brisbane, who died at the age of 89 from the effects of a serious accident, knew what the hardships of pioneering in the north were in the early days of Queensland. Her first child was born under a bullock dray in the midst of a raging thunderstorm with a hastily dug drain to keep the storm waters from running over the ground, and with nobody else present but her husband.
The late Mrs. Olsen was a native of Norway and came to Queensland in a sailing ship, landing at Rockhampton in 1871. She was married there and later she and her husband travelled to the Kirk River diggings near Charters Towers and Ravenswood, after a short term on Bowen Downs station on which Mr. Olsen had obtained employment. Mr. Olsen worked as a miner in the Charters Towers district for many years and died in 1896. Mrs. Olsen practised as a midwife at Charters Towers and Townsville and was affectionately known as ‘Granny’ Olsen. Amongst the children she brought into the world were her own 25 grandchildren and three of her great-grandchildren. Of her own family of nine Mesdames C. Gough (South Brisbane) and R. T. Thomas (Yandina) are the only survivors.
She died of bronco pneumonia (3 days), fractured neck of femur (2 wks) auricular fibrillation (11 yrs) Annie Margaret Gough, daughter, informant. Survived by Annie Margaret 53 and Rebecca Thomine 50.
Our story continues with the marriage of Sophie to William Hector Glover.