Nielsina Johanna Nielsen, called Hanna, was born on June 22, 1871, in Kongerslev, Denmark near the city of Aalborg which is at the north end of the Danish Peninsula of Jutland. I last visited her birthplace with my wife Susan in 1986, and in the cemetery near the church where she was baptised and confirmed we found the graves of her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, who were my great, great-great, and great-great-great grandparents. She lived to be 81 with scarcely a sick day in her life, though she was allergic to chocolate. It gave her a migraine. In 1949 she had a heart attack at their farm house on the Stewart Road west of Racine and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital in town.
Hanna had been sent for when she was 16 by her older brother who had immigrated to Spencer, Iowa. When she arrived on his porch, his American wife shouted, "Your brother is dead!", then slammed the door in the young girl's face. Contacts of other Danes who had made the trip with her helped her to find a job as a maid for Iowan Governor Spencer's wife, and she had a letter of reference from Mrs. Spencer when she left Iowa.
There was an even larger colony of Danes in Racine, Wisconsin, than in Iowa. In fact, at that time over 60% of the Danes in America were located in Racine. West Racine was and still is called Kringleville because of the many Danish bakeries that baked and sold kringle, a Danish pastry; one which you won't find in Denmark, however. So eventually Hanna moved to Racine and later obtained work as a maid for Stella Hattie White, the owner of the S. H. White Bookstore on Sixth Street in downtown Racine. That bookstore was still operating under the same name when I was a young man, though Miss White had been dead some years. But I do remember being taken to her home as a very yound child and seeing Miss White there and a few years later watching drive her electric car on Main Street steering it with a tiller from the back seat. The car looked like a true horseless carriage, a black buggy without a horse. My mother was named Stella Hattie James after Miss White.
Hanna was a charter member of the Our Saviorís Lutheran Church on Taylor Avenue in Racine though she left it soon after, as she spent most of her adult life searching for a church and a pastor who was strict enough for her. She never succeeded, but one of those churches she investigated was The Salvation Army, and it was there that she met my grandfather, Linferd Oscar James, who had recently moved to Racine from Comstock, Michigan, which is just east of Kalamazoo. They were married in 1900, and their only child, Stella Hattie James Manalli, was born on March 10, 1902. Hanna was a housewife and farmwife until her death in 1952.